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[liberationtech] Creating a Pirate FM Radio

Moxie Marlinspike moxie at thoughtcrime.org
Sun Mar 6 20:46:37 PST 2011


I don't know if this has already been mentioned, but I'd recommend that
anyone looking into low-power radio check out the Prometheus Radio Project:

http://www.prometheusradio.org/

They're some great folks who've been helping to set up radio stations in
marginalized communities within the US and around the world for a while
now.  They've got some great resources, and can probably mobilize a
group of people with radio equipment pretty quickly.

- moxie

-- 
http://www.thoughtcrime.org

On 03/06/2011 06:06 PM, Pranesh Prakash wrote:
> 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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> 
> 
> 
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