The Internet: Circa 1880

Posted on March 19, 2014


Primitive Internet

Primitive Internet

There are SOME drawbacks to living 90% off the grid.

The inability of a digital reporter to earn a living, for instance. I could solve this with a $10 unlimited data phone card from 7-11, a $200 thermal converter and an efficient rocket stove that would take two weeks to make, but in order to afford the phone card and thermal converter, I would need a job, which I do not have because I cannot get online. See the problem here?

Oh, and we have all been informed by the property owner that we went over the allowed gigs per month last month, and that each gig over the limit is $5. We have, it appears, the bare minimum Internet package, capped at 30 GB a month, which is not going to be enough. It already isn’t enough.Since I was only here for a handful of days last month, and a couple of other people have been talking about these instructional videos they’ve been watching online, I’m not taking the hit for that, but thinking ahead, it’s clear that it’s more than time to set up some systems.

Naturally, I went straight to 2600, The Hacker Quarterly. Well, to the facebook group dedicated to 2600, The Hacker Quarterly, although lately they seem more dedicated to infighting and backstabbing. It’s seriously Game of Thrones time in there right now. But they do know their shit, so here are their recommendations, ranked in no particular order:

  • Develop your aerospace program and launch some balloon satellites.
  • Squid
  • Squid was not as frivolous a suggestion as it may have seemed. Install cacheing squid, privoxy and dnsmasq on a cheap AWS instance. Enable Ad blocking at the proxy side to avoid unnecessary transfer. Utilize a compression VPN such as OpenVPN LZO. Install browser extensions that block flash and other content from loading.
  • A comprehensive, elected list of sites should be written up and others blocked. Maybe allow a ‘free for all’ for an hour once a day. You have 1GB of transfer a month, for how many people? That is a logistical challenge. I can see fights happening over that unless you track data usage for every user.
  • Have you considered an alternative method of connectivity? I have friends in remote areas utilize 128mhz for data at about 516kb/s. 128mhz is ground penetrating and doesn’t require line of sight like microwave. The radio equipment is low power and can be powered by solar etc
  • I would start by blocking streaming video.
  • Track your OWN data usage. Simple, then nobody can blame you if you didn’t use it.
  • I wonder if a caching proxy could be set up, to automate file storage and eliminate redundant traffic?
  • Caching proxies + usage quotas
  • The usage quota should be enforced at the IP layer, with the network enforcing a MAC Address : IP Address lookup table (DHCP could even create new entries in the lookup table!)
  • I was going to point out that if the machines were provided, some sort of mid-layer p2p content-sharing might be worthwhile, to take the caching proxy a step further.
  • Just run a DC++ hub that bans traffic from outside the local network if filez are a problem.
  • My crazy idea was to allow people to buy/sell their remaining quota on an open market for cryptocurrency.
  • Less pr0n
  • You could do something smart and set up a caching server… assuming many are reading the same sites and stuff… check log files on outgoing router to see who is eating up all the bandwidth.

So, I have some options here. My own preference would be to set up a network that gives digital quotas to certain individuals (spread across their variety of devices) and if someone doesn’t use their quota, they can barter it. Do I have the skills to do this right now? No. Can I blunder my way through somehow? Sure. But the problem becomes that we are getting an increasing number of overnighters who will not have the time to be set up on this system, and whose presence dilutes the number of “digital shares” necessary. It would be an increase in human labour out of all proportion, unless you cut off the overnighters and make them bargain with the quota holders. That, frankly, will not fly in a communal environment like this.

And yes, I need to check the log files to see where this is all going. My suspicion is that it’s YouTube. Even at low resolution, YouTube eats bandwidth. Adblocker is also a great suggestion, but of course impossible to police on every device on the property. And a virus scan is essential: if one of the computers is infected and taking part in DDoS attacks, that alone would put us over.

As for me, I’m getting on that “getting a job” plan and then getting off the grid and self-powered onto the internet. Once I have electricity, I have freedom and possibilities.