Lifestyle and Emerging Technology In Plain English

Hardware helps information be free

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’.
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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.

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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.

Usages
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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