[Freedombox-discuss] 2017, The Best Year for FreedomBox Yet
Sunil Mohan Adapa
sunil at medhas.org
Mon Jan 15 09:10:34 UTC 2018
I have tried to collate some of the progress we made in 2017 and wrote a
2017, THE BEST YEAR FOR FREEDOMBOX YET
Sunil Mohan Adapa, Joseph Nuthalapati
Table of Contents
.. 2.1 New Applications
.. 2.2 Mobile application
.. 2.3 Hardware
.. 2.4 Many more improvements
3 FreedomBox in Villages
5 Road Ahead
Thanks to the work done at ThoughtWorks, by the larger FreedomBox
community and in collaboration with Swecha, 2017 was a fantastic year
We have made such huge technical leaps that we are no longer trying to
find good use cases for FreedomBox. Instead, we are now looking to
fill in the last missing pieces for completing its original vision.
The community has grown bigger, stronger and is showing signs that it
might one day rival some of the big FOSS projects out there. Our work
with Swecha on bringing free Wi-Fi and digital services to villages
stands as one of the best examples of technology helping people.
Visit the website and wiki for introduction to FreedomBox and
see the two excellent videos.
Technology being the backbone of the project, we made great many
strides in practically every area of the project.
2.1 New Applications
Several new applications add to the many existing use cases of
• *MediaWiki*, the wiki engine behind Wikipedia is now available in
FreedomBox for collaborative editing and hosting websites.
• *Shadowsocks* proxy server can be used to circumvent censorship
complimentary to the mechanism currently available via Tor.
• *Cockpit* project, by Red Hat, has been integrated into FreedomBox
to provide web based SSH access and all advanced administration
capabilities via the web. This will help keep FreedomBox interface
itself very focused on the goal of providing simple UI for server
• *Tahoe LAFS* provides distributed storage mechanism for FreedomBox.
• A large amount of effort went into integrating the social network
applications *Diaspora* and *GNU Social*, though more is needed.
• *Syncthing* provides a strong, viable and distributed replacement
for Dropbox-like services.
• *Matrix Synapse*, a WhatsApp replacement, was added to FreedomBox.
It was used by the ThoughtWorks Hyderabad community for
communication for most of the year.
• *Gobby Server* could be setup on FreedomBox to allow users to
collaboratively edit text documents.
• *BIND*, as implemented in FreedomBox, could be used as a DNS server
for local networks with DNSSEC security guarantees.
• *OpenSSH server* can now be controlled from FreedomBox for gaining
remote shell access.
2.2 Mobile application
• We are on the verge of releasing a companion Android application for
FreedomBox that will not only make FreedomBox setup easier but will
also help with installing and configuring mobile clients for
accessing FreedomBox services.
• To make this happen, we have implemented an API in FreedomBox that
the mobile application could consume. We have also provided
recommendations on mobile apps that could be used to access
FreedomBox has continued to expand the number of hardware platforms
that it runs on.
• On *Raspberry Pi 2 and 3*, we no longer depend on proprietary kernel
but use Debian kernel. Both the boards are also much better
supported by the project now.
• FreedomBox has images for *pcDuino3* which comes with a nice-looking
finished consumer box that can be bought directly from the
• FreedomBox also has images for *Banana Pro* which is another single
board computer that uses Allwinner A20 processor.
2.4 Many more improvements
• We also made many improvements to the front page and made a
distinction between administrators and regular users accessing
• FreedomBox Manual now has videos, screenshots on how-to steps for
many of the applications.
• We now have a single sign-on feature for many applications.
• We implemented more security features in FreedomBox such as fail2ban
and Captcha. HTTPS certificate renewal process is now automatic and
works better than before.
• Installing FreedomBox on a regular Debian machine is simpler due to
the refactoring and cleanup work we did for FreedomBox Debian
• We have better unit test cases and also implemented basic functional
tests which we intend to improve upon.
• In ThoughtWorks we have CI infrastructure based on GoCD that
automatically builds FreedomBox images for all hardware platforms
and uploads them to the nightly server.
• We are working on revamping the UI style to make it more mobile
friendly and simple.
• LibreJS, the Firefox add-on, now identifies FreedomBox web UI as
3 FreedomBox in Villages
As a result of our work with Swecha, the following Indian villages are
enjoying free Internet connectivity and digital services hosted on
• Gangadevipally, near Warangal, Telangana
• Surappagudem, near Eluru, Andhra Pradesh
Plans are underway to setup FreedomBox in many places.
We also organized a 2 day workshop with participants from many FOSS
communities in India to spread the knowledge on how to setup free
Wi-Fi networks and digital infrastructure using FreedomBox in
villages. The workshop attracted more than 50 participants.
• FreedomBox has received contributions from 77 contributors in 2017
up +17 (28%) from previous year.
• FreedomBox had more than 10 contributors from ThoughtWorks in 2017.
• Total number of contributors to FreedomBox is more than 150.
• FreedomBox now has about 10 language translations - German, Czech,
Russian, Turkish, French, Spanish, Norwegian Bokmål, Dutch, Chinese
(Simplified), Danish and Telugu.
• We made more than 11 releases of FreedomBox software during 2017 and
switched to a biweekly release schedule.
• Eben Moglen, the author of GPLv3 and professor at Columbia Law
School, talked about FreedomBox and the work we are doing in
villages of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in his talk titled 'Better
Than Rage Against the Machine: Saving Privacy in One Hell of a
Dangerous World' at Privacy Lab in Yale Law School.
• FreedomBox was presented at FOSSASIA by IIIT-Hyderabad student
• We presented FreedomBox during Tune.in, a ThoughtWorks internal
• We organized a full one day hackathon at ThoughtWorks to encourage
contributions to FreedomBox.
5 Road Ahead
From a technology point of view, we will be working to fill in the
missing pieces in FreedomBox such as email and backup. The community
will keep growing and will show acceleration in progress. The project
has also come to a point where it is a significant utility for a large
number of people. Spreading the message about FreedomBox and making it
easier for the larger public to adopt will also be an area of focus
for the project this year.
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