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Thursday, August 23, 2012

WiPeer vs LifeNet - Communication Post Disaster

A recent post on SurvivalBlog links to a new communication software called LifeNet which claims they have  software that allows computer users to communicate when internet and cell phones towers go down after a disaster scenario.

As any other prepper/survivalist/geek would do, I jumped to see what it was all about.  It didn't take long to see that this software was a very weak attempt at rebranding WiPeer.  WiPeer is also an "ad hoc" communications software which is able to connect computers locally via a simple wifi connection.

You can set your wireless adapter to operate in "ad hoc" mode, with your internet service turned off, and still send out a signal which your neighbor can receive.  With proper instruction on how to access you through your wifi signal, you and your neighbor can exchange information.

Just like you can take your laptop to Starbucks and hop on their wifi signal to surf the net or send emails, LifeNet and WiPeer simply allow neighbors to access each other via their wifi signals.  Permissions are required, of course, but once connections are established, two or more users within a close enough proximity can communicate via email messages, text or file sharing.  Don't get too excited though.  You have to be within 200 feet of the person you are trying to communicate with or it doesn't work. 

The only advantage I can see at this point with LifeNet is that LifeNet is claiming it can port onto smart phones and Linux machines.  This means you can use your Droid to communicate with your neighbor's laptop over wifi if all other forms of internet and cell communication go down. Alas, LifeNet pales in comparison to the features offered by WiPeer.

Here's the comparison:

WiPeer

The Good:
  • free (no ads, spyware, nor malware)
  • instant messaging (aka "chat") both private and public
  • ad hoc social networking
  • file sharing / searching (share files or complete folders, no restrictions on file type)
  • friend locator (you get notified when an established "friend" is within wifi range)
  • interactive multiplayer games
  • Peersonalizer feature (notifies you when a Facebook "friend" is within wifi range)
  • available in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Croatian, Macedonian & Turkish
  • completely packaged with user friendly interface and simple to download and install
The Bad:
  • not available for Macs or smart phones.
  • not available on Linux.
  • no obvious update since 2009
LifeNet

The Good:
  • ad hoc social network
  • last updated post May 2011
The Bad:
  • throughout the entire LifeNet website, there is no mention of any other functionality (file sharing, user within range notification, gaming, etc) other than communication, including the abstract.
  • LifeNet is difficult to download and install.  All files are listed on a hub page and have to be downloaded individually and read for install instructions.