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[liberationtech] Chromebooks for Risky Situations?

Jacob Appelbaum jacob at
Wed Feb 6 14:16:24 PST 2013

Brian Conley:
> Micah,
> Perhaps you can tell us the secret to convince all family members and
> colleagues to become Linux hackers able to be completely self-sufficient
> managing their own upgrades and modifications indefinitely?

Stop supporting the use of non-free software? We're all part of the
problem when we help people to be less free and to use proprietary
software or proprietary services. This is both an education and a
problem with enabling. We all suffer from it, I think.

When we encourage people to say, buy a Macbook or a Chromebook because
we're happy to support it over say, Windows, we're making things worse.
Largely because the choice is actually between Free Software and
proprietary software or free software on devices where we're not
actually able to exercise all of our freedoms.

Thus, when we aren't helping people to get off of the non-free platforms
or to reduce our dependency on non-free software, we're basically not
doing a great job at educating people that we care about and otherwise
wish to support. When we pass the buck, we're enabling them with
harmful, sometimes seriously so, solutions.

> Otherwise what is your point?

This essay seems like a longer version of what Micah has expressed:

I also suggest reading these two essays by RMS:

He is also talking about how the threats to a user might include Google
itself (eg: my legal cases!) or perhaps even the network you're using
(hint: ChromeOS has no way to protect you against such an attacker, so
no, it isn't safe to use everywhere or perhaps anywhere depending on
your trust of the local network).

> It seems like you are being needlessly confrontational or outright ignoring
> the quite reasonable counter arguments to various linux OSes,Ubuntu/gentoo/
> etc etc being made here.

Most of arguments I've heard here boil down to privileged wealthy people
complaining that learning and mutual aid or solidarity is simply too
hard. The worst is when people who train people in risky situations make
those kinds of statements.

It's frankly, really and seriously embarrassing.

All the best,

> On Feb 6, 2013 7:09 PM, "micah anderson" <micah at> wrote:
>> Andy Isaacson <adi at> writes:
>>> On Wed, Feb 06, 2013 at 10:52:23AM -0500, micah anderson wrote:
>>>>> - ChromeOS's update mechanism is automatic, transparent, and basically
>>>>> foolproof.  Having bricked Ubuntu and Gentoo systems, the same is not
>>>>> true of Linux.
>>>> I would be surprised if you actually 'bricked' these systems, since
>>>> neither operating system you mention involves a procedure that has the
>>>> risk of bricking a device. I suspect this is hyperbole?
>>> I've had dist-upgrade (or the GUI equivalent) make an Ubuntu system
>>> unbootable and unrecoverable without recourse to a rescue-image and deep
>>> magic grub hacking, etc.  That counts as "bricked" when the easiest
>>> course of action is to simply reinstall the OS from scratch.  It's not
>>> "bricked" in the sense that an Android install gone awry can require
>>> specialized hardware (JTAG dongle etc) and crypto keys to fix, but it's
>>> equivalent from a user's point of view.
>> I understand where you are going with this, but when it comes to
>> terminology, I think it serves to confuse the issue to misuse the term
>> 'brick'. You cannot, as you say, "simply reinstall the OS from scratch"
>> on a device that has been bricked.
>> I can't wait for the day when Google accidentally pushes an update out
>> that actually bricks their devices, because when that happens, there is
>> no way to "simply reinstall the OS from scratch".
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