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[liberationtech] Modern FIDONET for net disable countries?

Julian Oliver julian at
Mon Dec 31 07:09:14 PST 2012

..on Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 09:38:08AM -0500, Griffin Boyce wrote:
>   At HOPE this summer I talked a bit about a wireless mesh concept that
> would allow people to communicate without internet access or phone access.
>  The real problem with a BBS is that it's trivial to take down.  In most
> countries, one call to the phone company can suspend a phone number
> 'pending investigation.'
>   Right now your best bet for the features you want would probably be Briar
> [1]. If your community's needs are closer to chat and file-sharing, then
> PirateBox is a promising solution [2]. (file-sharing ex: files that users
> wanted everyone to have, or wanted to be published online).
>   Your concept could be tricky for more than a handful of users, since
> everything is manual.
> [1]
> [2]
> Best,
> Griffin Boyce
> On Sun, Dec 30, 2012 at 3:05 PM, Peter Fein <pete at> wrote:
> > I & some other Telecomix agents have discussed using a local Usenet (NNTP)
> > for exactly this purpose a few times since Tahrir. Run it off a liveCD +
> > adhoc wifi or OpenWRT, with web gateway interface (so random users can
> > participate without needing to install software). Long distance backhaul by
> > dialup modem or motorcycle courier w/ USB stick. Rather than trying to
> > build in centralized security/identity, force everything to
> > anonymity/pseudonymity (the 4chan model).

Some years ago I read an article about an 'offline' mail transport system used
(in India or Pakistan IIRC) that did precisely this. A motorcycle rider wearing
an access point with 1W boosted antenna and a mass storage device pulls up
outside a house in a rural area and waits a designated period while locals
associate with the AP and pull and push email. Email pushed is later delivered
when the driver is in contact with an Internet gateway (probably at the office).
Regrettfully I can't find the article now.

It would be trivial to do this with OpenWRT. You could even serve a simple
webmail interface built atop lighttpd alongside cached news sites and other
services for longer sessions. Many cheap WiFi routers these days run OpenWRT
just fine, take 5v input and run at a very low amperage. Some have a USB port
that supports USB OTG (for mass storage devices like USB sticks, SSDs, etc).

We work a lot with OpenWRT and various SoC wireless router hardware here in
Berlin at Studio Weise7.  This would be a project we'd be very happy to host and
'sprint' over a weekend.  Meshing is something we're very interested in also.  

Incidentally I may be developing a project for the city of Derry in Ireland that
deploys low cost weather-proof, solar-powered offline access points (as a
delivery platform for cultural material). If it goes ahead I will be happy to
contribute all my findings, schematics and firmware.


Julian Oliver

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