I’ve been wanting to make a PirateBox ever since I heard about them a while back. Essentially, a PirateBox is an independent, wireless file sharing device. Which means that in the event of an apocalypse, we could still transfer files and communicate through chat.
Here’s a video from the official PirateBox website that demonstrates how it works:
The process is pretty simple. I chose the MR3020 router since it is small and very portable, and it has a USB port built into it. And it’s kind of stylish.
- USB drive
- Toggle switch
- USB port
- LED (optional, but I like using indicator lights to test if things are working. Plus lights make everything cooler.)
- Wires, soldering equipment, etc.
The first thing I did was program the router and install the PirateBox software. This entails telnetting into the device and doing a bit of recoding so that all of the networks are open. It uses a program called OpenWrt.
Following the directions on the website, it’s pretty straightforward. The only thing I had an issue with was changing the SSID to PirateBox – Share Freely. Right now it is stuck on OpenWrt, but I can connect to it just fine. I might change the name of the SSID all together like, “Connect here for a good time.”
Next came setting up the box. I had gone to the military surplus store and a thrift store to find a cool case to build it in, but didn’t find much. I just got a black project box instead and spray painted it a matte white. I then sprayed the official PirateBox logo on the top in black, with red eyes, just for some contrast.
Wiring the inside didn’t take very long. I wanted it to be powered by both USB cable and battery with the option to switch back and forth, so I installed a toggle switch with two options. I chose a red LED to match the red eyes on the front, and I crudely installed a USB port (they really need holders for USB ports, mine always look rough around the edges — literally.)
Here’s what it looks like on the inside:
And here it is all finished on the outside:
And here’s what it looks like when it’s connected (on my HTC EVO smartphone):
I have plans to add an antenna and replace the USB drive with a larger external harddrive since I have the space. I also may add a solar panel on it but that’s not really a priority now. I also have to add files to the USB drive. What kinds of cool stuff should I exchange with others? I think I might put my favorite manifestos on it, including the hacker manifesto, the cyberfeminist manifeso, and the open source way. I will probably also put some custom ezines on there, maybe cyberpunk themed. And maybe music? Or tutorials? I’ll have to think about that for a while.
Anyway, this is a really fun project, and I think everyone should make one so we can have a better independent network to exchange information.