[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

                            <2018-01-03 Wed>

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
2 Technology
.. 2.1 New Applications
.. 2.2 Mobile application
.. 2.3 Hardware
.. 2.4 Many more improvements
3 FreedomBox in Villages
4 Community
5 Road Ahead
6 Links

1 Introduction

  Thanks to the work done at ThoughtWorks, by the larger FreedomBox
  community and in collaboration with Swecha, 2017 was a fantastic year
  for FreedomBox.

  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[1][2] and
  see the two excellent videos[3][4].

2 Technology

  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 services.

2.3 Hardware

  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
    Free Software.

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.

4 Community

  • FreedomBox has received contributions from 77 contributors in 2017
    up +17 (28%) from previous year[5].
  • 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[6][7].
  • FreedomBox was presented at FOSSASIA by IIIT-Hyderabad student
    Nikhil Rayaprolu[8].
  • 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.

6 Links

  1) [https://www.freedombox.org/]
  2) [https://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox/]
  3) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOEMv0S8AcA]
  4) [http://moglen.law.columbia.edu/sflc2015/04_freedombox.webm]
  5) [https://www.openhub.net/p/freedombox]
  7) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khO76Mpo9dg]
  8) [https://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox/TalksAndPresentations/FOSSASIA2017]

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