Isn’t this one of those uplifting projects that restores your faith in humanity? A group of geeks are taking over a bunch of satellites to beam useful information down to Earth that everybody, wherever they are, can receive.
Dubbed “Humanity’s public Library”, Outernet, which is still in an early testing phase, intends to provide information to remote or not easily accessed areas. The idea is to skip censorship and provide material for educational (in the shape courseware including textbooks, videos, and software) and emergency purposes. They also want to provide information about news, commodity prices, weather, and construction plans for open source farm machinery. Outernet will also be available when access to regular Internet connection is down for any reason.
Although Outernet is currently like a one way Internet, in that it is read only, the creators count on a community that suggest and vote in new content all the time, and a team of curators that select and adapt materials to the network. With time (and money — see below), the plan is to create a full two-way, non-centralised, satellite-based, and community-driven alternative to the Internet.
Currently Outernet provides service to most of North and Central America, Europe, North of Africa, the Middle East and a large chunk of Western Asia. More satellites will bring a wider coverage, allowing access from bigger areas in the Southern Hemisphere, a region which is currently woefully under-serviced.
And this is where you come in, because Outernet is in trouble. Commandeering and managing satellites is an expensive endeavour, and to continue operating and extending the service to other parts of the world will cost about $100,000 a year. With only 50 or so more days until the end of 2014, they have only managed to collect $7,000. If the project is going to expand, they’re going to need much more. So give or spread the word so the project can meet its goals.
Your Own Receiver
If you want to try out Outernet yourself, you can build your own receiver and then hook it up to a WiFi router. For the project to be successful, the receivers have to be cheap, easy to build, and use easy to obtain, off-the-shelf components. The components can be bought in electronic retail shops worldwide and the heart of the device is a Raspberry Pi nano-computer. The software is, of course, open source.
The site provides instructions on how to set up your own Outernet hub and links to the software you need on GitHub.
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