Free hardware for the FreedomBox software

Rob van der Hoeven
Fri Apr 15 2011

Every time you read an article about the FreedomBox it mentions that the hardware is very cheap and will become even cheaper in the future. This emphasis on cheap hardware worries me. After all, the FreedomBox is a server that must run reliably 24/7 for years. Cheap and server are not always compatible. If you ask the box builders to build something that is cheap you get what you ask for, but you probably won't get a server.

I think the FreedomBox movement must be very careful about the recommended hardware. Devices that are crap are a danger to the reputation of the FreedomBox. Once the FreedomBox gets a bad reputation it's over and out.

The Plug Computer is the hardware mentioned in all articles about the FreedomBox. If you do some research you come up with some serious problems (heat, availability, broken boxes). These problems can be fixed, but the reputation of these devices is in my opinion beyond repair. You can get a good indication of the quality of a device (and its manufacturer) by looking at the warranty period. Globalscale Technologies the maker of the SheevaPlug, GuruPlug and DreamPlug offers a warranty period of one month. One month! Would you buy a “normal” server with a warranty period of one month? In The Netherlands where I live a warranty period of one month for a $99 device is illegal.

The FreedomBox is a server and should have quality requirements for its hardware. A good (first) requirement would be a warranty period of one year for a device that operates 24/7. Devices that have a shorter warranty period should be removed from the targeted hardware list.

But, but, but.....

If you require such an outrageous warranty period our targeted hardware list becomes empty and then we have nothing to play with!!! Calm down, things are not as bad as they seem. There are plenty of interesting devices that can be used for the FreedomBox. Depending on how you look at it, the price of these devices can be zero. Let's give an example:

Before I had even heard of the FreedomBox I bought an QNAP TS 119 NAS. I needed its functionality and had no problem with the price (300 euro). When I heard about the FreedomBox and got exited about it, I decided to upgrade my NAS to a “NAS FreedomBox edition”. This FreedomBox edition still has all the NAS functionality so I did not loose anything. You can say I got the FreedomBox part for free.

There are many people who like me need a NAS. Wouldn't it be nice if we could give them free software that would turn their NAS into a "NAS FreedomBox edition"? Maybe we could do the same for a router? Both NAS-ses and routers are designed to run 24/7 and bad apples don't stand a change in today's competitive market. Availability is excellent too.

I think the FreedomBox project should work together with builders of NAS and router equipment. Both markets are very competitive and I think the option to run FreedomBox software on their devices would give their devices extra value. It's a win-win-win situation. The manufacturer can make their product more interesting than the competition (maybe they can sell some FreedomBox addon's). The customer gets extra FreedomBox functionality for free. The FreedomBox community gets serious hardware to play with and benefits from the marketing of the manufacturers.