Part 1: Beginning

Before we begin

FreedomBox Service (Plinth) is a web interface built using Python3 and Django. FreedomBox apps are simply Django applications within the project. Hence, for the most part, writing a FreedomBox app is all about writing a Django application.

You should start by reading the Django tutorial. All the concepts described there are applicable for how FreedomBox and its apps are be built.

Picking an app

We must first, of course, pick an application to add to FreedomBox. For the purpose of this tutorial, let us pick Transmission. Transmission daemon handles Bitorrent file sharing. BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol.

Important

Choosing an app

When choosing an application we must make sure that it respects users’ freedom and privacy. By choosing to use FreedomBox, users have explicitly made a choice to keep the data with themselves, to not provide privacy compromising data to centralized entities and to use Free Software that respects their Software Freedom. These are not properties of some of the applications in FreedomBox but all applications must adhere to these principles. Apps should not even ask the users questions to this effect, because users have already made a choice.

Packaging the application

Majority of the effort in creating an application for FreedomBox is to package it for Debian and get it uploaded to Debian repositories. Going through the process of packaging itself is outside the scope of this tutorial. It is, however, well documented elsewhere. You should start at the Debian Packaging Portal.

Debian packaging might seem like an unnecessary process that takes time with its adherence to standards, review process, legal checks, etc. However, upon close examination, one will find that without these steps the goals of the FreedomBox project cannot be met. Some of the advantages of Debian packaging are listed below:

  • Legal check ensures that proprietary licensed code or code with bad licenses does not inadvertently creep in.

  • Libraries have to be packaged separately easing security handling. When a security vulnerability is identified in a library, just the library will have to be updated and not all the applications that depend on it.

  • Upgrades become smoother. The dependency handling of the packaging system, configuration handling tools, tools to deal with various types of well known files help with ensuring a proper upgrade.

  • Collaborative maintenance teams ensure that the package is well cared for even if you get busy with other work and can’t spend time on your package. Following standards and using common infrastructure is critical to enable this development methodology.