As the internet matures, governments –spooked by the rapid pace distributed information turns into distributed power- draft legislation after legislation to restrict the free flow of information in the name of copyright enforcement.
The internet community quite enjoying the destabilizing effects of global connectivity on the status quo fights any attempt at restriction tooth and nail. Organizing themselves both on- and offline to stop anti-piracy laws from passing they successfully killed SOPA and PIPA while the battle over ACTA still rages on.
But it wouldn’t be the internet community if people weren’t working on technological solutions as well.
Hackers, engineers and freedom-loving folk are working to create a decentralized, independent network where you can’t stop the signal.
The social news site Reddit has a subreddit dedicated to creating a mesh network operating independently of a central supporting infrastructure called darknetplan. A Redditor going by the handle isit2amalready posted the results of a DIY project building a solar powered Wikipedia Server/messaging service, a setup that can operate independent of traditional ISP’s and power utilities.
1. 30 watt monocrystalline solar panel
2. 30 Amp solar charge controller (supports up to 450 watts).
3. Watt’s Up DC electricity consumption meter to measure actual watts / peak watts / amps going to the battery.
4. 85 Amp hour deep-cycle battery
5. Another Watt’s Up meter to measure actual DC load coming off the battery.
6. 400 watt DC-to-AC inverter
7. AC Kill A Watt electric usage monitor to measure / compare AC/DC conversion loss and track total hours / watts consumed
8. Buffalo Wifi router with custom WRT firmware to redirect connected devices to the wifi to server
9. Small web server running Debian, hosting a text-only offline version of Wikipedia, a web-based messaging system. (Modified NSLU2)
• Total operating electricity consumption: ~10 watts.
• Total cost in parts: ~$480 (including misc cabling and connectors)
• Given 5 hours of sun the setup can generate about 150 Wh, and, factoring inefficiency, consumes about 240 Wh in a given 24 hour period (10 * 24). Starting with a fully charged battery it should last longer than a week straight meeting my requirements.
The NSLU2 NAS-device runs Linux and consumes 5 watts. The Wikipedia database is stored on a 16 GB USB flash drive. It doesn’t hold all of Wikipedia but only 5500 articles without images because the entire site including images amounts to multiple terabytes.
Besides being a portable Wikipedia server, the setup also works as a simple text-based messaging tool. People can connect to the server with their phones to leave each other messages.
Other Redditors responded with advice about bringing down power usage by using a Rasperberry Pi and eliminating the DC > AC inverter.
The incentive for isit2amalready to build the setup was to provide connectivity at the Burning Man festival where there is no cell phone or internet connection so that the indispensable Wikipedia knowledge trove can be searched on site. And to provide a messaging tool for people who lost sight of their friends in the melee. But, isit2amalready adds, ‘If this will work at Burning Man, it will work in Kalahari in southern Africa. Know what I mean?’
Edit: isit2amalready pointed out that the current iteration of the Wiki database holds 5500 articles including images.