PirateBox and FreedomBox

misc #fsfe #selfhosting #freedombox #piratebox #debian #arch #linux #talk
Estimated time to read: 3 min.
Sa 11 November 2017

Last Thursday at the local FSFE group meeting in Berlin, we had a small introductory talk about the PirateBox and the FreedomBox projects. Both projects are about self-hosting, running on cheap hardware (like the RaspberryPi), but both have very different scopes.


The PirateBox is an Arch/Linux based project with ISO images for RaspberryPi and OpenWRT routers, as well as Android systems. It provides everything you need to share files, chat and communicate in a forum, online but off the grid (aka world-wide-web).

PirateBox is a DIY anonymous offline file-sharing and communications system built with free software and inexpensive off-the-shelf hardware.

Once the PirateBox image is put on a SD card and the system is booted, the RaspberryPi (I’ve only used it on a Pi, but I assume the same holds true for OpenWRT routers) is turned into a wireless access point (AP). You can access it like any other AP, choose the SSIDPirateBox - Share freely” from the list of networks present and open the page piratebox.lan in a browser.

Before you start looking around at the content of the PirateBox, you should have a look at the installation instructions and setup the features of the box you want to use.

PirateBox landing page

What you fill find is a landing page, with a chat window, a box to upload files and some short intro text. At the top of the page you’ll also find links to the so far uploaded files and a forum. And that is about it.

I’m using the PirateBox, in a slightly modified setup (that will get its own entry here later), as information hot-spot for leaflets and other stuff at booth of the FSFE at various occasions. We simple don’t always carry all translations of the leaflets with us, or the last one about the topic we just talked about was taken by the last visitor of the booth. Alongside with the Pi, in a small paper-box decorated with FSFE stickers, I usually carry a powerbank with be which holds enough power to run the Pi for 8h or so. So we don’t even need power access at the booth, making the information available at outdoor locations as well.

I can think of teachers making some materials available for their students during the lecture, without having to put them on some public web-page. Or a communication hot-spot for a cafe, restaurant or hackerspace.

In case you want to access the content on the SD card. Have a look at the /opt/piratexbox directory. Everything that is uploaded to the PirateBox and that is used to provide the services and the configuration is located there.


The FreedomBox aims towards a different scope. Not hosting offline, but online from your home where your have control over the server. It is Debian based, and aims to be dead simple, for everybody to use.

The concept “FreedomBox” was coined by Eben Moglen, founder and director of Software Freedom Law Center, at a speech he made at the annual Debian conference in 2010, where he challenged developers to put into a box the privacy-preserving server parts of Debian and make it dead simple to use for non-technicians.

I have not used the FreedomBox myself but from what I saw on Thursday it looks like they can reach that goal. The interface of the FreedomBox really looks like something everybody can use. Some basic configuration, where I think the dynamic DNS resolution to a memorably domain name will be the biggest problem. And then one can select what services one wants to host at home. Stuff like OpenVPN, chats, blogs, calendar and contact syncing services and so on…

The FreedomBox runs everywhere Debian runs at. They provide guides on how to install and download on their page.

Happy hacking :-)

Because, we know there is no cloud just other people computers.

There are no recordings of the evening, but the slides are online.

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november 2017


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