The COVID-19 pandemic has made us more reliant on technology than ever, which is a compelling reason to think carefully about the choices we're making during the gift-giving season. Is that "smart assistant" smart enough to respect your friend or family member's freedom? Do new gaming consoles like the PlayStation 5 restrict more than they entertain? Does that shiny gadget come at a cost much higher than its price tag?
When we allow proprietary software created by Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and countless other companies to handle our basic computing tasks, we put an enormous amount of power in their hands, power which they constantly exploit. It's only through using free software, and devices running free software, that we can seize this power back.
Letting your loved ones know that you respect their privacy and freedom too much to cave in for the newest Apple or Google device is a great gift in itself, and one that you can feel good about.
Freedom is the gift that keeps on giving. By giving your friend or family member an FSF associate membership, you can show them you care and benefit the cause for global software freedom.
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Why it's cool: While we're still waiting to get our hands on one, this device looks promising. We're giving it a tentative recommendation because the company has publicly committed to doing the right things for prioritizing user freedom and privacy, and because we have evaluated and endorsed the operating system it will run.
Considering that many people around the world use a mobile phone as their only Internet-enabled device, it's important to have confidence that your mobile phone isn't "listening in" on you to make more money for advertisers.
(Like many companies, Purism has made financial contributions to the FSF's work, but that is not a consideration when deciding what products we list in this Guide.)
Why it's cool: The X200 is one of the few home user devices that's able to run fully free software from top to bottom. Starting with an attractive user interface and extending through the microcode (or "BIOS") at the heart of the system, this laptop is powered by software that takes your freedom and privacy seriously.
While it may be a little vintage, what it lacks in speed it makes up for in utmost respect to user freedom. It's so good that it's the laptop that's most frequently used in the FSF office!
Why it's cool: The Vikings D8 is a robust desktop computer that can be scaled up or down according to your needs, and which is capable of doing everything from simple Web browsing and video playback to intense code compilation.
You can order the Vikings D8 installed with the FSF-endorsed Trisquel distribution of GNU/Linux, a fully free operating system that removes the user-hostile binary-only blobs lurking in the drivers of many common network and graphics cards, or, if you prefer, you can order the D8 installed with any other free distribution of GNU/Linux.
Why it's cool: A gift for your most security-conscious friend! As opposed to software solutions which by nature have limited randomness (or "entropy"), this USB device is an endless wellspring of truly random numbers, which aids in password generation and encryption.
Why it's cool: Trying to get closer to 100% free but stuck with a proprietary Wi-Fi card? Just plug this into your USB port and you're ready to go.
Despite the efforts of companies like Spotify, we can still dance to music in the free world. Thanks to the artists, producers, record labels, and shops highlighted on on our Guide to DRM-free Living, the rights-respecting options are nearly endless. Check out music from great labels and artists, including:
Apple Music is no better, and places heavy restrictions on the music streamed through the platform.
In the last year, many people have unfortunately become more dependent on streaming media. But it's important to remember how streaming services can deprive you of important rights. "Dis-services" like Disney+ and Netflix mandate the use of a hardware-level backdoor called Widevine, giving them permanent access into deep components of your machine.
Widevine prohibits these services from running on many older devices, leaving families who can't afford a new computer or a new television out in the cold.
Try these video services and sites instead:
Visit the Guide to DRM-free Living for more suggestions on how to stay a film lover and keep your freedom at the same time.
They're also leveraging their newfound place in the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to advocate for tighter restrictions on users, and drove the effort to embed DRM into the fabric of the Web.
In this section of our guide, we've highlighted some of the types of devices where there just isn't a choice on the market that actually respects your freedom. We hope you'll take this list as inspiration for the free software projects you contribute to and support.
The Nintendo Switch is a popular holiday gift, but few realize that Nintendo has utter control over the platform and offers little insight into how it really works -- or how it might be spying on you and your family. Not much has changed since our advice to brick them before they bricked the Nintendo DS.
The Giving Guide is brought to you by the Free Software Foundation. Our associate membership program is the heart of the FSF's work campaigning for computer user freedom worldwide. We've been fighting for digital freedoms since 1985, and have no plans of stopping. Will you make your voice heard by joining today?
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