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Pirate LOSS? An alternative ...

I'm going to assume that you know who and what The Pirate Bay are.

The Pirate Bay just announced a nifty but somewhat questionable application for the Raspberry Pi low-cost Linux computer:

With the development of GPS controlled drones, far-reaching cheap radio equipment and tiny new computers like the Raspberry Pi, we're going to experiment with sending out some small drones that will float some kilometers up in the air. This way our machines will have to be shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act of war.

We're just starting so we haven't figured everything out yet. But we can't limit ourselves to hosting things just on land anymore. These Low Orbit Server Stations (LOSS) are just the first attempt. With modern radio transmitters we can get over 100Mbps per node up to 50km away. For the proxy system we're building, that's more than enough.

I applaud their ingenuity, but I think this can be improved upon.

The LOSS concept has several drawbacks. First among these is power consumption and payload weight constraints. The Raspberry Pi is a low power device, but still draws juice via micro-USB, at up to five watts. On top of which, TPB propose to broadcast a wifi signal from their LOSS drones. To blanket an area of a square kilometre with a strong enough signal to sustain a high data rate (they say around 100mbps) is going to take both a decent antenna and a fair amount of electricity. All of which is going to drive up the weight, complexity, and cost of the LOSS.

LOSS needs to either be self-sustaining (which implies solar propulsion, along the lines of ELHASPA or NASA's Pathfinder aircraft) or it's going to have to land regularly to take on fuel. (I am ruling out nuclear propulsion because I assume The Pirate Bay do not have access to a supply of fissionable materials. Otherwise, it's Game Over for the MPAA.) This means that a cat-and-mouse game can be easily won by the authorities; there's no need to deploy air-to-air missiles over built-up areas when you can just have the Police keep an eye out for pirates refuelling their drones after midnight.

The sad truth is, quadrotors and small UAVs have lamentably poor airborn endurance, with flight durations measured in double or triple digit seconds rather than minutes, let alone hours. And baloon-type UAVs have the slight problem of being at the mercy of the winds, or requiring an anchor cable (which again makes them trivially easy for the Police to take down).

Rather than looking up at the stars, I believe the Pirate Bay should be looking down at the sewers. Their robot minions would be better modelled on the humble sewer rat than on the soaring seagull.

In the city, you are never more than three metres away from a rat. They're spectacularly successful. We've built them a wonderful habitat replete with high-speed autoroutes — storm drains and sewers — and convenience stores to snack from in the shape of dumpsters and trash. And ground level is where most of us wifi users happen to be, most of the time.

Small ground-traversing robots would not be subject to the same weight penalties as airborn drones. The wifi range would be shorter, but their power consumption would be lower and they'd be far more concealable — it's quite easy to imagine a ratbot that is, literally, no larger than a real rat.

Powering ratbot would be easier, too. In suitably hospitable environments Pirate Bay operatives could lay down inconspicuous inductive charging mats plumbed into power outlets. Alternatively, SlugBot shows the way towards a truly autonomous ground-dwelling robot—one that hunts for biological prey, digests it, and uses an on-board microbial fuel cell to provide electricity. In an urban environment ratbot need not hunt and kill moluscs to survive; instead, it could subsist on pizza rinds and the dregs from Mountain Dew cans, which would doubtless be easier to stalk and kill. Indeed, the rich pickings behind any fast food outlet would attract ratbots to the very same location where bittorrent users might congregate to furtively use their provided bandwidth.

Finally, if ratbot detects the presence of Police ferretbots in the neighbourhood, it can make its escape in a number of ways — climbing a nearby wall, clinging to the underside of an automobile (an especially efficient way of spreading the mesh network to other cities), diving into a storm drain (better hope the waterproof seals hold!), or asking a friendly Pirate Bay user for a ride.

So tell me, what are your ideas for cool uses for RaspberryPi?



The first thing that sprung to my mind on reading their plan was that they haven't done their homework on drones. Any unmanned aerial system (that isn't a balloon) requires an incredible amount of manpower to keep aloft. A 24 hour drone orbit requires 3 separate UAVs, a full time maintenance team plus three pilot shifts (on a twelve hour rotation to allow for holidays/downtime).


I seem to recall that MI6 (DI6?, SIS?, whatever) have already done this. They use wifi hotspots diguised as rocks as dead letter drops for spies in Moscow.

Some very clever chaps at GCHQ.


The "SlugBot" link points instead to the wikipedia article for inductive charging.



The SIS secret wifi spy rocks got caught by the FSB. Oh, the embarrassment!

It was almost as embarrassing as the way Anna Chapman and fellow Russian spies were rolled up in New York by using ad-hoc wifi networking between laptops in a Starbucks to exchange sekrit gubbmint intelligence files or something. Hopelessly amateurish.

(Charlie-Bob says: if I am ever in charge of running an overseas HUMINT operation, rule #1 of comsec will be: do not rely on any communication technology invented more recently than 1950. Force the oppo to go searching for invisible ink and microdots. Make 'em sweat!)


Hit "reload" in your browser and try again.


Surely the ideal would be to have a real rat ingest said wifi hotspot - lodging itself permanently and powering itself off the digestion of the rat?

That way the motive and defensive issues would be inherited, and I'm sure tracker updates could be handled during some hot rat-on-rat action.

More than that, any action taken by the mafiaa to hunt down and destroy such ambulatory trackers would actually, really, be a benefit to society.


You know, now I want to read the story that uses these ratbots in this way: it might be this generation's Neuromancer.


Surely it's simpler to buy the DVDs of the stuff you want to watch than develop a whole vermin-botnet fabric.


What about slapping solar cells onto them, and just gluing them to roofs? It's extremely simple to do, solves the power issue (at least during the day), hard to spot due to size and view angles from the ground and can be replaced easily. Especially if people start cooperating and just put them up there out of free will. I certainly would put one on my balcony, if that allows people to share the internet.

Actually, you've written about a product like that in your short story book (the one about the illegal cable placement guy), where a French company produces them and people just stick them in trees.


The Stainless Steel Rat saves the internet?

It's an interesting idea, reminds me of unwirer. I'd be concerned that the amount of energy they'd need to be continuously retransmitting information as it travelled along the network would mean that the rats would cluster around easy food sources, and you'd get good reception near there, but it would die off the further away you'd get. I suppose there could be a (rat king) base station where the biodigester was located, tapped into the local communications infrastructure, with ratbots retrieving food to feed it. which leads to a nice horror film concept as special forces teams of OFCOM and MPAA have to clear out an infested sewer, the swarms of ratbots gettng thicker and more vicious as the wifi signal rises, while they get ever closer to the base station.

11: - This flight was conducted without human intervention except for launch and recovery.


Hah, we're already there! At the university where I work, they were affixing computing platforms to small mobile creatures four years ago. Admittedly, this was for biological studies, not general use. But in the four years since, the computational power, storage, and network hardware's come a long way and become a lot smaller. See:


Or better yet, a solar cell on a frisbee, thrown onto the roof of a building, as suggested by Eric in this thread:


The day i stumbled upon the pb posting i finished the second book of the "Singularity" Series. What a coincidence.

The sentence: (I am ruling out nuclear propulsion because I assume The Pirate Bay do not have access to a supply of fissionable materials. Otherwise, it's Game Over for the MPAA.) made me fall of my chair right now.

It looks like your writings appeal to people ;) The "internet of things" will bring ideas like this to life. No doubt about it.


Of course. But one only knows about the ones that were actually found, nobody is going to be broadcasting "Hey guys, we're using bionic rats in the Moscow sewers" if they want them to remain useful.

The first rule of the successful spy is not to be suspected in the first place. The problem with the microdot technology is that it requires transfer of physical matter - so if you think have someone giving stuff to an embassy contact, you need only work out who has been in the same physical location. With WiFi, you now have to worry about spatial proximity. You now have to worry about everyone in that Starbucks.

The upside is you only have to worry about people there at the same time.


Unwirer of course. Could a wireless repeater be small, rugged and sufficiently longlifed enough to attach to live rats, birds, cats? Not particularly animal friendly but could perhaps ally the aims with wild bird conservation projects. Well, the ones concerning non migratory species. (you can tell I don't know much about ornathology perhaps.)

As an aside. Someone was telling me about an Android app that allows for peer to peer communication sans base station. Could be interesting during say, lock down of networks in civil disturbances.


Anything that doesn't move can be easily triangulated and removed, or at least disabled.

Even putting up a network of intermittent nodes wouldn't work, because you could keep monitoring until you discovered each node.

Hmm... of course, if your nodes were mobile - affixed to cars, or carried about by people - it would be much harder to detect an intermittent network.

As usual, your sweet spots come when it costs more to eliminate nodes than to replace them, and when the budget for eliminating them is overwhelmed.


Perhaps I'm missing something obvious but... how does putting their server on an aerial vehicle help? It still has to get its bandwidth from somewhere, right? Which means a wireless hookup to a server with backhaul on the ground... which the authorities can shut down in the usual way. I don't see how bouncing that up and down off a flying drone changes anything.




There's a far more ubiquitous mammal that infests cities. Many of them already carry around computing devices with wifi capabilities.

Ad-hoc wireless mesh networks. Just a small matter of programming.


WiFi Direct. In Ice Cream Sandwich.


Cars. Put your Raspberry Pi in your car along with a wifi router and a battery that recharges off your car. When you drive in to the office, or the grocery store, your pirate box detects that your car is parked in a parking lot alongside two hundred other cars, all of which are part of a giant p2p net and a strong anonymity network (redirect, delay, bounce, and pass forward data so that they can't do traffic analysis). The only problem is that your car is directly traceable to you personally. Relatively minor problem, though.


@Tom, if we're talking proper darknet here, ultimately the whole net infrastructure is replaced - local mesh networks as discussed here, interlinked by P2P (laser/microwave, or via the extra bandwidth of a transit full of USB sticks, of course; lag isn't always an issue). There will be interlinks with the old internet, but they don't necessarily need to be permanent or high bandwidth.


Backhaul is used in the real world as an optimisation, but it's not actually necessary. Ultimately, you can do a mesh network, running on a peer-to-peer basis passing packets from each node to the next, until you've got all the way from one end to the other. So a widespread flock of these drones all talking to each other could be resilient enough to get messages from one side of a country to the other.

A man in the middle attack against such a network would be interesting.


You need to read up on mesh networking.


Note that mesh networks are spectacularly crap at anything that requires realtime responsiveness. So forget logging in to World of Warcraft, or even engaging in a voice-over-IP phone conversation, via such a network.

But if what you want is to exchange warez files, it's another matter entirely ...


As a penetration tester, I can't wait to get a handful of these to surreptitiously stick in unused ethernet ports, bathroom ceilings and people's briefcases.


Also, don't bother putting wireless on the torrent rats. Just give them hardware ports and 200-gb hard drives. Cheaper, much more bandwidth (good old sneakernet), and they can't be tracked down or attacked using their wireless connections. Most rats are "leaf" nodes, owned by a end user and dispatched to hunt down particular files, and can only talk to one other rat at a time. Half their hard drive space is to be part of a giant distributed database. The other half is for the user's requested payload. Other rats are for infrastructure. They serve to network dozens of rats together to make the whole thing go faster. And so on and so forth.


Security in a mesh network is ...difficult; you have to actively distrust everyone. This results in significant fun and games when it comes to software updates. ",)


Ah, that may have been it. Although I think there was something called Serva, server or Servo...


So tell me, what are your ideas for cool uses for RaspberryPi?

I'll tell you what I'm going to do with it - assuming the specs don't change too much and the price stays reasonable - I have a couple of applications where an off-the-shelf USB DAC board and a cheap Linux card could replace some aging analog machine controllers I have, which are now old enough that the few people who can repair them charge accordingly. It's thermonuclear overkill for the purpose, but "cheap is a quality overcoming many faults."

I'd probably just dust off my Pascal chops and do the software in FreePascal; it supports the ARM processor and runs on Fedora, and there are various appropriate libraries available for it.

For the last couple of years I've been avoided having to set up PCs and monitors in the shop, where the environment would by unfriendly, to say the least. The software learning curve of any of the single-board computers I looked at was formidable given the limited time and non-reuseability of the code for other things. But I can, theoretically, just plug a Pi into the network switch, open another tab on Konqueror, and do all of the programming work from my comfy chair.

The processor speed and memory are no problem; the board is more powerful than the workstations I used in the days when I was paid to be a Real Programmer(tm).


Now there's a thought; I could fire up a 1900 emulator on one, and run George 3 faster than the mainframe I learnt to program on [mumble] years ago.

Not sure how non-trivial it would be to get the emulator running on ARM; it's probably just as well I haven't got the spare tuits to actually try it.


This is a fun subject for sci fi speculation, but in the real world, does the pirate bay have any credibility that would make this project even remotely viable? AFAIK their only claim to fame is running a torrent site (Not a major tech feat) from a privileged jurisdiction, and an attempt to parlay their web popularity into political power. I don't doubt they have the money to pull something off, top100 websites are very profitable. But have they shown any previous technical breakthroughs?

tl;dr I dismissed this as a publicity stunt, am I wrong?


I've thought about the LOSS idea for a while. Or at least something similar.

Firstly LOSS itself is, as you note, a non-starter because you need something relatively big (think cellphone tower plus adjacent shack) to do the tx/rx. Basically - including batteries - you're going to be looking at 1-2 tonnes of kit to be kept airbourne

And wifi is absolutely not the right standard for this. WiMax (or possibly LTE) would be far far more suitable. Wimax would be the way I'd go as the kit's already been created both for the towers and for the CPE devices (and it's even been built into phones). Of course you probably also need free space lasers to communicate from one flying tower to another but this too is pretty solid technology. The trick of course is how to get the tower up high and keep it relatively stable.

I believe that the solar powered blimp/airship is the way to do this - there was a company is Switzerland that did a bunch of work on the concept. Blimps are big so there's plenty of room for solar cells and they can carry a lot if built big enough. Certainly a 1-2 tonne payload plus electricly powered props to move the thing is entirely feasible with current technology.

There's a spot about 20-25km up where there tends not to be much wind and WiMax is absolutely fine for Line of Sight transmission over 25km - in fact IIRC it can do 50km or more giving you about an 80-90km diameter circle under any balloon where people can get reception from it. 20-25km is sufficiently high up that few ground based antiaircraft missiles can reach it and it is well above the area where most planes fly.

Now of course major militry powers can still shoot this stuff down but if you position the blimps over large urban areas then major militaries may be unwilling to do so because that will cause the payload to fall to the ground on top of places filled with lots of people. 1-2 tonnes dropping over 20km implies 1-2 tonnes hitting the ground at a minumim of 100mph. The exact speed will depend on whether the blimp detaches from the payload and whether the payload breaks apart in to aerodynamic chunks - I would imagine that 500kg say of rechargable batteries will tend to have a higher terminal velocity. But either way that's going to leave a mark...




The airborne drone concept announcement might be the equivalent of the shoebomber or similar nuisance attacks by AQ. a flashy "movie plot" threat aimed at making the adversary expend huge resources while the actual work is done via simpler means.

I'm wondering how "active" the network has to be to carry a 90 MB magnet file database, which by modern standards is little more than data "flatulence". It's not quite low density enough to be a barcode or bokode. I'd suspect that a spime or high density NFC tracking label will end up being the real threat.

As for general Raspberry Pi uses my first project for the Pi I should be getting next month is a manual treadmill/stationary bike computer. The Pi is smaller than the cheapo digital odometers that come with lower end units, can trivially decode the reed switch pulses with its GPIO ports as well as handle mounted switches (for a GKOS chordic keyboard or simple macro sequences) and has a low enough power consumption to be powered by storage cells recharged by a dynamo connected to the unit. Tack on a Picoprojector and you have a system to play videogames esp FPSes, media, or streetview walk-troughs contingent on effort put into exercise.


And hear I am working on a story involving airship-delivered commando bears in the woods...


Stick it on someone else's car. Magnetic attachment to the muffler. Power generation through thermoelectric effect* to charge batteries when the muffler's hot. It runs as long as there's power. It would be vulnerable to discovery but if there were enough of them out there, losing a percentage wouldn't affect coverage.

  • Peltier or Seebeck or whatever you want to call it. Someone I know well designs thermoelectric devices and waste heat power generation is a growing field.

I can't imagine how you could possibly suspect that.


This is the dead giveaway, as far as I'm concerned:

"This way our machines will have to be shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act of war."

A real act of war, you say? It must be wonderful to be so important. And of course, once you've provoked the authorities into making war upon you, you can further inflate your sense of your own importance by upping the ante still further.

Not that they're ever going to do it mind. They may be cut from the same cloth as narcissists like Breivik or that arsehole in Toulouse, but they're quite content to live their fantasies of macho power in their heads alone.

In the end, they're just another example of the anomie and alienation bred by late capitalism.


A rat-net would have an interesting property that, unlike cellular networks, poorer neighborhoods would be better served. In the fancy parts of town, you might not be able to get a signal at all.

On the plus side, if bandwidth (ratwidth?) is limited where you live, you can improve matters over time by scattering pizza crusts and other garbage on the street.


Airbots have a nice advantage in that they reach a lot of coverage. A ratbot will have a pretty poor coverage.

Yes, propelled aerial vehicles are a power issue, but there's nothing preventing them from doing blimps.

The one thing a blimp would need is a gaseous source of lift, which is kind of a problem because it'd mean refuelling, which is a big nono. You could in theory achieve lift by way of hot air, but that's relatively energy intensive, and since all you have is solar power, probably not really a good alternative.

Instead there's an elegant solution to the problem: hydrogen.

Hydrogen has fantastic lifting capabilities (better then helium) and if you couple it with an absorbing skin that raises the temperature of the helium a bit vs. the surrounding it gets even better. So how do you get hydrogen gas without refueling?

As it turns out, the atmosphere of earth is also humid. Every cubic meter of air around a couple meters off the ground has an average water content of 15g in the form of gaseous water vapor.

Water vapor tends to condensate on things that are cooler than the surrounding (like say heat conducting fins). With the right arrangement of radiators, those can efficiently filter water out of air.

Water as it turns out (H2O) consists of two hydrogen atoms.

Given an efficient means of splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen (a good catalysator and a bit of electricity) you can get hydrogen in gaseous form from the collected water.

This hydrogen you'd use to replenish the gas in the blimp. The energy to do the replenishing comes from solar power.

Problem solved.


I suspect that a fleet of drones would be more than adequate. Use a large winged drones to glide continuously over an area, using something other than batteries, and have smaller (quadcopter?) drones ferry fuel to them.

Winged drones are well researched, relatively easy to control from an AI stand point and have a higher "stamina" than quadrocopters.

Quadrocopters, on the other hand, could take off and land very easily, maintain a stable flight near a winged drone that's travelling slowly to refuel it. Multiple quadrocoptors could easier take fuel from one base station to another, if they're within a relatively small area.

The problem then becomes defending the base stations and ensuring the winged drones don't get knocked out.

It would also be feasible to create 2 kinds of winged drones, fuel-carriers and wifi-stations. Fuel carriers transport larger volumes of fuel between base stations and let quadrocopters fly the fuel up. Wifi-Stations stay up as long as is possible.


with some nice public/private encryption, and basically they have to catch you plugging a rat into your computer to bust you. (Of course, if they physically catch you, the encryption won't help any more, given rubber-hose decryption techniques). But if you get sufficient ubiquity, the costs of investigation sky rocket.


The good thing about the Raspberry Pi is not that it's a small Linux computer, but that it is a small Linux computer with very good video out -- if you're doing an application where you don't need a display, then there are better alternatives -- e.g if you want WiFi.


Doesn't "an act of war" for these folks mean "a media event"? Like the Anonymous folks --- the damage is in the communication sphere, not in the physical sphere.

That's a completely different question from folks using meatspace weapons. Not even metaphorically similar, except as propaganda.


Wouldn't the international mesh-net require squidbots of some sort? What would the rat-squid interface be?


The mental image of a nation's elite squad of hi-tech cybersecurity agents getting tasked to clear out an urban center's rat population amuses me to no end.

Call the urban center Hamelin, and the story almost writes itself.


I suspect the answer is less in aerial drones and more in other spaces. Pet collars, car stickers and the like. They probably have to get the board a bit smaller though. If they're small and cheap enough, people will scatter them and if they're really small you put them in bird food, rat pellets suddenly contain food and some wifi + processor stuff rather than poison and the like.

If they're really cheap the nodes don't have to last all that long, but if you managed to get a flock of pigeons all with their wifi spots you could have an awesome signal!


Yes, that's what I'm saying. And that's what makes them a bunch of silly narcissistic twats.

What do they expect to happen once their wee drone is shot down? Are the Swedish masses going to rally to their banner? Or is it going to get about a minute at the end of the 10 O'clock news, just before the skateboarding duck?

There have been cases of people staging media events for the cameras, for the sake of a good cause. When Martin Luther King said "if blood is to be spilled on the streets, let it be our blood" he was displaying a canny recognition of how Bull Connor and his thugs in uniform would look to middle America and the wider world. But I'm not persuaded that the right to download your pirated videoes is the same as the right not to subjected to vicious institutionalised racism. Nor are the activists in either case the same sort of people.


Seagulls. They're seagoing aerial rats anyway.

Perhaps albatrosses for the long distance links.


I think someone needs to inform TPB that no one gives a flying fuck about a torrent site.


I've read that raspberry pi can run cpm 68k, so I've still got this box of Atari ST disks, might be fun if it'd run the acid burn demo or revenge of the mutant camels. On the file distro thing, it'd make TPB fairly insignificant if Enormous Media pulled their heads from their nether regions and made it simpler to buy than steal.


Subsisting on garbage is laudable, but we all know they'll just give the thing a standard outlet plug and let it nibble off the power grid.


Hmmm. My take is that the drones make a halfway decent sneakernet, rather than a mobile hotspot. The advantage is that a drone can make a straight line trip faster than someone can follow it on the ground.

If you have a flock of homing pigeons, you can outfit the more reliable ones with thumb-drive backpacks, and do even better in the way of sneaker nets. Racing pigeons average around 60 miles per hour in straight flight (I've seen a flock race a car), and they work for feed and care.

Actually, cars make a pretty decent sneaker net, especially if their owners work on knowable routes. Basically, you use them to bridge wi-fi networks. Delivery trucks do it even better. You can use something similar to those spy packages the FBI was forced to stop using, with a wi-fi receiver and something to store information.


"Yes, that's what I'm saying. And that's what makes them a bunch of silly narcissistic twats."

Do you seriously think that there's any other options than "late capitalist alienation"? Seriously -- the MLK-style activists made the current condition possible with their success --- universal human rights and legal equality is an essential element of a properly functioning, fully developed capitalist economy. Share-cropping and legal segregation are economic inefficiencies, archaisms from pre-capitalism and early capitalism. Didn't Marx cover all that in Das Kapital?

To analogize the narcissism of "pirates" who are part of the media spectacle but aren't damaging anyone, with bloodthirsty killers who have only murder as a buy-in tool is just crazy --- and a facile political analysis.

Of course they are silly narcissistic twats --- but being "silly" isn't at all a bad thing. Our host's books are basically "silly" --- but he gets my bucks for doing it well. In fact, it's the very serious people who are a danger --- like the bastard in Toulouse, who may be narcissistic, but sure as hell ain't "silly".


You seem confused as to whether you mean Hydrogen or Helium. In any event I'm listening to a radio piece on the forthcoming World Helium shortage (Radio 2).


We've been talking about this stuff on the ZS list for several weeks now. The most viable solution appears to be an offshore buoy (or lots of them) and maybe a tethered balloon - pirate radio has been this way long before PB. Google "radio Caroline"

A much more likely alternative though is small disposable servers located in various nations that don't like the USA and which hide behind the TOR network, with various "popup points" on the non-TOR Net.


As long as we've got mobile nodes, we should take advantage of them. I refer you to David Reed's openspectrum page, and in particular, the paper "Mobility increases the capacity of adhoc wireless networks," which proves that if each node broadcasts requests to neighbors, forwards requests exactly one hop, and does the same with responses, the overall capacity of your wireless network increases linearly with the number of nodes.

The cost is several hours of latency, assuming the devices are carried by users. Keep your rats moving and maybe you can improve that. Thermoelectric rats attached to innocent cars would be great.

You might be able to stay legal, but if you can't you might as well go further and use ultrawideband, at least to communicate between the rats. Extremely high bandwidth, low power usage, short range, and difficult to detect. Just adds a little to the noise floor. The FCC made it illegal except at extremely low power, even though it could revolutionize our wireless communications. (But what incumbent wants that?)

And while you're at it, use tornado codes to transfer the files. No acks like TCP, just fire and forget, with packets encoded in a way that lets you reconstruct the file given any subset of them, as long as you have a sufficient percentage. The efficient algorithms for doing this are under patent but public.

To keep users from needing custom illegal hardware, let them connect to rats via ordinary wifi. Rats capable of wifi would require more power than UWB-only rats.

I am of course throwing ideas around for the sake of your next science fiction story, not advocating that people really do this. Dastardly pirates should be made to walk the plank!


the surface is a very complex environment. obstacles, dangers, interaction, recognition ... several kilometers up in the sky a bot wouldn't need to be very intelligent. just stay put and prosper. but the higher atmosphere isn't a friendly environment either.

i don't think either is a viable plot, though i'd love to be proven wrong (at least not if it's gotta be cheap). i'd turn to parasites for inspiration. make the units very cheap, very small and find a way to leech of human power sources.

then just hide them in public places, or wherever it's unlikely that they're found. under windowsills on the 5. floor. in cracks or on utility poles.


What would I do with a RaspberryPi? - put useful weather and travel information on the TV for first thing in the morning. Put a giant clock on the TV for when it's otherwise off as the video clock is getting too hard to see as I get older.


I wish the RaspberryPi computer had an exterior! Or maybe I should say exteriors and insist on the plural. I understand the charm of the fluidity of Turing machine computing. General purpose computers can be anything, do any program. Not having an exterior makes it more fluid, I suppose.

Right now if the RaspberryPi exterior can be anything it is truly nothing.

Sure, I’ve seen a really nice case design ready-made for 3D printers. But 3D printers aren’t that widespread and the design is pretty much like the typical forms of other mundane devices. It’s not seductive. So why not propose exteriors that will appeal to the twisty problem-solving minds of programmers? How about Asian puzzle boxes?

Or, you could follow the South American puzzle box designs I’ve seen in specialty shops. They’re more rounded, less prone to breakage and have enough space for multiple external USB connectors. But concentrating on puzzle box exteriors might be going too far a distance from the fluidity of the Turing machine innards.

So, why not propose a RaspberryPi exterior that has multiple types of rails, eyelets, Velcro patches and other purely mechanical non-conductive connectors so that a large diversity of exteriors could be slid, rotated, or velcroed on it. This type of exterior would be seductive because of the multiplicity of possible allures it could take. Just having the possibilities there might be enough to seduce.

In passing:

I have this warning to Pirate Bay types. A lot of people remember the sonar equipped self-guided Johns Hopkins Beasts of the 1960s. So, forget about starting a cottage industry of designer chest- footstools (with both accessible, visible inner compartments and secret inner compartments for the wifi station) that would extend their wheels during the night and go recharge their innards at any electric outlet in that home.


The "simpler to buy than to steal" problem is likely as not a function of royalty accounting procedures and legal contract boilerplate. Fixing the boilerplate for the backlist is the perennial problem with doing anything new. ("Oh dear, looks like we negotiated publication rights to all these books before we invented MechaTelepathy™. Looks like we're going to have to get supplementary contract waivers signed by all 15,492 authors, their agents, heirs, literary estates or assignees ...")


I would love to see mobile phone wireless networks totally supplant existing telcos, and I wouldn't even mind if piracy was the killer app that made it popular, I have no objection to true p2p exchanging of information, I just loathe the site owners who profit mightily from it while playing at digital robin hood.


I'd always wanted to bounce it off the ionosphere somehow, to make it harder to track. This is probably not the way to do it, however.


Why not embed wifi hotspots in floating wind turbine ?


WiMAX really isn't more suited to this than WLAN. Seriously. It's designed to work in licensed spectrum, so it relies on orthogonal frequency division for its multiple access rather than Ethernet collision-sensing, and therefore won't tolerate interference well.

And if you can get a licensed spectrum block for PIRATE WAREZ PORNO AIRWAYS! you probably don't need PIRATE WAREZ PORNO AIRWAYS! in the first place.

TPB, by the way, aren't proposing this idea as a substitute for the Internet, but rather as a way of distributing their tracker files. They've recently deployed the new magnet links as a less centralised replacement for the old trackers, and IIRC the total dump file is about 90MB. You get the tracker info from the drone, and then pull (presumably encrypted) data from peers listed in it from the interwubs.

It's still a screamingly crazy idea, as you'll need a lot of drones and a lot of batteries and quite a few people collecting up fucked drones and launching fresh ones.

You might be able to provide a temporary messaging network over Tahrir Square for a few hours though.


The line between those two things is hastily being erased.


In any event I'm listening to a radio piece on the forthcoming World Helium shortage (Radio 2).

The Observer had a piece about this last week. Lunar mining was mentioned. Someone needs to tell James Nicoll


Why build a ratbot? Wouldn't it be better to just stick a small WiFi router to an actual rat and harvest energy from the rat's body temperature or movement? That way we would not have to care about keeping the robot powered and working, only making sure that the rat does not get rid of the router. A rat's lifetime is about three years. That should be enough to amortise costs. Next-gen rat routers might also add host control capabilities by electrodes embedded into the rat's brain.


You trolled your way up to the top of Hacker News.


10/10 goes to Piratebay's drones.


If we are going to go that route, why not just use crows or pigeons as a mesh network? Strap a few transponders to them and release.


Seiko and Bulova at one time made wristwatches that ran from the heat of the wearer's body. They were large and heavy, and the power generated was on the order of picowatts. Any effective transmitting device is going to need orders of magnitude more power than that, and much more than can be swiped from a small animal. For the other end of the scale, a human cyclist working at maximum output is good for about 1/4 HP of usable power for short periods. That's about 180 watts.


If they want to keep it cheap and simple, they should consider limpets as their model. Little solar powered devices that stick on to anything.

Make them look like generic utility boxes or some sort of utility meter, and people won't mess with them. Give them away to volunteers, and if one gets removed or broken, someone just sticks another in the area.


Given the size of the Raspberry Pi (about the size of an Altoids tin), I think their concept is closer to "model airplane" than "predator drone". A sufficiently small aircraft could be powered (during good weather) by commercial solar cells of the type that are sold in auto stores for keeping car batteries charged. Since there is no real destination except "out of rifle range", a fairly simple autopilot could keep the thing in a relatively tight loop.

I only see three real issues. First, the motor needs to have a longer continuous service life than most cheap model motors. Second, it needs to survive nighttime and bad weather. Third, sooner or later a hawk is going to try to eat it.


Water proofing is't that dificult I seem to remember a company at CES or some other con showing off a i-pad2 and some phones that had their parts coated with some spray that let them function under water. Also what are ur thoughts about satelites i mean there hudreads or even thousands floating out there. Probably won't work on normal wifi but still its food for thought.


Following on from my pigeon idea, strap small magnets to their wings and some coils. Every time they flap their wings they recharge a battery.


Where's the fun in that?


My dad works at the veteran's hospital. Some of the medical implants have onboard computers, and they often have wireless capability (because they may need adjustment, and we want to avoid surgery). They usually have spare memory. Have fun telling a Vietnam veteran that his pacemaker has been hacked and is sending out 30 million emails a day.


Para 2 (3) - Raptors rarely, if ever, try and attack prey they can't fly carrying, and pretty much never attack anything bigger than their own species.


If you patented Ratbot you'd be able to charge The Pirate Bay royalties.....

I guess this means that ARM will become the first intellectual property company to do so, even if it is via and Broadcom!

Personally i'm interested in what the Raspberry Pi can do with the gertboard added on.

But i suspect my kids will one day end up using one to have a go at writing software and/or playing games. So one of the most exciting uses is what it was originally intended for.


Actually, realtime voice comm and audio streaming over mesh networks is being done right now. The Commotion Wireless project in DC uses that as their live demo these days, and Project Byzantium's testing Mumble for inclusion in their live distro.


For small aircraft propulsion the most efficient is probably that used by model plane enthusiasts: 2-stroke internal combustion engines and nitro methanol fuel. Light and extremely powerful. A plane optimized for long flight time could probably stay aloft all day. Power for the electronics could be derived from the engine as well. It's an interesting set of engineering exercises that I'm not remotely qualified to approach.


They'd certainly be easier to use than sneaking an access point running DDWRT onto the target's LAN... the downside, though, is the target might spot a gumstick computer and wonder what it was. Most folks in the cubicle gulag will ignore a device on a LAN that looks like it was installed by someone obove their pay grade, though.


Re Live birth rates: would this create an incentive for the MPAA agents to use myxomatosis?

I think blimps would work better than UAV’s.

I note the disincentive to shoot one down over a large city.

On the other hand. I note the incentive to shoot one down over a major city so long as the CEO of company doing the downshooting doesn’t have any relatives she likes living there.


What the Pirate Bay proposed in that blog post is already being done by someone else. Check out the articles referenced in this link:


They weren't spies. they were simply attempting to influence US politics. Which is legal for US citizens to do, illegal for people acting on behalf of a foreign government. Not the same as a spy.


(not sure if my original comment showed or will show up but eg they were foreign agents, not spies)


I can't believe I've gotten to the bottom of this thread and no one has said they plan to build a Mass Effect Omnitool


"The line between those two things is hastily being erased."

The line between communication games and meatspace weapons is being erased? What, do you think we live in one of Stross's novels?

Communication games have always been a tool of war, going back to Sumeria -- but at the end, a machete, arrow, or nuclear bomb is a completely different thing than "messing with someone's head".

Things haven't changed that much --- it's a modernist literary and propagandist conceit that "everything is different now". It's not --- you can find most of these issue in Confucious, the Tanakh and Gilgamesh.


If we're talking about power harvesting, harvesting thermal energy efficiently is hard, conversely, putting a coil next to a mains power line will give you some power at least. I bet it would be possible to snaffle five watts from some distance away.


If it was me id take a bunch of old routers or other everyday eletronics...imagine putting one in an old vcr or dvd player and just handing them out.


"What, do you think we live in one of Stross's novels?"

Read the newspapers.


The ground is attractive, but notoriously hard for autonomous systems to deal with due to its complexity. Not so the free air.

If you absolutely, positively have to go into the air with your servers, I agree that a lighter-than-air option is your best bet.

No other type of aircraft I am aware of offers the endurance, surface area necessary for the deployment of solar power, and lifting capacity you'd be looking for.

Fill it with hydrogen (not as dangerous as it sound), give it electrolysis as suggested above, and teach it to maintain position over a recognizable feature below.

Presumably the opposition would figure out a way of jamming its signal, but that's war.


Absolutely. Inductive coupling. And you wouldn't even have to be near the wire, just build it in bolo form and whip it up there (in the US where they're overhead) until it gets tangled. You'd have to be near a high current cable to get decent coupling. A similar concept is called a Joule Thief. Infortunately you're now in a large AC magnetic field, which could complicate transmission and reception. And hanging there in plain sight. But yeah, there's 'free' power to be had by that method.


"With WiFi, you now have to worry about spatial proximity. You now have to worry about everyone in that Starbucks.

The upside is you only have to worry about people there at the same time."

Presumably the WiFi gadget could have some storage. Combined with burst-download/upload, one could drive by, or take the bus by, and transfer the information.


!00% in agreement on cases. Not only do you end up with ESD vulnerability as well as the board flopping all over due to torques imposed by the cables. One of my primary annoyances with many devkits is the lack of mounting holes combined with connectors on all edges. This rules out simply sandwiching the board between two plates of acrylic.


The advantage of the drone or rat is that they are mobile and can keep out of the way of humans who want to stop them working.

The idea being that they are so cheap to produce that the budget of the enforcement agency is overwhealmed trying to keep up with them.

If I were los Federales I’d design a predator. A predator that was smaller, faster and cheaper and, because I’m basically the government and can bargain my marginal cost of production down to zero in the short term if I really feel I have to I might be able to make extinct the TBP drones.

You get a potentially interesting evolutionary arms race.


That's at least half of the problem, I'd say the rest is media business run by people who see the media as secondary, or tertiary to the investors and the whims of the board. The Steve was merciless to the gordian knots of the music industry.


A drone predator? Why? Rifles are cheaper and more versatile.

A civilian model hunting rifle has a range on order of five miles, and an accurate range up to 500 meters or so (if you're a good shot). Even environmentally friendly copper bullets cost $4 (off the top of my head. I'm sure it differs among jurisdictions).

If you're not a government military contractor, why design an anti-drone when a hunter can take one out if it's up there holding station? Millions of hawks and eagles have died holding station already. It's not that hard.

And don't forget, military weapons are much more accurate.

Drones are vulnerable. If we wanted airborne wi-max relays, they should be as close to invisible as possible, ideally solar powered, be able to talk to each other view narrow-beam broadcasts, and probably should go up in squadrons. That way, they can take turns with short broadcasts, and it will take longer to find and destroy each of them, because they move while under radio silence.

I know there's R&D on long duration stratospheric drones already, and I'd be surprised if the US isn't already working on such a system. Actually, I'd be surprised if such a system wasn't already in place somewhere.


It's been tangentially mentioned, but TCP/IP over carrier pigeon is a real thing. Well, real-ish.


I think I must have missed part of the drone concept: Isn't there a safety of life problem when you have such objects flying around anonymously in public airspace? At least where I live, there are other aircraft flying at a variety of altitudes much of the day and sometimes at night.


I see this scheme (and any other flying botnets) lasting about as long as it takes one of these drones to stray into an airport flight path and get eaten by a jet engine, or causes some other aviation accident. Then the group claiming responsibility for it get accused of terrorism and carted off to Guantanamo Bay.


You want to give the rats a distributed network? Are you MAD sir??


TPB only supplies (now) magnet links. The entire site fits on a usb stick, and is easily mirrored. Implement a couple more levels of abstraction, and it could exist in an almost totally virtual state -- no need for drones of any kind...



Target spends 6 hours there after work on Friday. "everyone who was there at the same time" is now a population of several hundred, possibly several thousand.


Let's be sensible here:

Humour aside, many larger shops now provide free public wifi to encourage comparison shopping (so that punters will realize, "sure I could get it for 50p less if I drove 12 miles, but is it really worth it?" and buy whatever they're looking at locally).

I'm pretty sure you could build a RaspberryPi and a PSU into a brick the size of a British 3-way mains adapter, along with the three mains sockets so that it would actually work as the real thing. Configure it to piggy-back on the shop network and act as a TPB mirror, and it'd be very hard to track down if it was sitting under a point of sales unit or a PC in the back office, or plugged in in-line with a display item of electrical goods.

I'm thinking of a big branch of Tesco or M&S or Currys Digital here. In a store with literally hundreds of mains outlets, who in admin is going to notice that the public wifi network (not the one the store's own EPOS and stock control systems run over) appears to be carrying a read-only network file share full of magnet files? They might notice some odd-looking punters lurking around the shop for too long without buying anything, like shoplifters, but if Security track them via CCTV or even pull them aside and search them they won't find anything.


I used to work on a wireless network built of a thousand-plus routers which were purpose-built for large mesh networking deployments. I can tell you from personal experience that mesh networking is not nearly as good as it needs to be for anything like what the Pirate Bay is planning.

It is very easy to set up wireless backhauls on an A feeds B, B feeds C, and C feeds D kind of basis. However, if you try to set things up so A talks to B, C, and D, and B talks to A, C, and D, etc, with the various nodes doing their own mesh-style routing you end up with chaos. In the real world you get routing loops, packet storms, and wireless gear which requires a hard reboot. You don't end up with a working mesh.

Environmental factors such as large buildings cause obvious problems, the 5.8 bands tend to have trouble with trees/leaves, there's too much interference on the 2.4 bands, particularly in large business districts, and hilly terrain will drive you completely insane. Windy days can cause major problems with directional antennas, and the network as a whole needs enormous amounts of hand holding. I (and the bucket-truck I drove for this job) was on call 24/7, and there was a person on-duty at our base at all times to handle issues that did not require a local presence.

So we tended to not use the mesh-networking features on these devices. Instead we relied on a system where A fed B and C, B fed D and E while C fed F and G. This worked just fine, and sometimes we'd leave one alternate route up so if A went down we didn't lose the whole sub system. Generally we would set up subnets of 10-15 minor nodes and 3-4 of these subnets would talk to a major node, which was fed by a directional antenna with a base station. The routing was very strictly defined, and we avoided actual mesh networking like it was the plague. This is how large wireless networks work in the real world.

My employer lost the contract because the hardware vendor pushed through an upgrade that caused major packet storms and took down half the network. When this happened, maintenance requirements for my employer alone went from 30-hours a week to 130 hours a week. I did 250 hours of overtime in 5 months making everything work again, fighting against the vendor's dumb ideas the entire time, and then we lost the blame game against the hardware vendor and lost the contract. The actual culprit was one line in a 200-line configuration file, which the hardware vendor thought was no longer necessary with their upgraded program.

This took place about 2 years ago, and I doubt the state of the art has improved much since then. If you're talking about mobile phones, it gets much worse. The environment around mobile phones is constantly changing as people move, they're used for other things than network routing, and they tend to be 3-5 feet off the ground instead of 25-35 feet off the ground like the gear I was working with, so I would expect mesh networking with mobile phones to be a non-trivial proposition.

Barring some really brilliant, totally new mesh networking algorithm, you will not see major mesh deployments in the real world, particularly with mobile phones.


The airborne drone concept announcement might be the equivalent of the shoebomber or similar nuisance attacks by AQ. a flashy "movie plot" threat aimed at making the adversary expend huge resources while the actual work is done via simpler means.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

We have a winner!!


So encase it in a pair of trainers ...


Actually since TPB switched to an exclusively magnet link system, their site is now basically just a really big HTML file (~90MB). So aside from periodic updates, it doesn't have to be connected to the Internet. Just the user does if they want to get to the actual file.


Charlie, check out the Sheeva Plug available for $99.00 US.


Just to pick up your point on phone height above ground; I did some work very tangentially related to a research mesh network that had nodes on traffic lights and such; therefore they were at exactly the same height as the ceiling/first floor of double-decker buses. The throughput diagram across the network had one link whose (enormous) error rate was annotated "46A".


I know about the Sheeva Plug. IIRC nobody manufactures a British version (hint: 230 volts AC, not 110 volts), much less one disguised as a British 3-way mains adapter. Also: $99 is not $25 as a starting point.


"What would the rat-squid interface be?"

Tentacle porn.


+1 × ∞


Charlie, Sheeva Plugs can handle variable voltages from 110 to 230 so that's not a problem. At one point the company was talking about a $49.00 version, but I haven't seen one in the wild. Note that the $99.00 price is retail. I suspect that a bulk/wholesale purchase would be affordable for the purpose under discussion.


Why not a hybrid technique? TPB proposes quadrotors to avoid their nodes being taken down by LE since ground-based nodes are vulnerable to seizure once they're triangulated. However, quadrotors could well land and broadcast from a fixed site, then take off and land someplace else if someone gets too close. Call it "pigeon mode". One could even save weight by using the same power source for propulsion and radio interface, and shutting off the RF components in flight.


Actually, New IT sell UK-ready Sheevaplugs; I've had one running as my home server for the last couple of years and been pretty happy with it.

They are still a touch more expensive than the R-Pi, though, as well as not having a display output. (Obviously, not a problem for some uses, but no good for gaming or video.)


I have multiple ones on order, at this price point its cheaper than an Arduino (unless I just get the chip and build my own board).

One I will have remote to replace my DD-WRT router (GPIO pin hack, waterproof case), using POE power to the roof weather station for remote logging (tornado country).

Another will replace/augment the Arudino out by the grape vines and strawberry patch. Its role is to deter marauding deer. Full linux core will make remote updates, cmd and control much easier.

An interesting twist on the rPi would be a board with an AVR chip integrated onboard. You can get similar I/O via a USB Phidgets type board, but that is the same size as the rPi.

What I find fascinating is the immense interest generated in a Linux board at this price point, is it because of the projects that become feasible on a near throwaway cost? (remote data logging at a price point lower than a LED house bulb?)

I suspect an opensource Arduino like project that continually integrates newer smartphone SOC chips (integrated WIFI, gyro, accelerometer, etc..) onto a board like the rPi does would also be a huge hit.

There are dev boards out there but they cost way more than even a Beagleboard ($149 or $99 last check). Given the fast smartphone upgrade cycle it shouldn't take long for the newer SOC chips to drop to the right price-points.

Linux based smart-dust in 10 years?


Consider the possibilities if you use disposable stick-PCs:

Spy 1 drops in to a fast-food place for lunch and secrets the data-drop in a rubbish bin with their leftovers. Spy 2 comes by in the evening, has a quick snack (while his/her phone grabs the data and creates an incoming text confirming the transfer) and then goes off home. At closing time, the stick shuts down all activity and waits invisibly in the bin until someone takes the bags out for landfill.

Giving you a "meeting" between two people who are never together, carried out via a covert channel you only have a few hours to detect and which will shortly be physically inaccessible.


Surely the ideal would be to have a real rat ingest said wifi hotspot - lodging itself permanently and powering itself off the digestion of the rat?

Which would lead to some interesting visits with "kitty" at the vet after a while.


My 5 cents: drones don't need to stay in the air indefinitely, they just need to find an inaccessible spot, latch there and open a solar panel. Removing such "parasite server" from the skyscraper/cell tower/power line/tree may end up costing more than launching a new one.


Backhaul is used in the real world as an optimisation, but it's not actually necessary. Ultimately, you can do a mesh network, running on a peer-to-peer basis passing packets from each node to the next, until you've got all the way from one end to the other. So a widespread flock of these drones all talking to each other could be resilient enough to get messages from one side of a country to the other.

Not all counties are dense enough for this. Even on the east coast of the US the border between NC and VA is thinly populated such that it's hard to keep a cell phone connection live as you pass by. And once you get out west there are 10s or 100s of miles with nothing much of anything. But in denser areas this might work.

Which is one reason the US lags behind in broadband speeds. We have much higher back haul costs across the country than most counties do. Plus there are a few dozen other reasons related to monopolies and incumbent laziness.


Surely the ideal would be to have a real rat ingest said wifi hotspot - lodging itself permanently and powering itself off the digestion of the rat?

How long utill pirates will start to put wifi hotspots in people's food?


A rat-net would have an interesting property that, unlike cellular networks, poorer neighborhoods would be better served. In the fancy parts of town, you might not be able to get a signal at all.

If you think well off urban neighbor hoods don't have many rats, well, you need to learn more about rats. Dense urban areas have rats. Farms have rats. Suburbs have rats. They are everywhere. At least in the EU and North America. And I suspect most of the rest of the world. Maybe not many in Antarctica.

Now most folks in middle to upper class suburbia don't see them because they keep their garbage sealed up better than other areas but trust me. They are there. And some will back down a large pit bull.


If we are going to go that route, why not just use crows or pigeons as a mesh network

You want something that soars. Hawks and similar. Much lower energy consumption and they like to "orbit". Of course they aren't as cheap or numerous as pigeons.


New idea: bacteria servers! Encode magnet links in DNA, transform Pirate Bay plasmids into Staphylococcus aureus (it lives on people's skin), spray around the world!


Disguise it as a pair of sneakers with their laces tied together and wrapped around the power line; nobody will look twice.


500 meters is pretty low for the drone (in crowded airspace), and pretty far for accurate rifle marksmanship especially on a moving target, and perhaps one smaller than a human.

Military rifles are no more accurate than civilian rifles (perhaps less; snipers often are equipped with premium civilian rifles). Using long range guided missiles may work okay (though not anything heat-seaking, the drone has low output there) but those are hundreds of thousands of dollars, not just a couple (one rifle round).

And a single hole through most spots on a drone won't bring it down or make it non-functional.


And a single hole through most spots on a drone won't bring it down or make it non-functional.

But a close fly by by most anything that can carry people would likely take it down just by the turbulence.


But you wouldn't want to risk flying anything with jet engine intakes near random hovering drones I wouldn't have thought.

Could a chopper get near them. Might be a fun day out for a helicopter based sniping team. You'd only have to knock them out of the sky with something suitably kinetic. Not necesarily use high velocity rounds. Still bit of a problem for anyone walking under them though. Could a couple of helicopters or larger drones scoop them up with a dragnet? Expensive anyway. But look at the war on drugs as an indicator of how resources don't get necesarily spent the wisest way.


Fuck you all, get outside and cut a log in the real world and work like a real man, fucking virtual pussynerds.

Said the disembodied anonymous troll in the comment thread of a blog post...


" Moscow Rules " ? ..

" .. The Moscow Rules is the name for rules said to have been developed during the Cold War to be used by spies and others working in Moscow.

The rules are associated with Moscow because the city developed a reputation as being a particularly harsh locale for clandestine operatives who were exposed. The list may never have existed as written; agent Tony Mendez wrote "Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood ... By the time they got to Moscow, everyone knew these rules. They were dead simple and full of common sense...". "

To the Rules as listed in Wikipedia I'd add ' Never Depend on High Technology ' and ' Keep It Simple Stupid '

And Your contribution would be?


This is getting somewhat ridiculous.

On every level.


Why a predator and not a rifle?

I was visioning these things being a couple of klicks up in the air & that the people trying to destroy them would be concerned about being seen to cause objects to crash into school playgrounds


I freaking love living in the future


the year is 2012.

highly radioactive elements are no longer the sole definition of "fissionable materials"

Electrically Induced Beta Decay FTW!


Please don't feed the trolls.


That reminds me of a story called Sea Vixen by Simon Barber, concerning an Imperial Russian Navy Surplus anti-satellite submarine. Crash-surface and blast a satellite with a high-energy microwave beam. It becomes a "private contractor", silencing hacked TV satellites that are broadcasting unwelcome programmes.


All this work to put Raspberry Pi, The Pirate Bay and rat-bots together, and you don't pull out the name of the bot?

The Pi-Rat-Bot


The weapon of choice is called a shotgun.

You probably would have something more like the punt-guns of a century and more ago. And small pellets have a relatively low terminal velocity. So at the working altitude, a shotgun could deliver a substantial impact on the target without much danger from the misses.


@Straylight ITYM Serval (


@80: "If you patented Ratbot you'd be able to charge The Pirate Bay royalties....."

You seem a little unclear about the "pirate" concept. Don't expect them to be writing royalty checks anytime soon.


billy writes:

Electrically Induced Beta Decay FTW!

Given that beta decay is simply quantum transmutation of neutrons to protons and electrons (or antiprotons/positrons) and emission of the electrons (positrons) ... in this case, using a very strong electric field to increase the decay rate... I have a hard time figuring out how this would be weapons-useful. I searched for but didn't find any isotopes one could usefully pulse-beta-decay into a fissile material in realtime.

For power generation, it would seem to be a net loss as well, as you're throwing a very few electrons off after throwing a whole gobload in, to generate the plane-wave E field (or plasma, or laser burst in the MeV range per photon) in the first place. This is a net energy consumer / diluter (in the low to high entropy sense) not an energy source.


Can't add much besides my unrealistic exhilaration about anything that could even remotely involve vacuum blimps, but fwiw: this is the most fun a thread here has been in a while (to me, at least). So, thanks.

And Dan@114: extra points for that. :)


Tethered blimp / balloon from a ship in international waters? Another mix of compromises, re police retrieval / power supply.


why not a rifle?

Here in the relatively gun-friendly USA, almost every municipality has a law against "discharging a firearm within city limits."

Also, "what goes up usually comes down." People could get paranoid about spent bullets or dead drones dropping through their skylights or damaging their paintwork. Annoy enough people, or even let a journalistic crusade get started, and your network would be fighting public resistance as well as the government.

A radio-controlled toy airplane trailing some used guitar strings would take a drone down without the firearm problem, but you're still faced with debris falling out of the air.


If a drone is a few klicks up in the air, it's in commercial airspace, which means that governments are going to get all whiny and pissy about your stupid drone blocking their multi-million dollar planes. If the drone operates low (where the helicopters fly) it's less regulated AFAIK. That puts it in range of a rifle.

I'd thought of shotguns too, but they have a much shorter range.

As for sniper rifles, they brag about the 1 kilometer sniper shot in Afghanistan, so it's possible. Back when I was getting a hunting license, I was warned that, for hunting the area, I'd be shooting at up to 500 meters. This was in a desert area, using a borrowed 303. I'm glad I didn't hunt in that area.

AFAIK, the kill range for an AK-47 is something like 500 meters, and an M-16 goes out further than that.

If a drone is based on a model airplane and flying low and in a circle, it's much easier to hit than, say, a pigeon flying an irregular course at the same altitude. Obviously, falling bullets are a huge issue, which is why one should always shoot away from the town when trying to hit a drone.


Why dont they just setup operations in some remote regions in Iran? You will never see US authorities in that region and you are guaranteed to get support from the Iranian government. Solar power also works extremely well in Iran and you dont have to worry about the cells over heating on mountain tops. You also get exceptional satellite connection.


For the whole setup...why not just get a whole bunch of your people hired for the local municipal bus company? If this box is as small as you might say, there's no reason why you couldn't run it off of, say, the power system for the lights. Drive by somebody whom has an open "request for packets" software package, use wireless upload and download to send and receive the packets, and keep going from there. Bus routes are fairly predictable, you don't need to know WHICH bus, just "bounce from box #11 to box #29 to box #82 to the final end point" (each bounce being when the buses get close enough).

Tho, I'd add things like FIOS/laser retransmitters, and such. Most criminal conspiracies are undone by the fact that the people running them are idiots-it's really a time vs. reward issue for the police in those circumstances.

Speaking of operating agents in foreign countries, my intelligence agency would use things like stenographic information hidden on MP3 players for large data transfers, OTP-encrypted files on flash drives with very tiny explosive charges (POP! magic smoke comes out...) for dead drops, "useful idiot" couriers (you think you're sending the latest info on drug shipments by taping it to inside of a truck wheel well, to be recovered at a truck stop where it gets transferred to another truck...), word codes for agents that have to use broadcast, etc, etc, etc. Hell, if you're smart enough, you could subvert the wifi at a Starbucks or such and your agents just walk in and their signals are concealed by everybody else in the area downloading pirated MP3s and porn while you're uploading state secrets.


Piratebox doesn't seem to have been mentioned. Simple media sharing on ddwrt compatible routers.

Portable routers like the TP-Link MR3020 runs DD-WRT and are cheap. Rip the bits out of one, a memory stick and a USB charger plug and re-package. Not sure it would fit inside a UK 3 way mains plug but it must be close.


I'm so sure that the plug-in adaptor is't a slight red-herring. A cheap mains-strip, four sockets on a metre-long lead, may be supplanting those four-into-one adaptors in many environments.

And that leads to the idea of a "smart" adaptor strip. Fit it with surge protection, and computer controllable outputs, and a wifi connection that allows the user to connect it to their router. You don't have to do anything black-hat to the user's computer, it's just an easy-to-fit option for a smarter house, but you have plenty of room for the resources needed for a mesh-like network, maybe without even having to add extra hardware.

And, given the Raspberry Pi package as a starting point, it could be really smart, very good at its advertised job. Which is a pretty good cover job, in a way not mentioned in Moscow Rules. Do you watch the competent diplomat, working hard, or the one who isn't doing the drudge-work he is supposed to.


There goes my plan of letting Disney know as soon as one of these flew in the Caribbean.....


In the city, you are never more than three metres away from a rat. WRONG Popular factiod Tell our cats that one ..... Once upon a time, maybe (we had untidy neighbours) but Hermann ( dead over 20 years now) sorted that out - he laid the rats out, very neatly, and they didn't come back.

Plug micro-transmitters into the tens of thousands of unused pavement terminals for internet/TV connections that are littering our streets - like the one outside my house. [ I hope I've mde the description of what "Points" I mean? ]

Power How small and efficient can a heat-differential pump be made? Small Stirling engines, for instance ....

Bellinghame @ 50 No, not seagulls. Pigeons, feral pigeons. Disease-&-parasite-infested sick-bags with wings.

paws4thot @ 79 So? You've obviously never seen a VERY determined Kestrel trying to make off with a fresh-roadkill Rabbit! I got to within 2 metres, before the K looked as if she was going to fly away - at which point I backed off, and left her to it.

anura @ 89 Messing with someone's head Like this poor, evil, stupid, deluded, dead bastard in Toulouse, you mean? His head totally messed around by Dark-Ages camelherders' myths? Precisely.

heteromeles @ 99 One slight problem You are using firearms in an open public area, with innocent people walking around. NOT such a clever idea. Try again See also TRX @ 147.

Dave Bell @ 139 I wonder if Simon Barber realised that Sea Vixen was the name of a De Havilland carrier-based twin-boom fighter-bomber. Really nasty, effective pieces of kit for their day.

155: 106, 120 and 133 - Er Charlie, Chrisj is much more "on message" with what I was talking about. I was trying to have the "spy" increase the number of people who could be the "handler" (or vice versa) to a number that becomes unworkable for the counter-intel people.

For #133, for what value of "high tech"? I'd submit that anything as ubiquitous as the computer/ cellphone/ PDA with azure dentition is "normal tech" rather than high tech.


Well, unlike the other continents, Antarctica has no native human population.


So the drone is in commercial airspace when out of rifle shot and subject to being removed with predjudice by national aviation authorities and in range of rifles when flying below the whiny and pissy frontier.

I’d say that made the plan a bit of a non-starter.

Also, Edinburgh is about 10 miles across and it’s not a particularly large city. How are you going to stop the bullet landing within the city bounds?


I imagine this counts as not being in the spirit of the game and spoiling the fun but...

Given that we seem to have established that TPB is at heart just a reasonably compact database why does our hypothetical redundant array of inexpensive, widely distributed servers actually have to take physical form?

Why not just a carefully crafted Trojan which turns any infected machine into a node in the distributed network? Lets face it you don't get any cheaper and more stealthy than no physical manifestation and the "Zombie hosted Botnet" model seems to be work pretty well and has proved pretty resilient for the spammers, phishers, 419ers et-al so why not the Pirates?

I'd bet that at least some people would voluntarily install it (possibly in the form of a seemingly innocuous utility which everybody concerned knows has hidden extra function but pretends not to in the interests of plausible deniability) too...


Why not a rifle?

A two-foot-wingspan drone is effectively invulnerable beyond fifty meters or so, because that's the range of a shotgun.

Moving targets are a b*gger to hit, unless you're really lucky, and it's flying either directly towards or away from you; but at those angles, it's a much smaller target. Your weapon is firing at a varying angle of elevation (affects trajectory by a few inches) at a varying range (affects trajectory by a few inches) at an unknown speed (affects your aim-off by a few inches).

The probability of a hit from a single shot is tiny; I'm a good shot, and I wouldn't offer any odds. The probability of collateral damage from the fusillade you would need to achieve a hit, is rather high.

They used to use large drones (i.e. several foot wingspan) when training British soldiers for what was called "All-Arms Air Defence" training (i.e. Falklands-style use of MGs, for units without specialist anti-aircraft weapons). Pallets of link ammunition would be expended, and three or four drones would be allocated for the day's firing. The expenditure of five-figure amounts of MG ammunition would usually achieve some hits on the target (a banner towed behind the drone)

No, the way to screw up drones is a similarly ancient solution - barrage balloons and nets. If you're feeling truly evil, you load them up with ECM, because payload restrictions on the UAV mean that the balloon can carry more weight and pump out more watts X-)


Since the submarine in his story has the pennant number Dh 110, I think it is safe to assume that Simon Barber knows what a Sea Vixen is.


heteromeles@148: "If a drone is a few klicks up in the air, it's in commercial airspace, which means that governments are going to get all whiny and pissy about your stupid drone blocking their multi-million dollar planes. If the drone operates low (where the helicopters fly) it's less regulated AFAIK"

Edinburgh Airport is only a couple of miles to the west of the city, and has a main runway laid out roughly east-west in order to take advantage of the prevailing wind from the west. This means that airliners typically cross Silverknowes and Pilton (infamous from Trainspotting) at an altitude of only a couple of hundred meters. This was rather convenient when I worked at designing airborne radars, as our factory was just to the south of the final flightpath, and we were never short of actual radar targets; the inconvenience was that we also faced Leith and Granton docks, so we couldn't transmit if there was a Soviet "trawler" docked...

They also fly a downwind leg that runs parallel to the runway, but over the south of the city. If you listen to Air Traffic Control, you can hear the call "Skislope" to indicate progress, as the largest dry skislope in Europe is to be found underneath the flightpath (it's very visible from the air). To make things worse, the run into the secondary runway takes you in over East Craigs; as an Air Cadet I once got to fly over our then-house at an altitude of a few hundred meters in a DH Chipmunk.

Large chunks of Edinburgh are controlled airspace...

Well, unlike the other continents, Antarctica has no native human population.

Technically not true. The Chilean Air Force flew the pregnant wives of Air force officers to Antarctica to give birth there. (So they can push for a territorial claim in the future, if so desired).


And I found the airspace map that describes it, courtesy of the local paragliders...


Ref "paws4thot @ 79" - Well, no but I have more than once seen a buzzard not trying to fly off with same, but jointing and eating it where it lay.

I repeat that attacking things larger than they are is not typical behaviour of raptors.


The problem with ECM is that you have a powerful transmitter affecting the same sort of ground area as the drone, and that might be unwise.

ECM for some purposes can be quite smart. Take radar as an example. The radar system is hampered by an inverse fourth power law, while an ECM transmitter on the target is working within the usual inverse square law. Allowing for RCS effects on top of that, and the powern levels for a false echo are manageable.

But this would have to be deception jamming of a communications channel, transmitters and receivers at both ends, and that becomes tricky, if you want to keep power levels down.

But what would happen if you could fry the drone's electronics? Loss of control, of course, but what would that mean? The old "free-flight" model 'planes were designed to maintain flight without any control input. They had a stable glide. They would climb with power on, and go into a glide when the power went off.

Even radio-controlled models depended on the inherent stability until relatively recently.

There are two possible ways in which an EMP attack could bring down the drone. The first is that it kills the fly-by-wire elements--the computer reacting to attitude sensors, amongst others, that keep the drone stable. It's about keeping the instability within the reaction capacity of a human pilot.

The other is the behaviour of the control actuators when they lose their control input. These are servo-mechanisms, so the electronic kill would take out the feedback loops that match the control signal and the actuator position. Airflow might push them to a neutral position, but there would be enough mechanical friction that they might not reach that point. Because of the mechanical link between ailerons, they might not centre at all, and the drone would start a slow roll turning into a spiral dive.


Correction to last sentence inline:- "Because of the mechanical link between ailerons, they might not centre at all, and the drone would start to crash."


It may not be typical of raptors as a whole, but raptor behaviour varies widely. I note that goshawks (famously psychotic as they are) are known for sometimes going after prey twice their weight or more.

And some hawks will go for humans. When we went hawking, our falconer told of more than one bird that learnt to go for the falconer rather than the lure. The human flinches, the lure is dropped, and the hawk gets the food without having to chase it round in circles.

(He also told of cases where the hawk misjudges a flying lure and breaks its neck.)

So I would find it plausibly that you could train a raptor to go and shred the wingtip of a small drone.

Disclaimer: we were flying Harris hawks, which are the bouncing Labradors of the raptor world.


Very true. I'm not a pilot, and mostly I deal with airspace issues on things like wind turbines near military issues. Apparently, wind turbines encroaching on military radar mess up the radar screen (the screen is two dimensional, so a line of big blades sweeping across the bottom of the field looks like a flickering wall. Great cover for an inbound hostile).

Near where I live, a developer decided to screw with local developing laws. He wanted to build a 11 story building right off the runway of a municipal airport. No dice, the city told him, you can only build 10 stories high, because the HVAC on the 11th story intruded into the airport's airspace. He build the 11 stories anyway, and sued the city for unjustly taking his right to build what he wanted, or some such BS.

Then the FAA chimed in and told him that he had to take the 11th story off. Unfortunately for him, the FAA is much higher on the legal food chain than a city council is, and so he had to take a story off the top of his building after he built it.

He also lost his lawsuit against the city. So sad for him. People still laugh at him every time they pass the chopped off building.

Anyway, this is the general point. If it's something rinky-dink, such as environmental protection laws, Indian graveyards or such, it takes political action to stop developers from running rough-shod. When the FAA speaks on airspace issues, people listen. Only federal security ranks higher, and they can, in fact, force you to dismantle structures that are in the wrong space.

So flying a server of questionable legality, on a homebuilt drone, in commercial airspace, strikes me as a fairly dumb thing to do, at least in the US. Either go high (above commercial jet level, so up around 35-40,000 feet), or stay low enough to stay under their radar. Literally. Given the constraints on most people's model planes, I'd say that low and slow is the way to go.


The real issue with wind farms is that radars often (the blades may be transparent to some of the radar spectrum) can't "see" anything on the opposite side of the farm from the radar, and flying lower than the tops of the turbine discs.

Ref - Skolnik; Principles of Radar. If you feel like arguing the point, argue with him, not me.


This came up in the context of birds attacking drones. Buzzards[1] are ground hunters/scavengers not aerial hunters like goshawks or peregrines and will go for larger prey on the ground. They won't try and carry it off though.

[1] Buteo species, not American "buzzards", which are actually vultures.


If I recall correctly, the first human born on the Antarctic continent was an Argentine. Chile followed their lead.

My memory was correct: see


I think the key point is "Antarctica has no indigenous inhabitants,..."

Children born to persons residing in a foreign state may claim dual nationality (most nations; If you're USian YMMV), but Antarctica is quite specifically no a nation, so you can't establish dual Ruretanian/Antarctican nationality.


I think we all know that, although they may not be indigenous, Antartica has some inhabitants who have been there a very long time.


A gardener's take ...

Most municipalities have trees along their streets, so how about 'drones' able to fly a very short distance/height and park themselves on tree tops. Solar cells/panels are dark grey/black so these devices would blend in with most tree barks/ branches. At tree-height, these devices would be high enough to send-receive signals more clearly than at walking human height. If coated with solar power cells, they could generate their own power. As well, at tree-top height, very few animals would be able to reach and remove them or die trying to eat them. Parks would become major wifi centers. Lastly, as most urban tree maintenance budgets have been slashed, it's unlikely that these devices would be removed quickly.


A question ... how likely are these devices to attract lightning?


We try not to talk about them.


They left for the moon some time ago. BTW, the first 4 minutes of Iron Sky are on youtube:


Not at all. Lightning likes a decent length of conducting material, and a small lightweight drone built mainly of non-metallic materials would supply neither the length nor the conductivity.

Planes may get struck by lightning, but in such cases they have long metal wings.


Only if the radar is a bit creaky, and has really rubbish signal processing...

Modern pulse-doppler sets don't suddenly stop working because there are rotating blades in the way (whether they are from a wind turbine, an aircraft propellor, helicopter blades, or a jet engine). Granted, they have an effect, but it isn't "blind you to everything on the other side".

Just view it as a very reflective JEM line...


@165: Since the target is localized, it could probably be fried with a directional microwave transmitter. Something with ~1kW power could probably be cobbled together from a commercial microwave oven for a low cost.

Since we're talking about a wifi node, it can't be shielded and still function. The induced voltages in its wiring should fry the circuit boards pretty quickly.


Rat population density can vary greatly within a single city. So can rat size, which depends on food intake during early age. In some food warehouses were you couldn't use poisons the largest of them were as big as cats. You had to train large dogs to hunt them.

With just - in - time warehousing and modern sealed containers there are less and less opportunities for large populations of big rats. But the remaining populations have individuals that are still big enough to be able to chew through wires, cables, etc. They'll chew through anything, just out of curiosity.

And so can squirrels.

Squirrels are a major problem for telcos in a city like Montreal. I expect they would be a major problem to pirate wifi stations installed or perched in tree branches, rooftops and belfreys. The rats would chew up the wifi stations (mobile or not) at ground level.


Caviet, I am slightly pissed in the British English sence. But it strikes me, it's stuff like this. The increasing availability of open saurce programmable hackable hardware and access to forums how to program / build, that wil ussure (SP?) in any kind of singularity. (As opposed to any radicle leap in processing power per say.)


solar cells

Though some solar model aircraft exist, solar cells are heavy, and the electric motors used in model aircraft suck power at an intimidating rate. Batteries are heavy. Battery chargers are heavy. Plus you need power for the flight computer (assume it also works as the server), control servos, data storage, and the radio, all adding weight and current draw. Don't forget the weight and aerodynamic drag of the antenna, too.

Then you have to figure fighting any prevailing wind to stay on station.

Even at 100% efficiency and skinning the whole aircraft in solar cells, I don't think it's going to work.


So, the whole "high flying drones" thing is a non-starter because of commercial airlines and the FAA (or equivalent).

The "low-flying drones" one has an easy countermeasure. Just offer a $100 bounty on each drone shot down or captured. The guys in the radio-controlled airplane clubs would have some purpose-built anti-drone drones whipped up by next weekend, with online scoreboards listing who got the most pirate birds. Videos of the most creative kills, too.

Heck, forget the bounties, a lot of guys would do it just to have free target drones.

Ditto for the land-bound access points. If you can build a cheap self-installing tree-climber or building-sitter, someone else with similar tech can build a somewhat more expensive robot to run up a tree and pith your gadget right through the CPU, then bring the corpse back down for turn-in and analysis.


Use genetic engineering to produce plants and insects which have the required abilities, and which look like natural ones.


Eliminate the middleman -- err, middlerat. Use wifi brain implants!

Not only could we download music; we could have direct Twitter feeds to our brains.

And those of us with synesthesia could go into competition with providers of psychedelic drugs.


Obviously my favorite cool use for the Raspberry Pi is teaching kids to program, but the strangest thing I've had in my inbox was someone looking to install one in a Sinclair QL case, booting directly into an emulator, to help the QL community deal with attrition of the last surviving pieces of original hardware.

To the power-consumption point, a Model A (no Ethernet, one USB port) draws under 0.5W at full tilt, and you need a couple of pretty hungry USB peripherals to get the Model B up north of 3W. Wi-Fi power consumption would definitely dominate.


Another datapoint. Deep State - by Walter Jon Williams had weaponised private drones. Think robot wars but with flying things instead of crawling things. Or the autonomous drone version of kite wars. At which point, never mind MIT doing cute videos of swarms of autonomous drones, let's have a competition involving some destruction and some media coverage. I'm assuming there's already some healthy competition among the multi-copter and drone community for time, distance and carrying capacity and that's driving drone evolution forwards. Now we need to drive their combat ability forwards!

I always thought there was some mileage in subverting wifi. But after all these years, standalone community servers haven't actually taken off and neither has NoCat or Mesh. If it was a viable idea, you'd think it would have happened. Does getting the individual hardware price under $100 or £50 make it any more likely to work? I think it's the pen-testing people who might come up with something but working outwards instead of inwards. You'd want your smart wifi plug to use it's CPU and plenty of time to crack the local Wifi encryption, then open a port in the firewall from the inside. And finally to host files on somebody else's now public network.

181. Yes, Squirrels are a problem. Agile, tree climbing, intelligent rats with sharp teeth and good memories. Or instead of a problem are they actually an opportunity? Somebody must have put a webcam harness on one by now, surely.

" Yes, Squirrels are a problem. Agile, tree climbing, intelligent rats with sharp teeth and good memories. Or instead of a problem are they actually an opportunity? Somebody must have put a webcam harness on one by now, surely."

The Iranians claimed to have killed several such squirrels. Of course, everyone had a good laugh at their expense. A quite unbelievable claim?


If you've raised a big enough rat then you can put a harness and some electronics on it:

However, I would not advise doing this with fancy rats bought from a pet shop. They come from long genetic lines of domesticated rats which have lost most of their resistance to pathogens found in the wild.


I've always felt the Pirate Bay itself is like this. A huge amount of effort has been targetted at shutting them down, but the only thing that this would accomplish is that the new king of torrent sites is called something else.


So if we're talking about facilitating a blacknet a question immediately arises.

How do you stop it being used for truly vile uses (child abuse leaping foremost to mind).


Deltawing shaped zeppelins with solarcell-powered engines for moving are already in design on several different locations of the world . Look around 14:00 to see the Danish design. Once those go into production I think smaller versions as toys will become available, fill them up with hydrogen instead and it will be a lot cheaper, and they will burn if they get shot down - cant think of any politician that would allow something like that to happen in their cities.

@72: You got the poweroutput of cyclists a bit mixed up I think. As an amateurcyclist I can keep about 180W for hours. World champion 1h timetrial has an average of about 360W.


How do you stop it being used for truly vile uses (child abuse leaping foremost to mind).

You don't. Instead, you focus on going after the child abusers themselves.

(Any network that is sufficiently robust to be of use to, for example, free speech campaigners in Syria, will also be of use to undesirables. So you can either call for universal censorship and the abolition of free speech channels, or accept that any channel that facilitates free speech will from time to time be misused, and focus instead on the abusers.)


Brainstorming the Internet of Things That Circumvent Authority, I'm loving it!


I would debate that free speech can be abused, by its very definition. What I am sick of hearing/reading is people who say: "I am all in favour of free speech, but...".


After all these comments I may have missed something really obvious: why not install these units in your car and have them broadcast only when the vehicle is in motion?

And of course, more philosophically, pirates can be the good guys. For example, Ronan O'Rahilly, mentioned on this weeks Little Steven's Underground Garage show. From the wiki:

Prior to his involvement with Radio Caroline, O'Rahilly ran the Scene club in London's Soho district and managed a number of pop music artists, including Georgie Fame. He recorded a Georgie Fame record on his own independent label, unheard of at the time. He took the record to the BBC to try to get it played. He discovered that the record industry was dominated by EMI and Decca. He then tried to get it played on Radio Luxembourg and again found that the shows were 'owned' by EMI, Decca, Pye and Philips. They were essentially 'payola' shows, and featured only music from the paying label. He said "I have recorded the guy, so I can't get it played, so we have to start a radio station." He therefore set about creating the pirate radio station Radio Caroline, which broadcast from a ship, the M.V. Caroline anchored in international waters off the coast of Essex, eastern England.[1][2][3]

I know it's not precisely the payola scene of the 50's and 60's, but by and large TPB seems to be fighting the good fight, imho. Of course, being in the right in just this way often has the unfortunate side effect of making the one so blessed something of a humorless, self-righteous prig . . .


Sorry, that should have been:

I would debate that free speech CANNOT be abused, by its very definition. What I am sick of hearing/reading is people who say: "I am all in favour of free speech, but...".


"So if we're talking about facilitating a blacknet a question immediately arises.

"How do you stop it being used for truly vile uses (child abuse leaping foremost to mind).

I already have access to a Blacknet which has pretty much universal access, allows a pretty good level of anonymity, and has enormous bandwidth (albeit with latencies measured in days) at reasonable cost.

Or, to put it another way, as long as society is prepared to tolerate being able to send large capacity USB sticks (or similiar) through the mail to a P.O. box (or similiar) without putting a return address on the envelope I doubt the sort of thing under discussion here is going to prove world changing in that respect...



Darknets and sneaker nets are going to be in our future. The whole rat idea has merit. But instead of a rat, mobile wireless relay points running through sewers or left at drops by friendlies etc... then connecting to fiber nets in friendlier areas.

Another option would be to deploy mobile VPNs to people you trust.

Unfortunately the days of the mass data pirate are just about over. New business and pricing models will be adopted and enforcement gets easier. Darknets and sneaker nets are going to be important from a personal privacy and freedom POV


I don't really see the downside of being at the mercy of the winds. For one, it means that your drone is constantly moving without powered flight, and moving in a way that is complex enough to be very difficult to calculate for a small object (you can calculate the general area of a very large object, or the most likely areas for a large swarm of LOSS-sized objects, but you can't calculate moment to moment the location of a single drone with enough precision to hit it with a small projectile from the ground -- you would still need planes to make chase and shoot it down, or use an expensive surface-to-air missile with a fairly large destructive radius... spending a million dollarpounds to shoot down something that cost two hundred)


I'm sorry, I don't understand how you got to your starting point.

I gather that in some countries, paying money to politicians is considered, in law, to be "Free Speech". In others, it is considered bribery.

So, what do you mean by "Free Speech"?


I'm going to have to disagree with you here. I've been to Afghanistan and I can safely say that the gunpowder-and-blood part of that war is the tip of the iceberg: that war will be decided on who has the more convincing argument. Sure, information warfare has been around forever, but the dissemination of information, spin and propaganda has never been as fast or far-reaching as it is today. Commanders on all sides are also aware of this and "how this will look in dissemination" is one of the most critical factors taken into account when their strategies are devised, deployed and adapted. You are right in one regard: violence is the fundamental part of war. You're wrong to say that there isn't a shift going on though; with modern information networks in place, war is much more about impressions of stability and strength than about attrition.


I've posted on my G+ blog (see link) on this sort of thing, linking to a couple of other alternative-internet ideas of differing practicality.

A great number of Internet users have no interest or even knowledge of sites such as The Pirate Bay, but they (at least in the USA) have heard of SOPA or even the new CISPA bill in US Congress, and know governments want to censor them and violate their privacy wherever possible. Perhaps the most vulnerable parts of the Internet are the ISP's, for MANY reasons, not just vulnerability to government snooping and censorship, but if either your ISP or your online friend's ISP is down, you can't communicate over the Internet with them, whether they're across the street or across the world. On the other hand, if they're across the street chances are both of you have WIFI routers, and one is connected to a PC that runs most of the time that can run some simple host software and that's all you need to have your own private "intranet" I call "NeighborNet." From there, other neighbors can add on, and with each node doing packet routing, thousands of homes and businesses can be interconnected with wifi routers that can each only reach a few other homes. Of course someone (hopefully many someones, over many different ISP's) also needs to be connected to the Internet, making the rest of the world accessible. But things that go between points in the neighborhood STAY in the neighborhood, at least until governments deploy wifi snoopers everywhere.

This doesn't get around the problems of longer distance communications over sparsely populated rural areas and oceans, and that is an important need as well, but it puts much of the Internet into the hands of the people who use it.


The funniest thing is that developing own infrastructure - costly, very susceptible to jamming\outright destruction - is absolutely unnecessary.

There is such thing as i2p, which uses the already existing internet to run an "overlay" network where ip addresses are encrypted.

Already there are sites and torrents out there, but until copyright mafia introduces electrocution for p2p activity the incentives - or, rather, stimuli (in the Roman sense of this word) - for p2p users to migrate to i2p won't have materialized. Once the Unwirer becomes reality, though, i2p is very likely to harbor p2p activity, without any need for superfluous and vulnerable infrastructure.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 22, 2012 9:44 AM.

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