Region-wide networks when there is no Internet

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by SlowBro, Jul 9, 2011.

  1. SlowBro

    SlowBro Monkey+

    During what I am calling "Dark Ages II," governments will likely feel justified in disconnecting your internet service, as they did in Egypt earlier this year.


    Mike Licht,, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

    Some friends at Ark Haven showed me this article: How To Communicate if Your Government Shuts Off Your Internet. I realized this is good info and I saved a copy on my hard drive. I recommend you do the same. But there are at least two other means of electronic communication.

    Classic BBS
    In the days before widespread internet usage, some home users connected to standalone electronic bulletin boards by phone modem. Think of AOL without an internet connection -- just mail between AOL users, chat, message boards, private content, games, files, etc.

    They're usually modem-based but some also have a telnet or SSH interface that anyone can connect to from over the internet. You simply connect into someone's computer and they host a bulletin board, mail and chat between other users of the same computer. They even have news, games and files. It's all contained within that one computer, so internet is not strictly required, though as I said sometimes it is provided as a link to the outside world.

    FidoNet is very mature and large and it looks as though it's worldwide. From "What is FidoNet":
    "FidoNet consists of approximately 10,000 systems world-wide which comprise a network which exchanges mail and files via Modems using a proprietary protocol. They are connected for the purposes of exchanging E-Mail to the Internet thru a series of gateway systems which interact with the Internet via UUCPwith cooperating UNIX-based smart-hosts which act as their MX-receivers."

    Other BBS links:
    The BBS Corner - An Introduction to the World of Bulletin Board Systems
    Synchronet BBS List
    The TEXTFILES.COM Historical BBS List

    Now would be a good time to buy a modem and practice your BBS skills. You can even practice without a modem using the telnet interfaces, but for "kill switch" insurance you'd need one. They're inexpensive on eBay. If push came to shove you would at least be able to have basic communications. Alternately, you can use wireless if you're close enough (see below).

    I predict BBS services will be around for a while due to their disconnected nature.

    A modern BBS alternative
    There are a few down sides of BBSes. They frequently have crude or awkward interfaces, crude graphics (or none at all) and are often highly technical, requiring you spend much time learning how to configure and use them.

    A more practical and familiar alternative is to install a free, easy-to-use product called XAMPP. It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris (which is now free by the way). It has web and mail servers, amongst other things. You can install web-based forum/bulletin board software (such as phpBB) and use XAMPP's internal mail server for all users on your own personal system.

    If you use the POP3 email protocol, mail shouldn't fill up your hard drive because it is moved over to their PC when they click "Send/Receive." They can connect in, download all of their email and disconnect, reading and composing email while not connected to your PC. Then they'd connect in again to send the composed emails to other users on your PC. You can limit the size of attachments so as to minimize time spent connected and space on your drive (see the Mercury32 mail server manual).

    Windows Vista and 7 can be set up to take incoming calls as a dial-up server. Windows XP too, though that may only be the business "Pro" versions. Windows 95/98/ME can also be set up, which would make good use of an old PC or laptop. Here's some Linux instructions.

    The stickiest point for Windows (which I haven't figured out yet), if you only have a limited number of phone lines, is how to disconnect people who've been on too long, or are idle. Does someone else know? You might find help somewhere in this search.

    As an alternative to dial-up, an "ad-hoc" Wi-Fi network can be instantly created amongst peers who are close together. Or connect everyone's (now useless) wireless routers together in a mesh.

    How would it work?
    Users on your system would have private (non-internet) email addresses. Something like john.doe@123.456.789.0. Consider setting up an email directory like a phone book on the web server; as long as your system doesn't connect to the larger internet, spammers shouldn't be a problem. Users would need to point their mail client's POP3 and SMTP servers to the IP address of your system. For your forum/bulletin board, they would just type your system's IP address into their web browser's address bar (http://123.456.789.0/) and bookmark it.

    If you stand up a basic DNS server (beyond the scope of this article) you can give your users something like http://example.local/ and john.doe@example.local.

    Alternately, have everyone edit their hosts files. You should only need to add the single entry.

    In addition to the forum/bulletin board and email directory, you could also post news, a telephone directory, community information, forms, files, weather forecasts, survival manuals, anything else you can think of. You might consider posting your local CD3WD, Journey to Forever or S.S.R.S.I. cache. It's also possible to use a program called wget to cache important websites like the SurvivalMonkey forums ;-) or SurvivalBlog, Mother Earth News and Backwoods Home magazine. Be sure to test your cache over your web server to be certain the links work correctly; sometimes creating a local cache messes up links.

    For instant messaging, you can distribute a chat client such as Trillian from a link on your web server. It has the ability to use your Wi-Fi network to find other users and chat amongst them, without setting up a server. I believe this uses Apple's "Bonjour" protocol, though I could be mistaken.

    Another possibility is AjaxIM, which is entirely server-side and browser-based, though that gets pretty technical.

    Final words
    So with some free downloads and a phone line or a wireless connection, even a moderately knowledgeable computer user can set up a bulletin board, a forum, email, chat, news, a community directory, a file repository for survival manuals and more. Linux also has free packages that do all of the above (and probably better) but I've not explored them.

    You may decide to connect your "BBS" to the larger internet; however, this is outside the scope of this article. Search for books and articles on how to run an ISP. Who knows? You may be able to earn a little income during Dark Ages II. Perhaps a packet radio or satellite uplink and all your friends are once again online. Password protect the page with all the email links and phone numbers before connecting to the world :)

    We'll need to know how to do these things if we should ever have electricity but no internet. Should the Lord tarry in His return, that may be a possibility. So buy some old-fashioned modems off eBay and practice, practice, practice.

    Keep looking up!
    bassic likes this.
  2. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    I think you might be interested in the MonkeyNet White Paper in the Advanced Comms sub-forum. It can be downloaded from the attachment in Post #1. .... YMMV....
  3. strunk

    strunk Monkey+

    They might shut off the fat pipes, but chances are the phones will still work. And that's all you need to move email.

    Modern Linux enthusiasts mostly haven't been around long enough to remember old mainstays of UNIX like UUCP.

    UUCP doesn't require dialup connectivity to work. It can use a number of physical layer connections. There's nothing to say you can't use packet radio, for example.

    UUCP is best for batch file handling, like email transfer. It's not useful at all for re-opening the WWW. Nor is it very useful for transferring large media-rich batches. Simple plain-text email, though? That's the stuff that email was made up back in the early 1990's and earlier. And it worked fine.
  4. strunk

    strunk Monkey+

  5. strunk

    strunk Monkey+

    And I should point out, most of the allocated bandwidth for hams is unused. We're sitting on quite a lot of spectrum, some of which overlaps with consumer 802.11 spectrum. 802.11b|g channel 1 sits 100% in the ham radio allocation, which means you can use a wireless access point as a licensed operator, leveraging big antennas and amplifiers that are not legal for consumers to use.

    Now if a few such people lived in the same town, they might set up a wireless mesh network.
  6. Redneck Rebel

    Redneck Rebel Monkey++

  7. strunk

    strunk Monkey+

    Nothing has the bandwidth of a courier with a box of hard disks, but the latency will kill you. ;-)
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