We are a group of volunteers building a community mesh network in Oakland, California.
A mesh network is, in essence, free as in freedom alternative internet. Using low-cost routers (often donated or recycled) mounted on rooftops, we're currently building the backbone of the mesh throughout downtown Oakland, from West Oakland to the Fruitvale BART and beyond!
Mesh networks are awesome because they don't depend on the existing centralized Internet Service Providers to function. Though they can be connected to the Internet as we know it now, a mesh network provides a decentralized mode of communication with our local community. We view mesh networks as a means of connecting to our neighbors, supporting local businesses, and enabling grassroots community collaboration. In the event of disaster or government censorship, an active mesh network is a resilient means of communication and sharing of information.
- Join the Mailing List!
- We have weekly hack nights on Thursdays, 7:30-10pm at Sudo Room. The first three Thursdays of the month are work nights - so come by and jump in! General meetings for discussion and planning are Last Thursdays of every month. We plan to have local focus groups in the near future - watch this space or join the mailing list for details.
- Find us on IRC: #510pen on Freenode IRC
We successfully concluded our bootstrap crowdfunding campaign on WePay to buy the first 100 wifi routers for the mesh! Thanks to all who supported with a donation. See Mesh/Purchases for details on how much was raised, who contributed, and what we've procured thus far with the funds!
Here are some other ways you can help out:
- Support us with a small weekly donation on Gittip.
- Send bitcoins to our wallet address: 12RxU4DpLpdWcmEBn7Tj325CCXBwt5i9Hc
- Come to our work meetings in Oakland! (listed above).
- Form a project and/or a neighborhood working group to create new and locally-relevant ways of plugging into the mesh.
- Mesh/ToDos - Tangible To Dos! Add some on, take some on!
- Mesh/Wishlist - List of hardware we'd love to experiment with!
- Map - of potential nodes.
- Mesh/MeshApps - Local applications to run on the mesh!
- Mesh/Swag - Research on custom-printed t-shirts and other swag.
- Mesh/Stickers - Sticker design
- Mesh/WalkThrough - Easy how-to for setting up OpenWRT & BATMAN-adv on Ubiquiti routers
- Mesh/Firmware - Everything related to our firmware
- Mesh/Network topology - High-level explanation of the mesh network structure
- Mesh/Specs - Specs sheet on different access points
- Mesh/Frequencies - Information on different frequencies.
- Mesh/Software tools - List of useful mesh troubleshooting tools
- Mesh/Terms - Hidden Node, Fresnal zone, and other jargons
- Mesh/Power - Stuff about power usage, batteries and solar power.
- Mesh/Legal - How do we use exit nodes, relays and legal structures to protect node owners and ourselves?
- Mesh/Naming - What shall we call ourselves?
- Mesh/Marketing - Inspiration and links to marketing materials in progress.
- Mesh/Purchases - Details on our purchases, made by either individuals or through our crowdfunded money.
- Mesh/Inventory - What we currently have.
- Mesh/Donations - List of donations
- Mesh/Decisions - Decisions on how to operate
- Mesh/Challenges - Challenges faced. Problems to be solved.
- Mesh/Checkouts - Who took what gear home
- Mesh/Interviews with other meshers - In which we attempt to extract the results of their hard-won experience.
- Mesh/Other mesh projects - List of active and inactive meshes we know about
- Mesh/Documentation - Books, articles, wikis, blog posts.
- Mesh/Oakland - Information and resources pertaining to Oakland community organizations, wireless initiatives, policy and research initiatives
Firmwares / groups
Building a backbone of point-to-point line of sight rooftop wifi mesh nodes to bootstrap the reach of the network
- The mesh right now has very few nodes that are directly connected (as opposed to connected over the Internet), which makes the usefulness of the mesh questionable in disaster and extreme censorship scenarios.
- We've been focusing on finding a simple and inexpensive solution for point to point rooftop nodes in order to create a far reaching backbone of high-bandwidth interconnected nodes. Currently we're testing a solution using recycled small satellite dishes with cheap usb wifi adapters mounted and weatherproofed at the dish's point of focus. Inexpensive computers such as a raspberry pi can then, when hooked up to one or more of these nodes, connect rooftops more than a mile apart. Finding people willing to host rooftop equipment and others willing to donate unused satellite dishes has become another way we engage with the local community.
Mesh coverage of local areas from connected nodes using powerful omnidirectional wifi equipment
- 510pen currently uses a variety of mesh routers from open-mesh.com. Some of them have good coverage, but they are all currently mounted indoors, which inhibits street coverage and mesh links between blocks.
- Better outdoor omnidirectional routers need to be purchased, tested and installed.
Low bandwidth disaster recovery mesh
- The likeliest disaster scenario in the bay area is a major earthquake. Such an event is likely to disrupt many wifi nodes, and especially finely tuned point to point links.
- We're building a separate mesh using low-bandwidth, long range radio communication that will run something like a decentralized twitter, where short text messages can be shared and synchronized as radio links are available.
- To implement this, we're using $12 off the shelf tv tuners that can be used as receive-only general-purpose digital radios. Transmission is stil being worked out, but the current idea is that receive-hardware is cheap enough that 2 gig bootable usb sticks, tv tuners and very simple home-made antennas can be distributed both before and after a disaster, and that these will allow people to set up local stations where updates about local resources such as shelters, food and power can be accessed, while stations capable of transmitting new messages will be fewer (possibly requiring more expensive hardware) but will announce their locations such that anyone can walk to a local transmit station if they want to send a message out on the mesh.
Community-Based Participatory Action Research in the San Antonio district of Oakland
- We are currently researching existing community organizations in the San Antonio neighborhood for potential collaboration, and have established relationships with (and set up mesh nodes for) three grassroots organizations in the San Antonio neighborhood: Liberating Ourselves Locally (LOL), a makerspace run by and for people of color; Sustaining Ourselves Locally (SOL), a community garden and food justice advocacy and education space; and Cycles of Change, a community bike repair, advocacy and education space. Moving forward, we intend to expand the mesh through reaching out to grassroots organizations and local businesses, our process of designing and deploying mesh services guided by the needs and desires of existing community actors.
- The ethnographic research component of the project also involves interviewing local residents, designing and distributing community surveys, historical and political analysis, and asset mapping of existing and potential community resources.
Documentation of use cases and user stories
- Articulating use cases for mesh networks involves the creation of user stories based on interviews with local residents and participatory engagement with existing community organizations and groups. The research process will be transparently documented on a research wiki, incorporating interview notes, meeting minutes, an annotated bibliography, written analysis and visual infographics (for an example, see Jenny's current research wiki here: http://wiki.tidepools.co).
- This documentation is intended to support a model of open source technology design that is bottom-up in nature, rooted in the interests of those who would receive the greatest humanitarian benefit from the technology and participate intimately with the development process.
Illustrated instructables for adapting recycled/reused items for DIY hardware
- A major focus of the project is to experiment with recycled and donated hardware for the purposes of designing mesh solutions at minimal cost. Experimentation with various firmwares (eg; Commotion, Freifunk, Byzantium) and protocols (eg; OLSRd, batman-adv, Babel) using off-the-shelf and upcycled hardware (eg; donated routers and satellite dishes) will be extensively documented. Well-designed instructables/comics will incorporate use cases, user stories, and DIY building processes in an effort to engage everyday folks to experiment with mesh technology in their local neighborhoods.
SPRING SHIFT HIATUS
- Hack nights! See wiki for documentation - principally going through donated routers, flashing them with OpenWRT and installing batman-adv.
- Hack nights! Trying out some of the nicer Ubiquiti equipment we procured
- Hack night: Flashing, firmware (July 18, 2013)
- 510pen - East Bay community wireless mesh network spawned in 2009 by Mark Burdett
- Tidepools - Jenny Ryan designed local use cases for a community mobile mapping application built to run on mesh networks.
- Project Meshnet - Extensive wiki on the /r/darknet project, including extensive list of projects coordinating with them.
- Long Range Wifi - Info on the longest-range wifi connections ever made.