1. Cases & Content

1.1 - How many Traveling Terabytes are there?
1.2 - What sort of content do they contain?
1.3 - Who determines where they go?
1.4 - By what methods do the cases travel?

2. Tech Specs

2.1 - Hard Drives
2.2 - Enclosures
2.3 - Cases
2.4 - Power
2.5 - Other
2.6 - Audio & Video Encoding

3. Creation

3.1 - What's the story with the project's founder?
3.2 - Why and how was the TTB project started?

4. The Law

4.1 - Does the TTB project violate copyright law?
4.2 - Have any copyright holders expressed displeasure with the project?
4.3 - Does the project contravene any codes of conduct within the armed services?

1. Cases & Content

1.1. How many Traveling Terabytes are there?

Initially, we had one and then two Traveling Terabytes. These early models were built around pairs of 500 GB hard drives that would reside in Pelican model 1400 cases. They served their purpose well, but in the end we let the archive of content grow and grow so much that we started splitting the material into segments and categories. This led to one TTB being more sought than another, depending on who was requesting it. There were also issues surrounding the units' size and weight.

I then redesigned our hardware in order to have TTBs that consist of a single 1 TB hard drive and more efficient enclosure, all of which could travel (with supporting cables and power converters) in a Pelican 1200 case. When that hardware also became outdated (or, rather, when the manufacturer went out of business) i upgraded the project yet again... now the TTBs are made using 2.5" notebook hard drives in Pelican 1020 mini cases. There are a total of five TTBs that exist (four are active, one is retired) and we are always trying to build more.

Now, the Project is moving away from the use of hard disk drives and instead is focusing efforts on churning out larger quantities of high-capacity flash drives. These are not only even more resistant to physical shock and extreme conditions, but they are also inexpensive enough and robust enough that they can be deployed to military units and then never agan need to circulate back to the USA for maintenance, etc.

1.2. What sort of content do they contain?

The sources of the content on the TTBs are the private collections of individual contributors. When donating to the project, individuals are asked to offer only items that they personally own or have acquired from free sources. Ideally, each film on the TTB is a reflection of a DVD on someone's shelf, each album of MP3s equates to a sleeve in someone's CD case, and each TV episode a capture from public broadcast.

1.3. Who determines where they go?

Anyone who is kept away from home in the course of their duties serving their fellow citizens is elligible to receive a Traveling Terabyte. While this has mostly been a project focused around bringing a piece of home to men and women in the armed forces, there is nothing specific about our mission that would preclude us from trying to send a TTB to Peace Corps volunteers, doctors, and other humanitarian workers.

1.4. By what methods do the cases travel?

The TTB cases have traveled both via traditional stateside and overseas carriers such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL but are also often transported by hand by passengers on commercial and military aircraft who are headed to zones where the TTBs are scheduled to circulate.

We have no reports of the TTB cases ever being the cause of difficult questions or significant delays at security checkpoints, border crossings, etc.


2. Tech Specs

2.1. What hard drives are used in the TTB volumes?

Initially we used 500 GB ultra ATA drives. Presently, the project is now focusing on a single-drive configuration based around 1 TB SATA hard drives. Unless a specific hardware manufacturer wants to sponsor us, we simply opt for the best sale prices we can find. We then moved to Western Digital 1 TB Passport model external drives, but ultimately stopped relying on that model because of the intrusive and presistent files that Western Digital pre-loads onto the drives in a way that makes them intentionally hard to remove.

We now use Seagate FreeAgent 1 TB USB External Hard Drives and we have found them ideal. They fit cleanly into our preferred enclosure cases (see below) and take a paint job very well.

Now with NAND flash media also in use, the Project also deploys 32GB USB flash drives in a "bullet" style which feature an o-ring sealed, screw-shut container housing.

2.2. What enclosures house the hard drives as they travel?

When the TTB Project first started, we used an external drive enclosure called the the "Mini Portable Disk" from Ultra Products. Then, we moved to another enclosure... the Quad Interface Super Combo by CoolGear. I liked that model because those enclosures supported USB 2, FireWire 400 (both 6-circuit and 4-circuit), FireWire 800, and External SATA. Coolest of all was the fact that the unit's power supply was fully self-contained and thus the enclosure simply took its juice from an ISO computer power cable.

Now, however, I have moved the project to even smaller and simpler 2.5" notebook hard drives. The Seagate FreeAgent drives have their own enclosure and come fitted with a removable SATA to USB3 adapter. These drives are still housed in Pelican cases (see next section).

The ruggedized flash drives that the TTB Project uses do not require any external enclosure or case at all.

2.3. What cases house the whole affair for transport?

The TTB project's initial contributors didn't have to debate long or hard in order to settle on the choice of Pelican cases. We originally used a model 1400 case, then moved to a 1200, and now can fit the small 2.5" drives into Pelican's model 1020 mini case. Sadly, this case is not available in OD green and so sometimes I add a coat of paint to the case as well as the enclosure as part of my build process.

2.4. How are the drives powered?

Originally we had enclosure that could be attached to both 110 volt and 220 volt power and we would pack a power outlet splitter in each case. The TTBs also used to have a universal power plug adapter from Targus.

All of this is now moot with the switch to the 2.5" external drives, since they run wholly (and exclusively) via USB. Similarly, with the ruggedized flash drives that the TTB Project uses no source of power beyond the USB bus is necessary.

2.5. Other

There is one other item that we try to place in the Traveling Terabyte cases... a waterproof notepad (the green "shirt pocket" unit from Rite in the Rain, item number 935) which acts as the TTB's guestbook.

Given the small size and lack of external case for the flash drives that the TTB Project now uses, the notepads no longer circulate in theater, but instead the recipients are encouraged to email us so that their comments can be entered into the web site's log.

2.5. Audio & Video Encoding

Nearly all content sent to deployed units by the TTB Project is audio encoded in either MP3 or AC3 and video encoded in MPEG-4 or H-264 and packaged in AVI or MP4 files. Compressed ZIP an RAR archives are used from time to time. eBooks and other documentation are in either PDF or MOBI format. No RealVideo, Windows Media, or DRM-enabled files are permitted. Content donated to the project in such formats will either be rejected and deleted or will be reencoded to a proper format before being included on a traveling terabyte.


3. Creation

3.1. What's the story with the project's founder?

Firstly, as we all like to point out, the Traveling Terabyte Project was created by members of the international hacker community. Many of the originating participants are key figures in the DEFCON community with close ties to individuals who are working or serving overseas.

If the project can be said to have anything classifiable as a "founder" that person would be Deviant Ollam. A recognizable face in the hacker scene for the past half decade, Deviant has been a speaker at DEFCON, Black Hat, ShmooCon, HOPE, HackCon, HackInTheBox, ShakaCon, DeepSec, CanSecWest, SecTor, NotACon, and other security events around the world. A Member and Director of the United States branch of The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers, Deviant frequently gives presentations about physical security and lockpicking. In addition to speaking at security conferences, he has also presented at schools and universities and has even had the honor of lecturing the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

3.2. Why and how was the TTB Project started?

In short , the project began simply as a way to keep far-flung members of the hacking community in touch with friends back home and as a general way of "giving back to the community" after feeling particularly sentimental about how much people in the hacker world do for one another and act in support of people whom they may have never met in person.

The full story can be summarized as follows: Deviant Ollam's personal network has always had rather outlandish data storage capabilities. Being a bit of a data hoarder, Deviant has traditionally constructed very large disk arrays and maintained huge storage capacity in his home. After making a forum post about experiencing a horrendous array failure (and describing the potential loss of nearly 2 TB of data that this event caused), Deviant was overwhelmed at how almost immediately emails were arriving from people, some of whom he only casually knew, with offers to help him restore much of his lost music, movies, and cartoons.

Although the majority of his lost data was recoverable from backup sources, Deviant realized firsthand the unparalleled generosity of the hacker community and began to coordinate a project that could focus this generosity and bring much of the offered material to others who could benefit from it the most.

Having in his possession a pair of surplus 500 gigabyte drives that he purchased with his own funds while acquiring a bulk order of hard disks for a client, Deviant started a thread on the DEFCON forums describing his vision for a community project and soliciting advice from other hackers. Their response was immediate and heartwarming.

A complete transcript of the conversation that led directly to the first TTB case can be found in the Inception page of this web site.


4. The Law

4.1. Does the TTB project violate copyright law?

Friends of ours who are lawyers have indicated that this project, while coming close to the line in a number of ways, does not explicitly violate copyright law. It is legal to let a friend borrow a CD or DVD or book that you own. It is legal to give such an item to them personally or to send it through the mail. It is legal (and indeed even common) for friends and family back home to dispatch care packages of movies and music to men and women serving in uniform. Boxes of DVDs or compact discs are a common site on bases worldwide. We are doing nothing different... we're simply using a very large box.

4.2. Have any copyright holders expressed displeasure with the project?

We have not been contacted at present by the MPAA, the RIAA, or any other copyright holders expressing either displeasure or support for the project. In truth, we assume that it is so small in scope as to not appear on their radar at all. Even if they were to wrongly assume that we are a group engaged in piracy, we don't come close to comparing with the highly-orchestrated and well-oiled for-profit bootleg operations that flood the marketplace the world over with illicit DVDs, CDs, and other such content found on street vendor tables.

4.3. Does the project contravene any codes of conduct within the armed services?

To the best of our knowledge, no, the traveling terabytes are not violating the rules of conduct for men and women in the armed forces. While certain base commanders may view the sharing of movies and music to be a violation of the law and therefore disallow it at their particular locations, others in the military brass have allowed the operation of dedicated "morale servers" which can host such content from back home. Such a solution is ideal, actually, as it allows for the viewing of such shared content without soldiers, sailors, or airmen having the need to copy the files to personal computing equipment in violation of the law.

The organizers of the TTB project do their best to ensure that these drives, which often travel to middle eastern countries, do not contain anything deemed patently offensive to the local populace. In simple terms, those serving in uniform are prohibited by the military code from possessing or trafficking in any material that is offensive or illegal in a host nation. As many nations where the government has chosen to station U.S. troops are predominantly Muslim, this means that pornography is often disallowed. As such, adult videos, photos, and text are quite unfortunately not suitable for inclusion on the Traveling Terabytes.


This site is 100% copyleft by the TTB project staff. You are free to copy, reuse, and distribute any or all
of this material as long as credit is given and the freedom for others to do the same is maintained.