Burning Man, the wild celebration of self-expression that attracts some 25,000 artists and free spirits, blooms each Labor Day in middle of the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. Black Rock City is organized as 2/3 of a circle with axes on each half hour, intersecting with 9 concentric semi-circles.
Wireless internet access is provided by Playanet. The Oregon Country Fair Embassy camp and Tachyon brought Internet access to Burning Man in 1999, 2000, and 2001 and will do it again in 2002. The equipment was also used at the Oregon Country Fair, held each July outside of Eugene.
The Tachyon satellite runs at 2 Mbit/sec downstream and 300 Kbit/sec upstream. Playanet runs at 1 to 11 megabits/sec and should cover the entire Playa area, usable from roaming laptops and camps. People working on the Internet project for the Eugene-based group include John Gilmore, Clif Cox, and Harvie Branscomb. The founder of Burning Man is Larry Harvey, with Lady Bee, the Art Curator.
Clif Cox, who founded the Eugene Free Network, lives in Eugene and has been involved in the Oregon Country Fair, for many years. About five years ago he “unwired” it with Richochet radios. He found a nearby farm house who was willing to share their phone and relayed the signal to the Country Fair bouncing off four radios with two radios in trees. A laptop would have two serial connectors (PC card serial adapters provided a second port)relayed the signal. The wireless network used the STRIP protocol from the MosquitoNet project.
About three years ago he teamed with John Gilmore, the cypherpunk co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who paid for the satellite dish and service from Tachyon. John also wrote the book on Cracking DES.
Perhaps the real beginning of the Burning Man wireless LAN was in 2000 when Matt Peterson formed a discussion group to determine the engineering feasibility of building the Wireless LAN system at Burning Man. Matt later founded Bay Area Wireless Users Group, quite likely the first truly organized Community LAN project in the United States. The PlayaNET Archives, beginning in April of 2000, contain the genesis of today’s Community LAN revolution.