[Freedombox-discuss] What Do You want to use the FreedomBox for?

Jonathan Wilkes jancsika at yahoo.com
Sun May 27 05:21:41 UTC 2012

----- Original Message -----
> From: Jay Sulzberger <jays at panix.com>
> To: freedombox-discuss at lists.alioth.debian.org
> Cc: 
> Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2012 8:56 PM
> Subject: Re: [Freedombox-discuss] What Do You want to use the FreedomBox for?
> On Sat, 26 May 2012, Jonathan Wilkes <jancsika at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>  ----- Original Message -----
>>  From: Jay Sulzberger <jays at panix.com>
>>  To: freedombox-discuss at lists.alioth.debian.org
>>  Cc: Sent: Friday, May 25, 2012 10:50 PM
>>  Subject: Re: [Freedombox-discuss] What Do You want to use the FreedomBox 
> for?
>>  On Fri, 25 May 2012, Joshua Spodek <joshuaspodek at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>>   Thanks for asking. I find it interesting to see everyone's 
> different
>>>   goals. I think my needs overlap with typical non-geek users wanting to
>>>   avoid faceless corporations owning my private data.
>>>   * Diaspora
>>>   * Skype replacement
>>>   * Host my own email, blog, photographs
>>>   * Seamless backups to friends' Freedomboxes
>>  Suppose we have two people in front of home computers connected
>>  to the Net via Time Warner Cable in Manhattan.  We assume further
>>  that the two people are in their own houses, and that they own
>>  their computers, ordinary sense of "own a computer".
>>  If the two people are Unix sysadmins, then they can arrange to
>>  easily move files from one box to the other.  Say they have set
>>  up a system so that with the push of one button, and the
>>  indication of a file on their computer, the file gets sent to the
>>  other computer.  Such an arrangement would serve, I claim, as a
>>  foundation for what we want.
>>  I think today the main obstacle for non-Unix-sysadmins to running
>>  such a file transfer utility is setting up the "home router",
>>  that is, the router behind the Time Warner "cable modem".  If
>>  there were no router in the way, then it is not hard to set up a
>>  system which could be used by two non-Unix-Sysadmins.  (Not hard
>>  as long as we have some method for getting the Grand Net facing
>>  address of one box to the other.  And if we allow dependence on a
>>  third party then whatismyip.com serves; if we wish to avoid third
>>  party dependence at this level, likely we will have to set
>>  something up on the router; and there are other methods too.)
>>  The home router is today usually:
>>  1. a box separate from the home computer
>>  2. with a difficult to understand method of programming, that is,
>>  the ridiculous "web based" fill in the incomprehensible form,
>>  3. which form is non-standard
>>  These three things are, I think, mainly what makes direct
>>  connection over the Net so hard for most people.  Thus we must
>>  repair these deficiencies:
>>  1. whether the box is grossly physically separate from the home
>>  computer, its setting up to allow direct comunication with the
>>  other box cannot require more than putting the name of the owner
>>  of the other box; likely we should have the router be contained
>>  in a joint "home computer router" thingie
> Just to make sure we're both talking about the same problem-- the main 
> problem in #1 is that for Bob's Freedombox to talk to Alice's 
> Freedombox, Bob must traverse the stock wifi router/dsl modem by poking a hole 
> using port forwarding or some other mechanism to allowing two-way communication 
> between the Freedomboxes.  (I'm assuming here that either Alice doesn't 
> have a NAT traversal to worry about or has already magically dealt with it.)
> There's no workable "one-click" way to do this as I see it-- some 
> routers are open wifi routers, some are not, some are password protected-- and 
> of those that are password protected, some have a default hardware password, 
> some have a default provider password, some have a custom one hidden from the 
> person paying for the account,
> and some have a backdoor to allow the network owner to push "updates" 
> to the router.  Furthermore some
> ISPs allow custom changes through the router's web-interface, some have a 
> TOS that disallow but are practically lazy about it, some will throttle you, 
> some will "repair" the problem, and probably all would become 
> aggressive if there were a large increase in home users
> setting up their router for an always-on, multi-service, internationally 
> reachable server.
> I hope I'm wrong about the difficulty of a one-click solution, but if you 
> look at the burgeoning privacy-aware network overlays out there right now and 
> realize that those protocols would grow exponentially if any of them were to 
> implement a one-click solution, it becomes obvious that this isn't a problem 
> that the Freedombox can fix.  (In fact throwing hardware at the problem would 
> make it more difficult, as a cross-platform software solution would be much 
> cheaper.)
> The approaches I can think of are:
> a) pagekite et al, which would then become a central point of attack/failure
> b) supernodes, which run the danger of de facto centralization (like 
> Diaspora's main pod) because there hasn't been enough privacy education 
> for the common user to be able to gauge the difference in risk level between 
> entrusting data to a close geeky friend vs. a stranger with a less-than-evil 
> TOS.
> -Jonathan
> Thanks, Jonathan, for reading and responding.
> I will, as soon as I have one full day free, attempt an answer.
> In my first post in response, I will argue that the old PSTN
> provides a partial "existence example".  It exists today (I do
> not speculate how long it is likely to continue to exist.): I can
> call a person's number, which number was given to me by the
> person, in person, and expect the connection to be made.
> I will discuss the mechanisms, political/economic, electrical,
> and electronic, by which the old PSTN accomplishes this ease of
> connection.  I will suggest various lines of attack:
> 1. replacements built by us, similar in design for some of the old PSTN 
> mechanisms
> 2. new mechanisms built by us for other old PSTN mechanisms
> I will also argue against this statement:
>   "it becomes obvious that this isn't a problem that the Freedombox can 
> fix"
> We agree with your starting point: Today there are, at the level
> of the home router, several different, partly incompetent and not
> smoothly interoperable, modes of connection.  But this bad
> situation is not ordained of Heaven.  The various routers and
> protocols and practices stand in our way because they have been
> built, advertised, sold, bought and installed.  And now there
> they sit: radical electro-mechanical suppressors of the Net
> itself.  So let us build new standard "home routers".  Of course,
> we will advertise our new things and seek to get people to use
> them.

I certainly hope I'm wrong, but the specs of the current 
Freedombox hardware don't offer up any benefit over commodity 
desktop/laptop hardware with regards to traversing a NAT device. 
Since there aren't any software solutions I know of currently that
give the user a "one-click" solution to that problem, I don't see how 
adding more of what amounts to the same hardware would help.

> Note that the central problem here is a problem of standards.  We
> would have no TV without standards, no electricity in our houses,
> no cars, no running water out of faucets, no toilets, indeed, no
> computer hardware, without standards.
> So let us standardize hardware and protocols for Proper Net
> Connection.

I am very much in favor of that journey.  But knowing that the Freedombox 
is really about taking currently existing software and having it interoperate 
underneath a good user-interface, and after having seen the current 
tools out there for privacy-preservation, you will understand if I am 
very guarded about what the Freedombox can offer non-expert users 
sitting behind a very user-unfriendly wireless router & dsl modem.


> Once pictures and sound were hard to send across the Net.  Now we
> have http and html and httpds and http/html browsers.  We got the
> Web subsystem of the Net by invention, standardization, and
> popularization.  We can do the same for Proper Net Connection.
> oo--JS.
>>  2. no "web form" which asks such questions as "What is the 
> IP
>>  address of your nameserver?" or requests "Enter fibroblast count
>>  E4 and Dunning-Kruger osteoclast rate, EUMED units (not ISO
>>  units!), for your six top friends."
>>  3. the button is standard, the same for every proto Freedom 
> Box^W^W^Wstandard box
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