This is an archive of a past conference. Visit the latest LibrePlanet conference site.

March 21-22
MIT Stata Center
Cambridge, MA

Program Sessions

All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), which is UTC - 4 hours. In room numbers, "32-" refers to MIT Building 32 (the Stata Center), where all conference rooms are located.

Saturday, March 21

09:00 - 09:45: Registration and Breakfast

09:45 - 10:45: Opening Keynote: Richard Stallman

Free software, free hardware, and other things

Room 32-123 Richard Stallman

Preceded by a welcome address from John Sullivan, FSF executive director.

10:55 - 11:40: Session Block 1A

Federation and GNU

Room 32-123 Christopher Webber

The effort to re-decentralize the web has been under way for a number of years, but what's really happening under the hood? Various projects like Diaspora, GNU social, GNU MediaGoblin, Friendica Red, and Pump.IO all exist, but not all these projects can talk to each other. How can we fix that? A demo of PyPump will be given, as well as a rundown on the progress of the W3C Social Working Group.

Dr. Hyde and Mr. Jekyll: advocating for free software in nonfree academic contexts

Room 32-141 ginger coons

What if the classic horror trope of the good doctor who becomes a monster at night were reversed? Instead of the good Dr. Jekyll transforming into the rampaging Mr. Hyde, advocates of free who work in nonfree environments can feel as if they only get to put on their altruistic persona at night. For academics advocating free software and free culture in particular, libre ethics are often at odds with both administrative structures and expected teaching outcomes. This session explores the struggles of advocating free in both research and teaching.

TAFTA, CETA, TISA: traps and threats to Free Software Everywhere

Room 32-155 Marianne Corvellec, Jonathan Le Lous

TAFTA, CETA, and TISA are far-reaching trade agreements posing major threats to online freedom and creating legal uncertainty for all Internet players. They set forth an ever stronger protection of copyright and patents. They 'recycle' the most toxic parts of ACTA, the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement which was rejected in 2012. The presentation focuses on the software aspects of TAFTA, CETA, TISA. We will call for action against these global treaty projects and offer alternative proposals, which favour Free Software Everywhere.

Lightning talks (until 12:35)

Room 32-144 Facilitator: Donald Robertson

Lightning talks are short presentations given by conference attendees on free software topics they're passionate about. Come to talk or just listen. Register to give a talk at If you have slides, bring them on a flash drive before you plan to talk.

11:40 - 11:50: Break

11:50 - 12:35: Session Block 2A

Let's encrypt!

Room 32-123 Seth Schoen

This year a robotic certificate authority will start issuing publicly-trusted certificates, at no charge, by the millions. Called Let's Encrypt, this CA is an initiative of several organizations. Our free software and protocol will let sysadmins run a single command to turn on HTTPS on their servers in about a minute, helping eliminate obstacles to activating encryption for every Web server. I'll describe how it all works and give a demo. We need lots of testing and integration help!

Attribution revolution -- turning copyright upside-down

Room 32-141 Jonas Öberg

Reusing works licensed under free licenses seems pretty simple, but it can often be quite time consuming. One image or a few lines of source code might be okay, but keeping track of the license and attribution of a thousand different pieces, or when quoting from massive data sets such as Wikipedia? Whoah! Don’t we have computers to do that for us!? We do, but there’s no widespread support for including licensing or author information when sharing or reusing digital works. This session will discuss how this should work in a free knowledge environment, and could it be that many problems regarding copyright and "piracy" in our digital society could be solved with free software?

In order to relate effectively to the digital works we see online, attribution (who made or built something) matters. Proper attribution is the start of being able to explore digital works online in their right context. This talk will focus on the philosophical background of why attribution matters, the benefits that free software can bring to the way we work with pieces of art (lolcats and Shakespeare alike), and where we're heading in the future.

What did we learn in school today?: an OPW retrospective

Room 32-155 Sucheta Ghoshal

I took part in the Outreach Program for Women as an intern in 2013, and became a mentor for the same program in 2014. This talk intends to voice my experience with the GNOME initiative, as well as my thoughts and concerns around the program as a student, a mentor, and a professional in the free software domain, and as an earnest observer of the chaos that is formally called "The Internet." With a focus on the Why, the What and the How of the Gender Gap in free software, the talk ventures answers to those, as conveyed by the OPW initiative.

Lightning talks (continued)

Room 32-144 Donald Robertson

Description above.

12:35 - 13:50: Lunch

13:50 - 14:35: Session Block 3A

Style or substance? Free software is totally the 80's

Room 32-123 Deb Nicholson

The free software community is smart and forward-looking, but sometimes it can be hard to see the big picture when you're part of it. Often the easy choice isn't the best. We've been hearing about this constantly from the DevOps community: "Build systems that don't fail spectacularly in the middle of the night!" Of course, those robust systems are a little harder to build and take a bit more planning to set up. But when you consider "other people's systems" there is no question that the hard work should be done because it will make things better in the long run. The trick is looking at your own systems with that same long-range perspective.

The culture of the 1980's is often depicted as an obsession with neon clothing, valley girl idioms and synthpop. That's an unfortunately shallow portrayal when you consider that the artists and activists of the 1980's were pushing back against the cultural norms portrayed in mass media. They were challenging boundaries about who gets to participate in the creation of art and embracing new technologies to share their ideas. How will our current era of increased free software production and adoption be remembered? Will it be all unconferences and penguin swag or will we be remembered for how we changed the world?

Applying a long-range perspective to the continued growth and success of the world-wide free software movement isn't easy. It will take time and probably money. Can we step outside of our own history and make sure that the community is setting a course for the place we want to end up?

Free fonts

Room 32-141 Dave Crossland

Fonts are not software, but they ought to be libre for the same reasons as software and encyclopedias. I've spent the last ten years as a software freedom activist working on fonts, and I'll show you how I got started, where I'm going, and some of the hundreds of free fonts I've commissioned for writing systems around the world along the way. Finally I'll reveal my take on the most commonly asked question I'm asked about the software freedom movement: how to earn money when giving products away free of charge.

Libreboot: free your BIOS today

Room 32-155 Leah Rowe

Libreboot is a free (libre) BIOS/UEFI replacement for your computer. Based on coreboot, the aim is to distribute low-level boot firmware that is 100% free software. The project is aimed at users, attempting to make coreboot as easy to use as possible.

The work done by the libreboot project (and its upstream, coreboot) is extremely important. Many people are using a free operating system, but most of them are relying on proprietary boot firmware to start their machine. Libreboot exists to provide a distribution of coreboot that is entirely free software, with the same goals as the GNU project and others in providing users the means to achieve freedom in their computing.

This talk goes into detail about the history of libreboot, how the project is run, how libreboot works and ways in which you can begin using libreboot today. The project is also in need of contributors; part of the talk will go into detail on this.

More information about the libreboot project can be found at

Some people worth listening to: Curated lightning talks (until 16:05)

Room 32-144 Facilitator: Molly de Blanc

This session of curated lightning talks will bring new speakers to the podium as well as familiar faces talking about non-familiar topics. These talks, which are pre-scheduled, will be brief overviews of broader topics or a deeper take on a very narrow topic. Each talk will be ten minutes (including time for questions), with a time at the end to engage individual speakers.

14:35 - 14:45: Break

14:45 - 16:05: Session Block 4A

Librarians fight back: free software solutions for digital privacy

Room 32-123 April Glaser, Alison Macrina

Librarians all over the country are affirming their commitment to digital privacy rights by using and teaching free software tools in their libraries. This initiative -- the Library Freedom Project -- was started by IT librarian Alison Macrina and staff of the ACLU, who have been visiting privacy-loving librarians in different states to show them how freedom of speech and the right to privacy are compromised by digital surveillance, and what new privacy-protecting free software services libraries can offer to shield patrons from unwanted surveillance of their online activity. In this session, organizers from the Library Freedom Project will talk about how the project is unfolding, how developers can support the adoption of free software privacy tools at libraries, and what kinds of relationships need to form for these initiatives to be sustainable.

Growing your free software project

Room 32-141 Shauna Gordon-McKeon

Many free software projects are interested in growing their user and contributor bases, but it can be hard to know where to start. This workshop will go over some key first steps to growing a friendly and diverse community, such as:

  • Making sure your “Getting Started” materials, such as installation and contributor guides, are accurate and accessible
  • Running quick user tests and processing the feedback
  • Promoting your project through social media and in-person events

After an introductory presentation, the audience will break out into groups and work on activities designed to make taking these steps as easy as possible. Individuals will have the opportunity to try out multiple activities. Those who do not currently have a free software project to contribute to will be paired with those who do, and can learn these useful skills to apply in the future.

At the end of the workshop, there will be a wrap-up presentation which will also briefly cover a wide range of additional tools, tips, and resources for growing and diversifying your community.

Will it blend?

Room 32-155 Bassam Kurdali

Blender is the free 3D Animation Software used to make this year's FSF 30'th anniversary video. This session is lead by the maker of the video, and aims to provide a fun introduction to using blender. We'll cover the basics, partially using files from the video, and introduce various aspects of the software - rendering, animation and a bit about the Python api. Bring a laptop with a copy of blender from your distro or from!

Some people worth listening to: Lightning talks (continued)

Room 32-144 Molly de Blanc

Description above.

16:05 - 16:15: Break

16:15 - 17:35: Session Block 5A

When open is not enough: educators and academia grapple with the need for libre

Room 32-123 Laura Quilter, Nicole Allen

New research techniques like data mining have highlighted the shortcomings in "free" (as in beer) licensing of academic research, and the benefits of "libre" licensing that permits true scholarly engagement with data and scholarship. These challenges apply equally in the education sphere, where teachers often need to manipulate resources and not simply distribute them. We will survey what is sometimes called the "open movement" in academia, which incorporates open access, open education, and open data. How are researchers and educators grappling with these challenges, and what can they learn from the free software movement?

The state of free: Revising the High Priority Projects list

Room 32-141 ginger coons, Benjamin Mako Hill, Karen Sandler, Stefano Zacchiroli

The FSF High-Priority Projects List guides volunteers and supporters to projects where their skills can be utilized, whether they be in coding, graphic design, writing, or activism.

Members of the committee convened to revise the list will give an update on the review process so far, including some examples of suggestions received as part of the call for public feedback, and will invite audience discussion.

Let's first get things done!

Room 32-155 Seda Gürses, Jara Rocha

The current distance between those who organize their activism to develop “technical infrastructures” and those who bring their struggles becomes especially evident in the pragmatic spirit of getting things done. "Radical" activists may turn to services provided by Fortune 500 companies, while alternative tech initiatives sustained by a select (visionary and male) few may remain insistent on crypto with 9-lives. Through a close study of digital self-defense campaign sites, we want to pause to explore other modes of collaboration.

17:35 - 17:45: Break

17:45 - 18:45: Free Software Awards

Room 32-123

Sunday, March 22

09:00 - 09:45: Registration and breakfast

09:45 - 10:30: Keynote: Benjamin Mako Hill

Access without empowerment

Room 32-123 Benjamin Mako Hill

The free software movement has twin goals: promoting access to software through users' freedom to share, and empowering users by giving them control over their technology. For all our movement's success, we have been much more successful at the former. I will use data from free software and from several related movements to explain why promoting empowerment is systematically more difficult than promoting access and I will explore how our movement might address the second challenge in the future.

10:30 - 10:40: Break

10:40 - 11:25: Session Block 1B

Fork and ignore: fighting a GPL violation by coding instead

Room 32-123 Bradley Kuhn

Typically, GPL enforcement activity involves copyright infringement actions which compel license violators to correct errors in their GPL compliance, defending the policy goals of the GPL: the rights of developers and users to copy, share, modify and redistribute.

While traditional enforcement is often undeniably necessary for embedded electronics products, novel approaches to GPL violations are often possible and even superior for more traditional software distributions.

Recently, Software Freedom Conservancy engaged in an enforcement action whereby, rather than fight the violator in court, we instead provided resources and assistance to a vetted GPL-compliant fork of a violating codebase.

This talk discusses which scenarios make this remedy optimal and the lessons learned. The talk includes some licensing and technical content about vetting the licensing information of codebases.

Who did this? Just wait until your father gets home

Room 32-141 Ken Starks

What's going on in here? Computer parts laying all over the place... screws and ribbon cables scattered across heaven's half acre. And who left this power supply in the refrigerator? Is that your dad's new impact drive? Don't you dare let me get up in the middle of the night and step on that motherboard in my bare feet. Just what in the name of Michael Dell is going on here?

Growing and sustaining a global, freed Internet

Room 32-155 Paige Peterson

The SAFE Network is a completely decentralized and free Internet infrastructure. Almost a decade in the making, this network comes with many features focused on privacy, security and freedom for all users. A built-in cryptocurrency creates an ecosystem which not only sustains its decentralized structure and the development of applications but also will enable a digital economy which has never been able to exist before. Imagine what it would have been like if the world wide web launched with a built-in cryptocurrency and what effects that would have on digital ownership. The SAFE Network will replace dependence on servers for secure storage and computation with a decentralized, autonomous network of individuals providing these resources. This session will give a brief technical overview of the network and an understanding of the underlying ecosystem.

11:25 - 11:35: Break

11:35 - 12:20: Session Block 2B

Implementing electronic medical record systems in rural Haiti​

Room 32-123 Ellen Ball, Michael Seaton

Partners In Health (PIH) designed, developed and implemented a point-of-care electronic medical records (EMR) system at University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti. The sophisticated system improves efficiency at the tertiary teaching hospital and ultimately delivers a higher level of care to patients. The EMR was built upon the strong code base of OpenMRS, the global community of developers, varied implementations by PIH in five countries, and many other superb implementations around the world. This project improved user experience, brought all improvements back to the free software community, provided great tools for new implementations, and advanced OpenMRS to the next level.

Fighting surveillance with a free, distributed, and federated net

Room 32-141 Frank Karlitschek

The Internet and the World Wide Web were originally designed as distributed and federated networks. In the last few years we've seen a trend to more centralized services like Facebook, Google, Dropbox and others, making censorship, surveillance and espionage very easy.

The ownCloud community is currently using free software to build a fully federated and distributed network, which makes it easier to guarantee people's basic rights for people to control over their own data (as described in the User Data Manifesto at Anyone can run an ownCloud server at home or somewhere on the Internet and collaborate and share with everyone else.

The talk will discuss ownCloud's current and upcoming features, as well as the current problems with surveillance and espionage and strategies to solve them.

Free software for medical imaging: Bringing technological independence to hospitals

Room 32-155 Sébastien Jodogne

In this talk, I will explain the pains behind modern medical imaging, from the perspective of the hospitals. The DICOM standard will be introduced, together with free software supporting this standard. I will then put emphasis on the free software Orthanc, a lightweight, versatile vendor neutral archive. Orthanc is conceived as a central, robust building block to bring technological independence to clinical departments, by automating their very specific imaging flows and by creating free gateways between proprietary ecosystems.

12:20 - 13:35: Lunch

13:35 - 14:20: Session Block 3B

Distributions and the free "cloud"

Room 32-123 Stefano Zacchiroli

What role have Free Software distributions played in making free software as popular as it is today? And what has that to do with the so-called "cloud" that seems to be slowly neutralizing all of the achievements made by free software over the past 30 years? How do free software distributions need to evolve in order to become powerful allies in the quest for a free "cloud," one in which users are empowered to the level of control they wish for over their own computing, without having to turn into full fledged DevOps?

TPP, TTIP, WTF: trade agreements and their threat to hacking and free software

Room 32-141 Maira Sutton

Over the last two decades, trade agreements have come to include increasingly draconian digital regulations. Dozens of bilateral trade deals have already passed, and have led to nations enacting ever more restrictive copyright enforcement provisions that harm users' right to hack, make, and tinker with digital devices and software. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are two sprawling trade agreements that are currently being negotiated in secret, and they too threaten to carry these provisions. This presentation will cover the various ways these international deals threaten free software, as well as discuss what we can do to stop them from continuing to circumvent accountability while raising the global standards of copyright enforcement in the dark.

Engaging Nepali kids with free software

Room 32-155 Martin Dluhoš

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an educational project whose goal is to provide resources to children around the world to be able to learn in a self-directed manner using an inexpensive laptop. Earlier this year, I spent six months in Nepal volunteering for the local educational non-profit OLE Nepal, which employs OLPC laptops to provide better educational opportunities in schools that lack resources and governmental support. Kids from elementary schools chosen for the laptop program get to learn with interactive activities that OLE designed based on Nepali curricula.

During my stay, I had a few chances to visit some of these schools and witness XOs (OLPC laptops running the free operating system Sugar) in action in the classroom. I will share my observations about the number of ways in which the laptop program is making a meaningful impact on Nepali children's learning. I have seen that free software is not restricted to the West anymore, but is present even in some of the most remote places of the world. Through sharing my experience, I am hoping to expose participants of the conference to a new context in which free software is being encountered by people who have never used a computer before.

Libreboot installation workshop (until 17:40)

Room 32-144 Facilitator: Leah Rowe

Bring your ThinkPad X60, X200 or R400 and get assistance flashing it with, from the Libreboot maintainer and other knowledgeable people. Make sure everything is backed up first!

Other hardware is also supported. The full list can be found at

14:20 - 14:30: Break

14:30 - 15:15: Session Block 4B

Schooling in the free software sandbox: new directions in K-12 education

Room 32-123 Sara Hassani

The last few years have seen an explosion among pop cultural messages that “coding” for kids is cool. We have witnessed the rise of coding bootcamps, coding MOOCs, and proprietary coding environments. Yet, these developments often fail to recognize how programming literacy can be used to realize more fundamental educational goals. In this session, we discuss the essential role of free software in cultivating educational values, and the challenges that must be overcome to make this vision a reality.

Free culture, free software: making free software work for cultural heritage organizations

Room 32-141 Jennie Rose Halperin

Cultural heritage organizations rely almost entirely on proprietary software and many refuse to believe that the systems they choose directly impact their long term success as largely grant-funded organizations.

This session will explore the options for free software in the cultural heritage space and inspire participants to work with organizations to help make the transition. It will also talk about the pros and cons of working with free software in the cultural heritage space and touch on many of the issues that professionals face while making the transition. The session will end with future-state imagining to dream up how we can better support new projects in free software for cultural heritage as well as invite people into already existing communities.

Browse in privacy and freedom with GNU IceCat

Room 32-155 Ruben Rodriguez Perez

We will take a look into how most browsers leave you defenseless against attacks on your privacy and freedom -- including remote code execution, fingerprinting, and non-free plugins/add-ons -- and how GNU IceCat can protect you.

Libreboot installation workshop (until 17:40)

Room 32-144 Leah Rowe

Description above.

15:15 - 15:25: Break

15:25 - 16:10: Session Block 5B

GNU Health: improving public health care with free software

Room 32-123 Luis Falcón

Health must be a non-negotiable, universal right. We'll talk about the role of health informatics in the public health system, especially in primary health care (PHC). We will discuss the risks of proprietary systems and the importance of embracing free software.

We'll show examples of adoption of GNU Health in the public health sector, like the case of the Jamaican government, which chose GNU Health at a national level, to achieve our motto: "Freedom and Equity in Health Care."

Arvados: a free software platform for big data science

Room 32-141 Brett Smith, Ward Vandewege

Large-scale scientific computing work often runs on clusters with petabytes of attached storage and specialized networking. Arvados is a free software platform to store and analyze large data sets, emphasizing reproducibility and compatibility across deployments. It's licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License version 3, with SDKs under the Apache License 2.0. This talk will provide a technical introduction to Arvados, describe how research projects like the Personal Genome Project have used it, and suggest other applications.

Free software at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences

Room 32-155 Sanjoy Mahajan

The first African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), founded in 2003 in Cape Town, offers a free, world-class master's diploma to talented students from across Africa. Underpinning AIMS's computing infrastructure is free software: Python, Octave, Maxima, R, and SAGE, all running on GNU/Linux. I will describe how free software became so embedded in AIMS's DNA as well as its ethical and practical benefits. With AIMS centers now being founded in Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, and Tanzania, these benefits are spreading widely across Africa.

Libreboot installation workshop (until 17:40)

Room 32-144 Leah Rowe

Description above.

16:10 - 16:20: Break

16:20 - 17:40: Session Block 6B

Shared values: journalism and free software

Room 32-123 Remy DeCausemaker, Timothy Duffy, Andrea Hickerson, Erika Owens

Free software and journalism have a long and rich history of informing one another and the Web at large. These communities share many values: transparency, objectivity, skepticism, and dogged pursuit of solutions, particularly ones that help improve our understanding of and access to the world. We'll talk about what these values look like in newsrooms (including the coding side of news) and where there are opportunities for these groups to learn from and reinforce these common values. Journalism drives a huge portion of what we read on the Web, so let's chat about the values that drive both that reporting and development work.

Rock your Emacs

Room 32-141 Ben Sturmfels

Do you love Emacs, but have never understood the strange code with lots of brackets? You're missing out on one of the great joys of Emacs — customising it to work exactly the way you want. It turns out that Emacs is little more than an interpreter for Lisp code interpreter, and once you know a little Emacs Lisp, almost anything is possible.

After attending this tutorial, you will know how to:

  • make persistent customisations to your Emacs
  • read basic Emacs Lisp code
  • modify Emacs Lisp code as well as writing your own
  • customise behaviour for distinct modes
  • bind your favourite commands to keys
  • answer your own questions with the amazing documentation system
  • use built-in Emacs Lisp development tools like the debugger
  • write your own reusable modules for Emacs customisations

This workshop will be enjoyed most if you already have a little programming experience.

Document Freedom Day: Let freedom ring!

Room 32-155 Robinson Tryon

Events celebrating Document Freedom Day (DFD) are kicking off this week across the globe. Free formats and protocols are essential to free software, but many people around the world haven't heard about the importance and benefits of free standards. At this strategy session we'll

  • Discuss DFD events planned for 2015
  • Sign you up to run your own DFD event
  • Compare DFD and Software Freedom Day (SFD)
  • Review what outreach methods have been most effective
  • Brainstorm new ideas to promote free formats

Libreboot installation workshop (continued)

Room 32-144 Leah Rowe

Description above.

17:40 - 17:50: Break

17:50 - 18:35: Closing Keynote: Karen Sandler

Stand up for the GNU GPL

Room 32-123 Karen Sandler

Karen will discuss Conservancy's work with Christoph Hellwig and the suit against VMware to defend the GNU General Public License.