Standalone WiFi Application HubsContinuing on my foray into resilient communities via local community tech hubs, I've begun thinking about extreme scenarios. Imagine a community with limited power and little or no internet connectivity; standard hosted platforms for commerce and communications - Ning, Twitter, Etsy, Facebook, Gmail, etc - would cease to be effective. It is possible, however, to recreate some of these services on a hyper local level using open-source tools and inexpensive hardware. Specifically, I've been looking at using plug computers as networked application hubs that can be extended by open-mesh wifi routers.
The plug computer is a mini linux server, meaning it can host website, databases, and applications. The open-mesh routers can then extend a mesh wifi network, making the shared applications available to the community.
Perhaps most intriguing aspects of this solution are the low cost and high portability/configurability. The hardware infrastructure can accomplished at under $200, depending on the desired network range (server is $100 and the routers are $30 each), and they could come already setup with the required (open-source) software, including pre-configured applications. Because the software is not proprietary or hardware specific, it could be easily distributed and modified. The hardware itself is componentized with a small form factor, so it too would be highly portable and configurable.
Lowering the technical barrier to setup would be critical to adoption, so I'm exploring what software and applications to include in a default package, how much documentation to include, and what pre-configured options to use in order to mitigate the time and cognitive overhead required to get a community network up and running.