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Flying sourcers to open Iridium…

...if they can persuade the free software community to come up with the readies

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A group of "concerned individuals" wants to save the soon-to-be-dismantled Iridium satellite by converting the system into an 'open source' network for public use. The group, operating under the name Save Our Sats (we'll ignore for the moment that the satellites aren't actually ours), wants open source supporters, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs to cough up donations, spend money on SoS merchandising, even sign up for a mooted SoS credit card - 'IridiumCard - never leave orbit without it' - in order to pay Iridium not to knock its satellites out of orbit. "Rather than watch Iridium receive a very large tax write off for destroying what could quite possibly be the greatest experiment in human engineering, we are working towards acquiring the Iridium Network through partnerships, merchandising and donations," says the SoS Web site. "This is a serious venture," it adds. "Your assistance is requested." Indeed it is. At this stage it's not known what the value of Iridium's satellite assets are, but it's likely to be significant. And that's before you take into account ancillary equipment like base stations. That said, Iridium's liquidators might well take almost anything for the network provided it's on a par with what Iridium might save through the aforementioned tax write off. It wouldn't surprise us if canny old Craig McCaw has figured this one out himself and may yet buy up Iridium's satellites without having to take over its debt too. Then there's the issue of how you open source a network. A publicly-owned network is another matter, and is, provided SoS can raise the phenomenal sums required, buy up the network, form a holding company to operate it and give donators shares in the holding company. But the use of the term 'open source' does seem either naive or used to tickle the interest of techies. Either way, it suggests that the offer might not be quite as "serious" as it suggests. For instance, when discussing the possible IridiumCard, the site says: "You sign up for a credit card at our website and the bank gives us like $25-$50 bucks. We already have a deal like that in place with the nice folks at Next Card." Indeed, they do - the site contains two NextCard ads. And even at, like, $50 bucks - hardly business-like language, this - a throw it's going to take a long time to build up sufficient funds to buy Iridium. Perhaps they could also try taking the five per cent Amazon.com commission offers for forwarded customers? It's not hard to imagine a bunch of guys sitting round and coming up with a scheme to mobilise the financial resources of the coding community to buy Iridium as a network all of their own. Indeed, we wish them luck - we just suspect their reach may not exceed their grasp on this one. And if it does, well, Steve Case will just shoot the satellites down... ® Related Stories ePublisher claims it can save Iridium, turn a profit So Farewell, Iridium, shot down in flames See Also Save Our Sats Web site

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