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Ask Slashdot: Could We Reconnect Eastern Libya? 290

Posted by timothy
from the who-is-this-we-paleface? dept.
GrumpyBagpuss writes "We all know that the internet is supposed to route around damage, but currently eastern Libya is off the net because all their connectivity goes through Tripoli. How difficult would it to be to reconnect eastern Libya via a microwave link to Crete? It's less than 200km away, on the Libyan end there are mountains up to 850m and on Crete they're higher than 2000m. People have achieved distances of over 300km with simple WiFi equipment, but would it be possible to increase the bandwidth to handle a whole, or at least half a country? How would you connect the link at both ends? What other problems would there be? How many Pringles cans would we need?"
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Ask Slashdot: Could We Reconnect Eastern Libya?

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  • by gvanbelle (1400327) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @07:06PM (#35392546)
    ... but I'd gladly give money for any effort in this direction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by johncadengo (940343)

      Yes, please. Someone set up an effort, and a site, and some transparency/accountability, and let's do it!

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Frankly I don't see why it should cost hardly anything. I mean they have phone lines yes? They didn't take a backhoe to the trunk did they?

      While people here may be spoiled to having high speed (well if you consider an average 2Mbps high speed) many of us Greybeards spent many a year using dialup to gather and share information.

      So all you really need is some western ISPs to offer a few dialup numbers that are free for them to call and have someone spread the word. Considering that last I heard it was someth

      • Maybe this is the chance for some Netzero style ISP to get a hell of a lot of free publicity and goodwill? Seems to me like it would be a hell of a public relations coup

        To what end? To convince a bunch of people on broadband to switch to dialup? Not likely. To convince a bunch of people still on dialup to switch ISPs (also not likely). Coca-Cola likes free publicity because they sell more cans of Coke. The same doesn't apply here...

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          To point out no matter where you are a simple USB dialup adapter and you've got net? There are a hell of a lot of business and personal travelers out there and pointing out how "No matter where you go on the planet, if you've got a line we've got your back" sounds like a good way to sell low cost dialup plans as a backup to their net connections while on the go. After all people pay for things like car insurance they hope they' ll never use but are glad to have it when trouble comes, why not a data line?

          W

          • sure, you could try and spin it that way, but only extreme nerds and total retards think dialup is internet, sure i can get it to work and slackjaws believe it works but everyone in between doesn't even try because they know it sucks fat donkey balls.
            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              Kinda missing the point there ain't ya KG? We are talking people that need to communicate with the outside world not download the latest "Hot Arab booty" video. Hell the Egyptians were using Twitter to get word out about what was going down on the ground, dialup can give them text, pics, and PDF back and forth with each other and those on the outside, which sounds like just what they need.

              And as for the rest of us, never been in a place without broadband and need to check your email? Plenty of places here i

      • by sjames (1099)

        The trunks may all go through Tripoli. It may actually be necessary to tie in a new uplink of some sort. I have no idea where the major exchanges are in Libya, which makes it a bit difficult to know what a good solution might be.

  • Is it worth it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 05, 2011 @07:08PM (#35392558)

    While the Internet played a huge role in relatively developed Egypt, it might be worth pointing out that less than 7% of Libya's population has Internet access, and most of those people are in Tripoli.

    While there are surely isolated pockets of connectivity in the Western parts of the country, the usage is minimal and may not actually have a great impact on this revolution.

    Just a thought....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There's usually a lot of noise and very little signal at interconnects. However, signal propagates to peers while noise does not. Without carrier, there is neither signal nor noise.

    • Re:Is it worth it? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Redlazer (786403) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @08:01PM (#35392962) Homepage
      You might be right, but even one internet connection in the hands of a rebel is a crucial outlet to the entire world, enabling the uploading of videos, pictures, and audio of the actions taking place there.

      I think, if possible, a serious effort couldn't hurt, and would be an interesting test of our abilities to step in as people, where our governments for political reasons cannot.

    • > less than 7% of Libya's population has Internet access

      That's the point, yo. When an area is information-poor, the value of each packet goes up, not down.

    • But, one of the problems for the media has been getting news out of Libya. Having a functioning net connection helps a lot in that even if most don't have access to it. You're not limited to satellite phones and portable sat terminals which are expensive and often slow.

    • Beyond the actual communications assistance, I think the effect on morale would be incalculable.
    • local interconnected long distance links to form some kind of mesh network would be interesting.
      internet link would probably hard because of the required bandwidth from node to node, but local you've limited content
      some of the nodes may have a separate internet access to post info to the world, while the local network allow local communication

  • That's a nice question that brings warm fuzzies to my stomach thinking of all the people in Libya we could liberate by giving them internet, unfortunately only 5.1% of the population [google.com] has internet.
    • by spasm (79260)

      .. and that 5.1% probably had the resources to get out of the country when the shooting started.

  • by daninaustin (985354) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @07:16PM (#35392628)
    It's turned into a civil war. It might be better shipping the rebels AK's, anti tank weapons, man portable SAMS and lots of ammunition. Sat phones would be nice for communications but I'm not sure twitter and facebook are really all that important anymore.
    • You know...the guys in Crete can help with that too... (This joke would kill in Greece)
    • by Mikkeles (698461)

      Yeah, that worked really well for the Taliban, big supporters of western democracies and all around great guys!

      • Yes, it did get the Soviets out of their country. It wasn't a battle for democracy, it was a battle of liberation. The Afghans were (and still are) a bunch of illiterate, superstitions goat herders. Libya isn't exactly first world but it has a considerable number of educated people and it's fighting against a dictator.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by symbolset (646467) *

          It wasn't a battle for democracy, it was a battle of liberation.

          One man's liberation is another man's occupation.

          Afghanis don't care that the invaders changed from The Soviet Menace to Pakistani Taliban to American Freedom Police any more than they did when it shifted from the Achaemenid Empire under Darius to Alexander The Great and then the Greeks for Eucratides. They've been "liberated" in turns by every empire that ever came near their corner of the planet. But they're still there. Resistance has become what they are. Foreign peoples have, for no discernable r

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by morcego (260031)

      Yes, Im sure more weapons is the way to solve it. Specially in the hands of people not trained to handle them.

      I mean, what could go wrong ?

      • Do you really think an AK-47 is that hard to figure out? There's a reason that's the rifle of choice for conscript armies the world over.

        Firing a weapon isn't brain surgery, it doesn't take years of practice to do it right. Just give them the gun, tell them where to point the end the bullets come out of and how to put more in, then let 'em go.

        • by morcego (260031)

          Right. Which is why cops get lots of psychological training to learn how to deal with the consequences of firing a gun.
          And why do many people are shot by mistake. Or why gun safety (keeping guns away from children) is still far from idea.
          Not to mention what would happen to those guns AFTER the civil war is over.
          Or how about all the amazing consequences of the last couple times USA gave rebels guns.
          You know what "arms race" is ? Expected consequence: escalation in violence.
          But what am I saying. I'm pretty su

          • by Elldallan (901501)
            Firing an AK-47 is not very hard, heel a lot of african, south american and some asian nations have children younger than 10 running around and shooting people with them, it can basically be boiled down to a point and click operation. Man portable SAM's, ATGM's, howitzers, MBT's etc howerver are far more complicated things, I have no idea exactly how effective an RPG-7 is against a T-72 but if you need anything heavier than that operating things rapidly become more complicated.

            Using guns in a civilian en
        • by FooAtWFU (699187)

          I dunno if it's quite as simple as that. I'm pretty sure somebody has to know how to do basic maintenance, even for a gun like the AK-47.

          And a five-minute course in how to not to be a doofus would be nice too. (e.g. hold it properly, use short bursts, etc.)

        • Firing a weapon isn't brain surgery, it doesn't take years of practice to do it right. Just give them the gun, tell them where to point the end the bullets come out of and how to put more in, then let 'em go.

          There is more to being a soldier than knowing how to fire a gun.

          There is something to be said for the rigor of the old-school adventure game or hard-core tactical simulation. When you make a mistake it is "Game Over."

        • by Hartree (191324)

          You obviously have never been in the infantry.

          There's a lot more to small unit tactics, and even weapon use than point and pull the trigger.

        • by i.r.id10t (595143)

          Read on a forum somewhere regarding teh AK

          A weapon designed in the 2nd world to be made in the 3rd world to be used by the 4th world and keep on working

          Been seeing a lot of FN-FAL/L1A1/SLR types in the pics/news, as well as a smattering of CETME/G3/HK

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Xyrus (755017)

          From The Lord Of War:

          Of all the weapons in the vast soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947. More commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It's the world's most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn't break, jam, or overheat. It'll shoot whether it's covered in mud or filled with sand. It's so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin

      • by gman003 (1693318)
        Infantry weapons are, honestly, not that hard to use. Hell, the M18 Claymore mine has a helpful "FRONT TOWARDS ENEMY" label telling you which way to point it. Even a Kalashnikov is simple - point it towards the bad guys, flip safety down one notch (to AB, C, or L, depending on where it was built), pull trigger until it stops making noise, drop magazine, insert new magazine, repeat until bad guys are dead, and flip safety back up when done. Now, proper maintenance and aiming is only marginally more complicat
    • by AffidavitDonda (1736752) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @07:33PM (#35392760)
      Starting with WWII every single war of the 20th/21th century was won with the help of computers and communication. Its not about propaganda, but to allow rebels to exchange important strategical information.
      • It's not just about letting forces communicate and/or let evidence of atrocities leak out.

        It's about connecting these people with expectations from government. All that youtubing and facebooking and tweeting gets the word out about how governments of strong successful nations function.

        It's the one big thing that *might* prevent these revolutions going down the same shithole most others, from Cuba to Iran to Lebanon to Libya 40 years ago - have gone. Straight into the hands of a just marginally different opp

    • It might be better shipping the rebels AK's, anti tank weapons, man portable SAMS and lots of ammunition. Sat phones would be nice for communications but I'm not sure twitter and facebook are really all that important anymore.

      Would you really want to send them AK-47s? I know arms sounds pretty handy right now. But I kind of hope for something better. A big part of modern wars is winning people's hearts and minds. For that, they need fast communication. Yes. Twitter, facebook and other social media sources have their role here. Instead of a top down push of information and ideas for a government or media, ideas can spread better if done on a peer to peer basis.

      • by Nemyst (1383049)

        Have you seen the situation? Villages are getting assaulted by the army, tanks and all! People are reporting air raids and need to find AA guns to defend their homes. Children and teenagers are killed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Civilians are forced to take arms and carry AK-47s, use rocket launchers and man defensive batteries to stop the extermination of whatever resistance there is.

        Winning people's hearts and minds is too late now. This is war. You don't win wars by tweeting "Hey

  • Satellite perhaps? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 05, 2011 @07:19PM (#35392648)

    Why bother with microwave links, cables, mountains, etc. when you can drop a few hundred satellite modems with wifi. I guess they have satellite dishes already, all they need are a modem and an omnidirectional antenna in each neighborhood.

    • by ogl_codemonkey (706920) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @07:28PM (#35392734)
      Yeah, +1 Ask The Right Question... A fixed microwave station on the side of a mountain is an obvious and easy target for anybody looking to suppress the flow of information. Satellite phones, like cell phones, typically function as modems as either a configurable menu option; or via Plug-n-Pray USB. Couple of hundred dollars plus the plan, and you can stash it in a book, rock, or body cavity. Seems a lot easier and less risky (in an "if-we-see-you-subverting-us-we'll-shoot-you" way) than whatever it is the OP is implying.
      • by VTI9600 (1143169)

        I started reading this thread thinking, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to get some practical insight into how to deploy a microwave link across hundreds of miles of open air, under the pressure of being in a war zone, no less". But what I have read instead are lame excuses for why they should use something else. Hell, I guess they could even use dial-up with AOL if they still have working telephone lines. I hate to be the insensitive, semi-autistic brat in the crowd, but can someone with experience setting up

    • by grcumb (781340) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @09:03PM (#35393350) Homepage Journal

      Why bother with microwave links, cables, mountains, etc. when you can drop a few hundred satellite modems with wifi. I guess they have satellite dishes already, all they need are a modem and an omnidirectional antenna in each neighborhood.

      BINGO

      More importantly, modern VSAT equipment is moderately portable (e.g. in a small vehicle). You can break it down in about 10 minutes and set it up again in about 20. Perfect for the rebel/journalist/activist on the move. You can buy complete systems (dish, modem, switches, software etc.) for less than US$5000.00. Add a couple/three 12 dBi wifi panels and you can service a fairly large area, depending on your location. Power requirements are low enough that you could run most of it from the battery of the truck you're transporting it on.

      (Yeah, I've looked into this stuff in the past while doing consulting work in the developing world....)

  • You don't even need junked-together tin can wi-fi. Assuming there is something in the air to talk to, you could probably just set up a satellite uplink/downlink and not need to worry about distance or anything. The technology for this is readily available and has been deployed all around the world.

    The problem is that the government would probably not like this and is also probably very likely to find it and "deal with it" in the same way that they deal with any other communications channel they don't appr

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 05, 2011 @07:32PM (#35392758)

    Télécoms sans Frontières already deployed a team to the libyan-tunesian border.
    http://www.tsfi.org/en/action/emergencies/147-tsf-deploye-a-la-frontiere-tunisielibye
    Consider donating some money: http://www.tsfi.org/en/action/donateonline

    • by nadaou (535365)

      mod anon parent, tx

    • by Asic Eng (193332) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @08:52PM (#35393280)

      I thought this was quite interesting:

      "TSF's founders realized that, in addition to medical and food aid, there was a critical need for reliable emergency telecommunications services. Conflicts and emergencies often led to massive civilian displacement and separated families. And affected populations are often left with no communications infrastructure in place to find assistance and loved ones."

      Makes sense to me, I sent them EU50.

    • Mohammed Nabbous is the rebel IT guru. OPEC has made 500k USD available to Libya through OFID.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In my opinion as of a long time network and internet engineer (+25 years). Satellite based Internet is fastest way if we just got them gear on ground.

    http://www.satsig.net/ivsat-europe.htm

    It's not that great for all use like voip or interactive shell use because of latency and jitter, but for file transfers uploading and downloading web browsing, email, twitter etc. it is OK.

  • sure it can be done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @07:39PM (#35392810)
    why not portable cellphone and wifi telescopic antenna towers on trailers that are easily pulled by a pickup truck that can be set up within a few minutes, they can cross the border pull up to a mountaintop and be running in no time. and if they are cheap enough just set one up and abandon it to function until it gets blown up by the enemy, then deploy another one somewhere else, (no life lost) just a couple of thousand dollars in electronics and portable infrastructure for each, if they can be built cheap and disposable like that you can have fleets of them ready to deploy in hot war zones
    • by RichM (754883)

      ...just a couple of thousand dollars in electronics and portable infrastructure for each...

      Yeah, I'm sure that a couple of thousand dollars will be no problem for the residents of war-torn Libya.

      • by FudRucker (866063)
        i was referring to the UN or the USA or NATO, since they all love to blow huge sums of money on all sorts of things
        • by RichM (754883)
          They wouldn't touch this with a bargepole until there is significant security in place. And by then, this story would be irrelevant.
    • by hawguy (1600213)

      A cell site of any decent capacity and transmitter power is going to cost $50 - $100K, not a "couple of thousand". And you better hope people that want to use it are close to the mountaintop since GSM is limited to around 25 miles from the cell site. CDMA doesn't have a hard limit, though you've still got a problem with receiving the signal from a cell phone transmitting at less than 1 watt (typically with a very low gain antenna) - max range is probably not much more than 30 miles even if you have clear li

  • Running a cable to Egypt and programming the routers to use it would suffice. Wifi doesn't have the range or bandwidth for the job. This assumes the power grid works- even if Ghaddafi isn't targeting the power it might go out due to fires or lack of gas.
    • by SEWilco (27983)
      Or how about to Greece? There's a submarine cable already contracted to connect Libya to Greece. If the contractors already got paid, maybe they should install it.
  • Get some BIG spools of optic fibre, a plough, and some telco-grade routers. Then just run dozens of cables across the border into the edge towns. Then run the local routers (that all lead to Tripoli and their central telecoms hub) backwards.

    Failing that, there's an old Interop saying: "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station-wagon full of tapes on the freeway."

  • "Should we" is the better question. They are a sovereign nation and wishes should be respected. How you would you feel about a bunch of outsiders pushing their agenda on your fellow citizens, which is exactly what this entails if you boil it down to the basics?

    'Internet' isn't a basic human right.

    • by pz (113803)

      "Should we" is the better question. They are a sovereign nation and wishes should be respected. How you would you feel about a bunch of outsiders pushing their agenda on your fellow citizens, which is exactly what this entails if you boil it down to the basics?

      'Internet' isn't a basic human right.

      Trolling?

      Qaddaffi is a poster child for war crimes. The international community has an obligation to oppose, subvert, and eventually put to trial leaders who send armies to fire upon unarmed citizens.

      This isn't some game. This isn't something that can be rationalized and boiled down to basics unless you have the express goal of sticking your head in the sand. If you believe the few western news reports trickling out of the country, people have been routinely slaughtered and the war crimes covered up.

      And

      • by L0rdJedi (65690)

        "Should we" is the better question. They are a sovereign nation and wishes should be respected. How you would you feel about a bunch of outsiders pushing their agenda on your fellow citizens, which is exactly what this entails if you boil it down to the basics?

        'Internet' isn't a basic human right.

        Trolling?

        Qaddaffi is a poster child for war crimes. The international community has an obligation to oppose, subvert, and eventually put to trial leaders who send armies to fire upon unarmed citizens.

        This isn't some game. This isn't something that can be rationalized and boiled down to basics unless you have the express goal of sticking your head in the sand. If you believe the few western news reports trickling out of the country, people have been routinely slaughtered and the war crimes covered up.

        And maybe you haven't been paying attention to the things Qaddaffi has already done? Seriously, take a few minutes to read up. This man is a terrorist who is hell-bent on repressing his citizens as well as attacking the rest of the non-Arab world. Moreover, unlike many other leaders, he isn't all talk: he has committed substantial violent acts both domestically and internationally. This man needs to be removed from power and tried in The Hague and leave the Libyans to select their own desired form of government. Again, this is not a domestic Libyan issue, this is an international issue.

        All that not withstanding, the parent posters final statement is correct. 'Internet' isn't a basic human right and the Ask Slashdot question is asking if the "International Community" (which really comes down to the US and some other countries in the UN) could go in and set it up. You're more likely to get killed and have all your equipment stolen. Internet is the last thing on the average Libyan's mind right now. They want weapons, either for attacking the current regime or defending it. They have no

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Internet should be a basic human right, it's the only way that people come to find out what it's like in the rest of the world. The bigger issue is as you say, interfering with a sovereign state. Gaddafi has already been claiming that foreign powers are riling up the Libyan people, finding something like this would definitely embolden him.

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Internet is NOT a basic human right. Free flow of information should be a basic human right, because it helps keep government honest. Information can be delivered in lots of ways that don't involve the internet.
    • by Hartree (191324)

      Those evil outsiders. Daring to put in links to a blacked out area so people can talk and communicate.

      I don't buy it. Countries violate the sovereignty of others all the time. And then cry great walrus tears when their own is infringed on. If you were arguing against a no fly zone, or military aid to one side I'd give it more credence.

      After all, Gaddhafi just wants to be left alone so he can murder his people in peace and not have people around the world know he's doing it.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      The U.N. is authorized to interfere with the internal affairs of any sovereign nation that they believe is committing genocide. That's why Gaddafi's own diplomats keep insisting he is committing genocide; they hope to get U.N. assistance in unseating him. Yes, short of a leader murdering their own people, we should refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign nations.
    • by Compaqt (1758360)

      I don't know what country you're posting from, but the American Revolution was surely helped by the French, and appreciated it.

      >'Internet' isn't a basic human right.

      I don't quite know what the relevancy of that statement is. Food also isn't "a basic human right", but people still send food to, e.g., earthquake devastated areas like Haiti.

  • Don't under estimate the bandwidth of physically shipping something like a DVD-R, USB stick, or microSD card in or out of libya. You could traffic these items into and out of the war torn state of your choice. They could contain photos, video, messages etc. Gigabytes of content could sail past any borders. It may take a day or two to reach somewhere with unrestricted internet. But when your hauling dozens of gigabytes it still makes good bandwidth. It just doesn't leave a single point of failure like a larg
    • by Jeremy Lee (9313)

      IP-over-carrier-pigeon was a classic joke, but it made an interesting point... Internet Protocols don't have to be confined to computers. The exact same protocols can be enacted by people. (Just packet size and latency go up :-)

      What you describe is already happening. I've read reports of one guy who's barely slept in a week because he keeps driving back and forth across the border, shuttling hard drives to foreign journalists.

  • So you're saying America can singlehandedly save this country by dumping garbage on them?
  • It's probably too late for a new network in Libya.

    Sooner or later the US government will weaken and fall as the economy tanks. I expect hyperinflation brought on by mid-east instability wreaking havoc on oil prices.

    I recommend everyone get setup with amateur radio license and gear ASAP.

    Solar panels or other off-grid power source will be worth major bonus points.

  • The technology isn't the problem... the problem is the supporters of the current government with weapons that would take out the dishes.

  • I guess it would be quite cheap that the US navy upgrades some ship to be in front of the coast with strongly directed Antennas to pick up/transmit Wireless (WiMAX, if you like to have an polular standard) signals or provides a directed radio links which can provide infrastructure for mobile cell towers. Probably something like strongly directed GSM network cell would also be possible.

    Electronic Warefare Troops can probably do similar things with analog radio since a long time.

    However that wold make the par

  • I've spent a lot of time doing communications in remote areas of the world. Your biggest challenge in this case is going to be the other end. You can blast what you want from outside the country, but until you get something actually inside the country to blast back to you, you are pretty much screwed.

    Having said that, in a pinch a Pringle can might be enough to get something going, or if you are a fan of the movies, someone who sneaks into the country with a bunch of microwave equipment on their backs. T

  • If you've got line of sight, 2 powerful enough transmitters, and 2 highly directional antennas, it is theoretically possible to do this with microwave transceivers. Laser is theoretically possible too, but it would be even more susceptible to interference from weather. But, wouldn't a single link to the 'net be a pretty attractive target for Gaddafi's jets?

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