Local communication networks

We can build our own community owned, individually controlled, communication infrastructure.


Net neutrality

Distant, abstract and idealised, principles have been drafted, ideas floated, and suggestions made about how best to use the enormous, networked tool. But the very idea of “neutrality” where communications and investment come together, where information is key and the battle for access fundamental, suggest the fictional character of the effort.

Dandy it may be to speak about such “access” entitlements to Internet power, till one realises the range of forces at work seeking to limit and restrict its operations. They come from governments and their agencies. They come from companies and their subsidiaries. The Internet, in other words, is simply another territory of conflict, and one filled with fractious contenders vying for the shortest lived of primacies. Forget neutrality – it was never there to begin with. Just ask the lawyers getting their briefs ready for the next round of dragging litigation. ~ The FCC, the Internet and Net Neutrality

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Covering worst case scenarios

The internet works great for high-bandwidth applications, but is terrible in terms of protecting itself from concerted attacks. We can stay connected in local nets (and increasingly, as local nets evolve and meet, also further away), depending as little as possible on commercially and governmentally run infrastructures.

P2P networks

Social P2P processes are interactions with a peer-to-peer dynamic. Peers can both be a device or a human. The term comes from the P2P distributed computer application architecture which partitions tasks or workloads between peers.

P2P has inspired new structures and philosophies in many areas of human interaction. Its human dynamic affords a critical look at current authoritarian and centralized social structures. Peer-to-peer is also a political and social program for those who believe that in many cases, peer-to-peer modes are a preferable option.

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Wireless community networks

Wireless community networks or wireless community projects are the organizations that take a grassroots approach to providing a viable alternative to (commercial) municipal wireless networks.

Cluster and mesh approaches are common and rely on the sharing of unmetered residential and business DSL and cable Internet. This may be non-compliant with the Terms of Service (ToS) of local providers. Wireless community networks sometimes advocate complete freedom from censorship, and this position may be at odds with the Acceptable Use Policies of some commercial services used. Some ISPs allow sharing or reselling of bandwidth.

Interesting read: Magasine “For Free Information and Open Internet Independent journalists, community media and hacktivists take action” (pdf): Free internet and mesh networks (benjamin cadon) – starts on page 33
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Mesh networking

Meshnet: A decentralized peer-to-peer network, with user-controlled physical links. Usually wireless.

The challenge for mesh nets lies in managing the dynamics of mesh networks so users receive an acceptable level of performance in terms of both latency and throughput.

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Router firmware

DD-WRT has become a common out-of-the-box option for many routers, but also exists in stand-alone implementations that can be used to flash routers that support it. It has a slightly convoluted history. From 2002, Linksys released a line of routers (WRT54G) with Linux. The company was eventually obliged to release the source code for those routers under the terms of the GPL. DD-WRT has become the basis for other firmware created by router manufacturers themselves and while DD-WRT is released under the terms of the GPL, commercial builds of such firmware may incorporate much non-GPL code.

OpenWrt is more like a real Linux distribution. It comes with its own package manager. Setting up and running OpenWrt can be an involved process, because users can make most any changes they want from a broad range of components directly inside OpenWrt. Updates come frequently and its package manager makes it easy for users to take advantage of those updates.
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Routing protocols

For a long lifetime and for the ability to repair or extend the protocol (stack), the design must include identification of the version of the protocol(s) being spoken at each end, and how to detect and what to do when a false positive occurs. Without this we get poorly behaved and vulnerable machines.

Any initial data sent to set up for private conversations must be protected from prying eyes, especially when version data is being sent. And with cross-platform protocol implementations the problem gets even more complicated.

Ad-hoc networks use multi-hop routing and all nodes can potentially contribute in the routing protocols. Routing protocols are organized as:

  • Reactive or on-demand routing protocols where the route is discovered when needed. These protocols tend to decrease the control traffic messages overhead at the cost of increased latency in discovering a new routes. In reactive protocols there is no need of distribution of information. It consumes bandwidth when data is transferred from source to destination. Examples are AODV (ad-hoc on demand distance vector), DSR (distance vector routing) and ABR (associatively based routing) protocols.
  • Proactive routing protocols where every node stores information in the form of tables and changes in network topology require an update to the tables. The nodes swap topology information. There is no route discovery delay associated with finding a new route. The fixed cost of proactive routing is greater than that of a reactive protocols. Examples are DSDV (destination sequenced demand vector) and OLSR (optimized link state routing protocols).
  • Hybrid routing protocols are a combination of both reactive and proactive routing protocols. It was proposed to reduce the control overhead of proactive routing protocols and decrease the latency caused by route discovery in reactive routing protocols. Examples are ZRP (zone routing protocol) and TORA (temporarily ordered routing algorithm).

B.A.T.M.A.N. is a protocol under development by the “Freifunk” community and intended to replace OLSR. No single node has all the data. Knowledge about the best route through the network is decentralised, eliminating the need to spread information concerning network changes to every node in the network. Individual nodes only save information about the “direction” it received data from. Data gets passed on from node to node and packets get individual, dynamically created routes. A network of collective intelligence is created.
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Configuration protocols

AHCP is an autoconfiguration protocol for IPv6 and dual-stack IPv6/IPv4 networks designed to be used in place of router discovery and DHCP on networks where it is difficult or impossible to configure a server within every link-layer broadcast domain. AHCP will automatically configure IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, name servers and NTP servers. It will not configure default routes, since it is designed to be run together with a routing protocol (such as Babel or OLSR).
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Interesting read: “For Free Information and Open Internet Independent journalists, community media and hacktivists take action” (pdf): PirateBox or How to Escape the Big Brothers of the Internet (mathieu lapprand) – starts on page 143

Health concerns

The romans brought with them baths that were good for our general health, but the pipes probably leached lead, and so probably did the lead pots in which honey was boiled to reduce is to a sugar syrup called defrutum, both causing lead poisoning. Several warnings are out on the effects of wifi. Them need further research and not be ignored.
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Darknet plan


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Imagine … multiple hardware/software stacks interconnecting for a distributed system of local (distributed) tools. Not imposing a single one size fits all scalable stack to conquer the world (and make us all vulnerable to the same types of attack). True grassroots will be our best defense … and that new nets and protocols with the best chances of surviving and evolving are friendly to non-techies, with great manuals, making it easier to be adopted and adapted.

Low tech networks

Decentralised, community run alternatives to commercially ‘provided’ communications and energy. Linking existing projects, trying out new ideas, and questioning what we really need.

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