This is a peer-to-peer filesharing network

[Aram Bartholl] is building his own filesharing network that screws those fat cats who want to control your freedom. He’s added file cache devices throughout NYC (five so far but more to come) that are anonymous and free to use. Upload what you want, download what you want. They’re completely offline which means monitoring who’s doing what gets a lot harder and quite possibly requires a warrant from a Judge (we’re obviously not legal experts, your mileage may vary).

As for the slew of comments that are sure to point out the dangers of malicious USB device; We think everyone knows they’re taking on some risk when connecting to a USB plug protruding from a brick wall.

[Thanks Neckbeard]

116 thoughts on “This is a peer-to-peer filesharing network

  1. well i dont know if the building owners are ok with this lol

    you could always setup high range wireless network for this as well. Without internet connection of course. it would be slower tho

  2. Nice idea, crappy implementation.
    I agree, male port is a bad idea.
    It’s too obvious and will corrode pretty quick if it doesn’t get destroyed first.
    I’m liking the wireless network idea but you need it to be powered then…

    I’m interested in the idea of electronic geocaching. It was always fun before but the only bit of electronic kit you played with was the gps you used to locate the item. Perhaps get some XBee modules connected to solar panels and turn on every so often to check if anyone’s trying to connect, then send them some data from a locally stored file/let them add to it. Maybe just send them a log of all the dates that people have accessed it.

    No file storage but geocaching is all about finding and adding to the box for other people to discover.


  3. First, what’s with all the duplicate comments?

    Secondly, I love the idea, but as capobv said, it would be possible to create malicious ports that would destroy laptops. There is also the problem of the elements and of vandalism.

    I would use a wireless link, not necessarily WiFi, maybe bluetooth or ZigBee and an inductive power source. You could hide the entire unit inside a wall and it would be entirely invisible.

  4. Good idea but terrible implementation.
    Moisture, rain and pollution will make these useless in a few weeks/months. It needs protection for the device as well as humidity will reach it eventually.

    But the worst part of it is the danger it represents. The metal protruding from the brick wall isn’t that visible thus can be really dangerous should someone hit it. Not very different from a nail put there backwards.

  5. I think the idea has a lot of potential along the geocache route. Not so much for any sort of real file sharing…I wouldn’t want to use this as a system for the transfer of pirated media.

    But think about it as a interesting way for people to self-publish their work. Local digital artists, photographers, musicians putting in pictures and mp3’s.

  6. @tecywiz121
    my fault, didn’t notice the mod queue first time.

    you are right that this sheme would have to be electricaly decoupled to be any realworld use.
    (heck, even my doorbell/mic/cam combo is on a sep circuit and opti-c to the comp…)

    … leech power from the “client” while it is connected to charge a big cap, no need for mains. (too bad i dont have disposable device to test with, the multim agrees that at usb2 speeds and “usual” filesize this should work)

  7. Pretty neat to look at, I would have used a female usb with a recess cut into the brick covered by a flip door with a gasket installed ( like the outdoor plugs ). That way it wouldn’t be visible from the side, or just re-invent the plug its only 4 pins.

  8. i’m not reading through 60+ comments, but as far as i have read: you don’t need pliers to destroy a usb connector. they are the reason for the failure of all my previous flash drives. i would have the usb flash drive packed away in the wall, possibly tied inside a sandwich bag or any other protection, with a usb extension cord coming out( dollar tree has those if you wanna go cheap,because they are going to get f’d up,but will save your usb device from the abuse) tie it around some re-bar or something, or at least knot it once before you mortar it in, so as to save your usb drive from connector stress when somebody gives it a good yank(it is a glory-hole, after all)
    mortar is fine as long as it’s not taking much abuse, but you might want to go with some more easily re-accessible setup, like a metal lockbox so you could swap out damaged extension cables from time to time.

  9. @capob

    No worries, I didn’t even notice it was you both times :P

    I think it would be neat to create a kit with all the needed electronics (minus the usb key.) Make it really easy for distribution. I’d include a cool spraypaint stencil so that walls with the box installed could be tagged.

  10. Time to invent a “safe receiver” USB host device, eh?

    -> Hardcore overvoltage protection
    -> Verifies “mass storage” client type
    -> Attempts to blind-copy data to internal storage
    -> Feedback about size and entropy of target
    -> Loot & go

  11. The people who are worried about a 5 year old poking their eye out should look at a thumb drive again. I am more worried about the kid breaking his nose attempting to stick it in his eye, and for that matter, worried about the “parent” who isn’t smart enough to watch their kid.

  12. I can see some ways to do this better. We need some sort of custom connector for this application. Four gold plated contact pads, with a chunk of iron behind them as the wall end, and four spring loaded pins with a magnet behind them on the cable connector end. It would just be pressed into place, and stick there until you pulled it off. Nothing will be connected to these for more than a few moments, and having the connector on the wall small, flush, sealed, and hard to damage sounds important. Build a surge protector into the cable, to prevent malicious folks from making fake connectors with line voltage. If you’re worried about the wrong people uploading stuff, put a microcontroller between the storage and the connector, waiting for the right keystrokes before allowing uploading; for everyone else it’d be read only. That doesn’t fit well with the geocaching ‘take something, leave something’ ethic, but it might be safer.

  13. i like the idea, but weather and sabotage could be a problem. maybe a recessed plug would be better, then people could bring a usb extension cable for their laptop. a very-short range wifi router with a terabyte external drive attached would be cool too, you could put it in a back closet of some building and then it goes about 5-10 feet through the wall outside. then people with PDAs and phones could connect too.

  14. @jeditalian and others

    Installing all of this in a metal wallbox and such seems to kind of defeat the purpose. I think that there’s a certain risk involved and that’s what makes it a really cool system.

  15. I don’t understand the talk about a USB extension + Female Port? The same principle can be applied no matter the end of the USB connector…

    No worries of scratching any device.

    This system looks like how P2P file sharing usually works out(Online), in shady places.


  16. I think its a great, if not well implemented idea. Not sure if anyones considered it, but I personally think this would be better if used with a 4 pin 3.5mm jack like the 2nd gen Ipod nano used. Flush mount the jack to the wall, and run a cable to the board. Also slather the board in Silicone to help tackle corrosion problems……….

  17. i like the audio connector idea..

    what about using the jack to distribute the wpa2 key in a simple way so the connected laptop can then download/upload files over wifi when in range?

    wpa2 key changes periodically so it should be (somewhat) secure.

    the cool part about this setup is that you could use the audio as a data stream which decodes into readable text when opened in Notepad.

    ought to work if done right with a range of volume settings to cater for different ADC systems.
    just select the stream that decodes into “wpa2 key xyz123abc” out of the garbage on either side.

  18. It’s a shame that Aram is so sheltered from the outside world that he doesn’t realise how abused these will get. A great idea, don’t get me wrong, but in another universe where our streets aren’t filled with vandals and the such. Not to mention the damage these could cause others (up to and including physical harm and damage to their laptop). It amazes me that the guy’s two years older than me and is still this naive. Of course, now everyone knows who is responsible for this project, the victims will know who to sue.

  19. Well, you *should* boot your notebook using a read-only medium (e.g. Knoppix boot CD/DVD) and at least disable the hard drive in BIOS. Or better, unplug the HD for security reasons.

  20. Actually imho the best wifi sharing method would be using fonera and a usb stick. Build some custom firmware (that runs off openWRT) then have a usb divided into 3 sections. It checks the mac address, so you can only upload one file. The newest upload overrides the old one.

  21. I have seen usb transfer devices to move data from one usb device to another without a need for a computer. So using one of those would remove the need for a full laptop. Then data could be easily taken back, loaded onto a linux based system running a live cd and checked for viruses. I think either bluetooth or wifi would be a bit better for this. Definitely has potential, sadly around here the first thing anyone would do is either break or steal them.

  22. Great idea. Horrible execution.

    For really obvious reasons, you would need:

    1- …to replace port with female USB
    2- …not to have the thing stick out of the wall
    3- …to fill the port with dielectric grease
    4- …to make a patch cord to the computer
    5- …half a brain to make a durable execution.

  23. The answer is RF. Use RFID type links to transfer the data. The person doing the downloading uploading provides the power and you would have to be close to the device in the wall for RF to work.

    Bitrates would be slow, but it solves all the issues.

  24. A less easily used, bur more robust and insuspisious would be a row of 4 SS bolts mounted on a isulating plastic. Then connected to the usb stic thru varistors and preferably optical isolation to prevent vandalism (like people connecting a 12v car battery to it).
    The user would have to have a special cable with alligator clips and know the way to connect to it. But it would be pretty damn vandal proof. And making a USD –> 4 insulated alligator clips cable should be at the reach of HAD readers.

  25. The key to security is to not advertise it to the world, right? This would, with some minor adjustments (no protruding parts, natch) be a fantastic underground project and a very secure and private communication technique.

    The kiddie pornsters and the trolls (and the RIAA and the feds) can’t mess with what they don’t know about, right?

  26. @Alchemyguy

    This is similar to security through obscurity which itself is an absurdity.

    1. This made the news. Everyone knows about them.
    2. A lot of people in general are arseholes. There are plenty of hackers amongst us who would gladly go out there and screw with this just for self entertainment.
    3. It’s not the FBI I’m worried about. It’s the average hacker who’s clever enough to figure out the location of these secrets, but too cocky to use anti-virus software (they do exist). It is they who will be more likely to infect these drop points rather than a targeted attack.

  27. @Garbz:

    Oh, hey, I wasn’t arguing any of that except for the bit about advertising. People are asses.

    On obscurity: I’m sure that professional security services don’t chatter about all their cool shit and the latest techniques outside of their agency unless it’s advantageous to do so. When was the last time you heard the CIA showing off their new toys?

    My point was that many of the posters above were very worried about how to secure the devices and the simplest (and most effective!) is to only tell the people you trust about it. I understand that this creator wants it to be open and free and for wild sharing to occur among strangers in a safe manner, but those things don’t occur without complexity. As per your point above re: tardheads illustrates, you can’t trust people to be responsible, you kinda have to force them to be with software and passwords and firewalls and so on…

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