PirateBox Takes File-Sharing Off The Radar and Offline, For Next To Nothing

When confronted with a doomsday scenario where mainstream online file-sharing becomes a thing of the past, it's not uncommon for people to refer to days gone by, when files were swapped freely offline using discs and other mediums. Now, an interesting and compact system can deliver the [g]olden days of data swapping with a modern twist, by turning any open space into a wireless and anonymous file-sharing system at a rock-bottom price.

pirate box logoWith the advent of the personal computer and with it the ability to endlessly copy data, the human desire to share has skyrocketed. Shifting data from A to B, wherever those points may be on a global scale, is now something easily achieved by billions across the world.

While the immense capabilities of the Internet has made sending and receiving data child’s play, there are others who find the transfer of bits and bytes across much shorter distances just as fascinating.

In 2009 we reported on the Kiosk of Piracy, an offline copy of The Pirate Bay accessible via local WiFi. Although a neat little project, the Kiosk was in one specific location in Germany, meaning anyone out of range would not be able to access it. But now a cool little tool means that anyone, anywhere, can offer a similar file-sharing service for just a few dollars.

Inspired by the local transmitting power of traditional pirate radio, NYU art professor David Darts created the PirateBox, a WiFi hotspot and server providing easy and anonymous access to the files held within.

In a previous incarnation (see below) the PirateBox – which utilized a full-size wireless router and a USB stick for storage – was housed in a fairly cumbersome metal lunchbox.

piratebox
The whole thing cost around $100 to build, a not unreasonable price considering the features, but a new breakthrough update (thanks Numerama) means that not only is its physical footprint massively reduced, but also its cost. Depending on the amount of storage space required for files, for less than $50 anyone can now run a PirateBox wireless file-sharing system.

The huge price cut has been made possible by using new hardware, specifically the TP-LINK TL-MR3020 3G Wireless N Router, available from Newegg at just $39.99. Once obtained, all people have to do is follow the PirateBox installation instructions here, insert a USB stick full of files and power on. As can be seen below, it looks rather good.

The PirateBox

example of a pirate box

Users wirelessly accessing the device are presented with a web interface which allows them not only to download files but upload them too. No logs or other identifying information is stored in the device.

Although great for anyone to share files within its range, considering the pressure currently being applied to university students by record labels and their anti-piracy partners, the chances of music-stuffed PirateBoxes popping up on campuses all around the world increases every day.

And considering that The Pirate Bay can now fit on the smallest of USB sticks, every PirateBox could also contain a copy of the world’s most famous torrent site.

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