Living among digits and hackers: survival tips

(this page is part of the Family Guide to Digital Freedom, 2007 edition. Please do read that introduction to know more about the Guide, especially if you mean to comment this page. Thanks)

Breaking the last wall

The main obstacle to defeat the Digital Dangers is maybe the lack of communication between average parents and average hackers. Sometimes it is just difficult to grasp the connection between abstruse issues like software development or copyright reform and one’s concrete, ordinary life. In a few, extreme cases, the first encounter with the Free Software “activists” may have been an unhappy one: “I tried to ask for help from the Free Software community one or two times, and all I got were insults, or no answers at all”.

There is no problem to leave the actual design and implementation of software to real, competent programmers. What is wrong, when civil rights and education are concerned, is if those programmers ignore the actual point of view, needs and possibilities of everybody else, or abuse ordinary users because of their technical skills. Bad manners and narrow points of view can never be excused, even when they come from some genius. There is also no reason to feel inferior to a technical expert, when the problem to solve is an ethical one.

At the same time every software user, no matter how “technologically challenged”, must learn at least to read the manuals and ask online for help in the proper and most effective manner if he or she wants to use a computer or generally fight the Digital Dangers.

This said, parents, teachers and hackers all need to learn the right language to interact with each other and start doing it soon. Parents and teachers, more than everybody else, also need to do their part as soon as possible for a better digital society. Hackers must not be free to feel superior, but they should really be kept free to do their work, and in this sense it is essential that everybody makes pressure for the right laws to be adopted worldwide.

What matters is to finally start talking to each other. The reason is the one stated at the beginning of this book: today the quality of everybody’s life, not just that of programmers, heavily depends on which software is used around them. The modern world is too dependent on digital technologies to keep ignoring these issues.

How the Digifreedom website can help

The Resources section of the Digifreedom website will soon host practical instructions, suggestions and pointers to the best resources on how to install and use Free Software, from how to try it at home without installing anything to how to get technical help in the most effective way or how to shop for FOSS service contracts. You will also find links to tutorials on how to minimize or avoid the risks of using a computer in the family, restricting or monitoring usage of the Internet only if and how you, not the government, think is the right way to act. There will also be forums to discuss and protect Digital Freedom together with other parents and teachers.

Besides a directory of Digitally Free Schools, the website will also host a list of bad public websites and another one of mainstream media outlets which have demonstrated poor or no knowledge when covering the issues discussed in this book.

Once you have became more familiar with these issues and (hopefully) contacted other concerned parents or teacher through the Digifreedom website, the next move to establish a contact with Free Software or Free Culture activist and work together may be to find the Gnu/Linux User Group closer to your neighborhood and arrange a meeting with them to start fighting the Digital Dangers together.

GNU is a recursive acronym which stands for “GNU’s Not UNIX” and indicates the completely Free as in Freedom computing environment whose development was launched by Richard M. Stallman in 1984. Linux is a Free as in Freedom kernel, that is the basic software program inside each computer, the one which starts and coordinates all the others. Gnu/Linux systems are the easiest and most popular alternative to Digitally Dangerous software environments.

Another useful move would be to contact the closest office of two international organizations which are very active in this area, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation.