Retiring Two Hardware Models

January 8th, 2019

After an open discussion, the FreedomBox developer community has decided to retire the DreamPlug and Raspberry Pi 1 hardware models from our lineup of custom FreedomBox images.

For a number of reasons, which are recorded in our public call notes from December 8th, 2018, the FreedomBox community decided that the DreamPlug and Raspberry Pi 1 hardware models are no longer suitable for our software system. Support for these two models was dropped for a number of reasons, including their low performance-to-cost ratios, lack of proper kernel updates, and dependence on non-free software. Together, these three factors contributed to our final decision, which is now reflected in the "Hardware" page of our wiki.

Before making the decision official, we wanted to make sure that it was possible for current users of these models to migrate to newer, supported hardware. To that end, we thoroughly tested the Backups feature to ensure that it works for every app and feature. Using the FreedomBox v0.45.0 Testing Image on a Raspberry Pi 2, we successfully installed every app and feature (with the exception of SIP/repro which was not available). After installing every app and feature, we tested the backups feature and can confirm that we successfully created and restored a backup archive for the following apps and features:

After this successful test, we finalized our decision to stop creating new images for the DreamPlug and Raspberry Pi 1 hardware models. Since we have added a Raspberry Pi 3B+ target and are planning to add a Pine A64+ target, this news will ultimately not change the total number of supported hardware models. But it may affect some users who plan to repurpose their DreamPlugs or Raspberry Pi 1's into FreedomBoxes.

What does this mean for current users of the DreamPlug and Raspberry Pi 1? Technically, users who have already installed FreedomBox on either of these two hardware models can continue to use FreedomBox on their devices. Current users with existing FreedomBox installations will keep getting software updates. But the FreedomBox community recommends that you consider migrating to newer, supported hardware using backup and restore.

What does this mean for anyone who wants to install FreedomBox on a DreamPlug or Raspberry Pi 1 anyway? Users who have not yet installed FreedomBox on these devices cannot the install latest FreedomBox images using the custom-built images available for download on our official website. Technically, users can try to install Debian on either of these devices and then install FreedomBox from within Debian, but we wouldn't recommend that due to low performance. Neither the FreedomBox community nor the FreedomBox Foundation could or would want to stop users from using our software on whatever hardware they want. The right of users to run our software is protected by the GPL, and respect for the right of users to pick their own hardware is a principle upon which our project was founded. After all, any device that can run Debian can be turned into a FreedomBox. But as a community, we can no longer recommend that users purchase the DreamPlug or Raspberry Pi 1 hardware models for the purpose of turning them into FreedomBoxes.

If you want to learn more about our reasoning, we encourage you to read our call notes and discussion on GitLab:

Call Notes: https://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox/ProgressCalls/2018-12-08

GitLab Issue: https://salsa.debian.org/freedombox-team/freedom-maker/issues/150

The DreamPlug, in particular, was an important part of our history. It was the hardware model for which FreedomBox was originally targeted, and the FreedomBox Foundation gave away many DreamPlugs at conferences. We salute this device and are proud of all the freedom it created in its lifetime with FreedomBox.

If you have any questions or concerns about this decision, feel free to reach out to the FreedomBox community on its email discussion list.