Giving Guide

Are you giving your loved ones tech gifts they can use freely, or gifts which put someone else in control?

Electronics are popular gifts, but people often overlook the restrictions that manufacturers slip under the wrapping paper. From remote deletion of files to harsh rules about copying and sharing, some gifts take more than they give. The good news is that there are ethical companies making better devices that your loved ones can enjoy with freedom and privacy. This is the Free Software Foundation (FSF) guide to smarter gifts, compared with their restrictive counterparts.

Like this guide? Download the printable version and organize a Giving Guide Giveaway to share it with your community. And remember: donating to a nonprofit in someone's name is at least as meaningful as buying them an electronic device.

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Full-Sized Laptops

good Minifree T400 Notebook with Libreboot

Minifree T400 with GNU/Linux

  • As free as can be: runs the FSF-endorsed Trisquel operating system and libreboot firmware on hardware that is certified to Respect Your Freedom.
  • Durable hardware is meant to last and easy to repair.
  • Created by a small business that replaces all restrictive components from a stock laptop.
  • SAVE! €100 (approx. $106) off each item, and Minifree will donate to the FSF with each purchase. Expires Jan 31, 2016. Details.
bad Apple Macbook Pro

Apple Macbook Pro with OSX

  • Runs on proprietary software that restricts the user's freedoms.
  • Apple's App Store uses DRM to restrict what you can do with your purchases.
  • Comes crawling with spyware.

Smartphones

good Tehnoetic S2 with Replicant

Tehnoetic S2 with Replicant

  • The device runs the Replicant free operating system, based on Android. Caveat: its modem hardware separately runs a nonfree system.
  • Features F-Droid, the free software catalogue that makes it easy to get all the applications you need without sacrificing control of your phone.
bad Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone

  • Comes with no shortage of spyware.
  • Its proprietary operating system gives Apple control over the software on the devices.
  • Apple uses DRM to block competing software.
  • Planned obsolescence: business model forces you to buy new devices frequently.

Compact Laptops

good Libiquity X200 with Libreboot

Libiquity Taurinus X200 with GNU/Linux

  • As free as can be: runs the FSF-endorsed Trisquel operating system and libreboot firmware on hardware that is certified to Respect Your Freedom.
  • Durable hardware is meant to last and easy to repair.
  • Created by a small business that replaces all restrictive components from a stock laptop.
  • SAVE! 10% off your subtotal price, and Libiquity will donate to the FSF with each purchase. Expires Jan 31, 2016. Details.
  • Libiquity only ships in the USA. For non-US orders, buy an X200 from Minifree with this discount.
bad Lenovo U31

Lenovo U31 with Windows

3D Printers

good Lulzbot Mini

Lulzbot Mini

  • Respects Your Freedom-certified by the FSF to run with all free software, making 3D printing more accessible and encouraging innovation.
  • Ease of use features like self-leveling and self-cleaning.
  • Hardware designs available to make modification and improvement easy. Standardized material format allows 3D printing with plastics, wood-, stone-, bamboo-, rubber-, and metal-like materials.
  • BONUS! Receive a gratis reel of filament when you buy from this guide. Expires Jan 31st, 2015. Details.
bad Makerbot Replicator Mini

Makerbot Replicator Mini

  • MakerWare software is proprietary, restricting freedom and stifling innovation.
  • MakerBot was founded with a more freedom-respecting philosophy, but has since announced an increasingly proprietary approach and distanced itself from the community that formed around it.

Wi-Fi Routers

good ThinkPenguin Router

ThinkPenguin Router

  • Easily separate privacy-sensitive network traffic from Internet traffic to improve security.
  • As free as can be: runs the FSF-endorsed LibreCMC operating system on hardware that is certified to Respect Your Freedom.
  • SAVE! 5% off any purchase. Expires Jan 29, 2016. Details. FSF members receive 7% off with this code and 5% year-round.
bad Generic ISP-provided router

ISP-provided Routers

  • Proprietary firmware means that there's no way for you to know whether it's spying on you -- and it handles all your Internet traffic as well as local print jobs and file transfers.
  • Many models are subject to remote firmware updates from your Internet Service Provider, which probably does not have your best interests in mind -- these same companies fight net neutrality.

Ebooks

good Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg

  • All of the ebooks are gratis, including classics like Peter Pan and Huck Finn.
  • The original purveyor of eBooks free of DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), inspiring many others.
  • Enjoy the freedom to read your ebooks on any device.
bad Amazon

Amazon

  • Amazon can remotely block or delete individual ebooks or your entire library with no warning or explanation (they've done it before).
  • Amazon uses DRM to prevent you from sharing your favorite books with friends or moving them between readers.
  • Amazon openly claims you don't actually own or control your ebooks.
  • If you insist on purchasing from Amazon, at least designate a charity like the Free Software Foundation at smile.amazon.com to receive some of the money.

Graphic Design

good GIMP and Inkscape

GIMP and Inkscape

  • Free software, with thriving developer communities.
  • Designed for free formats, but can also open files created in other programs.
  • Wide variety of plugins grants limitless features.
  • Easy to install on all major operating systems.
bad Photoshop and Illustrator

Photoshop and Illustrator

  • Proprietary software controlled by Adobe.
  • Shuts down when its DRM is unable to verify the costly required subscription, even if it's actually up to date.
  • Prefers locked-down proprietary formats.

Gift Cards

good FSF Membership Card

FSF Membership Card

bad iTunes Card

iTunes Card

  • DRM on everything (except music) controls what you can do with your purchases.
  • Apple claims (wrongly) that you don't actually own anything you buy from the iTunes store.
  • Requires proprietary software to use, even to download DRM-free music.

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More devices on h-node

To learn more about which hardware supports free software and which doesn't, explore the community-run h-node database.

Licenses

This page by the Free Software Foundation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported.

The graphics and photos used on this page have been modified by the Free Software Foundation and are licensed separately under the following terms: