How to run FreedomBox as a VirtualBox VM

If you want to kick the tires of Freedombox before making the purchase, learn how with the help of VirtualBox.

freedomboxhero.jpg
Image: Freedombox

You might have heard of FreedomBox. If not, it's a $100 box you can buy, which allows you to take back control of your internet-based services (See: Put the internet back under your control with the FreedomBox).

With Freedombox, you can run the likes of:

  • Tor
  • BitTorrent
  • Block Sandbox
  • Radicale
  • JSXC Chat Client
  • Ejabbered chat server
  • Roundcube email client
  • IRC Client
  • SIP Server
  • OpenVPN
  • And more

All from within a tiny, self-contained server. For those people who would like to test FreedomBox before making the purchase, the developers made it possible with the help of an image file that can be booted as a virtual appliance in VirtualBox.

SEE: Server deployment/migration checklist (Tech Pro Research)

I want to walk you through the steps of getting that up and running, creating a user account, and installing your first service.

What you need

The only things you need to make this happen are:

  • A running instance of VirtualBox.
  • The Freedombox Image file (downloaded here).

With those two things at the ready, let's make some magic.

Creating the Virtual Machine

  1. Once you download the FreedomBox image file, you need to extract it. Open your file manager of choice, navigate to where you saved the file, right-click the file, and select Extract Here.
  2. With the image extracted, open VirtualBox and start the process of creating a new virtual machine.
  3. When you get to the Hard disk creation window (Figure A), make sure to select Use an existing virtual hard disk file, click the folder button, locate the newly extracted FreedomBox image, and select it.
Figure A

Figure A: Creating a new disk with the FreedomBox image.

Click Create and your virtual machine is ready to configure. You'll want to open the Settings window for the VM and change the Network Adapter from NAT to Bridged (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B: Setting the network adapter so it's reachable on your network.

  1. Click OK when the VM is completely configured.
  2. Start the VM, and you're ready to connect.

Connecting to FreedomBox

Here's where I ran into a hiccup. When you start the VM, you will see a login prompt. You haven't, however, created a user account, and there are no default log-in credentials. What do you do? Because of this, you have no way of knowing the VM's IP address. That's okay because the developers took this into consideration. If you open a browser and point it to https://freedombox it is supposed to automatically find the running service and open a page that allows you to create your first account.

However, when using Firefox, I continually came up against a 403 Forbidden error. It wasn't until I attempted to connect with Chrome that I successfully managed to reach the user creation page, which just asks for a username and password. Create that user, and you can then find yourself on the FreedomBox main page (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C: Welcome to FreedomBox.

  1. With that user created, log into the running VM and locate the server IP address with the command ip a.
  2. Click on the applications link to open the list of services and applications that can be installed (Figure D).
Figure D

Figure D: All the services and applications available for FreedomBox.

  1. Click on one of the services or applications in the left navigation and then, when prompted, click Install (Figure E).
Figure E

Figure E: Installing the Radicale Calendar and Addressbook.

Once the app or service is installed, it's ready to be configured and used. After installing the app, it will be available to use from the FreedomBox main page (Figure F).


Figure F

Figure F: Radicale is now ready to be used.

How you use an app or service depends upon what you install. However, FreedomBox has done an outstanding job of making it obvious what steps are necessary to work with the newly added tool(s).

Must-have for some

The FreedomBox will be a must-have for some users. If you're looking for an incredibly simplified means of running applications and services on your own network at a fraction of the cost of hosting it elsewhere and without allowing anyone to exploit your data, FreedomBox is well worth the $100. Get FreedomBox up and running on your small business or SOHO network and see if it doesn't give you more freedom to do what you need to do, in the way you want to do it.

Also see

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.