Sometimes you don’t want to be on the internet

Yesterday I went to a piratebox workshop at Generator. It was a good thing, because although the installation process is fairly straightforward, there are a few places where it’s good to have someone walking you through it. (Yes, it really does take the box that long to reboot. No, the only text editor available on is vi. Turn off your wireless during the installation. Things like that.)

If you haven’t seen it before, piratebox is a really sweet hack for certain portable wifi hotspots. It replaces the usual firmware with Openwrt and then on top of that builds a web server for sharing files, discussion forums, live chat, media streaming… all available only within wifi range of the box. Local, mostly anonymous, unfiltered, all those buzzwords, on a 32-gig flash drive that you can change out whenever you want.

There’s also a version called LibraryBox, which is mostly the same thing, only focused more on delivering information than uploading and chat. It typically comes with a current download of wikipedia and Gutenberg (needs a 64-gig drive), and anything else the librarian wants to put on there. Particularly useful for teaching workshops in places with dicey internet, because you can put everything on the box rather than having all dozen or two participants hammering the same few sites over a tiny connection.

I’m thinking it would also be useful for performance spaces (either permanent or temporary). Folks who like the digital stuff  might have a special reason to attend if some images/sounds/texts/etc would be available (initially at least) only at that place and time.  (Oh, and because connecting to a piratebox cuts you off from the internet at large, people might be more focused on the event even as they continued to play with their phones and tablets.)

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