/e/ OS

I've had a history with Fairphones; back in 2014, I got a Fairphone One. That version had vanilla Android (“Android Open Source Project”, AOSP) with no Google apps, so it was basically free software only out of the box. I used it with F-droid only. It worked great, except that it seemed to be missing some firmware drivers for the GPS (the GPS worked, but not perfectly).

In 2017, I got a Fairphone 2 and naively ordered it from the store, thinking it would also come with AOSP. It turned out to be encumbered with Google Apps and Playstore. I endured that situation until 2021 (because it was my work phone and I didn't want to risk bricking it), where it died and I bought a Fairphone 3. This time, once more, I didn't do due diligence and bought it from Fairphone itself, not from a vendor supplying free software alternatives. Incredibly, Fairphone itself doesn't seem to see it as part of their “fairness” to supply a free operating system for their phones. As much as I sympathize with their project, this is a very bad decision on their part.

But now, some weeks ago, my Fairphone 3 died completely, and I headed to Murena's web site to check out what they had. I'm now the proud owner of a Fairphone 4 with a free OS, and what a difference that makes!

The operating system on Murena's phones is called /e/ OS.It is very privacy-minded, it blocks trackers and gives you the option of faking your location and hiding your IP addres. It includes an “app lounge” with many more free apps than F-droid has, and all the proprietary apps in e.g. Google Play Store – for the two or three proprietary apps that I unfortunately need.

Its navigation is build on Magic Maps and works fine, if less flashy than Google equivalent Maps app. All “cloud” applications seem to be hooked up on Murena's NextCloud instance, and I could easily switch them, so e.g. the notes app now works with my own Nextcloud server.

The user interface is also much more zen and less annoying. All in all, what a relief.

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Greenberg: "Manufacturing Depression"

So I'm reading Gary Greenberg's book “Manufacturing depression”. It's not an ironclad scientific demonstration of the ineffectiveness of much of the modern psychiatric medicine such as you may find in the work of (say) Joanna Moncrieff, but it is an entertaining and critical journalistic narrative of the pharmacological history of depression.

At one point he's comparing depression and SSRIs with diabetes and insulin, mocking the psychiatrists who, unlike real doctors prescribing insulin to diabetics

don't have to convince their diabetic patients that they have a “real illness”. A diabetes doctor doesn't have to worry about the clinical appropriateness of treatment. He doesn't have to wait for a new definition of diabetes to be hashed out in committees of his brethren and then learn the new diagnostic criteria. (...) All he has to do is to take a urine or blood sample. He doesn't have to talk about chemical imbalances that he knows aren't the problem or contend with package inserts that say, in plain black and white, that the drug makers have no idea why their drug works.

The prevailing narrative is still, if you ask doctors, that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin in the brain and that antidepressants work by increasing the levels of serotonin. It's hard to understand, though, how this narrative can still exist given that Irving Kirsch (lecturer in medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) thoroughly debunked the idea in 2009, 15 years ago.

What Kirsch demonstrated by a thorough analysis of a vast number of clinical trials of SSRIs was

  • Antidepressants fare very badly in clinical trials. They are statistically better than placebos, but the difference is so small that it's not clinically significant. I.e., clinically they're not proven to be any better than placebos.
  • They are speculated to work by lowering serotonin levels, but in fact there is no evidence at all that depression is related to serotonin levels – the evidence that is often cited is that the SSRIs seem to work on depression, but the clinical trials suggest they actually don't.
  • It has been shown that if people have the levels of serotonin in the brain depleted, it doesn't affect their mood at all.
  • One outlying anti-depressant in use in France is actually a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Enhancer, i.e. it lowers levels of serotonin in the brain, and it fares no better and no worse than the SSRIs.
  • the small statistical difference between SSRIs and placebo can probably be explained by the placebo effect – patients in clinical trials realize that they're on the real drug because of the onset of (often unpleasant) side effects, thus increasing their expectation of a positive effect.

I won't claim to know how to cure depression, except that I'd guess that it's not a disease whose root causes lie at the neurochemical level and hence it probably isn't curable with medication (even though such medication may be helpful in shorter periods). I'd really love for someone to come up with a real answer.

But why do we allow ourselves and the industry to carry on, 35 years after introducing these drugs, 15 years after Kirsch thoroughly debunked them, to continue treating this very serious disease with medicine

  • whose own manufacturers still can't say why it would work
  • except by referring to a serotonin hypothesis which has never been proven,
  • a hypothesis which has in fact been debunked?

I'm afraid we're in need of some reforms here. Maybe, just maybe, the abolishment of medical patents and of any and a nationalisation of medical research, so that new drugs and treatments will be developed according to patients' needs – and not according to the drug companies' chances of commercial success.

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I Love Free Software Day

Free Software Foundation Europes lokalgruppe i Danmark holder I Love Free Software Day onsdag d. 14. februar kl. 17-20 hos PROSA i Aarhus, Søren Frichs Vej 38K th., 8230 Åbyhøj.


  • Velkomst, et par ord om traditionen for iLoveFS Day

  • Fri software, hvorfor det er vigtigt, forbindelse til FSFEs aktiviteter

  • Fediverse og cloud-åbenhed

  • Premiereoplæsning af børnebogen Ada & Zangemann på dansk

  • Introduktion til Replicant og muligheden for at lege med Replicant og andre frie styresystemer på Android-telefoner

  • For dem, der har lyst: Bannermaling – vil male et banner, som vores lokalgruppe kan bruge ved events

  • Fejring, sodavand, snacks, socialisering.

Der vil være snacks, sandwiches og forfriskninger. Af hensyn til logistikken må du meget gerne tilmelde dig hos PROSA – det kan du gøre her:

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Sassuma Arnaa

I finally managed to find out why I couldn't follow this blog on my own Mastodon instance, as I wrote about in the last post.

The somewhat technical explanation can be found in this forum post:

What matters is that this blog can now continue ahead as a true Fediverse blog.

The image that accompanies this small announcement is the Mother of the Sea, called “Sassuma Arnaa” in Greenlandic (meaning “the woman from down there”) – an important character in Inuit mythology. The photo was taken by myself in Nuuk last summer.

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Sunrise over Oxford

It's a couple of months since I first created this blog, and I've been busy with a few things and also had some technical trouble.

The most important thing is that in theory, you should be able to follow this blog on the Fediverse as, but for some reason it doesn't work, even though I believe I enabled it in the settings.

Not that it matters that much, since I can always share my posts on Mastodon and other places if I want.

I must admit, writing in Write Freely is a beautiful, minimalistic experience: You just write along and format with Markdown.

This is a multi-user and multi-blog installation, and that makes it easy to diversify the topics. For now, I mainly write about Afro-Brazilian religion and culture on my Wordpress blog, and I mainly (though not very often) write about free software on my FSFE blog.

Here, I might write about all kinds of other stuff – about politics, about learning Greenlandic, and whatnot, and create separate blogs for these topics.

It would, though, be easier to communicate them as separate channels if the federation was working.

But for now, let this post announce the sunrise of further activities here.

Edit, February 4th

It turns out that federation actually works. What doesn't work is me accessing this blog from my own Mastodon instance ... so the problem I thought was in this WriteFreely installation is actually in Mastodon. I've asked for help on the Yunohost forum, hopefully I can fix it soon.

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Okay, this is my new fediverse-enabled blog. I'll be using this for various thoughts.

This blog is not made in Wordpress, as my other blog is, nor in more exotic stuff such as Bloxsom.

Instead, it's made in WriteFreely, which is very lightweight and implements the ActivityPub protocol, meaning you can follow it on the Fediverse, e.g. on Mastodon.

Let's see where it all ends.

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