• I love astroid! #ilovefs

    Hugo and me declaring our love to astroid

    You cannot imagine how long I’ve waited to write this blog post. Normally I’m not the bragging kind of guy but for this year’s edition of my „I love Free Software“ declaration articles (after 2014, 2015 and 2016) I just want to shout out to the world: I have the world’s best mail client: astroid!

    Okay, maybe I’ll add two or three words to explain why I am so grateful to the authors of this awesome Free Software application. Firstly, I should note that until ~6 months ago I have used Thunderbird – extended with lots of add-ons but still a mail user agent that most of you will know. But with each new email and project it became obvious to me that I have to find a way to organise my tenthousands of mails in a better way: not folder-based but tag-based, but not to the expense of overview and comfort.

    Thanks to Hugo I became aware of astroid, an application that unites my needs and is open to multiple workflows. Let’s read how astroid describes itself:

    Astroid is a lightweight and fast Mail User Agent that provides a graphical interface to searching, display and composing email, organized in thread and tags. Astroid uses the notmuch backend for blazingly fast searches through tons of email. Astroid searches, displays and composes emails – and rely on other programs for fetching, syncing and sending email.

    My currently unread and tagged emails

    Astroid is roughly 3 years old, is based on sup, and is mainly developed by Gaute Hope, an awesome programmer who encourages people – also non-programmers like me – to engage in the small and friendly community.

    Why is astroid so cool?

    That’s one secret of astroid: it doesn’t try to catch up to programs that do certain jobs very well already. So astroid relies on external POP/IMAP fetching (e.g. offlineimap), SMTP server (e.g. msmtp), email indexing (notmuch), and mail editors (e.g. vim, emacs). This way, astroid can concentrate on offering a unique interface that unites many strenghts:

    Saved searches on the left, a new editor window on the right

    • astroid encourages you to use tabs. Email threads open in a new tab, a newly composed message is a separate tab, as well as a search query. You won’t loose any information when you write an email while researching in your archive while keeping an eye on incoming unread mails. If your tab bar becomes too long, just open another astroid instance.
    • It can be used by either keyboard or mouse. Beginners value to have a similar experience as with mouse-based mail agents like Thunderbird, experts hunt through their mails with the configurable keyboard shortcuts.
    • Tagging of emails is blazingly fast and efficient. You can either tag single mails or whole email threads with certain keywords that you can freely choose. Astroid doesn’t impose a certain tagging scheme on its users.
    • astroid already included the possibility to read HTML or GPG-exncrypted emails. No need to create a demotivatingly huge configuration file like with mutt.
    • Theming your personal astoid is easy. The templates can be configured using HTML and CSS syntax.
    • It is expandable by Python and lua plugins.
    • It’s incredibly fast! Thunderbird or Evolution users will never have to bother with 20+ seconds startup time anymore. Efficiency hooray!

      On startup, I see my saved search queries

    Because it is open to any workflow, you can also easily use astroid with rather uncommon workflows. I, personally, use a mix of folder- and tag-based sorting. My mail server automatically moves incoming mails to certain folders (mostly based on mailing lists) which is important to me because I often use my mobile phone that doesn’t include a tagging-based email client, too. But with my laptop I can add additional tags or tag unsorted mails. Based on these tags, I again sort these mails to certain folders to reduce the amount of mails lying around in my unsorted inbox. Such a strange setup would have been impossible with many other email agents but with astroid (almost) everything is possible.

    Did I convince you? Well, certainly not. Switching one’s email client is a huge step because for most people it involves changing the way how most of theor digital communication happens. But hopefully I convinced you to have a look at astroid and think about whether this awesome client may fulfill some of your demands better than your existing one. If you already use notmuch, a local SMTP server, offlineimap, procmail or other required parts, testing astroid will be very easy for you. And if your way to using astroid will be longer, as mine was, feel free to ask me or the helpful community.

    PS: FSFE activists in Berlin carried out two awesome activities for ILoveFS!

  • Build FSFE websites locally

    Note: This guide is also available in FSFE’s wiki now, and it will be the only version maintained. So please head over to the wiki if you’re planning to follow this guide.

    Those who create, edit, and translate FSFE websites already know that the source files are XHTML files which are build with a XSLT processor, including a lot of custom stuff. One of the huge advantages from that is that we don’t have to rely on dynamic website processors and databases, on the other hand there are a few drawbacks as well: websites need a few minutes to be generated by the central build system, and it’s quite easy to mess up with the XML syntax. Now if an editor wants to create or edit a page, she needs to wait a few minutes until the build system has finished everytime she wants to test how the website looks like. So in this guide I will show how to build single websites on your own computer in a fraction of the FSFE’s system build time, so you’ll only need to commit your changes as soon as the file looks as you want it. All you need is a bit hard disk space and around one hour time to set up everything.

    The whole idea is based on what FSFE’s webmaster Paul Hänsch has coded and written. On his blog he explains the new build script. He explains how to build files locally, too. However, this guide aims to make it a bit easier and more verbose.

    Before we’re getting started, let me shortly explain the concept of what we’ll be doing. Basically, we’ll have three directories: trunk, status, and fsfe.org. Most likely you already have trunk, it’s a clone of the FSFE’s main SVN repository, and the source of all operations. All those files in there have to be compiled to generate the final HTML files we can browse. The location of these finished files will be fsfe.org. status, the third directory, contains error messages and temporary files.

    After we (1) created these directories, partly by downloading a repository with some useful scripts and configuration files, we’ll (2) build the whole FSFE website on our own computer. In the next step, we’ll (3) set up a local webserver so you can actually browse these files. And lastly we’ll (4) set up a small script which you can use to quickly build single XHTML files. Last but not least I’ll give some real-world examples. [ » Read More…]

  • Freie Software – Definition in Dortmund

    do-foss_definitionSeit einiger Zeit arbeiten wir bei der Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) mit der Initiative Do-FOSS aus Dortmund zusammen, die dort mehr Freie Software in die öffentliche Verwaltung einbringen möchte. Konkret wird in Dortmund aktuell an dem Masterplan Digitales Dortmund gearbeitet, der „die zukünftige digitale Ausrichtung und die damit verbundenen Veränderungsprozesse an der Schnittstelle von Stadtverwaltung und Stadtgesellschaft (Bürgerinnen und Bürger, Politik, Vereine, Unternehmen, Wissenschaft)“ beinhaltet.

    Erfreulicherweise wird der Masterplan auch Freie Software beinhalten, doch haben unsere Freunde von Do-FOSS bemerken müssen, dass dieser Begriff häufig im Zusammenhang mit Open Source Software erwähnt wird. Wir als FSFE verstehen Open Source als Synonym für Freie Software, aber mussten leider schon in der Vergangenheit öfter feststellen, dass damit nur die Verfügbarkeit des Quellcodes und nicht – wie bei Freier Software offensichtlicher – auch die anderen drei der insgesamt vier Freiheiten Freier Software gemeint waren: Neben der Freiheit, die Funktionsweise anhand des Codes nachzuvollziehen (2), auch die Verwendung für jeden Zweck (1), das Teilen der Software mit anderen (3), und das Verbessern der Programme (4).

    Was also versteht nun die Stadt Dortmund unter Freier Software? Macht sie einen Unterschied zwischen Freier Software und Open Source? [ » Read More…]

  • FrOSCon 2016 – Ein Rückblick

    froscon1For English readers: This is a short report about the last FrOSCon conference with some pictures and the talk recordings. Have a look at Polina’s talk (second video), it’s in English!

    Letztes Wochenende, am 20. und 21. August, fand in Sankt Augustin bei Bonn die 11. Ausgabe der FrOSCon statt, einer Konferenz zu Freier Software. Auch dieses Jahr war die FSFE mit einem Stand vertreten, an dem wir viele interessante Gespräche geführt und einen Ausschnitt unserer aktuellsten T-Shirts und weiterer Artikel präsentiert haben.

    Dank zweier toller Helfer, Gabriele und Constantin, war diese FrOSCon ein voller Erfolg. Polina Malaja aus dem Berliner FSFE-Büro und ich, die dieses Jahr die Hauptorganisation übernommen haben, konnten am Montag mit vollster Zufriedenheit nach Hause fahren.

    Videoaufzeichnung der Vorträge

    [ » Read More…]

  • Der Routerzwang fällt – Und was bringt mir das?

    Diesen Artikel habe ich ursprünglich als Gastbeitrag für Netzpolitik.org geschrieben.

    CC BY-SA 2.0 Konrad Twardowski

    CC BY-SA 2.0 Konrad Twardowski

    Betreiber von Diskotheken wissen es genau: Die Wahl des richtigen Türstehers ist wichtig, damit sich keine Störenfriede einschleichen. Dasselbe könnte man auch von Routern behaupten, die als Schnittstelle zwischen Internet und Heimnetz dafür sorgen müssen, dass nur das die Tore passiert, was auch im Sinne des Besitzers ist. Und endlich, nach Jahren der gesetzlichen Unklarheit, bekommen wir mit dem Ende des Routerzwangs das Recht dazu, uns unseren stillen Türsteher frei auszusuchen.

    Was die Süddeutsche Zeitung als „Unabhängigkeitstag für Internetnutzer“ bezeichnet, ist das offizielle Ende des Routerzwangs und das Inkrafttreten der Endgerätefreiheit am 1. August. Bisher konnten Internetanbieter (ISPs) in Deutschland bestimmen, welchen Router Kunden zur Verbindung mit dem Internet nutzen müssen. Nutzer hatten keinen Einfluss auf diese Entscheidung. Das ändert sich nun. Aber wir müssen sicherstellen, dass alle Kunden über diese neuen Rechte Bescheid wissen, und gleichzeitig überprüfen, ob ISPs die neuen Regeln befolgen.

    Wie bei einem Türsteher sollte man auch dem Router vertrauen können, denn über ihn läuft jeglicher Internetverkehr, also etwa alle E-Mails, Downloads und häufig auch Telefongespräche. Zwangsrouter fallen oft negativ mit kritischen Sicherheitslücken auf, die Nutzer aus technischen oder rechtlichen Gründen nicht selbst beheben können. Sie sind auch dafür bekannt, zu einigen Netzwerkgeräten oder Standards wie IPv6 inkompatibel zu sein oder nur eine geringe Anzahl wichtiger Funktionen zu unterstützen.

    Recht auf Endgerätefreiheit in Anspruch nehmen

    [ » Read More…]

  • splitDL – Downloading huge files from slow and unstable internet connections

    Imagine you want install GNU/Linux but your bandwidth won’t let you…

    tl;dr: I wrote a rather small Bash script which splits huge files into several smaller ones and downloads them. To ensure the integrity, every small files is being checked for its hashsum and file size.

    That’s the problem I was facing in the past days. In the school I’m working at (Moshi Institute of Technology, MIT) I set up a GNU/Linux server to provide services like file sharing, website design (on local servers to avoid the slow internet) and central backups. The ongoing plan is the setup of 5-10 (and later more) new computers with a GNU/Linux OS in contrast to the ancient and non-free WindowsXP installations – project „Linux Classroom“ is officially born.

    But to install an operating system on a computer you need an installation medium. In the school a lot of (dubious) WindowsXP installation CD-ROMs are flying around but no current GNU/Linux. In the first world you would just download an .iso file and ~10 minutes later you could start installing it on your computer.

    But not here in Tanzania. With download rates of average 10kb/s it needs a hell of a time to download only one image file (not to mention the costs for the internet usage, ~1-3$ per 1GB). And that’s not all: Periodical power cuts cancel ongoing downloads abruptly. Of course you can restart a download but the large file may be already damaged and you loose even more time.

    My solution – splitDL

    To circumvent this drawback I coded a rather small Bash program called splitDL. With this helper script, one is able to split a huge file into smaller pieces. If during the download the power cuts off and damages the file, one just has to re-download this single small file instead of the huge complete file. To detect whether a small file is unharmed the script creates hashsums of the original huge and the several small files. The script also supports continuation of the download thanks to the great default built-in application wget. [ » Read More…]

  • Technology and Free Software in Tanzania

    mit-2After two months in Tanzania and in the computer education centre I work every day I learnt a lot about the culture of the locals in terms of their viewpoint on information technology. And in the same way I had to accept that my initial mental image of the people’s behaviour was (at least in parts) very wrong. So in this article I try to explain how I see the situation of modern technologies and the usage and understanding of Free Software in the region of Tanzania where I live.

    Free Software guarantees the full rights to use, study, share and improve it (but is not necessarily free of gratis). This sounds like something only interesting for IT specialists and nerds. But given the importance of software in our lifes one has to reconsider: Software controls our mobile phones, cars, air planes, heating systems, power plants, bank accounts and medical equipment. The one who controls this software is also the one who controls most parts of our lifes. Questions like „Does all my data belong to someone else?“, „Is my data safe?“ and „Who knows how much about me?“ can only be answered when we start thinking about Free Software. By some people Free Software is also called Open Source. More about Free Software.

    Let’s start with a list of what I thought and what’s in fact the reality:

    Misconception I

    Before I went to Tanzania it was quite clear to me that people here value Free Software quite much. This is because a lot of Free Software is also free of cost. Why should people use Windows, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office when there’s also GNU/Linux, GIMP and LibreOffice/OpenOffice?

    Reality I

    „Free Software? What is this and can I eat it?“ It’s not that drastical though but the core message remains the same: The broad average population doesn’t know about Free Software and Open Source or even the applications I listed. When I gave a small workshop about GNU/Linux, noone of my students knew about it. But as we installed replacements of popular non-free software like LibreOffice, GIMP or VLC the questions marks in my students‘ heads became almost visible. Although they liked the idea of the whole world working on this software and that it’s for free, they asked me afterwards „…and how can we install Microsoft Frontpage?“. This is the perfect time for misconception 2. [ » Read More…]

  • I love Taskwarrior, therefore I love Free Software

    ilovefs-heart-pxIt’s Valentine’s day and you’re writing a blog post? Are you nuts?“ you might ask. Well, but it’s not only Valentine’s day but also I love Free Software day. This day is proclaimed every year on February 14 by the Free Software Foundation Europe to thank all developers and contributors of Free Software (software you can use for any purpose, which source code you or others can analyze, which can be modified and distributed).

    As last year with ZNC, I want to say thank you to a specific project which easies my daily life. As you might know by other blog posts here, organisation of tasks, mails and almost everything else is a very important issue for me. So this year I want to write some lines about Taskwarrior, taskd and Mirakel which enable me to take some free time without thinking of task which I could possibly forget to accomplish later on.

    My head is full of ideas and mental To-Do lists and so I’m in need of a handy tool which allows me to write down and organise items at any place and time: At my desk, in bus or train, when I’m offline or abroad. And its important that I don’t have (analog and digital) bits of paper everywhere, so I need a system that syncs all task inputs and outputs. I tried a lot of tools but Taskwarrior was the best so far. It used the well-known „Getting Things Done“ concept with different priorities. Taskwarrior also supports tagging tasks, organising them in projects, due dates, postponing, making tasks dependend on others and much more. And Taskwarrior has a (modifyable) algorhythm that sorts your tasks by urgency levels, so that the most important tasks always are on the top of the list. Even now I just took a glance at what Taskwarrior is able to do!

    Picture of a woman with a chalk board which expresses her apreciation for Taskwarrior

    Someone who loves Taskwarrior as much as I do

    Services and programs that organise tasks aren’t very special!“ one might think. But if you prefer sorting tasks digitally, you cannot simply chose a random todo-organising service provider. Most of the tools and services on the market aren’t free and transparent. All input may no longer belong to you, all the gathered information (which is a lot if you think of it!) could be used for targeted ads or worse. You cannot modify the algorhythm to suit your needs. And what happens if the service provider goes bankrupt? All data, all project history and all pending tasks would be lost at once. So using a free (as in freedom), decentralised, maybe self-hosted service is the best idea to organise your tasks decentrally. [ » Read More…]

  • Yourls URL Shortener for Turpial

    Maybe you know Yourls, a pretty cool URL shortener which you can set up on your own server very easily. Link shorteners are nice to have because

    1. you can share long links with short urls and
    2. you can view and organise all links you ever shared (incl. statistics and so on).

    There are many alternatives like bit.ly, ur1.ca and so on, but Yourls belongs to YOU and you don’t have to pay attention to ToS changes or the provider’s financial status. AND you can use whichever domain you own, for example in my case it’s s.mehl.mx/blabla.

    And maybe you also know Turpial, a Twitter client for GNU/Linux systems (I don’t like Twitter’s web page). Until lately I used Choqok, a KDE optimised client, but there were many things which annoyed me: No image previews, slow development, unconvenient reply behaviour and so on. And hey, why not trying something new? So I started to use Turpial which seems to solve all these critic points. Well, like always I missed some preferences to configure. But since it’s Free Software, one is able to look how the software works and to change it – and to share the improvements which I’ll do in the next step! [ » Read More…]

  • Sharing is caring – my Git instance

    Some days ago I noticed another time that I have far too less knowledge about Git.
    „Time to change that!“, I thought and set up my own Git instance and also installed gitweb for better usability.

    Upside 1: I can keep track of the many (mainly bash) scripts I wrote in the past and all the changes I will adopt in the future.
    Upside 2: You can hopefully benefit from using and reading my code. All code is licensed under GNU GPL v3 so please feel free to use, study, share and improve my work!

    Some noteworthy projects I’m (a bit) proud of:

    Any questions, ideas or improvements? Please contact me!

    Update 26.02.2016:
    I washed away the quite basic gitweb instance and moved to Gogs. Here’s why and how. Links to the project may have changed because of that (and I’m too lazy to change them here).