Saturday, June 16, 2012

So You Want to Start a Sneakernet

I'm hoping some of you have followed this blog because you actually want to put this whole Sneakernet idea into practice.  So what will you need?  Well, at a bare minimum, you'll need a USB drive and a friend for a point-to-point network.  But let's look in a bit more detail into the two configurations I mentioned in an earlier post, the RING and the STAR.


You'll need:

  • a small group of friends (say 3-6)
  • one USB drive per person
  • a time to meet up regularly (say, Friday at the pub)

On Friday at the pub, everyone in the group meets up and passes the USB drive to the next person.  You can make a list if you like to keep things straight:

1. Mike
2. Steve
3. Lexi
4. Chris

And then Mike always passes to Steve, Steve to Lexi, Lexi to Chris, and Chris to Mike.

The week or so each person has with each drive should give enough time to find or create some interesting content for other members of the network, and since you won't get the drive back for a month, there should be some surprises waiting there for you each time.

SETTING UP A RING SNEAKERNET (Opportunity passing)

You'll need:

  • a small group of friends (say 3-6)
  • one USB, period
With just one USB drive, the meetup time is not quite the same incentive.  Instead, the USB drive travels in the same pre-determined order, but whenever we see each other to pass it off.  So if I'm seeing Steve this evening, I'll just give it to him then, and he can pass it on to Lexi when he gets the chance.  Latency is likely to be much higher on this sort of network, especially if someone spaces for a few weeks that they were the one left holding the drive.  Still, if you've only got one USB between you, this might be the way to go.


You'll need: 
  • a group of friends of most any size
  • anywhere from a few to a handful of USB drives
  • a mug, bowl, box, or bin located in a safe but open place
This form of the Sneakernet is likely to be the most welcoming to outsiders.  Anyone who wants to can come grab a USB drive from the mug or can drop one off there; we browse whatever content we pick up and share whatever we feel is worth sharing with anyone who decides to pick it up next.

The key to this topology is finding a good place for that mug.  Suggestions include the counter at your favorite coffee shop, the desk in the dorm room of wherever everyone ends up hanging out all the time (you know there's always one room), or behind some books in the library in a section no one ever browses (the Westlaw journals can provide an ironically amusing location, and I've never seen anyone take one off a shelf).  You could put them all in a box and store them out by the woodpile.  You could even register them as a GeoCache and wait for the fun to start rolling in.

These are just a few ideas, but I'm sure you all will have others!

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