On the Freedombox

The Freedombox, a purported way to take back control of your digital life. Now, we’ve all heard of gadgets and whatnot that claim to “free” yourself, but can they really do such a thing? I’ll be finding out shortly here on the Whole Net Digest! The Freedombox is apparently sponsored by the FSF, so you know it’s a big deal! But why haven’t we heard more about it in the press? I think it’s a huge deal if it can do what it claims to. We’re going to review what the Freedombox does and my personal opinions about each of the applications it comes with.

First up is Tor. Tor is an anonymity application designed to let you browse the internet without compromising your identity. I personally haven’t used Tor much, but I can back it’s goals, since it’s also designed to circumvent censorship in countries where censorship is high. I will post more about this later.

Next up is Bittorrent. FreedomBox comes with 2 torrenting applications, Deluge and Transmission. Having used Transmission a lot, particularly on OpenBSD, I believe I can advocate for it’s use. Transmission is a relatively easy to use “point and click” torrent application. In this instance however it is being run as a daemon, or in layman’s terms, in the background, where it “listens” for torrent files to add and whatnot. I believe that including torrent applications are both a positive and a negative. Why? Torrenting can aid copyright infringement, but at the same time, if you just torrent free software operating systems and applications and free culture things from archive.org, I believe there’s nothing wrong with that.

Next is Minetest. Minetest is apparently like the popular game Minecraft. I could go on a whole spiel about Minecraft’s positives and negatives, and why youth are so drawn to it, and why it’s so popular on youtube, but I won’t, since Minetest seems to merely be a copycat game. Personally I believe that instead of Minetest they should have included FreeDoom or OpenArena.

Radicale is next. Radicale is a calendar and address book application. I haven’t used it before and won’t be able to use it because I use an iPhone currently, and no iPhone clients exist for it. However, I might use it with Thunderbird or some other calendaring application that supports it’s format. I can laud a free alternative Google Calendar and the Calendar app for iPhone.

XMPP will be covered next. XMPP is a decentralized chat system, and in practice it’s basically an instant messanger similar to AIM, MSN, etc. Having not used it much, I can’t vouch for how good a chat system it is. This is basically the server, so you can run your own internal(and potentially external internet facing server as well) system. I believe this is a good idea, although I’m more of a IRC person myself.

Matrix Synapse is on the list next. Matrix is a new protocol that aims to be completely decentralized. I use the Riot.IM app for iPhone and I find it very robust. Synapse is basically to provide your own Matrix server. I can completely get behind this attempt, but I heard that there were better servers out there. I don’t how true that is, however.

Roundcube is found next. Basically, Roundcube is a browser-based email client, so in effect, it seems to be somewhat of a replacement for gmail. Unlike gmail however, you can’t exclusively use just Roundcube as it’s not a server. Email servers I’ve heard are very hard to run, so I can see why they would just go with a web client. I haven’t used Roundcube before, but I’ve heard positivie things about it, so I think I can recommend it.

Coquelicot is covered next. The gist is that it’s basically a file sharing only application, but it seems to more toward sharing only 1 file at a time. I haven’t used it so I don’t know the reliability of this application, so I don’t know how useful it would be. I think it’s a good idea because sometimes people absolutely have to get a document or something or other to another person and it can be difficult unless you’re subscribed to something like Google or Dropbox, which is what this FreedomBox is supposed to be freeing us from.

Syncthing is on the list next. Syncthing is apparently a file synchronization application, which is rather like Dropbox when you use it’s client application. I haven’t used it before, but I find such an application to be very useful for backup operations. I would say most people would have a need for it.

Quassel can be found on the list next. Quassel is basically a IRC application which lets you connect to a server, and not miss a conversation on that server’s chatrooms. It can do this because the application is split into multiple parts. Using IRC a lot, I think this is a very cool application and I definitely want to try it.

Next is Tiny Tiny RSS. Tiny Tiny RSS is a RSS feed reader. Personally I find RSS to be very useful, but there’s also the fact that RSS has basically disappeared from most sites since the death of Google Reader. I think it’s nice they included it, and I hope more sites start to use RSS again.

Repro is covered next. Repro is a SIP server, basically like making your own Skype server. However, after you set it up, you need a client such as Linphone(Which is what I use for SDF’s SIP server). I think this is a really cool idea, and I’m glad they made and all the other applications on this list easy to setup.

Now we cover Shadowsocks. It’s basically a proxy server, so that you can hide your connection source, which is cool for those in countries with massive censorship, or just a private user who feels they need more privacy. I’ve never used it, but I think it’s neat.

OpenVPN is a free software virtual private network. Going into what a VPN is would span a few paragraphs, but suffice to say, it’s another privacy aiding service. I think it’s extremely useful, but I have never used it. I plan to try it after installing the FreedomBox sometime once I get a ethernet cable for my Raspberry Pi 3.

Mumble is a free software voice chat server, similar to TeamSpeak. Having never used it, I can’t say how good it is. If you’re gaming a lot in your house and have several roommates and you want to use headsets, I think this would be cool. There’s lots of other uses for it, so I think it’s a great idea to include it.

Privoxy is a proxy service, similar to the other 2 proxy services we’ve already covered(I think). I’ve used it before when using i2p, and I find it to be extremely simple to use. I would definitely recommend it, and most people seem to recommend it’s use with Tor.

Searx is a search engine. What makes this one different from the big guy in the room is that it purports to be a “metasearch engine,” in that it aggregates results from multiple search engines and presents¬† them in a unified view. I find this to be a cool idea, having never heard of such a thing before.

MediaWiki is a wiki server in which you can potentially make your own wiki, like Wikipedia. I’ve never used this software, but it seems like an excellent idea. I’ve used personal wiki software to jot down ideas, so I think having your own wiki server is awesome.

Ikiwiki converts “wiki pages into HTML pages suitable for publishing on a website. It provides particularly blogging, podcasting, calendars and a large selection of plugins.” I think this sounds particularly appealing, coming from a blogger like myself. Can’t wait to try it!

That wraps up all the included applications. I will elaborate more in a revision to this post. Consider this somewhat of a draft of part 1.

1 thought on “On the Freedombox”

  1. Ooooh Searx is awesome, using it now.
    I used to use meta search engines all the time, my previously favorite one, Dogpile is still around even.

    I like the simplicity of Searx though, so I will be using it I think as my primary search engine now.
    The rest of FreedomBox looks pretty cool too. Repro would be cool to play with. I like messing with VoIP. Of course you know that, you know of my Asterisk server, and my connection to C*Net.

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