"NAS with a large number of SATA bays usually cost several hundreds up to thousands of dollars..., but there’s a new a project called GnuBee Personal Cloud 1, that delivers a MIPS Linux system supporting up to six 2.5″ SATA drives for less than $200."
"[GnuBee is] worth supporting, mainly because of [its] links to the Free Software movement ([it] expects to be certified by the stringent FSF label “Respects Your Freedom“, or RYF), but also because [it is a] great project."
"It is a low-cost, low-power, NAS device that runs GNU/Linux and it is claimed to be based on free, libre, and open source software."
The GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 (GB-PC1) is a network-attached storage (NAS) device specifically engineered to run free, libre, open source software (FLOSS). The GB-PC1 has all the functionality of any commercial, proprietary NAS, but at a much lower cost and with the transparency, reliability, and accessibility advantages that come with using FLOSS.
The GB-PC1 can hold up to six 2.5" drives, each up to 15 mm thick
Whether you’re a developer or a digital artist, chances are you have a lot of essential data, from music tracks to application code. So you probably already know that data loss is a fact of modern life, and backing up your data is the surest way to prevent it. You could use an online service for backups, but doing so exposes you and your data to a wide range of privacy, security, legal, and financial risks beyond your control. For example:
All these questions and more make a strong case for using not only a NAS, but a NAS over which you have complete control - a FLOSS NAS! Enter the GnuBee Personal Cloud 1.
The GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 can be used for a wide variety of applications, including:
The GB-PC1 offers increased information security, easier collaboration, and less administrative mess compared with SaaS solutions and other NAS devices.
Top (above) and bottom (below) of the GB-PC1 main board
There are hundreds of NAS devices out there, but none of them except the GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 are designed from the beginning to be open hardware and run FLOSS. The table below shows two of the most comparable NAS devices and how they stack up against the GB-PC1.
|TS-431||DS416slim||GnuBee Personal Cloud 1|
|Chipset||Freescale ARM Cortex A9||Marvell Armada 385||MediaTek MT7621A|
|Speed||1.2 GHz||1.0 GHz||880 MHz (overclocked to 1.2 GHz)|
|Memory||512 MB DDR3||512 MB DDR3||512 MB DDR3|
|Drive Bays||4 x 2.5” or 3.5”||4 x 2.5” up to 12.5 mm drive height||6 x 2.5” up to 15 mm drive height|
|Idle Power||14.84 W||11.63 W||11.64 W|
|Openness||partial software||partial software||hardware schematics + all software|
* Does not include a 12 VDC power supply or 2 GB (or greater) microSD card, but you probably already have those. If not, add $25.
The minimal enclosure design is a major factor in making the GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 small, inexpensive, and energy efficient. Though we love the aesthetic of the enclosure, keep in mind the universal truth about NAS devices: they are best placed near your wireless router and viewed from the command line or web interface.
The fact the mainboard isn’t fully enclosed allows for better airflow and fanless operation (though the mainboard can accommodate a small fan if you want to add one). No fan means much less build up of dirt and dust - few things compare to the inside of a fan-cooled PC that hasn’t been opened in years, whereas we’ve never seen a dirty free-standing printed circuit board assembly.
In addition to the enclosure’s great airflow, its anodized aluminum side plates help dissipate heat away from the mainboard.
The GB-PC1 is compatible with 2.5” drives, which means it has a small physical footprint and can work with a wide variety of SSDs in addition to the usual array of HDDs. The GB-PC1 is not compatible with 3.5” drives, but a future version might be.
We designed the GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 with the Free Software Foundation’s Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification in mind and have already initiated the application process with FSF.
In short, we expect the units shipped to backers to be 100% free of binary blobs. Below is a longer explanation.
In the current prototype, there is exactly one binary blob, but we have a clear path to removing it and plan to remove it before shipping the first production units. In particular, the binary blob is for the ASM1061 PCI-to-SATA bridge. As it turns out, a libre kernel driver for this particular chip was mainlined since our original board design, so it should simply be a matter of removing the associated SPI NOR flash chip and using the kernel driver directly to control the PCI-to-SATA bridge.
Even though we think we’d still qualify for RYF certification if we left the design as is (there’s an exception for secondary embedded processors), we nonetheless fully intend to remove this blob and the associated SPI NOR flash chip.
The GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 can run several popular FLOSS suites for managing routers, NAS devices, or just general computing. These are some of the main suites the GB-PC1 can run:
Yep, the GB-PC1 can run Debian.
The openmediavault project is a Debian-based network-attached storage solution designed for home and small office user who lack deep technical experience or knowledge of setting up and and administering an NAS.
The Linux Embedded Development Environment (LEDE) project is a reboot of the OpenWRT community. We’ve created a GB-PC1 fork of the LEDE project and plan on submitting a patch back to the main project once production of the GB-PC1 is underway. (It is unlikely the LEDE developers would accept a patch for a device not yet in production.)
GnuBee started with a simple idea: instead of hacking commodity hardware, let’s build the toys we want to play with from scratch . We want to show the world what devices running free software can do. The Personal Cloud 1 is our first product, though we have others in the works. If the GB-PC1 is successful, there will be plenty of others to follow!
How do we keep the cost of our devices down? Because we have both Chinese (Xiaoping) and US (Larry) roots, we have some major advantages over other teams. We don’t need to rent expensive living and work space in China (we stay with family!), and we don’t need to hire translators and other go-betweens. We can work directly with vendors and manufacturers. Because we are committed to working only with FLOSS projects, our software development costs are also reduced and distributed.
If the GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 successfully reaches its funding goal and goes to production, we plan to make other variants (e.g., a version compatible with 3.5” drives) and other products (e.g., a wireless router). However, first things first - if you love FLOSS and hardware designed to run it, please support this campaign so we can continue this work!
The PCBs will be fabricated and assembled in Shenzhen, China. The aluminum side plates will require a stamping die for mass production. Shipping to backers will be from Crowd Supply’s warehouse in Portland, Oregon, USA. You can read about shipping policies in The Crowd Supply Guide.
The GB-PC1 bare, unpopulated, printed circuit board
We have worked to minimize the risks. There are no specialized parts in the design, so all the components needed are readily available. The GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 prototypes are running well, and our suppliers have a good record of quality and on-time delivery.
The free/libre software and firmware for the MediaTek MT7621A chipset is mature, with only minor issues remaining.