This is the documentation for La Foresta's MAZI Zone. The MAZI project provides a toolkit for building local, community wireless networks. It combines wireless technology, low-cost hardware and free/libre/open source (FLOSS) software applications.
The MAZI Zone has two "views":
The captive portal to which those connected to the MAZI Zone are directed
The administrator panel that allows the owner of the MAZI Zone to customise the captive portal view
This project was initiated by @GemmaCopeland in September 2019 as a way of exploring peer-to-peer, do-it-yourself and small scale technologies, in the context of La Foresta.
La Foresta's location, inside a train station, provides an interesting starting point for a project like this. In Rovereto, the train station is one of the few places where there is an atmosphere of internationality and diversity, with many social groups traversing and using the same spot as part of their everyday. It's a transitory space, a portal connecting Rovereto and the wider world. We were interested in creating a digital equivalent of the physical space – a pool of common resources and a platform for community interaction and collaboration.
We decided to go with an offline-first, self-hosted local network for a number of reasons:
to create a platform for community collaboration that wasn't dependent upon or tracked by commercial platforms
to explore the idea of a small-scale, local-first and private network: how does this aspect change how people interact with each other?
to make something simple enough for anyone (with a sufficient amount of interest) to build, understand and modify themselves
to give people the tools to self-publish and shape the network towards their own needs and goals
We see this as a first iteration of the network – people should feel free to add and customise new functionality as they learn how they want to use it.
Who would use it?
What is needed internally, for everyday operations or ongoing projects?
What could we provide for others, including anyone moving through the station?
What impact do we want to have?
What is interesting to La Foresta?
What could be public?
What should stay community-only?
How to access the network
The MAZI Zone has already been set up on a Raspberry Pi 3B+, which is a very cheap, credit-card sized computer that runs Linux. You can read more about Raspbery Pi's here: https://www.raspberrypi.org
Plug the Raspberry Pi into a power socket and turn it on. Wait a few minutes for it to boot up. The WiFi network LaForestaLocal should appear.
Once it has been turned on, do not unplug the Pi without shutting it down first. The SD card (on which everything is installed) is delicate, so it needs to be shut down correctly. For instructions on how to do this, see: Shutting down the Pi
Make sure you're connected to the LaForestaLocal network. A splash page should appear automatically. Click Enter.
This MAZI zone is set to offline mode, so you can't use it to browse the Internet. There are four applications currently installed:
There is no password to access these applications, so remember that anything you add will be visible to anyone else who connects to the network.
The Guestbook is where visitors can post short texts or images. Visitors could potentially use this to suggest what they'd like to see in the physical space, or on the MAZI Zone itself.
This is actually a direct link to a folder in the local Nextcloud, specifically for sharing books. Always check the license before uploading a book.
An Etherpad is a collaborative document editor. It's basically a private, locally hosted, open source version of Google Docs. Rather being stored on third-party servers, your data is stored directly on the Raspberry Pi, only accessible from within the space. It's also very lightweight and simple to use.
There are currently three active pads listed on the index pad:
Remember to add the URL of any pads that you create to the index pad, if you want others to be able to access it.
Nextcloud is a locally hosted, open source cloud – basically an alternative to Google Drive or Dropbox. It is only accessible when connected to the local network. As with Etherpad, the reason for using a locally hosted version is that you own and have control over your own data. You can use it to share files with others in the space.
You can also add new folders. The current folders are:
Remember that everything inside these folders is public to anyone connected to the network. This also means that anyone can edit or delete files, so keep a backup of any files that are particularly important. You can also access the trash to recover any deleted files.
Accessing the admin panel
The second part of the MAZI Zone is the Admin Panel. This is where you can:
For the purpose of this guide, we'll just look at the aspects that are custom for La Foresta. The MAZI project is very well documented and user friendly, so you should be able to find any answers to your questions by searching their wiki. You can also reach this wiki by clicking "Documentation" in the side panel of the Admin Panel.
Managing applications from the Admin Panel
Navigate to Applications via the sidebar.
There are two sections on this page: Application Instances and Installed Applications.
The homepage has been set to a custom portal, which means that changing Application Instances here won't have an effect on how the portal actually looks. You can revert to the default homepage by switching off the toggle "Home page".
change the background image (recommended size is 1080px x 445px)
add tag options
change file size limits and required fields
Connecting to the Raspberry Pi via ssh
For more advanced customisation options, you'll need to connect directly to the Raspberry Pi via SSH.
Make sure you're on the LaForestaLocal network
Open the Terminal and type ssh firstname.lastname@example.org
Enter the password
Ask Fabio or Giorgio what this is
Now you're connected to the pi. It should say pi@mazizone.
Updating the custom splash page
There is a captive splash page which pops up when a visitor first connects to the network. It explains how to access the network and the available applications. This has been customised for La Foresta.
This is the path to the splash page:
You can update the custom splash page by copying it to your local machine:
scp email@example.com:/root/portal/views/splash.erb ./
From here you can edit it. It's built with Ruby and is importing some variables (such as the name of the network and custom URL) directly from the Admin Panel. It's best not to edit these, but you can change the surrounding content and basic styling. The browser support for this captive page is very limited, so it should be kept as simple and default as possible.
To move it back to the pi:
scp /path/to/file firstname.lastname@example.org:/home/pi/
You can only copy it to the home folder of the Pi. From here, you'll need to move it back to the correct directory:
Go to the home folder: cd ~/home/pi. You should see splash.erb
Move it to the correct folder: mv /splash.erb /root/portal/views/
Updating the custom homepage
The La Foresta portal is a custom Application which has been set to be the homepage.
It can be found on the Pi at this directory:
Inside you have the following files – it's just a basic webpage built with HTML and CSS:
404.html css favicon.ico fonts img index.html
To edit this, you'll need to follow the same process as above, copying the files to your local machine and then back to the Pi.
Adding a new application to the homepage
You have two options here: either adding an application that has already been installed on the Pi, or adding a custom application.
In both cases, you'll also need to manually update the index.html file of the homepage in order to access the application from the public portal.
To add an already installed application
Go to the MAZI Admin panel
Navigate to Applications in the sidebar
Under Application Instances, click the green "+" button
Choose from the available application options (e.g. Wordpress) from the dropdown menu and fill out the other fields. You will see the new application in the list of Application Instances.