Decentralized Communication

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One of my growing interests is technology related to open/decentralized communication. Mesh networks (NYC Mesh), DAT protocol (Beaker Browser), TOR browsing/Chat (Ricochet) SDR communication (Chattervox), and micro wifi networks (Pirate Box)

In practical terms (related specifically to this forum) it is a very exciting way to distribute media (music/schematics/programs), and to reclaim some autonomy over how we communicate and share ideas/data. It would be very interesting to distribute an album, for example, through a piratebox so it could only be listened to if you are local to that WIFI network.

Wondering if any of you have an interest in this or have any links to interesting related projects?

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Reminds me of the blog post @disquiet wrote commemorating the blog. “Self-publishing is at the heart of the healthy internet.”

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Absolutely. What I see in decentralized communication technology is greater individual autonomy but also a deeper connection to the community around you. I think it’s important, for us to develop tools (like TOR, DAT etc.) to return more personal freedom to the internet. Like days before mega ISPs and the stranglehold of social media platforms.

As a tool for self publishing I think this tech could be fascinating. Whether it’s distributing via a local network (wifi) or over a P2P network like DAT. I feel uneasy relying so heavily on platforms like bandcamp. I am hoping more interest is developed in open platforms for commerce like OpenBazaar

To me the exciting part is not just the potential for the individual. We’ve been using a piratebox in my workspace to distribute files and media. Reading about Mesh Networks like NYC mesh is very heartening. I hope for a future where ISP’s are eliminated in favour of community run organizations

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I’m pretty infatuated with this idea and a few years ago I did some amount of literature review on some mesh network type topics, though mostly relating to sensor networks rather than human-to-human communication. But I have basically no practical experience with these kinds of systems and very little up to date knowledge on the state of the art. I think people have a lot of neat ideas for energy-harvesting networks, where you would have a bunch of low-power nodes that derive the energy they need from some combination of available energy sources – volcano sensors that power themselves off thermal and seismic energy; wearable sensors powered by your steps, solar power, even possibly body heat.

The research that captured my imagination the most is on ambient backscatter, where low power microcontrollers use ambient RF energy (wifi and cell networks mostly I think?) for both power and communication. You can make a one-bit short range transciever by backscattering RF – modulating whether the antenna is reflecting or not. I think at one point I came across an open source board design for this using an MSP430, which is an absolute joy of a microcontroller to program, but my searches are not forthcoming right now. Edit to add: apparently they are streaming HD video with them now?

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This is extremely interesting! This is an angle that I hadn’t considered for this discussion. I could see the potential for distributed networks like this for sonifying an environment similar to a digital aeolian harp. A central micro controller could read from the network of scattered sensors and interpret into musical information like how the Midi Spout functions with individual plants. Grove makes a ton of different sensors so depending on the energy requirements you could read temperature, or moisture, or light etc. etc.

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This is a link to a TED with speaker Ryan Holladay. I found these concepts very interesting back in 2014. I’m not sure if this idea ever “took off”, but what has been mentioned here so far reminded me of this project. They make location aware musical album apps.

Link

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It\s funny how ideas come and go in and out of fashion.

oddly a few things in the last couple of weeks made me think that maybe it’s time for p2p again (including @disquiet posting about blogs - but interestingly he wasn’t the only one - Steve Lawson the bassist had also been posting on the very same subject pretty much on the sae day!) - likewise p2p came up in my old company again - which amusingly back when I started it it was our plan to host archives on a peer to peer network.

If you haven’t read up about small world networks - there are a couple of good books but I think they are in my storage unit and I can’t for the life of me remember the titles/authors - maybe someone else can.

I really like the idea of sensors etc - you could also build a p2p network of Norns - avoiding the more mainstream Ableton Link idea and instead going for some kind of collaborative thing - ideas like Nomic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomic or @neauoire’s mad (& brilliant) puzzle systems++ comes to mind - so sounds/notes only appear as the result of more than one persons actions. - a stupid example would be two people playing a sequence - and only the notes that were in the intersection of the two note sets would play - that’s probably too deterministic and brittle though

++ both Orca and the new Punch cards thing require a certain amount of lateral thinking or “puzzle solving” to produce notes - which I think is a brilliant way to spur and coerce creative thought

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This is a very interesting line of thought! I like the idea of collaborative machines joining together over p2p to make a musical composition. It could be in a similar vein to Twitch Plays Pokemon where votes are taken for scale changes, patterns, or octave shifts. Or it could be more programmatic than that. Lots to think about

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NINJAM is a way one could prototype network music game theories. beepboop.fm:2049 is available for such adventures. Hit me up if you want to experiment…

A P2P ninjam would be interesting. Today it is client server.

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Built using WebRTC (peer-to-peer web streaming) and WegGL, hydra allows each connected browser/device/person to output a video signal or stream, and receive and modify streams from other browsers/devices/people. The API is inspired by analog modular synthesis, in which multiple visual sources (oscillators, cameras, application windows, other connected windows) can be transformed, modulated, and composited via combining sequences of functions.

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I’ve created a social platform on DAT a few years ago called Rotonde, but Beaker Browser had a lot of issues back then and it was abandoned. Nowadays I mostly use IPFS.

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Firechat is kind of a cool/simple implementation of mesh networking with just phones. sounds like it’s been used successfully during natural disasters/protests/festivals when internet access is limited but a lot of people are in one place.

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This is new to me, looks interesting:

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a few years back i was attempted preliminary research for a rural-focussed low-tech packet-radio mesh system aiming at a range of up to a few miles.

cell coverage here is bad, and corporate control of infrastructure is horrifying for all the reasons we know. and there’s the prospect of putting up your own “link” (similar to civilian weather/etc) for almost no money given tech today.

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Mesh WiFi is getting more common all the time, using proprietary protocols that require all participants to use the same brand of equipment, unfortunately. (Not really a problem inside the house though, I love my Netgear ORBI mesh WLAN)

The WiFi Alliance’s EasyMesh standard promises to standardize this, but only one manufacturer has implemented it so far, as far as I can tell.

But if such a standard was to catch hold, it should make long-distance rural mesh WiFi as easy as clicking “buy” and plugging in.

EDIT: I’m so enthusiastic about the potential for mesh networking, that I’ve gone on silly rants before about allocating all of our spectrum to spread-spectrum technologies. If we had a networking architecture in which more nodes == better connectivity (rather than tighter bottlenecks) then there’d be no reason to have private carriers at all any more.

It would eventually scale to a much larger and much faster network than the current paradigm, and AT&T would cease to exist.

OK, back down on earth, I’m sure there are significant technical challenges I haven’t considered yet. Still…

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Just trying to make some super tight complex maths here

So here goes

=

Gee I wonder why no money’s flowing to support the technical challenges mentionned in exhibit A!

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Right, that much is obvious. But there are thousands of other companies on the planet, and many of them make networking gear…

I think it’s just down to them not having found a business model that uses what you described to make more money and give them more control over data (to then make… Even more money! Wouh!) than the one they not only have already but are effectively pushing further and further everyday. Here we’ve got Orange, Bouigues, and SFR, but you could just swap that for AT&T or Verizon or whatever operator my phone automatically switches to whenever I get to a new country. They’re really just one big thing where some guys are playing musical chairs.

Yeah, in the networking paradigm I’m imagining there really isn’t room for such a small number of such very large players. You’d have thousands of manufacturers and service providers working at much more local scales.

The network would be larger and carry more data, but the money would be more broadly distributed, less concentrated.

It might also be fairly inexpensive to run in general, meaning not a huge amount of money in it.

But still probably worth it to an enterprising inventor who just wants to sell a few million boxes before they die.

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When I sailed to New Zealand, I met with a handful of P2P hackers living on sailboats who used SSB to exchange data, chat and stream websites to each other’s boat.

Zoom to 2:00

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