[Freedombox-discuss] Objectives and Introduction

Isaac Wilder isaac at freenetworkmovement.org
Fri Jun 10 01:43:03 UTC 2011

Hash: SHA1

Hello All,

My name is Isaac Wilder, and I've been lurking on the list for some
time now. Looking at this thread, I thought it might finally be time
to introduce myself, and to tell you what I've been working on, with
some others, over the past months. I hope I'm not off topic, but I
didn't want to go any longer without piping up.

I'm part of a fledgling organization called the Free Network
Foundation - our aim is to promote the creation of communications
infrastructure which is owned and operated collectively. We call this
network the Mesh Interface for Network Devices, or MIND, and we
envision it as a ubiquitous, resilient, and fault-tolerant
communications network which functions even in the absence of other

Obviously, this aim is closely aligned with those of the FBF,
specifically with the second of Bdale's two objectives. That's why I
thought it might be appropriate to respond to this thread. I certainly
have no intention to duplicate efforts, but I think that there is room
for an FSF, an FBF, and an FNF. If you'd like to know more about the
FNF and its mission, feel free to check out
www.freenetworkfoundation.org, or read on.

Inlines follow.

On 06/08/2011 01:17 PM, Bdale Garbee wrote:
> Catching up on recent list traffic, it's clear to me that we're
> suffering from the fact that "freedombox" means so many different things
> to different people. As a member of the foundation's board and chair of
> the technical advisory committee, I've spent a lot of time thinking
> about what it is that we're actually trying to do, and pondering how to
> get from where we are to a useful reference implementation. To that
> end, I think it's time to articulate a roadmap, starting with a
> statement of objectives for the core that consolidates our shared values
> and vision, and provides a framework for turning our is/is-not thinking
> in to a manifest of software components to be included in a system
> image.
Just to be clear, are we talking about a Debian Pure Blend? This makes
sense to me, but I haven't seen it come up in conversation yet, and it
could be useful to clear up.
> As my own thinking has evolved, I now believe we are pursuing two
> related but different top-level objectives. One derives from Eben's
> early articulation of motivation that many of us responded to a year or
> more ago, the other is driven largely by our collective reaction to
> recent global circumstances.
Excellent. This gives a clear direction forward. It looks to me like
the technology stack needed for these tasks is nearly complete, though
a fair degree of engineering work remains with regards to the second
goal. The great struggle, as far as I'm concerned, will be getting
people to adopt the FreedomBox and to help build out the M.I.N.D.
> We want to provide a way for people to share with others narrowly or
> broadly a set of thoughts and media objects hosted on infrastructure
> they own themselves and thus have ultimate control over, as an
> attractive alternative to such sharing via popular existing services
> that provide little control.
I've been hacking on diaspora, and it has brought to light some
obvious 'don't's.
Don't try to stuff everything through http, port 80, and the web. We
should be building internet apps, not web apps. This much is probably
clear to many, but it's valuable to reiterate.
Don't try to make another closed system. Whatever solution we achieve,
will be achieved through federation.
Don't try to take Facebook head on. Innovate and outmaneuver. Unicast,
Multicast, and Broadcast sharing are a must, but are not enough.
Offering the same services as Facebook, with smaller network effects
and better privacy is not a winning strategy.
> We want to provide a way for people to communicate with each other
> privately, minimizing their dependence on service providers, and
> hopefully providing some resiliency in the face of service outages.
This is where I am focused, primarily. The FreedomBox should
incorporate the batman-adv routing protocol. All of the services
mentioned above should be designed, ultimately, for use in a manner
which is opportunistically peer-to-peer. That is, if a route exists
between two nodes that avoids the use of a carrier, that route ought
to be taken. If packets must be sent via exisiting infrastructure,
then they should be sent through an encrypted tunnel. Still, it is
essential that we maximize the likelihood of there exisiting a free route.

I'm not sure where else in the thread this conversation came up, but I
think someone from Project Byzantium mentioned problems with
reinventing DNS. (Love your work, by the way). Here's our take: The
FNF is in the middle of the application process for IPv6 address space
from ARIN. Hopefully, we'll end up with something like 2^80 addresses
- - an unbelievably large amount. We intend to use this space to support
the emergence of a free network - one made of FreedomBoxes.

So, perhaps we can leave the DNS system as it is, and implement direct
addressing on the boxes. That way, we avoid Network Address
Translation, and all of the issues that come along with it. We could
create an Autonomous System which is peered with the rest of the
Internet at various points around the globe - call them FreedomLinks.
- From these peering points, access would be distributed via a few
levels of community-owned and operated network. Mesh routing
algorithms don't scale, so in order for the M.I.N.D. to be global,
we're going to need a fractal topology. No attachment to the names,
but perhaps it would be something like FreedomLink (regional) to
FreedomTower(Neighborhood) to FreedomBox(household).

Now, I know that someone is going to tell me that I'm no longer
talking about the FreedomBox, and that much is clear, but I do think
that we need to think about how the FreedomBox can play its role in
the emergence of a truly free network. I guess the point of all this
is just to say that mesh routing capabilities are an essential
component of the FreedomBox. I've been messing with mesh for a while,
and I would say that batman-adv is the clear choice.
> I'd love feedback on whether that resonates well with others on the
> list. Do the things you care about fit in, or is there another major
> objective that I'm missing?
I think you hit the big ones. There is a lot of work to be done in
this problem space. I've just dropped out of school to start the Free
Network Foundation, and I can't wait to meet and work with you all. In
addition to my role at the FNF, I'm looking at starting a for-profit
hardware enterprise called Nodal Industries. We would build plug
computers for use specifically as FreedomBoxes, and ship them
preconfigured. We would also build FreedomLinks and FreedomTowers. I'm
looking for collaborators, so if you think that this sounds like a
good idea, if you'd like to collaborate, or if you'd just like to
talk, please let me know, on-list or off.

Obviously, priority number one is the FreedomBox. Everything else
hinges on that. That's why I'm so glad to see the conversation
starting to move in the direction of a 0.1.

Thanks for your time.

take care,
Isaac Wilder

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