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The Lantern, Access to the Outernet - Free Data forever


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Hey hak5 forums! I lurk more then post but since this is a community of like minded people i figured i would post this campaign i found on Indiegogo. The campaigns idea is that 4.3 billion people do not have access to the internet, so how do we fix that? Satellite communication, this form of internet is call "The Outernet" Its already up and running and by July of 2015 it will cover the entire world. They are running a campaign also to sell a small a "Tower" that communicates on several Frequencys for later use and to be future proof. Take a look at this project and let me know what you think! Iv already bought a tower ($99 + $15 shipping) and i must say im excited to see what this version of the internet will bring especially during major events.


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To be honest, in the context of major events I have more faith in HAMs or a Mesh network using these things rather than this Outernet.

They want to better the world via the disemination of information, but try transmitting the Snowden leak via that. On the one hand, it would be mission accomplished as the information is now available to more people than ever before. On the other, it'll be game over for Outernet as the US government would pound on the company like the 500 lbs gorilla that it is. Tiannamen square (hope I spelled it right)? China would be liable to outright shoot down a sattelite, or 'accidentally' bump into it using one of their own sats.

The page didn't mention the total storage capacity of a Lantern (or if it did, I missed it). They basically continuously upload to the Lanterns on the ground, so they are in a very powerful position to decide which information reaches you. A "don't do evil" mantra might not be such a bad idea for them either.

The one-way traffic bit, while crucial to their short-term success, I feel is what makes it a useless product longer-term. If you don't control the information you receive, how do you ensure you get the right information? You don't seriously expect all information to apply to everybody around the world equally? Also rather strange to me is that the current coverage is centered on Europe and the US, where I'm quite confident most of that 35% of connected humans currently reside.

Their core archive is 1TB. Where does that data go? Does the Lantern only have volatile memory for storage? If not, the device contains storage technology that will wear out eventually. So much for the "for ever" part of their promise. I also believe that the battery would wear out after a number of cycles. Bit I'm kinda nitpicking here.

So... yeah. I wish them the best in their endeavour, but I simply don't quite get it, and I most certainly don't trust them (but that's more on general principle - I assume bad faith initially and only with time can trust be built).

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This seems like a fantastic idea but my concerns are aligned with Cooper's. On the indiegogo page you referenced they say that the towers are fed information from outernet but my question is who feeds outernet? They seem to have goals that are currently very far away from them as they have reached just under $300k and eventually want to reach $10M. When organizations have goals like this they tend to associate with very rich backers who have their own agenda. It may not have happened yet but I would always be leary of information that is hosted from a single organization without public input. What if you found a file on the Outernet that stated the Earth is flat? How would you go about remedying this issue? Again, I really like the idea of publicly broadcasting files that aren't censored by a government but I think Outernet has quite a bit of work to do before I'll jump in (or out?).

Edit: When I asked the question of who feeds Outernet information it was rhetorical. On their page it says they pull directly from the internet, the very place they say is too governed and censored. So how does Outernet become anything more than a copy of what is currently online?

Edited by sud0nick
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Well, they want to provide the 'good' bits that the internet can provide to those that don't have internet access. They are indeed selective though in their concept of free information as what they choose to provide is deemed 'free' and while what you receive might not be what the powers that be want you to receive, there's a rather fine line between this and propaganda.

Take the Ukraine crisis. Do you really expect the russia-supporting Ukrainian populace there to embrace the western viewpoint? Do you expect the eu-supporting Ukranian populace there to embrace the russian viewpoint? Which are they more likely to receive? Just because it came from the internet doesn't make it fair, balanced or even true for that matter.

Would you get to see those brutal and gruesome (by our western standards) Islamic State execution videos? Those misguided islamists (note that I'm not saying muslims here. IS is to the muslim faith pretty much what the KKK is to the christian faith. But I disgress) might very well consider that late-night entertainment broadcasting. So a lot of the Project Gutenberg files supposedly get transmitted. I'm sure there's a bible in there somewhere. If the friendly people in Al Shabaab learn of this they'll destroy the Lantern on sight as an affront to their interpretation of god's intent.

I honestly believe that the people who are in this mean well, and there's a fair chance it'll do more good than bad, if anything because it's also a solar battery and at least in Africa a large number of people currently possess cheap GSM cell phones (as opposed to smart phones) who can now charge their phone from it. Did you know SMS is credited with playing an important part in informing Africans about Ebola, saving lives?

While this Lantern could provide additional information, to access the information on there you need either a computer, a tablet or a smart phone. A lot of the people they want to reach currently simply don't have such devices because they quite literally can't afford them. We're talking about communities where people burn fuel in small power generators to provide them with electricity so they can charge their phones. Simply charging their phones already costs them a non-trivial amount. And now, to use a Lantern, they have to have an expensive smartphone that also requires considerably more power to operate and even more so when using wifi. THESE are the people they claim to want to reach - the 65% of humans that don't have internet access because they're more concerned about little things like where to find clean water for their child who's dying of diarrhia.

It seems a good idea and you've got to respect them just for trying - it's more than what most tend to do. But they should specify their mission a little more clearly.

As for the money, their original goal was 200.000 to get the Lanterns built and shipped. Having reached that well before the end of their campaign, they're now going for broke: Their own satellite network. Because to them, that's where the current risk is - no sattellite to beam the information down from. The problem of deciding what information gets sent appears to them to be an already solved problem. I don't see it that way, but like I said, since the device is also a solar battery it'll have a function to the communities they intend to service one way or the other...

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You've got me looking at parabolic dishes now for the RPi, lol. I found a post where a guy made a basic radio telescope and I wonder how difficult it would be to get the signal to go into a Raspberry Pi to view it with a spectrum analyzer.


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