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Freenet 0.5 Is Dead

The anonymous publishing, messaging and file sharing network known as Freenet 0.5 is, in my opinion, finally dead.

I first started using Freenet around 2004 a little while before version 0.5 was released.  It was a great idea, one that I consider to be very important in today’s world where “Big Brother” is increasingly snooping into every aspect of our lives.  A world where privacy is getting harder and harder to achieve and maintain.  A world where the anonymity which is an important part of any free society is more and more difficult to achieve.

It was a platform for truly anonymous publishing and blogging that was completely proof against censorship.  You could write anything you wanted and as long as you were careful not to expose details that could identify you, it guaranteed bulletproof anonymity that few (if any) other networks could achieve.

When I finally had a computer with enough capability and an internet connection that could handle the load, I started a permanent Freenet node of my own.  Except for occasional technical or hardware difficulties that node ran 24/7 for well over six years.  I maintained a “Flog” (a Freenet blog) and an index site that used a spider program to search out and maintain a list of links to other Freenet sites.

Then a few years ago the Freenet developers decided that it was time to move from version 0.5 to version 0.7.  A lot of people welcomed this change and migrated to the new version right away.  A lot of other people had an assortment of reasons not to trust the new version and stayed with 0.5.

For several years the two networks, while not compatible, existed side by side.  Many people ran both versions simultaneously, maintaining a presence on both networks.

Sometime around 2010 I began to notice an increasing decline in the number of 0.5 nodes that my node knew about.  Identities on the Frost message boards that I had been acquainted with for years began to go silent.  Never to be heard from again.

It reached the point where the only message boards I could find with activity on them were the ones related to file transfers, used to request files to be inserted into the network and report successful and unsuccessful downloads.

Around 2010 I began trying to convince people that if this 0.5 network were to survive it would need fresh new content.  It would need people to create new Freesites and Flogs and make at least semi-regular updates of those sites.

Eventually I took what I considered a drastic measure.  I obtained copies of the Freenet 0.5 and Frost source code and began learning Java in the little bit of spare time I had in an effort to get development restarted.  I began work on updating Freenet and even published build 5110, the first new build in over two years.  For well over a year I asked Freenet users for any help in this project that they were willing to offer.

In all that time I received all of a mere handful of one time responses.  Attempts to follow up on those responses received absolutely zero followup replies.

Fast forward to today.  In the last five months my node has NEVER been connected to more than one other at a time and that has always been the same node.

I hung in there hoping even then that things would turn around.

They have not.

Two nodes do not make even a fiftieth of a useful anonymous network.  In fact, with only two nodes (at least that I am aware of), anonymity is impossible.

Therefore I have taken it upon myself to declare that based on my observations over the last six months that Freenet 0.5 is dead.

I have shut my node down and will probably not start it back up again.

I know that there will be some who will say that I should just move to the 0.7.x branch of Freenet however at this time I still cannot bring myself to trust it because it’s so-called “darknet” is built on the concept of trusting node operators that you have no real-world reason to trust.  You don’t know them, in the overwhelming majority of cases you’ve never even met them or had any kind of online interaction with them before encountering them on the anonymous network.

Freenet 0.5 may have been left behind in terms of technology but I still think that it has one clear advantage over the current version.  It does not and never has required you to trust another node operator.  In fact it assumes that at any given time there are evil operators attempting to compromise individual users or even the network itself.

In my opinion, an anonymous network cannot rely on a trust based system.  Instead it must assume that there are large numbers of operators, either individually or working together, that are trying to compromise the network and it’s users.  The “darknet” that Freenet’s developers have created does not do this.

Oh I will probably look over and try out the current official version of Freenet from time to time but I’ve got to say.  It just won’t be the same.  By making that split and not maintaining network compatibility with the 0.5 branch, the developers divided Freenet and it’s users in a way that caused a lot of hard feelings and even more distrust.

For quite a while the divisiveness I saw between the two different versions was reminiscent of stories I’ve read about the US Civil war.  It started in 1861 and now, well over a hundred and fifty years later there are still people who are angry about it and distrustful of the descendents of the other side.

In any event.  With the death of Freenet 0.5 anonymity and freedom of speech have been wounded at least a little bit in a time when they are taking enough wounds from big government, big content, big corporations and politicians with their nasty little agendas.

Nice going fellas.

They Should Have Used Freenet


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Wednesday a blogger in Nuevo Laredo that was known on social networking sites only by his nickname – Rascatripas (or Belly Scratcher) became the fourth Mexican blogger since early September to be killed.

According to the news report that I read he helped moderate “En vivo” a site that posts news about shootouts and other illegal activities of the Zetas a narcotics and extortion gang that pretty much controls the city.

His head had been cut off

Why would somebody do this?  The answer to that is in a note that was found with his headless body.

“This happened to me for not understanding that I shouldn’t report on the social networks,”

Simply put, the Zetas were trying to not only shut him up but also to send a message to anyone else that would report on their activities.

In late September another blogger who had also been beheaded was found in the same location.  Earlier that month a man and woman were hung from an overpass.  There was a sign left with them saying that they had been killed because of their activity in social media.

Had they used Fcon they might well all still be alive today.

Using Fcon (freenet classic opennet) they could have posted their information anonymously within the network where it could then have been picked up and re-posted by people operating outside the reach of the Zetas and the corrupt government officials that help them.

so if you’ve ever asked yourself why you should run Fcon, this is one good example.  Had Fcon been large enough and these people had known about it, using it could well have saved their lives and allowed them to continue working to expose the Zetas.

In memory of those murdered for their internet activities trying to expose and stop injustice, Download Fcon and get your node set up today.

Who knows, maybe your doing so will save a life.  Isn’t even the remote possibility of that worth the little bit of effort it takes to set up and run an Fcon node?  I certainly think so.

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FCON FAQ #1 Why Use FCON Instead of Freenet 0.7.5?


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Over the last few years I have seen a number of answers to that question that go in to considerable technical detail but I think that the main reason to use Freenet Classic Opennet (FCON) [which I will refer to as "freenet" or "freenet 0.5"] is a simple trust issue.

You see the current 0.7.5 version is built around the concept of a “darknet”.  In such a darknet your node connects to other nodes that you trust. The problem with this “trust based” connection system is that when it comes right down to brass tacks you have absolutely no reason to trust most if not all operators of other nodes.

It is unlikely in the extreme that you have met any of them or that you ever will.  Even if you do manage to meet even one, it is extremely unlikely that you will spend enough time with them and get to know them well enough to decide they are trustworthy enough to connect to them in 0.7.5′s darknet.

Basing security on trust is all fine and dandy if you have some basis on which to determine an acceptable reason to trust any particular operator but with an anonymous system like freenet there is zero basis on which to determine trust to a degree that is acceptable for such a system.

Freenet 0.5 however doesn’t work that way.  The system does NOT ask you to assume that you can trust any node operator.

It is better to assume that there are “bad guys” using the network that would, given the opportunity, compromise anyone’s anonymity and determine what files a given person is inserting into or requesting from the network.

By not basing any of it’s security on the concept of trusting other node operators Freenet 0.5 has a clear advantage over 0.7.5.

To install Freenet 0.5 simply follow these five easy steps

Once you have it installed it is a very good idea to install Frost which is a text messaging system similar to Usenet that operates within freenet.  Freenet help can be had on the “newbie-help”, “public” and “freenet” boards on Frost.

You can also publish an anonymous website using the Freesite Insertion Wizard that, as long as you are careful not to include identifying information, will be 100% anonymous.  Also, another advantage of publishing on freesites (websites that exist entirely within freenet 0.5) is that you don’t have to pay for hosting or a domain name and you can for the most part make this site as large as you want.  (there’s *some* limitations but you could easily have a freesite that is made up of dozens, even hundreds of pages of text and images.)

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Having recently announced the release of build 5110, the first new build of Freenet Classic Opennet (FCon) in well over two years it has occurred to me that it would be a good idea to put together a brief walkthrough of the installation process.

Because I’m a windows user and have never installed it on a Linux machine these directions are specifically for windows.  When I am able to I’ll do another walkthrough for Linux.

Freenet’s hardware requirements are, in modern terms, pretty mild.

Minimum:

400MHz Pentium 2, with at least 192MB of RAM.

Recommended:
1GHz or more processor with 256MB RAM or more.

As you can see most modern computers will far exeed these requirements.

*Note*

Back around 2004 I actually managed to run freenet on a 200mhz Pentium with only 64mb of ram running Windows 98.  It was very slow and sluggish but it worked enough to view freesites or use FIW to insert new editions of freesites

On my laptop with a 2.1ghz cpu and 2gb of ram I am able to run Freenet while running cpu intensive tasks like rendering high definition video and neither process will suffer any noticeable performance drop at all.

These steps should work the same on Windows 98, xp, and seven.  Windows Vista will probably be more of a pain but I don’t have a vista machine to test on.

1 get or already have Java JRE 7 from http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/index.jsp

2 download the distribution archive at this url:

http://peculiarplace.com/freenet/downloads/freenet-0.5-build-5110.zip

and extract the archive to c:\freenet (or whatever directory you want.  I’m using c:\freenet for this example.)

3 use a plain text editor like notepad to edit flaunch.ini change the JavaExec= and Javaw= lines to point to where java.exe and javaw.exe are located. If you used the default install they will probably be in C:\Program Files\Java\jre1.7\bin\

4 edit freenet.ini

*note* remove the % from the beginning of any line you edit or freenet will ignore the change

You only need to edit these entries:

ipaddress=

If freenet cannot determine your IP address by itself, you will need to set it here.

listenport=

the port number that freenet will use to listen for incoming connections from other freenet nodes. You can change this to any number you like as long as it’s higher than 1024 and lower than 65535.  Do not use the same port number as another application

storeSize=

The size of the local data store.  The more space you allocate here the better.  It defaults to one gigabyte (1G) however you can increase this to however much space you can spare.

At this point you can save freenet.ini and close the editor.  It’s very likely that you could never need to edit this file again.

4-a make sure that incoming TCP traffic on listenport is forwarded to the computer freenet is running on (see your router or firewall docs for how to do this)

4-b optional (but very convenient), get a http://dyn.com/dns/dyndns-free/ domain name & use dynupdate to keep it pointed at your IP address, then put that name in ipaddress in freenet.ini

5 create a shortcut to “freenet.exe” and put it on your desktop, program menu or if you want freenet to start when the computer boots, put the shortcut in the “StartUp” entry of the program menu.

Double click on the freenet.exe shortcut to start freenet.  When Freenet starts, you’ll see the blue rabbit icon in your system tray by the clock.  Right-Click on it to start and stop Freenet.

To open the Freenet web interface you can either double click on the rabbit icon in the system tray, right click and select “open gateway” or just type http://127.0.0.1:8888 into your web browser.

*NOTE* The “Configure” option on that right click menu will try to run a utility called “Nodeconfig.exe” You are infinitely better off to simply stop freenet temporarily and edit freenet.ini yourself instead.  In most cases editing that file will be a VERY rare need.  Once Freenet is working you may well never need to edit it.

Because in my experience the “Nodeconfig.exe” utility has caused more problems than it’s worth by overwriting perfectly good freenet.ini files when all I wanted to do was tweak a setting I have elected not to include it in this distribution.

As a result, clicking “configure” will result in an error message because the program isn’t there.  Just dismiss the error message and use a plain text editor like notepad to edit freenet.ini directly.

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Updating My Freenet Site – A Project Within A Project


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Since I’ve gotten started working with the Freenet 0.5 source code and getting ready to create a new build of freenet 0.5 I’ve realized that it’s going to be necessary to do some serious updating to my freenet page.

After giving it a lot of thought I have decided that what I’m going to do is set up a WordPress blog on that site and take advantage of the fact that WordPress really is a great Content Management System.  One that allows content to be very easily organized and updated.

What I’ll do is start getting the initial content written and the layout and I’ll do the design of the blog done on a separate test blog.  When I have enough content ready I’ll install the blog, apply the customized theme and start loading the pre-written content into it.  This way I can have the new site almost totally made ahead of time and the changeover from the current freenet site to the new blog-based layout in no more than a few hours.

I will, of course, be announcing on this blog when the site update is ready.

Technorati Tags: content management system, wordpress, blog, fcon, update, new site layout, freenet 0.5, freenet, blog based site, cms, new site


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