My short bio: I founded Outernet, which is a free-to-receive broadcast data service. Our goal is to provide a basic level of news, information, and education to all of humanity, regardless of income, infrastructure or geography. I previously worked at an investment fund ( that supports media entrepreneurs in emerging and frontier markets. Before that, I helped build digital things at WBEZ/Chicago Public Media. And I dropped out of library school.

My Proof: (below the image)

Hi Everyone. I'll be calling it quits pretty soon, but feel free to add questions. I'll be checking all evening and night.

Comments: 148 • Responses: 58  • Date: 

nohrei52 karma

Hi there!

First time ever hearing about Outernet- what is it exactly?

How do you connect to the library without the Internet?

Do you have many people connecting to your servers... again, first time ever hearing about you guys, this is why I am not sure if people in need ever heard about this awesome thing either!?

Finally, what do you do to propagate Outernet?

Thank you!

syedkarim65 karma

Hellos! Thanks for your interest and questions.

Outernet is a broadcast data service. Think of it like over-the-air TV or FM radio, it just magically appears on a receiver--without any subscription. The only other globally accessible data service (that I'm aware of) is GSP, which transmits about 50 bits of information per second. We are currently delivering about 1GB of content per day.

For now, you'll need a satellite dish, a DVB-S tuner, and some kind of computing device (like a Raspberry Pi, or a dedicated receiver, which we sell). You can see our code and rPi instructions on Github:

Or you can get a Lighthouse receiver here:

Once the dish is pointed, and assuming the receiver is working, content is downloaded and stored to the device. The content is accessed by any kind of wifi-enabled device.

Since Outernet is a broadcast service, we have no idea how many people are accessing the service. I'm pretty sure it's not in the millions or even the tens of thousands, though; our prototype service started only a year ago and we've only recently begun normal transmissions. But even if we do grow to millions of users, we'll never really know, since there is no permanent connection to the end user.

Can you clarify your question regarding propagation?

LethalClips15 karma

It's great you provide the source for people to use if they already have a capable device, what you're doing seems really great :)

syedkarim10 karma

Let me know if you're able to build a receiver. We recently started supporting Intel x64:

imthatguy2517 karma

Why did you drop out of library school?

syedkarim23 karma

I originally enrolled thinking I wanted to pursue a phd in the economic impact of information access. I realized after 18 months that I just wasn't cut out to be an academic. I should have figured that out sooner, as I barely graduated from college. I am literally one-assignment away from a master's, though at this point I doubt they would accept the late assignment.

i_went_full_retard6 karma

You may feel nervous, but you should go ahead and turn it in anyway. You never know until you try, and all that hard work toward earning your master's could really pay off. Just give it a shot :-)

syedkarim29 karma

Ha, that assumed that I actually completed the assignment...

asaltandbuttering13 karma

How do you choose your content? What do you think of ostensibly similar in spirit attempts at providing free internet by the likes of Facebook and Google?

syedkarim19 karma

Right now, we're making a lot of the decisions on what gets sent out--but we really have no desire to do this indefinitely. We're transitioning to a system that allows our community to determine what should be delivered; like a mashup of Reddit and YouTube. Our early version of this was limited to just making suggestions:

In the future, we'll allow more direct access to the uplink chain. We will offer a certain amount of our capacity to our online community and a certain amount dedicated to filling requests made by users in the field, who don't have full blown internet access (due to economic reasons), but can make requests over SMS or WhatsApp.

syedkarim7 karma

I'm not aware of Google working on any free-internet projects. The product manager of Loon, their balloon-based system, said they would definitely be charging for the service. I think the target price was around $30 per month. Facebook is a wild card; I don't know what their plans are. was access to a limited number of sites, so somewhat similar to our local caching model. But their new announcement with Eutelsat is something else entirely. But I'm not sure that they are offering that service for free--have you read that they will?

greggorievich8 karma

I'm curious about the hardware decisions you made. Why did you pick the BeagleBone black as a base for the Lantern? Is the lighthouse also on the same platform? What about an entirely custom made board? Your DIY ORx is made for a Raspberry Pi - if you're already developing for the BeagleBone, why not make that your platform for the ORx DIY? (Admittedly I might be answering my own question when I say that I'm glad I didn't have to buy a new board as I already have a Pi.) I imagine there's some hardware independence as long as you use a linux kernel with the right drivers, I'm just curious about the decisions you made and why. Obviously I'm not looking to replicate your hardware or steal trade secrets, so if you can't share any of that detail, that's okay with me.

syedkarim6 karma

Excellent questions! We chose the BBB because of its two PRUs (programmable real-time units). We could have used the Pi 2, as well, but chose the BBB since it was a completely open design. You're right, we could have just made a shield instead of completely new pcb, but there we had some other uses for the PRUs. By the way, we open sourced the design of the Lantern PCB:

The current Lighthouse uses an AMlogic-8726 SoC. However, we will eventually move Lighthouse to the V1 board, which I linked to above. Using an existing board and loading our firmware on it allowed us to get to market very quickly. But using someone else' proprietary does have it's limitations.

The ORx Pi actually came about before the BBB decision. When we started, the Pi 2 had not yet been released. I think we may have made a different decision, if we had to do it all over again.

You assumed correctly: There is a bit of hardware independence. We recently announced support of Intel chips, so that a normal laptop (with a USB tuner) can be turned into an Outernet receiver:

I like the idea of repurposing used laptops the best. My hunch is that this will become the most prevalent receiver system.

By the way, most of our code is open source, so feel free to dig in:

We encourage you to replicate our hardware. If you can make it cheaper and better than we can, please let me know!

greggorievich1 karma

Thanks for all your thoughts! Fascinating stuff.

I agree with x86 support - I have a few machines laying around that would easily fill this purpose. I do happen to like playing around with the little dev/maker boards though.

Admittedly I'm not a hardware hacker or code guy to the point of making any use of your PCB designs or source code, but I hugely appreciate the significance of open sourcing it.

syedkarim1 karma

It would be great if you could test out the x86-build. It was designed to work with the USB tuner and it's a pretty easy install.

mojjorojjo7 karma

Since I know very little about outernet, staying in India. Can you tell me what exactly is outernet? Do you function here in India? If yes, then how? If no, then what are your plans for India?

syedkarim6 karma

Outernet is a broadcast data service. We use satellites to deliver digital media to the world. Our current signal can be received by hardware that is usually used to watch satellite tv. The difference between Outernet and satellite tv and radio is that we transmit files that are then stored on a receiver. Those files are then accessed over wifi. You can think of an Outernet receiver as a wifi warmspot, since it receives content from the web, but does not go back out to the internet.

If you have normal DVB-S equipment, like a satellite dish, you have the most important piece in the puzzle. The next thing is to find a Linux-compatible DVB-S tuner. Here is a list of compatible USB tuners:

Our instructions for creating a receiver with a Raspberry Pi can be found here:

Or you can buy a receiver from us here:

The parameters for receiving Outernet in India can be found here:

greggorievich6 karma

Hey Syed! Backer of the Lantern and forum-goer here (still struggling to get my ORx dish pointed, but I digress).

Do you have any plans beyond the Outernet? Once this succeeds, do you have any other visions, any issues you'd like to tackle? Or would you more likely just work on improving Outernet infinitely?

syedkarim10 karma

Thanks for being a backer--and for your patience. At your trying to point to Galaxy 19? What size is your dish?

I have no desire to do anything else in my life; building, improving, and refining Outernet is all I have an interest in (well, family and friends, too). If, for whatever reason, Outernet ceased to exist--and I was not able to build Outernet 2, then I would just live a tormented life as a farmer on the 13 acres that we have outside of Chicago.

greggorievich5 karma

Hey Syed, Galaxy 19, correct. I have a dish around ~80cm but I'm going to switch it out for a ~120cm dish once I find the right mounting hardware. I'm not too worried about it, I honestly think I just suck at pointing satellites. I'm going to try connecting the tuner to my laptop (rather than my ORxPi) to see if I can get more useful signal strength feedback. Failing that, I'll find a professional haha.

That's an admirable goal and dedication, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I sincerely hope you can iterate on the service forever, it has a huge pile of value. That said, with 13 acres you could do some pretty cool community supported agriculture.

syedkarim9 karma

I would be shocked if you needed a 120cm dish. Where in the US are you located? The larger your dish is, the harder it is to point, since the beam width of the antenna become smaller. If it's any consolation, it took me 3.5 hours to point a dish once. I'm noodling on some ideas on how to make the process better, with simple mechanical hardware. We are also talking to a manufacturer about building an auto-acquire motor that is compatible with dishes of various sizes (though that would be a little pricey).

If you are anywhere near Chicago, I'll come out and point it myself.

There were a few really interesting ideas on using the land from a post on Hacker News I made:

greggorievich4 karma

Actually, I'm in central Alberta, Canada. Edmonton would be a good gauge, and SatBeams recommends an 80cm dish to receive from G19, so maybe I'll stick with what I have and try again. Thanks for the offer, but it'd be quite a road trip for you.

For the auto-acquire, you might want to look at RV dealers, if you haven't already. They have similar systems.

syedkarim7 karma

King Controls and Winegard make auto-acquire products. The problem with both is that antennas are much, much smaller than what is required for us. The American broadcast satellites are super high-power. This allows the antenna to be much smaller and less efficient. The King Control antenna is coated plastic. Since we want a universal motor that works with stamped steel dishes, the work that King and Winegard have done is not directly related (though their pointing software would be). They use relatively small motors on a fully-integrated assembly. What we would like to offer is something that can be used with any standard DVB-S dish and mounting system. But you're right; definitely something to be aware of. The guys at King are great; I toured the plant about 6 months ago.

bennis445653 karma

I'd suggest a professional. I fought with my dish for an embarrassing amount of time until i bit the bullet and got a professional to do it.

syedkarim4 karma

Yeah, that's definitely one way to solve the problem. I've found that since magnetic heading is the easiest to find, to first lock to that position and then slowly adjust elevation. I worked with a technician in Kenya who got a lock in two minutes flat.

greggorievich2 karma

I had trouble using my compass on account of the huge metal dish. I did take a bearing and point the dish at that... I can manage to make my goofy little satellite finder squeal loudly and make the needle move, but no luck on anything connected to the tuner.

syedkarim1 karma

What the LNB plugged in and powered at the time? We had the same problem this last week, so we temporarily disconnected power to the LNB and then were able to get an accurate read from the compass.

Are you using Librarian's signal meter, which is under Tuner Settings? It gives you a real-time read on Signal and Quality.

merlinfire5 karma

Have you ever looked into/drawn inspiration from other projects? I know there are various broadband meshnet projects, like BBHN. Could any of these possibly help you? Thanks

syedkarim3 karma

Yes, there is more inspiration in the world than I could possibly remember. Commotion Wireless, World Space, Endaga, Fairwaves, RTL-SDR--the list goes on. The thing that separates us from the mesh networking projects is that we are focused on content delivery, rather than communication between nodes. But we would definitely like to support open source mesh networking applications, when we reach that point.

_Xenophone5 karma

Hi Syed and Lantern Team, How is production of the lantern coming along? I’m on of your indiegogo supporters and I know you’ve been saying you’ll be under promising and over delivering. How are things progressing and what have you learned along the way?

syedkarim5 karma

Thanks for your support by being a backer. The process is moving along. The protoboard will be ordered this week. We're receiving quotes from various contract manufacturers within the next two weeks. Some of these CMs already produce the Beaglebone Black, so they have the parts on hand to make the compute board for Lantern. Things are definitely moving forward, but never as fast as we'd like. What have I learned, wow! I could go on. The real take away is how hard building hardware is. I have a new level of respect for Shenzhen. Another thing I've learned is just how important manufacturing and engineering partners are. It's really not possible to do anything completely alone. The real lesson has to do with time: The rule of thumb of taking your conservative estimate and then doubling it--that's been spot on so far.

jbitwise4 karma

Hello Syed, I really like the idea of Outernet. I think that it is essential to find an alternative to basic Internet usage for the less-fortunate.

My question for you is given the potential of this project, where do you see Outernet standing in 5-10 years? Do you think it will be prolonged and help millions of people, or potentially die out? Thanks!

syedkarim4 karma

Thanks for the kind words. I see no reason why Outernet would not be available in 5 or 10 years. The GSMA, which is the global trade group for the world's telecom operators, has stated that 10 years from now, only a little over half of the humanity will be online. This is coming from the organization that represents, and regularly communicates with, all of the cellular network operators. I say this because even 10 years from now, lack of connectivity will still be a problem.

Another point to consider is that just because we have the internet, does not mean we should not have other means of communication and media delivery; in the US we still have over-the-air TV and FM/AM radio. If we continue to design our system with cost efficiency in mind, then there is no reason that we would not be around for 5, 10, or 20 years. The hard part is getting things started.

Fauglheim4 karma

Your Wikipedia page states that one of your goals is to be free from censorship. Have you had any clash/contact with law enforcement over this issue? (I understand if you have to give the Linus Torvalds "no-yes"). Do you plan on allowing encrypted transmissions?

Also, what are your planned milestones for expansion? How many people do you employ?

Thanks so much for doing the AMA. This is an absolutely fascinating project, and I'll be following it closely from now on. Godspeed!

syedkarim6 karma

You are correct, we don't agree with government censorship, but our position on censorship has not led to any real issues--yet. Well, when I was in Hong Kong speaking at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at Hong Kong University, the craziest thing happened: I could not access the Outernet website. The rest of our team could (Europe, US, etc), but it just did not exist when I tried from a couple locations in Hong Kong. Odd.

We offer an open transmission platform where anyone can distribute their content to the world. Our current platform is still quite rudimentary (and some parts are not accurate), but you can get an idea of what I'm talking about here:

If you decide to send encrypted content, then we will deliver it. It's up to you to distribute the keys for decryption to your recipients.

The next big milestone for us is our L-band coverage. We use Ku-band currently, which requires a dish to receive. L-band can be received by a much smaller antenna; a 4-inch square. This will allow users to obtain content through a portable receiver.

We employ 8 people, which is split between sales/operations and engineering.

Thanks for your interest!

Virtual_BS2 karma

What will you do if your popularity takes off people upload more content than you can transmit - using your service like a global file-sharing site?

syedkarim1 karma

That is a good problem to have! We hope that some of the people that share content also buy hardware from us so they can receive it. And we hope that some of content is sponsored. With stable revenue, we can afford to increase the capacity of the download stream.

Virtual_BS1 karma

Given your limited bandwidth, other than encrypted files, does your staff verify submitted content to keep disturbing/illegal stuff off your service?

i.e. How would you prevent abusive users from impacting the service negatively for legitimate users?

syedkarim1 karma

Right now we do verify content, but that's not a process that scales (for a small team), which is why we'll be requesting support from the community. The process will be similar to the way that Reddit moderation works.

Unfortunately, preventing misuse is going to be something we figure out as we go. Community moderation is one way, but that can still be hacked.

talkstowalls873 karma

Thanks for doing this! A student of mine ran a speech about outernet last year and you were kind enough to give her very valuable help. I just want to know, how have you tailored the voting system for content? Is there a plan in place to solicit content requests from regions with sparse electricity?

syedkarim6 karma

Ha! Full circle. I remember answering those questions for your student. We're rebuilding our content request system to support messages over WhatsApp, since that is the cheapest way to communicate internationally. Many feature phone support WhatsApp and since these are low-power devices, small solar panels can easily charge them. After we receive the requests from offline users, we'll post them to the next version of Whiteboard

Our online community will then act as virtual librarians and fill the content request. How does that seem to you?

NorbitGorbit3 karma

which on-air WBEZ personality surprised you the most in terms of technological literacy?

syedkarim1 karma

Nick van der Kolk

When we were both at WBEZ, he a producer for Vocalo, which was mashup of user-generated radio and less NPR-style content. Nick isn't a software developer, but he definitely understands technology, through and through. You can hear his current work here: It's a great podcast (available in iTunes for free).

avaseyrockz3 karma

Assalamu alaikum. Why didn't I come across that outer net in india or you are still developing for improvement of technology in every country including India?

syedkarim7 karma

Well, we don't do any real marketing, which is maybe why you have not heard of us. We do, however, have a very strong signal in India. We are on ABS-2, which you can see here:

Our goal is to provide universal information access. The system works the same no matter where in the world the user is; what is most important is content that is useful to end users. Do you have any suggestions for what we should be sending for Indian users?

avaseyrockz1 karma

Imagine if I was the one who got to know about your services only after I reached through you there are still many citizens in my country who are unaware of this outernet may be because lack of publicity. Why don't you publicize it?

syedkarim1 karma

Creating awareness in every country in the world takes either time or money (usually both). We're a small team, but we hope to create more global awareness in the coming months.

strong_grey_hero3 karma

Is your goal more to provide knowledge to developing countries, or to get information beyond the borders of countries that control information (China, NK)?

syedkarim6 karma

Our goal is to provide universal information access for anyone who wants it. If that means we simultaneously provide a path for content delivery which bypasses conventional networks, then it's up to users to determine if that is how they want to use Outernet. As far as where we spend most of our staff time--it's focused on educational deployments for underserved communities. Here's an example of one such project:

Aalchemist3 karma

What is your long term vision for Outernet? Thank you and good luck.

syedkarim5 karma

This photo won the 2014 World Press photo contest:

Although the context of that image is different than what I want the future to look like, it's still a relevant image. The long term vision is for Outernet to be as universal and pervasive as GPS. Anywhere in the world, you can use a $5 GPS radio to receive 50 bits per second. I want Outernet to be just as accessible, but provide 5,000,000 bits per second to the world (that's about 50 GB of daily content).

metroid_slayer3 karma

It seems like there's quite a bit of data you're trying to move, even including video. At 1 GB per day, that's going to take quite some time. Do you have plans to increase bandwidth? In addition, I can't imagine what kind of packet loss you see. How much redundancy is needed to compensate for this?

syedkarim4 karma

Video is the real killer when it comes to bandwidth consumption. We definitely have plans to increase capacity. 10GB per day is the next milestone (after we release the L-band service). To put that in context, the average American consumes about 2GB of data (on their phones) per month.

DVB-S/2 has it's own forward error correction, and then we add a bit more of it in the transport stream. I'm not sure what the final bit error rate comes to, but it does seem like we're delivering over 99% of our files.

metroid_slayer1 karma

Interesting! Can the L band transmission still penetrate to ground level with enough strength to be picked up by a small receiver?

Nevik422 karma

Yes, the Lantern receiver is being fashioned for L-band reception when used mobilely (it can optionally be used with a dish for higher-bandwidth Ku-band reception), see their latest blog post.

syedkarim4 karma

L-band is what Inmarsat, Thuraya, and LightSquared use. Most of those companies produce terminals/receivers that are pretty small. Their antennas are usually about 4-inches wide.

kugo103 karma

Are there areas you are not currently available in?

syedkarim4 karma

We don't hit Oceania all that well. There is also a big gap in the Sahara, but I'm not sure that anyone actually lives there. Central and Northern Asia are not covered at all. We are able to reach most people, but now most of the physical world.

throwawayproof2015233 karma

when will you adapt bitcoin into your business?

syedkarim3 karma

We could do so at any time, but we haven't seen any customer demand for it just yet. We have also considered a continuous broadcast of the blockchain, but that would require someone to sponsor the feed.

rkt88edmo2 karma

How important is keeping filesize small and universally readable? (Like Project Gutenberg)

syedkarim4 karma

Since our bitrate now is somewhat limited, we prefer to keep file size to less than 1MB. But that's not really a requirement. The reason we do that is so the user sees that new content is constantly being downloaded. We recently delivered the playlist of a concert in Malawi, called Lake of Stars:

Those music files were, on average, about 5MB a piece. There isn't a hard rule on how small/large a file can be; we just want to ensure that new stuff is constantly coming down the pipe.

rkt88edmo1 karma

So for something like audio or video do you re-encode ever or do you have guidelines for content providers?

syedkarim1 karma

To us, a file is a file. If you have something to delivery, we prefer that you send it to us in the format you want it to be received.

rkt88edmo1 karma

Any development on using sat+mesh so that you could possibly increase the transmission window for users who are close enough to mesh and maybe have a larger combined sat reception time?

Thanks for the replies and work, I think Outernet is a great idea.

syedkarim1 karma

Thanks for the compliment. Can you explain the use-case in a bit more detail. I don't think I follow it all the way.

Cannahacker2 karma

Hey Syed! Outernet is an incredible idea! When did you get started?

Also, I read a couple of the comments below, and they ask you about your vision and about the future of Outernet. So in the near future, do you see yourself working alongside big companies like Facebook and Tesla who want to provide free data/internet to developing countries? Or do you think there will be some kind of competition/ race since those companies are probably really going after Big Data?

Lastly, we are a funded media startup and would love to know more on MDIF if you have time! Thanks for the AMA!

syedkarim5 karma

Hellos! Thanks for the compliment. I had been exploring the idea since about 2012. The problem has always remained the same, which is how to offer universal information access, but the solution has taken a bit of time to nail down.

I don't have anything against Facebook or SpaceX (you mean SpaceX, not Tesla, right?), but I'm not sure if they want to work with anyone. They are aware of us, though (I visited the project lead of awhile back). The problem is so vast and there is so much work to be done that I don't see this as a competition at all. There are just so many libraries that need to be built.

I'm no longer involved with MDIF, so the best way to contact them is through this page:

I can guarantee that someone reads all of the messages and they do reply to each inquiry.

1tudore2 karma

How does Outernet and mdif impact people in countries with restricted media?

Does mdif work with local tech/practices that emerge to circumvent restrictions on media?

syedkarim3 karma

To clarify: Outernet and MDIF are two completely separate and independent entities. MDIF invests in independent media companies that operate in or target emerging markets. They provide financial resources--through their investments--to media entrepreneurs. The invest money through either debt or equity instruments.

numberthirteen2 karma

Do you sensor any of the content you provide based on the country you are giving it to?

syedkarim3 karma

Since the footprints of the signals is content-sized, we could not really do that (even if we wanted to, which we don't). Additionally, we only have one content server now, which sends the stream of files to the six satellites, so targeting specific countries is not yet possible. As far as our own censorship of content, you can read our content guidelines here:

dqequalsduadddw2 karma

Is this profiting you in any way? how are you getting the economic support to run this project? Are you thinking of continuing this as a fully available service or it is just some sort of experiment setup?

syedkarim2 karma

As a company, we are not yet profitable, but we are also in the early stages of development. We have three revenue lines:

  1. Hardware sales,
  2. Sponsored content delivery
  3. Premium content (eventually)

We absolutely intend to continue and expand Outernet. Our small team is fully dedicated to do just that.

dqequalsduadddw1 karma

Can the lighthouse be made by anyone? or you are using some encryption/decryption method?

syedkarim1 karma

Lighthouse is a product that we produce, but an OrxPi can be made by anyone. I'm sure you could make a Lighthouse, but we get them straight from the factory. The instructions to build a Raspberry Pi-based receiver are found here:

thoughts-from-alex2 karma

How does it work?

syedkarim2 karma

It works a lot like satellite TV (free-to-air) and AM/FM radio. However, instead of sending only audio and video content, we deliver files. Those files are then stored locally and accessed over wifi. It's sort of like TiVo, but for web content.

We have a list of FAQs on our forum, which might be useful:

philckd2 karma

Where can you buy a DVB-S tuner and a dedicated receiver? Does it include a fee to pay for using Outernet? Also, what happens when it goes out due to inclement weather? What got you the idea to start Outernet and can it be used in big cities or small towns?

Nevik424 karma

You can purchase Outernet-made hardware from the outernet store, and you can build a DIY receiver (all you need is a computer, Linux, and a Linux-compatible DVB-S2 tuner, see list here).

Usage of outernet is free of charge, once you have receiver hardware. The receiver software is open source (see wiki article above).

Outernet can be used anywhere there is (sufficient) satellite coverage (see the coverage map), that's most populated areas on Earth (including big cities).

If you experience power loss, you might be able to continue receiving if all your equipment is battery-powered (or has a backup power source). If your reception does indeed cut out, e.g. due to weather as you mentioned or due to actual loss of power, you will miss that part of the broadcast. Outernet will broadcast both current data (e.g. tweets, news, etc.) that is usually one-time only (since it's mostly relevant close to time of publication), so you will not be able to get that data usually. However, other data (e.g. important Wikipedia pages) are part of the "core" dataset and will be rebroadcast regularly, so you'll get them after a little while (I'm not sure on what the turn-over for the core dataset is currently or in the future, but I'm guessing a few days).

syedkarim3 karma

Wow. I'm not sure if I could have answered that question any better than this. Thanks, Nevik42

canadienne-2 karma

This is an amazing thing you're doing. :)

Thoughts on Edward Snowden controversy?

syedkarim2 karma

I think Snowden is a complicated issue and I have been so focused on Outernet that I pretty ill-informed of the details. Of course I understand the big picture, but reality lives in details. The world is likely a better place as a result of his actions, but what would happen if all classified information was always released to the public. Would the world be safer? I have no idea.

punch-kicker2 karma

How do you decide on what content is available? Team decision, your search history, or dart board?

syedkarim4 karma

Right now we take feedback from people and then create a data carousel. At the moment, we're delivering all of Project Gutenberg, which is about 37,000 ebooks. We also cycle through thousands of Wikipedia articles. Although Wikipedia/Project Gutenberg/Khan Academy are invaluable resources, the carousel must be much more dynamic, which we are working on. This new system will allow our online community to submit content and also fill content requests from offline users (sent over WhatsApp).

Aeonitis2 karma

What about my homies in the country of Eritrea? You available in that area?

syedkarim2 karma

Yep, we're there. Eretrea appears to be covered by IS-20.

getevlcted1 karma

Is Outernet signal only pointed to the Earth? If so, that seems pretty "inter"net ;)

My point really is.. Are you capable of broadcasting the same content out to space in hopes that many moons later, another civilization can read our wikipedia and other boring stuff?

syedkarim1 karma

Ha. I had not thought of that. Very clever. Actually, by default we are sending stuff into deep space, because the teleports are pointing their antennas towards the satellite, and I'm sure there's a good bit of spillover.

Nevik421 karma

Hi Syed, thanks for doing this AMA!

How spread out is the Outernet team at the moment, geographically? Are you all centered around Chicago, or all over the place? Do you have a physical office where you all work together, or do you usually work from home and come together for specific purposes?

How has the process to get the satellite uplinks been? Did you spend time with the uplink provider(s) to get your connection set up (I'm imagining caffeine-filled, all-nighter-driven weekends wedged between racks in some data center out in the desert), or is it just a "simple" web API that you hook your content server(s) into?

Thanks in advance!

syedkarim2 karma

We are all over the place, though my preference is for people to be in Chicago, if possible. There are 3 (and one part-time) in Chicago. One in Seattle, two in Serbia, and the last one of us in India. Although we're distributed, we all maintain Chicago working hours.

The few of us in Chicago come to the office most every day (650 W Lake Street #110, Chicago IL 60661). A strict 9-5 schedule is not observed; people come and go when they need to.

Initially, finding a good teleport-partner was exactly as you described, but now it's more or less turnkey. Although we are standards-based (DVB-S/2), we kind of hacking the DVB-spec so that we can be received by commodity components and also show up as a radio channel (we initially had a tv splash page, but that's a waste of bandwidth). We can add capacity very quickly and without much effort.

I wish it was a simple web API! Actually, we will be the ones creating that API, so that others can deliver data over our system. SaaS: Satellites as a Service.

Nevik421 karma

Cool, thanks for your reply!

Are there any photos of your Outer-Space (your offices -- get it? Outernet? Office space? anyone?) you can share or that are on the web already?

Haha, Satellites as a Service gives "the Cloud" a whole new level of meta!

syedkarim2 karma

We're located at this co-working space; it's for hardware startups:

rastel1 karma

What is the latency like? Is it a one way broadcast to terrestrial server hubs and then dispersed from there to local users?

syedkarim1 karma

Yes, but the terrestrial server hubs are located on premise with the end user. This is essentially edge caching at the end of the last mile. Latency is basically irrelevant because the user only interacts with content that is available on the node.

Nevik421 karma

To follow up on the latency question, let's extend "latency" to mean the time between a piece of content gets submitted and approved (or voted up), so that it gets scheduled for broadcast. What times are typical until the content is actually beamed up for transmission? In other words, how much of the data stream is being queued/buffered at the teleports -- or is it practically instant (other than transmission latency), as with a live TV broadcast?

syedkarim2 karma

Ah yes--thanks for the clarification. The time between upload and downlinking can be virtually instantaneous. That time differential is actually one of the things that we sell. For example, anyone can suggest content through Uplink.Outernet, but paying for delivery allows for the content to jump the queue.

It's a rolling carousel, so the time to delivery varies by how large the carousel is at any point in time. All of Project Gutenberg--about 37,000 ebooks--takes about two weeks to deliver. But from a purely technical perspective, the system is virtually identical to live tv.

Swiftical1 karma

Me and my friends have a great startup idea and everything is in place. But where do I learn how to do computer wiring to make actual products?

syedkarim2 karma

You should visit your local hackerspace

Nacho_adept1 karma

Hello Syed,

I am amazed by the scope of what you are doing here. I have always wanted to change the world and you are doing just that. Do you have a job for someone who wants to make a difference?


syedkarim1 karma

Well, we're trying to change the world. Let's revisit this topic after a few years. We might have a job, but I've got to be honest, we don't pay that well. Feel free to email me, though. [email protected]

kugo101 karma

Follow up— So is North Korea and China currently receiving outernet clearly (as far as you can surmise)? Also, and bear with me as I don't know much about satellite technology, is it possible to block the satellite signal; if yes, how difficult is it to do? And how much of a land area could be 'blocked' by a single party?

syedkarim3 karma

North Korea is a special case. Satellite dishes are completely illegal, so I don't know of any way for Outernet to be received there. In China, I have received confirmation of reception, but I doubt anyone really pays attention to what we're doing, since most of the content is English-language right now.

Yes, most satellite transmissions can be blocked (most, but not all). It's not something a hobbyist generally does/can do, but governments regularly do. Cuba used to jam a satellite that covered Iran; I think the two governments worked something out:

Nevik421 karma

So (barring further legislation/prohibition at the time), once the L-band transmission goes live and Lantern-sized receivers are viable, could that be an alternative for people in North Korea?

syedkarim2 karma

Yes, it would be functional in North Korea, but how would the citizens of North Korea get their hands on a Lantern?

SelectiveVariety1 karma

Have you heard of facebook's new If so, do u have any comments on it? Thanks for doing the AMA!

syedkarim2 karma

Oh absolutely--it's hard not to hear of them (in the area that we work). In the end, we are all trying to solve the same problem, but we're trying from different angles. They have a list of approved-sites, whereas we send units of content, based on user-feedback. We're able to delivery higher volumes of daily content, since we are not at the mercy of the telcos to provide complimentary bandwidth, which is the case with

LoudCommentor1 karma

How do/did you get money from all this? Surely internet providers everywhere are giving you a lot of trouble...

syedkarim1 karma

We're not really a competitive service to the internet. Our competition is satellite tv and terrestrial radio. We're not really an ISP; we're more like an interactive broadcaster.

snooville0 karma

Is this a business or an NGO? I see you charge people to send data but who would actually pay to reach the poorest people on the planet?

What odd mixture of ethnicities is your CTO? He's named Hajime Branko Yamasaki Vukelic and looks to be Japanese plus something else (Vukelic, Branko)?

syedkarim1 karma

We're definitely a business. If the audience is large enough, lots of people will pay to reach them. Just because you're poor, does not mean you have no money; it just means that you don't have a lot of it. Poor people buy soap, toothpaste, cellphones, Coca Cola, etc.

Branko is a Serbian of partial Japanese descent.

bloodjoe0 karma

what makes you different than the rest of the rich indians in the world?

syedkarim1 karma

I'm sorry, I don't understand the question. I was born and raised in the US, just outside of Chicago. My parents are Bangladeshi immigrants.

Vayate-2 karma

So how much of your traffic goes to RedTube?

syedkarim2 karma

We don't delivery any content from RedTube.

Dear_Fuck_WHY-4 karma

Can I be a cat?

syedkarim2 karma