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[liberationtech] Creating a Pirate FM Radio

Mick McQuaid mcq at umich.edu
Sun Mar 6 13:16:08 PST 2011


Oh, yes, I admit I was speaking speculatively and that  I
did not take your 5000USD budget into account in thinking
about that.  Differences in the availability and market
prices of used transmitters between nations / continents may
vary, and a quick check of ebay showed me that Greece is
vastly cheaper than the US for transmitters.
I also have no idea whether it is realistic to draw 500kW
power without the authorities noticing or whether the local
infrastructure would even support it.

Likewise, it never would have occurred to me that you might
place a high-power transmitter within a rural area inside
the nation.  Isolation would seem to make it easier for
hostile forces to locate a transmitter.  Instead, it
seems like a better strategy might be to put extremely low
power transmitters directly in the middle of protests, since
their locations are already known and since the use of force
might carry a higher cost in front of witnesses.  Also, an
extremely low power transmitter may be carried in a backpack
along with its power source.  A high-power transmitter
would require a conspicuous vehicle or stationary location.

On reflection, it seems that there would many reasons to
prefer a very distributed, very low power arrangement,
probably peer-to-peer, to communicate in defiance of hostile
authority.  The giant border blasters of eighty years ago
seem to have died from regulatory causes.  Bringing them
back today might not make sense for many other reasons.

Inexpensive, hard-to-disrupt p2p communication might be the
right tool for this time, just as Khomeini found the
technology of audio cassettes ideally suited to his time and
situation. In every such case there is probably a
confluence of political, social, and technological reasons,
including many that do not apply to today.  For instance,
Khomeini later said that many of his cassette-epidemic
messages were intentionally deceitful as a way of enlisting
the aid of disparate enemies of the Shah.  By choosing a
technology where his voice ensured the authenticity of each
message, he could maintain "message discipline," a concept
that may be abhorrent in the revolutions and protests of
2011.

I still believe it useful to revisit past technologies
since, in a changing world, circumstances might sometimes
favor their revival.  In particular, the Egyptian revolution
changes the circumstances for all their neighbors.  That's
really what sparked my speculation about putting up a
high-power transmitter.

- Mick

... regarding a message from Walid Al-Saqaf on Mar 06:
> Hi Mike,
> 
> Interesting. But an AM radio would probably cost much more, right? I can set
> up one in a rural area in Yemen. But if it is an FM radio, it would be
> easier to access and possibly cheaper. I was thinking more along the lines
> of purchasing some 5 or so small FM radios and distribute them all over the
> place and have them connected through an audio stream from the Internet. I
> find that feasible and less risky. But I'll study my options.
> 
> Thanks indeed for this valuable information.
> 
> Sincerely,
> 
> Walid
> 
> -----------------
> 
> Walid Al-Saqaf
> Founder & Administrator
> alkasir for mapping and circumventing cyber censorship
> https://alkasir.com <walid.al-saqaf at oru.se>
> 
> 
> On Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 7:24 PM, Mick McQuaid <mcq at umich.edu> wrote:
> 
> >
> > This message and the earlier one about AM radio reminded me
> > of border blasters, high-powered stations operating legally
> > from countries other than those being served:
> >
> >  http://www.onthemedia.org/episodes/2007/11/16/segments/89005
> >
> >  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_blaster
> >
> > Currently it looks like the nearest reasonable place to put
> > one would be over 500 miles from Yemen (southern Egypt).
> > In the nineteen thirties, some border blasters could
> > broadcast over a thousand miles but today there may be
> > insurmountable technical obstacles, not to mention social
> > / legal / political  challenges.
> >
> > Nevertheless, the nearest reasonable place would have
> > probably been much farther away just before the Egyptian
> > Revolution.  It might be interesting to hear about
> > sociotechnical challenges for high-power radio today.
> > (Unfortunately, I know nothing about this beyond hearing the
> > above-cited documentary).
> >
> > - Mick
> >
> > ... regarding a message from Walid Al-Saqaf on Mar 06:
> > > Thanks Alec & Michael for your useful tips.
> > >
> > > I'll go ahead and use them. I have just investigated the issue and it
> > > appears the most critical task is to actual get it into the country
> > without
> > > being confiscated. Will check our options...
> > >
> > > Wish us luck.
> > >
> > > Sincerely,
> > >
> > > Walid
> > >
> > > -----------------
> > >
> > > Walid Al-Saqaf
> > > Founder & Administrator
> > > alkasir for mapping and circumventing cyber censorship
> > > https://alkasir.com <walid.al-saqaf at oru.se>
> > >
> > >
> > > On Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 2:02 PM, Alec Muffett <alec.muffett at gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> > >
> > > >
> > > > On 6 Mar 2011, at 12:35, Walid Al-Saqaf wrote:
> > > >
> > > > >  A suggestion was to use a low-budget pirate FM radio solution.
> > > >
> > > > You may find parts of this documentary to be useful for getting a feel
> > for
> > > > the technology, albeit some of this will be more advanced than your
> > > > requirements:
> > > >
> > > >        http://boingboing.net/2010/03/26/pirate-radio-documen.html
> > > >
> > > > I suspect you'll get more mileage from an AM rig, but it depends what
> > your
> > > > audience wants to listen to.
> > > >
> > > >        -a
> > > >
> > > >
> >
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> >
> > --
> > Michael McQuaid, Assistant Professor
> > School of Information, School of Art & Design
> > University of Michigan
> > 4364 North Quad
> > 105 S. State St.
> > Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2112
> > 734-647-9550 voice  734-647-8045 fax
> > mcq at umich.edu       http://mickmcquaid.com
> >

-- 
Michael McQuaid, Assistant Professor
School of Information, School of Art & Design
University of Michigan
4364 North Quad
105 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2112
734-647-9550 voice  734-647-8045 fax
mcq at umich.edu       http://mickmcquaid.com



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