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Eben Moglen Calls To Free the Cloud 173

paxcoder writes "You have been informed about Diaspora, a (to-be) distributed free social network. What you may not have known is that it was inspired by an excellent talk by Eben Moglen called 'Freedom in the Cloud.' But it doesn't stop there. At Debconf 10 this month, Moglen went further, and shared his vision of a free, private, and secure Net architecture relying on ('for lack of a better term') freedom boxes — low-price, ultra-small, plug it into the wall personal servers. He believes they will catch on since they will eventually cost less than a router, provide more functionality and freedom to the user, and even help your friends bypass any censorship by encrypting and routing their traffic. Since hardware is being taken care of, we are called to assemble the software stack. The title of this sequel talk is How We Can Be the Silver Lining of the Cloud."
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Eben Moglen Calls To Free the Cloud

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  • Re:Transcript (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:45PM (#33259186) Homepage Journal

    For anyone who reads the transcript, can someone explain to me how these boxes function fundamentally differently than a PC already running the freenet app []?

  • Re:Transcript (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paxcoder ( 1222556 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:09PM (#33259286)

    I guess that Tor or Freenet are two of the things that would be run on these. Then there's your mail which you don't let Google read, there is social networking secure with PGP (and so is your mail) - so under your control. The main thing is it all runs 24/7, comes pretty much preconfigured, and as said, is more convenient than a dumb router. Then there is telephony which I ommitted - who gives you encryption for your calls? Well now you can. There is also absolutely no reason why one should pay so much for a simple thing as sending an SMS. Your own web server if you want, torrent, versioning system I don't know... You've got CPU time to spare so BOINC perhaps.
    In short, you have a simple to use server of your own and don't need to use loads of third party web services anymore. It's you and perhaps your friends - the *real* trusted computing. Think of your own application for this. Federated things are a way to go, lest we want to loose our freedom.

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) * on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:14PM (#33259304) Homepage Journal

    I love pointing out unnecessary port blocking in the U.S. - most major U.S. ISP's block port 80 outbound, along with various other mostly email and FTP related ports just for the hell of it. I know that Time Warner, before it left Houston, had a nasty habit of sniffing traffic and if they determined you had a VPN session open to a work based server they insisted you buy a pro account.

  • An excuse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ksandom ( 718283 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:37PM (#33259424) Homepage

    I'm split on this. Mostly I think it's excellent because it sounds feasible to get a lot of people behind it, which would then make it quite effective. It'll bring back a level of "privacy" that we took for granted not many years ago. It will also open up the connotations that come with that, although I'm sure that has/will be discussed to tiring length.

    But where my concern really is, is the trend that those in power see something like this as if it's only purpose is crime. They will be scared of this, because it will undermine their ability to do their job. When there's something they are scared of, they clamp down on it and make an example of someone. If you're that person it doesn't matter if you've done anything wrong, because they will find something, and bend it to the context that allows them to say you've broken a law. eg It could be an image sitting in your browser cache that they can object to based on someones' religion, that came in an ad on a page.

    Early adopters will face significantly higher risk than those adopting once the project is well established. In this countext I see three distinct routes:

    1. Manage the athorities' and public view: Ideally sell the idea to them that this is a good thing for them. I can't think what angle that would be, but it would be worth it. Convince them that this isn't the evil devil they will otherwise assume it to be.
    2. Ignore the authorities: Take a chance and go for it. Don't rub it in their faces. Just get on with it and try not to make a scene.
    3. Rub it in their faces: Highlight that this is going to let people bypass their precious proxies that combat terrorism.

    At one end of the scale, you may even get buy in, but hopefully won't attract too much negative attention. Potentially, you may have a more "legit" user base who have positive community concerns. At the other end of the scale, things could get rather ugly. The authorities will. not. like. you. They will do everything in their power to shut you down, and there will be significant risk to innocent people who had good intentions at heart. This is also very likely to attract the people who the authorities will have a legitimate concern over. You're going to get those in any scenario, but the proportions will make a big difference.

    Take care. I really do believe this has a legitimate positive place in modern society.

  • Re:Transcript (Score:4, Interesting)

    by suomynonAyletamitlU ( 1618513 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:57PM (#33259514)

    I've had similar ideas (and haven't RTFA), but keep in mind how much can be done with web apps, AJAX, and html5, especially if you know that your personal webserver is on a relative high-speed line. Not just secure access to your mail and such, or streaming media, but if you securely stream to web applications running on your own box, which will also do whatever crazy geeky crap you can script into it on the backend, like giving you a list of your photos sorted by hair color or whatever.

    Plus, I for one would love to have an IM client that splits out to all my existing IM endpoints, so if it were to come with its own XMPP server plus gateways, super-big plus. And hey! Add an html5 IM "client" in the same package and you're cooking with gas. One login for you, logs are always kept in the same place, and if you want to connect securely to someone else who also has their own server, all you need is an IP address, and then it's literally just the two of you.

    If you have your own "cloud" in a way that is powerful, secure, and fast, "cloud computing" with thin clients (down to and including ChromeOS) becomes pretty darn reasonable.

    Actually, has anyone made a window manager over HTML5 yet...?

  • Re:I for one... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RichardDeVries ( 961583 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @08:27PM (#33259698) Journal
    Moglen's reply to this in the video is that he expects the boxes to spread before lawmakers catch on, similar to the way PGP made the Cipperchip and the banning of other encryption methods a failure.
  • by griz ( 23039 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @09:06PM (#33259886)

    Just this week a platform was announced,, that combines the ARM based Plug computers and the Amahi Home Server. This could be an excellent candidate for a One Click install App for the Amahi platform. I think we may be on to something here.....

  • Re:Freedom Boxes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @09:45PM (#33260064)

    Well, firstly I think it*'s assumed that bandwidth gets faster, better and cheaper. This may or may not happen and will probably vary wildly by geographic region.

    Secondly, have you heard of WASTE? It hides its traffic by using multiple ports, changing bitrates and packet sizes, wrapping encrypted data in SMTP, HTTP or other protocols and generally being sneaky.

    Seems like a cool strategy to me!

  • by gringer ( 252588 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @10:18PM (#33260230)

    When I click on that I2P link from my university, I get this:

    Access Denied

    Your request was denied because of its content categorization: "Proxy Avoidance"

    If you believe this is an error, please contact the ITS Service Desk.

    That actually gives me a better idea about what it does than the parent.

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @11:13PM (#33260502) Homepage

    OK, I just read the transcript here: []

    And I'm not saying I don't respect Eben Moglen, or what he says there. Sure, he lays out great ideas, ideas worth doing.

    But he is still misguided. The war he is proposing to fight mainly with distributed home-based technology to ensure some privacy through encryption can't be won. As long as we have an economic system based mostly on greed (and also ignorance), everything he tries to do will fail, if only because, after he wins, greed will buy new laws from ignorant people and put him in jail, and then greed will go house to house and pull every one of those wall warts out, getting neighbors to turn in neighbors who have them ("If you see something, say something"), same as people with radios were turned in in various countries in WWII. See:
    "They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, But Then It Was Too Late" []

    He should know that ISPs will be able to track down every one of those things in short order, if only by hiring a million people out of the 20 million or more unemployed in the USA to go house-by-house with blanket search warrants and portable packet sniffers looking for "unlicensed" equipment. And other countries will find the things even faster. So, his approach is, at best, a slightly delaying and confusing action. Greed and ignorance will win unless we directly address greed and ignorance (well, even addressing greed and ignorance indirectly and subtly may be OK, too. :-).

    Do I have an alternative? Yes I do. As I outlined here: []
    where I wrote the following paragraph:

    As I see it, there is a race going on. The race is between two trends. On the one hand, the internet can be used to profile and round up dissenters to the scarcity-based economic status quo (thus legitimate worries about privacy and something like TIA). On the other hand, the internet can be used to change the status quo in various ways (better designs, better science, stronger social networks advocating for things like a basic income, all supported by better structured arguments like with the Genoa II approach) []
    to the point where there is abundance for all and rounding up dissenters to mainstream economics is a non-issue because material abundance is everywhere. So, as Bucky Fuller said, whether is will be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. While I can't guarantee success at the second option of using the internet for abundance for all, I can guarantee that if we do nothing, the first option of using the internet to round up dissenters (or really, anybody who is different, like was done using IBM computers in WWII Germany) will probably prevail. So, I feel the global public really needs access to these sorts of sensemaking tools in an open source way, and the way to use them is not so much to "fight back" as to "transform and/or transcend the system". As Bucky Fuller said, you never change thing by fighting the old paradigm directly; you change things by inventing a new way that makes the old paradigm obsolete.

    Now, might such a public intelligence system run well on a system of wall warts like he describes? It probably would. But it does not absolutely need them. So, while they may be useful, the conception of cooperative sensemaking and cooperative design of a better future is by far more important.

    And here is a document I put together that decribes four heterodox economic alternati

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @11:18PM (#33260536) Homepage

    One other link: :-) []
    "Social reformers must first eliminate their own ignorance to educate themselves to gain knowledge of the basic causes and remedies for social problems, including the economics, politics, and ethics of the problems and solutions. Then when they educate others, they must at the same time invoke their antipathy to the problem and arouse their sympathy with the remedy. When the masses are roused with sympathy and armed with knowledge of the remedy, the few greedy opponents will either be swayed themselves to join the righteous battle, or be overwhelmed by the greater force of the righteous revolution. To remedy social ills, replace ignorance, apathy and greed with knowledge, sympathy, and charity. "

    And another link, while I am at it, too:
        "What Social Science Can Tell Us About Social Change" []

  • by lonecrow ( 931585 ) on Monday August 16, 2010 @12:47AM (#33260934)
    The way I see it the eventual replacement for facebook will end up resembling the blog market. I can get a server install wordpress and host my blog, or I can download anyone of the other thousand blog server apps. Or I can find a wordpress hosting company, or or whatever. Multiple apps with multiple hosting options.

    With myspace, friendster, and facebook a standard set of features are developing. With an interop protocol there is no reason why it can't be truly distributed.
  • It could be so. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Monday August 16, 2010 @12:53AM (#33260960) Journal

    Well with the right mesh software and some cheap high-gain antennas, yes. We can circumvent the power of incumbent networks in urban and suburban areas by building our own Othernet - where everyone can be anonymous and the limit of bandwidth is the contributed aggregate. Latency would be too high for gaming and VOIP outside the local area - but local sharing, VOIP and gaming would be fine. Encrypted offsite backups on a cooperative basis could be arranged. We could help each other in our mutual best interest. We could even build neighborhood clouds if we wanted to. In LA, in New York, in all of the major markets it's absurd that people pay for Internet links when all of the value is flowing the other way across the link. Building our own networks would shift the balance of power. IPv6 could be helpful here.

    We need a WAP wizard to set us free, someone to market the guerilla wireless Othernet and related devices. A few brave souls to get it started. That's all. Some people are already doing this with fiber or copper gigabit fenceline networks, using wireless bridges to cross rights-of-way (roads and so on). Most of us posting here have more advanced networking in our homes (gigabit), more powerful PC's, more storage left unused (many terabytes) than the core Internet had in 1995. That should be sufficient for our towns or cities now. Wireless bandwidth is up to a limit of 600mbps, which will do for crossing a highway.

    We've been conditioned by our consumer societies to accept that the wire that connects us to The Internet is based on a bill from a company. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are the value in the Internet - consumers with desires to be fed. Network enough of us together and the wider Internet will build a bridge to us . Ultimately the idea of paying for Internet could and should go away for most of us. Let the vendors build the road if they want our consumers in their markets. This is entirely what Google's high-speed broadband initiative is about. The people are the money, and the links are currently too slow to capture all but a small fraction of it.

  • Freedom works? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by S3D ( 745318 ) on Monday August 16, 2010 @01:15AM (#33261032)

    Freedom works, that's how the Cold War was won from the Soviet Empire.

    I'm not sure. It seems the other way around. As soon as Cold War ended freedom in western democracies stated deteriorate gradually. Seems the Cold War was what was keeping freedom alive in democratic countries. Or may be a conservation law is at work here - as freedom increase in one place it decrease in another.

  • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday August 16, 2010 @06:06AM (#33261936)

    Interesting idea. Here in South Africa the entire telecoms market has been a locked-down government monopoly for as long as I can remember, the exact rules state that private networking or signalling equipment cannot cross public transport (e.g. roads or railways).
    The law was somewhat relaxed in recent years leading to the origination of private ADSL ISP's and WISPS but it remains thoroughly controlled with a massive licensing scheme that keeps citizens networks highly cut-off.

    There are some popular WUG's around now, and their doing okay but internet access being unavailable on them their utility is limited to gaming and file-sharing, the WUG communities are just not big enough to viably replace the internet even on a local level.

    But I love the idea of a form of network communication that would be virtually impossible to control or restrict and I actually had an idea about how it could be done back in the day. Through the only (current) medium that is near impossible to viably regulate - visible light-spectrum.
    A few years ago some students at my university adapted some ethernet cards and hooked them up to standard joke-shop laser-pointers and photocells to build a laserlight network between two machines that reached speeds of multiple megabits (At the time dialup was still standard here).

    Of course it has two major problems - firstly because it's light, in daytime your signal-to-noise ratio from outside interference will quite possibly make it near useless. Secondly it's LoS only so to make a viable network you would need chains of connected machines each acting both as a node AND a router for everybody else's traffic.
    Doable certainly - viable ? Probably not...

    But it does bring up one important point - using communicate mesh-networking concepts it can and must be possible to build networks that ultimately scale ot internet sizes and are completely outside of the purview of anybode except the actual participants - and where no single node can gain any particular control or importance over the network as a whole, nothing can acurately predict the paths traffic will take (no ISP servers to monitor)... secure and not just privately owned but private-PERSON-owned.

    Even if the equipment is a bit costly, if it is a once-off expense (no ISP's or phone companies involved) and the communities are big enough to offer real value - people would flock to it.

The best defense against logic is ignorance.