FreedomBox Update

A lot of people have been asking for an update, which is a good indication that we need to update folks more often.

Bdale Garbee will be at DebConf11. He and Clint Adams will be running a hackfest. If you are going to be there (a lot of FreedomBoxers are also Debian devs), please track him down and ask him any question you have about the box. His answers will be thoughtful and perhaps surprising.

I will be at ContactCon. If you are going, please let me know so we can connect!

I'm told the smart phone high five has been the subject of some fevered hacking. Stefano Maffulli organized hacking on that in small community events and it is starting to produce useful work. Now to get that code in to a gittable place!

The need for a roadmap is clear. Everywhere I go people want a framework into which they can start putting their work. The TAC is pondering that and I hope we will have it shortly. In the short term, Bdale and the TAC are working on a build release. This will be a basic build system on top of which we can start putting packages. It will give us all a common reference point to hack from.

The mailing list is a hotbed of development discussion. Jonas Smedegaard is a one-man packaging machine (I hear he'll be at DebConf too!), and that's a huge step. Others projects, like PageKite are building pieces that we hope can be integrated into FreedomBox soon. Debian-style development is chaotic. There are too many ideas to take them all, but before this is through, I think we'll have considered every possible combination of software. I hope that shortly some of those discussions will result in meta-packages that configure combinations of software to work nicely together.

Speaking of configuration, we are thinking hard about a configuration process and model. With the many possible package configurations, each with its own method of storing configuration and state, handling conflicts (as well as expert-user tweaks made outside the normal interface) will be difficult. We have some design ideas for that structure, but I sense this is an area where we will adopt somebody else's design rather than invent anything new.

Administratively, we've assembled the Foundation pieces. We have a board. Yesterday, the board converted me from a presumptuous volunteer into the executive director. I don't think that changes what I will do except it allows me to do more of it and I can feel a little more comfortable making statements about what the Foundation is up to.

We have done a lot of work with Marvell and Global Scale. Helping the box manufacturers streamline license compliance is a big task, but we've been making real progress. Clint identified some parts of the Dream Plug that didn't build properly or for which the true source wasn't available. After some dialog with upstream, we're getting all that source. The next step is helping upstream publish that code in a routine way.

Stefano and I have been searching for UX and human interface designers who might help us with one of the most difficult parts of this project. Eben Moglen, Ian Sullivan, Bdale and I have had many phone conversations about how the user configures the box. We agree it needs as few buttons as possible. We agree it needs sane defaults as well as expert modes. We agree it listens on port 80 but also talks to your phone. Beyond that, we agree we need expert help.

We have had offers of help from hacker spaces in California and Texas! We would like to connect with as many hacker spaces as possible. Stefano and I are trying to make a hackfest-in-a-box kit and hack spaces are the perfect place to deploy those kits. If you are involved in a hack space and can pull some awesome geeks together for a night of fun, I want to talk to you.

Finally, I have ordered stickers and t-shirts so we will finally get those to our Kickstarter funders. And now that we know we can distribute GPL-compliant boxes we can get those out too!

That's the update. More soon.

Best regards, James Vasile