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January 31st, 2011:

The Inexplicable Pirate Box


I’m still on the long climb back to functionality and can’t do much computing because the current bug has hugely irritated my eyes. However, I did want to call quick attention to one more thing in the pirate universe before going back to bed: David Dart’s Pirate Box. I got the tip from the Jolly Pirate a couple of days ago, and most of the gadget blogs have now picked up the story. It’s a make-it-yourself wireless filesharing node in a pirate lunchbox.

Lesse here: You carry this into a crowded coffee shop so that people can connect from their laptops and smartphones and download whatever pirate goodies are in the box, at least until somebody calls the Bomb Squad.

Ok, I’m just funny that way. But read through the DIY, and ask what I’m asking: Isn’t this a lot of fooling around just to create a wireless file-sharing node? Even a five-year-old beater of a laptop can run Debian and a file server, and software router apps are routine. Furthermore, a laptop looks like a laptop, and when there’s a dozen people at Panera running laptops, it’s a little less easy to tell who’s the pirate.

Unless that’s the idea. This certainly seems to be more about cachet than practical piracy. I’m reminded of warchalking, a silly near-hoax that was getting people’s twickers in a nist back in 2002 or so: marking the locations of wi-fi networks on the sidewalk in chalk, god help us, as though there were no other way to know something was there.

I have the late Harry Helms’ books about pirate radio and I think I understand the psychology. It’s about being a Merry Prankster more than actually getting anything accomplished. And I’m good with that, especially since the 17 people on Earth who will actually build this thing and hang out with it are unlikely to do much damage. (I do grant them points for creativity.)

The Pirate Box reminds me a little of AirStash, which has the advantage of being able to hide in your pocket. The notion of hidden local physical filesharing is an interesting one, and I’m sure that there are better concepts for it hiding out there somewhere. (A USB thumb drive mortared into a brick wall is just one of the gonzo notions I’ve seen recently; something like geocaching with data.) If you know of any more, send me links.

And now it’s back to bed for me.