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[liberationtech] Creating a Pirate FM Radio

Walid Al-Saqaf admin at alkasir.com
Mon Mar 7 10:28:01 PST 2011


Hi Katrin,

This is quite an interesting project. But I believe it is not possible to
utilize it fully in Yemen because most phones are not java-enabled. There is
an increase in the number of Java-enabled phones that are used for email
communication and website browsing. But the percentage is rather low in the
time being.

But your email inspired me to add a call-in feature or SMS feature through
which users could actually send their messages and call in to the radio
operators to read their messages of support to the revolution and the youth
movement. It brings more interactivity I believe. It also allows people far
behind in the crowd to be able to voice their opinions by phone. Imagine
someone way back wishing to ask a question, he could call in and have his
question read directly through the radio. What a brilliant, albeit not new,
idea!

Sincerely,

Walid

-----------------

Walid Al-Saqaf
Founder & Administrator
alkasir for mapping and circumventing cyber censorship
https://alkasir.com <walid.al-saqaf at oru.se>


On Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 7:03 PM, Katrin Verclas <katrin at mobileactive.org>wrote:

> Walid and all - thanks for the great FM radio thread!  Learning a lot.
>
> Related question for you:  Wondering whether you are considering flash SMS
> or SMS-TP http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/eaoliver/sms.html  and also
> http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/eaoliver/papers/2010/mobi028-oliver.pdf.
>
> MIght work in conjunction with radio - we are testing both now in countries
> where there are communications challenges. I have not played with the code
> yet but will :)
>
> Katrin
>
> On Mar 7, 2011, at 7:04 AM, Walid Al-Saqaf wrote:
>
> > Thanks Steven,
> >
> > Looks like a very handy device. But it only covers 50 yards. Is it
> possible to increase its coverage or or a similar solution that covers a
> mile or more? It is really incredible what this small device could do
> though. Boomboxes could be helpful for rallies. But I also wish to have
> people in neighborhoods around the rally know and hear what is going on. So
> an FM transmitter is best.
> >
> > Sincerely,
> >
> > Walid
> >
> > -----------------
> >
> > Walid Al-Saqaf
> > Founder & Administrator
> > alkasir for mapping and circumventing cyber censorship
> > https://alkasir.com
> >
> >
> > On Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 11:51 PM, Steven Clift <clift at e-democracy.org>
> wrote:
> > On the cheap, perhaps you could add some sort of amplified antenna to
> this:
> >
> > http://www.wholehousefmtraTnsmitter.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 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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>
> Katrin Verclas
> MobileActive.org
> katrin at mobileactive.org
>
> skype/twitter: katrinskaya
> (347) 281-7191
>
> A global network of people using mobile technology for social impact
> http://mobileactive.org
>
>
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