With this initial release for Debian Bullseye the Freedombone project changes to a new domain with a new name: LibreServer at libreserver.org. Although the name has changed the goal remains substantially the same - to make it easier to self-host internet services on low cost hardware that you personally own and control. It's about having some place on the internet which is genuinely yours, and where Google or Facebook are not acting as gatekeepers or bridge trolls. Getting back to the idea of the internet as a network of peers with a better balance of power.
The most important changes are as follows:
More sensible versioning: LibreServer [Debian version] release [integer number]
The autonomous mesh version has been dropped. Originally it was hoped that the mesh version would use substantially the same functions as the home server version, but it didn't work out that way. Removing the mesh version simplifies things and keeps the project scope more focused. If there's enough interest then the autonomous mesh could be restarted as its own separate project. There is also some overlap with the Community Networks settings, so some mesh-like capabilities will still exist.
The Zot based apps have been replaced by Roadhouse, which still has nomadic identity but is more oriented towards using the ActivityPub protocol, which has been growing in popularity.
There is now support for running on Raspberry Pi (version 4). The Raspberry Pi is not an ideal platform because it requires some closed non-libre boot files, but it is cheap and ubiquitous. Plus it may be possible to obtain this hardware relatively anonymously with cash in a shop.
Some apps have been deprecated, either because they required proprietary databases or are no longer supported because they didn't upgrade from Python 2 to version 3.
The SearX search and RSS feature within the web admin has been deprecated. This is another simplifying decision which keeps the project easier to maintain.
The initial installation method requires connecting via SSH. Whereas in the last version of Freedombone I was aiming for mainstream adoption I now concede that this was an unrealistic expectation given the current condition of the internet (issues with NAT, locked down routers, increasingly hostile ISPs, etc). The initial SSH setup presumes that the user is a techy or someone with enough motivation to learn the basics of networking. Doing it this way makes the setup more reliable, and if things go wrong it will be more obvious with a better chance of being able to debug problems. Detractors will say "this is just freedom for techies and serfdom for everyone else", but you've got to start somewhere and also retaining independent tech skills at the local level is important. If you outsource skills to centralized organizations then you also cede power.
For the IRC app, miniircd replaces ngirc. More compact and security hardened, with better moderation capability.
“What we have is tech that subordinates human needs to corporate power. You could call that dystopian if you like, but maybe it’s something worse” - McKenzie Wark
Back in 2010 the idea was that anyone with a plug server and a suitably configured Debian stack would be able to have independent communications, flipping the table on Facebook. More than a decade later time has proven that the problem is a tougher one to crack than initial expectations implied. There is now more interest in self-hosting, and more people are doing it, but getting to the point of mass adoption has proven to be elusive mostly due to infrastructural and education hurdles.
This doesn't mean that self-hosting is no longer relevant, but that it is a limited tool. A tactic rather than a panacea. Other complementary initiatives will be required in order to get to a place where networks are no longer monopoly controlled. As indicated in the last release, community networks like Guifinet or NYC Mesh in which the last mile is owned by the people who use it may be an important step. Combine that with open hardware designs and some of the barriers to self-hosting would begin to fall. But this could be a long term struggle throughout the first half of this century, and success is by no means guaranteed.
The alternative to community run networks and services is what we have now, but worse: a world of total surveillance, artificial scarcity and information lockdown. If this is a world we do not want then we ought to be doing something about it. Complaining from the sidelines about the latest BigTech abuses or lobbying slimy politicians is not enough. One way or another, you need to become active.
Installation instructions can be found here. You will need a Raspberry Pi 4 or any x86 machine, such as an old laptop. If you're not installing the onion version then you will need to own a domain name and have a Dynamic DNS account somewhere or an equivalent VPN setup.
At the present time Armbian doesn't have official builds for Debian 11, but once that occurs installing on a single board computer running Armbian will be a viable option also.