[Userops] Freedombone

Bob Mottram bob at robotics.uk.to
Mon Apr 6 17:57:25 EDT 2015


I'm the developer of the Freedombone project, which I think fits somewhere within the userops category. Freedombone is a home server configuration, currently for Debian Jessie. It was originally developed on the Beaglebone Black, but can also run on any system with Jessie installed.

Freedombone provides a variety of internet services for personal communications such as blog, wiki, social network, Owncloud, VoIP, XMPP, IRC and so on. You can also install variants of the system which are specialised for different tasks, such as mailbox, media or writer. So so if you only want an email server and nothing else then it's possible to do that. There's also a console based interactive installer (similar to the original Debian installer) which simplifies setting up the system.

Freedombone is currenly aimed at a single user use case (personal server) although it would be possible to add a small number of other users to the system. It also assumes intermediate level Linux skills.  That is, someone who is not scared of using ssh in a terminal. So this is something which sits between the skill level of systems administration wizardry and a complete novice. Someone on the Freedombox IRC described it as being "a geeky box".

I see Freedombone as being a stopgap system. In the longer term I expect that systems such as ArkOS or Sandstorm will be better suited for the average user. For now it allows me to reliably set up a server where everything is well configured and reasonably secure, and with no "special snowflakeness". Ideally I'd like to see this as being one of the Debian install oprions.

One of the current pain points is TLS certificate creation and renewal. Despite there being a freedombone command to try to make this process as slick as possible it still requires a level of geekery which will be challenging for most users. The main problem is that the providers of such certificate don't have web interfaces which are designed for average users, and so it's a rather clunky process with specialised lingo which will be baffling to a lot of people. Hopefully that might improve once LetsEncrypt becomes available, particularly if the entire process can be automated.

Running your own internet services is currently a minority thing, but I'm expecting this to be a growing phenomenon in the next five years as small, low power, single board computers become more powerful and the server software gets easier to manage.

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