FreedomBox at FOSSCON 2019

August 23rd, 2019

On Saturday, August 17th, the FreedomBox Foundation attended the FOSSCON conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the second straight year. At our table in the exhibition hall, we saw many familiar faces and met many news ones.

We were pleased to learn that multiple people who attended our FOSSCON session in 2018, "Thinking Inside the Box: Using FreedomBox to Protect Your Freedoms," actually installed a FreedomBox server at home and continue to use it to this day. Hearing about their experiences — both the good and bad — was informative. While the FreedomBox system has plenty of room for improvement, it is encouraging that so many people who set up FreedomBoxes after FOSSCON 2018 have continued using them into 2019.

Our Session: Building a Carbon-Neutral Internet

In his May 2019 keynote address at re:publica19, Eben Moglen compared the privacy crisis to the climate crisis: "The clock now runs against us as it runs against us on the planet: two great environmental disasters, each requiring our fullest concentration and our broadest and our broadest social mobilizations." Drawing inspiration from this keynote, Danny Haidar delivered a talk at FOSSCON 2019 titled, "Climate Change and Server Centers: Building a Carbon-Neutral Internet."

In his presentation, Danny expressed concern about the growing carbon emissions from the ICT sector and its data and server centers and argued that it is time to begin exploring a more sustainable internet, one built on energy-efficient hardware and resource-light software. While Big Tech's massive server centers and resource-heavy, attention-optimized software consume large amounts of electricity, Danny argued that a decentralized web can be architected to be green and private-by-design. Using a consumer-grade solar panel and Olimex’s LIME2 computer running the FreedomBox software, Danny built a prototype to demonstrate that it is hypothetically possible to run your own carbon neutral corner of the internet. Though many challenges remain in making this vision a reality, the audience's positive response encourages us to continue working on it. If you want to be part of this work, write to info@freedomboxfoundation.org.

Photos of the Solar-Powered FreedomBox

Image 1: A FreedomBox being powered by a solar panel on a rooftop. The laptop was using an internet connection from a mobile hotspot, which it shared with the FreedomBox through an ethernet cord. This created an ad-hoc local network on the roof. Though the FreedomBox interface was available only on the ad-hoc local network, it could be made available on the public internet if it were plugged in to a router with an ethernet cord.

Image 2: An Olimex LIME2 running FreedomBox while plugged in to a solar panel on a rooftop

Image 3: The solar panel's USB port from which the Olimex LIME2 drew power

Image 4: The FreedomBox interface while it is running on solar power

Image 5: The local address of the solar-powered FreedomBox

Photos are © FreedomBox Foundation 2019 and licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Thank You

Thank you to the entire FOSSCON community for welcoming us back this year! Special thanks to Jonathan Simpson for directing the conference and to the fine user who was kind enough to discuss his FreedomBox use case with us over lunch. Until next time, Philadelphia!