FreedomBoxBlog

This site

Rob van der Hoeven

Welcome to my site!

I'm Rob van der Hoeven, a senior programmer from The Netherlands with over 30 years of experience. This site documents the building of my own FreedomBox.

I have two motives for building of my own FreedomBox:

At this moment (April 2011)  it is clear what a FreedomBox should accomplish for its users. Less clear is how a system with the desired functionality should be build. There are a lot of interesting mature programs that can be used right away. Other software must still be developed. All programs must work on very modest hardware. The software architecture of the FreedomBox has some very interesting requirements which i hope to fulfill with my design.

The FreedomBox

A FreedomBox is a small low-power computer that enables its users to host popular services like social networking (Facebook, Twitter), personal websites, web-mail, web access to personal data files etc. in their own home. This prevents the massive spying that takes place by the current centralized services, and gives users back the control of their own data.

The name FreedomBox was first coined by Eben Moglen a professor of law at Columbia Law School and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center. Work on the FreedomBox is loosely coordinated by the Debian community and the FreedomBox Foundation.

Why do we need a FreedomBox?

Today’s internet is highly centralized. All the important services like searching, social networking and even the access to the internet are controlled by only a few companies. This centralization is a threat to the internet and its users.

The first threat is to privacy. Companies like Facebook and Google are making money by profiling the users of their services. They sell their knowledge directly or indirectly without the user knowing:

Users have no way to check the data and cannot prevent the selling of data, even if the data is (possible) harmful to them. The data about them simply is no longer controlled by them.

The next threat is to society. Social networking sites are important for discussing things that go on in the society. Governments that do not like a discussion can do several things:

Undisturbed communication is essential for a society where people can live in freedom. A large centralized social networking site can be controlled or manipulated relatively easy. Not only by governments, but also by the company that runs the social networking site.

The last threat has to do with security. Almost all internet traffic is insecure because it is not encrypted. Your unencrypted HTTP request passes many computer systems, and each of these systems can spy on your request. Some of the systems that a HTTP request passes are special because they connect two networks (the internet is a large network consisting of smaller networks). These systems concentrate all the traffic to a particular website and are ideal for governments that want to spy on its people. (China probably gets a lot of information by copying every request to Google, maybe they don't want Google to leave?)

Hardware

My FreedomBox hardware

My FreedomBox is a former QNAP TS 119 NAS that has been upgraded to Debian GNU/Linux (thank you Martin Michlmayr and Debian community!). The box is connected to the internet (120/10 Mbps) by a nice Netgear WNDR 3700 wireless router.

The specifications of the QNAP TS 119 FreedomBox edition are:

CPU              Marvell 6281 1.2GHz
DRAM             512MB DDRII RAM
Flash Memory     16MB
HDD              Samsung EcoGreen F2 1TB, 5400rpm, 32MB, SATA
LAN Port         1 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port
LED Indicators   USB, Status, HDD, eSATA, LAN ,Power,
USB              3 x USB 2.0 port (Front: 1; Back: 2)
                 Support USB printer, pen drive, USB hub, and USB UPS etc.
Buttons          System: Power button, USB One-Touch-Backup Button, Reset button
Alarm Buzzer     System warning
Form Factor      Portable
Dimensions       182 (H) x 60 (W) x 210 (D) mm
                 7.17 (H) x 2.36 (W) x 8.27(D) inch
Weight           Net weight: 1.2 kg/ 2.65 lb
                 Gross weight: 2.1  kg/ 4.63 lb
Temperature      0~40°C
Humidity         0~95% R.H.
Power            External Power Adapter, 36W, 100-240V
Secure Design    K-lock security slot for theft prevention
Thermal Solution Fanless, heat dissipation by aluminum case