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[liberationtech] Creating a Pirate FM Radio

Pranesh Prakash pranesh at cis-india.org
Sun Mar 6 15:06:41 PST 2011


First off, a BIG disclaimer that I know nothing about radio 
transmission, costs, etc.

Given that, the thread reminded me of this:
BBC News, South Asia: The amazing DIY village FM radio station
http://goo.gl/xRvRY

One might be able to get more technical details about 'Raghav FM 
Mansoorpur 1' on Indian community radio mailing lists (such as Sarai's 
cr-india list), though I haven't checked.

Some quotes from the Beeb:
> It may well be the only village FM radio station on the Asian sub-continent. It is certainly illegal.
>
> The transmission equipment, costing just over $1, may be the cheapest in the world.

> Raghav and his friend run the indigenous radio station out of Raghav's thatched-roof Priya Electronics Shop.
>
> The place is a cramped $4-a-month rented shack stacked with music tapes and rusty electrical appliances which doubles up as Raghav's radio station and repair shop.

> It was a perfect idea. In impoverished Bihar state, where many areas lack power supplies, the cheap battery-powered transistor remains the most popular source of entertainment.
>
> "It took a long time to come up with the idea and make the kit which could transmit my programmes at a fixed radio frequency. The kit cost me 50 rupees (just over $1)," says Raghav.
>
> The transmission kit is fitted on to an antenna attached to a bamboo pole on a neighbouring three-storey hospital.
>
> A long wire connects the contraption to a creaky, old homemade stereo cassette player in Raghav's radio shack. Three other rusty, locally made battery-powered tape recorders are connected to it with colourful wires and a cordless microphone.

- Pranesh

On Monday 07 March 2011 04:21 AM, Steven Clift wrote:
> On the cheap, perhaps you could add some sort of amplified antenna to this:
>
> http://www.wholehousefmtransmitter.com
>
> More:
> http://www.google.com/search?q=home+fm+transmitter
>
> The use of FM boom boxes to play audio from speakers at a rally might
> be the most viable application.
>
> Steven Clift - http://stevenclift.com
>    Executive Director - http://E-Democracy.Org
>    Follow me - http://twitter.com/democracy
>    New Tel: +1.612.234.7072
>
>
>
> On Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 3:25 PM, Walid Al-Saqaf<admin at alkasir.com>  wrote:
>> Thanks Mick for such an insightful and detailed reply.
>>
>> Based on preliminary research done by colleagues on the ground in Sanaa and
>> Taiz, I can say that you are absolutely right in the assumption that
>> authorities refrain from storming groups of tens and sometimes hundreds of
>> thousands of protestors to locate a particular low power transmitters. It is
>> wise perhaps to start small and then go from there. I do like the idea of
>> purchasing low-cost low-power FM transmitters linked somehow to a central
>> audio source. I am already moving to the logistics part and thinking of how
>> to get those devices into the country. I believe it would be wise to have
>> them shipped as multipurpose devices that could not be as suspicious. The
>> low cost of such transmitters also makes it possible to not worry if one or
>> two are confiscated or get damaged or lost.
>>
>> I'll keep you updated about how it goes. I plan to have those radios up and
>> running within a month. The revolution's pace is quite fast and I wouldn't
>> rule out the possibility of the fall of the regime rather soon. But such an
>> initiative could also help in the post-liberation phase as well.
>>
>> Sincerely,
>>
>> Walid
>>
>> -----------------
>>
>> Walid Al-Saqaf
>> Founder&  Administrator
>> alkasir for mapping and circumventing cyber censorship
>> https://alkasir.com
>>
>>
>> On Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 10:16 PM, Mick McQuaid<mcq at umich.edu>  wrote:
>>>
>>> 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@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@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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-- 
Pranesh Prakash
Programme Manager
Centre for Internet and Society
W: http://cis-india.org | T: +91 80 40926283

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