[Freedombox-discuss] Lessons from a FreedomBox alternative - Tonido

John Walsh fiftyfour at waldevin.com
Sun Jun 26 12:29:33 UTC 2011

Tonido has been around a few years and have similar ambitions to FreedomBox.
I hope my observations as a Tonido user will help FreedomBox avoid Tonido's
mistakes. Basically my setup is that I have 3 PC's behind a router with
built-in firewall/SPI features. Each PC has Tonido installed, each with
their own account. The router port-forwards to one PC.
The installation process simply creates a Tonido profile using a
Tonido-owned domain e.g. user1.tonidoid.com, which has you up and running
straight away - simply beautiful. Each Tonido profile is a node in a P2P
network. Tonido have their own propriety File Manager, PIM, Messaging, Photo
Viewer/Share, MediaPlayer, Back-up, Blog and a P2P client applications.
Tonido advises you of available updates; first click updates the server,
second click updates all apps - very elegant solution. 
In Tonido, you create a Group to form a social P2P network. You invite via
email or directly if you know the tonido id (user2.tonidoid.com), a member
to a Group. Then you drop your data into the Group and each member in the
Group will receive the encrypted data. Unfortunately, the Group UI is
frustrating because each nodes Group names are replicated to each node. This
means a node will have their own Groups and the Groups of the other nodes to
which they are also a member in their Group application, which becomes
cumbersome quite quickly. If nodes create the same group names such as
"Family" then it becomes confusing too. Tonido could override P2P node
access through blocking/allowing of IP Ranges - I liked this feature. I
don't understand the technical reasons for the Group concept, but from a
users POV it doesn't work. I mentioned earlier that Tonido had it's own
messaging system to tonido ID's but unfortunately there is no attachment
option, which could have been used to avoid using groups. 
A complimentary solution to Groups was Guests which was for people outside
the Tonido network, i.e. people who did not install Tonido. Basically you
created a guest account with an guest account name and password which linked
to shared folders on your PC. You would email the account name and password
to friends, who would login to see your data. Both Guests and Group
solutions were cumbersome because I would have to pull data from various
places into these "Tonido folders" and at the same time be mindful of who
was a member of each Group/Guest Account - Nightmare!! Please don't do this
to me in Freedombox!!
Still, the main reason I didn't tell my social network to sign-up to Tonido
was because I could not get Tonido's UPnP port-forwarding to work for me
even when I shut-down the router's firewall. I had to search through the
logs of my router to find that I needed to open additional ports not
documented by Tonido - I got it to work but there was no way I would subject
my Mum to this hassle. This was a problem for most Tonido users. 
Tonido's eventual port-forward solution was to send everything encrypted
through a "Tonido Relay" before forwarding to other nodes. Initially, this
meant each PC/node within my home network would send the encrypted data out
into the internet, using my bandwidth allowance, before it would come back
into my network. Tonido recently fixed this issue so that if you are sending
data to a home network node it will send it across the local network making
things so much faster!!
Another major problem for me that Tonido have not been able to solve is that
each node represents a single user. This means Guests can only see the data
on the port forward PC/node, which hides data from the other nodes within
the home network.
I believe the initial business model for Tonido was to have a pure P2P
network locking people and their PIM data into Tonido with the reassurance
that all their data is local if Tonido went bust tomorrow. In addition to
that Tonido were trying to encourage developers to create applications who
would access users data like Facebook. The developers never materialised.
Tonido offered SSL access for an additional charge but have since dropped
it. Tonido initially charged for the Relay Service but I suspect the service
is now free to avoid the port-forwarding issues. Tonido's current business
model is to allow you to download Tonido, buy a Tonidoplug or sign-up for a
Tonido Cloud service.
My hope is that the FreedomBox designers take the time to get right
port-forwarding of a multi-user (for home users) "safe social networking
.... with privacy-respecting federated services".because their are plenty of
plugcomputers out there with ugly interfaces. I will stick with Tonido's
ugly consumer solution until FreedomBox gets it right - please take the time
to get it right.
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