Take control of the tech

From Gender and Tech Resources

“Foo” is a term used for variables that are considered unimportant when a programmer is too lazy to think of an actual name for it (see RFC 3092). The word “foo” rhymes with “taboo”, and smells like “blind spots”. I think that is not a coincidence.

Reusing hardware

Mom, there’s a new game. Can I have it?

Your birthday is coming up. What is it called?

The huge cardboard box the game DVD is sold in shows requirements for running the game. The latest M$ windows operating system. Meaning, need that too. And oh dear, the hardware either doesn’t run the latest M$ operating system or it is too slow, killing the fun of playing the game. Need to replace that too.

Oh mom?

Make that new machine x number of children.

Unlike in most other countries, in western industrialised countries care, shelter, nutrition, and clothing to sustain health are taken for granted and considered less or unimportant. The by the troika engineered austerity epidemic raging through Europe and the US is rapidly putting an end to that. Sustenance in real life comes first, leaving less or no resources to gather the necessary hard and software for participation in autonomous digital networks. A third world problem is likely more about Immiserating the Poor: We Have An App For That https://gurstein.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/immiserating-the-poor-we-have-an-app-for-that-social-media-vs-the-iphone-in-egypt-and-a-kenyan-slum/.

Resource constraints make it harder, not impossible. We can use the Micro$oft cycle as opportunity, and recycle "outdated" PC hardware. It is often possible to collect old machines from family and friends, give-away stores, 2nd hand stores, (online) markets, you name it, and then use some machines for parts to repair the others. Linux will probably run fine on it.

Routers are not that often replaced and are harder to find. Phones seem to be replaced even faster than PC’s in Europe and the US, but not elsewhere in the world. One possibility that jumps to mind is to have "device tables" on events where people can leave hardware for others to find. (Co-)organising local and online bazaars is another possibility.

Replacing firmware

Firmwares are microprograms present on ROM (Read Only Memory) modules, containing low-level code (hexadecimal, machine code). They enable the device on which they are present to take stock of its capabilities and render those functional. The information loaded onto the ROM is non-volatile, meaning that it is not lost when power is switched off. A basic example of firmware is the BIOS that comes with the motherboard of a PC. Firmware also coordinates activities of the hardware during normal operation and contains programming constructs used to perform such operations. The use of firmware gives more flexibility compared to the use of pure hardware circuitry.

Some firmware are non-rewriteable while others are upgradeable, meaning that it is possible to upgrade the firmware of the device by connecting it to your PC in a particular configuration and then running the “flashing” software. Handy for taking (back) tech.

Replacing the BIOS of your machine


Coreboot is an extended firmware platform that delivers a lightning fast and secure boot experience on modern computers and embedded systems.

Taking control of your router

Many routers can be flashed with openwrt or dd-wrt firmware.


DD-WRT has become a common out-of-the-box option for many routers, but also exists in stand-alone implementations that can be used to flash routers that support it. It has a slightly convoluted history. From 2002, Linksys released a line of routers (WRT54G) with Linux. The company was eventually obliged to release the source code for those routers under the terms of the GPL. DD-WRT has become the basis for other firmware created by router manufacturers themselves and while DD-WRT is released under the terms of the GPL, commercial builds of such firmware may incorporate much non-GPL code.


OpenWrt is more like a real Linux distribution. It comes with its own package manager. Setting up and running OpenWrt can be an involved process, because users can make most any changes they want from a broad range of components directly inside OpenWrt. Updates come frequently and its package manager makes it easy for users to take advantage of those updates.

Jailbreaking your phone



Open design

Open design involves the making of both free and open-source software (FOSS) as well as open-source hardware. Open design of hardware is the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information. The process is generally facilitated by the internet and often performed without monetary compensation. The goals and philosophy are similar (if not same) to that of the free software movement, and is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by users, rather than by external stakeholders such as private companies.

Using free and open hardware


Free, Secure & Open Microprocessor Project


Raspberry Pi