[Freedombox-discuss] Fwd: Store-and-forward is a necessity

Charles N Wyble charles at knownelement.com
Sat Apr 2 04:48:52 UTC 2011

On 3/30/2011 9:44 AM, Samuel Rose wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 9:22 AM, Venessa Miemis<venessamiemis at gmail.com>  wrote:
>> From:           John Gilmore<gnu-r+Tv4kcVSiE-AT-public.gmane.org>
>> To:             freedombox-discuss-XbBxUvOt3X2LieD7tvxI8l/i77bcL1HB-AT-
>> public.gmane.org, gnu-r+Tv4kcVSiE-AT-public.gmane.org
>> Subject:                'No sysadmin' is the key to Freedom Box
>> Date:           Fri, 04 Mar 2011 03:14:47 -0800
>> Message-ID:<201103041114.p24BEliu000459 at new.toad.com>
>> Archive-link:           Article, Thread
>> I'm glad that people are thinking about ways to build distributed
>> meshlike store-and-forward networks with replacement connectivity
>> after a politician tries to "turn off" the Internet because the public
>> will has become inconvenient for that politician.  But...

>> Let's not put the cart before the horse.  The first stage in this
>> project should be to build a rock-solid reliable implementation of
>> what already works.

Correct. A big part of my efforts over the past 18 months have been 
evaluating what works. From running 2 racks of gear
in my garage, to hosting at my new $dayjob (a large hosting provider) 
it's been a journey. You can find more about that on
my data ownership wiki at 

>>   Cleaned up around the edges so that an ordinary
>> human being can "sysadmin" it, running on super cheap dead simple mass
>> market hardware.

Correct. Even as a fairly accomplished/senior/experienced systems 
ops person, I am still mildly annoyed at some things. I've come up with 
a solution that let's me migrate very
quickly between different providers as everything is a straight LAMP 
app. Still they have different logins,
administrative interfaces, non shared permissions systems etc.

The current all in one systems are too complex (like OpenTaps or 
something). I'm looking for a happy medium
between that and all the different apps that I run now.

I suppose at some point one integrates different pieces into something 
like Drupal and a whole bunch of
modules and releases it as a drupal profile (if that's the correct 
term). Along with the various long running
daemons (xmpp/tor/voip) that make everything work.

>>     The essential insight of the freedom box is that you
>> don't NEED an air-conditioned server room full of expensive stuff to
>> run Internet services -- all you need is a $100 box and perhaps a $100
>> disk drive for it.

Right. And a few of your friends have the same and you all share auto 
encrypted/replicated backup space. :)
So you start this at Christmas or something, by bootstrapping some for 
your friends and family.

>> It's the "hundred dollar server" rather than the
>> "hundred dollar laptop".  But today you need to learn too much, and
>> waste too much of your time, to run such a server -- even if the
>> hardware and software was free.

Yes. Exactly. Things like Tonido and Amahi (my preferred solution as 
it's FLOSS near as I can tell) are a huge step in the right direction.

> This all seems like a job for a well-crafted/configured embedded linux
> distro, and open source hardware like BeagleBoard (especially the new
> one http://beagleboard.org/hardware-xM )

Yeah that's one way to go about it. Gives the developers complete 
control and lets the
user hack it if they so desire.

> This is at least a basis for
> getting towards a system that requires little sys-admin etc
> Beagleboard also gives us a way to think about how distributed servers
> are going to work in Android, too. There can be interoperability
> between a distributed server that runs on Android, and Freedombox.


>> Only after that stuff is up and solid in ten thousand homes, should we
>> be trying to ship sysadmin-free encrypted peer to peer facebook and
>> twitter.  Because we don't even yet have those applications written
>> for experts today.  We're 1% of the way there.  Let somebody else
>> pound that into working shape first.

Yeah. Have a nice upgrade path (app store) like Amahi. When it's 
available it's point and click.
Though we should have Status.net so that people can start publishing to 
that and have it bridged
to twitter. Same with a local XMPP server configured with legacy network 
gateways etc.

Pretty much what I and many others already have running, just in a nicer 
package. Though
I must say Cpanel/Quickinstall is pretty slick. Gets real close to hands 

> I think there's a basis for a learner "web" in some of these cases,
> especially given new-ish software like nginx, concurrency in many
> programming languages, etc. Let's think about how to bridge the gap
> with existing web technologies, and bring work like diaspora,
> StatusNet/GNU Social (maybe with lean db as opposed to mysql), etc
> There's still room for the web in the distributed internet. It just
> needs a few changes in the assumptions about how things are going to
> work.

Yep. Ship a system that is solid, and then slowly introduce new pieces 
via some sort of
beta process etc.

>> Ditto for peer-to-peer WiFi networking with your neighbors, backup
>> UUCP store-and-forward Deep Space Network links, etc.  Get it working
>> in some nice expert test labs first -- they deploy it in some
>> production geek centers for a few years -- don't bog down the freedom
>> box project with it yet.  Evolve from simple to complex.

Sure. I'm happy to have been involved with the VillageTelco project and 
also worked on
a funded mesh project last year. Really got my head wrapped around that. 
A howto came
out of the process at 

which I think is a great end product, supporting  getting the supremely 
awesome MeshPotatoes into a more usable state for
end users in a repeatable fashion.

Also working on data ownership for the past 18 months, I'm happy to see 
FB emerge and put a brand around it.

>> Even if you ran an extra Ethernet cable over the back fence (or down
>> the hall) to your neighbor, which is a simpler configuration and one
>> that I recommend that we support in preference to crummy crowded WiFi,
>> we STILL don't have software that knows how and when to use it to
>> provide backup connectivity without sysadmin.

Yeah. SCTP is pretty early yet.

>>     Build that!  Give the
>> hardware guys a reason to put a 2nd or 3rd separate Ethernet interface
>> onto their $100 box.  In urban areas, an extra 100-ft Ethernet cable
>> is all that most people will need to "mesh" with their neighbors.
>> It'd run 100x as fast as WiFi, and the hardware tells you when it
>> gets plugged in, so it doesn't need a configuration interface.  Linux
>> can route and NAT the packets just fine, it just doesn't know WHEN to.
>> We're 10% of the way there.


>> The Freedom Box project will succeed or fail on whether it works
>> "without sysadmin".  If only trained sysadmins can figure out how to
>> be free, the society won't be free.  It's like the early days of the
>> telephone, when they couldn't figure how to scale up the system
>> without having every third person be a trained "Operator".  Make the
>> system operate itself.  That's where the biggest amount of technical
>> work needs to go.  And not just in software -- though that's a very
>> good start -- but in hardware and in user experience design.  When
>> millions can buy it and plug it in without training, then millions
>> can be freed from central servers and central surveillance.  Not
>> before.

True enough.

> I definitely sympathize with this point of view. Yet, another
> perspective is that jumping straight to the goal of "no sysadmin"
> actually isn't fair to us people who will actually help these projects
> reach that goal (mostly for free, in our spare time, etc). Let's keep
> that goal, but let's have some breathing room in these early phases
> for experimentation, filling evolutionary niches, etc. I mean, that is
> what is actually going to happen anyway, so I guess what I am saying
> is let's realize that is what is going on now :)

Haha. I've been contributing a lot of time/energy to data ownership/open 
networks, and it's
generated some great revenue for me. Also I want to have 0 sysadmin 
stuff for things like
this. So I can focus on hard problems/research efforts etc and not think 
about the simple stuff.

I've reached the point with data ownership that I have selected all the 
applications I want (gone
through a few iterations in some cases), ran a bunch of infrastructure 
at home (expensive, great learning experience)
and now host in the cloud.

So in the first quarter of this year, I shipped a working, open source, 
documented, repeatable mesh platform and
what I consider 1.0 of data ownership. I'm now moving on to getting my 
knowledge/usage/documentation of tahoe
to a point where it's bridged from early adopter to every sysadmin (kind 
of where ZFS is heading now I guess).

Then I want to solve the security problem. Namely centralized login, 
then via openid, then with one time passwords. The
pieces are there and I want to turn them into a end user technology 

So onward and forward!

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