Fidonet Portal

From: Janis Kracht (1:261/38)
To: All
Date: Sun, 04.03.12 18:24
The FidoGazette Vol 06 No 05 Page: 4

The Old School Toolbox

By Richard Webb, 1:116/901

Connecting the wetware Part III

Within all these discussions of the strengths, and weaknesses of
Fidonet and all that goes along with them we should remember that
Fidonet's founding father was a man who believed strongly in self
determination and liberty. Not just was he a pretty sharp software
guy, but he was also a student of history, and all the others ways
man relates to his fellows. His experiences and beliefs shaped the
early Fidonet in many ways. In these next two installments I'll
keep the focus on them. If you'll recall, last time we were
discussing the many ways Fidonet can circumvent attempts to control
the flow of information by totalitarian governments. We'll
continue to look at this topic this time, then we'll drill down to
those founding principles and how they shaped the policy under
which we operate. Then we'll look at how we might wish to change
that policy to reflect conditions as they truly are in today's

Fidonet's electronic forerunner in the fight for freedom and
liberty was radio. With a little bit of technical know-how
anybody, and I mean just anybody can throw up a hunk of wire in
some trees and put a transmitter on the air, and get the word out.
Forget licensing and all that for the moment. Clandestine
broadcasters have been aiding and abetting revolutions and
insurgencies for over half a century now. With modern equipment
it's so mobile that about the time the authorities get a fix on the
transmitter they pack it all up, throw it in the trunk of a car,
roll on somewhere else, half an hour after they arrive at their
next location they're back on the air! Still, radio requires some
advance planning, some forethought. if you're going to run the
risks associated with your clandestine broadcasting you'd better
have a plan so as to keep broadcasting, and getting the word out.
If you don't, your activities will be curtailed quite soon, and you
might face heavy fines, imprisonment, or even death.

Even though the governments can coopt the corporations that
maintain our internet connections in the interest of suppressing
freedom it's harder to totally shut down the regular public
switched telephone network. After all, public safety depends on the
viability of that network. As long as you've a working telephone
and can dial out, you've got a connection with somebody else.

You can't stop radio waves, but you can sure stop internet dead in
its tracks. Pull the big switch on a couple of key systems, and
"goodnight gracie." Traffic stops dead, there's no conduit
available. The Chinese government demonstrates that it can be done.

Like terrestrial radio, Fidonet over pstn is dirt simple to
implement, even if all you've got is an old coco 2 and a 1200 baud
modem. It's harder to listen in on those compressed packets
traveling on the phone line from your modem, but to get the word to
the good folks outside by radio you've got to use the human voice,
and a language the folks outside will understand. Beyond that,
even though modern radio transmitters are simpler to deploy there's
still a bit of technical know-how required. The authorities will
be quick to deploy radio direction finding techniques to zero in on
your transmitter's location, so you'd better be prepared to take it
all down and move it within an hour or two, or you'll soon be
without the capability to communicate. But, even if they shut down
your modem the guy across town with one can dial up a connection,
and information still flows.

I'd be missing a crucial point here if I didn't mention the first
form of electrical/electronic communication, the telegraph. Even
then there were folks understood the concept of choke points. As
one French official put it, the telegraph met those who would cut
off communication only with a span of wire which could easily be
cut in a few places. He argued that the French signal towers
guarded by men with guns and located on high ground were much more
secure. I don't consider the telegraph beyond this point much in
a discussion of enhancing freedom and liberty however, because your
communication wasn't direct. You had to write out your message and
pass it to the telegrapher who would send it in Morse code to
others for relay to its destination, and it was essentially the
only game in town. Yes, you could encrypt your message some sort
of way, but it was still a simple matter to deny you communication
if that was desirable. That French official was right about one
thing, the telegraph was a major choke point.

Freedom and liberty can only exist as long as folks have
communication options. If anybody thinks the despots won't learn to
get control of the technology before their next holocaust or
Tianmen square they're sadly mistaken. Our fully coupled nodelist,
and variety of connection options assure us that we have a way to
get the word to those we wish to reach. Less fear involved too,
after all, setting up that clandestine radio station is fraught
with dangers. There is the risk of heavy monetary forfeitures and
possible jail time. But, as long as you can communicate with
*somebody* in the Fidonet system you can get the word out. Hey you
never knew you could be part of the revolution if things get real
bad I'll bet! You don't even have to leave your chair, and the
risks are actually quite low. All you need do is have the
capability to utilize those alternate connection methods when the
Internet goes dark. Even if you're not real sure that you might
need to put your revolutionary hat on I've described in past
columns in this publication reasons you might want to explore these

I've already discussed all the ways that our early Fidonet pioneers
provided a robust versatile network which can serve us well into
the future in this column. Next time I'll talk about what we need
to do today so that their vision of the network survives into the
future. We'll even damp down the fire and brimstone just a bit.

FIDOGAZETTE Vol 06 No 05 Page 4 March 04, 2012


--- BBBS/Li6 v4.10 Dada-1
* Origin: Prism bbs (1:261/38)


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