Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Beautiful, Dangerous, Radioactive Art


A collection of radioactive ceramic vases is about to go on display in London’s venerable Victoria & Albert Museum. They’re beautiful but deadly as a result of the toxic sludge used to sculpt them, as revealed by Fast Company:
Ceramic vases made from toxic mud created in the production of must-have products such as laptops and smartphones will present a markedly different perspective on consumer technology when they go on show at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum later this month.
radioactive vases
3 finished vases, conceived by Unknown Fields Division and produced with Kevin Callaghan, a ceramics artist, will be on display in the V and A Gallery.Photo: Toby Smith, courtesy of Unknown Fields

The mud was collected from a toxic lake in Inner Mongolia into which thick, black chemical waste is pumped from neighboring refineries in and around Baotou, the region’s largest industrial city (read more about the place described as “hell on Earth” in this BBC story).
China produces an estimated 95% of the world’s supply of “rare earth” elements.
Baotou is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the materials–elements found in anything from magnets and wind turbines and electric car motors to the electronic guts of smart phones and flat screen TVs.
The ceramics were produced by The Unknown Fields Division, a self-declared “nomadic design studio” headed by Liam Young and Kate Davies and developed within the Architectural Association in London, whose aim is to reflect the shadows luxury products cast across the planet.
“The vases are a way to talk about ideas around luxury and desire. How both are culturally constructed collective sets of values that are fleeting and particular to our time,” says Davies.
“These three ‘rare earthenware’ vessels are the physical embodiment of a contemporary global supply network that displaces earth and weaves matter across the planet.”
Adds Young: “The dominant media narrative about our technologies is based on lightness and thinness. Terms like ‘cloud’ of ‘Macbook Air’ imply that our gadgets are just ephemeral objects–and this is the story we all want to believe.
“In reality, our technologies should really be thought of as geological artefacts that are carved out of the earth and produced by a planetary-scaled factory.”
Unknown Fields travels the world to explore landscapes and infrastructures critical to the production of contemporary cities and the technologies they contain–often forgotten landscapes scarred by consumer demand…
[continues at Fast Company]

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Guerrilla Radio: How some prison inmates hack, rewire, and retool their radios to create walkie-talkies - See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/guerrilla-radio-how-some-prison-inmates-hack-rewire-and-retool-their-radios-to-create-walkie-talkies/#sthash.E551OQAZ.dpuf


Take notes from this Marshall Project post: you’ll want to retool your radio too come the Apocalypse:
Prisoners face numerous restrictions when communicating with one another or the outside world. But where there is a rule, there is often a workaround. At Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California, inmates have yelled to one another through drainpipes under their cells; inmates in Texas talk through cans connected with twine; and in facilities throughout the country, little paper notes — known as “kites” — are literally handed off. As technology has developed, so have the communication methods; cell phones and iPods are regularly smuggled to inmates by visitors and guards. And occasionally, the technology is already inside the prison. Some inmates have learned how to transform their radios into devices that allow them to talk to each other and even eavesdrop on guards.
Radionette kurer transi back.png
Once an inmate has purchased an analog radio from the prison commissary (they usually cost less than $30), he can open it up and pull apart a coil, which changes the range of frequency that the radio can access. All the inmate needs to do next is find the frequency that the staff uses on their walkie-talkies. Modifying a radio for two-way communication requires reversing an electrical current to turn a speaker into a microphone. As Ruth Massingill and Ardyth Broadrick wrote in their 2007 book, Prison City, about prison conditions in Huntsville, Texas, “Transforming a radio into a vocal transmitter-receiver requires only a basic knowledge of electronics, a skill readily found within prisons.”
An Insider’s Perspective
In 1976, John Draper, known among hackers as Captain Crunch, was incarcerated at a low security federal prison in Lompoc, California (for phone fraud, incidentally). Upon arrival, he bought a radio from the commissary and re-wired it in the electrical shop so that he could hear walkie-talkie chatter among guards. Because the guards were required to report their movements, Draper was able to know when the coast was clear for other activities — like teaching other prisoners how to modify their own radios. Nobody, as far as Draper knows, was ever caught. “The guards are so clueless,” he says.
That’s less the case today. A correctional officer at the Goree Unit, near Huntsville, Texas, who asked not to be named said staff recently sent a prisoner to solitary confinement after they found that his radio had been doctored. “He could hear our radios and he could transmit out,” she says…
[continues at the Marshall Project]

Sunday, March 15, 2015

This Is The Greenhouse You’ll Want For Your Homestead Food


1
Yes, you can build almost any type of greenhouse. The whole idea is to grow foods during a longer season. But this greenhouse is something you’ll have to take a look at yourself. Here’s an article I found from our friends atPrepForSHTF where you can read the article in its entirety.

This Is The Greenhouse You’ll Want For Your Homestead

This is a greenhouse based on the Earthship design. Earthship is a trademark design and it was started by Michael Reynolds of Earthship Biotecture. The company is based in Taos New Mexico.
The walls of an Earthship home are typically made of discarded tires and usually packed with dirt and then covered with adobe, concrete or some other material to seal the tires off from the environment in essence and to provide more stability to the walls.

Video: watch the trailer to the Greenhouse of the Future…

“Based on 40 years of experience by the Earthship Biotecture enterprise in house construction using tire foundations and, according to scientific researches on the subject, burying tires represent a minimal risk to human health and the environment”.
Things to Consider
Tires can be found virtually anywhere, and often times they can be found and gathered free. It is costly for companies to dispose of tires properly so they generally end up in a pile somewhere waiting for removal. Garages/service shops in some cases, will charge you a disposal fee when selling you new tires if they are the ones that are mounting the new tires, and removing the old ones. With this in mind you can likely gather all of the tires needed for virtually nothing more than the labor and time needed to haul them back home.
Tires are easy to work with and do not require any specific skills to construct a wall with them. Everyone in the family can be involved in the project. Of course gathering tires and utilizing them in an environmentally friendly ways means less tires in landfills and less tires laying around filled with water. Tires are beacons for rodents, and snakes and when filled with water they are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Once in place people have found that tires are more resilient over time than concrete.
Glass bottles can be incorporated into the walls, and again you can probably find all that you need by asking local vendors, restaurants, and even bars for their empty containers. They have to pay someone to haul off their empty bottles so make sure it is you hauling some away for your greenhouse project. Bottles incorporated in the walls, especially colored ones can add light and color.
The greenhouse is based on passive solar heat which means less glass than a traditional greenhouse, but with the roof being orientated properly and insulation of the north side the greenhouse would better contain the heat that was gathered during the daylight hours. Keep in mind with this design it could be used for more than just a greenhouse. The south side of the greenhouse is constructed totally of glass or some other material typically used for greenhouse construction.
The slanting sun during the winter months shines through the south side glass heating the tire walls, which in turn will radiate the heat back into the structure as the temperature drops at night. You would not need an alternative heat source at night in most cases.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

This family lives on a floating fortress of greenhouses in the middle of the ocean




Freedom Cove

BY: TED BARNABY
In Clayoquot Sound, BC, tucked away in the coastal inlets of Cypress Bay, and about a half-hour by boat off the coast of Tofino, live Catherine King and Wayne Adams—the owners and operators of Freedom Cove.
Freedom Cove is a magnificently constructed and colourful off-grid float-home and garden, only accessible by boat. If your ambition is to go off grid, Wayne and Catherine—along with their two kids, Eleanor and Alistair—have more or less developed the perfect system.
Their floating home and garden system includes about twelve platforms, supporting a number of wooden structures, living spaces, and greenhouses—all interconnected through a wooden pathway system. The rainy winter season takes care of the water supply during colder months, while in the summer the majority of their supply comes from a waterfall across the bay.
The couple also used to have a hen house on the property; however their ambitions were spoiled by the increasing attention they received from predatory sea-animals in the area. The electricity is also largely supplied through solar panels and photovoltaic energy generators. The numerous greenhouses produce veggies and fruit all year round, allowing Wayne and Catherine to be completely self-sustainable. In fact, this system has been sustaining itself for the last 20 years.
2_Freedom Cove BC
Wayne and Catherine’s home also is situated in the thick of a lively ecosystem, sharing their slice of land (or water, rather) with deer, wolves, otters and a plethora of large coastal birds. However, according to Wayne, the otters are little more than “30-pound rats” that frequently gnaw away at his foundations.

The two are also respected artists within their surrounding community; their carvings and candles can be found in various gift shops across Tofino, particularly around the Long Beach area. Wayne is typically behind the carvings and crafts, while Catherine—formerly a professional dancer—is now predominantly the mastermind behind their gardening initiatives. Catherine is also a painter, writer and wood carver.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Police talk about use of “stingrays,” but aren’t saying anything

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/02/police-talk-about-use-of-stingrays-but-arent-saying-anything/

In new e-mail, Seattle cop says it's vital to keep spy technique "confidential."

newly published e-mail from a Seattle police detective illustrates the bizarre situation that law enforcement finds itself in these days: apparently everyone knows about the cops’ use of stingrays, and yet no one can explain it.
The e-mails were published over the weekend by Andrew Charles Hendricks, a local privacy activist.
Stingrays, the common name for “cell-site simulators,” can be used to determine a phone’s location, but they can also intercept calls and text messages. During the act of locating a phone, stingrays also sweep up information about nearby phones—not just the target phone. Earlier this month, Ars reported on how the FBI is actively trying to “prevent disclosure” of how these devices are used in local jurisdictions across America.
As Detective Len Carver, who is also on an FBI task force, wrote to his colleagues in May 2014:
During a debrief with some of our group here, we learned that law enforcement's use of the "phone ping" in yesterday's abduction was released to the media. And, it was widely reported. Certainly, we (and the general public too) understand that law enforcement has the ability to "ping" a cell phone for its location; however, use of the technology is considered a sophisticated technique as well as "Law Enforcement Sensitive / Classified."
It is important for us to keep this sophisticated technique confidential. In fact, RCW 9.73.260requires the pleadings (and subsequent technique) to be filed under seal until further ordered by the court. Publicly discussing the technique is considered a substantial threat to the interests of effective law enforcement, to public safety, and, depending on the case, to victims or witnesses. By their very nature, authority to use the tools (pings and tracking) must remain covert to be effective. Public disclosure of the technique could render this investigative tool useless.
It is standard practice for the FBI to require a law enforcement agency to complete a non-disclosure agreement prior to utilizing a sensitive and sophisticated technique. While there was no agency agreement in the referenced abduction matter, we do have a standing written non-disclosure agreement with the King County Prosecutor's Office.
In an e-mail to Ars, Carver wrote "I am not authorized to speak publicly about the investigative technique to which you referred in your voicemail," and suggested that we speak with a spokeswoman.

“Relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation”

In a later e-mail that was part of the same set of disclosed messages, one August 2014 e-mail from Detective Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the nearby Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, wrote to his colleagues: “If you don’t know [about] Stingray, PenLink and how we ping phones you should learn. All three are completely different ways of obtaining and using data.”
It’s not immediately clear how the Tacoma Police’s cellphone pings are taking place, or what device is being used to send them—it’s likely that it was through the stingray itself.
Troyer did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment, either.
Relatively little is known about how, exactly, the stingrays are used by law enforcement agencies nationwide, although documents have surfaced showing how they have been purchased and used in some limited instances. In 2013, Ars reported on leaked documents showing the existence of a body-worn stingray. Back in 2010, Kristin Paget famously demonstrated a homemade device built for just $1,500.
Worse still, cops have lied to courts about the use of such technology. In January 2015, two US senators made public the FBI’s position that the agency could use stingrays in public places without a warrant. The largest manufacturer of the devices, the Harris Corporation, has been tight-lipped about its hardware capabilities.
While the Tacoma Police Department has claimed that itgets a warrant every time it uses its stingray, it’s more likely that they are simply asking a judge to sign off on a “pen register, trap and trace order.”
In the pre-cellphone era, a “pen/trap order” allowed law enforcement to obtain someone's calling metadata in near real-time from the telephone company. Now, that same data can also be gathered directly by the cops themselves through the use of a stingray. In some cases, police havegone to judges asking for such a device or have falsely claimed a confidential informant, but in fact have deployed this particularly sweeping and invasive surveillance tool.
Most judges are likely to sign off on a pen register application, not fully understanding that police are actually asking for permission to use a stingray. Under both Washington state law and federal law, pen registers are granted under a very low standard: authorities must simply show that the information obtained from the pen register is “relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.”
Getting a judge to sign off on a pen register is a far lower standard than being forced to show probable cause for a search warrant or wiretap order. A wiretap requires law enforcement to not only specifically describe the alleged crimes but also to demonstrate that all other means of investigation had been exhausted or would fail if they were attempted.
In the wake of the Tacoma News Tribune’s reporting on stingray use in Tacoma, in November 2014, judges there imposed stricter standards.
This past week, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) in North Carolina—one of the largest local police departments in the American South—revised its surveillance applications to judges, making its judicial requests to use cell-site simulators much more explicit for the first time.
Cyrus Farivar / Cyrus is the Senior Business Editor at Ars Technica, and is also a radio producer and author. His first book, The Internet of Elsewhere, was published in April 2011.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Make a covert radio pen with bone conduction speaker


My favorite maker of cool stuff is Ben Krasnow. He made an electron scanning microscope from scratch, and makes astronaut ice cream in his backyard laboratory. He's also a great explainer of how he makes he things. In this video, Ben explains how to make a covert radio pen with a bone conduction speaker.