Adak: The Next Silicon Valley

(Cross-posted from The Free Speech Zone)


“We make GSM look like a wireless access point. We make it that simple,” describes one of the project’s three founders, Glenn Edens.

The technology starts with the “they-said-it-couldn’t-be-done” open source software, OpenBTS. OpenBTS is built on Linux and distributed via the AGPLv3 license. When used with a software-defined radio such as the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP), it presents a GSM air interface (“Um”) to any standard GSM cell phone, with no modification whatsoever required of the phone. It uses open source Asterisk VoIP software as the PBX to connect calls, though it can be used with other soft switches, too. (More stats in a minute that I promise will blow away your inner network engineer.)…

Earlier this year, in order to get around the “can i use my cellphone” issue, it seems the people of Burning Man had an great idea.  In fact, their example could help bring wireless communication to lesser developed nations for very little cost….in fact, one can DIY the shit.

DIY, that’s the idea.  Making the technology affordable and utilizing it in the easiest way so that if someone wanted to make it or improve upon it they can. And now, everyone is doing something they think is a good idea by getting information how to do it on the internet (see Instructables) and then actually making it.  

The ground is fertile, with this new self-awareness that people have, for a second “Silicon Valley”.

The only problem is….where is it going to be this time?:


(scenic photo)



The cost of these housing facilities was handed to me by a person that may help spark this next technological push into the future.  The houses are quadplexes which allow upto 4 people (or families) to each house only costing $20K at the most.  If you’re like me you said “so what?”, I mean, houses are available in bumfuck nowhere Alaska on an island of 150 people so why there?

This is when the next player in the game comes in.

Another guy who just so happens to be on a mission to setup community “Makerspaces” where he turns an abandoned building into a home/workshop for the mostly unemployed busy hands in his community:


He wants to have Makerspaces be a community institution for all who may have an idea and wants to build their ideas if they just had the tools/space.  This particular Makerspace in Atlanta, Georgia has been operational for a year now with success such as the local shops making space on their shelves for whatever is made to be sold there.  As we speak, production on about 40 Rep Rap machines will near completion before Christmas of this year:

RepRap is a free desktop 3D printer  capable of printing plastic objects. Since many parts of RepRap are made from plastic and RepRap can print those parts, RepRap is a self-replicating machine – one that anyone can build given time and materials. It also means that – if you’ve got a RepRap – you can print lots of useful stuff, and you can print another RepRap for a friend…

The Makerspace is a community collective that operates on a cooperative business model when it comes to dishing out the profit after selling their creations.  It’s a great way to provide free job training as well as satisfy the entrepreneurial spirit.  Ideally, this guy would like to have Makerspaces created in every community for free by persuading local government to give land they’re not using to people for this use.

So I decided that instead of talking to the Alaska guy and the Georgia guy passing along both their ideas to one from the other, i’d have them talk to each other while I figure things out for them.  This sparked an idea, an idea that now has everybody asking me how they can get involved.

With the “research and development” business model idea based on a cooperative business structure where every worker is a shareholder and makes the same pay (including managers), it seems that Adak, Alaska is willing to bend over backwards if they can be promised 50 people.  Not even 50 productive people, just 50 people.

So let’s see, a negative state tax that writes you a $3K check every year with land/houses so cheap you own right away, and a city council willing to allocate any building you want to use for quite possibly the biggest Makerspace you can imagine.  Now, you have a guy in Georgia with workers willing to move to Alaska because their houses are in foreclosure with no future job prospects in factory/manufacturing work which they love doing.  With the things they made (besides rep rap machines) being technologically innovating in terms of cost of supplies to make things, we have the perfect cocktail for another Silicon Valley.

Currently they are securing themselves boats that people had repossessed or are selling dirt cheap so that shipping isn’t an issue for supplies and finished products.

Obviously 2-3 kids with a plan isn’t anything to make such a claim over. The fact we aren’t the only ones with an idea like this and now i’m in contact with Hackerspace folk that want in makes me think that something is bound to go “boom” some time soon. The reason I say this will help start the next Silicon Valley is because out of around 7 people younger than myself, 6 want to go into computers/engineering fields that are working with somebody, or their brother who’s a mechanic, or by themselves even on some idea they had that they believe to be new and easy to achieve…..given the internet.  

An economy in shambles, an entire generation more highly educated than any generation before it, and a “can do”/”do it yourself” attitude, it’s only a matter of time before something happens.


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  1. we can continue to bitch about the government not doing things we can most likely do ourselves without them.

    Your choice.

    • Xanthe on September 26, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Maybe you need to punch up the title, or probably one of the moderators will give it the nod.

    These are the kind of businesses that should get some help.  

    Will “they” allow it to blossom?  Is Adaka on the Big Board?  Can this eventually be shipped overseas?  

    Thank God for kids like this.

    thanks for this, Jack –

  2. or is it a differrent island……

  3. Ever been to the Aleutians?

    I have, did a few temporary duty (TDY) trips to Shemya, another lovely Aleutian Island, back when I was in the service.  Two weeks at a time was…plenty. I’m in no hurry to revisit.

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