After reading about it’s existence I first got to interact with one at the Elevate Festival in Austria. I remember downloading a book by Cory Doctorow and uploading an Mp3 from a band I used to be in. It felt liberating to have this private shared space. An internet only those in the room had access to.
Back then, this self-contained mobile communication and file sharing device was about the size of a lunchbox and housed a portable router/web server, a power source and some form of memory. They came in all shapes and sizes but the key component was the ‘FLOSS’ (Free, Libre and Open Source software).
Although the hardware has evolved over the years, it’s function remains the same. Like a collaborative digitized Pirate radio. Your own private internet. Within range of it’s open wireless, those connected can share digital content and chat anonymously. Audio, video, images and documents are shared via a simple browser page.
The next time I got to play with one was recently at a StationX meet up at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. I’d been chatting with @MatStace prior to the meet up, wondering if a MiFi could be hacked to do a similar job as the pirate box. Mat brought his little TP-Link TL-MR3020 and after a quick Google I found that the latest version, the TP-Link TL-MR3040 had a built in battery. This was exactly what I was looking for.
I immediately forked out the £40 and as soon as it arrived I set about flashing the firmware with the PirateBox set up.
It took me about 5 minutes to ‘brick it’ (i.e break it). The steps were simple to follow, but I’d not used the latest version of the of the firmware (V2). Luckily Mat knows this kind of tech inside out and after a late night of tinkering he got it sorted and posted it back to me.
It works perfectly. It’s a super compact solution and the 2000mAh internal battery lasts a good 4 hours with heavy use. I’m looking forward to attaching a solar powered battery in an experiment to see if it will run outdoors continually.
Should you want a PirateBox of your own…
You will need:
This is my new favourite toy. I’ll initially be using it in my workshops and talks. The perfect portable hub for sharing thoughts, ideas and digital media. A pocket internet, a place to collaborate and discuss. What’s the point in a shared culture if you can’t freely share? This does all that and more.
If you already have your own PirateBox, please leave a comment and tell me how you use it. I’d also like to know if you have a different set up or have modified the software.
If you are yet to have a play with one, have a sniff around at the next festival, hackday, geek meet or conference. You may well find a wireless hotspot called ‘PirateBox – Share Freely‘.
If you see one that says ‘DocuShare – Share freely‘ That’s mine.