Linux And Anarchy

November 24th, 2010   Submitted by Seth King

What if I told you that there was a bit of activism you could do that doesn’t involve working within the system, doesn’t come with any risk of jail time or fines, and not only doesn’t cost anything, but will, in fact, save you a lot of money? Furthermore, what if you were offered a choice between continuing to support corporations that rely on intellectual property laws, and those that thrive without the threat of violence? Would you participate in this sort of activism?

I thought so. Today, I would like to write about exactly how you can do just that. I’m talking about changing your computer’s current operating system. If you’re running Microsoft Windows(any version) then you’re essentially hurting the cause of freedom. Let me give you an example to help explain why this is.

Mircosoft Windows relies on intellectual property laws to prevent users and developers from copying or tweaking its software architecture. Imagine having purchased a house that you are prevented from modifying or adding on to as well as it having a design that others are prevented from replicating. You would clearly recognize that not only are you not a true owner of the house you occupy, but also that others are not true owners of their own building materials if they cannot do with them as they please, such as build a house in the same manner.

As anarcho-capitalists we understand that the principle of private property is incongruent with that of intellectual property. And it is for this reason alone that anarchists should shun the Windows operating system. But if virtue doesn’t motivate you enough to switch operating systems let me give you some practical reasons.

Microsoft Windows is written in a way that prevents users and developers from reading its source code. Imagine owning a home that you cannot inspect. You would have no idea as to whether or not the foundation is faulty. There could be termites or dry rot. The plumbing and electricity could be in disrepair. There could be a number of maladies that you would be unaware of, potentially threatening your safety. With the Windows operating system, or any software that prevents users and developers from inspecting its architecture, there is the possibility that it contains malicious code that threatens your privacy. For example, there could be code in Microsoft’s browser Internet Explorer, their mail client Outlook, or the entire operating system Windows, that sends your information straight to the N.S.A. The truth is that we simply do not know and have no way of finding out.

But what we do know is that the Microsoft Windows terrain is rife with malware. The reasons for this are slightly more technical. Put simply, imagine your house being completely susceptible to the elements and attackers and your best method of defense are inept and reactionary police and fire departments.

These are the reasons why I recently made the switch to the Linux operating system. It is what is known as free and open-source software. I first started to look seriously into Linux after I began getting guest posts by Paul Rosenberg which motivated me to learn more about online security. I have come to realize that the number one greatest threat to our online security is the Windows operating system. I had initially taken some baby steps to better online security only to conclude that it was merely hacking away at the branches of evil instead of striking at the root. However, while I still strongly encourage everybody, especially activists, to take small precautions to protect themselves online, the very first step I would recommend is to make the switch to Linux as soon as possible, first at home and then in the office.

Since I have made the switch I can testify to the fact that my computer runs much quicker and smoother under the Linux operating system. I also find it considerably easier to use than Windows. While there may be a slight learning curve of a few days, Linux isn’t just for techies anymore. It has been made so user friendly since I experimented with it one-half dozen years ago, that now I can assure you any old granny can operate it.

I also very much appreciate that it is nearly impossible to succumb to malware attacks on Linux and that I will be saving roughly sixty dollars every year by not having to purchase anti-virus software. In addition, I have noticed that many open-source programs run smoother on an open-source operating system. Initially, I had fears that Linux would either be prohibitively difficult to operate as a technophobe, or would lack the frills and goodies afforded to Windows users. I was pleasantly surprised to find that neither of my fears were justified. Linux has been a blessing that has given me a revamped joy for computer technology. It also makes me happy to know that I am withdrawing my support for the corporate state by choosing freedom software over its tyrannical counterpart.

To be clear, there are several different versions, or designs, of Linux to choose from. I have chosen Ubuntu, the most popular, and am glad I did. I recommend that you install Ubuntu on your home computer as well. You don’t even have to remove the Windows operating system either. This way you can smoothly transition your usage to Ubuntu while you’re figuring things out and know that Windows will still be there for you if you need it. You’ll do this by creating a partition in your hard drive as I have done. Don’t worry. Doing that is easy as it happens when you install Ubuntu.

Before you begin, find out how much available space you have left on your disk. Slightly less than that amount will be what you want to allot to your Ubuntu partition. Next, go here and follow the directions to download and install Ubuntu. If you are unable to download Ubuntu because of bandwidth restrictions, or if you are unable to copy files to a CD or removable storage device, go here and request to have a free CD shipped to you in the mail. They claim it can take up to ten weeks, but you’ll likely receive it in less than two.

After you’ve finished installing Ubuntu I highly suggest thoroughly reading the Documentation and clicking on all of the links therein to better familiarize yourself with your new operating system. If you spend one hour per day doing so you’ll likely be finished within the week. It is simple to read and understand and the penalty for not doing so could lead to frustration and the abandonment of Linux altogether, which would be a most terrible foible indeed.

As blog posts tend to be read months, and even years, after they have been published I encourage readers to post their comments and questions about Ubuntu and it’s installation in the comment section below, so as to help spread the knowledge.

23 Responses to “Linux And Anarchy”

  1. hackb0y294No Gravatar says:

    Another great post, as always! I’m using Linux Mint right now, and my laptop has Ubuntu installed. I love not having to worry about viruses, and it’s really nice having hundreds of forums to ask questions on, populated by people just like me.

  2. darksunNo Gravatar says:

    I am using a MacBook running OS X. I love the operating system, and hate Windows for its annoying popups and vulnerabilities. However, OS X is just as closed source.

    It’s much more stable and secure than Windows, though. I haven’t had to buy any antivirus software since the system handles the protection. It’s got built-in encryption (via DiskUtility) as well.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      I’ve always been a PC guy and don’t have any experience to talk about Macs. But based on the research I’ve done, Mac OS X is head and shoulders better than Windows when it comes to privacy and security, but not as good as Linux.

  3. CertainQuirkNo Gravatar says:

    Glad you made the switch! Debian here, but Linux Mint is really nice too (based on Ubuntu, which of course, is based on Debian. There’s also a Mint Debian edition now.

  4. KevinNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent article!

    I’ve been a Linux proponent since 1997, and have been running Debian exclusively since early 2005 (Woody).
    It has always seemed to me that the Linux (or GNU+Linux, if you prefer) mindset is very similar to the Anarchism mindset.
    I’m going to file this article under my “${HOME}/GNU+Linux/advocacy/” directory tree.

    Thank you.

  5. HackarchistNo Gravatar says:

    Ubuntu is turning the syndicalist-based linux-community into a commercial persuit. Mark Shuttleworth is a millionaire, buying away developers fom Debian and contracting them to work for his commercial Caninicl enterprise. As for a true anarchist, I recommend FreeBSD or even Debian.

    http://www.freebsd.org/where.html
    Anarchist motives: http://www.freebsd.nfo.sk/anarchy2.htm
    scroogle.org is your search-engine

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      I can see why you would consider the open-source community syndicalist, but I fail to see how it’s not capitalist as well. So long as people are voluntarily contributing to the advancement of open-source code and not using intellectual property laws to prevent others from using that code, it is anarcho-capitalist.

      Now, I am not going to defend Mark Shuttleworth because I don’t know him from Adam, but his being a millionaire is a non-issue as far as I’m concerned. If he wants to voluntarily give his money to individuals who voluntarily wish to help him build code on the Linux Kernel, it’s all right by me, as long as they don’t try to patent that code, which they aren’t.

      Do you believe developers should be prevented through force from working for Canonical? Do you believe Mark Shuttleworth should have violence initiated against him for voluntarily trading his money for a developer’s time?

  6. Cliff JonesNo Gravatar says:

    Ubuntu is by far not the best choice for “beginners,” folks who hardly know how windows works, and just want things to plain work as expected.

    Mint and PCLinuxOS are better choices from the simplicity/usability perspective.

    IMHO Mandriva Linux is just as easy to install, if not easier, and is far more powerful in giving much greater flexibility in what the end user wants the system to be and what it can do.

    I bailed on windows in 1998 for Mandrake Linux, now Mandriva, and even with a few hardware glitches along the way it’s been an overall positive experience.

    I’ve run many of the more common distributions, and a few of the ‘extreme niche’ variety, and always come home to Mandriva for the serious work.

    I’m not disparaging ubuntu… except that I am disparaging ubuntu.

    I understand and appreciate the effort canonical is engaged in, but then you get articles like this where “Linux=ubuntu=Linux=ubuntu” ad nauseum.

    Did the author try anything else? I invite him to grab the Mandriva 2010.2 installer when it’s released in a few weeks and see if that isn’t a far more rewarding spin of GNU/Linux than ubuntu is…

    I recommend using the “dual-arch” CD and setting up an ftp source for install. The installer should find a Mandriva mirror automatically. That way you get the most up to date packages, you can install whatever desktop environment (KDE is better implemented on Mandriva than elsewhere) and it will automatically detect and install 32 or 64 bit, depending on your hardware architecture. (thus the “dual-arch”)

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Can it really get any easier to install and operate than Ubuntu? I find Ubuntu easier to operate than Windows. So if somebody is coming from the Windows setting chances are they just want something that works really easily, Ubuntu does just that.

      No, I have not used other Linux versions. But I stick by my claim that Ubuntu is best for beginners for one simple reason: it is the most widely used and therefore the easiest to get help with by the community.

    • Justen RobertsonNo Gravatar says:

      Personally I found the out-of-box experience on Mandriva to be inferior to Kubuntu (Mandriva ships with KDE, compares better to Kubuntu), both in terms of driver and software support and in terms of aesthetic and usability choices. Its repositories aren’t nearly as extensive as Ubuntu’s, either, and IMO are less intuitive (especially since the advent of the Ubuntu software center for its Gnome DE). Since you’ve been using Mandrake/Mandriva so long it’s understandable that its quirks are second-nature to you, but between my personal experience when I was first moving (back) to linux in 2006 and trying to help others do the same in the past few years Mandrake just didn’t do it for me.

      Mint is great though, I recommend it to all my friends as a first choice for newbie desktop environments. Jolicloud is also really nice for mobile/web-oriented devices like netbooks.

  7. MamaLibertyNo Gravatar says:

    Completely agree with Seth. I’ve been on line since 1992, and have been running Linux “puppy” for almost three years now. It is so limited, that I got Kubuntu for a new computer purchased about 6 months ago. Unfortunately, it came with no documentation and I have not been able to find the html and ftp programs for it so I can start using it for my website projects. It also has some glitches in the email program.

    The problem is that I have not been able to get anyone to help me at all. Since I don’t speak “geek” and am not familiar with Linux development terminology or systems, I’m out of luck so far.

    I’ve found lots of potential downloads, but have no way to evaluate them or know if they are compatible for my system.

    If Linux and other open source computing really wants to reach the mainstream and gain commercial reliability, I’m all for it. I’d be happy to pay for a system and programs I could just plug and play. Unfortunately, as far as I’ve been able to discover, they don’t exist yet.

    So yay for Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth. I hope they come up with commercially viable products people will buy.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Have you tried the Ubuntu version yet? One of the main reasons that I like Ubuntu so much is that it is so prevalent, and thus, so much easier to get help with.

  8. Cliff JonesNo Gravatar says:

    Seth,

    Dozens of people have come to the Mandriva forums and after getting swift answers complained about the relative lack of support for Ubuntu.

    Numerous users have reported this, and consistently for a few years now. They’ve said Mandriva forum was more responsive, more friendly, swifter to answer and more often had dead-on advice.

    (I have to admit there is one fellow frequenting the place lately who has a short fuse… but he can safely be ignored)

    Never has anyone stated the other way, that they got better, swifter more accurate help anywhere else. Especially at Ubuntu.

    That said Mandriva can be far better for windows users unfamiliar with Linux than any other distro. Or it can be a PITA and give you trouble up front, which 99% of the time is an easy fix, but the issue is windows users have zero patience for “it doesn’t work.”

    I don’t know why that is. Windows craps out far more often than any Linux I’ve ever seen.

    Mandriva recently forked and a Magiea will be forthcoming. It will be Mandriva 2011 (next release) at first before diverging. But with eager developers they will no doubt be even more eager to help users fix things, if needed. Both distros are just about as close to effortless install as you can get.

  9. Rob DonkenNo Gravatar says:

    Nice article, thanks.

    And now get rid of the anti privacy facebook thing on this page :)

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      I’m not terribly happy about having to use Google and Facebook to notify subscribers of new posts, but until there is a better option I am sticking with it.

  10. Kevin FreeheartNo Gravatar says:

    LONG time Linux fanatic, open source advocate and former developer for gNewSense, a “software libre” distro sponsored by the FSF and intended for HARDCORE open source nuts.

    I’m using Windows 7.

    Let me be frank, while Linux CAN be a great operating system choice, it is not a good choice for everyone.

    Firstly, on the subject of security. Linux is more secure by default usually but it’s not always true that it’s always safer. Linux is often made safer by the root/non-root seperation, requiring users to manually enter a password to make system-wide changes, unlike the “Admin by default” Windows XP. Vista and 7 have UAC which can provide some of the same security and YET… some of the biggest “tips” websites tell uses to disable this so-as not to be annoyed by pop-up boxes. In all honesty, USERS are the biggest threat to ANY computer’s security. The same goofballs who click on spam links and install every third freeware game they get shown via Flash ad are the same users on Windows OR on Linux. No operating system can compensate for user stupidity, and like it or not, most security risks from Windows don’t come from Microsoft itself, but third party applications concealed behind user choice.

    Let me also speak to culture. Linux advocates sometimes talk about the “Linux community” and it’s a great thing. I consider myself part of it. But any Linux user who’s been on it full time for at least two months has had SOME issue. And it’s usually solved like this:

    1.) Google the exact text of the error message
    2.) Read a forum, find an off-topic but interesting post on a forum
    3.) Click back
    4.) Find a second answer (maybe in a blog this time!) that’s almost perfect for your situation.
    5.) Copy and paste the commands that fixed their problem, perhaps replacing a few path names to make it relevant to your situation.
    6.) Profit.

    Great community, yeah, but have you ever really THOUGHT about the security implications of trusting your system security to a guy name “Bobbin4Apples” because the dude has 4 coffee beans next to his name?

    Unless you know what EVERY command is doing that you’re pasting, you’re doing something a little more stupid than trusting Microsoft with your security. You’re trusting some UNKNOWN GUY ON THE NET with your security, and he has no accountability to anyone when your system gets hosed. At least Microsoft problems have the potential to put their enterprise clients out of commission, making the average end-user a bit safer.

    And let’s think about what that “every command” is doing. Sure, you know you’re wgetting a bash script, but did you READ that bash script? What’s it doing? But maybe it was a Perl script. Is your Perl good enough to find obfuscations in the script? Probably not, honestly.

    The best and worst operating systems really come down to the practice of the user. While I love installing Linux on people’s machines for them to get to know and love, I’m a bit more realistic about what’s happening because I have a “whole computing approach”. I trust the open-source TrueCrypt for drive encryption, but maybe Microsoft is spying on what I do when the drive is mounted and encrypted. Okay, since I haven’t seen the source code, that IS a possiblity. But since I monitor my outgoing connections at the OS AND the network level, I’m fairly confident that if they’re spying, they’re not even accurately tracking which file in C:\Users\Kevin Freeheart\My Pictures\lulz\LOLCATS is my favorite, because they’re not transmitting it back to themselves.

    Adopting security-minded best practices will go FAR more towards improving privacy and control over your systems, and that’s not a Linux-only proposition.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Wow! Thank you for your in-depth response. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to write it. Perhaps over time some others will reply to it. In the mean time I will say this much. You are correct that there is a ton of user error in a lot of peoples’ habits.

      However, people want to do what they want to do on the internet, like say, download music from torrent. That was something I never did as a Windows user because of all of the viruses that come with it. But that is a non-issue as a Linux user and now I can have my cake and eat it too.

      There are a lot of spyware and viruses that people can and do get even if they do take good caution on the internet. For example, opening an email from a friend that unwittingly sends you a virus. We cannot all be security experts on the internet, and Windows and their anti-virus companies simply cannot compete with the level of security afforded to Linux users.

      Linux users have this security for two main reasons. The software is designed to be more impervious to malware and the open-source community is made up of millions of users. I would rather have the watchful eye of millions of users finding problems and fixing them than a few hundred staff at Windows.

      Should I trust some goomba on a Linux forum? If he says something that is blatantly wrong he will likely be ousted from the forum and ten other people will come to the rescue warning about a statement from above.

      Since I’ve been using Linux, yes, I have had many problems that needed troubleshooting. But all of my problems have been fixed easily, and without cost, by other members of the Linux community. And in doing so, I have learned A LOT about how computers work and what to do.

      With Windows I always felt like a passenger being taken for a ride. With Linux I feel like the driver in control of my own destiny. And it feels great!

    • Justen RobertsonNo Gravatar says:

      You’re not really accounting for the fact that Windows, as a homogenous and closed-source environment, is inherently more vulnerable to user stupidity than *nix. Yes, users can do stupid things, but I challenge you to compare the consequences of clicking on a malicious flash ad in any version of windows vs. any version of linux and tell me which is more likely to land a user in trouble.

      As for trusting some guy on the internet… let’s be honest here. The difference between windows-based tech support (because you’re not going to get support from Microsoft for an equivalent problem) suffers at least the same level of anonymity and comparatively nill accountability. Let’s think this through.

      Situation A: I go to a website, copy a command blindly and paste it into my console. In this incredibly rare circumstance the command is overtly malicious or stupid. It wrecks my system. I then go back to the forum where I found this command and post a five page rant about how it destroyed my system. (typical user response). That’s of course if the forum admins haven’t noticed the malicious suggestion and if subsequent knowledgeable users haven’t commented on it and warned other visitors. If you go visit the forums for major distros out there, this stuff gets jumped on so fast it rarely makes it to a newbie. I challenge you to go to the Ubuntu forums, right now, register a new user, and post a solution “sudo rm -rf /*” to any question and count the *seconds* it takes you to get IP banned. Just try it.

      Ok so moving on, situation B: I have a problem with windows. First I go to the internet. There are similar forums with similar risks and responses, but I have to dig through six pages of google results that are specifically and overtly malicious, trying to get me to purchase and install scareware or some 3rd-party hack that will likely cause more problems than it solves. *If* I’m not stupid enough to do this first, I take it to a technician. Now I was a windows tech for years before going into software dev and I can tell you that about 40% of people who brought me their machines had already tried the above, didn’t get through the first page of malicious bullshit before finding a ‘solution”, and made the problem worse with some kind of malware infection or malicious registry key or other nonsense which claimed to be able to help. But for the ones that didn’t – I had zero accountability. Sure, they could tell their friends that I screwed up their computers and reccommend against doing business with my company, but they couldn’t exactly post that 5-page rant on my front door warning away potential customers (as in any linux forum).

      So anyway, yeah, I’m sorry but you’ve completely mischaracterized that problem. I’d trust a ‘random guy’ in an internet forum populated by helpful people any day vs. a ‘random guy’ working tech support or hawking cheap shareware. YMMV, but I think the statistics are pretty easy to analyze.

      As to windows “spying”, there are at least a couple famous cases of Microsoft developers inserting intentional backdoors (with or without the knowledge of higher-ups, we’ll never know). They don’t get used on everybody all the time, because that would be ridiculous and self-defeating, but many of them still exist on older Windows boxes and are now being exploited for malicious purposes. Again, we’ll never know if this was used by Microsoft in an “official” capacity, or secretly revealed to other agencies, and I’m not aware of any cases where it has been demonstrated that, say, a national intelligence agency exploited these vulnerabilities for domestic syping or invetigatory purposes, but I wouldn’t put it beyond them. If they have, whether MS approved or not, they were certainly enablers (by providing closed-source, unauditable software first and second by failing to properly audit their own software).

  11. Justen RobertsonNo Gravatar says:

    I do agree, practices are much more important than software, but again software can enable or inhibit good practices. The vast majority of quality software for enabling good practices is open source, but more of it is available and more effective on linux (see for instance: virtual memory/paging cryptographic vulnerability in windows vs. linux, where cryptswap is available). So yeah you can run a reasonably secure Windows box. When i’m forced to use windows I do so. Pretending that it’s *easier* or even as secure as my linux box applying a similar level of skill and knowledge is a joke though, and you ought to know it.

  12. andy krystNo Gravatar says:

    I have been a slackware user since like 94. I have tried most flavors of the unix variant. I have also tried anything that will boot on an x86 architecture since those early days. Things have changed a lot. I can rock wine and run some random windows app with little trouble or I can virtual machine some random OS and carry on business.

    I suppose my point is just this… When you need something done, you find the tools to do it… when your own justification is enough of a burden…. you will follow through. Its not because you care what people think or say… its because you care what you think and say.

    Like all things. I mean you can complain about this or that. In the end really, all you can do is hope that the world can rock some songs or read something important to them. Its not the paper the message is written on. Its what the words mean to you.

    I am an anarchist and a linux user.

    ~a

  13. MAMNo Gravatar says:

    I have Gaydows on my desk top and Debian Squeeze on my Laptop I’m starting to favor my Laptop more and more even the Hardware is inferior to that of my Desktop.

  14. richardNo Gravatar says:

    Hi all

    Could someone please install Silk road onto my pc pls

    Thanks

  15. Mike CNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the great article Seth and thanks to the great user comments!. I have just set up a home server using ubuntu server and ubuntu desktop on my main pc, bit of a learning curve but overall it feels very safe, secure and I love the fact that every program I get I don’t have to worry about it asking for my credit card.

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.