04.12.20

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Minimalism, Practicality and Deleting GitHub

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 5:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Article by figosdev

We are drawing

Summary: “Microsoft are absolute tyrants, and tyrants should not be tolerated.”

You won’t find me on a crusade to get everybody to dump software that’s based on GitHub. Some people will call it that, maybe, but that’s not what I’ll be doing.

You won’t find me on that crusade because I’m busy trying to do the same thing myself. Yes, I have participated in telling people to “Delete GitHub.” This is primarily about encouraging developers to move from GitHub to somewhere else. It’s also about “software disobedience” — the idea that we decide what to do with our computing, more than developers why try to decide for us.

“But to know what’s GitHub-free, you have to know what’s on GitHub.”I was watching when Obarun was choosing a new source repo in 2018. I was checking up on Slitaz less than 6 months after they moved to GitHub, when I found they had left it behind. And for a while now, I’ve been trying to find as many GitHub-free options as possible. But to know what’s GitHub-free, you have to know what’s on GitHub. Some of it is surprising and a bit disheartening.

And why bother? Specifically because Microsoft is the very last company we would ever want to have a monopoly on hosting Free software. Though we don’t want to give up all control to anybody else, either.

I am too busy figuring out what software I’m going to use to worry about people who don’t care about this issue. So I’ll give you as much information about it as I can, but you’re on your own with the decision-making. I will offer some practical advice, should you decide this is an important road to travel yourself. It’s a long road, but I’ve done things like it before.

I chose to migrate to GNU/Linux, specifically to get away from these people. I don’t like Microsoft as a company. I don’t want to support their efforts to control, tax, or take away Free software. And when I started migrating in the first place, it was because I was tired of their business practices — such as making it so you had to phone them to activate the copy of Windows you already purchased.

“GitHub controls a lot of the web, and recently I stopped jsdelivr from loading so I could find out what websites I go to rely on that — jsdelivr is both a GitHub project and a CDN, so if you disable it you disable a lot of websites built with NPM and GitHub.”I’m not sympathetic to any of their schemes, at all. And I don’t want to participate in them. So ultimately, I want to get as far from Microsoft GitHub as I reasonably can. And how far one “reasonably” can get away right now is going to vary from person to person. The research I’m doing on this is new, and only a little of it is encouraging. Microsoft (partially) controls a LOT of our software.

KDE and GNOME are largely independent, as is the GNU project (except for GNU Radio, so far. Seriously, guys?) The people who you would expect to flee from GitHub the fastest are the ones that have the sense to use the GPL. I know a lot of you use permissive licensing — and for the most part, I’ve used permissive licenses too. But people who have the good sense to use the GPL ought to know that GitHub isn’t where they want to be.

We have most of what we need to build a GitHub-free distro, if we want to. A lot of people still don’t think of GitHub as Microsoft (yet it is all the same) and a lot of people probably think of GitHub, like I did — as a bunch of applications. They don’t think of it as libraries and languages so many of us use, like PHP and Perl and even Python.

GitHub controls a lot of the web, and recently I stopped jsdelivr from loading so I could find out what websites I go to rely on that — jsdelivr is both a GitHub project and a CDN, so if you disable it you disable a lot of websites built with NPM and GitHub. Probably. It’s research, anyway. I’m experimenting. I already know that 79% of f-droid apps are GitHub-based, because I counted them.

“I already know that 79% of f-droid apps are GitHub-based, because I counted them.”Anyway, when I was migrating away from Windows, I didn’t have a working GNU/Linux distro yet. I’d purchased Red Hat 6 and Mandrake for $30 and $5, respectively, and couldn’t get either one working (if I owned a Pentium then, I only had the one, and it was an early one.) A couple years later, Ubuntu was released and I got that running — slowly.

Until then, I was busy replacing Microsoft components with Free (as in freedom) software when possible, and non-Microsoft gratisware the rest of the time. I didn’t just add software, no — I disabled several features of Windows so that I could go through and “disable” .dll files 1, 5 or 10 at a time, to find out which ones I really needed to keep the thing running.

By following instructions to modify the ’95 installer files. I even got rid of Internet Explorer. Instead of removing a few parts of it, like Add/Remove programs would do, this kept it from installing in the first place. I wrote a program that let me go through every file on the computer, and rename .dll extensions to .lld and .exe to .xex just by moving up and down with the arrow keys (this was a text mode program) and hitting enter. I was disabling all kinds of features.

“It all started with deleting windows. I won’t be able to use exactly the same system to delete GitHub — I don’t even know how far I will get with deleting GitHub — but I know I’m going to do what I can.”When I renamed quartz.dll, I knew some of the applications that would stop working. I simply looked for (and found) alternatives that didn’t rely on it. I was gradually removing the “Microsoft” from Microsoft Windows. Today, that’s still much easier to do with GNU/Linux. But I might also try BSD again soon. I don’t have the same application requirements I did when I tried it before.

Which brings me to my first place, many years ago — I had enough storage, and a habit that was not unlike hoarding, though it was a little more restrained. It was part laziness, part trying to collect stuff after losing most of my things in a previous move, and part being sentimental.

I mean I was at least as sentimental about my things as anybody else I knew. Years later, I would meet some true hoarders and… wow.

But the thing was, I wanted to move. Cross-country. And I couldn’t afford a moving van. I was working on having my girlfriend come up with her car. (I ended up taking a bus.)

I had several rooms, full of stuff. You could walk through it, but there was stuff along every wall. This was furnished, and previous tenants had left a bit of furniture, I didn’t have to worry about that. Some of the shelves were built-in. But I’d done a few years of collecting stuff, much of which was scarcely better than rubbish.

But this included bit of my life, which I intended to hold onto. How to choose? Where to begin? I initiated a very, very simple plan — as an experiment — which turned out to scale extremely well. Ever since that move, steamer trunk in hand, I’ve managed to call myself a minimalist.

The plan only involved a single shelf — not a set of shelves, though these were at least a metre and a half wide. They were also full. So I pulled everything off the shelf and sorted it into two piles:

“Microsoft are absolute tyrants, and tyrants should not be tolerated.”“Trash” and “Keep,” right? Not exactly. “Want the most” and “want the least”. Neither pile was committal, nor did it need to be. Once I had the two piles, I quickly realised that the “Want the most” pile was more special, and the “want the least” pile was next to worthless. It was so easy. And if there was anything important left in the want the least pile, I’d pick it out and throw the rest away.

No, I didn’t have to. But I found I wanted to. Thankfully, we had a large skip and not much in the way of nosy neighbours, so out it went. Then I would do another shelf.

Every time I got rid of half a shelf of crap, I felt happier. I felt less anchored to a place I was eager to leave, and the move kept changing more from a practical impossibility to a practical reality. Soon I ended up with half as many shelves full of rubbish, then each room had half as much. Then I consolidated two rooms and another two rooms, and had half as many rooms with stuff in them.

Then I did it again, until everything was in one room. Then two walls of one room. One wall, half a wall. By now it was all in ten large plastic bins — then five. Soon, everything I owned fit in luggage, albeit large luggage.

I used the same system that I began with throughout the whole process. It remained fun, sometimes exhilarating, throughout the whole process. It all started with deleting windows. I won’t be able to use exactly the same system to delete GitHub — I don’t even know how far I will get with deleting GitHub — but I know I’m going to do what I can.

Microsoft are absolute tyrants, and tyrants should not be tolerated. I want to be relatively free of GIAFAM, but of the stuff I use, Microsoft (via GitHub) has the most control and influence — again! I’ve spent 5 years fighting systemd and in the process, I’ve learned how to automate the remixing of distros — it’s not that hard.

“Talking about freedom is great and all, but freedom isn’t worth much if nobody stands up to the biggest bullies.”What’s harder is trying to decide what to keep, and what to throw away. But I’m still working to delete GitHub. Thankfully, I’m learning more about what relies on GitHub, and what my options are.

The biggest reason for me to do this, is so I can help other people who want to. If I don’t know, I’m of less assistance to those who want to. And I want to know. Talking about freedom is great and all, but freedom isn’t worth much if nobody stands up to the biggest bullies.

There were significant rewards for cleaning up the rubbish I’d collected, in finding a nicer place to live and living in the same city that my girlfriend lived in. But it wasn’t as simple as sudo apt-get install newplace, it took effort.

I still miss IceWM, but I had a monitor I wasn’t using and I’ve started using it as a second screen, which is actually really great. I don’t think I’d even prefer IceWM on one screen to what I’m doing with dwm and two screens. Someday, I hope IceWM leaves GitHub. Its developers won’t have as much reason to though, if we don’t try to as well — think about it, Bert.

Long Live Stallman, and eternal vigilance.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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