Monday, February 22, 2010

New HW, drool...

Just got in a stack of alternate routers in anticipation of the hackathon. Included in the mix are an ultra-cheap $33 N-router, a couple of devices with USB ports, and a $50 device with PoE and a built-in high-gain antenna:

One of the coolest gadgets was the Ubiquiti NanoStation2 - Loco, which makes an 8dbi antenna with two squares of copper plane, a couple of urethane washers and a steel nut:

Interestingly the feed is on the back plate of the patch, which is unusual compared to other patches I've seen:

It also has a built-in signal strength meter on the back (not pictured).

Neat huh?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

FabFi Hackathon: Calling all geeks!

The grapevine tells me that one of the Fabfolk from VT is coming to Boston in the next couple of weeks and wants to have some serious FabFi playtime. With this in mind, I'd like to invite anyone out there who's been reading along to join us virtually. Here's some of the things I hope to work on:


  • Develop a platform for fabfi users to easily generate content (web, video, blog) and share it (globally). This will include some web-based content development tools, hosting (distributed?) and dnsing for the inside and outside world. Some sort of content aggregator for the fabfi splash page would be super too.
  • Revisit auto-configuration of nodes. Can we make easier? Abstract away channel selection?
  • Set up a proxy server to capture more traffic (esp. video/youtube) than the JBad squid
  • Create an automated setup script for the Fabfi server head node
  • Build a custom FabFi binary
  • Test out a pile of non-54G routers to find some new choices
  • Simplify the construction of reflectors
If you think you might want to join in, email and tell me what you would be interested in working on. Exact dates to follow in a few days.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Better Ways to Use Foreign Aid

Like yesterday, today marks a new peak in the size of Jalalabad's Fabfi network--26 simultaneous live nodes. More importantly, the way those nodes are being made is changing.

When we first brought FabFi to Afghanistan we brought our own idea of the best solution. It looked something like the photo at right. With a little training, our afghan friends figured out how to copy reflectors like the one in the photo and make links. That's super cool and all, but you can't always get nice plywood and wire mesh and acrylic and Shop Bot time when you want to make a link. Maybe it's the middle of the night and the lab is closed. Maybe you spent all your money on a router and all you have left for a reflector is the junk in your back yard. That, dear world, is when you IMPROVISE:

Pictured above is a makeshift reflector constructed from pieces of board, wire, a plastic tub and, ironically enough, a couple of USAID vegetable oil cans that was made today by Hameed, Rahmat and their friend "Mr. Willy". It is TOTALLY AWESOME, and EXACTLY what Fab is all about.

For those of you who are suckers for numbers, the reflector links up just shy of -71dBm at about 1km, giving it a gain of somewhere between 5 and 6dBi. With a little tweaking and a true parabolic shape, it could easily be as powerful as the small FabFi pictured above (which is roughly 8-10dBi depending on materials)

For me, the irony of the last photo above is particularly acute when one considers that an 18-month World Bank funded infrastructure project to bring internet connectivity to Afghanistan began more than SEVEN YEARS ago and only made its first international link this June. That project, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, is still far from being complete. Meanwhile, FabLabbers are building useful infrastructure for pennies on the dollar out of their garbage.

Where would you put YOUR money?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


25 simultaneous live nodes in Jalalabad. That's a new high. The map can't even keep up! (click for fullsize)

Way to go folks! Keep up the good work.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Viral Learning, Internet Styleee

I received a note today from Tomas in Barcelona, where the FabLab recently ran a FabFi workshop. Tomas, et al. learned, implemented and taught FabFi from scratch, using only the FabFi Website. They're now in the midst of long-range testing. The workshop involved students from Ethiopia and Peru, who can bring their expertise back to their home countries.

Welcome to the party Barcelona! Hope to see you in the platform development trenches any day now.

Lots of pics HERE