Open source ecology

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This is a project that consists of a collaboration of farmers, engineers and supporters whose goal is to build a Global Village Construction Set (GVCS)(230) that they claim is “a modular, DIY, low cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different industrial machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilisation with modern comforts.” The machines they are working on include everything from 3D printers to wind turbines and aluminium extractors from clay.

Given my philosophical beliefs, machines such as these find themselves near the bottom of my POP model for the appropriate level of technology in my life, despite the generous spirit behind the project and the intentions and ethos of those involved. Yet given that “open-source, low cost, modular, user-serviceable, DIY, closed loop manufacturing” are stated key features of all the things they’ve built and intend to build (the designs of which will be freely available to me and you), I felt it was appropriate for me to include it here as their work may be very beneficial in helping you, and us collectively, to make the transition from the monetary economy we live in now to a decentralised, fully localised gift economy in the future.

OPEN SOURCE TECHNOLOGIES AND FREE COMMUNICATION

Considering that the levels of technology that I feel are appropriate make Luddites look like Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, promoting open source software such as some of those below probably seems a bit odd. Despite my beliefs that the existence of such logistically complex technologies are the root of many of our personal, social and ecological crises, I agree that they can play a transitional role in getting us out of the mess the stories behind them got us into. In fact, many of the transition tools I mention throughout this book have an online aspect to varying degrees, despite the fact that their ultimate goal is to get people participating in outdoor life again.

What technologies – both software and hardware – we do use, and how we acquire them, is very important, especially in relation to moneyless living and activism. Open source technology is not only free for everyone to use, its philosophy is very much in keeping with the principles behind Freeconomy.

Computers, mobile phones and other communication devices

I got the last three laptops I’ve used from members of my local Freeconomy group who had upgraded to a newer model. Of course these only came into existence because other people continue to buy newer ones, and that is a valid point. Regardless, it is no argument against making full and complete use of every resource we have, especially if we can utilise them to help the transition to post-industrial and non-monetary economies. If you can’t find a computer on either Freecycle or Freegle, then you will certainly be able to find the component parts for one from different members of the network – a screen from one, a keyboard and mouse from another. All you then need to do is put them together, which someone from your local Freeconomy group should be able to show you how to do.

Whenever I tell someone I don’t have a mobile phone, someone always tells me that I can have their old one. This I find very kind and generous – the problem is, I don’t have a mobile phone because I don’t want one, not because there isn’t an endless pit of them lying around! Unless you have a fetish for new, shiny things, there really is no need to ever buy a mobile phone again. If you get one with a pay-as-you-go SIM card in it, you’ll be able to receive calls for free – I used one like this for three years.

Once you have your computer, you then have to decide what operating system and programmes you want to run on it.

Free Communication

As you may have guessed by now, I’m not a fan of mobile phones, for any number of reasons – their reported effects on bee populations, the fact we’re instantly contactable at any hour of the day or night for both work and pleasure, and the way they have cunningly convinced us that we can no longer live without them. On the surface, they look off-grid, as they are not connected to anything, especially if you power them using solar. However, the grid they are connected to is an invisible one – the fact we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Skype
I’m often surprised by how few people use Skype,(231) which enables people to talk to each other for nothing. It isn’t as convenient as a mobile, and because of the cheap calls you can make on the latter its appeal is diminishing. However, if you want to live moneylessly and still communicate with faraway family or friends, I’d suggest using it for all telephone and video calls, at a location where you can get free access to the internet.

Linux

This is an open source computer operating system that forms the foundations for free alternatives (such as Ubuntu) to other operating systems sold by Microsoft and Apple, such as Windows. I’ve found Ubuntu to work better than any other operating system I bought in the past; it is much quicker during start-up and ongoing use, it is secure (you don’t need any costly antivirus protection), and very much in keeping with the philosophy behind Freeconomy and the gift economy. Due to its increasing popularity over the last twenty years, more and more software is now compatible with it, meaning that it is the operating system of choice for anyone who wants to take the control of technology away from the large multinational corporations and give it back to the people who use it.

OpenOffice and LibreOffice

OpenOffice(232) is to Microsoft Office what Linux is to Microsoft Windows. It is the free and open source alternative to the expensive word processors, spreadsheets and presentation tools that are ubiquitous amongst computer users today, which I can only assume is due to a lack of awareness that tools such as OpenOffice exist (it works with either Linux or Windows). In my experience these work just as well, and this book was written on OpenOffice.

In 2010 some of the OpenOffice team set up a new organisation called The Document Foundation, in order to protect OpenOffice from potential external factors. The result of this is that LibreOffice(233) (meaning ‘Free Office’) came into existence and, like OpenOffice, it is compatible with other major office suites and platforms. Why not try both suites and then choose the one that suits you the best.