PirateBox upgrade to Forban

I’m looking to upgrade my two pirate box to test the mesh network forban between the two. Apparently, this will slow down the device as the TP Link small devices are not so powerful, but i like the idea to be able to create mesh network between piratebox. In my point of view it is the right way to make this project real.

I actually have my two piratebox configured in version 0.5, i’ll firstly update them to the latest version, then add the Forban tool following Matthias’s materials.

I’ll upgrade my TP Link Mr3020 and TP Link MR3040.

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Customizing PirateBox configuration

After installing the piratebox, it’s nice to customize it a little bit… There are many reason for this, the first one, in my point of view is to have a more understandable SSID name depend on your country… Here are the list of the step of the customizations I made on myne.

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TP-Link MR3040, autonomy test

As promise, I’m looking for MR-3040 information about autonomy. This device is really interesting as it provides an internal battery to power the device on. The question was, how many time can we use it, is the autonomy good enough to have a real mobile device you don’t have to care about autonomy when bring out to public !

The first thing is to reload the battery, from 0 to 100% it takes 3:10 using the given equipment.  The next thing is to empty the battery by just doing nothing else than switch it on, as a result, the MR-3040 ran during 7hours. This is a really good result as it means that we can bring it out most of one day (or night).

The last step is to empty the battery transferring file from & to to mr3040, in this scenario, the battery autonomy should be smaller but the result is an autonomy of 5 full hours with a transfer rate about 1.5MB/s. I was expecting a shorter time so it is a good news.

The main issue I can raised after this test is the coverage area of these kind of devices (MR3040 or MR3020) really limited to a some meters and really blocked by rock walls. This is limiting the share with the neighborhood capability. It makes it more recommended to have a share into a room.

Installation of a piratebox on T-Link MR3040

I just received the TL-MR3040 wifi portable access by T-link. This little box is really like the mr3020 i had for my piratebox with the main advantage of having and internal battery making the piratebox mobile for a small price ! For actually 38€ (but you may found it at lower price) it is an interesting and compact solution to bring you piratebox out.

I’ll try in the next part of this article to detail the installation process as friendly as possible. Never forget that this kind of operations are not always easy and may damage your device. Do it at your own risk.

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Why behind concept PirateBox is just an experiment ?

After a couple of days hacking PirateBox based on MR3020 i’m really happy to give this concept life, but behind the announcements like “share freely for less than 40€ with your neighborhood” the reality differs.

The first main thing is that 40€ is the price, port excluded to get the MR3020 router, then you must add a storage (25€ for 16GB), add a battery if you want to be mobile (50-100€). Which made a big difference as it becomes quite as expensive as a tablet PC where you can install the software and be mobile with higher storage, higher mobility and much more capabilities.  So, no magic around this.

Ok, i’ll tell me you can reuse an old external hard drive and not being mobile, just switching it up at home… and you’re right, this is a good capability for a reasonable price. But, once again, you’ll have to deal with the low Wifi power offer by this low cost router. I mean you’ll be able to exchange with your direct neighborhood : the one you cross daily in the stairs. Why not, it sounds good …

That last argument I also would like to share to finish to be a party killer, is about the Hadopi stuff and piracy freedom feeling…. Are you mad guys ? As much as I know, getting address of pirate is not so easy when you are downloading on Internet, even if it has been simplified, you’re one on million and the chance to be kept is small, then you will be identified more as a consumer  than a provider. To identify the owner of the PirateBox is is quite easy by triangulation, then you just need to request a judge to get the needed paper to catch a provider..

In my opinion, PirateBox has to be mobile to not being kept or need to not be owned and hosted on public domain and sourced on solar power. (Like the USB Stick embedded in walls, but for more money) Which would be a great and interesting thing but requires investment.

For all these reasons, I love the idea, I like the product in a technological point of view, interesting and easy hack, but I do not consider it as something really ready for mass. It’s hype, it’s geek, not consumers.

How to improve PirateBox ?

PirateBox is an interesting concept, but it had a lot of limitations based on the fact that the distance covered by a wifi connection is really limited. The mobile devices, able to cover a larger distance also have limitation due to the time needed to transfer any content.

In fact, you can’t imagine to grab content from someone you cross on the street because you might be out of signal before finished to transfer your file. More over due to the actual memory size of the portable devices you can’t imagine to share a lot of stuff on it.

So the idea is great, and the future could change all what I just said. But, today, the reality is that this system is not really usable as a real anonymous and unlimited sharing system.

To improve the system, I would imagine a network of PirateBox, this idea requires to have a larger number of devices but it would allow to share a large amount of data even on restricted memory cards. The idea is that each PirateBox would have a second wifi adapter to connect to another PirateBox. To get the list of its files and share it across this point to point connection. As each of the Piratebox is connecting to a second one we could imagine to build, dynamically a large piratebox network.

The file requests and data transfers would goes from a point to another point without keeping trace of these transfer out of the point to point exchange.

I assume there are some interesting research around this idea as the system has to build a dynamic network, avoiding cycles and optimizing the communications to make the network larger as possible, using a non centralized system to manage all of this.

Anyone to start developing a such stuff ?

PirateBox creation based on TP-Link MR3020

Some days ago I bought a TpLink MR3020 with the objective to create a pirate box and experience this kind of solution. I already tried to do a stuff like this some month ago based on a netgear wifi router having the capability of sharing usb storage. But the system was not easily portable and not extensible.

The proposed solution, based on this low cost router is an interesting opportunity to made the solution mobile.

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