Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Early Prototype of the Serval Mesh File Distribution System, the Rhizome Retriever

Romain one of our team has been working hard to get the Rhizome Retriever together as part of our work in supporting citizen journalism in a community in Nigeria, that I have blogged about previously.

They are already using our software in that community to make free mesh telephone calls, but from the outset the plan has been to enable them to be citizen journalists, and to share news and information in their community.

To enable this, we are making our Rhizome Retriever (Serval RR), which basically lets you pick files on your phone, and put them up on the mesh, from where they will be automatically distributed to other phones on the mesh.

Mass file distribution on a mesh is usually fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is that the available bandwidth on a mesh halves (or worse) for each extra hop that you try to traverse.

So you can often get decent bandwidth to nearby nodes, but poor or intermittent connection to more distant nodes.

Also, the more people trying to transfer things many hops across the network reduces the available bandwidth for everyone.

So we decided to make the Serval RR only ever send data one hop to the nearest neighbours.  They can then in turn send data to their neighbours later on at their convenience.

As a result, Serval RR can already distribute even relatively large files, certainly into the several mega-byte range, without great difficulty, and without making the network unusable for everyone else.

Here is a quick demo of the initial prototype of the Serval RR software in action:

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