Calls:

Send in your ideas. Deadline June 1st, 2020.

 


Help grow the future

Your donations make a difference:
Donate today or Help fundraising



Useful open source tools to work from home

Many of us are working from home to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic. As it so happens, the Next Generation Internet initiative develops and promotes open source tools suited for situations just like this.

This is a list of tools produced by projects within the Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative that anyone can use with little to no setup. Of course there are many more projects (in fact over 200!), ranging from open hardware projects to alternative search engines. But the projects below are useful to many right now, so we thought we should provide you with an overview. Read more below to find open source tools for:

Keep in touch via the internet

Humans are social beings and so "social distancing" can make us feel isolated. It's important to keep in touch with others. And that generally works well when you see and hear each other.

Sylk logo

Video chat is not the real thing when it comes to human contact, but it is the best we have for that at the moment. It should be simple and quick to start a chat, because not everyone has a lot of technical skills. And these days fortunately it is. You can meet up for a video chat with a group of people easily with the open source Sylk. Just create a new room by going there, and share the link to it. Sylk works instantly in the browser, with no install and no account required. You can see each other and talk without it costing anything. You can even do a presentation for the other people connected, and upload files that anyone in the session can download.

Note:The Sylk video chat room is designed for up to 10 people, more participants can join with audio only. Please use Firefox, Brave, Chromium, Opera or another browser since for the time being Safari lacks necessary features.

[ We have a how-to tutorial explaining Sylk!

There is an integrated chat window that you can connect to with other applications (like Conversations), or just use from the browser. Especially for old people, applications like Sylk that requires no setup are ideal.

If that does not work for you, there are some other worthwhile open source alternatives from Europe you can also try: Jitsi Meet and Spreed.ME or use their app.

The great thing about all of these tools is that you can run them yourself somewhere - so you can discuss anything confidential to your business or intimate to your family. And even if parts of the internet would become disconnected, you do not rely on the connection to a single company. Also, if other servers are overloaded you can just continue uninterrupted on your own machine.

Of course you cannot hang around in ten different video conferencing rooms at the same time. If you directly want to connect to people to have a chat, voice or video call, download Blink. This is an open source desktop app that offers even more functionality, you can actually remotely call people, and if you already use internet telephony you can add that too.

Messaging

For some people being connect to a group of people with video and audio can get too intense. In that case you can choose to turn off the camera for and switch to text messages. DeltaChat is like Telegram or Whatsapp but without the tracking or central control. Delta Chat does not need your phone number, and it does not even need servers. It uses the most massive and diverse open messaging system ever: your e-mail. Of course be sure to use a mail provider that respects your privacy.

Riot is a chat application that works on the Matrix protocol. You can join a public Matrix server, or set up your own. Riot.im is the web interface but there are various apps too.

Unfortunately you cannot yet use the super secure Betrusted device, but people are working hard to make that a reality - so that will come soon.

With Manyverse and Briar you can send messages without any server. Both of them are not running in the cloud owned by a company, instead, your friends' posts and all your social data live entirely in your phone. This way, even when you're offline, you can scroll, read anything, and even write posts and like content! When your phone is back online, it syncs the latest updates directly with your friends' phones, through a shared local Wi-Fi or on the internet.

Working together on documents

Cryptpad is an open source online office suite that allows you to work together on documents in real-time. Ideal for scribbling notes during meetings, or writing a paper together for school. Unlike other online office applications, your document cannot be read by the people running the service for you because everything is encrypted on your computer before it is sent across the internet. Again, you do not need an account. Just start a new document and share the link.

NextCloud gives you a shared network folder. You can edit documents together, share a calendar or task list with colleagues, and use a lot of extensions. You can host NextCloud at your office or use a hosted version. Your files are under your control.

And to keep track of what everyone is doing, you can create a Kanban board - the equivalent of a wall coverded with sticky notes used to prioritize work. Both Cryptpad and NextCloud come with a Kanban board.

Remote access

You're not able to go into the office or go to school but you need to remotely (and securely) access internal applications and your data. And of course this should happen on the same network every insecure device in the house is connected to. This is a job for a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Wireguard lets you easily connect individual computers to remote networks. Wireguard is a simple and elegant VPN solution funded by NGI, and its underlying technology has been proven by independent academic groups to be highly secure. And it works really fast because it uses modern cryptography, so you do not have to sacrifice speed for security. It is part of the Linux kernel, but there are apps for most platforms.

If you want to create a scalable setup for a whole organisation, we advise you to have a look at Let's Connect!. This is an elaborate and well-audited open source VPN infrastructure solution. It was set up to scale well (for hundreds of thousands or even millions of people if necessary) and a lot of effort was put into making it easy to deploy. Let's Connect! and its academic sister EduVPN offer apps for all the major platforms. Just download for free, and benefit from professional VPN infrastructure at any scale. In addition to the server side, Let's Connect! and eduVPN offer apps for Linux, Windows, macOS, Android and more. As a user you just log into the portal once, and a VPN connection gets set up for your device automatically.

(Of course, if you would like to use IPSEC for your VPN, we have a scalable high performance open solution too: Vita).

Information about food

In case you are anything like us, the current situation impacts the way you eat. Food is not our friend, but being confined for longer period somehow makes unhealthy foods irresistable. If we want to know what we should be eating, go to Open Food Facts and discover everything there is to compose a healthy and balanced diet in times of isolation.

When things go offline

In the case the internet should become temporarily unavailable, not all is lost. There are various tools you can use to work "internet style", but with local resources.

You can set up a 'neighborhood internet' with Internet Cube at home. A small computer can become an Internet Cube which has file sharing and private mail. As mentioned before, applications like Manyverse and Briar will allow you to still send messages to friends and family.