Interview: Bdale Garbee:
Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Eben Moglen is a professor of law and legal history at Columbia University, and is the founder, Director-Counsel and Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center, whose client list includes numerous pro bono clients, such as the Free Software Foundation. Eben’s ideas led us to form the FreedomBox Foundation.
Bdale Garbee is a technologist and community builder who recently retired from HP, where he served as Chief Technologist for Open Source and Linux. A long-time contributor to Debian, Bdale is President of Software in the Public Interest, and a board member of the Linux Foundation. He also serves on the board of the FreedomBox Foundation and leads the development of the foundation’s reference implementation.
Q: What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?
We will start with an update on the evolving legal and social motivations for FreedomBox, then provide an update on what we’ve accomplished so far and where we stand relative to a version 1.0 release. We will also talk about several exciting hardware and software projects independent from but inspired by our work on FreedomBox.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?
Two years ago, Eben used his opening keynote at FOSDEM to announce the formation of the foundation, and last year Bdale provided an update in his closing keynote. In addition to raising awareness about the issues we are trying to address, each talk we give about FreedomBox brings more technical and moral support to the project. As we approach the 1.0 milestone, there are various tasks we hope members of the FOSDEM 2013 audience will be inspired to help us complete.
Q: Could you describe the different layers in the software stack that the FreedomBox project is building? Which software does it use for which tasks?
This will be discussed in the talk.
Q: What were the biggest hurdles for the FreedomBox project? And what are currently the challenges that you’re facing?
The two biggest hurdles technically to date have been dealing with the “binary blobs” necessary to use existing plug server devices, and working through the practical consequences of our decision to use OpenPGP keys as the root of our trust and identity model.
Q: In the summer of 2012 we saw the first software release for developers. What work has been done since then?
The initial developer release focused on meeting the commitments made to contributors during our initial Kickstarter campaign. Work since that release has focused on generalizing to support a broader set of hardware targets, merging work into Debian proper, and assembling the rest of the essential software elements we want to include in a 1.0 release.
Q: When will there be a complete FreedomBox software stack that is easy to install and easy to use for typical end users? And which features will it have?
We will discuss this in the talk.
Q: With social networks like Facebook, there’s a so-called “network effect”: the more people you know are in this social network, the more value it has for you. How do you convince the man or woman in the street to use a social network that gives them political liberty but has a lot less users than Facebook?
We think early adopters will be those who are already concerned about or actively avoiding participating in corporately-sponsored social networks, and we hope to grow out from there. Eben likes to say that by the time you know you need a FreedomBox, we will have it ready for you.
Q: How big is the FreedomBox developer community?
The core group of developers who would identify themselves as working specifically on FreedomBox is quite small. However, we leverage the work of many Free Software developers through our tight coupling with the Debian distribution and strong support from many developers working on related projects from mesh networking to distributed social network stacks.
Q: What are currently the best devices to run FreedomBox on?
The primary hardware target for our initial release of the reference implementation was the Dreamplug from Global Scale. That’s still a fine platform to use for a low power deployment, but there are exciting new hardware platforms that we will discuss at FOSDEM. And of course, the core software stack being implemented through Debian means that any hardware that can run Debian can potentially serve as a FreedomBox.
Q: Have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?
Yes! We both find the focus, enthusiasm, and sheer energy applied towards Free Software and other forms of Freedom represented by the FOSDEM community exhilarating.