You Never Forget Your First PirateBox

Yesterday I successfully built my first solo PirateBox, the anonymous, free local sharing platform created by David Darts


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

My first one, the StoryBox I traveled with last year, was built for my by Zack Dowell. Last Spring, Tim Owens and I each did one at DTLT; I had a wee bit of router help from Tim.

Now I am a big boy. I did my own. The platform has evolved a lot- the original one had a dockstar router and an ASUS wireless transmitted:


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

The new install uses a smaller, cheaper all in one router, that is TINY, the TP-LINK, and the parts for this come in at under $35 (unless you add a battery pack).

I am building this as part of an activity idea brainstormed with Scott Leslie to put in place next month at the Open Education 2012 conference in Vancouver most likely part of the Remixathon, but we have some other ideas going. For Jason Toal’s sake, I am hoping we can do something as well to collect audio for his DJ action.

But that comes after the putting together…

I got all the parts out yesterday, and followed the directions on the wiki.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I was able to order the router, USB drive, and a battery pack all from Amazon.com for US$83.00

And with my Amazon Prime account, I got the stuff in 2 days.

The first thing is hooking the 3020 router directly to my laptop via ethernet


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

And going to a local address I get access to the control panel for the router:

where I am able to upload a new firmware (this was easier than the earlier one I did with Tim, the 703N router’s menus are in Chinese).

After that, I restarted the touter, telnet in.

And look how tiny and cute the usb drive is!


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Here I set up the root password (do not forget to remember that!), and jump into the vi editor to edit the network configurations. This was where I made a key typo error, entering 192.168.1.111 for the local address rather than 192.168.2.111

I faithfully went to the next step of connecting the little router to the big router at Giulia’s house. I am fortunate since it uses the gateway address the PirateBox needs, so I did not have to fiddle with any of her local network settings.

Argghhh I was unable to connect to the new PirateBox as it should. Cussing ensued. I hooked it back up directly to my laptop and could not access it either. I figured I made a mistake, so I would have to start over. However the reset insttructions that came with the router would nto work, but I found the right method to Recover in Failsafe Mode – this allowed me to reset the local address so I could log in.

Sure enough, I checked the network configs, and saw my typo. That fixed, hooked it back to the home router, and I was in!

The thing it is doing here is using the home internet so I can issue commands to download all of the PirateBox software .I have no idea what it was doing, but it all worked. I included the new code for the Kahera Image Board, a web discussion area.

After detaching the little box from the main router, I restarted it… and I got my PirateBox Share Freely Network!

It just worked.

Now I have to figure out some customizations- first I want to change the wireless SSID (“Pirates” scare people) and customize the main entry page like I did on the Storybox. The structure is completely different, but I think I see the parts.

And I am motivated to find an unusual object to insert the piratebox into. That one shall remain a mystery, Well it is to me.

So our ideas for the conference are to ask people to submit stuff to the box that they bring with them or create at the conference, and then come back later to find other peoples stuff to create a remmix. I’d like to see people bring some media that represents their home place- ambient sounds, a vista, a favorite coffee shop, a local food… AT the conference, we might put out something every day like a ds106 Daily Create.

The hitch is what can we set up as a framework for people to create something meaningful in a remix? Something that might be like a PSA for open education? Something to reflect the theme of “Beyond Content”? This is the ideas stuff still baking in the oven.

But I am stoked I got the thing to work. It is not big feat for DIYer and Hackers, but I am not in that class. The newer installers are really much easier.

If I can do it, so can you.

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You Never Forget Your First PirateBox by CogDogBlog, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

4 Responses to “You Never Forget Your First PirateBox”

  1. John says:

    Hi Alan,
    Brilliant stuff, I bricked a router ( Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH2) last year:
    http://tmpiratebox.posterous.com
    So this looks a lot more doable.

  2. [...] one of these up, it is a service I can offer or just point you in the right direction. I found it very easy to build with the newest software, and all of the parts can be found on Amazon.com (with the battery and $5 for the toy box, the [...]

  3. Thoquz says:

    I’m guessing the WiFi range on that box must have been bad due to the metal shielding box around the WiFi radio.

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