i1_300.jpgInform­a­tion wants to be free, an inter­est­ing phrase sum­ming up the concept that tech­no­logy has the poten­tial to be lib­er­at­ing, rather than oppress­ing. It was first used in the 1960’s and attrib­uted to the founder of the Whole Earth Cata­log.

Today, that phrase is often used to sup­port open file shar­ing activ­it­ies. And recently I found two hard­ware pro­jects that facil­it­ate the ‘free­ing of information’.

Dead Drop
This one hit the news in Octo­ber of last year. Basic­ally a USB stick stuck in a wall. Hook up your device to it, and check out the contents.

I am ‘inject­ing’ USB flash drives into walls, build­ings and curbs access­ible to any­body in pub­lic space. You are invited to go to these places (so far 5 in NYC) to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favor­ite files and data. Each dead drop con­tains a readme.txt file explain­ing the project.


Pir­ate Box

This one is new. It’s a serv­er, router, and bat­ter­ies in a port­able box.

Using the Pir­ate­Box is easy. Simply turn it on and trans­form any space into a free file shar­ing net­work. Users with­in range of the device can join the Pir­ate­Box open wire­less net­work from any wifi-enabled device and begin upload­ing or down­load­ing files immediately.

Aside from the obvi­ous, pop­u­lar, and ques­tion­able shar­ing of copy­righted soft­ware or media, how else could these be used? Here’s how.

Let’s say I’m in a mod­er­ately pop­u­lar ind­iband and I’m look­ing for ways to get the band in the news, and get our music heard.

i4_300.jpgWhat bet­ter, and inex­pens­ive way than to install dead drops (loaded with our band’s tunes, natch) around the major cit­ies that I’m inter­ested in targeting.

Then ‘leak’ the word to our fan­base, tech blogs, boing-boing, and our name is in the news, and our tunes are get­ting heard.

Or I’m an author and use the Pir­ate Box to serve out cop­ies of my books to people attend­ing my Book Sign­ing or speak­ing events.

Or I’m a cit­izen in a coun­try where the news media is con­trolled by the state
 yes, you can see the potential.

It’s cool to see this kind of tech being developed. The poten­tial uses and real-world impact are as vast as the ima­gin­a­tion, bey­ond shar­ing the latest Justin Bieber tune to my friends.
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