Group: Freedom Ladder/Finding help meeting

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In the interest of privacy, only FSF staff members are identified in the meeting minutes (by their initials). All lines that do not begin with initials are suggestions or comments made in the course of the meeting by members of the community.

Some messages have been combined with others and/or rephrased for readability, or in cases where a single speaker’s point spanned several separate IRC messages.

If you recognize a point of yours and think we’ve phrased it a way that misunderstood your point, please feel free to edit and correct it. After all, there is a wiki!


Learning how to find help

  • GF: Learning how to find help is a crucial step and one we wanted to have as a dedicated step, as if anyone is assisting the person pushing themselves through the steps, they have to leave eventually. So a core part of the process is knowing where to find (technical) help when they need it.
  • We also need to prioritize places that prioritize freedom like the FSF member forum, as we don’t want people to be mislead.
  • GF: At the same time, hopefully by this point the person is committed enough to freedom to know the pitfalls of that, provided they’re adequately explained (or can be inferred, like enabling the repository called “non-free” in Debian).
  • Trisquel user forums are a good place for that.
  • Users should also be made aware that there are likely local free software hackers who can help them; local LibrePlanet groups can be leveraged for this purpose.

Trying a free operating system

  • GF: This does not necessarily have to be an FSDG distro right off the bat. But if it isn’t an FSDG distro, the user should be well-informed about any sacrifices or trade-offs to their freedom they might be making.
  • GF: It’s a good idea to at least try an FSDG distro, as it’s a good litmus test for what hardware will/won’t work (and is in fact the basis of H-Node).
  • Considerations about the BIOS: there are some computers containing UEFI that will not allow the user to disable it. What do we recommend in this case?
  • GF: Anything to do with the BIOS on a technical level might be out of scope for the ladder; obviously it’s a concept that we’ll be explaining, but we aren’t going to provide instructions on how to flash Libreboot, as that’s an unreasonable expectation to make for a non-technical user even at the end of this process.
  • (Question about distros working with “secure” boot. Consensus was to recommend disabling it rather than try to configure / depend on a specific distro’s compatibility with it.)
  • (Question about WSL / whether that’s an acceptable “try” of a free operating system. GF generally thinks no, but is open to ideas.)
  • Is the Raspberry Pi and/or other popular single-board computers something we want to recommend?
  • We need to step back and avoid technical discussions about the BIOS, etc., keeping things as simple as possible.
  • There’s a problem of people thinking a distro’s refusal to include nonfree firmware is “not working.” For example, most of the time, the user isn’t aware that it’s not included for a software freedom-related reason. The only thing they see is that it “doesn’t work.”
  • More than that: the Debian installer’s suggested method of prompting the user to load nonfree firmware in on a USB drive rarely works from a technical perspective and is just bound to frustrate.
  • How do we decide which distros to recommend? Should there be a flowchart for specific purposes / hardware?
  • What about ReactOS? (GF: It seems to mostly exist to enable running nonfree programs on an alternate system and is somewhat obscure, so we probably shouldn’t mention it.)
  • How/where do we address the issue of nonfree JS?
  • How/should we acquaint users with the terminal, especially making it seem less intimidating?