You might have already read this comment by RMS in the Guardian. That comment and a recent discussion about the relevance of GPL changes post GPLv2 made me think again about the battle RMS started to fight. While some think RMS should "retire", at least I still fail on my personal goal to not depend on non-free software and services. So for me this battle is far from over, and here is my personal list of "non-free debt" I've to pay off.

general purpose systems aka your computer

Looking at the increasing list of firmware blobs required to use a GPU, wireless chipsets and more and more wired NICs, the situation seems to be worse then in the late 90s. Back then the primary issue was finding supported hardware, but the driver was free. Nowadays even the open sourced firmware often requires obscure patched compilers to build. If I look at this stuff I think the OpenBSD project got that right with the more radical position.

Oh and then there is CPU microcode. I'm not yet sure what to think about it, but in the end it's software and it's not open source. So it's non-free software running on my system.

Maybe my memory is blurred due to the fact, that the seperation of firmware from the Linux kernel, and proper firmware loading got implemented only years later. I remember the discussion about the pwc driver and its removal from Linux. Maybe the situation wasn't better at that time but the firmware was just hidden inside the Linux driver code?

On my system at work I've to add the Flash plugin to the list due to my latest test with Prezi which I'll touch later.

I also own a few Humble Indie bundles. I played parts of Osmos after a recommendation by Joey Hess, I later finished to play through Limbo and I got pretty far with Machinarium on a Windows system I still had at that time. I also tried a few others but never got far or soon lost interest.

Another thing I can not really get rid of is unrar because of stuff I need to pull from xda-developer links just to keep a cell phone running. Update: Josh Triplett pointed out that there is unar available in the Debian archive. And indeed that one works on the rar file I just extracted.

Android ecosystem

I will soon get rid of a stock S3 mini and try to replace it with a moto g loaded with CyanogenMod. That leaves me with a working phone with a OS that just works because of a shitload of non-free blobs. The time and work required to get there is another story. Among others you need a new bootloader that requires a newer fastboot compared to what we have in Jessie, and later you also need the newer adb to be able to sideload the CM image. There I gave in and just downloaded the pre build SDK from Google. And there you've another binary I did not even try to build from source. Same for the CM image itself, though that's not that much different from using a GNU/Linux distribution if you ignore the trust issues.

It's hard to trust the phone I've build that way, but it's the best I can get at the moment with at least some bigger chunks of free software inside. So let's move to the applications on the phone. I do not use GooglePlay, so I rely on f-droid and freeware I can download directly from the vendor.

  • AndFTP: best sftp client I could find so far
  • Threema: a bit (a single one) more trustworthy then WhatsApp, they started around the company of Michael Kasper
  • Wunderlist: well done shared shopping list, also non-free webservice
  • Opera: the compression proxy is awesome, also kind of a non-free webservice

"Cloud" services

This category mixes a lot with the stuff listed above, most of them are not only an application, in fact Threema and Wunderlist are useless without the backend service. And Opera is just degraded to a browser - and to be replaced with Firefox - if you discount the compression proxy.

The other big addition in this category is Prezi. We tried it out at work after it got into my focus due to a post by Dave Aitel. It's kind of the poster child of non-freeness. It requires a non-free, unstable, insecure and half way deprecated browser plugin to work, you can not download your result in a useful format, you've to buy storage for your presentation at this one vendor, you've to pay if you want to keep your presentation private. It's the perfect lockin situation. But still it's very convenient, prevents a lot of common mistakes you can make when you create a presentation and they invented a new concept of presenting.

I know about impress.js(hosted on a non-free platform by the way, but at least you can export it from there) and I also know about hovercraft. I'm impressed by them, but it's still not close to the ease of use of Prezi. So here you can also very prominently see the cost of free and non-free software. Invest the time and write something cool with CSS3 and impress.js or pay Prezi to just klick yourself through. To add something about the instability - I had to use a windows laptop for presenting with Prezi because the Flash plugin on Jessie crashed in the presentation mode, I did not yet check the latest Flash update. I guess that did not make the situation worse, it already is horrible. Update: Daniel Kahn Gillmore pointed out that you can combine inkscape with sozi, though the Debian package is in desperate need for an active maintainer, see also #692989.

I also use kind of database services like duden.de and dict.cc. When I was younger you bought such things printed on dead trees but they did not update very well.

Thinking a bit further, a Certification Authority is not only questionable due to the whole trust issue, they also provide OCSP responder as kind of a web service. And I've already had the experience what the internet looks like when the OCSP systems of GlobalSign failed.

So there is still a lot to fight for and a lot of "personal non-free debt" to pay off.