Friday, 4 March 2016

Raspberry Pi-powered transmitters broadcast Syrian radio


Raspberry Pi – Utilised to Power Micro Radio Transmitters

In Syria, Raspberry Pi computers are being utilised to power the micro radio transmitters. The so called Pocket FMs had been designed by a German organisation to providing Syrians with independent radio. The device tends to have a range of about 4 to 6 km which seems adequate in covering a whole town and at the heart of each is the Raspberry Pi; a credit card sized single board computers.

According to the designers, around two dozen have been built and are proposed to be easy to set up as a piece of flat-pack furniture. Philipp Hochleichter had informed BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that they had lost one device in Kobane which was owing to the bombing and not a malfunction. Pocket FMs have been installed in conditions wherein larger transmitter tends to be difficult to set up and activate.

Mr Hochleichter had explained that they had tried to create a small box which would be easy to carry around, convenient to be transported or hide, which is based on 12 volts so that it can connect to a solar system or a car battery. The Pocket FMs tends to broadcast a channel which has been created by a network of nine stations depending on the region known as Syrnet.

Device Picks up Satellite Feed of Channel

The device seems to pick up satellite feed of the channel, rebroadcasting it on FM frequency so that people in Syria have the benefit of listening on ordinary radios. Ultimately, the device would be adept in picking up the Syrnet channel through Wi-Fi and mobile data.

The channel is also made available to listen to online and through a mobile app. The team behind the project is a Berlin based non-governmental body, called Media in Cooperation and Transition – MiCT. Besides designing the Pocket FMs together with maintaining Syrnet, MiCT hires a team of journalist, most of who seem to be expatriate Syrians who help the small independent stations in making programmes.

The Pocket FMs tend to function in areas which are not controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime or the Islamic State militants. A member of Syrnet is Welat FM and the station is based in Qamishli towards the far north east of Syria. An airport which can be seen from the studio window is yet under the control of the Assad regime.

Aim of Project – Support Freedom of Expression/Solidarity with People in Disaster

The editor-in-chief of Welat FM informed the BBC that it is annoying when one looks from the window and sees the airport; one hears the noise of the warplanes day and night all the time. Few years back the control of the Syrian government seemed to be everywhere, however now radio has become an important means of communication.

Hara FM which is produced in Turkey tends to broadcast to Aleppo and receivesfrom contributors in the town. Marwa, a Hara FM journalist from Turkey comments that presently, the journalists seems to be safe with the opposition though it is yet a war zone with gunfire and shelling. He further adds that he is worried about his staff in Aleppo, though no journalist seems to be 100% safe anywhere in the world and for any journalist, telling the truth puts their life in danger.

One of the advantages of utilising Raspberry Pi is that it seems to be comparatively easy in adding new components. The aim of the project is to support freedom of expression though it is also about solidarity with people in disaster.

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