The Outernet Lantern: a portable wireless library

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The Outernet Lantern.

One project I have been following very closely since its debut is Outernet: a satellite-based information retrieval system that promotes free–and anonymous–access to information. In a sense, it’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to shortwave radio in the digital realm, in terms of information access.

I first mentioned Outernet nine months ago; since then, it appears to have met or exceeded all of its development goals.

Yesterday, I received an email from the Outernet campaign regarding a product they have in development called “Lantern.” Outernet describes Lantern thus:

Lantern is an anonymous portable library that constantly receives free data from space.

[…]Lantern continuously receives radio waves broadcast by Outernet from space. Lantern turns the signal into digital files, like webpages, news articles, ebooks, videos, and music. Lantern can receive and store any type of digital file on its internal drive. To view the content stored in Lantern, turn on the Wi-Fi hotspot and connect to Lantern with any Wi-Fi enabled device. All you need is a browser…Here is a quick overview of how the system works:

1. Outernet continuously broadcasts data from space. Most of what we broadcast is decided by you. The rest is either part of our Core Archive (critical content, like educational material or disaster updates) or Sponsored Content. In every case, we tell you how the content got there. If it’s sponsored, we tell you who paid for it.

2. Lantern connects to the satellite signal. A receiver, such as Lantern, can be bought from Outernet, or we’ll show you how to build one yourself. Lantern can receive numerous types of signals from various satellites and frequencies. Lantern can be plugged into a satellite dish to receive data at an even faster rate (200 MB/day and up).

3. Connect your Wi-Fi enabled device to Lantern. Lantern’s Wi-Fi hotspot allows anyone with a computer, tablet, or phone to interact with Lantern’s content. Everything can be viewed in a browser, just like the Internet, except this is an “offline” version.”

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With ETOW in mind, I’ve already pre-ordered a Lantern, supporting the project via IndieGoGo.  During the first 24 hours of the campaign, which started yesterday, the cost of a Lantern is $89 US.

If this interests you, too, watch the following video about Lantern and consider supporting the project at IndieGoGo:

Radio Thailand: no mention of military coup

RadioThailand_LogoThis morning, I was able to catch the first thirteen minutes of Radio Thailand‘s English language service on 9,390 kHz shortwave. I was curious if RT would mention the Thailand military coup or at least broadcast a sanctioned message from the military authorities. Yet I heard no mention of the coup whatsoever. And why not? Yesterday, General Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered all domestic TV and radio outlets to halt normal broadcasting and only include content the military provides. 

I was only able to record the first 13 minutes of the RT evening news as we had a powerful thunderstorm that forced me to unplug my external antenna. You’ll note the static crashes in the recording.  

The format sounds like a typical RT broadcast, save the lack of national news; instead, the hosts jump straight into global news, mentioning Nigeria, the Philippians, and the economy. Here’s the recording:

As a contrast, here is a recording SRAA contributor, Frank, made of Radio Thailand on May 14th, prior to the coup:

It will be interesting to hear how the nature and content of RT’s news changes with time while the country is under martial law.

BBC: Thailand TV and radio remains blacked out under military control

1000px-Thailand_(orthographic_projection).svg-001Many thanks to Andy who shares this article from BBC News. Here’s a clip:

“The day after the military takeover in Thailand, television and radio remains blacked out and under military control.

Instead, viewers and listeners are being fed a diet of traditional music interspersed with orders and announcements from the country’s new military rulers.

Each of the announcements – around 20 so far on the first day of military rule – is read out several times over both television and radio.

Other forms of communication, such as print media, the internet, landline and mobile phones have not been affected so far, although all media have been requested to refrain from criticism of the military authorities. [Continue reading…]

Reports from shortwave radio listeners are similar: many heard announcements in Thai along with patriotic music on Radio Thailand. I attempted to listen the the RT broadcast targeting eastern North America at 00:00 UTC on 15,590 kHz, but the signal was simply too weak. I could only hear a faint woman’s voice in the static.

If you are able to hear Radio Thailand where you live, consider recording a broadcast for the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive Click here to view for a comprehensive Radio Thailand schedule.

Thailand military suspends TV and radio programming

Original Image by Zuanzuanfuwa via WikiMedia Commons

Thailand’s army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, declared a coup today (Thursday, May 22), and detained key party leaders while suspending the constitution in “a bid to restore order” after nearly six months of ant-government protests.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has also ordered all domestic TV and radio outlets to halt normal broadcasting and only include content the military provides until further notice. Only yesterday, a group of Thai media bodies accused the Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) of violating the constitution when the POMC banned 14 satellite TV outlets. Now that the constitution is suspended, I suppose it is no longer an obstacle.

I’m curious if Radio Thailand will be on the air today–if so, I assume broadcasts will contain military sanctioned content. I would encourage you to tune to Radio Thailand and, if possible, even record a broadcast to archive if they are indeed on the air.

The following is Radio Thailand‘s English broadcast schedule per Shortwave.am:

  • 9390 kHz, 1230-1300 UTC, Target: Oceania
  • 9390 kHz, 1400-1430 UTC, Target: Oceania
  • 9390 kHz, 1900-2000 UTC, Target: Europe
  • 9390 kHz, 2030-2045 UTC, Target: Europe
  • 15590 kHz, 0000-0030 UTC, Target: Eastern North America
  • 15590 kHz, 0030-0100 UTC, Target: Western North America
  • 15590 kHz, 0200-0230 UTC, Target: Eastern North America
  • 17640 kHz, 0530-0600 UTC, Target: Europe

Thailand is no stranger to full-blown military coups; this is their twelfth since 1932. I’ll be following this story closely as events unfold.

Cameroon takes a note from Mugabe, shuts down 11 media outlets

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Cameroon (Source: CIA)

While I certainly can’t confirm they got the idea from Robert Mugabe, nonetheless, it seems more than coincidental that as Cameroon enters an election cycle, the government is closing down media outlets that journalists describe as critical of the current government.

(Source: VOA via Andy Sennitt)

Cameroon’s National Communications Council has closed down 11 newspapers, television and radio stations, for what it describes as disrespect of ethics and professional norms. But journalists say these private media outlets are being silenced because they are critical of the government.

On Friday morning, Cameroon’s state radio CRTV announced the suspension of three radio stations, a television station and seven newspapers.  The report said Cameroon’s National Communications Council also suspended a journalist and two publishers.

The journalists and media organs were accused of failing to respect professional norms and ethics. But Ngah Christian Mpipgo, publisher of the Guardian Post— one of the suspended newspapers — called the act an abuse of press freedom.

“I mean, I look at it as some kind of repression,” he said. “It is understood that the Guardian Post is too critical of government action, and then coming at a time when we are preparing for elections, I have to just conclude that it is a way of stopping us from exposing a well-planned government rigging machinery,” said Ngah.

The publisher said the law stated publishers should be informed and warned before any government sanctions were meted out.  But that was never done.

“We have never received a warning,” he said.

However, some journalists said the Communications Council had called on media practitioners to be more professional, but the calls were largely ignored.

Simon Lyonga, president of the Yaounde chapter of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists, said that many of those working in Cameroon’s media industry were, in his word, quacks.

“We are in a profession where anybody comes in, they usually do not know the ethics of the profession and so go against it.  So I think if somebody is sanctioned for not respecting the ethics of the profession, to me [that] is not press censorship,” said Lyonga.

Some media outlets in Cameroon have published articles warning of alleged actions by the government to rig upcoming municipal and council elections in favor of the ruling party, Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement.

Kilian Ngalla, a journalist who has been closely observing these developments, said the closure of the media outfits could be interpreted as an initiative to silence critical voices.

“At a time elections are coming, it is curious that the government chooses this time to start banning press organs.  When you look at the composition of the National Communication Council, the president there is appointed by the president of the republic. And that director is executing the opinion of the head of state.  I think they are actually gagging the press,” he said.

The suspension order said that except for one radio station, the media outlets may be re-opened next month – after the September 30 elections.

I’ve added this article to a growing list tagged: Why Shortwave Radio?

Cambodia bans foreign radio in advance of elections

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(Source: Radio Free Asia)

The Cambodian government has ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting foreign programs ahead of general elections in a move widely seen as a major setback to media freedom in the country and aimed at stifling the voice of the opposition.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration on Tuesday asked all FM stations to cease rebroadcasting Khmer-language radio programs by foreign broadcasters in the run-up to the July 28 elections, saying the move was aimed at “forbidding” foreigners in Cambodia from campaigning for any group in the polls.

Local stations who flout the order face legal action.

“Upon receiving this directive, I would like to ask that all the directors of FM station to implement it accordingly,” acting Information Minister Ouk Pratna said in issuing the order.”If any station doesn’t follow this directive, the Ministry of Information will take legal action against it according to the existing law.”

Khmer programs of at least three foreign broadcasters—U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA), as well as Radio Australia—will be barred from being aired under the directive.

Three other foreign broadcasters—the state-run Voice of Vietnam and China Radio International and French public radio station RFI—will not be affected as they operate their own stations in Cambodia.

Move ‘questions legitimacy’ of elections

The U.S. government immediately lodged a protest with the Cambodian authorities over the directive, saying it will throw in doubt the legitimacy of the elections, in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is widely expected to win, enabling him to extend his 28 years in power.

The CPP has won the last two polls by a landslide despite allegations of fraud and election irregularities.

“The directive is a flagrant infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and is yet another incident that starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process,” John Simmons, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said in a statement.

“While Royal Government officials at the highest levels have publicly expressed an intention to conduct free and fair elections, these media restrictions, and other efforts to limit freedom of expression, will seriously call into question the legitimacy of the electoral process,” he said.

About 10 local FM stations carry Khmer programs by RFA, which also broadcasts on shortwave in Cambodia.

RFA said in a statement that it “remains committed to bringing objective, accurate, and balanced election coverage to the people of Cambodia at this critical time” and vowed that it “will do so on every delivery platform available.”

“The Ministry of Information’s directive doesn’t stem from complaints of programming irregularities, but rather is a blatant strategy to silence the types of disparate and varied voices that characterize an open and free society,” it said.

Beehive Radio

Mam Sonando, a Cambodian activist who runs the independent Beehive Radio and an ardent critic of Hun Sen’s administration, called the ban “illegal” and “childish” but added that he would comply with the order.

He said the order would hurt political parties scrambling to convey their messages to the people ahead of the elections.

Mam Sonando, who owns Beehive Radio, told RFA earlier this week that the Information Ministry is restricting overseas groups from buying airtime at Beehive Radio and had turned down requests to set up relay stations to beam to the provinces.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was puzzled by the Cambodian government’s suggestion of foreign meddling in the elections.

“There has been no history in Cambodia of foreigners participating on a partisan basis in elections,” said Brad Adams, executive director of Asia Division. “What this is really about is they don’t want foreigners coming in and observing the elections and then doing their job independently and professionally and then reporting their results.”

He said the Hun Sen government was trying to prevent reporting of events leading up to the elections.

“It’s about the fact that they know the elections are going to be very poor—they are structurally poor, they are poor in implementation and poor in practice and they don’t want this reported,” Adams said.

“The problem is that the world doesn’t work like that anymore. They can’t keep the eyes and ears of the world out. So, the reality is going to be reported.”

The Cambodian government has ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting foreign programs ahead of general elections in a move widely seen as a major setback to media freedom in the country and aimed at stifling the voice of the opposition.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration on Tuesday asked all FM stations to cease rebroadcasting Khmer-language radio programs by foreign broadcasters in the run-up to the July 28 elections, saying the move was aimed at “forbidding” foreigners in Cambodia from campaigning for any group in the polls.

Local stations who flout the order face legal action.

“Upon receiving this directive, I would like to ask that all the directors of FM station to implement it accordingly,” acting Information Minister Ouk Pratna said in issuing the order.”If any station doesn’t follow this directive, the Ministry of Information will take legal action against it according to the existing law.”

Khmer programs of at least three foreign broadcasters—U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA), as well as Radio Australia—will be barred from being aired under the directive.

Three other foreign broadcasters—the state-run Voice of Vietnam and China Radio International and French public radio station RFI—will not be affected as they operate their own stations in Cambodia.

Move ‘questions legitimacy’ of elections

The U.S. government immediately lodged a protest with the Cambodian authorities over the directive, saying it will throw in doubt the legitimacy of the elections, in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is widely expected to win, enabling him to extend his 28 years in power.

The CPP has won the last two polls by a landslide despite allegations of fraud and election irregularities.

“The directive is a flagrant infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and is yet another incident that starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process,” John Simmons, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said in a statement.

“While Royal Government officials at the highest levels have publicly expressed an intention to conduct free and fair elections, these media restrictions, and other efforts to limit freedom of expression, will seriously call into question the legitimacy of the electoral process,” he said.

About 10 local FM stations carry Khmer programs by RFA, which also broadcasts on shortwave in Cambodia.

RFA said in a statement that it “remains committed to bringing objective, accurate, and balanced election coverage to the people of Cambodia at this critical time” and vowed that it “will do so on every delivery platform available.”

“The Ministry of Information’s directive doesn’t stem from complaints of programming irregularities, but rather is a blatant strategy to silence the types of disparate and varied voices that characterize an open and free society,” it said.

Mam Sonando

Mam Sonando, a Cambodian activist who runs the independent Beehive Radio and an ardent critic of Hun Sen’s administration, called the ban “illegal” and “childish” but added that he would comply with the order.

He said the order would hurt political parties scrambling to convey their messages to the people ahead of the elections.

Mam Sonando, who owns Beehive Radio, told RFA earlier this week that the Information Ministry is restricting overseas groups from buying airtime at Beehive Radio and had turned down requests to set up relay stations to beam to the provinces.

Election reporting

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was puzzled by the Cambodian government’s suggestion of foreign meddling in the elections.

“There has been no history in Cambodia of foreigners participating on a partisan basis in elections,” said Brad Adams, executive director of HRW’s Asia division. “What this is really about is they don’t want foreigners coming in and observing the elections and then doing their job independently and professionally and reporting their results.”

He said the Hun Sen government was trying to prevent reporting of events leading up to the elections.

“It’s about the fact that they know the elections are going to be very poor—they are structurally poor, they are poor in implementation and poor in practice and they don’t want this reported,” Adams said.

Cambodian Center for Independent Media Director Pa Nguon Teang said the ban was aimed at curbing the views of the opposition in the country.

Freedom of the press has increasingly declined in the country, with reporters exposing government corruption and other illegal activity coming under deadly attack and facing death threats, including from the authorities, according to a rights group and local journalists.

Stifling ‘opposition radio’

Pa Nguon Teang felt the directive was specifically aimed at RFA and VOA.

“The ban intends to stifle the voice of RFA and VOA because the government has regarded the two stations as opposition radio stations,” he said, adding that by preventing local stations from carrying programs by the two entities, the government believes it can “silence” the opposition parties.

Local rights group Adhoc’s chief investigator Ny Chakriya said the ministry’s ban is “not based on any applicable laws,” pointing out that “it is illegal and can’t be enforced.”

“The ban is against the constitution because the constitution guarantees freedom of expression,” he said.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, also called the move a violation of the constitution.

“Any order preventing media dissemination is against the constitution,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Vuthy Huot and Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Andy Sennitt (with Focus Asia Pacific) points out that VOA has many affiliate stations in Cambodia that will be affected. VOA still plans to broadcast election coverage on medium wave and shortwave, however.

If this sounds all too familiar, you might remember Zimbabwe’s radio ban earlier this year.

Syria loses the Internet (again)

SyriaMapThis week one of my favorite public radio programs, Marketplace, aired an interview with Matthew Prince, CEO of website security firm CloudFlare. Marketplace’s host, Kai Ryssdal, asked Price why Syria’s Internet is so vulnerable to shut-down. You see, on Tuesday Syria’s Internet had completely shut down by 2:48 PM EST and remained down for a total of 19 hours. Price’s explanation:

“Certain countries have limited access to the internet. In the case of Syria, there are only four connection points, and they’re all run by the national Syrian telecommunications company.”

Interesting.  Other countries that are similarly vulnerable include Greenland, Cuba, North Korea, Libya, and Tunisia.

photo (1)A few months ago, I wrote a post on this very topic, entitled: Syria stifles the Internet while Canada stifles shortwave. I’m pleased and gratified that Popular Communications Magazine picked up my article; it’s published in their April 2013 issue.

Shortwave radio is not the solution to all communications needs, of course, but it is certainly the only international broadcast medium I know of that is impossible for a country like Syria to completely shut down. As I’ve said before, shortwave radio has no regard for national borders, requires no subscription, no apps, no computers, and is nearly impossible to trace to the individual(s) using it.  It is free speech, for free.

For more insight into Syria’s insecure Internet, listen to this full segment from Marketplace via the embedded player below:

Tagged under our growing category: Why Shortwave Radio?