In the light of on coming onslaught of government surveillance (or otherwise), how does one prepare to live life in freedom — freedom from your privacy being infringed upon? Essentially, how to live life on your own terms and how to free yourself from depending on the government for your needs?
Here are some thoughts on activities in daily life, and their freedom respecting alternatives:
- Paying people: cash or cryptocurrency
- Electricity: install solar panels
- Food: If possible, grow your own. You cannot know what pesticides and agro-chemicals you are consuming when you purchase from the market.
- Internet: No ISP is better than another. Satellite internet might be slower, but probably better suited for privacy. Use cryptography to beat surveillance. Use ssh tunnels, VPNs, the Tor network etc.
- Desktop Operating System: GNU/Linux, hell yeah! Fedora Linux is best (avoid Ubuntu)
- Laptop: Any laptop that doesn’t have proprietary firmware is good. I use Thinkpad, but this is not the best choice.
- Mobile Operating System: This is tricky. Android relies on Google Play Services, and is hence non-free at its core. After careful deliberation, I find Jolla’s Sailfish OS as the best freedom respecting mobile platform. I use Windows Phone (Lumia 1520) and Sailfish 2.0 (Intex Aquafish).
- Mobile phone: A prepaid SIM, perhaps that came out from a vending machine, is best (this works in USA). In some countries, such a choice is not possible (India). Pay phones (with a coin drop slot) are perhaps the only option. Where legal, satellite phones (illegal in India) might give you ultimate freedom from surveillance. Do read Stallman’s views on this issue.
- Maps: Good support for offline maps on mobile devices is in the works. Soon, OpenStreetMap would suffice for all user needs. With OpenStreetMap, you can own the data and you can run every service (search, geocoding, routing etc.) offline. Commercial equivalents will remain easy to use, but will aggressively collect your location data.
- Mail: Probably best to setup your own server. I need to figure out strategies against failures, but it should be doable. Open protocols like IMAP, SMTP support end to end encryption, and it should be secure from surveillance.
- Browser: Firefox preferably, otherwise Chromium if you can’t live without it.
- Chat: IRC rocks. One can setup IRC bridge to use Slack through an IRC interface, which can help you avoid the proprietary Slack client. On the phone, I see no alternative of Whatsapp (which is non-free). Telegram is no better. Best to avoid these for now. On the desktop, I use XMPP clients like Pidgin / Empathy.
- Travel: If you can pay anonymously and travel legally without an ID, that is the best. Indian Railways makes it possible. Traveling in your own vehicle is not the best either, since your number plate is prone to tracking and surveillance.
- Social media: Avoid putting up photographs on social media as much as possible. Facebook and government agencies are known to be building massive facial recognition databases.
For insights into my inspirations, check out the lifestyle FAQs of Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation.
So, all good, Ishan. How much of this do you follow yourself? Not much, unfortunately. But knowing what is good for you is better than ignorance. And trying to achieve what is good for you is worth it.
Thanks and dedicated to Anshul 🙂 I got the instrument out after 2 years to see how it goes. Cheers!
After a long while, this turned out to be a productive weekend. I got my Raspberry Pi to bootup finally. For this, I had to unbox Mitali’s TV, find a video out cable and a MicroSD card adapter. Turns out she has a pretty slick TV, and how better to utilize it other than to run linux on it? Poor TV, it has turned geek after mistress’ marriage.
- First bootup of my Raspberry Pi
Anyway, started out with Fedora 18 RPi Remix. Didn’t have an HDMI cable to enjoy full resolution display, didn’t have the wireless keyboard, mouse so as to get a free USB port for the WiFi adapter. Hope to set them all up in the coming week.
On December 22nd, we had an awesome trip to Gurgaon and Qutab Minar; Anshul, Manas and I relived our good old days of carefree roaming around.
Was great fun driving a Platina in rainy conditions for 20 km from college to home. Had the same pleasure, this time in Bangalore. Other related incidents include my generous agreement to have a colleague for pillion, giving out petrol to a stranger at HAL.
Firstly, let me congratulate myself and the awesome Multimedia Search team at Yahoo! for winning a team excellence award today. Though sad to leave Vertical Intent Search team, the new problems and challenges at the new team has been creatively engaging.
That brings me to the most awesome person at Y! among those I had never met before. Sydney Lewis was a revelation for me; great chess player, a wonderful leader, and a humble and responsible person. Learning chess from him is an honour. I would really spend a fortune to be coached by him, and by grace of God he has accepted me as a student!
Another guy I met whom I could learn something about RC helis from was Anirudh Sanjeev. But, alas, his internship ended. That brings me to Karthik who promised to mentor me on cubing. Exciting times ahead!
The weekend was pretty nice. Spain beat France 2-0 (vamos sirpicha, sorry spendy). Then Fernando Alonso won The Grand Prix of Europe (Valencia), despite starting from 11th on the grid. Kimi Raikkonen got 2nd and Michael Schumacher 3rd (starting 12th on the grid). And now Alonso leads the drivers’ championship with 111 agaisnt Webber’s 91.
Other than that, had good time learning Spanish and Clojure. Reached Skill 5 in DuoLingo and did some initial 30 odd problems at 4Clojure.com. Learning both Clojure and Spanish seems addictive. Once the rhythm settles in, it becomes hard to stop pushing harder.
On the shopping front, just purchased my first ever e-book, “Functional Programming for Object Oriented Programmers”, purchased a cool toy that has been shipped and should be arriving shortly as well as a book from Infibeam to help me make best use of the toy. Among other activities, trying to chase down a few bugs with the Python support in Anjuta. Also, in recent days, I’ve run into excellent form with the Pirc Defence as black. So long as it doesn’t transpose into a King’s Indian, I seem to be doing great in the opening and middlegame. As white, trying out some Smith-Morra stuff and King’s Gambit with reasonable success.
Here’s a photograph of a beautiful set of flowers that grew in our landlady’s garden.
As Anshul pointed out recently, life here is quite eventful. Past week or two has been full of interesting events. Most notably the get together of friends and the incidents that followed. The trips to Nandi hills and Tirupati were exciting and kept up with the tradition of last minute planning. Corporate life is chaotic as well, but so far so good.
Very soon, we all will be mature and morose enough not to act dumb or randomly. Let us take this opportunity to do some crazy things that we’ll remember forever. 🙂
I feel sad at times to look back on things to realize what all we could do before and cannot now.
- We could bunk classes, we can’t bunk office.
- We could hang out with friends, we can’t any longer.
- We could chat with friends on the phone almost daily, now once a week feels frequent.
- We could get the bikes and hit the road, pick buddies from their homes and go on trips. Now we need to plan months in advance.
- We could say/do dumb things all day, now we better get our act together (we are professionals).
- We could blow up all pocket money on food/drinks in one shot, now we better save to ensure sustenance till end of month.
- We could go on college fests, take part in contests. But now, we just have meetings to attend in office.
- We could go to movies (even if 1 hour later than the start) any time, any day we wanted to. Now we have to wait for the weekends, and might still not have company of enough good friends.
Life has become more serious than ever before. 2.5 years into the professional life, I feel things are going to get further downhill from now. The fun days are behind us. Period.