Teknoholics Project: Mobile File sharing with PirateBox/LibraryBox









Last summer an interesting Kickstarter project launched, and was quickly funded at more than ten times it's requested ammount.  The project was LibraryBox 2.0, a fork of the GNU GPLv3 licensed PirateBox art project by Dr. David Darts.  The initial concept was to transform any space into a temporary communication and wireless file sharing network. When users join the PirateBox wireless network and open a web browser, they are automatically redirected to the PirateBox welcome page. Users can then immediately begin chatting and/or uploading or downloading files.

LibraryBox takes PirateBox to a little safer ground by sharing a library of files but no longer allowing people who connect to it the ability to upload potentially copywritten materials.  The idea was the brain child of Jason Griffey an associate professor and head of Library Information Technology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  His thought was that taking such a system into areas with limited or no internet access with a library of books, learning materials, disaster survival materials etc. could be of great assistance in disaster recovery areas, or foreign countries where access to the internet is severely regulated.

The project was featured in this months issue of MAKE: magazine, and since I already had the materials needed on hand I decided to play around with it to see how easy it was to get up and running.

The foundation that the project is built on is a small wireless router from TP-Link, the MR3020.  This small portable router is desgned to be used with 3G USB modems to share cellular data connections via wi-fi.  The software of the router is overwritten with a program called OpenWRT, which for all intents and purposes turns the router into a web server.

The next thing that is needed is USB storage to house the files that are going to be shared.  I used the Leef Fuse 2.0 32GB High-speed USB Flash Drive with Magnet Cap and PrimeGrade Memory (Charcoal/Black).  I had other USB flash drives around, but this was the smallest with a decent capacity to be able to store data.

While that is all that is needed, to make my setup a little more portable and easier to deploy, I added a 12000mAh portable power bank that I had laying around.

So for you to build the exact setup I have put together would be less than $100.  For that money you get a completely mobile filesharing device with 8-12 hours of uptime before it needs to be plugged in!  Not a bad setup.  You can use it to share files at a LAN Party, to share information at an outdoor event, or even as a kind of Digital GeoCache, where people can check-in on the wall to prove that they found it, and download a file or upload a file as well.  The options are endless, and changes are relatively easy to make.

You can find the original project and instructions for the PirateBox here.  Information on Jason Griffey's LibraryBox fork is available here, or in MAKE Volume 37, page 74.

This is what you see in Terminal once you have connected to your MR3020 for the first time after it has been modified

Uploading files and leaving notes on the chat board are easy tasks to accomplish

The main page information link takes you to this captive page with more details about the PirateBox concept

Review: Microsoft Surface with Windows RT - Drew's Take

The home screen of Windows RT on the new Surface from MicrosoftMicrosoft for the first time has released their own computer, and it could be a game changer.  Fed up with hardware partners failing to capture their vision of tablet computing they have this week released Surface, a bold new take on the world of mobile computing.  Featuring a power efficient Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA and finally removing backward compatibility from windows they have been able to strip their vaunted operating system down to its bare essentials.  A complete re-imagining of Windows has been needed for a long time, and I think Microsoft has hit on a winning formula here.  What remains to be seen is how quickly software developers start writing programs that will run natively in Microsoft’s new “MODERN UI”.  Without developer support this grand experiment is destined to fail.



With a new hardware and software platform, it is impossible to really compare specs for hardware.  The surface has some interesting design cues, and Microsoft’s design team has made some risky design choices that I think they have really pulled off here. 

The touch keyboard doesn’t seem like it would work.  3MM thick, no moving parts…it would seem to most to be a token gesture towards a physical keyboard.  However, after a few days using it I am writing this review using it and am more than happy with its responsiveness.  Unlike many of the netbook keyboards we have seen over the last few years, the touch keyboard cover that is available with Surface has a surprisingly roomy keyboard, with nice separation between keys and a decent feel.  It takes some getting used to, but once you do it is like a whole new world.

One thing that became clear when watching the official release keynote for Surface was how much thought went into the smallest features of this hardware.  From the sound made when the kickstand is deployed or stowed to the angle of the cameras being set to account for the slope of the Surface when using the kickstand, no aspect of this hardware design was not thought of and planned for a specific reason.

Surface with Windows RT features 2GB of RAM, a 1.5GHz Tegra 3 processor, and either 32GB or 64GBs of flash storage.  There is no benchmark software available in the Windows Store yet, and no other devices to compare it to anyway, so in depth numbers cannot be a part of this review.  What I can say is that while some software takes a bit to respond, it does not seem to be a resource issue.  With more than ten applications running programs had the same response issues as they did when running alone.  Surface is a very responsive system, and on I could see replacing an Ultra Book or Net Book in just about anyone’s workflow.


Windows RT is a new and vastly different operating system than Windows 7, and that is easy to see when the Surface first comes on.  The live tiles are not just the first thing you see, they replace the start menu so crucial to previous versions of Windows.  Make no mistake though, this is Windows, right down to the command prompt.  The biggest difference is “legacy” software.  It can run under Windows 8 Pro, but not on Windows RT.  This makes getting software written for and offered through the newly minted Windows Store critical in the short term.  Without software, this platform is doomed to falter.

First Look: Microsoft Surface

OK, I've had 24 hours with the Surface at this point and I think Microsoft is on to something.  For years I have lamented how bloated Windows had become, due in large part to their unwillingness to abandon support for legacy software.  Building in support for software that goes back up to 20 years in some cases is bound to cause and operating system to bloat beyond all reason, and this makes for a sluggish resource hog.

With RT Microsoft has finally had an excuse to do what Apple did with the old Power-PC based software and start over.  This has allowed Microsoft to release a light, nimble, and responsive OS for the modern, mobile culture and I never expected to be able to say any of that about the guys from Redmond.

The surface is proof that Microsoft has been paying attention, and their hardware partners have not.  Light, portable, fully featured and well designed.  Who would have thought Microsoft was this good at designing hardware?  After decades of leaving hardware to others Surface is proof that Microsoft should have made this move a long time ago.

Stay tuned, we'll have reviews from the whole family ready to go by Monday.