The Mesh

21 thoughts on “The Mesh”

  1. I’m enjoying Shoshana Zuboff’s “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” as it relates directly to my own sense of discomfort with where tech has taken its great power. The company that makes this device will need to make money. Their military-only version is targeted toward people who kill other people, and that’s one way. Selling our locations and the contents of our tiny messages might be another. And just what will happen when the company’s servers go dark? Will the gadgets go dark too if they can’t phone home?

    Who knows, maybe Ted Kaczynski will be next on my reading list.

    1. I’ve given up on privacy. It’s already gone. Instead I’m looking for alternatives that will hold up in unusual times. At my age there isn’t much in any of my personal communications that’s all that juicy. The goTenna is an imperfect stopgap. What are the alternatives? Smoke signals? Carrier pigeons?

    2. At a glance, it seems designed to NOT phone home (to the company’s servers, that is). However, by design, it’s a network of ALL mesh users within range, albeit with encrypted messages. TLDR; I wouldn’t trust it stop the NSA, but it’s a lot more private than your average text. So it’s not about privacy per se.

      What they do offer is a (kind of expensive) solve to a common problem. When the network is down for whatever reason, you can still reach your loved ones, through your primary phone, with a small device (vs. say a bulky walkie talkie that no one is going to every day carry.) That’s pretty cool.

  2. Our current wireless communications infrastructure has microwave and fiber-optic links between cells which have the capacity to carry amounts of information which are so enormous that it’s hard to imagine in any meaningful way. The “wireless” part is just from your hand to the cell site. A mesh network like GoTenna may provide connections over an arbitrarily wide area, but the data “percolates” through the network hop by hop, without any link being much faster than any other. To extend the water-system analogy, there are no “water mains”, just people passing buckets of water around. You can pass a bucket all the way across town, but it may take a long time if lots of other people want to pass a bucket, too.
    Amateur radio has similar capacity limitations. The 80m band, for example, is 500 kHz wide. If you could pack one SSB voice channel every 2.5 kHz, that’s just 200 simultaneous conversations, to serve an area with often millions of people (and thousands of hams). There are other bands, of course, that provide additional capacity, but each has its limitations, and putting them all together isn’t going to support 20,000 conversations.
    Alternatives to the current infrastructure are indeed worth developing, but don’t bet your life that it WILL work, for your personal needs, in a major emergency. There’s only just so much radio spectrum to go around, and no technology can make more of it.

    Lathechuck: Amateur Extra since 2011

    1. Thanks for the technical clarification. So far goTenna only does texts – “short burst delay tolerant data” is how it’s been described to me. So just tiny buckets. Minimum viable product in terms of marketing. Do just one simple useful thing and do it reasonably well. No cat videos on YouTube.

      1. The only way you’ll know if it holds up under emergency conditions is to try to use it in a real emergency, and that will depend on have enough users to bridge the gaps between users, but not so many users that the interconnects are saturated.

        A recent podcast imagined The Big One (earthquake, of course) hitting California, and the eerie horror of discovering no cell service when the ground stops shaking. It’s the Worst Thing Imaginable! You can’t call your loved ones to… what? Just what would you accomplish by finding out whether they are safe, injured, or deceased? Prepare yourself mentally for executing your emergency plan despite a lapse in communications, and leave the surviving communications systems to the emergency managers that need them.

  3. I remember encountering the concept of mesh networking for the first time many years ago in one of the wide-ranging discussions on the old Archdruid Report. It sort of blew my mind and I thought “if that would actually work, why doesn’t someone –or a whole bunch off someones– make it happen?

    I’m all for increased competition, and this is not a criticism of GoTenna– but our system as it exists doesn’t seem to allow for it. Giant corporate bureaucracies are actively encouraged while anti-trust is totally ignored. How long before we are beholden to GoTenna?

    I noticed that GoTenna has a CEO. I haven’t done any research on their business structure, and I may be making false accusations, but I would prefer to “tighten the screws” on Verizon with a good old fashioned Co-Op. I can’t help but think that a little bit of (small s) socialism might be in order?

    1. I remember when the internet was going to be the great savior of the individual since it allowed people to communicate directly with each other without government or corporate intermediaries. That didn’t last long. As I said, goTena isn’t a panacea. But it’s a stop gap for the moment. Ultimately lower tech (or no tech) options might be the better way to go for select populations of like-minded people. Carrier pigeons?

    2. Even co-ops have managers, many of whom have the title CEO. Because democratizing everything accomplishes nothing, someone has to be empowered to make decisions daily.

    3. For some years mesh networks have been used by utilities to transmit data to eliminate meter readers. So reliable and effective. As to whether mobile mesh will work as well as static mesh remains to be seen. Love the effort to try it in a decentralized non-corporate setting.

  4. This looks promising, thank you for this post. I myself was in the Mexico City earthquake in 2017, and I spent the day without phone or Internet (eensy potatoes in the Problems Department). I would have been glad to have this device, as well as a bike– any old bike.

  5. Neat idea. How long before it becomes clogged with ads targeting preppers, and all the personal data harvested without telling the users? Have you carefully read the EULA?

      1. Not different at all. But if one of the points of a mesh network is to avoid Big Brother, it kind of defeats the purpose (at least in part) for that to happen. I’m also wondering why one wants to broadcast your location (although I recognize the outdoor use and the general usefulness of it in a city)?…

        The other side of me wonders if it will work with something like this:

        I expect it will but I share that same affinity with the Amish, generally speaking.

        1. The Light Phone is a sneak preview of a larger trend. The Great Tech Backlash. Today’s toddlers may someday rebel against their parents and the authorities by refusing to touch phones.

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