Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

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Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby kedaha » 2019-09-23 06:15

I'd like to discuss one of pylko's posts in reply to an earlier comment I made in another forum topic here rather than under the subject of Stallman's resignation.
pylkko wrote:I am aware of the existing DIY cloud platforms (owncloud, nextcloud etc), and even of things like zeta https://zetaglobal.com/zeta-private-data-cloud/ which at least claim to use your data responsibly. But what I meant with that comment was more that new people, i.e people that are aged 15, and the generations to come after them, it seems that they are more and more into using cloud computing. Many uni freshmen nowadays don't even own other computers than mobile devices. In essence, they only have "thin client" to web services on a devices where Apple or Google has root. Most of the services that are considered essential not just for using computers but to living a normal life are, proprietary, closed sourced, pay-per-use services, which own your data and meta data and diplay adds like, youtube, spotify, whatsapp, google docs, pics, music whatever.

Self-driving cars that you can pay-per-use are coming. Just imagine being shown a few messages from out sponsors before you are allowed to depart. That's the "future".

Well, that's the "future" —or is it already fast becoming the "present"?—envisioned by the giant corporations that dominate the internet.

Can we do anything against this Orwellian "future"? As I posted in the other topic, I think that Debian is doing something about it. Some degree of decentralization will come about by the combination of the new technology of free microprocessors and free software thus putting internet services into the hands of, and under the control of, individual users. It is not enough just to run free client software; it is also necessary to run, or, in the case of non-technical users, at least have full access to, wholly free server software operating on such microprocessors.

Thanks for reading and for any comments.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby debbieanne » 2019-09-23 13:33

"Can we do anything against this Orwellian "future"? As I posted in the other topic, I think that Debian is doing something about it."

I wonder what you can mean. If Debian is opposing proprietary cloud services where is the Debian NAS that seamlessly integrates with the Debian laptop? I just wanted to use rsync to backup my Debian-forked (PureOS) laptop to my Synology NAS. I had to ssh into the NAS and command-line configure a rsync account, set file and dir permissions and setup a public-private key pair. Not as user-friendly as Time Machine, is it?

Where is the Debian email server-service? I realize that rolling your own email server is difficult, but it would be much easier if your IMAP client was integrated into a IMAP server on your NAS with Debian acting as the always-present backend to deal with the difficult infrastructure issues arising from SMTP transport. Where is the Debian Whatsapp? How about a Debian VPN/Bittorrent environment for distributing software and other public information? Facebook? Search? I am not suggesting that Debian stand-in for proprietary cloud services, but private cloud services need infrastructure support like directory services and rendezvous servers. Oh, I forgot that block-chain technology will save us from everything.

I cannot see how Debian users can possibly decentralize the Internet when they have absolutely no tools to do it with. I may have completely misunderstood your intent and I am sorry if I did, but this topic has vexed me because no one is addressing it.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby kedaha » 2019-09-23 16:51

Thanks very much debieanne for your reply.

At the present time the internet is very heavily centralized and dominated by gigantic tech corporations & will continue to be so into the future as most, particularly young, people have become the unwitting users and purveyors of centralized services. But there is already an opposing movement towards decentralization. How can it be done?

Where is the Debian email server-service? I realize that rolling your own email server is difficult, but it would be much easier if your IMAP client was integrated into a IMAP server on your NAS with Debian acting as the always-present backend to deal with the difficult infrastructure issues arising from SMTP transport. Where is the Debian Whatsapp? How about a Debian VPN/Bittorrent environment for distributing software and other public information? Facebook? Search? I am not suggesting that Debian stand-in for proprietary cloud services, but private cloud services need infrastructure support like directory services and rendezvous servers. Oh, I forgot that block-chain technology will save us from everything.


Debian is playing a part in this through the development of FreedomBox (see my signature below) with the present features and others yet to be implemented (including a fully-functional free email server) to be used by anyone, regardless of technical expertise. The objective is to eventually substitute all the proprietary services.

I think most Debian users here will agree the Internet should be decentralized and would like to control and use alternatives with free licenses to the sort of cloud & social networking software that is served by the mega-corporations. However, one can feel powerless to do much since everyone uses these proprietary apps and you get pressured into them, specially on Android and even end up becoming part of the social pressure oneself. But I must say people look a bit askance when I tell them I don't have things like twitter, FB, Instagram & Skype etc.

What can we do? the first thing is, apart from running a Debian desktop system, to run one's own small personal Debian server for family, friends and colleagues or business.Since Debian's solution involves minimal technical competence, there should be no problem even for normal users. An added advantage is that if you use a microprocessor the cost of power is also minimal; for example, one site estimates the cost of running your own email server, on a raspberry pi from home 24/7/365 at under £5 (about $6 or €5.65) in electricity per year. Source: raspberry-pi-email-server.

Of course, all this will take time and more developers are needed but evolution can be very slow compared with revolution. :wink:
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby pylkko » 2019-11-10 09:16

It took me some time to respond, because I did't have the time to look into FreedomBox, or more correctly there is a lot of information to read and I didn't know about it at all. I know that there are open source clound platforms that anyone can install. It seems to me that FreedomBox is a Debian image in which all the normal open source cloud stuff are preinstalled (although I believe that this is the case with most of these things). This makes it very tunable. For example, they mention that email is not yet implemented. However, implementing your own email server would not be any different than it is on a laptop with Debian, so in essence users can do it now. Of course, if the dev team does it well, perhaps they can include all kinds of optimizations and hardening making it even nicer eventually. But the main point is that the user can implement those parts that they wish.

The largest set back for most normal users of services like Google will be that they need to self host. Self-hosted software often have very attractive features. For example, most of the office world nowadays uses Slack, "the facebook of workplaces, where people can share documents and calendars and stuff). This is a pay-for-use proprietary solution. There are, however, multiple FOSS solutions that you can host yourself. But if you are a company and you need to weigh two options: 1) use a external service that costs and always works 2) D.I.Y it for free, but need to have someone always maintaining the service... then I am sure that most will not choose the latter. Because if you think about it for a while, you should realized that in most work places - unfortunately - most of the workers aren't capable of doing useful things.

People that visit this site probably are of the kind that would like the challenge of maintaining something like this. But the interesting question is, of course, to what extent the problem is centralization. I wouldn't mind sharing the responsibilities with other people (so that the entire burden of maintenance is not on me only). The problem is just which people.

We have this same problem with instant messaging. There are these peer-to-peer solutions like matrix.org. But even people that like that in principle still use commercial services.

It is a weird "winner takes all game" this modern cloud internet.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby golinux » 2019-11-10 17:43

May the FORK be with you!
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby Deb-fan » 2019-11-10 18:31

OP ... not quite sure what you mean here. Though if somewhat getting it to type-speak honestly, don't think such will ever be a reality. If so it'll be a LONGGGG time coming and employed by a tiny minority. Yeppers are efforts to get out free bios/uefi firmware and etc. Though it's still more fiction than fact in terms of being anything like readily available. Will share a metaphor for what I believe the reality is and what ever seeing this make much headway is like.

Think of a salmon, swimming up da river, ahhhh, ooooo ... Really cool and nice. YES ... upstream they go, as their instincts demand, it's an epic journey with bears and birds and people snatching the fish next to ya out of the water. Eventually they make it up river, they spawn and die. This ancient/amazing cycle of life has completed once again !!!


Now envision a tiny group of geeks trying to swim up Niagara Falls. If they make it to the top all this totally accessible, totally libre open source goodness will be widely adopted and enthusiastically embraced the world over. All techies and users free, tech for all humanity ... no contraints, YAY !!! Errrrr ... ya get what I'm trying to say ? :D


In my view certainly gnu/Linux etc is making much more headway in the commercial arena vs still supposedly like 2% on desktop though. This decentralizing of things stuff is but a dream. If it ever happens don't expect it to be in your lifetime (or your childrens.) Just my 2 cents.

PS, while open source has obviously been widely embraced and used by varied Corp's. It's done because it suits their needs and agenda. Definitely comes with strings attached, Intel/AMD ... Google Inc, M$, IBM/Redhat and the lions share of the control of this "free" software. If someone thinks the powers that be have any (some of which clearly don't have the slightest) interest in altruistic jazz. They need to get some reality therapy me thinks.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby Deb-fan » 2019-11-10 18:53

While on the topic of Debian gnu/Nix. Also honestly wish the folks behind it would drop this commitment to open source only. Twenty plus yrs involved in an uphill battle. Someone like Canonical Inc comes in, looks the situation over, hmmmm, there's plenty money to be made here fellas !!! Grabs everything proprietary can lay hands on, jams it into Debian and WHAM millions upon millions of users and synonymous with the word gnu/Linux. Debian ... quietly sits in the shadows and keeps on fighting the "good fight" ?

Sheesh even this 10yr old laptop needs proprietary software. Output of vrms package.

broadcom-sta-dkms dkms source for the Broadcom STA Wireless driver
broadcom-sta-source Source for the Broadcom STA Wireless driver
firmware-amd-graphics Binary firmware for AMD/ATI graphics chips
firmware-linux-nonfree Binary firmware for various drivers in the Linux kerne
firmware-misc-nonfree Binary firmware for various drivers in the Linux kerne
intel-microcode Processor microcode firmware for Intel CPUs

Non-free packages with status other than installed on debbox

amd64-microcode ( dei) Processor microcode firmware for AMD CPUs

Contrib packages installed on debbox

iucode-tool Intel processor microcode tool
libdvd-pkg DVD-Video playing library - installer

7 non-free packages, 0.6% of 1112 installed packages.
2 contrib packages, 0.2% of 1112 installed packages.


Debian obviously deserves all the glory and the users behind Ubuntu/LM. The support and resources which come with it but nopers. Fighting the good fight is one thing, letting yourself get slaughtered, something else.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby Bulkley » 2019-11-10 23:43

kedaha, thank you for bringing this to our attention. It is important.

When using a VPN or Tor I am confronted with the inherent problem with decentralized Internet: it is slower than direct links. That's getting better as the Net speeds up and more relays are made available but it is still noticeable where I live.

I haven't tried Freedom Box because I don't understand it. Whenever I try to figure it out my eyes cross and my mind fogs over. :? I did try Freedom Box on a VM of Debian 10; when tested it with ipleak my location and IP were fully exposed. I guess Freedom Box is not a substitute for Tor.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby NFT5 » 2019-11-10 23:51

@kedeha Yes, a very relevant topic for discussion.

Splitting the the issues and leaving the FOSS debate alone for the moment, this is something that I've also been looking in to. I have real concerns with the ability of any organisation to properly protect my data. Like millions of others, I've been pwned and I'd like to implement ways to reduce this exposure.

I agree that one of the more attractive solutions is to take charge of my own destiny and data. With the right protections in place a home server for data and email seems a much less exposed target. With VPN for access from outside it sounds ideal. Off site backup is a problem I haven't yet looked at.

Fixed IP is the key. I can have this, at a cost which is not exorbitant and probably worth the expense. I think most ISPs offer this although I guess would depend on local situations.

Software. The Debian repos are vast and solutions are there for almost anything. But....with the exception of Freedombox and a couple of proprietary solutions, there isn't much that ties it all together. Echoing debbieanne's post, much of the software requires, IMHO, at least intermediate Linux knowledge/skill levels, so certainly not suitable for novices. Freedombox doesn't yet have an email IMAP hosting solution either, although I see that it is planned.

Hardware. I have about half a dozen desktops that are available and would work, but I like the SBC solution better, both for space and power consumption reasons.

Bottom line is that I'd love to see more threads like this, where we're actually developing the application of Debian, rather than just responding to the endless "my video card won't work / how do i fix my borked FrankenDebian system" questions. I'll contribute what I can to something like this. Thanks kedaha.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby pylkko » 2019-11-11 10:55

Bulkley wrote: I guess Freedom Box is not a substitute for Tor.


No, it's kind of similar to nextcloud and owncloud. A way to adminster your own cloud (something similar to what you can get from, say Google... email, calendar, file storage, sharing this with users, instant messages etc).
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby Bulkley » 2019-11-12 01:45

pylkko wrote:
Bulkley wrote: I guess Freedom Box is not a substitute for Tor.


No, it's kind of similar to nextcloud and owncloud. A way to adminster your own cloud (something similar to what you can get from, say Google... email, calendar, file storage, sharing this with users, instant messages etc).


Thanks for that. I had it all wrong. Listening to Eben Moglen I thought I could use it as a substitute for my ISP, free Internet and all that. Plus, it would hide my on-line activities even better than Tor.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby CwF » 2019-11-12 15:46

It's a humorous thought to decentralize. It's humorous because the idea is so old and so tested. There was a time "before" when I used a modem. It could do point to point, impossible now. I did game with friends by calling them. A few had multiple lines. BBS's had modem banks, a little complicated.
I had the grand idea to offer storage, a few others liked the idea. You could dial in and put a zip file in your directory, 'We' thought of a big server could maybe have hundreds of people sharing stuff, maybe we could make money. We got up to a T1! I built big scsi arrays. Once I had to dial up DTC for some eisa config file, cost like $12 in long distance fees. The music directory got to be bigger than the largest drives available. I was still ahead of the curve. People liked the results of the fraunhofer codec under NT, a codec I had permission to download directly and use. I ripped at 1X on a Vtech 486 with an IBM scsi reader, with a secondary cpu card. SMP before win95 hit the shelves. NT was uber geek back then.

That changed when AOL hit 1M members. It was a simple thing, dial up once for everything. Way better than managing everything ourselves, no long distance fees for many. You could still dial up my storage, but it wasn't in a cloud, but in a closet. That must be secure, I should have called the server Hillary.

I eventually decided it wasn't worth the effort. I never thought I was years into ideas that would be worth billions to some. I'm too honest and pragmatic. I realize you either trust 'them' or you trust me. I think there is a difference, I don't believe you should. I only trust local storage and would give that answer, de-selling my own service. I could only say it's convenient. Now with a multigig sd's for pocket change, the cloud avoids only poor planing. Cloud wasn't a term then, and it's still not a 'new' thing, never was. So I laugh at the idea the 'cloud' is secure. I laugh that a vpn is the way to go. In every solution there is a pinch point of trust.

I worked for a company for a short time typical of then and now. I would update servers with a CD! One night finishing up, with slow satellite data coming in to complete the CD based upgrade, I managed to get a print summary from the server that went on for about a half box of dot matrix paper...hmm, what's this? Pages and pages of customer data, complete with credit card numbers. I know what it is to call the boss's boss's boss a dumbfck. It was a decade before reports of this type of thing started making the news, and it wasn't a print out but a convenient download from the 'cloud'. A few years ago I was on the phone with a job offer only to realize I was talking to the same dumbfck. I clarified who is who? And he remembered me, and highly recommended me. I lasted 6 months before I realized nothings changed.

I guess my point is it will always boil down to that pinch point of trust. Technology will never eliminate it.

We are already on our way to blending in 'point to point' and decentralizing. In the last decade the www is no longer world wide. There are segments. The fragmentation is well under way. Not many have noticed yet. I predict the idea of portals are going to make a minimal comeback and guard these segments. A natural extension would be to 'ppp' to a portal. But that is politically incorrect, the erroneous net neutrality crap will prevent it. My solution from the 90's would now be illegal. In a free world a private portal couldn't possible be legit! 'They' would upload some kitty porn, arrest me, and claim I should have peeked into the data and should have known...

Maybe when this 5G short range mesh is up and running it will be easier to blend in a node without notice. In among the thousand points of access, the thousand points of breach.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby kedaha » 2019-11-12 16:03

Many thanks everyone for all the replies.
NFT5 wrote:@kedaha
Fixed IP is the key. I can have this, at a cost which is not exorbitant and probably worth the expense. I think most ISPs offer this although I guess would depend on local situations.

No, you don't need a static (fixed) IP. See FreedomBox/Manual/DynamicDNS
I'd also add that you don't need to register a domain either because a subdomain with the name of your choice is part of the set-up.
NFT5 wrote:Software. The Debian repos are vast and solutions are there for almost anything. But....with the exception of Freedombox and a couple of proprietary solutions, there isn't much that ties it all together. Echoing debbieanne's post, much of the software requires, IMHO, at least intermediate Linux knowledge/skill levels, so certainly not suitable for novices. Freedombox doesn't yet have an email IMAP hosting solution either, although I see that it is planned.

At present, FreedomBox provides roundcube to work out-of-the-box but does not configure it to work with the given subdomain, which, as you have noted, is planned. I prefer just to wait for it to be implemented because I suppose it will use exim4. I only know how to set up and configure en email system with postfix, postfixadmin, dovecot and roundcube but would prefer to go with the defaults; i.e., to use exim4.
NFT5 wrote:Hardware. I have about half a dozen desktops that are available and would work, but I like the SBC solution better, both for space and power consumption reasons.

You're right. The SBC solution is the best. Keep power consumption to the bare minimum so as not to pay more to the electricity company! However, any old computer or laptop will do. I'm currently using an ancient Acer Aspire One.
Finally, I'd like to encourage anyone interested to have a go and set up their own home FreedomBox home server. One learns most through practice.
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Re: Debian users can and should decentralize the Internet.

Postby kedaha » 2019-11-12 16:13

Bulkley wrote:kedaha, thank you for bringing this to our attention. It is important.

Thank you. The FreedomBox came to my attention as I researched your (which golinux has also referred to above) topic: Eben Moglen: Why Freedom of Thought Requires Attention.
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