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Open Source Privacy Hardware

Freedom Box Foundation Wants Plug Servers For All 225

An anonymous reader writes "From the article: 'A Columbia law professor in Manhattan, Eben Moglen, [is] putting together a shopping list to rebuild the Internet — this time, without governments and big companies able to watch every twitch of our fingers. ... Put free software into the little plug server in the wall, and you would have a Freedom Box that would decentralize information and power, Mr. Moglen said. This month, he created the Freedom Box Foundation to organize the software.'"
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Freedom Box Foundation Wants Plug Servers For All

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Take the power back to the people.

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gm a i l . c om> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:44PM (#35225294) Homepage Journal

    "Once everyone is getting them, they will cost $29." -- Eben Moglen

    And then everyone will get to watch their Internet bills double or triple as the ISP discovers that they're "running a server" in violation of the ISP's acceptable use policy and "helpfully" upgrades their service to business class.

    • The costs may keep rising just because people got the taste for movies now. Running Apache and a decentralized social networking app for a few dozen friends will produce way less traffic than streaming 2-4 hours of decent-quality video every night. What do people put there? Text is nothing. 10 photos a day = 10 * 200 KiB * 25 friends = 50 MiB. I think Internet can handle this.
      • Text is nothing. [...] 25 friends

        Tell that to someone who just got tens of thousands of hits after having been linked from the front page of a site like

        • Well, may be we should pay a bit more so that providers can cache upstream as well as downstream. Yeah, sure, the current TOS are pretty unfriendly, but cable people are agnostic about the content in the end of the day. If most of their customers show an appetite for upstream, they will start packaging and selling upstream.

          • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *


            The cable people want their subscribers to use their broadcasting whenever they can. It brings them money, it doesn't use their Internet pipes, and ensures them TV ad revenues. For every show someone watches on Hulu and not as a prime time or pay-per-view special, the cable companies don't get a good chunk of revenue.

            This is why cable companies drag their feet and wring their hands in front of Congress when their evil subscribers demand things like expanding their core/edge Internet structure to

            • Sorry, I wasn't clear: by cable guys I mean the guys who own Internet-carrying cables, not the cable TV. Even the ones who consolidate with content providers (like Comcast) will continue to sell pure Internet. Many tried doing otherwise (AOL) and we know how well it worked out for them. Cellphones actually prove my point: they HATE to sell you pure Internet now, and they drag their feet, but they are moving there inch by inch, whether they want it or not. You can buy a 3g USB stick today, with official open
              • You can buy a 3g USB stick today, with official open-source drivers, sign up with TMobile, and surf free.

                But those who want to watch Netflix or keep games or other large applications up to date can't really use T-Mobile due to T-Mobile's 5 GB/mo cap. So they can choose from two providers: the cable company, and the phone company (or those who resell its service).

    • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

      Or ISPs amend their TOS stating that those boxes are "a clear and present danger to their infrastructure", and automatically ban accounts running them. Detecting them would be a cat and mouse game, but generally in a game of cat and mouse, the cat wins.

    • And then everyone will get to watch their Internet bills double or triple as the ISP discovers that they're "running a server" in violation of the ISP's acceptable use policy and "helpfully" upgrades their service to business class.

      I have no idea how popular such practices are somewhere else but atleast here in Finland you're perfectly safe and fine running your own servers. There's for example plenty of people running dedicated servers for their favorite games. Some ISPs filter certain incoming ports, like for example SSH, HTTP and HTTPS, but above a certain range they're all accessible. (Filtering SSH, HTTP and HTTPS isn't always fun, but I can certainly understand the idea behind that and thus I don't hold a grudge against those IS

    • And then everyone will get to watch their Internet bills double or triple as the ISP discovers that they're "running a server" in violation of the ISP's acceptable use policy and "helpfully" upgrades their service to business class

      No, just people in the US. In countries where we pay for bandwidth used rather than an "unlimited" plan hedged around with restrictions and caveats, our ISPs don't give a stuff about servers (unless they're poorly-configured SMTP servers being used as spam relays). Every byte we use is money in the bank for them.

    • "Once everyone is getting them, they will cost $29." -- Eben Moglen

      And then everyone will get to watch their Internet bills double or triple as the ISP discovers that they're "running a server" in violation of the ISP's acceptable use policy and "helpfully" upgrades their service to business class.

      Why haven't they already done this to everyone who is using Skype, or XBox Live / PSN?
      Eg: Skype users with properly configured NAT can become supernodes (read servers) for others behind more restrictive/misconfigured NAT routers & firewalls. When you play Halo, one console is the "server", and all others are "clients".

      Look folks, down at the ISP's level it's all just packets. Up in the application level is where we say "client" or "server"; The distinction is purely arbitrary eg. Is Google running a w

  • Why rebuild the Internet? Just call this Internet 3. The Internet was built with redundancy in mind. This sounds like it would be the ultimate redundant solution. My question would be how to prevent an attacker from taking out a multitude of nodes from a single point. Or, how hard will it be to return your node to the network after it has been brought down by an attack?
    • The long name is "Invisible Internet Project" and the I2P acronym was chosen to signal that its P2P-friendly. Technically the software is called a "router" because it routes as it anonymizes, much like Tor.

      Fundamentally I2P is a network transport layer (like IP, whereas Tor is more like TCP) that comes with a few applications to handle email, web and torrents. You can get plugins for it now that provide things like a distributed filesystem (a port of Tahoe-LAFS) on top of which distributed websites (called

  • by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:48PM (#35225328)

    I just want a small wifi router with a built in raid array. :(

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Asus RT-N16 with tomato usb or ddwrt will do what you need.
      it can take upto 2 usb hard drives and is gigabit multiband with n. and costs 100 bux or so.

  • by aBaldrich ( 1692238 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:48PM (#35225334)
    A one-man effort is not going to work; and if it is, it will certainly take way more than one year to build a free open network.
    You need lots of intelligente people working hard, and once they have the design, they need an important amount of money; not just 500k.
    • He's selling a product, if 500k is enough to get production going and start generating revenue then it could very well be enough to start a revolution. Not saying it's going to happen, and certainly not saying it's going to change the internet this year (which isn't what he said anyway), but with 500k (AKA 2 experienced engineers and 4 college grads working for a year) he could conceivably have the hardware and software to beta status and ready to sell to early adopters (which is what he said).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hopefully it will fail as spectacularly as the once upon-a-time one-man effort to write a 80386 kernel for fun. God knows that didn't go anywhere after being announced!
      • Difference being that back then, people gave a damn.

        I'm not that old, and yet I've already lost that "spark" that made hacking fun. The need to pay bills by entertaining increasingly dumber clients has taken all the joy out of computing. 15 years ago I would have pooped out these self-assembling network plugs over a few sleepless nights of furious coding and soldering. Today,

        consumes all the neural budget I'm willing to commit.

        Between that and the endless stream of idiots with "the next billion-dollar

  • by commodore6502 ( 1981532 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:49PM (#35225338)

    Wires. That requires an external provider, either a private monopoly or the government. And of course that lets them tap the wire.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

      Even if you get your last mile via some mesh wifi setup, it still all going through a trunk line at *some* point. One way or another, it's all eventually going to the Man.

      • Revolution (Score:2, Insightful)

        by eddy ( 18759 )
        If you're part of a revolution, being able to communicate digitally with your local peers is just as important as being able to communicate with someone at the other end of the world. Cheap plugs that build/connect a wireless mesh network could achieve that goal. I feel like most people in this thread aren't thinking big enough. The revolution isn't happening in the outback, think "central and crowded". The main problem might be getting one plug to cover enough area that it network can form at all, but shou
      • by Surt ( 22457 )

        There are very few places left in the world that are more than a mile from the next habitable place. Mesh to mesh will let you jump pretty much any national boundary, and you'll get stuck only when you reach the ocean.

    • It's not about getting rid of ISPs, it's about getting rid of Facebook and the like. It's not about tapping the wire, it's about querying the Facebook DB.

      If you know about Diaspora, that's the kind of thing he wants to see people running on these wallwarts.

    • > that lets them tap the wire.

      Hence the encryption.

    • "Wires. That requires an external provider, either a private monopoly or the government. And of course that lets them tap the wire."

      I had to re-read the article to find that crucial piece of information as I was expecting SOME sort of explanation in that regard--instead, completely missing. WTF? I was expecting something along the lines of data transfer using the electrical grid (even so, shutting off the grid would achieve the same thing--disruption), but no...not a single word in the article discusses dat

    • Since everyone's going to be hosting the internet on their own little wall plug dongle, couldn't you just make them all encrypt the traffic? At least you could encrypt it up to the final wall plug which sends it to whatever sever it's going to; in that case, it wouldn't be possible to see the original source of the traffic, just that whatever traffic that was ended up being sent to the server by whatever node in whatever house.

  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:50PM (#35225350)

    What the hell do these wall plugs attempt to achieve?

    • by Lundse ( 1036754 )


      Or, in more detail, the possibility for everyone on the planet to join a communications network able to run any and all software and services - dirt cheap, outside the surveillance or control of any agent, regardless of their power or legal standing.

      Sort of a hobby project of Moglen's it appears...

      • How would these wall plugs achieve freedom? I can understand if they only serve as a means of relaying data, but then they still rely on a bigger server to provide that data as they themselves do not have much storage and could in no way hold any meaningful databases. The problem is, if there is a bigger server they rely on to provide all that data then it's perfectly possible to render that server inaccessible and again the whole thing crumbles down.

    • Re:err. what. (Score:5, Informative)

      by sjvn ( 11568 ) <sjvn@vn[ ]com ['a1.' in gap]> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:11PM (#35225564) Homepage

      Here's my fuller story on what Moglen and company have in mind:

      Freedom Box: Freeing the Internet one Server at a time []

      The short version is that the idea is to make it possible for you to use the Internet as freely and privately as possible no matter what restrictions governments, businesses or ISPs have in mind.

      It still won't help if your government does an Egypt and pulls the plug, but short of that, it has real possibilities.


    • by 517714 ( 762276 )

      What the hell do these wall plugs attempt to achieve?

      They will keep the Internet from leaking all over your carpets.

  • How will this stop whatever local govt exists from compelling the ILEC to give optical tap access?

    It won't.

    • Encryption can defeat that. The government could still send the police in to sieze the box with the keys on, but doing so is not very stealthy.
    • by Surt ( 22457 )

      A different article talked about peer to peer mesh OTA networking. It would be challenging (but not impossible) for big government to stomp on that. But certainly not as easy as intervening at the ILEC.

  • The article (I read it! Okay, I skimmed) is light on details.

    How exactly is putting a server in your house rebuilding the Internet?

    How would one of these in every house in Egypt have kept them from turning off their Internet access?

    I am going out on a limb and assuming there's more here than a wall socket computer involved. Are these things supposed to talk to each other and build their own network? How will that cross oceans, little alone continents, little alone states, little alone... (etc)

    • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:59PM (#35225446)
      Having seen some of Eben's lectures, I recall his angle is that the problem is that companies/government agencies control the servers, and thus control your data and data on you. He want's people to run their own email/document/media/social networking services on platforms that network with each other rather than monolithic, centrally controlled servers (be they in private or public hands). The idea is not some much a different 'network', that's still in the hands of ISPs, but a different, decentralized approach to services that handle personal data etc.
      • Yes. Imagine a decentralized facebook where only you host your content, so that you can fully control it. How you keep crawlers from aggregating anyway is the problem. I've always thought that the main problem with anarchy is that it's too easy in such an environment for control systems to form. What's required is an active collection of gremlins who are constantly undermining the formation of control structures-- a series of Bugs Bunny's, who's job is to keep things just enough out of control.
      • by dave562 ( 969951 )

        Is there any real solution to personalized data that does not involve some sort of monolithic trust entity? It seems to me like public key cryptography already solves most of the problems. A person just needs a USB key with all of their information on it. If a company / government / etc wants access to that information, they need to perform a key exchange with the individual. The individual can then audit data access by third parties.

        The "problem" with that approach is that it ends up being a mark of th

  • The plan (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:52PM (#35225374) Homepage
    1. Make a bunch of tiny servers.
    2. ???
    3. Freedom!
    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      2. encrypt everything.

      For some small value of freedom.

      • by 517714 ( 762276 )
        Encryption doesn't buy freedom, someone (the right someone) decrypting on the other end does. Otherwise you might as well put your message in a can and bury it.
  • I hope they're planning a modular approach for the communication links. Simply relying on one wireless technology leaves you vulnerable to very easily implemented(by govt or private operator) jamming.

    Something like hardwired connections, longwave/shortwave links, or even optical mixed-in with the wifi approach would make the system much more robust.

  • This looks like a good time to plug the Default Deny security model, as this server might adopt a new Operating System.

    If a default deny environment, programs are never trusted, and the OS keeps them within the capabilities they are provided at runtime. This makes it possible to run untrusted code in a secure manner.

    Such a system would be MUCH more secure in the long run.

    It's also known as Capability bases security, principle of least privilege, etc.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      This looks like a good time to plug the Default Deny security model

      OLPC and Android already do this: an application has only those capabilities specified in its installer. But a thorough implementation of default deny tempts manufacturers to deny the capabilities "start programs whose digital signature lacks a certificate chain to the device manufacturer" and "assign additional capabilities", even to the owner of a product.

  • by Gonoff ( 88518 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:57PM (#35225422)

    There will need to be some other way for them to network than through ISPs. They are the bottleneck. Perhaps, some sort of mesh network?

    Otherwise, Your ISP takes exception to a server running on your domestic network - despite the fact that a large amount of people on /. do just that. Even if they allow that, they can limit what goes across their wires - in times of emergency perhaps no encrypted traffic or HTTPS.

    You are going to either have to live in high density housing or figure out how to fit microwave relays all over the suburbs.

    • I don't have anything to test with, but if you are doing NATing and forwarding, are there any ports that show up as open when you port scan the device?

    • by IrquiM ( 471313 )

      Somebody has to move to a land of the free.

      Seriously, I'll never move to US or anywhere else with as much anti-freedom clauses in the standard contracts as they have. As long as I don't run a business from my server, my ISP lets me do whatever I like, and I doubt they'd really care unless I was making a lot.

  • I have about 5 of the guru and sheeva plugs, they all eventually brick from bad power supplies or shutdown and when they overheat.
  • singlehandedly, anyway.

    It's a teensy tiny computer. By itself, it does nothing.

    Nothing I've seen in this vision explicitly addresses the real freedom value proposition, and the real risk of the Internet as we know it: connectivity. In principle, connectivity and communications should be independent of governmental or commercial interference. And yet, at this point, Freedom Boxen talking to other Freedom Boxen is simply assumed.

    To be blunt, that's assuming away the real hard work. Computers independent of "T

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:15PM (#35225618) Journal

    You want to decentralize the Internet?

    Break up the big telcos and ISPs.

    It's as simple as 1...2...Net Neutrality!

  • It may be nice that, if every house has one of these, the devices created a wireless or powerline ad-hoc network which would then be out of reach of any government agency for a kind of kill switch short of cutting power. Kind of like what OLPC envisioned. It'd be interesting to see the latency/hops in this kind of network. And before "OMG H@X" comes up, it shouldn't be any different than your already-conencted computer/router...
  • "Or a complete Freedom Menu? We are forbidden by law from offering a free Freedom Toy with the Freedom Menus for the kids, but for a ridiculously small surcharge, you get the Freedom Toys. But please note that the Freedom Menu Toys are not in fact free so we are not violating the law."

    First step in starting some wacky software campaign . . . choose a non-wacky sounding name . . . Freedom Box?

  • I'll take two.

  • Sure, I've wanted something like that for years. The problem is that we all need a fixed IP address so we can get to our server from anywhere, and so email can be sent directly to it P-to-P, and so our little OSS distributed facebook profile can be linked from outside (i.e. from our friends FB server).
  • Proposed solution would not rebuild the Net, it would work over it. What would be cool is if these boxes had Ethernet over power lines built in with intelligent peering. Everyone on the same leg of a electrical circuit automatically peers with others and it builds a network. Tricky part would be a "backbone" to connect segments not on the same electrical circuit that won't connect...and do so not using the Internet (or wireless)...and be able to do so with the hardware limitations of a plug in server.


  • This is all fascinating. I even listened in to one of his lectures and things like Diaspora have always been appealing to me. However, what he actually proposes is changing the very topology of the net, changing the whole client server relationship and buildup, which kind of "evolved" as the internet grew. If this structure, topology can be changed in a... more peer to peer oriented fashion it would be an accomplishment equal to creating the internet itself. This gets those geek nerves pulsing doesn't it?
  • Given the choice between consuming content about how to have a better society and government, or Facebook and sports, society has by and large decided that they want the latter. Having everyone running a server with some free software on it will not make the internet any better than it currently is. The utility of the internet is not being severely hampered or impeded by the government "watching every twitch of our fingers". Its utility is being diminished by the users failing to leverage it to its full

  • what he wants to make is a tor/freenet node that is plug and play, that one can put between the in house network and the isp router and act as a net actvity proxy and decentralized and version tracking cache?

    This way, any page accessed is cached, dated and checksummed, so that if ever the main source "dies" a cached version can be grabbed anonymously and distributed as needed?

  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @04:51AM (#35229824)
    I was in the audience when he explained [] the concept. The comments and the article I've seen so far does it no justice. Just watch the video.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell