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Helps alleviate boredom when Snowden
May 8, 2014 6:59 AM   Subscribe

The Navy has developed its own stripped down eReader for use on ships and submarines called NeRD (Navy eReader Device). It will have no ports, no removable storage and no wireless connectivity to assist with security concerns. While it will only hold a static collection of 300 books, it will take up much less space than the current minimalist library on board submarines today.

The content will range from public domain classics to best sellers, but will also contain professional development works from Navy reading lists.

Works such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones are included. Initial production is slated at 365 devices.
posted by Twain Device (74 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ha, it's true. People who read books ARE nerds. Thanks, The U.S. Navy.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:07 AM on May 8 [10 favorites]


I didn't know you could get flash chips so small they could only hold 300 ebooks.
posted by ryanrs at 7:08 AM on May 8 [20 favorites]


Seems like a no-brainer, really.
posted by Melismata at 7:11 AM on May 8


Should'nt it be 300k books?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:14 AM on May 8 [4 favorites]


I didn't know you could get flash chips so small they could only hold 300 ebooks.

A lot of books in EPUB format are something like 1K per page so this makes total sense. What I'm more interested in is the digital library of 108K books. I wonder if that's all their stuff or if they worked out copyright deals with the publishers (and how sweet those deals might be).
posted by jessamyn at 7:16 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.
posted by ryanrs at 7:17 AM on May 8 [30 favorites]


A company called Findaway World which specialises in sealed-library e-readers for submariners? I'm sure I wrote a rebuilding-society-post-alien-induced-apocalypse novel about that when I was 18.
posted by Devonian at 7:18 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]


I can appreciate how this device is unable to betray a submarine's location via wifi signals and be unable to record video, etc. But exactly which enemy (that we are likely to go to war with) is going to be attacking submarines in the first place??
posted by Teppy at 7:18 AM on May 8


But exactly which enemy (that we are likely to go to war with) is going to be attacking submarines in the first place??

NTIs from The Abyss, I'm assuming.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:22 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


I didn't know you could get flash chips so small they could only hold 300 ebooks.

That's what I was thinking. A 16GB chip (well under $10 even at retail prices, so the marginal cost is basically nothing) could hold the 29,500 books of the most recent Project Gutenberg DVD compilation with gigabytes to spare for modern and technical works.

I mean at some point you've got a lot of dross that is just going to clutter up the search or browsing interface, but 300? That would hardly cover the St. John's reading list or an unabridged version of the works included in the Harvard Classics.

if they worked out copyright deals with the publishers (and how sweet those deals might be).

The US government's liability for copyright infringement is limited to reasonable compensation for damages or the minimum statutory damages of $750. 28 U.S.C. § 1498(b). No willful infringement, no huge statutory damages, no attorneys fees, no injunctions, no criminal infringement, and a mere three year statute of limitations in filing suit. The practical upshot of this is that for most publishers it wouldn't make economic sense to sue in the first place, since their litigation costs would easily exceed their recovery. This suggests to me that the government could probably get a pretty sweet deal indeed, if it wanted to negotiate aggressively.
posted by jedicus at 7:25 AM on May 8 [11 favorites]


But exactly which enemy (that we are likely to go to war with) is going to be attacking submarines in the first place??

Right now? Nobody. But the military isn't in the business of only looking at the likely or the immediate; a war with China or Russia may not be looming, but if you're going to bother having a nuclear sub fleet at all, it's probably to fight them, and both can absolutely pose very real threats to American subs. If you don't need to worry about the subs getting killed, you're ignoring the two halfway realistic enemies you'd need subs to fight/deter in the first place.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:30 AM on May 8 [7 favorites]


I mean at some point you've got a lot of dross that is just going to clutter up the search or browsing interface, but 300?

Maybe when they say something like "Game of Thrones" as one title, they actually mean that entire available series? But yeah...I don't know how many Game of Thrones books there are out there, but unless there are like 10,000 of them then it does seem like a little bit of a waste.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:31 AM on May 8


I didn't know you could get flash chips so small they could only hold 300 ebooks.

It seems likely it's an embedded microcontroller with some small amount of onboard memory.
posted by odinsdream at 7:32 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


I mean at some point you've got a lot of dross that is just going to clutter up the search or browsing interface, but 300?

I am sure that this is not a technical limitation but a bureaucratic one. I would put money on the notion that there is an admiral in the Navy somewhere responsible for the reading material on board ships and that he/she had to sign off on each and every one of the titles on this thing.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:33 AM on May 8 [19 favorites]


I don't know how many Game of Thrones books there are out there

Well and that's the hilarious part because it's an unfinished series. So you have an immutable ebook reader with only part of a totally engrossing set of books.... forever.
posted by jessamyn at 7:34 AM on May 8 [5 favorites]


Well and that's the hilarious part because it's an unfinished series. So you have an immutable ebook reader with only part of a totally engrossing set of books.... forever.

That will be the climax of the updated "Time Enough at Last" when the Twilight Zone is rebooted again.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:37 AM on May 8 [13 favorites]


The other question is - how much did these things cost? I'm guessing it's not guessable from the BOP or the landed cost of a palette of Chinese unbranded e-readers plus a dollop of epoxy up the USB.

Plus, it will be huge enough to dwarf any cost for a scheme whereby a sailor - sorry, submariner - could submit a request for adding their own favourite works to The Central Librarian, and for every sub to have a local server with everything on it. I don't know how they get books on and off with no wireless and no hardwired ports (I'm guessing one or the other can be enabled for refresh), but you or me or any half-respectable geek could come up with a way that doesn't compromise submarine electronic security.

If the Navy had been smart (and I have some experience of the Royal Navy which has an organisational intelligence apparently inversely proportional to that of most of the people working in it) then it could have run a design challenge among its engineering types, to define, design and build an e-reader that meets both the restrictions of the job and the desires of the jolly jack tars. If that didn't come in at a fraction of the cost of this deal - while delivering a ton of side benefits - I'dve eaten my periscope.
posted by Devonian at 7:37 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


I am sure that this is not a technical limitation but a bureaucratic one. I would put money on the notion that there is an admiral in the Navy somewhere responsible for the reading material on board ships and that he/she had to sign off on each and every one of the titles on this thing.

It's some other limitation. The Navy, according to the Verge link, already has a library of 108,000 approved digital titles.
posted by notyou at 7:37 AM on May 8


According to this site, A Dance with Dragons is 422,000 words. If you figure about 8 characters per word, including spaces and punctuation, at one byte per character that means 3.4 MB (uncompressed) for just the book data. That particular novel is probably larger than most of the others, but the 3.4 MB does not include metadata. That, times 300 is just over 1 GB. They are probably using "hardened" memory that is resistant to wear/tear in a submarine environment, and that probably limits their options in terms of storage. My guess is they wouldn't have more than 1GB to work with.
posted by tempestuoso at 7:38 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


A lot of books in EPUB format are something like 1K per page so this makes total sense.

So if all 300 of those books are 1,000 pages each, it would add up to... less than 300 megabytes? Nope, still doesn't make sense.
posted by my favorite orange at 7:38 AM on May 8


I can appreciate how this device is unable to betray a submarine's location via wifi signals

This is probably more relevant to surface ships than it is submarines. Salt water doesn't really let 2 GHz get very far.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:38 AM on May 8


Nope, still doesn't make sense.

I think backseatpilot has the reason for the low number. I don't think anyone ever implied that it was because of storage space.
posted by jessamyn at 7:44 AM on May 8


The other question is - how much did these things cost?

The West Wing, "Process Stories":
DONNA
So... everyone's safe in Venezuela?

JACK
Yeah.

DONNA
$500 screwdrivers is why you didn't vote for the President?

JACK
I work for the President. That's a lot.

DONNA
It's wasteful spending.

JACK
No, it's not.

DONNA
A $400 ashtray?

Jack picks up a wrench and smashes an ashtray that's on his desk. It breaks into three large chunks.

DONNA
What was that?

JACK
A $400 ashtray. It's off the U.S.S. Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine and a likely target for a torpedo. When you get hit with one, you've got enough problems without glass flying into the eyes of the navigator and the Officer of the Deck. This one's built to break into three dull pieces. We lead a slightly different life out there and it costs a little more money.

DONNA
I can't believe you broke a $400 ashtray.
posted by mhoye at 7:46 AM on May 8 [15 favorites]


I think backseatpilot has the reason for the low number. I don't think anyone ever implied that it was because of storage space.

Yeah, that would make sense. It's just ... weird. And kind of disappointing.
posted by my favorite orange at 7:48 AM on May 8


When you see a puzzling decision made by a bureaucracy, the limitations are vanishingly unlikely to be technological.
posted by bonehead at 7:50 AM on May 8 [4 favorites]


A $400 ashtray. It's off the U.S.S. Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine and a likely target for a torpedo. When you get hit with one, you've got enough problems without glass flying into the eyes of the navigator and the Officer of the Deck. This one's built to break into three dull pieces. We lead a slightly different life out there and it costs a little more money

To me, this scene failed to prove the competence of military spending like it was supposed to, as the most practical solution to the ashtray problem would be to ban smoking on a submarine in the first place.
posted by Think_Long at 7:52 AM on May 8 [5 favorites]


Out of security concerns, this is probably being built in the u.s. to highly specific custom specifications, including country-of-origin requirements for final assembly and key components. It would be stupid to subcontract the whole thing to China to save money and find out five years later that it had been logging submarine activity for retrieval somehow at ports-of-call.

Maybe the ebook does not have wifi because an American submarine doesn't provide any. Since the unit is being built from scratch, wireless can be left off the requirements.
posted by ardgedee at 7:54 AM on May 8


Well, I've heard they were working on an expanded version with more titles, but the effort died when the project was labeled "Huge NeRD." Being a NeRD was bad enough.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:54 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


the most practical solution to the ashtray problem would be to ban smoking on a submarine in the first place.

They did in 2010, but it was a big cultural shift given that 40% of submariners at the time were smokers.
posted by Jahaza at 7:55 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]


(and I'd guess that percentage had already been dropping for a while at that point, so higher in 2002 when that episode aired, and higher still when the contract for the ashtray was bid out.)
posted by Jahaza at 7:56 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


I mean at some point you've got a lot of dross that is just going to clutter up the search or browsing interface, but 300?

As a reader, my idea of hell is to be locked into a submarine for six months with only 300 books that I didn't even get to help select.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:57 AM on May 8 [8 favorites]


As a reader, my idea of hell is to be locked into a submarine for six months with only 300 books that I didn't even get to help select.

To be fair, maybe it's that the Navy doesn't want nerds nerding out on books in the nerdery all day when they should be throwing switches. (Unless of course they're reading The Hunt for Red October.)
posted by doctornecessiter at 8:02 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


Helps alleviate boredom when Snowden

Nice!
posted by Room 641-A at 8:08 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


I didn't know you could get flash chips so small they could only hold 300 ebooks.

Still trying to come up with a "rum, buggery and the flash" joke
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:15 AM on May 8 [12 favorites]


Is there a list of the actual 300 titles? I'm going to guess about one third good quality fiction and nonfiction, one third inspirational and self help, and one third Navy professional development.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:16 AM on May 8


Given a choice, I would read submarine books while onboard a submarine.
posted by stbalbach at 8:17 AM on May 8


Life on a submarine sucks. Any effort by the employer to improve things is probably a positive thing, and might improve morale. Fast attack boats especially are tight spaces. Anything that can help pass the limited free time in an 18 hour day with no sunset, sunrise, views, or fresh air? That's good.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 8:21 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


The Navy is making 365 devices at first, with more to follow. The Navy plans to send about five to each submarine to be shared between multiple people. Each reader is preloaded with 300 books that will never change. The selection includes modern fiction like Tom Clancy and James Patterson, who are popular in the Navy, as well as nonfiction, the classics, and "a lot of naval history," says Carrato.

I think 300 books is plenty to start with when there's only 5 devices available to use. It would be a very, very bad idea to join the Navy in order to catch up on your reading.

Also, there is no way in hell those things are going to last more than one tour. The replacements can be loaded with 300 different books.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:21 AM on May 8


There's something to be said sometimes about simplicity and having less options.

300 books is already a pretty good choice, and if the books are wisely selected, the benefits of 'less is more' in this case would be:

- maybe you end up reading something you never would have in the first place and love it
- there's a higher chance that people on the submarine with you has read the same book as you did and that you can actually talk about it
- it's less scary than having an infinite number of books available; it feels like you can read them all
- you spend less time browsing through a million books deciding which one you'll read next rather than reading
posted by Riton at 8:21 AM on May 8 [9 favorites]


To me, this scene failed to prove the competence of military spending like it was supposed to, as the most practical solution to the ashtray problem would be to ban smoking on a submarine in the first place.

Given how they can't keep drugs out of prisons, I can't see such a ban holding water. Sooner or later, those charged with enforcing it would have the choice of working out informal rules on when and where to turn a blind eye or else put up with morale problems.
posted by acb at 8:22 AM on May 8


Looks like from the article that sailors are still allowed to have personal iPads, kindles, etc. I expect this is probably primarily a space saving consideration: assuming these subs had any sort of library/communal bookshelf before, they now can have a small stack of these ereaders instead of a bunch of paperbacks. And if they didn't have a bookshelf before, now the guys who didn't bring personal reading material have something they can use.

Also probably a good testbed/trial balloon for, say, manuals or technical documentation stored on an eReader.
posted by grandsham at 8:37 AM on May 8


Well and that's the hilarious part because it's an unfinished series. So you have an immutable ebook reader with only part of a totally engrossing set of books.... forever.

So... the Navy's going to start turning out a lot of fanfic writers, then.
posted by Sequence at 8:41 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


To me, this scene failed to prove the competence of military spending like it was supposed to, as the most practical solution to the ashtray problem would be to ban smoking on a submarine in the first place.

I'm not sure I would want to be trapped under a crushing oceanic weight with 40% of my fellow crew members trying to quit smoking. I'm guessing they would be firing non-smokers out the torpedo tubes within 8 hours.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:43 AM on May 8 [10 favorites]


as the most practical solution to the ashtray problem would be to ban smoking on a submarine in the first place.

That's crazy talk. They can use a tin ashtray with a bean-bag bottom, like my grandma.

(I do genuinely think that every part of the ashtray speech is an intentional dig at military spending - an ashtray (1) for use in a submarine (2) made of glass (3) that he has presumably stolen and he (4) breaks on an angry whim to make a point because (5) Donna is blonde.)
posted by dirtdirt at 8:43 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


I read an interesting article or blogpost a while back, probably adjunct to this guardian article and pictures (crewman reading Count of Monte Cristo), that the sub library (aside from navy manuals and study materials) consists primarily of big, fat paperbacks that get stashed in odd spots (like a row of them under a step) that individual crewmen bring on board, and that one of the primary selection criteria for seasoned submariners is that they be something that takes a long time to read, and the books that survive into the sub's "permanent library" are the ones that take a long time to read and reward re-reading. So they had an interesting collection of big, fat books in the pictures from this sub -- lots of Tom Clancy type stuff, multibook fantasy epics (ideally collected into one book), but also lots and lots and lots of classic novels, the longer the better. So you had these great pictures of 19-year-old kids who didn't consider themselves "readers" who were 3/4 of the way through Les Miz. And, yeah, a lot of the guys said, "I didn't think I'd be into Victor Hugo, but I've read all the Tom Clancy twice so I thought I'd give it a try ..." and commented on expanding their reading horizons through lack of choice.

It was kind-of interesting to see how given a limited reading universe where re-reading is rewarded and books must be engrossing, they tended to land on the same sorts of novels on lists of great classics.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:55 AM on May 8 [16 favorites]


300 titles of best-sellers, public domain classics, naval history, and professional development doesn't sound all that bad to me. More books are always better, of course, but out of all the things to complain about, this seems pretty anodyne.

Besides, even if the NeRD's library did hold 108,000 books, your average bored submariner might be hit with "the paradox of choice" upon turning the damn thing on. In the context of submarine leisure reading, there's a lot to be said for having a relatively limited number of clear choices, as opposed to a gigantic blob of unsorted stuff.

Although, I would find it amusing if the NeRD did hold 108,000 books, and then the Navy reported back to say which titles had been the most popular over the course of five years. What word-of-mouth would develop about which titles, especially public domain ones? It would be funny if submariners developed their own fandoms around, say, Alexandre Dumas.

I also wonder how the Navy dealt with potentially offensive material. For example, some Stephen King books throw around the n-word, contain passages where people are disrespectful of gays, etc. Even though King is almost always just reflecting the thoughts of his characters, I could still see it as being an issue. All it takes is one complaint to make the Navy have to recall all the units. I also wonder if horror would be off the table anyhow. Not that, say, The Dead Zone had been a title under consideration, but that's also a novel in which assassination of a political figure is depicted in a positive light. I can see why the Navy wouldn't be crazy about that kind of stuff.

I'm also thinking of the G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries here. The past is a different country, especially when it comes to race and gender relations. It's easy for me as a (Jewish!) civilian to write off Chesterton's retrograde beliefs as being something I can "eat around", but things change when it's a leisure book hard-coded onto government property. This is especially true in the public domain collections of Chesterton's work, which in the interests of completeness, and lacking in curation, will often still contain the REALLY offensive stuff, like that one Father Brown story where the "moral" was essentially "ha ha you trusted a black guy".

...

Anyone on the internet could be a dog, but on one of the blogs, a commenter claiming to be a former naval officer pointed out that submariners often work 16 hour shifts. There isn't a whole lot of time for reading, and if you are reading, you're probably studying for exams. No doubt many submariners are bored.

However, considering that submariners are human, they would probably still be bored even if they had access to more books.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:03 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


It was kind-of interesting to see how given a limited reading universe where re-reading is rewarded and books must be engrossing, they tended to land on the same sorts of novels on lists of great classics.

Yes, this. While I doubt the library was reduced to 300 in order to increase the pleasure of the submariners, it certainly is a nice side effect. It's easier to get into Les Miz when you have fewer options on-hand to distract you.

...

I'm honestly a bit surprised that submariners can still bring their own Kindles, etc. Wasn't the NeRD locked down to avoid even the appearance of a security issue?

Allowing submariners to bring what is essentially a big flash drive with its own OS seems a bit chancy. Not that I think it's all that likely that a no-goodnik would jerry-rig a way to import data from the submarine's computers, but it seems like a credible enough problem such that you would want to avoid even the appearance of an opportunity in the first place.

I mean, just based on spy novels, it is my understanding that it used to be this whole big thing to spirit a Minox into a secret place and take pictures. Now millions of people regularly carry tiny tablets with far tinier, more silent cameras. Seems like it would be pretty easy to take pictures of Secret Stuff.

Then again, it seems like it would be pretty hard to skulk around a submarine, just as it also seems like being caught with such pictures on your iPizzle would result in suffering legendary even in Hell.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:17 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


"If a service member wants to read, he needs to go to the miniature onboard library and check out a book."

I wonder if the reason for the small selection on the device is that the project's original stated goal was specifically to offer a digitized version of that library.
posted by Reyturner at 9:24 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one that wants to get a hold of one of these? Probably built like a tank, and once you figure out how they're reloading with a different set of books the 300 is no limit. Besides, how many books do I really need at one time in my pocket?
posted by stoneweaver at 9:31 AM on May 8


All Clancy, all the time.
posted by planetesimal at 9:36 AM on May 8


Am I the only one confused by mefites arguing over a scene from 24 as being based on reality?

> All Clancy, all the time.

Yeah. Although you don't enlist in the Navy, never mind apply for service in the submarine corps, unless you already have a perspective on the world a little different from mine. And to be honest, the last thing I'd want guys a thousand feet under sea level to do is get reinforcements for their doubts about their service. Leave that for they're back on shore.
posted by at by at 9:40 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


Allowing submariners to bring what is essentially a big flash drive with its own OS...

Even worse than that; a UNIX host with wireless networking capabilities.
posted by acb at 9:42 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one confused by mefites arguing over a scene from 24 as being based on reality?

It was The West Wing, so technically yes, but still a valid point.
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:46 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]


Even worse than that; a UNIX host with wireless networking capabilities.

Yeah, I love my Kobo, too.
posted by eclectist at 9:47 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


The Navy's Chief of Naval Operations has this thing called the Professional Reading Program (maintained by the Naval War College) which is intended to collect a bunch of titles that are of interest to sailors. Some history, some theory, some ordinary business/leadership skills. You can read about the 42 books here.
Abraham Lincoln said that reading “is the key to already-
solved problems . . . and a facility for successfully pursuing
the unsolved ones.” With this in mind, the Navy has collected forty-two books that will help all levels of Navy leaders hone their craft. The books chosen for the list will help Sailors garner a better understanding of war, culture, history, leadership, critical thinking, and management.
Which is good! The smarter and better-trained our military is, the better, I say.

But currently they use Overdrive for their e-books in this program (cite), which is bad. Perhaps this device will help with that.

It could also hold approved texts for onboard training or profesional education programs, which the Navy also does a lot of.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:55 AM on May 8


It's just the Bible, Turner Diaries and complete works of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.
posted by Renoroc at 10:07 AM on May 8


Did you read literally any other comment in this thread?
posted by jessamyn at 10:12 AM on May 8 [8 favorites]


Is there a list anywhere online of what the 300 titles will be. I am very intrigued.
posted by Faintdreams at 10:21 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


300 seems like a manageable number - more than that, and, yeah, it's like netflix streaming where you need the 'browse-only' membership the Onion talked about where you just scroll through all evening trying to figure out what to watch. Take the professional reading program, probably the Marine Commandant's reading list, and a couple of hundred top-rated books and you're good.

Hopefully the devices can be refreshed, however, as reading lists change or books come out.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:28 AM on May 8


I'm honestly a bit surprised that submariners can still bring their own Kindles, etc. Wasn't the NeRD locked down to avoid even the appearance of a security issue?
From the first sentences of the article:
The Navy doesn’t allow iPads on submarines; they’re too dangerous. Spies could use the camera to record inside, and cell signals could betray its location when it surfaces. Similar precautions apply to Kindles and other e-readers.
posted by indubitable at 10:36 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


So if it has no ports, how do they charge it?
posted by indubitable at 10:40 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]



Metafilter : Did you read literally any other comment in this thread?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:49 AM on May 8 [4 favorites]


Did you read literally any other comment in this thread?

No, just the article; I did not want to be biased by the worldview of others.

Also, I found it odd that there was no list of works and formed my conjecture based on the right-wing leanings of our armed forces and probable corporatocratic underpinnings of such a project. I suppose Tom Clancy could be on there too.

No way in hell any of these things will have Mother Jones or the Utne reader preloaded on them.
posted by Renoroc at 10:52 AM on May 8


So if it has no ports, how do they charge it?

Maybe it uses a nuclear energy iridium cell in a case-hardened sub-assembly inside a triple-armored hyperalloy torso instead. It worked well for the T-800.
posted by tempestuoso at 10:58 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


No way in hell any of these things will have Mother Jones or the Utne reader preloaded on them.

Where can I get these books of which you speak?
posted by tempestuoso at 11:02 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


So if it has no ports, how do they charge it?

Maybe it uses a nuclear energy iridium cell in a case-hardened sub-assembly inside a triple-armored hyperalloy torso instead. It worked well for the T-800.


Inductive charging is another option.
posted by odinsdream at 11:11 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


e-ink uses so little power you could probably put a bimetal strip on the edge and run it off your sweaty hand.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:16 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


"Ports" probably refers to USB, etc. There's probably an power adapter interface.
posted by planetesimal at 11:17 AM on May 8


Initial production is slated at 365 devices.

With those specialized hardware specs and the short production run, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Navy was spending $1K or more a piece on these.

[T]he most practical solution to the ashtray problem would be to ban smoking on a submarine in the first place.

It was only 2010 when they finally banned it in (but not on) submarines. Military service members smoke at twice the rate of the general population, and although their leaders make a big show of vigilance regarding all kinds of substance abuse, they're reluctant to tell anybody they absolutely cannot smoke. I have no idea why. Service members already lose an array of civil rights, starting with unrestricted free speech, and they have limits on personal dress, grooming and body modification dictated to them. You suffer disciplinary action if your mustache gets a little out of hand, but go ahead and smoke if it makes you feel better.
posted by Flexagon at 12:23 PM on May 8


Each reader is preloaded with 300 books that will never change.

I know this impacts a relatively tiny number of people, but I think we've got a winner for Worst Idea of 2014 already.
posted by zardoz at 5:41 PM on May 8


300 doesn't seem that bad really. If the Navy dedicated 50 books to manuals then included the 250 most popular books on submarines it would seem to be a good thing to have available. Nothing saying they can't bring out volume two next year with another 300 books and then volume three the year after that with yet another 300 books. If the hardware works out new versions will get subsequently cheaper year after year.

Besides they will have to keep issuing new versions as the manuals get out of date.

tempestuoso: " If you figure about 8 characters per word, including spaces and punctuation, at one byte per character that means 3.4 MB (uncompressed) for just the book data. "

Even simple, quick compression is going to get you 2:1 on English text.
posted by Mitheral at 7:11 PM on May 8


this device is unable to betray a submarine's location via wifi signals

If a wifi signal could even escape the faraday cage that is the thick solid steel hull of a submarine, it's penetrative power through water would be close to nil. To detect a submarine via stray wifi, I would think you would have to get your antenna so close that the sub physically crushes your antenna, at which point you don't actually need a wifi signal to detect that there is a sub there... :-)

So either it's abundance of caution, or naval radio specialists know something that I don't (in addition to the several million other things they know that I don't), or wi-fi concerns aren't actually serious, but are taken seriously regardless (much like the idea of wi-fi devices bringing down passenger planes, except less plausible).
Hmm, perhaps they worry that the hull could be used as an antenna by a saboteur while on the surface of the water?
posted by anonymisc at 8:07 PM on May 8


The Navy doesn’t allow iPads on submarines; they’re too dangerous.

Soooo ... I finished a 6 month+ submarine deployment a few months ago. Guess how we read books underway?

The sub had a "library" of some 30 hard copy books (mostly Song of Ice and Fire series and Tom Clancy), but there wasn't a soul on board without an iPad/iPhone/Kindle/laptop and an external USB hard drive. Not just for reading: for playing Angry Birds while waiting in line for chow, for listening to music while cleaning, and of course for watching porn in the rack.

The Navy knows that life stinks on a submarine and although there has been a push to remove personal electronic devices from submarines, individual commands try to accommodate their crews with reasonable policies because banning PEDs outright is just too painful. One measure is to verify that everyone has tape over the cameras on their smart devices (in case it's infected with a Chinese virus that can take pictures and phone home at the next port call).

If a crew member really wanted to steal information from a submarine's LAN, no one could stop him from smuggling a flash drive in his sock, regardless of any policy. All the computers log any USB devices plugged into them, but a really dedicated spy could find a work-around (physical access is total access). But that's kind of the point. The system relies on trust. It's part of the reason all submariners have at a minimum a secret security clearance.

(And yes, a submarine hull makes a pretty good faraday cage for wi-fi and 4G as any submariner will tell you. And any signal that escaped would be attenuated in seawater within a distance that would be of no tactical use to an enemy.)

Anyway, this story just makes me think that it's part of the long term plan to remove personal electronic devices completely from submarines. "Shipmate, you don't need to bring an iPad underway, we have NeRDs!"
posted by MrFTBN at 8:19 PM on May 8 [15 favorites]


Think_Long: "To me, this scene failed to prove the competence of military spending like it was supposed to, as the most practical solution to the ashtray problem would be to ban smoking on a submarine in the first place."

But where would they put the paperclips then?
posted by chavenet at 2:32 AM on May 9


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