Non-free or Objectionable Software and Services I Don’t Use

I’ve added this page to provide a list of some specific non-free software, and related hardware, I personally have chosen not to use, and explanations of what workarounds or sacrifices I had to make in the progress. I do not list this information to brag — I have made compromises with non-free software from time to time — but mainly as an educational tool for others to avoid non-free software.

Regarding JavaScript

As a general rule, I try to avoid running any JavaScript in my Web browser that is served by somebody else’s computer, even if the JavaScript is under a free-software license. I believe such JavaScript violates the fundamental idea of being in control of your own computing, since there is no version control system, and the remote Web server could change the code at any page load.

I have made some compromise to this principle in the use of wordpress.com, but have been okay with it for now since at least it is possible for others to view the pages with JavaScript disabled, and also WordPress itself is a free software project worth supporting.

Sometimes I have had to enable JavaScript to make purchases as some Web sites, but I try to avoid this as much as I can. This is a difficult issue since outside of groceries, now pretty much everything I need to purchase must be ordered online. I am not a fan generally of Amazon.com, but surprisingly they are one of the only Websites I have found that does not require JavaScript to be enabled for ordering or check-out, though some features like image-zooming are not available without JavaScript.

To block JavaScript in the Web browser, I currently use the IceCat Web browser in combination with the NoScript plugin. I am aware of the LibreJS plugin but have found NoScript to be more useful in practice.

AlaskaUSA.com

Due to the above-mentioned concerns about JavaScript, I have avoided using the Web site for my local banking service.

Since most banking is expected to be done “online” these days, this definitely causes some inconveniences. AlaskaUSA has shutdown most of their conveniently-accessible branch offices for in-person transactions. I receive paper statements, but often need to call-in to the bank in order to do money transfers. Money transfers over the phone are rather inconvenient as they take a while to explain, and also the tellers ask you many security questions each time, but it is doable.

I keep track of my account transactions using GnuCash. This works well enough for the most part, though I have to compare everything with the printed statements in order to avoid mistakes.

Google Drive and Similar Proprietary File Sharing Tools

I don’t use Google Drive and similar tools mainly due to the JavaScript required, and also the lack of end-to-end encryption. At least, not for my own personal data transfers. At work I am forced to work with OneDrive from time to time..

In the past, there was a service called Firefox Send which I was mostly happy with, but unfortunately the service was shutdown.

I have heard of some free software replacements for this that I could run from my home network, but I have not had time yet to set one up.

MPLAB Software

For programming the AVR microchips, I have relied entirely on the AVR-GCC toolchain as well as the avrdude programmer utility.

This has caused me difficulty in one area, as I am fond of the FlashForth firmware which is available for AVR. FlashForth itself is free software but is dependent on the proprietary XC-8 compiler and MPLAB. I have been working on-and-off to get FlashForth to compile using only AVR-GCC, but am still having some issues, so I have been forced to use the pre-compiled FlashForth binaries for now.

Proprietary Video Conferencing

I have, to date, never been involved in a Zoom video conference and hopefully will never be forced to do so. Thankfully this is not required for my job position, though I see there is lots of pressure for other people to use Zoom.

In past jobs, I was invited frequently to GoToMeeting and similar services. But I would join the conference instead using the dial-in phone number.

Android Smart Phones and Tablets

Personally, I do not carry a smart phone, due to various concerns I have about the hardware and software platforms involved, especially regarding proprietary drivers, planned obsolescence, and privacy concerns. Also, there is a lot of pressure for people with Smart Phones to install non-free “apps”. Also, I do not like the modern general expectation that those with Smart Phones should be reachable anywhere 24×7.

I’m not in-principle against the idea of an Android tablet, but my past experience with them has been that the tablet makes use of a non-mainline Linux kernel, with some non-free binary blobs snuck in.

Alexa

I will not use Amazon Alexa, or similar AI assistants, that run proprietary firmware or that depend on sending your communications and data back to a company I don’t trust.

I have heard of the Mycroft project as an alternative, but I have not played around with it yet, due to limited time, money, and interest.

Logos Bible Software and Other Non-Free Bible Study Software

I am an aspiring student of the Biblical languages, but I do not use any Bible study software, since the usual recommended resources are proprietary software. I have used Xiphos in the past but unfortunately there is not currently a package available for Guix Gnu/Linux. I started to package it myself once but got mired too deep in packaging the dependencies and didn’t get around to finishing it.

I currently study entirely from books, except for some Internet documents I have downloaded such as grammar cheat sheets.

Tax Software

I don’t use any proprietary desktop tax (or accounting) software, and I do not use online services due to the JavaScript concerns.

In past years, I have done my taxes with paper forms. Recently I started using a walk-in tax filing service, where I just hand the standard forms off to a tax professional. I’m sure the tax professional is using proprietary software, which is unfortunate, but the pain and time of filling out the paper forms had become more that I could handle now that I have a family that keeps me busy.

pfd.alaska.gov

I do not use the online application system any more to apply for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, due to my concerns about the JavaScript.

I mail in paper applications. This is not hard, except that it is inconvenient to make a trip downtown to get the paper forms.

YouTube.com

I do not use YouTube.com directly. I think YouTube is a great resource for educational videos, but now it is not possible to interact with the YouTube Web pages without JavaScript enabled.

I have used youtube-dl to download videos once I know the video download URL. (I have read news that Google has been attacking youtube-dl as a way to protect their video DRM scheme.) It can be somewhat tricky to find the URL in the first place since YouTube search functionality also requires JavaScript, but I have come across some free-software tools for doing YouTube searches.

GitHub

I don’t use GitHub due to their “F” rating on the GNU Ethical Repository Criteria Evaluations page, and also the news that they were bought out by Microsoft.

This is an inconvenience for me only because it is not possible for me to submit bug reports to GitHub projects. Thankfully, it is possible to get the clone URL without enabling JavaScript. For my personal projects, I currently use codeberg.org. I have also used Savannah for some projects in the past.

Slack

I don’t use the Slack collaboration platform since it is proprietary.

I am active in IRC chat rooms, using the Emacs Rcirc client. Since the freenode split occurred, I have been using the libera.chat network.