Project news from the FreedomBox Foundation.
This page contains an archive of all past news items
Contact information for press and any other inquires is located on the Contact page.
FreedomBox v0.3 Released!
January 21, 2015
Hi folks, I'm proud to announce that FreedomBox version 0.3 has been released! This release comes ten months after the previous, 0.2 release.
The FreedomBox version 0.3 is available here:
Before using, you should verify the image's signature, see https://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox/Download for further instructions:
$ gpg --keyserver hkp://pool.sks-keyservers.net --recv-keys 0x36C361440C9BC971
$ gpg --fingerprint 0x36C361440C9BC971
pub 4096R/0C9BC971 2011-11-12 Key fingerprint = BCBE BD57 A11F 70B2 3782 BC57 36C3 6144 0C9B C971 uid Sunil Mohan Adapa <sunil@...> sub 4096R/4C1D4B57 2011-11-12
$ gpg --verify freedombox-unstable_2015-01-15_beaglebone-armhf-card.tar.bz2.sig freedombox-unstable_2015-01-15_beaglebone-armhf-card.tar.bz2
(Replace the file names with the version you download.)
Thanks to the many folks who helped put this release together and especially Sunil and Petter who are regularly building and publishing updated images.
More information on this release is available on the wiki:
Major FreedomBox 0.3 Changes:
Add BeagleBone support. We now have images for BeagleBone, RaspberryPi, VirtualBox i386/amd64, and DreamPlug.
Ability to enable and use Tor Hidden Services. Works with Ejabberd/JWChat and ownCloud services.
Enable Tor obfsproxy with scramblesuit.
Drop well-known root password (an account with sudo capabilities still exists for now but will be removed soon).
Switch to unstable as suite of choice for easier development.
Newer images are built with systemd by default (due to Debian change).
Install and operate firewall automatically (uses firewalld).
Major restructuring of Plinth UI using Python3, Django web development framework and Bootstrap3. Code quality is much better and UI is more polished.
Introduced packaging framework in Plinth UI for on-demand application installation.
Many bug fixes and cleanups.
Unfortunately, some known issues do exist:
- ownCloud requires removing /etc/owncloud/config.php after installation for Plinth to enable it properly.
However, other known issues have already been fixed upstream:
etckeeper commit doesn't work during first-run.
Wi-Fi AP isn't automatically available on Dreamplug. The interface needs to be created manually.
Please discuss, test, and enjoy. Please also join us on the mailing list, IRC, or on the monthly progress calls:
Happy hacking, Nick
FreedomBox version 0.2
For those of you who have not heard through the mailing list or in the project's IRC channel (#freedombox on http://www.oftc.net/), FreedomBox has reached the 0.2 release. This second release is still intended for developers but represents a significant maturation of the components we have discussed here in the past and a big step forward for the project as a whole.
Plinth, our user interface tool, is now connected to a number of running systems on the box including PageKite, an XMPP chat server, local network administration if you want to use the FreedomBox as a home router, and some diagnostic and general system configuration tools. Plinth also has support for downloading and installing ownCloud.
Additionally, the 0.2 release installs Tor and configures it as a bridge. This default configuration does not actually send any of your traffic through Tor or allow those sending traffic over Tor to enter the public net using your connection. Acting as a bridge simply moves data around within the Tor network, much like adding an additional participant to a game of telephone. The more bridges there are in the Tor network, the harder it is to track where that traffic actually comes from.
Availability and reach
As discussed previously, one of the ways we are working to improve privacy and security for computer users is by making the tools we include in FreedomBox available outside of particular FreedomBox images or hardware. We are working towards that goal by adding the software we use to the Debian community Linux distribution upon which the FreedomBox is built. I am happy to say that Plinth, PageKite, ownCloud, as well as our internal box configuration tool freedombox-setup are now all available in the Jessie version of Debian.
In addition to expanding the list of tools available in Debian we have also expanded the range of Freedom-maker, the tool that builds full images of FreedomBox to deploy directly onto machines like our initial hardware target the DreamPlug. Freedom-maker can now build images for DreamPlug, the VirtualBox blend of virtual machines, and the RaspberryPi. Now developers can test and contribute to FreedomBox using anything from a virtual machine to one of the more than two million RaspberryPis out there in the world.
Work has really been speeding up on the FreedomBox in 2014 and significant work has been done on new cryptographic security tools for a 0.3 release. As always, the best places to find out more are the wiki, the mailing list and the IRC channel.
I am pleased to announce our first FreedomBox software release. The FreedomBox 0.1 image is available here (.torrent) (sha512sum: 867f5bf462102daef82a34165017b9e67ed8e09116fe46edd67730541bbfb731083850ab5e28ee40bdbc5054cb64e4d0e46a201797f27e0b8f0d2881ef083b40).
This 0.1 version is primarily a developer release, which means that it focuses on architecture and infrastructure rather than finish work. The exception to this is privoxy-freedombox, the web proxy discussed in previous updates, which people can begin using right now to make their web browsing more secure and private and which will very soon be available on non-FreedomBox systems. More information on that tool at the end of this post.
What have we accomplished? This first release completes a number of important milestones for the project.
- Full hardware support in Debian A big part of the vision for the FreedomBox project revolves around the "Boxs", tiny plug servers that are capable of running full size computing loads cheaply and with little use of electricity. In many respects these are wireless routers given the brains of a smart phone. If you want to change the software on a router or smart phone today you normally need to worry about bootloader images, custom roms, and a whole collection of specialized build and install tools. We wanted to the FreedomBox to move beyond this fragmented environment and, with the help of some embedded device experts, we have managed to make our development hardware into a fully supported Debian platform. That means that anyone with a device can install Debian on it just like a laptop or desktop computer. This support is very important for ensuring that the work we do on the FreedomBox is as portable and reusable as possible.
- Basic software tools selected There is a lot of great free software out there to choose from and we put a lot of thought into which elements would be included in our basic tool kit. This includes the user interface system "plinth" that I outlined in a recent kickstarter update as well as basic cryptography tools like gpg and a one named "monkeysphere" that leverages gpg as an authentication tool. All of these are now bundled together and installed on the release image. This common working environment will simplify development going forward.
- Box-to-box communication design Some goals of the FreedomBox can be accomplished with one user and one FreedomBox but many, like helping someone route around repressive government firewalls, will require groups of people and groups of boxes working together. One of our greatest architectural challenges has been finding a way for boxes to communicate securely without so slowing down or breaking network access as to make the system unpleasant to use. We have now outlined and built the first version of our proposed solution: Freedom-buddy. Freedom-buddy uses the world class TOR network so that boxes can find each other regardless of location or restrictive firewall and then allows the boxes to negotiate secure direct connections to each other for actually sending large or time sensitive data. We believe this blended approach will be most effective at improving the security and usability of personal-server communications and all the services we plan to build into those servers.
- Web cleaning Our first service, a piece of software you can use today to start making your web browsing more secure and private, is called "privoxy-freedombox". This software combines the functionality of the Adblock Plus ad blocker, the Easy Privacy filtering list, and the (HTTPS Everywhere](https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere) website redirection plugin into a single piece of software to run on your FreedomBox. Combining these different plugins into software for your FreedomBox means that you can use them with almost any browser or mobile device using a standard web proxy connection. Because of our focus on building the FreedomBox as part of Debian this software will soon be available to anyone running a Debian system regardless of whether you are using our target DreamPlug hardware, a laptop, or a large rack server somewhere. As you read this packages should already be available in the Raspbian repositories, which is the optimized version of Debian used on the Raspberry Pi hardware. Hopefully we will get that onto the main Debian mirrors over the next month; if you are interested in building it for yourself in the meantime, the source is available from gitorious. As we build additional components for the FreedomBox we will continue to work on making them widely available.
- What is next? As you may have seen, our Project Lead, Bdale Garbee, is about to begin a well earned early retirement from his long time role as Open Source & Linux Chief Technologist at Hewlett-Packard. Over the coming month Bdale and the rest of the Foundation team will be putting together plans for the next stage of FreedomBox development and the road to a 1.0 release. News and updates will follow at freedomboxfoundation.org (rss).
Wow. Thanks to everybody who showed up in New York to hack on the FreedomBox and other projects. This event was a bit of an experiment. Instead of doing a FreedomBox Hackfest, we opened the event to other projects that share our goals of private, free communication. We were lucky enough to get developers who work on Guardian, Access, Tor, CryptoCat, Commotion Wireless, EFF, TrackMeNot and other initiatives. The resulting cross-pollination of skills and ideas pushed all of these projects forward with speed and focus!
While all the projects hit impressive milestones this week, it was FreedomBox that had the most activity. Here's what we did:
Boruch Baum, Daniel Howe and James Vasile worked on validating the regexes in freedombox-privoxy. That package is much closer to stable now. Boruch and Daniel did the heavy lifting. They took a problem that had, frankly, stymied us, and put in the attention and research to get it moving again.
Ariel and James brainstormed the user experience on first boot. Ariel made a series of slides detailing requirements in this area, which means we now have a roadmap for first boot.
Bryan Newbold hacked a configuration management solution into Plinth so now the front end can talk to the system. He and James are making a demo module for documentation.
Nick Daly added a command-line interface to FreedomBuddy. This interface can be used to query the FreedomBuddy service, and will be pushed to the public repository by the end of the week, with the next weekly image. The interface currently depends on the HTTP(S) interface, which is a limitation that will soon be removed.
Nick and Simo Sorce began implementing a self-configuring OpenVPN system using the FreedomBuddy's command-line interface. That will also be available by the end of the week.
Nick internationalized the FreedomBox UI with help from several other folks. Work will be completed in the next few weeks to support Python's standard approach to internationalization, GetText.
Pablo Arcuri started internationalizing FreedomBuddy to include a Spanish translation. It may soon also have a Farsi translation.
Nick and Nadim Kobeissi considered, and ultimately rejected, including CryptoCat on the default FreedomBox image, because of its reliance on PHP. Nadim is building a CryptoCat 2.0 that will be based on XMPP. When that is ready, we'll integrate it as FreedomBox's secure chat solution.
James explored browser fingerprint munging in freedombox-privoxy using advice from Eva Galperin. He concluded that this is a task better left to a browser plugin and might start speccing that plugin.
James discussed thread modeling methodologies with Matt Hollingsworth and started nudging FreedomBuddy toward a more defined and explicit threat model.
This hackfest was an unqualified success. Big thanks to our partners, ISC (especially Ray Short), OpenITP and ISOC-NY for pooling resources to pull it off! Thanks also to Elizabeth Boylan, who managed logistics and never once complained about our disorganization. Ian Sullivan worked his usual behind-the-scenes magic. Dragana Kaurin organized the people and the reporting and stipends. And Willie Theaker provided key support in arranging for people, food and supplies to always be in the right place at the right time.
FreedomBox, OpenITP, InformSec and ISOC-NY have partnered up to host a circumvention tools hackfest in NYC right before HOPE. We've got four days to plan, code and learn! If you want to hack on anti-censorship or anti-surveillance tools, bring your project, bring your skills and bring your friends. This event will be focused on writing code and solving design problems. We won't have any long presentations (there will be enough of those at HOPE), though we will have lightning talks and will give away a door prize or two.
Where: Columbia Law School, Jerome Greene Hall, 116th and Amsterdam
When: July 9 - 12, 10 am
Who: Privacy and free communication hackers like you
Please RSVP to kaurin at openitp.org and tell us what you plan to work on, what kind of projects and people you hope to meet, and which days you will join us.
Feel free to repost this invite or to link to it.
Some modest travel stipends are available for amazing projects. Email James Vasile (james at openitp.org) about those.
Some projects we know will attend: Commotion Wireless, Cryptocat, Guardian Project, the Lantern Project, and Access.
If you are looking for lodging, take a look at this list of nearby hotels. If you want a hostel, there's one on 103rd and Amsterdam.
Big thanks to our partners, all of whom are contributing crucial support and resources.
Eben Moglen video at Internet Evolution
While at Personal Democracy Forum last week, Eben was interviewed by Nicole Ferraro of Internet Evolution. The first part of that video, focusing on defining what the FreedomBox is, has now been put online here: Internet Evolution.
Further videos still to come next week.
I am excited to announce that our Kickstarter fund raising page "Push the FreedomBox Foundation from 0 to 60 in 30 days" has just hit $60,000 25 days early! The donation that pushed us over the edge came from Blaine Cook, the former lead architect for twitter, which is a nice vote of confidence, but we would like to take a moment and send our thanks out to all of the people who have helped contribute to this great drive, and encourage everyone else to take a look.
We have been honored by the level of support for the project and the interest expressed by people from communities around the world. There is a lot of work ahead and it is a great feeling to know how many people there are pushing along with us. On that point, keep your eyes here for more information about the project's organization and immediate plans. That and other FAQs should be up on the foundation's site later today.
The process of getting from idea to an organization and from organization to living, breathing, functioning reality can be long and difficult. It has taken the foundation almost a full year to move from idea to organization and events around the world are making it clear we can't wait another year before getting freedom boxes off of the technical design board and into people's lives. So we're making a break for it and trying to get off the ground in one big push via Kickstarter.
We're calling it "Push the FreedomBox Foundation from 0 to 60 in 30 days" and we're asking for your help to do just that.
Eben has estimated that the work of pulling all the software components necessary for a freedom box together and building them into one system can be done with $500,000. We're not trying to raise all of that money here. We just need enough funds to get off the ground and to demonstrate the size and determination of our community. That is the best motivator for everyone involved with the project, and the kickstarter pledge rewards are pretty cool too, so please do check it out.
Scholar and Internet Guru Yochai Benkler Joins FreedomBox Board
FreedomBox Foundation is pleased to announce the latest addition to its Board of Directors, Harvard University law professor Yochai Benkler. The notable scholar and social scientist is the author of the influential works Coase's Penguin and The Wealth of Networks, as well as his newest book, The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest.
"We're excited to have Yochai on board. He will provide insight into the most important challenge of the FreedomBox, that is, understanding how this technology can fit seamlessly into the daily lives of people," said Eben Moglen, president of the foundation.
FreedomBox Foundation is a non-profit project with the mission of developing a network device and open source software that protects privacy, anonymity and security on the Internet, a cause to which Benkler is personally and professionally dedicated. "The FreedomBox will change the way people talk to each other on the Internet," he said. "We are giving people control over their digital lives by protecting these basic human rights." The long-range goal of the project is to make "Freedom Boxes" available to the average consumer.
Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard, and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Since the 1990s, he has enlightened the world about innovation and collaboration in the digital commons as well as information production and freedom in the networked economy and society.
Benkler's forward-thinking books and other socially-engaged works have earned him many awards, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award, the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award, the Public Knowledge's IP3 Award and the Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Policy Research. The Financial Times has cited his work as "perhaps the best work yet about the fast moving, enthusiast-driven Internet."
Benkler joins a growing board of well-respected free and open source software veterans, which boasts the help of former Debian Project Leader Bdale Garbee in addition to Moglen, founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center. Board members, all volunteers, play an active role in technical development, administration and fundraising. Benkler has advised a range of national and international communications and intellectual property regulators and policy makers, and his work can be freely accessed at benkler.org.
FreedomBox Foundation was started by Moglen and staff from the Software Freedom Law Center as an organizational home for the various community development efforts that are already building freedom box systems. "Freedom boxes, smart devices whose engineered purpose is to work together to facilitate free communication among people safely and securely beyond the ambition of the strongest power to penetrate, can make freedom of thought and information a permanent, ineradicable feature of the net that holds our souls," said Moglen.
Source: FreedomBox Foundation
For immediate release
July 5, 2011
Contact: James Vasile, 212-461-1906, email@example.com
FreedomBox Wins Ashoka Changemakers Competition
The FreedomBox Foundation has won the Ashoka Changemakers Competition in the "Citizen Media" Category! This event was decided by a public vote, which means it was your help that pushed us over the top. Thank you to everybody who voted and helped spread the word. This community continues to work together in amazing ways.
Ashoka will award us $5,000, which we will use to fund further development of the FreedomBox. One of our goals is raising awareness of the need for privacy-respecting technology, and participating in the competition allowed us to present the FreedomBox to a lot of people who had never heard of it before. On that basis alone, this competition was worthwhile for the FreedomBox.
Congratulations to all the other winners and finalists. Ashoka spotlighted many good projects working toward freedom and open access to communications technology. FreedomBox will surely cross paths with those projects again.
The FreedomBox Foundation is taking steps to put this project firmly on its feet. Step One is fostering the community conversation that will steer this project to success. Toward that end, we're hiring a community relations facilitator. Please make sure this ad reaches the right people.
The FreedomBox Foundation seeks a motivated, talented, freedom-obsessed individual to facilitate community and press relations for the FreedomBox project. Responsibilities will include coordinating public and press outreach, organizing project events, managing our social networking presences, and consistent messaging.
Prior experience in community relations, journalism, or PR is great, especially in the free software community. Previous experience with social media is strongly preferred and we encourage you to submit profile or other account names so we can see your previous work in the medium and your facility with the current tools. If the FreedomBox is the most important thing you want to be doing with your time right now, you are the person we want to talk to.
To maximize efficiency and financial resources, a successful candidate will work with (and be paid by) both the FreedomBox Foundation and the Software Freedom Law Center.
Please send resumes in an open file format (plain text preferred) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Salary will depend on experience and time commitment.
Enhanced Privacy and Security for Web Browsing
One thing many people agree the FreedomBox should do is web filtering for privacy and ad-removal. Toward that end, the FreedomBox will act as a web proxy to clean up and protect web traffic.
We have a first draft version of privoxy up on git. It upgrades your web traffic to prefer ssl encryption whereever it can. It also strips tracking software from web pages to give you greater privacy and anonymity as you surf.
If you are a privoxy user, please do give this package a test run and report any problems on the issue tracker. We are working on upstreaming these changes to the privoxy project, and in the mean time, you can make a debian package quite easily from the git repository.
Further work will include writing a script to test all the https-everywhere rules and discard the ones that are broken. As well as one to periodically check for new regexes. Anybody who wants to contribute to writing that is welcome to jump on in!
More details about this part of FreedomBox can be found on our code page.
The FreedomBox Foundation is just at the beginning of our efforts to collaborate with a worldwide community. We need to speak to everybody, everywhere, in their native language. That's why we're building translation into the project from the beginning.
Since most of our materials start out as video, the first step towards translation is transcription. If you speak English and want to help spread the message to a wider audience, please stop by the subtitle page to see what material needs transcription.
If you speak any other languages in addition to English, we need your help on our translation team. We are organizing language-based groups to collaborate on high quality translations of project materials, both the transcribed videos and the various web pages and news items on the foundation's site. If you are interested, please email email@example.com or stop by the translate page for more details.
We'll provide mailing lists and other communication tools to help make collaboration as easy as possible but we can't do this without your help.
So email the FreedomBox Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us what languages you can help with. We'll put together teams.
FreedomBox IRC meeting on Aug 15
FreedomBox Foundation will host a one hour meeting on IRC with executive director James Vasile and tech leader Bdale Garbee on August 15th.
You'll be able to ask questions about the advancement of the project, the challenges it is facing and the opportunities that are being tapped.
Update: read the log of the conversation here.
What Is A Distributed Social Network?
J David Eisenberg made an excellent comic introduction to distributed social networks. For anybody who isn't quite sure why the FreedomBox is important, that's a fun and non-technical way to explain it.
How We're Going To Do This
I want to thank all the generous and dedicated contributors who made our Kickstarter "0 to 60 in 30 days" campaign a resounding success. More than 1,000 contributors took us from 0 to almost 90 in those 30 days, and we are grateful to each of your for your support. We will do our best to justify your confidence.
Your donations will allow us to begin to coordinate contributions by volunteers from every corner of the Free World. Together, we will work to make our shared vision a reality.
Ours is a large undertaking with many moving parts. We at the FreedomBox Foundation are here to help communicate, facilitate, and spread the FreedomBox project around the world. We plan to administer the effort based on four organizational pillars:
- Functional software development and integration;
- User experience design, implementation and integration;
- Communications and fund-raising; and
- Industry relations
Each of these pillars will be led by an advisory committee, with all activities coordinated by a small full-time staff at the FreedomBox Foundation.
Advisory Committee membership will evolve, as developers and others who commit themselves heavily to the project step up. Initial nominations reflecting early commitments by leaders in our community will be announced shortly. Bdale and I have begun contacting initial members of the Technical Advisory Committee that Bdale will chair. Once assembled, that Committee's first activity will be to lead the public development of an initial road-map.
More announcements concerning process and schedule will appear here soon. In addition to our financial contributors, I want to thank also the wiki editors and mailing list writers who have contributed so many good ideas and so much positive energy to launch us on this adventure together.
Interesting talks for FreedomBox at DebConf
There are going to be lots of interesting occasions to learn about FreedomBox and start hacking on the system during Debian's DebConf 2011, starting officially on July 24th.
We have selected a few talks related directly or indirectly to FreedomBox from the full agenda:
- FreedomBox Progress Report: Using Debian to Create and Preserve Freedom, by Bdale Garbee
- ARM BoF:Porting, news and discussions, by Steve McIntyre
- Delivering Multi-Platform Applications:Build on Debian, run anywhere, by Bdale Garbee
- Debian as though cryptographic authentication mattered, by Daniel Kahn Gillmor
- Bootstrapable Debian: Cyclic dependencies, staged builds and cross-compiling, by Wookey
- Blending Debian: Debian Pure Blends as a way to structurise the project, by Andreas Tille
- Distributed Naming BoF, by Daniel Kahn Gillmor
- Debian dErivatives eXchange (DEX) BoF, by Stefano Zacchiroli
All the talks will be streamed live and there will always be an IRC channel live to ask questions to the speakers. Stay tuned for more details, follow @freedomboxfndn on Identi.ca.
Today has been a big day for press coverage of the foundation and a spreading awareness of our project. We started the day in the NY Times with a piece by Jim Dwyer (Decentralizing the Internet So Big Brother Can’t Find You). By afternoon there were also pieces in:
- The Wall Street Journal (Freedom Box Needs A Good User Interface)
- ZDNet (Freedom Box: Freeing the Internet one Server at a time)
- techPresident (Egypt, Off Switches, and Internet Fragility)
- The New York Observer (Debate: Will Americans Ever Own Their Own Servers?)
- New Europe (Eben Moglen: A free world needs free software)
- and even the ABA Journal (Law Prof Urges Work on ‘Freedom Box’ to Decentralize the Internet), a legal industry publication.
All these press pieces, and the many related twitter and identi.ca posts, raise some great points about the work we have ahead. We hope to address many of these points over the coming weeks and months as we continue to build the foundation and expand our public activities. All of you who are interested, please stay tuned!
Introducing the Technical Advisory Committee
As the community continues to push the FreedomBox from idea towards reality, it is time to expand our technical leadership team. We are happy to announce the formation of a technical advisory committee to help coordinate and guide the development efforts of this project. This advisory committee is already underway, with an initial membership of industry leaders including:
Bdale Garbee, Open Source & Linux Chief Technologist at Hewlett-Packard,
Jacob Appelbaum from the Tor project,
Sam Hartman, former Chief Technologist at the MIT Kerberos Consortium and IETF Security Area Director,
Sascha Meinrath, Director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative,
Rob Savoye, long-time GNU hacker, Gnash lead developer, and winner of the 2010 award for the Advancement of Free Software
Matt Zimmerman, former Canonical CTO
We'll be hearing more from the TAC over the coming weeks and months. Anyone interested in following the activity of the advisory committee as it happens is welcome to check out the public archives of their email list at http://lists.freedomboxfoundation.org/s/arc/tac (the list is for TAC members, so please do not attempt to subscribe). If you want to talk to the TAC in real time, they can be found in
freedombox-tac on irc.oftc.net.
FreedomBox Hackfest in NYC on Presidents' Day Weekend
We're having a hackfest and you should join us!
It's in New York on February 18th, 19th and 20th. There are a lot of places we might make progress. Some easy ideas:
- streamline the install process
- improve documentation
- turn the box into a wireless router
- setup monkeysphere for proxies/VPN/tunnels
- finalize the privoxy settings
- work on building a central communications system around tor hidden services
This will be fun for people of all skills and experience. A day of pizza, beer and throwing bits against the box will make for great progress.
If you would like to help (or even if you just want to come by to say hi), please email email@example.com. If you have ideas for discrete tasks that might be tackled with a couple days of cooperation, please do join us.
FreedomBox Update After DebConf
Many hackers involved in FreedomBox had the chance to meet in Banja Luka at DebConf11. Bdale Garbee gave a speech highlighting the status of the development. The full recording of the session is available on Debian's site. If you already know the basic of FreedomBox project, skip to minute 33 to hear the latest development and the next steps.
FreedomBox at LinuxConf North America
FreedomBox Foundation's founder Eben Moglen and Tech Leader Bdale Garbee will be attending the next Linux Conference North America in Vancouver, Aug 17-19. This year's edition marks the 20th anniversary of Linux kernel, a major milestone for the community.
Bdale Garbee will speak on Wed Aug 17th at 3pm in Plaza B.
- Freedom, Out of the Box! by Bdale Garbee
a status update on the development of "FreedomBox", a personal server running a free software operating system and free applications, designed to create and preserve personal privacy by providing a secure platform upon which federated social networks can be constructed.
Prof. Eben Moglen will speak at the panel 20 years of Linux right after Bdale's speech and he will available also during other social events. Follow us on identi.ca/twitter to get last minute announcements.
IRC Chatlog 2011-08-15 15:00UTC
Elevate and ContactCon
James Vasile attended Douglas Rushkoff's ContactCon to promote the FreedomBox. Thanks to Douglas Rushkoff and Venessa Miemis for inviting us to present and producing the event! My talk there was The FreedomBox in 4 Minutes. He didn't just go to talk, the FreedomBox project won a prize at ContactCon, too! We'll have a full announcement about that soon.
James headed straight from ContactCon to Austria's Elevate festival. While there, he hopped over to MAMA/Hacklab in Zagreb and also presented the FreedomBox in Ljubljana. Elevate was packed with great technology, media and arts events. Many thanks to Daniel Erlacher for the invitation and to Elevate for their donation to the FreedomBox Foundation. James's Elevate talk was called Freedom Out of the Box.
Libre Planet Followup
I attended Libre Planet in Boston this weekend with a goal of talking about the FreedomBox to anybody who would listen. I gave a lightning talk to let people know it exists and was deluged with interest afterwards in the hallway. As expected, the FSF crowd has a lot of great ideas, not just about how to implement the FreedomBox, but about how to organize a project of this scope.
Scores of people expressed interest in further volunteering. I hope to see them in IRC and the email discussion soon. Rob Savoy, in particular, is a fascinating individual who could teach us all a thing or two about development.
I made some headway in arranging for teleconference facilities for the FreedomBox Foundation. IRC is great, but we're going to need some group voice calls at various points. I've added to my todo list an item to make sure we can record calls so we have logs where appropriate.
I talked specifically to some old free software experts, the hard core hackers who have track records of pulling off ambitious projects. I believe I convinced some that this project is a place to put their energy and that we'll see them active soon.
I invited a woman to the project who has a long history of improving the communities she's in. She is over committed for the next several months, but I've scheduled a note to follow up with her.
I talked to several people who worked on OLPC or OpenMoko, other large projects with some commonalities with the FreedomBox. I received some interesting and frank views about what went right and what went wrong in those efforts. Some opinions are most worth passing on:
First, OLPC did not test its interface with end users early enough. I talked to multiple people who thought this should have been done sooner. FreedomBox should put the target end user into the design process early.
Second, OLPC had some incredibly ambitious requirements that spilled over from one part of the project to another. The requirement that the interface be usable by non-literate users drove a lot of the innovative design, but it made some tasks quite hard.
Third, OpenMoko folks spent a lot of time making a distribution-- packaging and recompiling all those Debian packages for their platform. It used a lot of resources and the repos were never complete. FreedomBox should not be a Debian-based distribution so much as a a Debian-based project that relies on a lot of already-existing packages.
Meshing is hard. Nobody I met knows anybody who is nailing mesh networks. I'm going to get all the mesh heads together soon for a real conversation to see if we can work towards a recommendation on the most promising avenue.
Michael Stone pointed me to Heilmeyer's Catechism. Those are some good questions.
Big thanks to Matt Lee at FSF for throwing a great conference. And to Deb Nicholson for hosting me and towing me around town. She has great ideas about how to include more people in FreedomBox.
Vote for FreedomBox in Ashoka Changemaker's Competition
The FreedomBox has made it to the final round in Ashoka's Changemakers competition and now things will come down to a public vote! We already won the Early Entrant's prize when we first put in our application. And a strong showing in the voting would put the project in a strong position for a Fellowship that would fund significant project work. Please take a moment to [vote for us](http://www.changemakers.com/citizenmedia?utm_source=contacts-enthus&utm_medium=email-others&utm_content=vote&utm_campaign=citizenmedia)! (Scroll all the way down.) Signup might be required, though they've assured me they won't spam you. If you're on Facebook, You can also [vote via your Facebook account](https://apps.facebook.com/changemakers/citizenmedia), which is easier, faster and fraught with privacy implications. And please spread the word. A few moments of help could mean a lot to moving this project forward.
Open Source Veteran Bdale Garbee Joins FreedomBox Foundation Board
NEW YORK, March 10, 2011-- The FreedomBox Foundation, based here, today announced that Bdale Garbee has agreed to join the Foundation's board of directors and chair its technical advisory committee. In that role, he will coordinate development of the FreedomBox and its software.
Garbee is a longtime leader and developer in the free software community. He serves as Chief Technologist for Open Source and Linux at Hewlett Packard, is chairman of the Debian Technical Committee, and is President of Software in the Public Interest, the non-profit organization that provides fiscal sponsorship for the Debian GNU/Linux distribution and other projects. In 2002, he served as Debian Project Leader.
"Bdale has excelled as a developer and leader in the free software community. He is exactly the right person to guide the technical architecture of the FreedomBox," said Eben Moglen, director of the FreedomBox Foundation.
"I'm excited to work on this project with such an enthusiastic community," said Garbee. "In the long-term, this may prove to be most important thing I'm doing right now."
The Foundation's formation was announced in Brussels on February 4, and it is actively seeking funds; it recently raised more than $80,000 in less than fifteen days on Kickstarter.
About the FreedomBox Foundation
The FreedomBox project is a free software effort that will distribute computers that allow users to seize control of their privacy, anonymity and security in the face of government censorship, commercial tracking, and intrusive internet service providers.
Eben Moglen is Professor of Law at Columbia University Law School and the Founding Director of the FreedomBox Foundation, a new non-profit incorporated in Delaware. It is in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status. Its mission is to support the creation and worldwide distribution of FreedomBoxes.
For further information, contact Ian Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://freedomboxfoundation.org.
A lot of people have been asking for an update, which is a good indication that we need to update folks more often.
Bdale Garbee will be at DebConf11. He and Clint Adams will be running a hackfest. If you are going to be there (a lot of FreedomBoxers are also Debian devs), please track him down and ask him any question you have about the box. His answers will be thoughtful and perhaps surprising.
I'm told the smart phone high five has been the subject of some fevered hacking. Stefano Maffulli organized hacking on that in small community events and it is starting to produce useful work. Now to get that code in to a gittable place!
The need for a roadmap is clear. Everywhere I go people want a framework into which they can start putting their work. The TAC is pondering that and I hope we will have it shortly. In the short term, Bdale and the TAC are working on a build release. This will be a basic build system on top of which we can start putting packages. It will give us all a common reference point to hack from.
The mailing list is a hotbed of development discussion. Jonas Smedegaard is a one-man packaging machine (I hear he'll be at DebConf too!), and that's a huge step. Others projects, like PageKite are building pieces that we hope can be integrated into FreedomBox soon. Debian-style development is chaotic. There are too many ideas to take them all, but before this is through, I think we'll have considered every possible combination of software. I hope that shortly some of those discussions will result in meta-packages that configure combinations of software to work nicely together.
Speaking of configuration, we are thinking hard about a configuration process and model. With the many possible package configurations, each with its own method of storing configuration and state, handling conflicts (as well as expert-user tweaks made outside the normal interface) will be difficult. We have some design ideas for that structure, but I sense this is an area where we will adopt somebody else's design rather than invent anything new.
Administratively, we've assembled the Foundation pieces. We have a board. Yesterday, the board converted me from a presumptuous volunteer into the executive director. I don't think that changes what I will do except it allows me to do more of it and I can feel a little more comfortable making statements about what the Foundation is up to.
We have done a lot of work with Marvell and Global Scale. Helping the box manufacturers streamline license compliance is a big task, but we've been making real progress. Clint identified some parts of the Dream Plug that didn't build properly or for which the true source wasn't available. After some dialog with upstream, we're getting all that source. The next step is helping upstream publish that code in a routine way.
Stefano and I have been searching for UX and human interface designers who might help us with one of the most difficult parts of this project. Eben Moglen, Ian Sullivan, Bdale and I have had many phone conversations about how the user configures the box. We agree it needs as few buttons as possible. We agree it needs sane defaults as well as expert modes. We agree it listens on port 80 but also talks to your phone. Beyond that, we agree we need expert help.
We have had offers of help from hacker spaces in California and Texas! We would like to connect with as many hacker spaces as possible. Stefano and I are trying to make a hackfest-in-a-box kit and hack spaces are the perfect place to deploy those kits. If you are involved in a hack space and can pull some awesome geeks together for a night of fun, I want to talk to you.
That's the update. More soon.
Best regards, James Vasile
We've completed our Community Angel round of Kickstarter funding, and I want to thank everybody who donated, spread the word, evangelized and joined the discussion. It is amazing to see a worldwide community coalesce around supporting Freedom and developing this technology.
Current Activity and Plans
We are still searching for a community relations facilitator. We have a number of resumes and are starting to do some interviews. It's a slow process, and more great people apply every day.
We continue to seek further funding to fill out the rest of our budget.
We've started to brainstorm a roadmap at http://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox/UserRequirements/BrainStorm. I took the results of that page and am boiling it down to essential project goals. That will be published for a round of community hacking, which will help us define exactly what this project intends to do within the broad mandate of FreedomBox possibilities.
Bdale Garbee is slowly enfolding the large amount of technical work ahead of us into his grasp. As the technical advisory committee gets up to steam and a roadmap coheres, we will start to make real progress.
I attended Libre Planet and spent a weekend waving the FreedomBox flag and inviting people to join our growing effort. It was a wonderful weekend. I encourage anybody attending conferences to do lightning talks about the project. There's a lot to talk about and the response will be terrific.
Our translation team is now over 50-strong and making short work of our existing media page. It has been a great deal of effort undertaken with grace and good humor. Thanks to all who have helped! If you want to join the fun, sign up to the translation list and introduce yourself.
We plan to form further teams around non-technical aspects of this project. These teams will manage documentation, user support, public outreach, conferences and the like.
One of the things we offered Kickstarter donors was a T-shirt. We are thus soliciting T-shirt designs. The theme of the shirt is Community Angels. It would be good to involve our logo, which was designed by Luka Marčetić.
The chosen design will be printed on t-shirts that we will give to donors. Of course, if your design is chosen, we will cover you in thanks and make sure you get a shirt too. I will also buy you a beer next time we meet.
Send designs in a free file format to email@example.com before April 15. Vector graphics preferred.
Thanks again to everybody involved and interested in this project! Your support is what makes this work. If you want a more interactive discussion than this announcement, sign up to our development list. or join us in #freedombox on oftc.net.
Best regards, James
The FreedomBox Hackfest at Columbia University was a huge success. We hosted 25 people of diverse talents and interests. Some folks came to learn, acquire DreamPlugs and do a guided install of Bdale Garbee's FreedomMaker. Others took up parts of the (task list)[http://freedomboxfoundations.org]. We learned a lot about the boxes, ideas for routing, data modeling, and security concerns. Lots of people pitched in on the tasks list, and descriptions of that work are below. Most importantly, we had a lot of fun meeting each other and collaborating. If you are interested in any of it, please ask about it on the discussion list, especially if you want to help!
Huge thanks to everybody that participated. Many people came by just to learn about the FreedomBox, talk about their use cases and offer encouragement. That activity is very helpful, and we appreciated the fresh perspective.
We intend to do more hackfests, perhaps in more cities in the near future. This weekend was a great success in progress, bug squashing, design, and first-draft implementation of key FreedomBox infrastructure.
Thanks again to everybody and especially to Columbia University, Elizabeth Boylan, and ISOC-NY for logistical and material support.
Progress and Activities
Nick Daly, Issac Wilder, Ian Sullivan and I fleshed out my earlier, nascent Port Santiago work (more about that below) and implemented some basic FreedomBox discovery and connection functionality. Nick and Issac also sketched out a DHT scheme (codenamed Neruda) for finding boxes. Nick and Issac each did presentations on the routing issue. Joly Macfie from ISOC-NY took video of those presentations and will get them online this week.
Nick and Ian iterated hard on paired boxes (a dedicated, hard-coded, factory-set proxy server and client connection) as a way to roll out freedom to small numbers of people stuck behind national firewalls. We now have paired boxes that locate each other on the network and proxy for each other!
Barbara Mack came to us with expertise in data model-ling, and she spent her time doing deep thinking on the person model and how it connects to the rest of the FreedomBox.
BoxySean installed FreedomBox on a GuruPlug and updated the Wiki with details on how to do that more easily. There are a lot of GuruPlugs out there, and his work is a big help.
BoxySean and Brian Newbold started work on configuring the FreedomBox as a wifi router and connecting that up to Plinth for UI. They identified some FreedomMaker bugs. BoxySean updated the list on those bugs and we've been following up on closing them.
A team of people (most notably Marcus and Tyrone) from the FreedomTower project explored ways the FreedomBox can be added to their mobile internet stations to provide Free communication services to people connecting to the net via those stations.
Sean O'Brien familiarized himself with Plinth and intends to contributing to the router front-end setup effort.
David Garson dropped knowledge on configuration systems and virtual machines as test beds.
I updated Plinth with a new template featuring some design work by Robert Martinez (about which I will say more in a separate update).
I updated Plinth with a new template and chased down some bugs. Boxysean explored Plinth's bugs as well, albeit involuntarily. We'll have patches on those shortly.
There is a problem we have been referring to as the "magic routing problem". It is the question of how two FreedomBoxes find each other on the internet and establish communication, even if one or both boxes are firewalled and neither is findable via DNS. We called it "magic routing" because we hadn't started to design the routing system and so we had to assume it happened by magic.
Our solution to this problem is to piggyback on the Tor network. Hidden services rely on Tor for routing and discoverability. The system works quite well and the Tor project does excellent work at maintaining that system and strengthening it against attack.
Nick Daly and Ian Sullivan built a simple server that listens on a local port and is reachable from the outside world by a Tor hidden service. It accepts authenticated queries and responds with information. For example, it can give your IP address to friends you trust.
To avoid burdening the Tor network and also to avoid the delays associated with using Tor, Port Santiago will allow two FreedomBoxes to decide on a faster (though less anonymous) method of communication. Subsequent communication will happen on that channel.
Right now, we are using Santiago to discover a FreedomBox's IP address for the creation of encrypted proxy tunnels. This will allow a FreedomBox to provide uncensored, unmonitored internet access to a friend who is stuck behind a national or corporate firewall.
Nick did the heavy lifting on this work with help from Ian Sullivan and in consultation with many of the Hackfest participants. Nick's documentation and code will be up on github soon.
Port Santiago lets FreedomBoxes provide some basic information via a Tor hidden service, but users need a way to find out the onion addresses of their friend's services. The most obvious way to do this is with distributed hash tables (we also considered less obvious methods that piggyback on existing infrastructure, like bit.ly links). Issac and I planned out the DHT, how to access it, the data structures, and API. We are calling this system Neruda.
Neruda will allow users to take a GPG key and look up a user's Santiago onion address. Issac Wilder is speccing this out and coding it.
One benefit of reaching Santiago via a Tor onion address is that FreedomBoxes do not need to update Neruda very often. Even if your IP address changes, your onion address shouldn't. Updating your Neruda record is a rare event and it is acceptable to refresh Neruda's tables relatively infrequently. This might allow us to devote fewer resources to it.
FreedomBoxes are going to make a lot of use of GPG to authenticate identity and sometimes to encrypt data as well. To strengthen the web of trust, we did some key signing and also introduced some participants to gpg, generated keys and taught key management.