Freedom Box: The Short Pitch as of March 2011

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FreedomBox right now as I see it

by James Vasile as posted to HackerVisions, a blog at the intersection of Freedom, Technology, & Community

People have been asking me for a short description of the FreedomBox that doesn’t get too technical but also gets into some details. So here’s my capsule pitch, a short form version of how I see the FreedomBox right now:

The FreedomBox just raised $80K in donations via Kickstarter (the campaign is still going on, if you want to donate) on the strength of positive press in the NYTimes, WSJ, Wired and CBS Evening News. We’re at the very beginning of putting together a team to build this thing. This week we will announce our tech lead, an A+ name with the experience and contacts to lead our architecture design.

The FreedomBox is a net appliance that sits between your computer and the Internet. Ideally, it replaces your wireless router. It does routing, both locally and to the wider net, with an eye toward preserving your anonymity, privacy and security.

It knows when to onion route messages, how to use bit torrent and encrypted, verified messaging to allow one-to-one and one-to-many communication. And if your internet plug is pulled (maybe you live in Libya), the box will use mesh routing to talk to other boxes like it. If any of them can get a packet across the border, they all can. We call these capabilities the Freedom Stack.

With that stack in place, you can build first class, privacy-enabled, decentralized applications. This includes services like and Diaspora, but instead of having each app roll its own (incompatible) decentralizing, privacy-respecting, secure capability, you can use the (better) stack already on the box.

All that plus automatic, distributed secure backup, a print server and NAS features.

Most of this already exists in free software packages. The real challenge will be to assemble the right packages on our target hardware (plug computers), make them work together, bulletproof the configuration and create a UI so simple it will make Steve Jobs jealous.

Professor Eben Moglen is the Founding Director of the Software Freedom Law Center. This project started from his vision. You can see him boil it down in 3 minutes on the CBS Evening News.

Phi Beta Iota: While we did not have the technical details firmly in hand, this is roughly what John Chambers at CISCO was asked to consider building on three separate occasions.  It is likely the correspondence never even got to him, one reason Industrial-Era companies are not agile and hence not sustainable.

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