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Cellphones Open Source Wireless Networking

Burning Man Goes Open Source For Cell Phones 152

coondoggie passes along this excerpt from Network World: "Today I bring you a story that has it all: a solar-powered, low-cost, open source cellular network that's revolutionizing coverage in underprivileged and off-grid spots. It uses VoIP yet works with existing cell phones. It has pedigreed founders. Best of all, it is part of the sex, drugs and art collectively known as Burning Man. ... The technology starts with the 'they-said-it-couldn't-be-done' open source software, OpenBTS. OpenBTS is built on Linux and distributed via the AGPLv3 license. When used with a software-defined radio such as the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP), it presents a GSM air interface ("Um") to any standard GSM cell phone, with no modification whatsoever required of the phone. It uses open source Asterisk VoIP software as the PBX to connect calls, though it can be used with other soft switches, too. ... This is the third year its founders have decided to trial-by-fire the system by offering free cell phone service to the 50,000-ish attendees at Burning Man, which begins today in Black Rock City, Nevada. "
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Burning Man Goes Open Source For Cell Phones

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  • by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:51PM (#33420404)

    Seriously, I'm totally confused by this. Did the burning man attendees actually set the /article/ on fire as well?

    • by cappp ( 1822388 )
      I was under the impression that it means the story is "hot off the presses" as it were, somehow attached to seeing stories a little earlier than everyone else if you're a subscriber (maybe having an account ticks the right box too?). I've seen it a few times and as far as I can remember it's only ever happened to stories that have just been added, with few comments, and the colour changes given a little time.
    • You were seeing the article before it's officially open for comments.
      • Actually he was seeing it when it just opened for comments to everybody, but nobody had commented yet (not even subscribers, who see the articles earlier.
        • You can't comment while it's red. You have to wait until it turns green, which is at the time listed on the article as the post time.
    • by RichiH ( 749257 )

      Because you are not using the text-only version. Though to be fair, they are breaking it more and more every month and slobbering on features that break in Konqueror that I don't use, anyway.

  • Bummer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joebok ( 457904 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:56PM (#33420476) Homepage Journal

    I haven't been to Burning Man in a few years, but when I did go it was nice to get away from it all. I suppose I could choose to not use/bring my cell phone - but if other people are still tethered to the ordinary world...? Well - bummer!

    • Re:Bummer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Radres ( 776901 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @06:29PM (#33420776)

      Well, if this project does what it says, there won't be any place left in the world where you won't be tethered to the grid.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by nanospook ( 521118 )
      I haven't been there in about 10 years, but if I was there this year, I would be too busy dancing, sexing, eating shrooms to mess around with that tech shit.. sometimes you have to just walk away from the tech stuff and just "experience" :)
      • I couldn't make it this year, but myself and friends are renting/buying an RV and driving out there next year. Looking forward to it =)

      • by joebok ( 457904 )

        Experience is good, participation is better!

      • The verb "to sex " means to "determine the sex of", as in what a chicken sexer does for a living (yes, that is a real job). This Burning Man thing sounds pretty boring.

        "Sex up" does have other informal meanings, but I am not sure either is exactly what you mean.

        See the OED []

    • seconded... I went in 2008 (would love to go back but it's a bit of a hike+ a lot of gear from the east coast) and one of my favorite aspects of it was knowing that for the next week I would have no contact with the outside world. Even when i left to drive home, i left my cellphone turned off for a few hours just to savor my last moments of "freedom" before listening to the inevitable voicemails, letting my parents know i'd survived "that crazy thing in the desert", etc.

      As you can choose to leav

    • To be fair, I've been with large enough groups that had to bring in sat phones to coordinate trucks and supplies, and having an emergency line wasn't such a bad thing. Most of that stops at the beginning of the week though.

      I didn't see any people using their phones last year either, so it's not that hard to avoid. I was a bit surprised to find my cell phone had signal at all during the event, but just did what I always do and stored it in the glove compartment the whole week.

      I swear though, I'll punch som

    • by Damek ( 515688 )

      You're always tethered to reality.

      My bias:

      I just spent the weekend on a farm in upstate new york (with about 20-30 other cityfolk) and it was more socially & sensorily taxing than my usual weekday office existence. Insects, breezes, sunlight, socializing, games, activities... so much to do and think about! For an introvert, corporate anonymity is much more relaxing.

      I'm not being facetious. Burning man is a temporary city, after all - different and creative, but a city nonetheless. May as well remain con

      • by Da_Biz ( 267075 )

        unless you're still harboring that false "nature/civilization" dichotomy, but even then - hello, town full of people, it ain't disconnected from civilization...

        That dichotomy is exceptionally annoying. I previously sold camping goods at REI and would occasionally get the customer who would turn their nose up at "technology" (like water filters) because it got them "away from nature." Never mind the fact that they were wearing clothing made from synthetics and if they got giardiasis, they'd be using "moder

    • The side of my phone has two buttons. One of them is volume up, and one is volume down. If I keep hitting volume down, I get vibrate mode. Hit it one more time and the phone goes silent. Then I check it on my schedule. My phone is a $25 crackphone. You have no excuse for being interrupted by your cellphone any time you don't want to be, unless your thumbs aren't opposable and your penis is missing.

  • Missing the point (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jherico ( 39763 ) <> on Monday August 30, 2010 @06:29PM (#33420786) Homepage
    While cell phones are nifty and I wouldn't want to live day to day without mine, I think this is largely missing the point of Burning Man.
    • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:54PM (#33421522)
      Burning man is about freedom to do whatever you want as long as it doesn't infringe on the freedom of others. If what you want to do is play with your GSM phone rather than indulge in all the music, art, alcohol, drugs, and sex that is going on, well then more power to you, you pathetic little nerd.
      • by Damek ( 515688 )

        But I want to be free of cell phone radiation. D'oh!

      • The SINGLE cardinal rule at BM ( I should know, I was a Black Rock Ranger for 5 years ) is:

        "Do Not Interfere With Anyones Immediate Experience"

        Or at least is used to be... I was thinking about going back as a participant, but I am really afraid that if I was sitting in the center camp cafe' having a chi and some idiot was yammering on their fucking cell phone I would rip it from their hand and smash it into a as many pieces as I possibly could.

        • by Da_Biz ( 267075 )

          Are you willing to apply that same methodology to other annoying things, such as bullhorns, sound camps, shirtcockers and DPW?

          • No those are things that are the fun of BM that I enjoyed. Those things happen rarely, if ever back in the world. I have to deal with idiots yammering away blathering about nothing on their cell phones right next to me in so many places as it is, I don't want it near me in a place I go to escape all of that.

            While burning man is a mirror of our culture in many ways it is a mirror that is somewhat magic in as much as the reflection has a small bit of the veneer that is the basis of restrained society stripp

  • Looks like you have to spend thousands to build a working solution. If you were hoping to use GSM phones as cordless phones any time soon, you'd better have buckets of ducats.

    • Open source solution = ~$10,000; Typical commercial installation = $50K-100K. Cost is relative.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What's unreal about that?

      nobody is going to make you a GSM antenna/BTS/BSC in a box. (when somebody tries, expect "fm transmitter" quality)

      there's always going to be a lot of work involved with making groups of people with unique requirements happy. this is LIGHT YEARS ahead of the last ten years, trying to get Motorola or Siemens to put up JUST a BTS, would have started at $250K + installation, and you still need all the signaling system / authentication hardware to go with it. to be able to put up a macro

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        As long as the hardware would be FCC certified, and they could obtain base station licensing, that is. I figure that's another $100k per year amortized over 10 years. If you're lucky. Or am I off base here?

  • Wait. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @06:37PM (#33420870) Homepage

    Is this the same Burning Man that claims copyright on any PRIVATE photos taken at their events? []

    PASS. Horrible IP grab + single Open Source project is still a negative, methinks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )

      I've never been to Burning Man, I've been to other free-love-get-high-hippy-alt-fests so I "get" the point of it, but I don't understand how the Open Source community can stomach Burning Man's copyright claims.

      • Re:Wait. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:04PM (#33421110) Homepage

        I've never been to Burning Man, I've been to other free-love-get-high-hippy-alt-fests so I "get" the point of it, but I don't understand how the Open Source community can stomach Burning Man's copyright claims.

        On paper it sounds really good. "We have a bunch of nudists and hippies (and exhibitionsts) that show up and walk around naked for most of the event. We don't want voyeurs to be getting their rocks off on them."

        Then they went after private photographers own galleries, and the Wiki Commons. Oh, and they sell their own DVDs []. Complete coincidence, there.

        Unfortunately Burning Man itself has kinda become mainstream. It's less about art and free love and the like, and more about college guys getting drunk/stoned and harassing girls, trying to get them to strip. I imagine there are other, better, alt-fests around, but the closest thing I get to Hippydome is reading Brad Warner's series of Zen books.

        • Burning Man itself has kinda become mainstream. It's less about art and free love and the like, and more about college guys getting drunk/stoned and harassing girls, trying to get them to strip. .

          Except for your choice of the exceptionally strong word "harass", I think this might be a good thing. Having participated in my fair share of naked hippie art and body festivals I can almost assure you that, sadly, with few exceptions the girls who don't need to be talked into it are the last girls on earth anyo
        • "It's less about art and free love and the like, and more about college guys getting drunk/stoned and harassing girls, trying to get them to strip."

          You seem to be confusing BM with spring break parties in Mexico. There are certainly a few of those types that show up every year, but it has grown enough that you get a variety of sub-cultures and not just hippies or frat-boys. Plus, the location they chose still tends to keep out more of the obnoxious people that couldn't handle the camping, which I believe

    • Re:Wait. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by blhack ( 921171 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:05PM (#33421114)

      They do this to prevent people from going there, taking pictures, and selling a "BURNERS GONE WILD!" calendar or something like it.

      They're preventing *others* from profiting off of photos of burners, not profiting off of them themselves.

      This is generally considered a good thing.

      • Re:Wait. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:50PM (#33422002)
        Couldn't they just have said it Slashdot style? The people being photographed at Burning Man own the copyright of their own image. And please, since we can not determine who is sober and who is not during the event, for any non-personal publication of those photographs, do not make anyone sign any model release form until well after the event has ended. Get their email address, or contact information instead.
    • it's to prevent you from having your wife from finding out what you did there..

    • Re:Wait. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <> on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:55PM (#33422422) Journal

      It's a non-commercial event. You can't sell food there. You can't sell photos of the event. You can't go take pictures of the human carcass wash or critical tits ride. If there were photographers, these events couldn't happen. There are no "observer" tickets for the event -- it's not a concert.

      Why is it that people always bitch about privacy, and about Google putting up photos of their house or their friends online, a non-profit bans this practice and everyone gets up in arms? I've taken numerous pictures at the event, and as long as you don't try to sell them, you don't get hassled.

      Especially when the policy's author is was the lead council for the Electronic Freedom Frontier.

      • Re:Wait. (Score:4, Informative)

        by scribblej ( 195445 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @03:05AM (#33423892)

        How exactly is Burning Man, a for-profit CORPORTION, hosting an event you must BUY tickets to, in any way described as 'non-commercial?'

        It's a bunch of dumb hippies paying to get together and do drugs (excuseme, "EXPRESS THEMELVES") in the desert.

        • by Da_Biz ( 267075 )

          Before you call anyone dumb, please learn to correctly spell words you've chosen to emphasize in caps.

          Also, learn a bit more about corporations, both non-profit and for-profit. Black Rock (the LLC) has an "open book" policy of their finances: I suspect you'll find that the main coordinators make far less than your average "non-profit" executive (e.g., Blue Cross, local charities, etc.).

        • It's a NON-PROFIT. The tickets are to pay for porta-poties, rent the land, the construction of the man/temple, and pay for the cops the gov't makes them buy.

          Their finances are open: if you disagree with the cost, you can drill down and disagree, but they're not making money.

          And yes, a bunch of dumb hippies. Like the Sergei Brinn and Larry Page.

      • People like complaining.

  • Bad license choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kRutOn ( 28796 )
    Cool project. Unfortunately the use of AGPL will guarantee no one ever uses it. Too bad. Imagine having a base station where you have to require a partition for the source. Or people with broken cell phones saying you're not providing an equal opportunity to download the software source. Ugh.
    • Imagine having a base station where you have to require a partition for the source.

      Are you saying that posting the source code on github or posting it on their asterisks server wouldn't qualify??? Are we both even reading the same license [], because it doesn't seem like we are. Please tell me which key paragraph/phrase I've missed, assuming I'm the one who's read the license incorrectly.

      Or people with broken cell phones saying you're not providing an equal opportunity to download the software source.

      Now, I know you're just joking. You really have to work on your humor, a few of the mods actually took your post at face value.

  • by mercutioviz ( 1350573 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:15PM (#33421192)

    Some have inquired as to using OpenBTS with FreeSWITCH as well as Asterisk. Alberto Escudero (aka AEP) wrote this wiki page nearly a year ago: []

    It's slightly dated but the information is accurate.

  • Where do naked people carry their phones?
  • It would be interesting to use the network to coordinate light and fire displays across the playa.
  • by tsa ( 15680 )

    Does this mean that RMS can finally use a cellphone?

  • how do you relay sms messages to/from the handset? do you have to setup a gateway with an existing SMS provider?
  • There is no mention of FCC's licensing....I thought you need a license to operate a transmitter over 0.1 watt, or something really low like that. I am sure the FCC goons will put their knees on the neck of this project soon to protect their corporate buddies in the cell phone industry.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"