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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] combating the "IoT"

From: Thomas Lord
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] combating the "IoT"
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 2015 12:14:00 -0700
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Thank you, Michael, for raising the question:

  How can the software freedom movement combat
  threats posed by the "Internet of Things"?

I agree with you that what is emerging is ubiquitous
surveillance, controlled by unhackable proprietary
software systems.   Will software that is not-only
unfree but is in fact actively hostile to users become
unavoidable even in the intimacy of our homes?

I have some half-baked ideas about this.  Perhaps others
can add to the list, better develop these ideas, or
critique them.    In no particular order:

1. The Internet of Things is a Class Issue (for now)

In the early stage, with exceptions here and there,
the "Internet of Things" product lines are for comparatively
rich people.   Most folks will not soon be buying
multi-hundred dollar thermostats, "smart" refrigerators,
or babysitting their kids via a not-so-smart-phone app
controlled by a third party.

It is good to explain to rich buyers the trouble they
are asking for, if and when they want to listen, but there is
no point arguing with them.   Some people understand the
issues full well and are eager to give up their freedom
as fast as they can spend money to accomplish it.

The movement can do more by concentrating on making free
software principles useful in real day to day life for
the large and mostly propertyless majority of people.

The hard question is what kinds of projects can bring
the day to day exercise of software freedom to a "mass"-scale
group of people whose most unifying trait is that they don't
want to spend a lot of money;  and whose second-most unifying
trait is that they probably aren't going to pay much attention
to even the best crafted polemics about software freedom?
(I mean they'll "get it" just fine -- it's just that they won't
spend a lot of time reading software freedom blog posts before
deciding to buy a new TV or not-so-smart phone.)

2. I think phones and TVs and music player systems are
very popular types of product it might be worth concentrating
on.   Just a hunch.

3. In those products, software freedom can intersect with
other issues that effect people.

For example, a lot of people spend quite a lot of money
buying cable TV service or satellite TV service.

A closer-to-libre system like Kodi (formerly XBMC) running
on very cheap hardware, combined with even a low-end DSL

.... well, it is not a drop in replacement for expensive
cable or other TV service.  It's primitive and the range of
gratis programming available is quirkier and different.  Yet
the freedom-loving solution is much cheaper and can be for
many people a fine alternative.

The problem (I see) is that there is no easy-to-use,
non-flaky version of the free software TV-alternative.
Nothing you could casually offer to sell to regular people
for less than $100.   It's all currently flaky and weird
enough that people really need to be at least minimally
"hackers" to use such systems.

4. Michael had the example of a toaster.  Won't the
Internet of Things take over EVEN TOASTERS and if so,
how can the movement ever hope to keep up?!?

Well, here is some inspiration about what it takes
to become a toaster manufacturer these days:

That "kind of thing" -- figuring out how to take advantage
of modern manufacturing systems at a small scale --
is a way for the free software movement to become very
pragmatically involved with people who do more than just
code.   A way to expand immediate relevance.   A way to
"confront" consumer market places with freedom.

5.  Yadda yadda yadda  ;-)


On 2015-03-10 08:25, Cardoza, Michael wrote:
One of the biggest subjects in recent years has been the "IoT Internet
of Things". Where basically they would like every device in your home
to have a computer and be networked to the internet in some way. There
are already news reports that these devices have cameras and
microphones and are basically recording all the time. As the mass of
these devices increases I foresee a point where you cannot buy any
product that doesn't have some kind of computer and operating system
in it that will be networked. What does the Free Software community
think we can do about this? how are we to buy anything in the future
even a toaster without giving up our computing freedoms and come under
surveillance? I would think it would be extremely difficult for us to
keep pace and develop free replacements for all these devices. It
seems as though the proprietary software companies have a plan to bury
us in a volume of proprietary devices. Just not sure what our way
forward will be on these issues.



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