Raspberry Pi computers are being used to power “micro” radio transmitters in Syria. The Pocket FMs, as they are called, were designed by a German organisation as a way of providing Syrians with independent radio.
The devices have a range of between 4 to 6km (2.5 to 3.75 miles), which is enough to cover an entire town.
At the heart of each is a Raspberry Pi, the credit card-sized single-board computers. About two dozen have been built, and the designer says they are intended to be as easy to set up as a piece of flat-pack furniture.
“We lost one device in Kobane”, Philipp Hochleichter told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
“But due to the bombing – not due to a malfunction.”[…]
The Raspberry Pi is an amazing little computer; capable of so much at such a low cost. I just purchased a Raspberry Pi 3 yesterday; hoping I can think of a clever way to use it for a little radio fun..
“Twenty minutes—this was the small window of time that Majid (not his real name) usually gave himself to broadcast his radio dispatches and then flee. The Syrian was making a name for himself as a bold, young journalist in Damascus, venturing into contested neighborhoods in the capital’s war-torn suburbs to deliver his reports. The broadcasts were low tech and old-fashioned, produced for an upstart radio station called Al-Watan FM, or “The Homeland FM,” and went out on the local airwaves, crackling into a sphere otherwise tightly controlled by the regime. Any Damascus resident scanning the dial could tune in.
It was dangerous work. Pushing into the capital’s FM frequencies meant transmitting an easy-to-track signal from within the city. Government soldiers or regime thugs often came looking for Majid when he went on the air, so he tried to be quick—setting up, going live, then packing up and disappearing within the span of 20 minutes.”[…]
Syria is one of the biggest international news items at the moment. If you want to hear Russia’s side of the story, there’s no better place than via the Voice of Russia.
Many thanks to Shortwave Radio Audio Archive contributor, Frank, for submitting this recording of the Voice of Russia English language service. Frank recorded this broadcast on September 14, 2013 starting at 22:00 on 9,465 kHz with his Kenwood R-5000 receiver.
This 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.
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: