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Pedal digital transfer
March 6, 2008 3:54 PM   Subscribe

When the wire won't carry your subversive tract, distribute your digital screed via flash drive. Last month, students at a prestigious computer science university videotaped an ugly confrontation they had with Ricardo Alarcón, the president of the National Assembly. Mr. Alarcón seemed flummoxed when students grilled him on why they could not travel abroad, stay at hotels, earn better wages or use search engines like Google. The video spread like wildfire ...[passed via flash drives]... and seriously damaged Mr. Alarcón’s reputation in some circles.

“It passes from flash drive to flash drive,” said Ariel, 33, a computer programmer, who, like almost everyone else interviewed for this article, asked that his last name not be used for fear of political persecution. “This is going to get out of the government’s hands because the technology is moving so rapidly.”
posted by caddis (19 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very cool. Repressive governments need to realize the obvious fact that it's nearly impossible to repress information anymore, unless you're completely batshit draconian like North Korea and publically execute people for making international phone calls. Even there, things like videos of starved corpses rotting in the middle of the street have been leaked. It's like the RIAA: the Internet, cell phone cameras, portable mass storage, etc. have rendered the model of total government control of the flow of information obsolete, and repressive governments refuse to acknowledge it.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:04 PM on March 6, 2008


See also: Witness.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:05 PM on March 6, 2008


Filter the Internets all you wish, but sneakernet will trump all.

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

— Andrew S. Tanenbaum
posted by porn in the woods at 4:30 PM on March 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


Well, the Cubans go beyond filtering, they restrict access to the tubes themselves, hence the flash drives. I love it. When people feel your rule unjustified they will find ways around it. You know, prohibition worked out so well for the US.
posted by caddis at 4:37 PM on March 6, 2008


With Fox News out there et similia , I kind of understand Cuba's concern with manipulation of people, expecially youngsters. But with censorship you can't even attempt to effectively contrast propaganda.
posted by elpapacito at 4:55 PM on March 6, 2008


It might have been good to have included in the post what country this was supposed this took place in. I was confused until the comments started mentioning Cuba.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:58 PM on March 6, 2008


awesome. this is largely how i've done movie and music piracy for the past few years too. makes sense in a repressive environment.

the revolution will not be televised. it will be on flash drives.
posted by es_de_bah at 5:09 PM on March 6, 2008


Down with USA!

(Que? They're using flash drives?)

Down with USB!
posted by hal9k at 5:25 PM on March 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Really cool article, thanks for the link!
posted by !Jim at 6:08 PM on March 6, 2008


Note: I am kind of a moron, so if any of the following seems wildly implausible, then that is probably the reason.

Would it be possible for us (the US govt) to blanket Cuba in free, unhindered WiFi ala Radio Free Europe? Im not sure what the farthest possible reach for high powered wifi is, but could a ship (or ships) in intl waters do that?

Or perhaps beam it out from Guantanamo?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:50 PM on March 6, 2008


Senor, wi-fi tends to be limited to relatively short distances. 802.11 standards are generally measure in double-digit meters, max, although the brand-new-this-year 802.11y variation may have a range of up to 5km. (We'll see.) It's also trivially easy to create enough interference in the appropriate band to cause huge packet drop rates.

I don't think we're at the Wi-Fi Marti point yet.
posted by dhartung at 9:12 PM on March 6, 2008


You can MacGyver a 1500 watt wifi jammer using common kitchen tools. Basically, you need a microwave oven and a can opener.
posted by ryanrs at 9:27 PM on March 6, 2008


Sneakernet first, last and always!

Most of my music - independent, fully authorized, thank you - comes to me by sneakernet on either my flash drive, my flash-based MP3 player or - less common these days - from data CDs.

It's just so easy to keep a gig or two on my keychain and it's always there. Whenever I grab a friend's new album or whatever I usually leave something, too.
posted by loquacious at 11:40 PM on March 6, 2008


Actually I'm suprised the US hasn't build the world's tallest (and strongest transmitting and most sensitive receiving) Wi-Fi access point in Guantanamo.
posted by PenDevil at 11:42 PM on March 6, 2008


Thanks for posting this--your teaser was more interesting than the NYT's (which meant I skipped over this originally when I read my daily dose today).
posted by librarylis at 12:18 AM on March 7, 2008


PenDevil : Actually I'm suprised the US hasn't build the world's tallest (and strongest transmitting and most sensitive receiving) Wi-Fi access point in Guantanamo.

For free? Surely you jest, Mr. Devil. That would only encourage Communism!
posted by Drexen at 3:04 AM on March 7, 2008


Well, the Cubans go beyond filtering, they restrict access to the tubes themselves, hence the flash drives. I love it. When people feel your rule unjustified they will find ways around it. You know, prohibition worked out so well for the US.

Wrong tense. Prohibition is alive and well in the US.
posted by unixrat at 6:42 AM on March 7, 2008


I take it you mean drugs, not alcohol? By the way, it is working out almost as splendidly as the Prohibition of the '20s isn't it? Our inner city streets are filled with violent gangsters funded by drug sales and our prisons are filled to overflowing with people charged with drug crimes. Of course, then you have our soldiers guarding poppy fields in Afghanistan and the CIA running drugs to fund covert operations. The whole situation is truly a theatre of the absurd.
posted by caddis at 7:48 AM on March 7, 2008


US.gov disappears European-owned Cuba websites
posted by homunculus at 1:37 PM on March 7, 2008


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