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Put the internet back under your control with the FreedomBox

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Privacy is dead
Tonya Hall sits down with Amy Webb, professor at the NYU Stern School of Business and founder of the Future Today Institute, about the 2019 Tech Trends Report and its findings.

On today’s internet, most of us find ourselves locked into one service provider or the other. We find ourselves tied down to Apple, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft for our e-mail, social networking, calendering — you name it. It doesn’t have to be that way. The FreedomBox Foundation has just released its first commercially available FreedomBox: The Pioneer Edition FreedomBox Home Server Kit. With it, you — not some company — control over your internet-based services.

The Olimex Pioneer FreedomBox costs less than $100 and is powered by a single-board computer (SBC), the open source hardware-based Olimex A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 board. This SBC is powered by a 1GHz A20/T2 dual core Cortex-A7 processor and dual-core Mali 400 GPU. It also comes with a Gigabyte of RAM, a high-speed 32GB micro SD card for storage with the FreedomBox software pre-installed, two USB ports, SATA-drive support, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a backup battery.

Doesn’t sounds like much does it? But, here’s the thing: You don’t need much to run a personal server.

Sure, some of us have been running our own servers at home, the office, or at a hosting site for ages. I’m one of those people. But, it’s hard to do. What the FreedomBox brings to the table is the power to let almost anyone run their own server without being a Linux expert.

The supplied FreedomBox software is based on Debian Linux. It’s designed from the ground-up to make it as hard as possible for anyone to exploit your data. It does this by putting you in control of your own corner of the internet at home. Its simple user interface lets you host your own internet services with little expertise.

You can also just download the FreedomBox software and run it on your own SBC. The Foundation recommends using the Cubietruck, Cubieboard2, BeagleBone Black, A20 OLinuXino Lime2, A20 OLinuXino MICRO, and PC Engines APU. It will also run on most newer Raspberry Pi models.

Want an encrypted chat server to replace WhatsApp? It’s got that. A VoIP server? Sure. A personal website? Of course! Web-based file sharing à la Dropbox? You bet. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) server of your own? Yes, that’s essential for its mission.

The software stack isn’t perfect. This is still a work in progress. So, for example, it still doesn’t have a personal email server or federated social networking, such as GNU Social and Diaspora, to provide a privacy-respecting alternative to Facebook. That’s not because they won’t run on a FreedomBox; they will. What they haven’t been able to do yet is to make it easy enough for anyone to do and not someone with Linux sysadmin chops. That will come in time.

As the Foundation stated, “The word ‘Pioneer’ was included in the name of these kits in order to emphasize the leadership required to run a FreedomBox in 2019. Users will be pioneers both because they have the initiative to define this new frontier and because their feedback will make FreedomBox better for its next generation of users.”

To help you get up to speedm the FreedomBox community will be offering free technical support for owners of the Pioneer Edition FreedomBox servers on its support forum. The Foundation also welcomes new developers to help it perfect the FreedomBox platform. 

Why do this?  Eben Moglen, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, saw the mess we were heading toward almost 10 years ago: “Mr. Zuckerberg has attained an unenviable record: he has done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age.” That was before Facebook proved itself to be totally incompetent with security and sold off your data to Cambridge Analytica to scam 50 million US Facebook users with  personalized anti-Clinton and pro-Trump propaganda in the 2016 election.

It didn’t have to be that way. In an interview, Moglen told me this: “Concentration of technology is a surprising outcome of cheap hardware and free software. We could have had a world of peers. Instead, the net we built is the net we didn’t want. We’re in an age of surveillance with centralized control. We’re in a world, which encourages swiping, clicking, and flame throwing.”

With FreedomBox, “We can undo this. We can make it possible for ordinary people to provide internet services. You can have your own private messaging, services without a man in the middle watching your every move.” 

We can, in short, rebuild the internet so that we, and not multi-billion dollar companies, are in charge.

I like this plan.

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BMW iX5 Hydrogen Production Starts, But Don’t Expect To See This Fuel-Cell SUV In Dealerships

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The reality, though, is that even with a small number of BMW iX5 Hydrogen SUVs being produced — using individual fuel-cells supplied by Toyota, but assembled into a stack by BMW using the automaker’s own processes and technologies — the expectation is that hydrogen as a fuel will be predominantly of interest to non-passenger vehicles. Instead, it arguably makes the most sense, BMW suggests, for larger vehicles like medium- to heavy-duty trucks, along with the marine and aviation sectors. We’ve already seen Toyota reveal its plans for such an FCEV truck.

Despite that, and an acknowledgment that battery-electric vehicles will undoubtedly lead in the mainstream, BMW still believes there’s a place for FCEVs. After all, the automaker argues, if the infrastructure is being built to cater for trucks, there’s no reason not to also use it for passenger vehicles like the iX5 Hydrogen.

The results of the small-series production beginning today will be used as technology demonstrators across select regions from spring 2023, BMW says. It’s unclear at this point how many will be built. Depending on the reception and the strengths of the technology, series production of a first model could follow mid-decade, ahead of a potential full portfolio of BMW FCEVs from the 2030s onwards.

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Tesla Set To Deliver The First Semi To Pepsi

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In October, Tesla’s CEO revealed that the production of the Tesla Semi had begun, and it was bound to be delivered today. Tesla has already started the countdown, and we expect the unveiling event to go down at the Nevada factory. The electric truck will be dispatched to Pepsi, which had ordered 100 units. Investor reports that Tesla’s stock price increased by 7.7% on Wednesday, probably in anticipation of Tesla’s Semi first delivery.

Musk tweeted on Saturday that the “Tesla team just completed a 500-mile drive with a Tesla Semi weighing in at 81,000 lbs!” However, considering that Musk said that the company is dealing with supply chain issues and market inflation, it’s unclear if Tesla will stick to the original $180,000 price it intended to sell at when it was announced in 2017. Then again, Tesla offers a cheaper Semi that will be available for about $150,000 — but it can only achieve up to 300 miles at full load capacity. For now, we can only wait until it’s on the road to confirm if the specs match up to what was promised five years ago.  

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Coinbase Joins Elon Musk In Slamming The Apple App Store Tax

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Coinbase complained that Apple’s insistence on its cut unreasonably interfered with its business.

Coinbase’s argument was largely the same as Elon Musk’s, and the basis of Epic Games’ aforementioned lawsuit. According to all of the above, Apple was half of a duopoly: with Google, it controlled the global app marketplace. The “duopoly” part of the argument is pretty much incontrovertible: As of October 2022, both Apple and Google control 99.43% of the global smartphone market between them (via StatCounter). Both get a 30% cut of everyone’s action on its marketplace. From the perspective of Coinbase, that took too much money out of too many elements of its business.

Epic sued over that and, as noted above, won with an asterisk. Apple had restricted in-app purchases, and courts found that anticompetitive, but did require that Apple get a 30% cut of the profits, even though they took place in someone else’s app. In short, according to the Verge, the court said that if you’ve found a way to make money using iOS, you owe Apple 30%, period.

Epic thought in-app purchases should be exempted from the tax. Coinbase thinks elements of the NFT development process — in this case, gas prices to run the processing equipment necessary to mint NFTs — should be exempt from Apple’s app tax. Apple treats all user expenses on an app as in-app purchases and, per the Epic court decision, in-app purchases mean Apple gets a cut.

It’s not a simple problem, and it’s not likely to be solved anytime soon. Stakeholders and regulators have barely begun to integrate cryptocurrency and NFTs into the conventional marketplace. Who gets paid for what is likely to be a conversation for years on end. For now, all that’s certain is that conversation has begun.

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