Saturday, January 19, 2013

WiFi + USB Drive = Your Own Mini-Internet (Freedom)

Tony Cartalucci, Contributor
Activist Post

Worried about draconian Internet laws? Creeping surveillance? The inability to share with others without being criminalized? The Internet is still a tool of tremendous power, but a deep rot has set in. We have caught it early and we are fighting to stop this rot, but there are other options we can begin exploring to hedge our bets, enhance our current efforts of fighting against corporate monopolies, and eventually, build an Internet of the people, by the people, for the people - big-telecom monopolies not welcomed.

Image: The PirateBox in use on a handheld device. Once the PirateBox is up and running, either on a standalone device like the one pictured to the right (background), or on your laptop as described here, it will appear as another WiFi network for people in range to connect to. Once connected files can be freely shared, and there is even a chat client users can communicate with. It is just as useful as a file server for a small business, as it is for circumventing the draconian criminalization of Internet file sharing.

In last week's "Fighting Back Against the "Intellectual Property" Racket," the "PirateBox" was introduced. The PirateBox transforms a laptop, router, or single board computer into a mini-Internet hub where files can be freely shared, and even features a chat program so users can communicate.

It is a lite version of the mesh networks described in December 2012's "Decentralizing Telecom" where independent mesh networks featured many software alternatives to emulate popular online programs such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and others. The PirateBox is an introductory project anyone with a WiFi adapter and a USB thumbdrive can do on their own with a little motivation and an hour to experiment.


In a busy office, a PirateBox can serve as a simple local wireless file server and chat client. In an apartment complex, it can become the center of a social experiment, an opportunity to reach out to neighbors and organize constructively, or just for fun - building badly needed local communities back up.

Instructions for perhaps the easiest of PirateBox's implementations can be found on blogger, designer, and activist David Darts' website here. The instructions are nearly foolproof, and a lot of the common problems ran into are described and their solutions linked to throughout the explanation.

The PirateBox does not connect to the Internet, nor does it operate from your hard drive. It works entirely on the USB thumbdrive you install it on, simply using your computer's WiFi to network all who are in range.

Ideally you'd want to make a dedicated, standalone PirateBox to serve your space, office, and neighbors. A great place for beginners to embark on this is at your local hackerspace. If you don't have a local hackerspace, look into starting one up.

Protesting is important, but protesting alone will not stem the problem at its source. The rot will continue to spread unless we develop tangible tools to pragmatically excise it and repair the damage it has already done.

The problem of corporate monopolies ensnaring and subjugating us through their telecom monopolies can and is being solved by solutions like mesh networks, the PirateBox, and the onward march of open source software and hardware, simply displacing proprietary products and services. The best way to ensure success is to have as many informed and constructive people as possible join in the problem-solving process.

Since posting about the PirateBox, LocalOrg has received several success stories of people who have either already been using it, or have looked into it, prompting this follow up. Continue sharing your success, and if you would like, contact us and have them covered here on LocalOrg.

Tony Cartalucci's articles have appeared on many alternative media websites, including his own at Land Destroyer Report, Alternative Thai News Network and LocalOrg. Read other contributed articles by Tony Cartalucci here.



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13 comments:

Anonymous said...

By "mini-internet," I think the author meant to say "local area network (LAN)." An (mini)internet-hub would probably require having some sort of a link to, you know, the internet.

Anonymous said...

Well, "internet" is pretty much universally recognized, whereas "LAN" is still restricted to those more-or-less "in the know" technically.

djohnston said...

It's not a question of "technical terms". It's a question of access. PirateBox is for sharing files among LOCAL USERS. Because the PirateBox is not connected to the world wide web, only people within close physical proximity of the PirateBox device itself can share files. Big difference and smaller audience.

Chris said...

How is this any different from using a router?

For example, I've got a wi-fi router set up in my house. I've got 3 computers, all connected to the router, which can share files, play games together, and even print off of the 1 computer on the network that has a printer attached.

No internet involved whatsoever. Just electricity. :P

Seriously though, what's the big deal since routers have been doing this for ever? Is it the bundled apps? The ease of use (because admittedly setting up a LAN on a router isn't trivial)?

Take care.

Anonymous said...

mini-internet = mini internet. Not "LAN", local mesh. The whole point is NOT to be connected to the actual Internet that is controlled, monitored, and being increasingly restricted - and instead - replace it with one of our own making and design. Gee, by looking at some of the comments, I'd say we're in bigger trouble in terms of education than I thought.

djohnston said...

"mini-internet = mini internet. Not 'LAN', local mesh."

As Chris has pointed out, the PirateBox is still just a wireless router running on a dedicated hardware router, single-board computer, laptop, or mobile phone. You can see the particulars of the setup written by the inventor here: http://daviddarts.com/piratebox/?title=PirateBox. As far as I know, there is not yet a method of wirelessly connecting one PirateBox to yet another PirateBox.

Let's look at the definition of "internet". At http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Internet it is defined as "a vast computer network linking smaller computer networks worldwide". Let's forget the "worldwide" portion for a moment and concentrate on the rest. An internet consists of "smaller computer networks" (plural, more than one). If the PirateBox is a stand alone "local mesh", then it is, by definition, a Local Area Network. To create an alternate internet, you need to connect two or more "local mesh" PirateBox networks to each other.

"Gee, by looking at some of the comments, I'd say we're in bigger trouble in terms of education than I thought."

Define "in terms of education", Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Now, can we make it so the individual local nets can mesh with each other?

djohnston said...

Well, there are a few projects already. They are mostly big name commercial ones like Texas Instruments, Cisco, Honeywell, etc. There is at least one DARPA project and more than one NATO project. But, those are inadvisable and out of reach for most of us, anyway.

There is already a promising project called FabFi which "is an open-source, FabLab-grown system using common building materials and off-the-shelf electronics to transmit wireless ethernet signals across distances of up to several miles." You can find information about the project here: http://fabfi.fablab.af/ .

There is also an article on the setup they helped to build in Jalalabad, Afghanistan here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1761891/afghanistans-amazing-diy-internet . The Jalalabad main components were built out of trash found locally.

The problem of node redundancy, as well as how full mesh and partial mesh topologies work is partially explained here: http://www.rutronik.com/index.php?id=59&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=1643&tx_ttnews[backPid]=120&cHash=147c6405f9 .

Anonymous said...

djohnston - everything you just said was mentioned in the above article. Even the link you provided. Did you actually read the article and follow the links?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a basic router with LAN settings. Whats the big deal?

djohnston said...

"Did you actually read the article and follow the links?"

Yes, anonymous, I actually "read the article" and followed the links. This is a subject I've been interested in for a while now.

"everything you just said was mentioned in the above article. Even the link you provided."

I'm glad you cleared that up. Assuming you are referring to the comment I made on January 19, 2013 at 8:36 PM, I actually linked to a different page on David Darts' website than the page Tonly linked to. How shameful, deceptive and misleading of me to try and steal Tony's thunder like that. I should be ostracized and severly chastised.

http://daviddarts.com/piratebox/?title=PirateBox != (does not equal)
http://forum.daviddarts.com/read.php?2,3046

Anonymous said...

So it's like a file sharing website, only it's a network?

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Commies.

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