Cases & Content
How many Traveling Terabytes are there?
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.
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that hardware also became outdated (or, rather, when the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.
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
What sort of content do they contain?
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.
Who determines where they go?
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
By what methods do the cases travel?
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.
have no reports of the TTB cases ever being the cause
of difficult questions or significant delays at security
checkpoints, border crossings, etc.
What hard drives are used in the TTB volumes?
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
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.
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.
What enclosures house the hard drives as they travel?
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
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
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).
ruggedized flash drives that the TTB Project uses do not
require any external enclosure or case at all.
What cases house the whole affair for transport?
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
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
How are the drives powered?
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.
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
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.
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
Audio & Video Encoding
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
What's the story with the project's founder?
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
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,
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.
Why and how was the TTB Project started?
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.
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.
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
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.
complete transcript of the conversation that led directly
to the first TTB case can be found in the Inception
page of this web site.
Does the TTB project violate copyright law?
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.
Have any copyright holders expressed displeasure with
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.
Does the project contravene any codes of conduct within
the armed services?
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.
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.