Fragility of Connectivity3 min read
Yesterday was one of the hottest days in New York in several years. Most people in my line of work have the respite of office air conditioning, but a lot of others were caught in terrible circumstances. Considering what they had to go through, my complaints seem like trifles.
But they're my trifles.
Once upon a time, this site and its siblings were on an old Thinkpad with a dead battery and cracked screen. It was at home anywhere as long as WiFi and power was available. Because of a possible hardware failure that affected the mainboard, I had to move it to a "proper" server; Another obsolete hunk that was taking up space. This was connected to a battery backup with 2 hours of reserve.
Unfortunately, yesterday, on the hottest day of the week, the power went out for 4 hours and only came back sporadically until this Monday morning. To prevent data loss, I shut down the whole thing for most of the day.
I appreciate the nimble notebook even more now.
This made me think of what would be a viable alternative in a mobile web platform. Without a fixed IP address, hosting a clearnet site is cumbersome, but Hidden Sites have no such ailment. I've been considering moving all this to a simple box with a battery and solar panel, leaving the connectivity purely on WiFi. The benefit is that it doesn't matter where the connectivity comes from. Even a shoddy public hotspot will suffice in a pinch. Hidden Services in Onion Land only need to stay connected for an hour at a stretch at most for other nodes to be aware of it.
A while ago, when I was still using social media, I had a chat (one of many there) about the possibility of using cheap and easily produced connectivity nodes for a ubiquitous WiFi mesh. Unfortunately, Mastodon didn't save some of the early images from back then, but I'm sure I have them somewhere in my backups.
There are lots of possibilities to consider, including an eventual upstream connection to the open web via internet exchange at some point. But the technology to pursue this is more available and affordable now than even a few years ago.
I'm also considering combining this idea with bringing back telephone booths. With the obvious privacy concerns of public kiosks, if they can still be allocating unused bandwidth toward the internal mesh, then Tor encryption can still serve to prevent each node from discovering the final destination of its neighbors' traffic.
The best part is that because the electronics on each device require so little power, they can be individually powered with distributed sources. Wireless routers themselves can provide hop connectivity while being completely off-grid. No more reliance on utilities that must maintain decades of cobwebs that melt in the heat.
Sites like these that sip bits don't need high-speed highways and can remain primarily mesh-connected. But streaming videos and games are another matter. I'm probably going to maintain a high-bandwidth connection in addition to a mesh link, even if it one day becomes a thing. Nice to dream what cabin life on a mesh would be like.