9 Final Steps to Freedom
Chapter 9, Final Steps to Freedom, includes the following four sections:
9.1 Free Alternatives to Windows Programs
9.2 How to Set Up a Free Email Organizer
9.3 How to Run Windows Programs on Linux
9.4 How will Knowledge will be shared in the future?
In this section, we will look at free open source alternatives to Windows programs. We will first outline some of the best free open source alternatives in each general category. We will then describe specific steps for moving to a better web browser, search engine and email organizer.
Free Open Source Alternatives to Windows Programs
Free Open Source Alternatives
Linux Mint Cinnamon
MS Internet Explorer
Jitsi Video Conferencing
Windows Movie Maker
Mint comes with the Firefox Web Browser and Thunderbird Email Organizer preinstalled. So just by installing Mint, you are well on your way towards freedom. In this article, we will review resources for finding alternatives to other Windows programs.
Websites that review Linux Alternatives to Windows Programs
There are several websites that provide summaries of Linux Alternatives to Windows programs. Here is the link to one called “Linux Software equivalent to Windows software.” https://wiki.linuxquestions.org/wiki/Linux_software_equivalent_to_Windows_software
Here is another site listing several free open source options: https://www.privacytools.io/
This is another well organized table of Linux Alternatives: https://www.linuxlinks.com/article/20070701111340544/Equivalents.html
They also produced a detailed 5 part series evaluating the best Linux Programs in a variety of categories. Here is a link to Part 1. https://www.linuxlinks.com/article/20080621060835773/Portal.html
Here's another table of Linux programs. This one lists Windows programs in alphabetically order and goes on for 18 pages. You can also click on about 20 categories in the left side menu. Each category is then sub-divided into several more categories. https://linuxappfinder.com/alternatives
Here is Ubuntu's Guide: https://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Alternatives
Here is the Debian list of free open source programs. https://www.debianhelp.co.uk/tools.htm
In addition to using these guides, it is useful to see what programs are in the Mint Software Manager. The benefit of using programs in the software manager is that they are easy to download and they have been reviewed to make sure they are compatible with Linux Mint. First, open the Software Manager:
Add a Bottom Up Search Engine to Any Web Browser
Google currently has a Search Engine monopoly with an 80% market share. Microsoft Bing is far behind with 7% (12% when you include Yahoo which also now uses the Bing Search engine). Both Google and Bing are currently censoring search results and ranking corporate news above independent news. Thus 92% of all searches are controlled by wealthy multinational corporations. If you are appalled by Search Engines such as Google that censor search results while putting paid ads first in their search results, then try SearX, a Search Engine that puts you in control! To use SearX, simply visit their website: https://searx.me/
Why use Searx?
Searx is a metasearch engine, aggregating the results of other search engines while not storing information about its users. Searx doesn't care about what you search for, never shares anything with a third party, and it can't be used to compromise you.
Best of all, you can decide which search engines you want searx to aggregate.
There are two other privacy respecting search engines, Start Page and Duck Duck Go. These are easier to set as default search engines when using a web browser like Firefox, Opera or Chrome. However, both use the Google Search Engine meaning that your results can be censored by Google. Now that Google is openly censoring alternative news websites, the best way to stay informed is to add SearX to your Favorites Bookmarks and then let SearX aggregate the results of a broad range of search engines.
Another good alternative to Google and Bing is Creative Commons Search. This site allows you to enter any subject into the search box and select the image sites you want to search in order to find copyright free images for your websites.
Other independent search engines include:
Good Gopher which is a search engine of Alternative News websites. https://www.goodgopher.com/
Yippy compiles search results from several engines: https://yippy.com/
Gigablast is another independent search engine to consider using. https://www.gigablast.com/
In the next section, we will look at how to add a free email organizer to Linux Mint.
Linux offers several free calendar and email organizers. The most popular calendar and email organizer is called Thunderbird. Previously, the calendar had to be installed separately. But in June 2020, the calendar was combined with the email organizer and it is now all one package. The biggest benefit of Thunderbird is that it is integrated with our Mint operating system. We do not even need to install Thunderbird because it comes loaded in Linux Mint by default. Linux Mint also includes a better calendar called Gnome Calendar that has better event detail functions than Thunderbird. So we will use Thunderbird for email and Gnome for events.
Set Up Thunderbird
Go to the Mint Menu and find Thunderbird under the Internet tools. Then right click on it and select Add to Panel. Then click on the icon to open it. Two windows will open at the same time. Here is the first window:
The first window will eventually be the Thunderbird screen. For now, slide it to the side. Here is the second window:
Enter your name, email address and email password. You can use any email address. However, Thunderbird is most likely to be able to import your contacts if you use a Gmail email address. Then click Continue. If it is a gmail address, the next screen will say Configuration found in Mozilla ISP database. By default, the Protocol is set for IMAP which will keep your email stored on the remote (Google) server rather than on your home computer.
If this is OK, just click Done. However, if you want to use POP3 instead of IMAP, then you should not click Done. Instead, click Configure Manually. We will click Done which is the Automatic Setup method. We will then cover Manual Configuration later.
Clicking Done will bring up this screen:
Click Next and enter your password again. Then click Sign In.
Click Set as Default. This small window closes leaving the Thunderbird screen:
Click on the Gmail inbox. By default, it is set for oldest first. Click on the Date arrow to change it to most recent first.
Delete an email message
You can right click on an email message and click delete. However, if using IMAP (which Google does), the message will only be hidden on the Thunderbird screen. It will still appear on the Gmail interface. Therefore, you need to delete emails from the Gmail interface.
Send an email message
What you can do from Thunderbird is read email messages, reply to email messages and send new email messages. You can also have several accounts on the same Email Organizer.
Click on the three bars in the upper right corner. Then click Preferences.
For the General tab, change the search engine from Google to Duck Duck Go and for Incoming Mail, uncheck Play a Sound. To exit Thunderbird, just click the X at the top of the window.
Thunderbird Manual Account Setup
You can run the automatic account setup at anytime by going to the File menu, pointing at New, and clicking Mail Account. Repeat this process for as many accounts as you want to add to Thunderbird. However, there are times when the automatic account set up method described above does not result in a fully functioning email account.
If the automated set up process does not work or if the database that Mozilla maintains doesn't contain information about your email provider, you can set up your account manually. Your email provider should supply you with the information that you'll to set up an account. You can usually find this information on your email provider's website, or by contacting their technical support department.
Click on the three bars to open the Thunderbird Menu. Then click on Account Settings. Go to Account Actions and click Add Mail Account.
Enter your name, your email address, and email password and then click the Continue button.
To use POP3, click it and also click Configure Manually. You won't be able to change from IMAP to POP3 after you have clicked Manual Setup. Also an existing IMAP account cannot be converted to POP. So please double check that you have selected POP3! The Account Settings screen will open for your new account. The screen contains your account name, your name, and your email address. Click Server Settings to configure your account to receive email.
To manually configure an account, you will need to have the following details which can be supplied by your email provider.
Username: Enter your full email address (or whatever your email provider recommends, usually your full email address, although sometimes just the part before the "@").
Incoming: mail server and port (for example, "pop.example.com" and port 110 or "imap.example.com" and port 143). Enter your incoming email provider's server (usually "mail.yourmailprovider.com" or "pop.yourmailprovider.com").
Outgoing: outgoing mail server and port (for example, "smtp.example.com" and port 25). Enter your outgoing mail provider's server (usually "mail.domainname.com" or "smtp.domainname.com").
Select "POP" from the drop-down list to the right of the incoming mail server name (the row labelled "Incoming:" in the screenshot). This is important because if IMAP is selected you won't be able to change it to POP later!
Incoming port number: This depends on the email provider.
Outgoing port number: This depends on the email provider.
Incoming security: This depends on the email provider.
Outgoing security: This depends on the email provider.
Security setting for the connection with the server (for example, "STARTTLS" or "SSL/TLS" and whether or not to use secure authentication)
Configure the outgoing server
Click Outgoing Server (SMTP) to setup the account to send email.
In Outgoing Server (SMTP) Settings click the Add button.Enter the settings for sending email that you got from your email provider.
Multiple email accounts can use the same outgoing SMTP server. Therefore, SMTP servers are created separately from email accounts. In the Account Settings dialog, in the left pane, select Outgoing Server (SMTP) from the bottom of the list.
There may be an entry in the resulting list that was created when you entered your account details. Either edit that entry or add a new entry.
As another example, a Gmail account is configured as follows:
Server Name: smtp.gmail.com
Use name and Password: checked
Connection Security: STARTTLS
After saving the information about the new outgoing server, select your new email account from the list. In the Outgoing Server (SMTP) field, select the SMTP server from the drop-down list. Other items on the page were automatically created when you entered the account details - alter and extend as necessary.
Click on the Server Settings option under your new account. Make sure the entries in the following fields correspond to the settings given to you by your email provider:
If everything is ok (i.e. you can send and receive email and see your old emails; note that some email providers may not give you access to all of your emails or all your email folders; check with your mail provider) and you accidentally created an IMAP account, then delete the accidentally created IMAP account as follows: open Tools > Account Settings..., select the accidentally created IMAP account with the IMAP server setting, then select Account Actions > Remove Account from the drop-down list underneath the account list on the left.
How to Remove an Email Account
Go to the account Manual Set Up screen. Select the account that you want to remove. Click Account Actions and select Remove Account from the list. Thunderbird confirms that you want to remove the account. Click the OK button to continue removing the account.
This concludes our review of setting up an email organizer in Linux. In the next section, we will describe how to run Windows programs in Linux Mint.
In this article, we will review how to use a free Linux program called Play On Linux to install and use Windows based programs such as Microsoft Office in Linux Mint. Folks are usually shocked to learn that not only can Libre Office open and manage MS Word documents but Linux can open and manage MS Windows programs. You should install Play On Linux even if you have no intention of using MS Office because some programs are only available as Windows programs. This includes the Kindle Previewer and Google Sketchup. Play On Linux creates a “virtual Windows machine” inside of Linux which allows you to view Kindle Books inside of Linux. Also learning how easy it is to use Play On Linux will reassure folks who might be worried about running their favorite Windows programs if they know that their Windows programs can still be run even if they make the switch to Linux.
Play on Linux versus Wine
Wine is the most common Linux program used to play Windows based programs. However, Wine can be difficult to learn and use. Play On Linux has a much better User Interface – meaning you just click on buttons rather than entering computer commands into a terminal. We will therefore use Play On Linux.
Download Play on Linux
Play On Linux is most easily downloaded from the Linux Mint Software Manager. Type Wine into the search box but do not select Wine. Instead select Play on Linux.
Then click Install. It is a big program and will take a while to install. Note that Play On Linux will install whatever versions of Wine you need for any Windows program so you do NOT need to also install Wine.
Then go to the Mint Menu and find Play On Linux in the Games section. Right click and select Add to Panel. Then right click on it again in the bottom panel and select Move. Then move it to the hidden side panel. Then click on it to open it. There will be a first use process we need to go through to set it up.
Click Next. Then Next again. During installation, it will ask you to accept the Microsoft license. Check the box and click Yes to finish the install. During installation, if you have a Libre Writer document open do not worry if the Writer fonts become compressed. This will resolve itself once the install is complete. Also do not worry if the installation progress bar becomes stuck at 67%. Wait a few minutes. Then close the Software Manager. You should now find Play On Linux listed in your Mint Applications Menu under Games.
First, make sure you are connected to the Internet. Then move Play On Linux to your desktop and click on the icon to open it. It may warn you that you are missing a program.
Go to the Software Center, search and install this extra program.
After the set up process is done, the following screen will appear:
It may say that an updated version is available. For most older Windows programs, it is not necessary to update to the latest version of Play On Linux. We the blue update bar at the bottom of the screen is done loading, we are ready to add any of hundreds of Windows programs.
Install Google Sketchup
Google Sketchup is an example of a program that does not come in a Linux version. But it is a common program for students to learn how to do 3D graphic modeling. We will therefore run through the steps for how to install it with Play On Linux. To install any Play On Linux (POL) supported Windows program is very easy. Just open POL and click on the INSTALL button at the top of the screen. This brings up the Install Menu.
In addition to the above categories of listed programs, you can also install non-listed programs by clicking on the button at the bottom of the screen. First, to get a better idea of our options, click on Accessories.
There are more than one hundred supported Windows programs – including Office 2003, Office 2007 and Office 2010 (you will need your Microsoft “key” to use these programs. Click on Graphics.
You can install either Photoshop or Microsoft Paint. Photoshop requires a key but Microsoft Paint does not. Next, go back to Accessories and click on Google Sketchup to select it. Then click the Install button in the lower right corner of the screen. A warning screen will appear:
Click OK. An installation wizard will appear. Click Next.
POL will then download the best version of WINE to play this particular Windows program. This step is only needed the first time or two you install a Windows program. After POL creates a Virtual Drive to put Windows programs into, it will ask you if you would like to install a copy of the program from your computer or if you want POL to download the program on its own.
Click Download the program. Then click Next. Then click Next. POL will then download Google Sketchup. Then the SketchUp Set up wizard will appear.
Click Next. Accept the license and click Next. Use the default folder. Click Next. Then click Install. Then click Finish.
Then click Next. You should now have a Google SketchUp icon on your desktop. You will also have a Google SketchUp link on your Play on Linus start screen.
Click on either of these to start Google SketchUp
Congratulations. We are now running a Windows program on a Linux Laptop.
Close Play On Linux. If you do not want the Quick Start launchers on your Desktop, you can right click on them and move them to the Trash. They will still appear in the Play On Linux window and can be opened from there.
Summary of How to Install an Unsupported Windows program
As we have just seen, it is pretty easy to install programs which do not yet have an automatic script written. Click on the Play On Linux Install button. Then click on “install a non-listed program” which is at the bottom of the next screen. A wizard will appear. Click Next. Then install a program in a new virtual drive. Then click Next. For the program name, type in a short descriptive name, with no spaces. Click Next, then Next again. Browse to the installation file which may be a CD, autorun.exe or downloaded .exe file. Then run through the normal installation steps just as you would if you were installing it into the Windows operating system.
In the next section, we will look at how to build our Linux Community.
As flowers beneath May’s footstep waken,
A rushing light of clouds and splendor,
Rise like Lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number.
Percy Shelley, 1819, after the slaughter of pro-democracy protesters in Manchester England
Knowledge is Power, Freedom is a Process
There is a strong and historic relationship between freedom of knowledge, freedom to share, freedom to learn and freedom to live in a democracy. This is why Thomas Jefferson was such a strong advocate for public schools and public education. He understood that knowledge is power and informed voters are our best chance for a durable democracy. But democracy like freedom is a process. Learning Linux and LibreOffice is only the first step in protecting our freedom to share and our freedom to learn. In this article, we will cover additional steps you can take to continue your progress towards freedom.
As we did the research for this book, we often wondered – how could things have ever gotten this bad? Why have we allowed the Microsoft monopoly go on so long that this Evil Empire is now in control over 90% of the world's two billion computers? What kind of future will we have and will we leave for our children? Will it be a worked in which our children control access to their own knowledge and to the tools of its creation – or will it be a future in which the monopoly of Microsoft and the Big Brother power of the NSA control access to the tools of knowledge?
Monopolies versus Communities - Strength in Diversity
A key benefit of Linux is that it consists of diverse communities of users – one of which is the Linux Mint community. A community is the opposite of a monopoly. Instead of one wealthy person controlling the entire world access to knowledge, people themselves build the computer platforms by which knowledge is shared. Yet we can see the increasing trend towards private monopoly not only in our computer systems but also in our news media where news outlets are almost completely controlled by billionaires. The solution here is also to build and use bottom up news organizations. The following is a diagram created by Linus Torvalds in 2007.
The Linux Way of Innovation
This change will not come from the top down. It must come from the bottom up and it must begin with us. The simplest and easiest way for us to begin this chance is by throwing off the chains of commercial computer programs and replacing them with free open source computer programs.
How to Create a Community Promoting the Free Sharing of Knowledge
Educate: Inform your friends and family about free software.
Advocate: Promote free software tools through projects, campaigns, and events
Supply: Provide materials and increase the availability of free software
Support: Offer local help getting and using free software
Unite: Bridge connections between free software activists and users
Recognize the Danger of Locking Up Knowledge
There is a danger in locking up all knowledge behind pay walls.
Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations… There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public knowledge.
Aaron Swartz Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto
Unlimited Copyright Laws Harm Learning and Economic Development
Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution requires that copyright should be for a limited period of time. What did the drafters of the US Constitution mean by a “limited time”? The copyright law at the time of the drafting of the US Constitution was 14 years plus an additional 14 years - but only if the author was still alive. After 14 years, all works were placed in the public domain for the benefit of everyone. Compare this to the corrupt and innovation stifling current copyright law that protects corporate patents for 120 years after creation and 95 years after publication.
The public should get the benefit of intellectual property and the opportunity to build on knowledge. Sadly, the corrupt US Supreme Court has ignored the plain meaning of the term “limited time” by concluding that 120 years is still a "limited time." By this reasoning, one million years is also a limited time and the English language has no real meaning. Unlimited no-time-limit copyrights are government subsidized private monopolies of public knowledge - monopolies that stifle innovation and economic development.
Public knowledge for the public good.
A Consumer Rights group called Public Knowledge has argued that we must guide by five fundamental principles: service to all Americans, interconnection and competition, consumer protection, reliability, and public safety. Aaron Schwartz called this basic human right the “Freedom to Connect.” The Federal government has gotten way too big, and our copyright law is a symptom of the expansion in the size and scope of the federal government. Today's legal regime of copyright law is seen by many as a form of corporate welfare that hurts innovation and hurts the consumer. It is a system that picks winners and losers, and the losers are new industries that could generate new wealth and new jobs. We frankly may have no idea how it actually hurts innovation, because we don’t know what isn’t able to be produced as a result of our current system. https://www.publicknowledge.org/files/withdrawn_RSC_Copyright_reform_brief.pdf
Through copyright, we don't just censor art, we censor and inhibit communication, thinking, progression, relationship and culture.
How to get more involved in the Linux Community
Linux Youtube Video Channels
Linux Fest Northwest
Use Alternative News Sources instead of the Corporate Nonsense Media
If we have learned anything from the Snowden revelations, it is that we cannot rely on the corporate controlled media to keep us informed about what our government is doing to us. This means that we have to consciously seek out alternate sources of information. One key resource for the Snowden revelations has been Glenn Greenwald and theguardian.com. Other important sources include opednews.com, alternet.com, counterpunch.com, commondreams.org and zerohedge.com. Some of these are regarded as left leaning websites and others are regarded as right leaning websites.
But we need to move away from the left versus right distraction and recognize that the current greatest threat to our freedom is not the left or the right, but rather it is corporate fascism – or the corporate control of government and of people. There are also several excellent websites to get information about new developments in the free sharing of knowledge. These include the Linux Mint website and the Libre Office website. Other excellent websites for keeping up on open source technology are techrights.org and techdirt.com.
Tech News Websites and Organizations
General Alternative News Sources
Open Source Community Organizing
Another way to become better informed about the evolving story of free open source knowledge sharing tools is to join or start a local open source community. There are open source communities all over the world being organized through a group called Libre Planet. To a search on this term to find a group near you and the time and location of their next meeting. https://libreplanet.org/wiki/LibrePlanet:Local_Teams/List
There are also many Linux forums where you can post questions to and read answers to questions posted by other beginners. https://www.linux.org/forums/
There are also many “linux user groups” - also known as LUGs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Linux_user_groups
A Linux User Group (LUG) or GNU/Linux User Group (GLUG) is a non-profit organization that provides support and/or education for Linux users, particularly for inexperienced users. The term commonly refers to local groups that meet in person, but is also used to refer to online support groups that may have members spread over a wide area and which may not have physical meetings.
These groups may meet at a local library, at a community college, at someone's home or even at a local bar. There is so much happening within the open source community that it is difficult for any one person to keep up with it all. Building a group of friends and a local email list for sharing ideas is an important step for learning about the latest changes.
There are several LUG lists on the Web. If you are considering founding a LUG, your first task should be to find any nearby existing LUGs. Your best bet may be to join a LUG already established in your area, rather than founding one.
A Linux User Group meeting at a community college.
There are Linux User Groups in all 50 US states plus the District of Columbia, all of Canada's ten provinces and three territories, all six of Australia's states plus 76 locations in India, and over 100 other countries, including Russia, China, and most of Western and Eastern Europe. Even if you do not have time to go to a local meeting, you can still sign up for their email list. Many of these groups will even help you install the Linus operating system and other open source tools on your computer.
Get Politically Active
Corporate monopolies, such as Microsoft, and the billionaires who run and own them, have invested millions of dollars buying elections and destroying democracy. The only way we will be able to re-establish a fair and level playing field for small, innovative, new businesses and restore a growing economy is if all of us recognize the importance of becoming more politically active. This means attending local monthly meetings of the political party of your choice. You can either try to help take back the Republican or Democratic parties from the billionaires. Or, if you think the major political parties are beyond help, you can do what Richard Stallman has done and support the Green Party – or any other third party. The reason political activism is so important is that apathy simply leads to a corporate takeover of our democracy. None of us can be truly free until all of us are free – and that will not happen by sitting on the couch watching the corporate TV brainwashing programs.
Get involved with your public schools, public colleges and public libraries
There are many ways that you can help introduce and share Linux with the rest of your community. Talk with teachers and administrators at public schools about the financial and educational benefits of using free open source educational tools in the public schools. Attend school board meetings and let school board members know that you would like more course offerings in open source tools in your school district. You can also visit your local community college and ask instructors and administrators for more course offerings on how to use Linux, Libre Office and other free open source tools. You can also visit your local public library and offer to start a once a month discussion group on how to install and use Linux, Libre Office and other free open source tools.
Linux for Learners
Research firm NPD says Chromebooks represent 20-25% of the $300-or-less computer segment. In education, more than 5,000 schools have deployed Chromebooks for their students, representing more than 20% of school districts in the US. A study of 12 school districts by IDC found that switching from PCs to Chromebooks saved school districts over $1,000 per year per student.
The study found that Chromebooks reduced the need for additional IT staff to support their deployments, requiring 69% less labor to deploy and 92% less labor to support than desktop PCs or laptop PCs. Chromebooks' high reliability increased actual teaching and educational administration time by reducing the time lost in managing desktop PCs or laptop PCs by 82%. Finally, the Solid State Drives are obviously more durable and user friendly that the older drives. According to this study, Chromebooks are already the number 2 operating system in schools – right behind Windows.
The new Acer Chromebook C910 – with an 8-hour battery life and much faster processor and 15 inch high resolution screen - is going to take the school student market by storm. But there is a hidden drawback to Chromebooks that many teachers and parents will strongly object to - namely Data Mining.
Switch to Linux to End Student Data Mining
Sadly, Chromebooks without Linux Mint default to Data Mining. Without replacing the Chrome Operating System with Linux Mint and a bigger Solid State Drive, students who use Chromebooks have little choice but to create their documents with Google Docs and store their documents on Google Drive. Neither of these are as secure as storing documents and data on a true Linux laptop protected by Linux Mint.
To bring more attention to the need to protect student data, the Electronic Frontier Federation filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google for violating the student privacy pledge the company signed the year before. The complaint provides evidence that Google is collecting and data-mining the information of students while students are logged into their Google Education accounts at school. The complaint points out that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools. This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords.
Windows Also Exposes Student Documents to Data Mining
As we have discussed throughout this book, Microsoft is also not a secure option for protecting student data. There is a reason Windows computers have suffered millions of breaches over the past few years. It is because the Windows operating system was deliberately designed to NOT be secure. In fact, because Windows 10 “centralizes” the control of access keys, Windows 10 may be even LESS SECURE than previous versions of Windows. Like previous versions, Windows 10 unwisely places the browser inside of the operating system. But in addition, it uses an “Automatic Key" system which give Microsoft and anyone else who gains access to the keys, instant access to your computer - including the ability to shut your computer down without notice (the so-called Microsoft Kill Switch).
There is no way for any Windows 10 computer user to opt out of this insecure system. In fact, Microsoft plans to remotely replace all Windows 7 and 8 systems with Windows 10 during 2018 - an action which will make a bad situation much worse.
“Your computer is now only as secure as that database of keys held by Microsoft, which means it may be vulnerable to hackers, foreign governments, and people who can extort Microsoft employees.” Matthew Green, Professor of Cryptography at Johns Hopkins University
Being forced to hand the keys to your computer over to Microsoft is like being forced to hand the keys of your home over to an untrusted landlord. It is only a matter of time until there is a break in.
Imagine how dangerous it would be for even the federal government to have a set of keys that could open every home in the United States - and even worse that it us easy for hackers to get copies of those same centralized keys. No person or agency should have such centralized power. It is simply not a wise or even workable plan.
Open Source Tools for High Tech Schools
One of the goals of this book and website is to provide public school teachers and administrators with the latest information on using and installing free open source tools for use by students in middle schools and high schools.
There have been huge advances in both software and hardware during the past few years which make it possible to provide every student in every school with the useful high tech learning tools for a fraction of the price that schools are currently spending on old fashioned, outdated and heavy text books or expensive and insecure Windows programs.
There are several reasons besides lower cost and improved security that public school administrators should consider switching to Linux.
#1 Windows Programs are as Harmful to Students as Smoking Cigarettes
Bill Gates once noted that giving students Microsoft programs would get them “kind of addicted” to being turned into permanent slaves to the Microsoft Monopoly. Nowhere else in public schools are teachers forced to promote a private for profit corporate monopoly to corrupt the education of their students. Computers should be used to free and empower students - not to get them addicted and brainwashed into using the products of a corporate monopoly - especially a corporate monopoly that spends billions of dollars buying Congress into passing laws to allow it to hide billions in profits in offshore tax havens.
Microsoft was not the first company to recognize the profit that can be generated by getting children addicted to their products. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company was fined $15m in 2002 for handing out free samples of cigarettes at events attended by children. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/sci_tech/features/health/tobaccotrial/usa.htm.
Microsoft programs may be more harmful than cigarettes because cigarettes only poison the body. Addicting students to commercial Windows programs poisons their minds and prevents students from even learning about educational freedom of thought and action. Free software allows students to explore and make decisions for themselves. If they do not like Linux Mint, they can freely try Ubuntu or Debian or one hundred other free Linux distributions. Students are free to have control over their own computers and their own learning. Free software not restricted by patents protects the right to learn, and share what we learn with others. Free software is the foundation of a learning society where we share our knowledge in a way that others can build upon and enjoy.
Microsoft shelled out a mind-boggling estimated $2 billion to convince the public that it needs Windows 8. Why the record-breaking marketing deluge? Because a slick ad campaign was Microsoft's best shot at hiding what Windows really is; a faulty product that restricts your freedom, invades your privacy, and controls your data. Microsoft wants to keep you locked in to Windows so that it can take your money, your personal data, and your freedom. The tools we use to communicate with each should be available to everyone and should be free. The public should get the benefit of intellectual property and the opportunity to build on knowledge. Public knowledge should be open and free for the public good.
Is a better future around the corner?
While Linux is a very small percent of the current overall computer laptop and desktop market, it is likely to become the primary operating system in our public schools in the next ten years. The Google Chromebook durable and dependable solid state drive, which does not need a fan, is as likely to drive this change as the $300 price. In addition, the fact that a student can use the laptop for the entire day without recharging the battery is a huge plus for public schools.
For many schools, there will be a temptation to simply stay with the Chrome OS operating system. Sadly, this is a very limited operating system which may give students and teachers a bad idea of the real potential with Linux. Converting the operating system to the Linux Mint operating system has no cost. But it does take about one hour (or less) to run through the steps of changing the operating system to Linux Mint. The benefit is that you not only get a better file manager, but you get Libre Office and access to thousands of other free programs.
I am confident that once schools realize how easy it is to convert an economical Chromebook to a powerful full featured laptop, school districts will rush to provide Chromebooks to more students. Then once students learn how much easier Libre Office is that MS Office, we could have an entirely different future for the sharing of knowledge both in and out of our public schools.
Meanwhile, the forced transition of Microsoft to Windows 10 is likely to go as badly as their transition to Windows 8. With an operating system this insecure and unreliable, it is hard to hide the truth for long. 600 million Windows XP and Windows 7 users are going to have a decision to make in 2016. Even if they choose Windows 10, problems with constant crashing computers will cause at least some of them to seek a better option. Many will realize that Linux is the better option. You can help more people with this transition by sharing our book and website with your friends and family.
Rise like Lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you.
We are many – they are few... We are many – they are few!
One of the huge benefits of open source tools is that LibreOffice is a great tool for anyone wishing to publish either an ebook or a website. Sadly, the instructions for using LibreOffice to do either of these things is pretty limited. I am therefore in the process of completing a book on using Libre Office for writing an ebook and another book on how to use another free open source tool, called Joomla to build an educational or business website. Finally, in the coming months, we will start offering online courses on all of these subjects.
You can learn more about all of these educational opportunities by visiting our main website collegeintheclouds.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read this book. I hope you will consider sharing the link to this book with your family, friends and neighbors. This is the year for everyone to learn Linux and LibreOffice.
David Spring M. Ed. & Elizabeth Hanson M. Ed.