Archive for March 21st, 2012

Do people want to go behind the velvet curtain and see the strings – or are they content to be simply led by the entertainment?

Cue the now infamous video by Syrian activist Danny Abdul Dayem – dubbed by the Washington Post as “the voice of Homs” – where he dazzles CNN’s Anderson Cooper with little more than bad 1950s-style sound effects, blurry scenes of fires and a breathless rendition of “facts.” Of all the media-fraud videos Syrian TV broadcast two weeks ago, none were as compelling as Danny’s – his credibility stock plummeting almost as fast as his meteoric rise to media “darling.”

It reminds me of August 2011 news reports of warships shelling the coastal city of Latakia. Three separate sources – two opposition figures from the city and an independent western journalist – later insisted there were no signs of shelling. It was also the first time I learned from Syrians that you can burn rubber tires on rooftops to simulate the after-effects of exploded shells.



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After police arrested dozens of Occupy Wall Street participants over the weekend, protestors marched to New York City Police Department headquarters today to demand the resignation of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement marched from Foley Square to One Police Plaza, the Lower Manhattan headquarters of the NYPD.

Besides wanting Kelly to resign, the demonstrators also sounded off about the arrests of about 73 people who clashed with police at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan last weekend.

Police say they cleared Zuccotti because protestors were breaking park rules, but some protestors say those arrested were mistreated and attacked by police.

“On Saturday night, as I simply sat in a park, I was violently arrested with my friends and watched as blood-thirsty cops stomped on their faces, knelt on their necks, pulled them by their hair and slammed them into windows,” said Occupy Wall Street protestor Jen Waller.

Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway defended the NYPD this morning, when the issue was raised at a breakfast hosted by Crain’s New York Business. He said overall what New Yorkers are seeing is the police force at its best and noted that some of the protestors are crossing the line in their interactions with police.

“The police department is well-trained, they know the rules. They are trying to facilitate these things and help them to happen safely, not stop them,” said Holloway. “And yes, there are going to be isolated cases where, yesterday, one of the protestors elbowed a police officer in the face. Another tried to take a police officer’s gun and baton.”

The Occupy Wall Street protests began about six months ago. After a break during the winter months, the movement is ramping back up again.

Demonstrators are preparing for a march on Saturday and they are calling for a general strike on May 1.


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A few days ago The Pirate Bay announced that in future parts of its site could be hosted on GPS controlled drones. To many this may have sounded like a joke, but in fact these pirate drones already exist. Project “Electronic Countermeasures” has built a swarm of five fully operational drones which prove that an “aerial Napster” or an “airborne Pirate Bay” is not as futuristic as it sounds.

picture of a droneIn an ever-continuing effort to thwart censorship, The Pirate Bay plans to turn flying drones into mobile hosting locations.

“Everyone knows WHAT TPB is. Now they’re going to have to think about WHERE TPB is,” The Pirate Bay team told TorrentFreak last Sunday, announcing their drone project.

Liam Young, co-founder of Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today, was amazed to read the announcement, not so much because of the technology, because his group has already built a swarm of file-sharing drones.

“I thought hold on, we are already doing that,” Young told TorrentFreak.

Their starting point for project “Electronic Countermeasures” was to create something akin to an ‘aerial Napster’ or ‘airborne Pirate Bay’, but it became much more than that.

“Part nomadic infrastructure and part robotic swarm, we have rebuilt and programmed the drones to broadcast their own local Wi-Fi network as a form of aerial Napster. They swarm into formation, broadcasting their pirate network, and then disperse, escaping detection, only to reform elsewhere,” says the group describing their creation.


File-Sharing Drone in Action (photo by Claus Langer)

picture of a sharing drone

In short the system allows the public to share data with the help of flying drones. Much like the Pirate Box, but one that flies autonomously over the city.

“The public can upload files, photos and share data with one another as the drones float above the significant public spaces of the city. The swarm becomes a pirate broadcast network, a mobile infrastructure that passers-by can interact with,” the creators explain.

One major difference compared to more traditional file-sharing hubs is that it requires a hefty investment. Each of the drones costs 1500 euros to build. Not a big surprise, considering the hardware that’s needed to keep these pirate hubs in the air.

“Each one is powered by 2x 2200mAh LiPo batteries. The lift is provided by 4x Roxxy Brushless Motors that run off a GPS flight control board. Also on deck are altitude sensors and gyros that keep the flight stable. They all talk to a master control system through XBee wireless modules,” Young told TorrentFreak.

“These all sit on a 10mm x 10mm aluminum frame and are wrapped in a vacuum formed aerodynamic cowling. The network is broadcast using various different hardware setups ranging from Linux gumstick modules, wireless routers and USB sticks for file storage.”

For Young and his crew this is just the beginning. With proper financial support they hope to build more drones and increase the range they can cover.

“We are planning on scaling up the system by increasing broadcast range and building more drones for the flock. We are also building in other systems like autonomous battery change bases. We are looking for funding and backers to assist us in scaling up the system,” he told us.

Those who see the drones in action (video below) will notice that they’re not just practical. The creative and artistic background of the group shines through, with the choreography performed by the drones perhaps even more stunning than the sharing component.

“When the audience interacts with the drones they glow with vibrant colors, they break formation, they are called over and their flight pattern becomes more dramatic and expressive,” the group explains.

Besides the artistic value, the drones can also have other use cases than being a “pirate hub.” For example, they can serve as peer-to-peer communications support for protesters and activists in regions where Internet access is censored.

Either way, whether it’s Hollywood or a dictator, there will always be groups that have a reason to shoot the machines down. But let’s be honest, who would dare to destroy such a beautiful piece of art?

Worlds First File-Sharing Drone



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