Swarm of Tiny Pirate Transmitters Gets the Message out in Syria

They say that the first casualty of war is the truth, and that’s probably only more the case in a civil war. When one side in a conflict controls the message, the other side is at a huge disadvantage. Technology can level the playing field, and in the case of the Syrian Civil War, a swarm of tiny Raspberry Pi transmitters is helping one side get their message out.

We won’t pretend to understand the complexities of this war, but it’s clear that the Syrian government controls broadcast media and access to the internet, and is using them for propaganda while denying the opposition access to the same. A decentralized medium can get the message out under these conditions, and that’s exactly what Pocket FM does. Built around a Raspberry Pi and a frequency-agile FM transmitter, a Pocket FM can take multiple audio feeds and transmit them out to a 5km radius. Small enough to be packed up and deployed quickly and able to be powered by batteries or solar panels, the pirate transmitters can be here one minute and gone the next, yielding a robust network resistant to takedown attempts.

The network built around Pocket FM in Syria is small but growing, and it appears to be making a difference in the conflict. We find the concept of a decentralized network intriguing and potentially empowering, at least in situations where the letter of the law regarding broadcasting is not a prime consideration. That’s where projects like Airchat seek to build an unsanctioned network. The same goes for Tweeting on the Amateur Radio Band in a project aptly named HamRadioTweets.

We wonder how a fleet of these Pi-based transmitters could aid in recovery from natural disasters?

[via r/amateurradio and TomHiggins]

Halloween props: puking pirate

With everyone’s favorite free-candy holiday approaching, [Slouriesr] set to work building a vomiting ghoul for his Halloween display. He’s calling it a puking pirate and it centers around a pump and some simple plumbing fixtures.

First, the vomit receptacle was made by adding a sink drain with a pop-up stopper to the bottom of a kitty litter bucket. The drain slows the evacuation of liquid into a five gallon bucket below. In that bucket you’ll find a float switch pump used to keep water off of a pool cover. As the bucket fills up the pump turns on and empties the water through a hose ending at the ghoul’s mouth. The result is a 20-second puke cycle sure to delight the trick-or-treaters. Sure, there’s a lot of work to be done to get this guy looking the part, but what a great idea!

Help keep us in the holiday spirit by sending the details on your latest prop build.

Argh, thar be a big wheel

If you’re marooned on a desert island, you want to have a Professor who can build useful items out of coconuts. [LostMachine] is one of those guys, and he’s currently building a land-loving pirate ship. The wacky vehicle will use the giant wheel above to propel the vessel while the captain sits comfortably in the lofty crow’s nest. A crack-pot concept? Not really, he plans to take this to Burning Man where it will be a fairly useful build compared to the folks who have really gone off the deep end.

The story here is the build quality. Take some time to watch his videos which we’ve embedded after the break. In the first, he details his method for creating a precisely level building surface on top of his uneven driveway. This is accomplished by welding supports in a circle that are level compared to the center point. He goes on to share his liquid-cooling system for cutting the pipe supports with a custom-built jig and an old windshield washer water system pump from an RV (second video). The final video shows the construction of the wheel which came in with 2000 welds and about 250-300 hours of construction time.

If you hadn’t guessed, [LostMachine] is a structural engineer. Unfortunately he was laid-off this spring which has put a damper in his building schedule. We hope that with a quality project like this in his portfolio a new job is just around the corner for him.

Continue reading “Argh, thar be a big wheel”