Hacking Consumer Electronics: The Low-tech Way

The paragraphs below are taken from “100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation“, a book that’s not available on WikiLeaks but on Amazon. Written by a retired Navy Seal, Clint Emerson, the book describes skills “which all rely on low-tech or no-tech tools, because complicated instructions are the last thing you need when facing imminent peril”.


“Stashing a voice-activated recording device in a target’s room or vehicle is relatively simple, but without sound amplification, such a setup is unlikely to result in audible intelligence — a proper audio-surveillance system requires amplification via microphone. In the absence of dedicated tools, however, the Nomad can leverage a cell phone, an audio jack, and a pair of headphones into an effective listening device.”

“Because microphones and speakers are essentially the same instrument, any speaker — from the earbuds on a pair of headphones to the stereo system on a television — can be turned into a microphone in a matter of minutes. The simple difference between the two is that their functions are reversed. While a speaker turns electronic signals into sound, a mic turns sound into electronic signals to be manipulated and amplified…”

“Any small recording device can be employed, but using a phone set to silent and auto answer as a listening device has two advantages: It captures intelligence in real time and does so without the operative having to execute a potentially dangerous return trip on target to collect the device…”

From: “100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation“, Clint Emerson, 2015.

In Defense of Degrowth

“The idea of degrowth is contentious, often misunderstood, and (perhaps paradoxically) growing in popularity. In this book, Giorgos Kallis, one of the movement’s leading thinkers, presents an accessible, inspiring, and enjoyable defense. The book’s chapters—a compilation of his opinion essays, newspaper articles, blog posts, and ‘minifestos’—range from topics such as eco-modernism, the history of economics, science fiction, the Greek crisis, and Hollywood films.

The book also features debates and exchanges between Kallis and degrowth detractors. In defense of degrowth is intended as an introduction for the curious, a defense against the skeptics, and an intellectually stimulating conversation for those already convinced but willing to learn more.”

In Defense of Degrowth can be downloaded as a free e-book.

A Logographic Script for Europe

Like Europe, China has many languages ​​and cultures. In contrast to Europe, everyone in China communicate with each other through a common script: Hanzi. A text drawn up in Chinese characters for every literate Chinese to understand, even if they don’t share a common language. Europe has tried to forge unity through a common currency, the market, regulation and parliament. These elements have so far not delivered a broad common identity. Europe is separated by language.

logographic script for europe

Babel is a project initiated by Monnik and Studio Rooiejas in which they design and develop a logographic script for Europe. With a logographic writing we could read (and write) each other’s newspapers even if we can not understand each other. A design solution through which one could instantly create a truly European public space. In a logographic writing each word or concept is represented by a separate symbol, called a logogram. Because these characters have a symbolic and not a phonetic value they can be used universally, even by people who do not speak each other’s languages.

A logographic language as a solution to Europe’s “confusion of tongues” sounds far-fetched and obvious at the same time. It would be practical if it existed, completely impractical to implement, and most of all insightful and evocative food for thought.

See and read more at Monnik and Flickr.

Why the Brain Prefers to Read on Paper

“Beyond treating individual letters as physical objects, the human brain may also perceive a text in its entirety as a kind of physical landscape. When we read, we construct a mental representation of the text in which meaning is anchored to structure. The exact nature of such representations remains unclear, but they are likely similar to the mental maps we create of terrain—such as mountains and trails—and of man-made physical spaces, such as apartments and offices.

book 4Both anecdotally and in published studies, people report that when trying to locate a particular piece of written information they often remember where in the text it appeared. We might recall that we passed the red farmhouse near the start of the trail before we started climbing uphill through the forest; in a similar way, we remember that we read about Mr. Darcy rebuffing Elizabeth Bennett on the bottom of the left-hand page in one of the earlier chapters.

In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other.

Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text.”

Read more: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age. Picture: This is a Wake Up Call. More books.

Why Preserve Books?

Books in shipping containers“Digital technologies are changing both how library materials are accessed and increasingly how library materials are preserved. After the Internet Archive digitizes a book from a library in order to provide free public access to people world-wide, these books go back on the shelves of the library. We noticed an increasing number of books from these libraries moving to “off site repositories” to make space in central buildings for more meeting spaces and work spaces. These repositories have filled quickly and sometimes prompt the de-accessioning of books. A library that would prefer to not be named was found to be thinning their collections and throwing out books based on what had been digitized by Google. While we understand the need to manage physical holdings, we believe this should be done thoughtfully and well.” Read more: Why preserve books? The Physical Archive of the Internet Archive.

Hardcore Book Scanning

Needed: Chainsaw + scanner. Read the first comment before you try this at home. Via Mijns Insziens.

Pay-per-swing Hammers

pay perswing  hammersA reader at Metafilter reacts to the news that Harper Collins is putting a cap on the number of times their ebooks can be loaned out from libraries:

“I’ve argued that the ultimate endpoint for Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the pay-per-swing hammer. This isn’t as unlikely as it seems. Ball bearings in the hammer could be arranged, via electromagnetism, to configurations which either take away much of the force of the blow or leave it somehow off-center, or a dead-on impact. Ubiquitous wireless access will finally mean that microtransactions are more feasible. Press your fob against the hammer and, once your account has been verified, we will rearrange the bearings in the hammerhead to give you a better swing. A penny per swing. At this point, the only hard part would be getting the existing hammers out of circulation.”

Via Things Magazine. Somewhat related: Know your bolts.

DIY Book Scanning

Diy book scanner “Do-It-Yourself Book Scanning is using cheap, compact cameras and free software to scan books quickly and efficiently. DIY Book Scanners can be as simple as a camera and a piece of glass [PDF] or as involved as the Instructable that brought our community together [PDF / Vimeo]. We’ve come a long way since then. We have GPL-licensed laser cut designs, aluminum designs, and detailed instructions for beginners. We have built hundreds of scanners and freely shared thousands of design improvements.”

More at the DIY Book Scanning Community, a group of over 300 DIY’ers who believe that the future of digital books is too important to be decided solely by corporate interests. Related: DIY Book Binding & Kite Aerial Photography.

Dutch Book Bindings (12th – 21st Century)

Books 2

Books bibliodyssey

Book bindings of the Royal National Library of The Netherlands. Via BibliOdyssey, where you can find a selection.

Digital Books and Your Rights

A checklist for readers by the EFF. Previously: Second hand bits and bytes.