Remote Babysitting and Network Remixing


Nikolaj Nyholm, on Remixing the Network, tells the story of using Skype and Remote Desktop Connection to talk to his son while playing a game of Pippi Longstocking with him from thousands of miles away. He said it was a powerful experience. His talk is about how open bandwidth, open standards, and open source are allowing us to change what networking means.

Mass commoditization has also helped. A small Wi-Fi box, that costs $70, now has the equivalent processor of a $5000 Indy Workstation from 1995. Networking hardware is cheap and can be remixed in interesting ways. One such a box, the Linksys WRT54G, has a Linux distribution that runs on it: OpenWRT.

OpenWRT is a firmware replacement that allows you to build services on top of the WRT54G. The firmware core provides network initialization (ethernet and wireless), firewalling, DHCP client / server, caching DNS server (with hooks to DHCP to lookup DHCP client hostnames), and telnet server and busybox environment. "Everything else (ssh, HTTP administration, etc) can be done in the form of a package on the jffs2 filesystem; OpenWRT's goal is to provide a minimal base which can be expanded through the use of software packages."

The interface to the box looks like a Web page. The boxes can be programmed to attach to some central service for configuration. I think the idea is to create large networks of these devices, but I'm not sure.

The goal, create scalable Wi-Fi networks for smaller businesses, built from small, cheap boxes rather than lots of expensive gear from Cisco. The server software supports community building in an extended network of nodes.