FriendlyStack | Reclaim your Desk
Finally Paperless and Beyond...
FriendlyStack | Reclaim your Desk
Finally Paperless and Beyond...
Hi I'm Dimitri, I'm the creator of FriendlyStack and founder of Friendly River LLC.
Sorting, filing and searching paper is boring work…
I’ve created FriendlyStack because I couldn’t find a commercial solution that would take care of all the boring work, without adding more boring work.
For me, developing FriendlyStack was an opportunity to turn boring work into exciting work. For you FriendlyStack is the opportunity to eliminate boring work and focus on whatever makes you happy!
FriendlyStack is a Network Appliance for managing physical and electronic documents as well as photos and videos. Like other appliances (think of a photocopier or a toaster) FriendlyStack is designed to fulfill its purpose as simply and efficiently as possible. FriendlyStack was designed with lazy people in mind. Managing your stuff with FriendlyStack is effortless and doesn’t require a PhD in Computer Wizardry (this is why FriendlyStack's Control Unit has just one button).
Despite being supercharged with the 21st century’s latest tech, FriendlyStack dares to be different: FriendlyStack is not a cloud solution! FriendlyStack stores your data locally right there in the box you see, own and control. This is data privacy you can touch!
Nevertheless, FriendlyStack offers the flexibility of a cloud solution: you can interact with FriendlyStack using virtually any smartphone, tablet, notebook or PC connected to your home network. All you need is a Web browser to interact with FriendlyStack and access your stuff. If you can remotely connect to your home network (through a VPN for example) then you have access to all your documents, photos and videos, where ever your journey takes you!
Unlike cloud solutions, there is no recurring service fee. You own the hardware FriendlyStack runs on and you own FriendlyStack as it is Open Source!
FriendlyStack consists of three components: the FriendlyStack Control Unit, a dedicated computer with some smart software (acts as a server that stores, encrypts and retrieves your data) as well as a document scanner. As an appliance FriendlyStack plays nicely along with Macs, Windows and even Linux. FriendlyStack is scalable and affordable as its hardware requirements flexibly adapt to your budget and your performance needs.
You can turn almost any PC into a FriendlyStack appliance. All you have to do is starting that computer from a USB stick and let the installation do its magic.
You know that backing up your data is important...
...but let's face it, it's cumbersome and you are too lazy to do it regularly!
FriendlyStack makes doing Backups as simple as this: just plug in an external USB drive and touch a button. That's it, FriendlyStack will do the rest.
Yes, there are people that walk into other people's houses and steal things. Since you regularly backup your FriendlyStack you won't loose much data. You don't want however some thug accessing your personal stuff...
Keep calm: once powered off, FriendlyStack is locked and encrypted! Unless the NSA is after your vacation photos, it's highly unlikely that anyone will be able to access your data...
Who would have guessed, that paper can be such an effective way to get paperless? Smart Cover Sheets are equipped with a QR-Code to tell FriendlyStack what to do with the paper stack bellow them. There are three kinds of cover sheets that can be combined in any way you like:
A Document Separator Cover Sheet, that will tell FriendlyStack to create a new file for all pages until the next cover sheet (any type of cover sheet).
A Single Sheet Cover Sheet, that will tell FriendlyStack to create a new document for every sheet of paper (single or double sided) under this cover sheet.
A Document Routing Cover Sheet, that will tell FriendlyStack to store all pages under this cover sheet in a specific folder.
Sounds complicated? It isn't, just check out this example:
FriendlyStack gives you seamless access to all your documents, regardless of media type. Therefore, FriendlyStack does not only handle paper but also electronic documents as well as photos and videos.
FriendlyStack acts as a file server (like a NAS device). Just use your favorite file manager to create a folder structure that suits your needs and copy, edit, move or delete your files as you like. FriendlyStack will keep track of everything and ensure you will find your electronic documents alongside your digitized paper documents.
FriendlyStack Currently supports the following file formats:
- Electronic Documents: pdf, doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt, pptx, vsd, vsdx, vdx
- Photos: raw,rw2,raw2, jpg, jpeg, png, bmp
- Videos: avi, mp4, mts, mov
Did you ever print a web page or email to keep for future reference? Obviously you could use FriendlyStack to digitize these printouts, but FriendlyStack can do better than this: for every folder in FriendlyStack you can create a virtual printer. Whatever you print to these printers will end up as PDF file in the corresponding folder.
Apart from, working with every application that supports printing, virtual printers are also a convenient shortcut for lazy people: instead of using the "save as PDF" feature that some applications offer, you can directly print to a specific folder. This way you can avoid clicking your way through your folder structure.
Finding stuff on FriendlyStack is as simple as using your favorite search engine. Just type in keywords associated with what you are looking for and you will be presented with a preview of the associated documents or multimedia files. The keywords can be present within documents, paths and filenames.
So far so good, but FriendlyStack takes it further: FriendlyStack allows you to use semi structured queries*:
Photos Summer 2016
Will find all the Photos taken in summer 2016!
*Currently supported in English and German
FriendlyStack is built around a modular design concept. This allows you to flexibly adapt the choice of key components to your budget and your performance needs. FriendlyStack consists of three main components...
The FriendlyStack Control Unit is FriendlyStack’s interface to the physical world. With just one button (touch sensor) it is simple to use and looks attractive. The round case is made of a translucent material glowing in various colors to tell you what is going on with FriendlyStack.
FriendlyStack's "brain" consists of some smart software that is installed on a dedicated computer. FriendlyStack will work on most computers. Your choice will depend on your budget, your performance requirements, power consumption (FriendlyStack will most likely run 24h per day) and maybe aesthetics (yes, some computers are prettier than others)...
This computer will be used exclusively for FriendlyStack and will work as a server. There is no need to connect a display, keyboard or mouse. All interactions take place through the FriendlyStack Control unit and FriendlyStack's web interface that can be accessed with a smartphone, tablet, notebook or desktop computer.
If you are looking for a budget solution then consider an older used computer. Most 3-4 year old computers offer more than adequate performance for FriendlyStack and are available for little money. Maybe FriendlyStack will breathe some new life into that old dusty PC you were just about going to throw away...
Minimal Hardware Requirements:
- CPU: Intel compatible, 64 Bit, Support for SSE instructions, at least two cores (while all of this sounds very technical, most of today's and yesterday's CPUs can check all boxes).
- RAM: One Gigabyte per CPU core but at least 4 Gigabytes.
- Hard Disk: 300 Gigabyte or larger.
- Ethernet Interface (remember: FriendlyStack is a network appliance)
- At least three USB 2.0 ports (USB 3.0 or never will speed up backup and restore)
FriendlyStack will work with every document scanner (or multifunction device) that satisfies all of the following:
- Automatic Document Feeder
- Duplex Scanning
- USB Connection
- Linux Drivers (support for Ubuntu 16.04)
In order to actually work with FriendlyStack, the scanner drivers need to be integrated and distributed with FriendlyStack (so you can just plug it in and start scanning away). Currently the following scanners are working out of the box with FriendlyStack:
We plan to support more scanners at the launch of FriendlyStack and add additional scanners based on demand. Start nagging the manufacturer of your scanner to pledge for FriendlyStack (see the corresponding rewards) if your favorite scanner is not yet supported (alternatively, if you are familiar with Linux, you can install the drivers by yourself).
FriendlyStack is the result of a long process. The original idea dates back more than 10 years ago. The required technology was just not there yet or plain and simply to expensive. About three years ago I decided to give it another try and started what would become FriendlyStack.
After an initial implementation, FriendlyStack started to unfold and evolve to the point where I finally was able to digitize all my paper files. Somehow I got carried away by the concept and started to optimize the solution by looking out for and eliminating all the annoying tasks.
The result was a truly useful system that was begging to be shared with the world. Turning FriendlyStack into a product however was complicated by my own creativity. Whenever I had a working prototype, I came up with several ideas on how to make it better, leaner or more attractive. So month after month passed and the prototypes started piling until I was satisfied (and my family was running out of patience).
Where are we right now?
After several iterations of design prototypes for the FriendlyStack Control Unit there is finally a manufacturing prototype suitable for production. A first round of fully assembled printed circuits has already been manufactured externally (so far assembling surface mount PCBs myself was a way to spend my evenings). The whole FriendlyStack Control Unit can now be produced within reasonable time and cost. We are currently evaluating a manufacturer for producing the electronics in scalable quantities at good value.
The FriendlyStack Control Unit's case is produced via polyamide SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) 3D printing. Injection moulding would be more cost effective for large quantities, but SLS gives more design flexibility and I really love the way the textured surface feels and spreads the light. I have evaluated several SLS 3D Printing providers and am currently negotiating prices for larger quantities.
The software is feature complete and is being used by field testers and by myself. While there is always something to add or improve, I am now focusing on the final touches.
What You might wanted to ask:
Was FriendlyStack developed in a garage?
I’m afraid I have to disappoint you. Against common practice, this piece of technology was developed in a comfortable chair in the smallest room of the house as well as in my laundry (which doubles as a lab and a workshop AND is actually next door to the garage).
Why is FriendlyStack Open Source?
FriendlyStack itself makes heavy use of Open Source. Without the brilliant work of many Open Source projects, it would have been impossible to build FriendlyStack in so little time at such low cost. Therefore making FriendlyStack Open Source is one way of giving back to the community. Additionally, as you going to manage your personal information with FriendlyStack, it makes sense that you can check for yourself what FriendlyStack does with your data - no secrets!
Last but not least, I do not have the funds, time or motivation to file and enforce patents for any intellectual property I might have created with FriendlyStack. I rather put everything in the public domain so everyone can use and adapt FriendlyStack as they see it fit.
Trademark Legal Notice
All product names and brands are property of their respective owners. All company and product names used in this text are for identification purposes only. Use of these names and brands does not imply endorsement.
FriendlyStack is a registered trademark of Friendly River LLC in Switzerland and/or other countries, all other trademarks cited herein are the property of their respective owners.
Due to the inclusion of some scanner drivers that are subject to U.S. export control laws and regulations, the FriendlyStack Starter Kit can not be shipped to any country, person, or entity subject to U.S. and any applicable export restrictions.
Risks and challenges
After almost three years of development and testing, FriendlyStack is a real product that is being used by field testers and myself. Therefore there are only limited risks regarding FriendlyStack's functional viability. We are currently optimizing the Control Unit for easy manufacturing and assembly. This involves evaluating manufacturing partners for the electronics (a first production run of fully assembled boards has already been completed).
In order to be sold in the EU and the US the FriendlyStack Control Unit has to receive the appropriate markings (CE and FCC). Unexpected surprises during the corresponding lab test could delay production.
Final assembly and testing will be done by myself here in Switzerland. Having a full time job as an engineer and project manager, severely limits my time budget for FriendlyStack. While I'm well familiar with the perils of getting projects done, the limited time I can dedicate to this project is the main risk for delays. For this reason I waited till I have a working product before launching this campaign.
Last but not least I have to resit introducing new features and improvements in the final product (have you noticed the prototypes? This is so much more fun than the paperwork required to get FriendlyStack launched)...
- (42 days)