riotNAS: Mobile Storage for Street Photography

riotnas1

You’re likely aware of the protests and demonstrations happening throughout Venezuela over the past few months, and as it has with similar public outcries in recent memory, technology can provide unique affordances to those out on the streets. [Alfredo] sent us this tip to let us know about riotNAS: a portable storage device for photos and videos taken by protesters (translated).

The premise is straightforward: social media is an ally for protesters on the ground in these situations, but phones and cameras are easily recognized and confiscated. riotNAS serves up portable backup storage via a router running OpenWRT and Samba. [Alfredo] then connected some USB memory for external storage and a battery that gives around 4 hours of operating time.

For now he’s put the equipment inside a soft, makeup-looking bag, which keeps it inconspicuous and doesn’t affect the signal.  Check out his website for future design plans—including stashing the device inside a hollowed out book—and some sample photos stored on the riotNAS system. If you’re curious what’s going on in Venezuela, hit up the Wikipedia page or visit some of the resources at the bottom of [Alfredo’s] site.

15 thoughts on “riotNAS: Mobile Storage for Street Photography

  1. I hope there is eithre authentication or a “create only” flag set on that NAS. If not, nobody will need to confiscate it, just have a phone app that connects and runs “rm -rf”.

    1. Or a powerful enough jammer.

      Interesting idea though, but to achieve enough safety against tampering by the authorities you need a lot of them talking in a mesh fashion so that the data is replicated almost instantly among nodes. Attached camera is the next step.

      Fighting jammers is another story and is likely a step that involves the use of rf modems at non standard frequencies instead of plain wifi cards.

      1. Better yet, add Cellular data bonded across two networks to send them along to the internet and out of the hands of the data mule.

  2. are there any apps to get a phone to stream directly to a NAS, without failing when you get out of range, and resuming when you get back in range? I’d think the greatest risk of confiscation is while someone is filming, and directly afterwards. If the user would have to manually initiate the transmission after filming or taking the photos, there is still a chance the phone would be confiscated or destroyed, especially if something “interesting” just happened. Also, the people filming would have to keep track of the person carrying the NAS, to prevent getting out of range. In some cases, they might not even know who is carrying it, for the safely of the carrier.

    Jamming could be an issue, but using non-standard frequencies means tout can’t must connect with any phone, and would kind of defeat the purpose.

    Aside from the off-person backup of the material, this also seems like an easy way to get it all in the hands of someone capable of defeating most internet blocks. The material is no good if the world can’t see it.

  3. I helped a friend set up a system like this, using eyefi cards and a very high power directional wifi setup in a vehicle.

    Send out your photogs with cheap digital cameras each with eyefi cards all set to send images back to the pc in the van. we had found several 2gig eyefi cards for dirt cheap ($6.00 each) and several cheapie Kodak digital cameras. there was a 3500 foot range as long as everyone was down the street and left the cameras on (set them to never sleep) every photo was uploaded to the PC in the van and they never ran out of space as the eyefi cards can be set to “infinite storage” so they delete the oldest images on the card.

    This made it zero effort and they were able to document a lot of police activity during a protest. Luckily no cameras were “taken” by police and because the cops knew they were being watched, they behaved and the expected police attack never happened. they were able to rent a van that had a manlift in it, the directional dish (patch antenna duct taped to aim at a eastern arc dish and then that was duct taped to the lift and raised in the air and aimed down the street. put out a couple of orange cones and nobody was the wiser.

    Note this was right after the NYPD cops went on their violent rampage during the Occupy protests. Police actually seem to behave when they are being watched closely.

  4. In Venezuela the protesters are also asking the neighbors to leave their wifi open while “things” are happening nearby, so the phones automatically connect and upload media to Dropbox or Google+.
    The drawback is Venezuela’s ISP low upload bandwidth, uploading to Dropbox is much slower than uploading to NAS.

    1. But when they go to NAS they can be edited before being distributed., that is handy with modern demonstrations where sometimes the acting or special effects are too transparent.

      1. Good point. There is less suspicion of editing when media is being uploaded directly to and being available inmediately in Dropbox / Google+

  5. Good ideas! It’s come a long way since the days where you’d pop a video tape in a self addressed stamped envelope and have a runner take his chances getting it to a mail box.

  6. Would be curious to know if this can work with or combined with http://opengarden.com software nodes, or the Raspberry PI FM Transmitter.

    The other option would be a solar powered Mesh Network linking free wifi connections to allow re-transmission in areas where you want coverage and distributed saving.

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