Freedombox in practice (usefulness)

Could it be that the basic features of freedombox could be more complete, better tested and really proven to work reliably, and getting optimized in practice, if for example…

[x] The freedombox foundation would use an actual, self-hosted freedombox for all their communications?

[x] The freedombox foundation setup would only include a backup freedombox in a data center for additional reliability (as fallback), to have considerable load on the self-hosted instance.

[x] The freedombox developers, and supporters, would handle their communications based on a freedombox instances that follows debian’s “proposed updates and backports” repository, to still allow to withdraw updates in the rare case of a problem that slipped through the development tests?

I guess all users would need a couple of basic things to work well out of the (freedom)box, since a couple of years already:

  • Email accounts (Apparently coming.)
  • General communication server basics (Basic calendar and address book instances are available, but the much more practical, integrated Sogo frontend is only mentioned in the email issue, and missing.)
  • Chat (XMPP has been there for long, but audio and video chat support is only coming.)
  • Video conferencing (Something with low hardware requirements like Galene or Jami is missing.)
  • Access-group control and serving of pictures (Zoph is coming, but not based on universal freedombox filesystem user groups.)
  • Access-group control and serving of files (Using Nextcloud would not be based on universal freedombox filesystem user groups, and costs overhead, resources, and at least sidetrack the freedombox project. Alternative: FileStash (multi-protocol web-frontend, e.g. using its ssh backend support to access system user accounts with all available standard /home user and group permission features):
    Idea: File Manager within FreedomBox - #5 by sunjam and
    Free web-files "cloud" solutions? - #11 by NickA
  • A simple and safe possibility to publish some HTML pages on the internet (Static site generator like Lektor for user websites.)

The home page says it is about running a private server at home (so for family and friends), not a server for a project or development team, and I wish it remains focused on the private server at home use case.

Abut reliability, I have been using a Freedombox a home for about 9 months, with caldav and carddav servers, an XMPP server, Tor service and remote backup and I had no issue at all.

This is an interesting feature but I am afraid of outgoing emails being rejected by many big email servers, no matter how well configured the software on the Freedombox is, so it could end up being highly frustrating.

I am using the Freedombox’s caldav and carddav servers with gnome agenda, evolution, icedove, davX (Android), the native calendar and contact apps on iOS. So far this is a perfect experience for me.

What are you missing?

No file upload is a blocking point for me. As a consequence, my only usage of the XMPP server now is for MAXS (remote control of mobile phone), for any other usage I am using another XMPP server.

Audio and video would be a plus but not as important. Besides, I know they are not in the ejabberd version on Debian 10, they are on Debian 11.

I am using Jitsi now on another machine with low resources, as there is a Debian package and it is easy to configure, I guess it could be easy to have on the Freedombox. I heard about Galene but never tried it. About Jami, why is a server needed?

I am not familiar with Nextcloud but I am running a Seafile server on a small SBC and, after installation, you can add user, libraries, permisssions and so on via the web interface. Only the initial installation could be a problem for someone who wants that on a home server and I would see the point of doing something for that.

My motivation to use Seafile is to have synchronization over internet (Syncthing cannot do that).

Since you are talking about a team and a project, I expect that someone should be able to work with a Debian system without the Freedombox (plinth) assistance and install Seafile with SQLite, Apache and HTTPS by following the small manual as I did, so perhaps you don’t need to wait for the Freedombox to support that.

There is ikiwiki but I guess you find it not enough?

Syncthing can sync files between devices on a local network, or between remote devices over the Internet. Data security and data safety are built into the design of the software.

@Avron Thanks for sharing your views.

With the points in the list I just wanted to put together what I think could be considered as useful for about every installation. The features are mostly there, but I got the impression there tend to be long pending issues that impair the use for almost everyone, like the missing xmpp file upload. There seem to be way more issues as would have to be expected, if the freedombox software were to be used in practice by the people and foundation behind freedombox. (As common basic issues supposedly would be in their way, too, and could get ironed out quickly.)

Global email sending: Yes exactly, as you said, that feature would definitely need to support forwarding from an external domain, relay servers or a VPN, to really be useful for “everyone” in practice, without requiring a full (v)server install in a data center. (Email server progress? - #22 by NickA)

GNU Jami: Running a node on a server would be useful to always have a “rendevous point” available (24x7 for conferences), for central client administration (JAMS), and pointing apps to a self-hosted dht proxy (mobile devices) as well as own STUN/TURN server.

Syncthing: It should already sync over the internet just fine, even faster and more efficient then nextcloud. What I think is missing with freedombox+syncthing is self-hosting the discovery and relay server. The more general issue is implementing a filesystem access concept (filebrowser webinterface like FileStash, and also using the filesystem when pointing other apps, e.g. to email attachments etc., with seamlessly integrated group access permissions )

Installing and ultimately having to integrate a third-party app platform like Nextcloud on top of freedombox would be all the less desirable and not necessary anymore, then (with a web-based file access solution and apps configured to make good use of the common /home filesystem tree on the freedombox).

Calendar/Contacts: Do you have them in an integrated web(mail) frontend, e.g. to browse your feedombox files and send a document to a contact?

ikiwi: Serving just a static site (publicly) should be much more secure than running a dynamic CMS site (on a basicly only distro-administered freedombox server, no matter if on a low-power home or more performant in-house or data-center server. And ikiwiki wasn’t very simple or intuitive to use or comming with a nice and usable default configuration. Besides, the site is already using Lektor, but it has not been implemented as a freedombox package (website: Static website generator (#1323) · Issues · FreedomBox / FreedomBox · GitLab).

There seems to a be strange, and as so often misleading, term for this:

But it’s simply rather just self-hosting and using of one’s own software.