Richard Stallman explains free software at TEDx Geneva. Subtitles and slides.
The Ministry of Freedom sells GNU+Linux computers with the Libreboot firmware and Trisquel GNU+Linux operating system preinstalled. Libreboot is a free (libre) BIOS/UEFI replacement, offering faster boots speeds, better security and many advanced features compared to most proprietary boot firmware. The main benefit to libreboot is your freedom and privacy in using your computer, as per Free Software Foundation and GNU standards, but it has many technical advantages aswell (faster boot speeds, GNU GRUB directly in the boot flash, many customization options you can’t get with proprietary BIOS/UEFI).
The aim is simple: make it easy to have a computer that was made to run entirely on Free Software at every level, meaning no proprietary software of any kind. That includes the boot firmware, operating system, drivers and applications.
But why? What is this all about? All computer users deserve maximum control (liberty) over the computers that they own. I, Leah Rowe, company director, believe so strongly in this that this very website, minifree.org, runs on libreboot servers, on a network behind a Libreboot-powered router. All minifree.org servers are entirely self-hosted, in my lab! I’m quite competent at sysadmin tasks, and I’ve been self-hosting for years.
More information about the company, including how it operates and how orders are processed, can be read below.
How the Ministry of Freedom operates
I have excellent suppliers, sourcing laptops for me regularly. They literally make phone calls, send emails, drive to locations and buy laptops for me, every day. They then thoroughly check the laptops for quality, before selling them to me (they sell the ones I don’t want, to other people instead). I receive new machines into my lab on a weekly basis, and I have a steady supply.
Before a laptop is added to stock on the webshop, it is:
- Configured fully: e.g. Libreboot and Trisquel installation
- Parts installed such as libre AR5B95 WiFi module
- Thoroughly tested. If issues are found, it gets fixed and/or parts are replaced.
- Batteries are thoroughly tested. I include *2* batteries per laptop sold.
- CPU fan and thermal paste are replaced. I use high quality Arctic MX-4 thermal paste.
- Screen and keyboard are one of the main priorities. I try to find new parts whenever possible, or parts that are as mint condition as possible.
- The machine is thoroughly tested again
When I’m happy with the machine, I download source code onto it (Libreboot and Trisquel GNU+Linux source code), print the standard welcome pack included that has instructions for getting started and pack the laptop, along with batteries, power cables, charger(s) and so on. The laptop is then ready to be sold!
The result? When sold and shipped to you, the laptop that you receive is of high quality. Many of my customers comment that their laptop looks and feels brand new. When I say refurbished, I mean it! This is why my laptops are slightly more expensive than from certain other Libreboot suppliers (e.g. eBay sellers). When you buy from me, what you’re buying is quality.
I spend about 1-2 hours spread out throughout the day, answering emails. When someone orders a product, I am immediately notified via email. I have an automated system on my main workstation, that immediately tells me to check emails when a sale has arrived. Sale notifications go into a separate inbox internally, on my mail server.
When there are orders placed, I check Minifree Ltd’s bank account regularly. When a payment has arrived, it is identified and the orders that are paid get shipped immediately, or on the next available business day.
By operating in this manner, I’m able to quickly arrange shipping via Fedex. I do this *daily*. When I book a shipment, I then leave the package in a secure location (the front door!) and when Fedex knocks at the door, I hand over the package. The product that you purchased is then shipped to your location.
I use Fedex because they provide a high quality service, with fast shipping times. Learn more about shipping.
People of Minifree
The Ministry of Freedom is currently a single-person company, running on a very tight ship. I, Leah Rowe, am the company’s director, founder, sole shareholder and sole employee. I handle all the orders, and ship all the laptops. This means that I limit the number of laptops that I sell, to avoid becoming overwhelmed with too much work. I operate out of my home; the place I live in is small but very efficiently organized.
I do it all. My work schedule is very busy, which is why I organize myself the way I do. Everything has to be structured perfectly, so that I can run reliably.
My priority is this: when you order a laptop, it must ship quickly. If I’m out of stock, that’s my problem only. I try to run my business as honestly and as professionally as possible, with very little help. This is why I’m sometimes out of stock (I work very efficiently, so I’m usually in stock. If what you want is out of stock, check again a few days later!). However, despite this, I’m able to provide an efficient service.
When I need to, I do bring in outside help. There are always people I can easily find to help me with laptops. I do this a lot during busy periods such as summer time or christmas.
About Leah Rowe
Minifree’s founder, Leah Rowe, is also a libreboot developer (and founder of the libreboot project). Profits from Minifree sales directly fund the libreboot project. This includes paying for development, hardware, hosting and so on. Minifree can be contacted, using the information on the contact page.
You can also find me on twitter at https://twitter.com/n4of7.
You can find some of my videos here, showing some of the work that I do: https://vid.puffyan.us/channel/UCQH7N2oXp-_Za1zkdhaAPfg
My reddit user name is libreleah and I am a moderator of https://www.reddit.com/r/libreboot/
I’m a passionate Free Software activist. When I started this company, and created Libreboot, I did so precisely because I noticed a trend: libre systems were possible, but out of reach by ordinary non-technical people. Everything I do is geared towards non-technical people. However, skilled software engineers also buy from me!
- My aunt handles accounting (tax returns). She has been in the business since the early 2000s, and does a very good job, catering to small and medium sized businesses. I wouldn’t ever use anyone else.
Examples of how I, Leah Rowe, have contributed financially and technically to libreboot:
- I’m the founder and lead developer of the project. I work on it every day.
- I created the project, from scratch! The project was formally announced in early 2014, but work had started in December 2013
- Ported boards to libreboot many times, in addition to spending countless hours providing free user support to the public, via IRC and mailing lists.
- Minifree Ltd has privately funded several new board ports to coreboot, which were then added to libreboot: 90,000 USD to Raptor Engineering for ASUS KGPE-D16 and KCMA-D8 libreboot support, and 4000 AUD to Damien Zammit for Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L and Intel D510MO libreboot support
- The libreboot.org infrastructure and hosting is paid for by Minifree Ltd, and maintained by it.
- I work on Libreboot regularly, and I discuss development with other developers. This costs time, which costs money (need to eat, sleep, etc).
- Generally paying for new development. I don’t spend much money on myself, it all mainly goes to libreboot and general living costs. Costs are kept as low as possible to ensure that libreboot always has excess funding available in the future.
I regard the Ministry of Freedom as a public service. I price the laptops in such a way where I’m able to sustain myself adequately, and provide support to the Free Software community. When I started this business, in mid 2013, Libreboot didn’t exist and I was selling corebooted ThinkPad X60 laptops. I never expected the company to get big and popular (that happened by accident!). One day, the FSF contacted me, in late 2013 and wanted me to make my laptops meet their Respects Your Freedom standards, and I accepted to work for them. This work is what ultimately lead to the creation of the Libreboot project! I have personally met Richard Stallman and shook his hand, many times. In several different countries 😉 (I’ve traveled around the world and given talks about Libreboot at various conferences. A few of those videos are online today; e.g. FOSDEM 2017 Libreboot talk)
tl;dr I sell Libreboot, and Libreboot accessories.