• Freie Kommunikation ist die Essenz des Menschseins

    Im Folgenden werde ich – durch meinen Gemütszustand etwas angefeuert – darlegen, wieso digitale Kommunikationsüberwachung Gift für unsere Gesellschaft ist, weil sie nichts anderes als Millionen Abhörwanzen und Kameras in unseren privatesten Räumen ist.

    Seit einigen Monaten hat sich ein Grundkonflikt in den politischen Debatten verstärkt: Welche Kommunikation sollte überwacht werden dürfen und welche nicht? Ausschließlich inländische Kommunikation? Geschäftliche E-Mails? Telefongespräche über 20 Sekunden Dauer?
    Und parallel dazu bekomme ich seit mehreren Monaten regelmäßig Wutanfälle, nämlich wenn ich Kommentare von “Experten” und Laien lese, die solche künstliche Trennungen von Kommunikation und deren unterschiedliche Bewertung immer noch ernsthaft in Erwägung ziehen.

    Wieso ist Kommunikation = Kommunikation?

    Weil Kommunikation – in welcher Form auch immer – schützenswert ist und privat bleiben muss, weil wir uns sonst als Gesellschaft aufgeben. Es ist witzlos, gesetzlich eine künstliche Trennung zwischen Kommunikationsarten ziehen zu wollen. Nur die Ewiggestrigen können ernsthaft vorhaben, analoge und digitale Unterhaltung, Schriftwechsel und Meinungsaustausch zu trennen und deren Inhalt unterschiedlich zu behandeln.

    Ja, die technischen Wege der Kommunikationsformen sind unterschiedlich: Bei der einen rege ich durch Muskelbewegungen Vibrationen in der Luft an, die bei meinem Gegenüber im Ohr zu sinnvollen Informationen verarbeitet werden. Bei der anderen schicke ich (un)willkürlich Nullen und Einsen durch Netzwerke, die durch immer noch atemberaubende Technik an der anderen Seite wieder lesbar werden. Doch die Qualität ist dieselbe.

    Stellen wir uns einmal vor…

    Nehmen wir ein realitätsnahes Beispiel: Frau und Herr Schuster. [Read More…]

  • My internship at FSFE

    I recently saw that the Free Software Foundation Europe is offering a new and very interesting internship position. That’s a great opportunity for every student interested in Free Software and political activism — and for me to write about my internship I completed from October 2013 until end of March 2014. Here’s a report I wrote some time ago:

    Starting from October 2013 I was able to work 6 months as an intern for the Free Software Foundation Europe in Berlin. This was an internship required by my bachelor degree course at the University of Konstanz (Germany) where I study Politics and Public Administration. Some years before my internship I already was an FSFE Fellow and then decided to apply there.

    My daily tasks contained monitoring and moderation of the various mailing lists and social network accounts. There were also various technical jobs to do: Updating and creating single websites, sending out newsletters, fixing smaller bugs on our pages and so on.

    The bigger part in my internship was political work. In Germany, various ISPs want to hinder end consumers to freely choose a router because they only want officially supported ones. Such policy comes with serious consequences for security, free competition, trust in technology, and compatibility. My tasks contained analysing regulation drafts, writing statements for public hearings and coordination with other activists. We summarized the issue and our work on https://fsfe.org/activities/routers

    After the parliamentary elections in Germany 2013 I analysed the Grand Coalition’s agreement to identify possible positive and negative effects on Free Software. I also was able to visit several politicians in the German Bundestag to talk with them about Free Software and upcoming important tasks we wanted to work on.

    Besides I helped a lot organising our various campaigns like “Document Freedom Day” and “I love Free Software”. For many of these political tasks and campaigns I wrote press releases and public statements.

    During my internship I learned a lot about the structure and work in a multinational organisation and how to collaborate and talk with different people around the world. Another plus is the know-how I aquired by helping planning the various campaigns and analyses. When I was in Brussels and Chemnitz to help at FSFE’s booths during conferences I also learned very much about how to talk with people of all kinds and how to carry ideas and convictions to others.

    I will never regret applying for and completing the internship at FSFE. There were so many theoretical and practical things no study course can teach. Being able to work at the interface between communities, companies and politics is something every interested student should be granted.

    I want to thank everybody who enabled the FSFE to offer these internships. Organisations like the Free Software Foundation Europe are important to bring equality and freedom to our society and these internships allow students to get an insight into this very interesting area of activity.

    This internship was a very general one so I was able to work in many different areas of FSFE’s activity. The offered internship is mostly about Document Freedom Day, FSFE’s largest campaign in which I also invested a lot of time. I’m quite sure that this position is also very interesting — and very important as well! So if you want to take responsibility and want to learn much about collaboration, worldwide activism and public relations, go ahead and apply for this internship!

    If you are interested in this internship but you have some questions left, please feel free to ask me anything.

  • Setting Openstreetmap as default in Thunderbird’s contacts

    Thunderbird contact map buttonIf you use Thunderbird and its contact functionality, you might already have stumbled over the “show on map” feature. If you add addresses to your contacts (no matter if directly in Thunderbird or via CalDAV) there appears a button which enabled you to open a map with the contact’s location.

    The default search provider is Google Maps. If you don’t like this service and prefer free and open systems like me, you can also add openstreetmap.org as your default map service. You only have to change a value in the advanced configuration.

    Open the Settings menu, select the Advanced panel, select the General tab, and click Config Editor. Now copy in the search field: mail.addr_book.mapit_url.format and double click on the string to edit it.

    You should now see the default value. It’s nothing more than an URL with variables defined by the street, the country or the postal code of the respective contact. If you want to use Openstreetmap, fill in this value:

    https://www.openstreetmap.org/search?query=@A1+@A2+@CI+@ST+@ZI+@CO

    Restart Thunderbird and test again with an existing contact. By clicking on the button you should now see OSM instead of Google Maps where you can select one of the results in the left sidebar. Congratulations!

    Further reading:
    For more information about Thunderbird’s config editor, see the official knowledgebase entry
    If you want to set other variables in the map query, there’re some hints on Mozilla’s Hidden prefs guide

  • Birthday Calendar with ownCloud via CalDAV

    Thunderbird Lightning

    Not a big issue in this blog post but an important one. Maybe I can save you some valuable time if you ever look for such a function.

    As you know I’m a heavy user of ownCloud and you also might know that synchronisation is a big topic for me. And the third thing you should know that forgetting a good friend’s birthday really su… well, it’s no good style. This almost happened to me some days ago because I couldn’t check it on my Notebook with Thunderbird. My setup looks like this: All contacts (with birthday tags) in ownCloud, and these CardDAV address books are synced with my Android phone and Thunderbird/SOGo-Connector on my notebook, as well as the CalDAV calendars with Lightning.

    For Android there are several free software apps which enable the inclusion of birthdays from your contacts into any calendar app. Some calendar apps even can do it theirselves. But for Thunderbird there are only some outdated add-ons. All of them don’t work with TB31 anymore and if you modify the install.rdf-file to make them run anyhow, they’re very buggy or just nonfunctional. And if you look in your ownCloud instance (where contacts’ birthdays are visible in the calendar tab) for a downloadable/syncable calendar you’ll reach the same conclusion like me: There is none.

    But there is! [Read More…]

  • Guter E-Mail-Stil

    Heutzutage ist schriftlicher Stil in E-Mails ebenso wichtig wie eine angemessene Sprechweise oder standardisierte Floskeln und Höflichkeiten in Briefen. E-Mails sind trotz Short Messaging wie per SMS, WhatsApp oder Facebook weiterhin die bedeutenste digitale Kommunikationsmöglichkeit.
    Das ist auch der Grund, weshalb ein guter E-Mail-Stil so enorm wichtig ist: Wir werden von E-Mails regelrecht bombardiert, auch wenn man den Spam nicht einmal mit einberechnet. Daher sollten wir uns und unseren Kommunikationspartnern die Sache erleichtern, indem wir einen guten, effizienten und dennoch freundlichen Umgang und Stil pflegen.

    Der Erstkontakt

    Sollte man derjenige sein, der eine E-Mail versendet, sind bereits einige Dinge sehr wichtig:
    [Read More…]

  • Wirklich sichere WhatsApp Alternativen

    Gravestone with WhatsApp logoNachdem diese Woche bekannt wurde, dass Facebook es endlich geschafft hat, WhatsApp-Gründer Jan Koum und Brian Acton mit einer stolzen Summe von rund 16 Milliarden US-Dollar zum Verkauf ihrer Firma zu bewegen, fragen sich viele, was sich nun in Sachen Privatsphäre ändern wird – und wie man dem entgegenwirken kann. In diesme Artikel werde ich erläutern, was man bei der Wahl des richtigen Messengers beachten sollte, warum Threema nicht die Lösung ist und was wirklich sichere Alternativen sind.

    Grundlegendes

    Prinzipiell geht es hier um zwei Aspekte von Datenschutz: Erstens der Schutz vor (halb)staatlicher Überwachung und zweitens der Schutz seiner persönlichen Daten vor privaten Konzernen, meist Werbetreibende.
    Beides sollte jedem von uns sehr wichtig sein, denn WhatsApp befördert noch kritischere Daten als Facebook heutzutage. Wissen wir mittlerweile, dass wir vielleicht nicht unbedingt unseren 300 “Freunden” auf Facebook unsere peinlichsten Momente per Video mitteilen sollten und dass dort vielleicht auch der künstige Arbeitgeber mitlesen kann, so chatten wir auf WhatsApp viel privater mit einer zweiten Person oder einer sich kennenden Gruppe. Die Hemmschwelle, mal eben lustig-peinliche Bilder zu schicken ist niedriger, genauso wie es einfacher ist, sich anzügliche Nachrichten und Medien hin- und herzuschicken. Bisher haben nur die wenigsten damit ein Problem gehabt, denn es blieb ja privat. [Read More…]

  • I love ZNC because #ilovefs

    I love Free Software!

    Today is I love Free Software day 2014. Using the slogan “I love Free Software but I love you more” this day should not only be used to thank our significant others for their love but also to say “thank you” to people who work hard to ease one’s everyday tasks with the software they develop.

    Have you ever been in an IRC channel?
    If not, you should try it, it’s a great and easy way of communication and very common.
    If yes, then the term “IRC Bouncer” might be familiar to you. It keeps “you” online 24/7 in the channel, although your device at home is offline. During this time, your slot in the channel is reserved by your bouncer.

    ZNCIn this blog post, I’d like to present ZNC to you, a beautiful piece of Free Software which you can install easily on a server, is highly configurable and consumes only little server resources.

    “What the hell should this be for?!” you’re asking? Well, since I’m presenting ZNC, I can give you a few examples of the mightyness of this software:

    • Basic Functions
      • If you’re leaving the channel, ZNC can set an individual away status and reply to anyone how’s calling you directly in the channel or in a query that you’re unavailable at the moment
      • You can add multiple IRC networks with only one account and one port. Similar bouncers like psybnc are unable to do this. You can edit your networks separately, for example with different nicknames or away messages
      • You don’t want to quit IRC even if you have to because the ongoing discussion is so interesting? No problem with ZNC. ZNC can buffer the channel chat and queries to you, so you can everything if you’re back again. This also helps if you had connection issues and come back a few minutes later – you’ll never miss anything again

    Well, these are only the basic functions. Below I added several others which have convinced me to keep using ZNC and nothing else. Of course, it’s Free Software (Apache 2.0 License) and it’s quite actively developed. If you have no server or no time to install something on it, you can also use one of the many ZNC providers for free.

    If you like ZNC as much as I do, please consider helping them to improve the software or just donate to keep the very useful wiki alive!

    Further cool functions you might find useful: [Read More…]

  • Why free choice of routers is a must

    In my opinion, the latest NSA leaks reached a new level of boldness.
    Oh wait, maybe you are one of the people that keep saying “Of course NSA is spying on all of us, but I’m safe: I use Tor/VPN, deleted my Facebook account, and I completely switched to secure operating systems, so I got this going for me.“. If so I congratulate you, these are important steps and I hope there will be more people like you.

    NSA Headwater Implant

    NSA Headwater Implant

    But as the introducting sentence states, the latest information of NSA’s mass surveillance goes much further than only spying in social networks and intercepting phone calls. This time, it’s about your home and your network itself. To be concrete: It’s about your router located somewhere in your rooms. Internal, top secret classified presentations show that NSA is actively searching for vulnerabilities in industry and home routers and is buying exploits if needed. And if all of these steps aren’t enough, they just implant a backdoor chip granting full remote access.

    If you hear about an massively exploited vulnerability or a cooperating router vendor, I would expect you to switch the router or at least install updated/other firmware on the device. But what if you are not able to this because your Internet Service Provider (ISP) forces you to use his and no other device?

    [Read More…]

  • Mounting a SFTP storage in GNU/Linux

    This (longer than expected) post explains how to transfer files securely between your device and an external storage. The first part may be useful for you if you only have little knowledge of terms like (S)FTP(S) and want to learn something about widely used technologies. The second part will help you to mount an external storage so you can manage all files as if they are on your local device and the third, fourth and fifth part will concentrate on easing the mounting process by the help of hostnames, Private/Public Keys and a shell script.
    This guide will be very detailed and is also (and especially) suited for beginners. Maybe also some advanced users can learn something or give hints for improvements.

    But let’s be honest: All in all, this post will show you again, why Free Software, GNU/Linux and Open Standards are great, easy to use and why Windows users are to be pitied.

    I. Short excursus

    (Nearly) everybody knows FTP. FTP is a protocol which enables you to transfer files between your device and a remote space. Maybe you want to present your documents or images to visitors of your homepage and simply want to upload these files on your webspace. In most cases this could be done by the use of a seperate program like FileZilla.

    So far so good, but there’re several problems. Two of them:

    1. FTP is insecure. Period.
    2. Using an external program (and not your personal file manager) is really annoying if you want to edit the files very often. A realistic example: You have a complicated script running on your website which you’d like to edit in a graphical editor. Using an external client forces you to download the file, open it in your editor, save it and upload it again. Some FTP clients like FileZilla have the functionality to ease this pain in the a**, but trust me: after the twentieth reupload you want to toss your computer away…

    Now we know why FTP is insecure. So what alternatives do we have?

    [Read More…]

  • Organising micro task emails in Thunderbird

    The title of this post sounds very significant but to be honest, it’s a small thing.

    Everybody has her/his/its own workflow regarding emails. For example me: I LOVE folders! When it comes to the crunch I probably would be able to organise my whole life into folders.
    Well, at least this is what I thought until I began my internship at FSFE. I was used to a high income rate (do you say so?) before but something changed: Normally I read my emails and if something’s important, I open a new task in my taskmanager or simply write it down. In the office I also read lot’s of emails and can put them easily in folders via filters (in Thunderbird and with qmail/maildrop on my mailserver), for example emails in mailing lists.

    But now it is more often the case that by reading those emails, there are beginning some mini-tasks: Commit this translated file on the server, answer these emails, send out that package to a fellow (but not today, do it next Monday), and most importantly, book some restaurants for the General Assembly. You see, these are all small tasks, but they exist. In dozens. And I’m quite sure they will increase. But creating for each micro task a new task in my task manager (Getting Things Gnome by the way) is overload as well.
    For that I’m a forgetful technocrat sometimes, I wanted to pre-empt any mistakes and searched for methods to mark/tag those emails when reading them. Afterwards it should always be possible to find these marked/tagged with one click. In short, I needed a Remembrall, that additionally tells me, what I exactly forgot.

    Dear ladies and gentlemen, here’s my odyssey of finding the perfect method for me: [Read More…]