Piratebox, a way to share files in class

There are many options for teachers to share files with student devices in class. Most of these however require a connection to the internet.

Piratebox is a system that allows one to set up a local file share and communication network. Users in range with wifi enabled devices can connect anonymously.

I followed these instructions to install the required software on my Huawei U8220 phone running a modified CM7.2 rom [but see update 4 below]. Note that this set-up uses ad-hoc mode which means other Android phones will not be able to see the Piratebox  network. To use infrastructure mode this set-up can be followed. However I have yet to succeed in setting up my phone to use that set-up.

Today in class for the last hour I decided on the spur to run a version of the lesson idea on the descriptive camera. The problem was how was I going to do the jigsaw reading? Projecting the texts and asking each A and B in a pair to look away whilst the other read was an option. But since I had setup Piratebox on my phone already why not use that?

I checked how many in class had phones with wifi, six had. Unfortunately by the time I had instructed four of them on how to connect to the Piratebox network the fifth student’s battery had died and the sixth student’s Blackberry could not see the network. I decided to plow on by getting the five students without phones to read off the projector!

Close up view from an ipod touch when connected to Piratebox

Close up view of files in Piratebox download folder

Although the management of this part of the lesson was far from ideal the process of getting the four phones connected to be able to download the text from my phone intrigued the class’s engineering brains. The lesson topic itself also generated some interest.

Note: in ad-hoc mode Iphones and Symbian OS phones work  (i.e. they can browse and download files, but not upload files), Android and Blackberry phones can’t see the Piratebox network. I hope to keep tinkering and get infrastructire mode setup on my phone and also to set up Piratebox on my OpenPandora.

Update 1:

Planning to use Piratebox more frequently to share files in class so very simply customised the landing page thusly:

Screen shot 2013-09-04 at 10.42.57 PM

As you see I have called it EnglishBox and used the advice to use a portforwader so students would just need to type english.box in the url field.

Update 2:

I have a new phone so am using this set-up. Note if it doesn’t work to follow these instructions.

Also note that there is a new version that may work with CM7 roms called PirateBox reloaded.

Here is current landing page:


Update 3:

A big update – latest PirateBox Reloaded works now with latest version of Android – KitKat 4.4.2, nice! This is now certainly the easiest way to get this working.

And here is screenshot of version EnglishBox Reloaded:


Update 4:

PirateBox for Android now available on Google Play.

Note that to use a different DNS name you need to edit the conf/handler.xml file. And change this line:

<param name="filehandler.domain" value="pirate.box" />

I changed pirate.box to english.box.

Update 5:

Jochen Ruehl (the developer of PirateBox for Android) has done a demo audio media plug-in which works very well, i.e. you can now stream audio files on PirateBox for Android (reminder you can also play audio files without this plugin, stream means you could place audio you don’t want downloaded). He is looking into possibility of streaming video media as well. Below are two screenshots showing the Media tab. It lists any audio media you may have on your Android phone.

AudioMediaAddon1 AudioMediaAddon2

There is also the possibility of adding a wiki though I can’t seem to get that working right now. Stay tuned for a completely new PirateBox for Android post which will be related to a poster I am giving at the TESOL France 2014 conference this November.

Here is the post about customising your PirateBox.


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