Indie BOX – Let’s Bring Our Data Home

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Session Topic: Indie Box: Let’s Bring our Data Home!

Tuesday 1D

Convener: Johannes Ernst

Notes-taker(s): Kevin Marks & Ben Werdmuller & Aaron Parecki

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

Find notes from this session here:

Further Notes: Johannes Ernst:

indiebox is a home server for your family to use that connects to the net

crowd funding for Indie Box has started today: #indieweb

Ben Werdmüller:

is taking great notes at on the @indieboxproject

Johannes Ernst:

the internet has become a centralised system. Indiebox is mean to turn that back so you can have your own server

Aaron Parecki:

philips hue lightbulbs also have a server in your house that you can access without their cloud service

Johannes Ernst:

I'd like to run an app against all the devices in my house

we don't have an app that is an IDP app @aaronpk: hey, I have one @johannes_ernst: great lets use it

Received from Ben Werdmuller: Notes by Ben Werdmuller and Aaron Parecki These are permanently hosted at:

Realized that we all made a big mistake back in the day - we let other people use our data.

Indie Box is an effort that allows us to control our data.

Where's our data? Not in the hands of the people - in Facebook, Flickr, Google, YouTube, Dropbox, plus various governments. We need to take our data back home! Indie Box One is a personal cloud server that you place in your home.

Crowdfunding is live as of a few minutes ago. There will be lots of different kinds of hardware, but this is the first one - you take your own server and put your own personal data on that. If your data is your own, you control it. You unplug the server, nobody can access it at all!

Indie Box One (so, there will be many different kinds) has an energy efficient process. Designed to be the first box in from the web - it sits on the wire between your home network and the outside world. It can see everything that happens. In most cases, that would be a privacy violation - except, it's your box! You could run ad blockers on it, Tor if you were so inclined, site blocking for your kids, prevent your IoT devices from phoning home ...

What does it actually do?

  • Runs a firewall, NAT, DHCP, and runs web apps internally and/or externally
  • Auto-administration
  • All code on Indie Box One is FOSS - free and open source software

An actual screenshot. Indie Box includes WordPress, Known, Mailpile, Mediagoblin, Owncloud, Selfoss, Shaarli

Johannes has found himself bookmarking more stuff on the web now that he does it in his private space on his own server, rather than, eg, Delicious

Indie Box also comes with an app store, so you install and get new applications on it

Automatic software upgrades

  • OS, middleware, apps
  • all configuration, db migrations, etc
  • Scheduled offsite backups
  • Hardware monitoring

Audience didn't like that it was online & the first box in from the Internet. Johannes pointing out that it doesn't _have_ to sit there - it's also a DHCP client. Because the box is a DNS server itself, it works, but if you get your DNS from somewhere else, configuration is a little more complicated. But it can do both. There are two hard drives in Indie Box One. They're mirrored, to help mitigate against hard drive failure.

Johannes looked at operating systems for a long time. In the Linux world, there are two "free" distros left: Debian and Arch. Johannes didn't want to tie it to some other company's strategy that wasn't necessarily entirely transparent. Chosen also because it has excellent ARM support - while Indie Box One is x86 based, the software platform works well on ARM, and probably in a year or two Indie Box will be based on ARM.

Audience is worried that automatic updates are a vector for hackers. Johannes points out that, essentially, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't: you'll be hacked if you don't update, too.

Audience asking if the concept is to create a warehouse for your data that bypasses many of the security issues in the wild - "is this just a small cloud for our data? Is that it?" Johannes explaining that, eg, for intra-family communications, there is added security by ensuring that communications never leave your home. You're almost always going via a large siloed provider. If you have your own server, you have this possibility.

Johannes: "what we're trying to do here is turn the Internet inside out. We're trying to put the Internet the way it was, where everyone has their own server." This is particularly interesting wrt the Internet of Things: Johannes has a number of sensor devices in his own home, that right now go via, eg, Heroku. He has a front door sensor that goes via Heroku to let him know that his front door is opening. This makes no sense. Indie Box could fill that role.

Aaron Parecki pointing out that Philips also does this for their connected lightbulbs, ensuring that you have a connected architecture in your home. However, Johannes points out that you end up with multiple base-stations for different providers (although, the audience points out that they are using an open standard to communicate). Indie Box provides a central point in the home.

Audience asking if there's anything about this product that would enhance the user's relationship with third-party services. eg, discussing Spambox, which provides proactive email filtering via IMAP. It'd be cool to run something like that in Indie Box, to intercept IMAP communications and filter out spam.

Johannes says that WordPress and Known will be preconfigured "the indieweb way" - so your content is syndicated to third-party services. This is one way in which your relationship with third-party services is enhanced.

Audience asking about where this relates to the PATRIOT Act! Apparently the laws are very strong about possession of data, where possession is defined as on your body or in your home. The cloud doesn't count. Therefore you have stronger data ownership / privacy protections against the PATRIOT Act with Indie Box than with a cloud service. Johannes would like people to check on the platform and audit it for security & privacy.

Audience asking, if you have 10,000 Indie Boxes, who pays for the electricity? What's the business model? Johannes discusses the app store, and the possibilities to act as a marketplace for third-party apps.

Johannes says that more integrations need to be done. He still needs to port much of his store code from Cloudstore, taking into account things like changing IP addresses (that are less likely to occur on servers in the cloud).

Johannes is keen to ensure that there is no lock-in, because otherwise you don't have full control & ownership. But on the other hand, lock-in is sort of required to run a business (ish). So Johannes is giving a percentage:

A percentage of the purchase price of the box goes towards the operating costs of the infrastructure that keeps the box running (updates, etc)

App store model - indiebox runs the marketplace, handles the billing, software authors get paid and removes hassle from the users.

Audience question - concerned with apps, what privacy agreement you sign, what is stopping apps running on the box from selling data? Do we end up in a sitaution where old data is stuck in the box like old LPs? Are there any protections from malicious apps shipping data elsewhere?

Johannes: if there are 100,000 apps on the app store then there's bound to be mailcious apps, there's no magic. What happens if indiebox implodes and you want to migrate off? Already exists software to migrate one indiebox to another. Even if indiebox goes away, all the open source projects still exist and you can run them elsewhere.

It's not up to any single entity to make this successful. This can be a barn-raising effort.

The Indie Computing Corporation is going to be an uncorporation: no management, none of the trappings of a typical corporation. It's intended to be a vessel for projects like this. It's open entry; if you want to participate, come in and help. If there's money, you can get paid. You have code? Put it on! You want to help make dynamic DNS better? Come talk to me.

Audience worry: Heartbleed was from open source so open source must be bad. There's nothing we can do at indiebox that would have stopped heartbleed. "Open source coders even with their good intentions don't have the resources...." Audience answer: Heartbleed is a success story. There was a problem, it was fixed. j12t: One reason we have an app store ecosystem is to provide money back into the ecosystem for open source apps.

"No more Big-Sites-With-Lots-Of-Secrets-For-Sale - This is how we unbreak the Internet." - Brian Behlendorf

Johannes: "If you have an IDP app, we can include it." Aaron: "I have one!" Johannes: "Of course you do! I want it! -- This is how it works." < Johannes encouraging donations.

Audience question about using Indie Box One in medical IT. Pointing out that it's probably more secure than many places for data. (Same audience member asked about using the apps with smartphones. Potential for interesting use cases involving hospital-hosted data accessed by staff on handheld devices throughout an institution.)

Audience concern about app security, and how you ensure that apps on the box are secure and aren't bad actors with your data. Johannes says it's too early to comprehensively tackle this - it's important to get something running first. Hinted at some sort of signing/app store verified thing. But he also points out that Linux namespaces may offer some interesting possibilities.

Johannes: '"We cannot put all of our eggs in one basket, unless we can watch that basket really well," as Mark Twain said. I am much more comfortable with a Linux box that is mine than anyone else's system.' Intends to seed the ecosystem with technical early adopters, and will work up to an easy-to-use device that is suitable for very non-technical users.

If everything the organization does is transparent, it's very difficult to defraud the public. Johannes is making the Indie Computing Corporation open and uncorporation-ey in order to help people feel secure with the product.

Johannes: email is difficult (he agrees that it's irredeemably broken). But there are possibilities when more people are running boxes that use the same open protocols as Indie Box. You don't have to use email protocols when you know that something else is available and usable. You can eliminate third parties from communications loops, enhancing security and adding new features in the process.