2011-03-17 - Flash Drives Are Assembled
It took a lot of touch time (and my dexterity wasn't outstandingly great at the end of this March 17th) but all of the new Flash Drives are assembled and ready for content. I"m working on getting a good mix of Movies, Music, etc for this first 32GB package.
If i see you in uniform in an airport over the next four days, i may just have a gift for you!
2011-03-15 - Flash Drives Have Arrived
The rest of the items for the newest TTB Project push have arrived! We have the flash drives, we have the lanyards, we have everything now. It's going to be pretty great, i think.
I'm going to work on getting these assembled and ready for content before i head to Georgia and Florida this weekend. Get your recipients ready, everyone, because i want to start sending these out in the mail very soon.
2011-03-04 - Dog Tags Have Arrived
The first items for the new phase of the TTB Project are here. The Dog Tags we ordered from GoTags got here in record time. Both the ones for the Flash Drive lanyards as well as the Thank You lanyards are now complete...
... click above to see a larger image. I'm really pleased with the results. I look forward to the rest of the gear from iPromo in the coming week or two.
2011-03-03 - Proofs of the Flash Drives & Lanyards
Here are the final proofs from iPromo that i approved when the flash drives and lanyards went into production...
... thank you to everyone who helped out with this latest push. We were able to cover all the costs -- thanks in large part to Pat Galea who personally kicked in $500 -- and I can't wait to see these items in person.
2011-03-02 - One Last Call for Support
I'm so pleased at how everything is working with this latest phase of the Traveling Terabyte Project. The flash drives are now in production, the lanyards are being machine-sewn, and a batch of dog tags is being produced to be affixed to each gift. If you're curious, the tags will be as follows...
... when i was preparing these tags, i decided to whip up one extra small batch in a different style. Done in brass as opposed to steel, i have made tokens of thanks that will be for the Project's supporters...
As we enter our final phase of trying to cover the costs of all these recent items, i'll be rewarding donors with this small token of our gratitude. I've also ordered extra lanyards (in the style seen below) which will come attached to the above tag.
So that's where we stand now... the Flash Drive Initiative had overall costs of about $2,600 and we've covered $2,000 of that from simply one person. I'm ok trying to cover all that remains, but naturally any help is appreciated. For now i've been simply taking donations via PayPal at email@example.com. Since the tags cost about a dollar, and the lanyards are a little over three, and a stamp kicks it up a little bit more... let's say that the thank-you gifts add maybe $5 to the Project's overhead.
Thus, any donation of $20 or more can merit a thank-you tag... does that sound fair? Any donation of $50 or more not only gets a thank-you tag, but also gets to be on the "immediate shipment" list of flash drives that go out into the field as soon as they arrive. You specify the destination (and even the kind of content that your friend or loved one in uniform likes) and we'll see to it that it ships to their APO or FPO address as soon as these new units become available.
Just looking for ways to keep everyone happy and keep the project alive. Naturally, i'm always open to input and ideas. Thank you all for taking the time to let me know your thoughts.
2011-03-01 - New Drives are In Production!
After continuing to work with the Michael and the folks at iPromo, the TTB Project has finally settled on a new style and look for the flash drive portion initiative. This is a mock-up of how the new units will look when they are finished...
... naturally, i wanted to keep colors that were consistent with the service-uniform feel of the rest of the Project's assets, but i was really blown away with the fact that they would offer us full Pantone matching on all elements. I opted to do the drives in a green that closely resembles the ACU-style coloring of our previous hard drives. The lanyards feature text in the same shade of beige, but are more of a MARPAT look, in order to rope in other branches of service in the look and feel of the new flash drives.
The amazing gift of $2,000 from Jason (see earlier posts) covered a lot of this initial production, and for now I'm floating the rest... but if anyone else out there is feeling generous now would surely be a good time to help contribute to the Project if you wanted to help me cover the rest of the costs.
More than important funds, however, is simple word-of-mouth. I have basically zero marketing skill and am not a whiz at public relations... so the project simply continues to exist as long as people spread the word. Tell others who are state-side, and tell those in the field. Most of all, please contact me with destination addresses where i can send content to friends and loved ones whom you'd like to support in deployed areas.
2011-02-11 - Additional wow.
One more small update before i hit the road (lots to do before i head to HackCon in a couple days... have to be down in Maryland this evening for a dinner with Johnny Long to discuss what TOOOL can do for Hackers for Charity in Uganda and then i'll be at Unallocated Space for their first major Lockpicking Day.)
Before i hit the highway, however, i had to thank the folks at iPromo for working with us so well on this latest Flash Drive idea. I've been going back and forth with Michael Engle, one of their sales reps, and they have been wonderful.
Right from the start, Michael expressed support for the TTB Project and worked with us to waive setup fees, get the quote in a place that's in-line with what we're hoping to spend, etc. I can't say how happy i am about all of this. As soon as I'm back from Norway we'll see the ball rolling even more in this vein.
2011-02-11 - Wow. Just... wow.
Last night i was tinkering in PayPal, preparing some mailing labels and shipping out a few lockpick kits to people who had written to me asking to learn more. i watched my balance in that account drop by $5 increments as each Flat Rate USPS label came out of the nearby Zebra printer. Just as i was about to log out, something astounding caught my eye.
The balance had suddenly shot up to $2,000 more than it was moments ago.
After i picked my jaw up off the floor with my hand, i started scrolling in the history to see what on earth could have happened. Did i suddenly get an order for two dozen sets of practice locks? Was someone seeking hundreds of lockpicks for some sort of crazy event?
Nope... it was a donation from one man dedicated to supporting the Traveling Terabyte Project.
I met Jason Blackwell at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas last year. He wasn't in our training session, but rather he came into the room at the end of the day as we were wrapping up. He and i chatted for a bit, and he thanked me so much for what the Project tries to do for servicemembers around the world.
We've kept in touch since then, but just recently he learned that he was due to ship off to Afghanistan. That changed things for him. He's making preparations to downsize his footprint here at home, secure and store some belongings, and in the process he realized he won't be spending nearly as much on local state-side costs. He chose to simply pass a lot of that financial savings on to the Traveling Terabyte Project.
I am stunned and amazed. He didn't do this for praise or mention here, but I'm dropping this note in about him, just to say thank you and to wish him well on his time overseas. Do good and come home safe, Jason. The Traveling Terabyte Project thanks you.
2011-02-09 - The latest idea with the Traveling Terabyte
A lot has happened since the last post to this page. Not only are nations around the world capturing the news cycle with reports of major regime change, etc. but the TTB Project has a whole new direction in which we are going to experimentally head.
As those who read the previous post know, i have been growing concerned about the increasingly-difficult matter of managing not just content but also tech materials that get sent out into the field, etc. After a number of helpful discussions with both active duty folk as well as former military and/or their friends and family, i learned that Blu-Ray is not a suitable plan for the direction of the TTB Project at this time. There isn't enough penetration of compatible drives in the field, and the discs are too easily lost, mishandled, or otherwise just misunderstood.
Flash drives are going to be the next experimental idea we try out.
I personally thought it would be awesome to have "bullet" flash drives like the ones seen here...
... but there is the problem that those are a little too pricey, not to mention they could (at least in theory) lead to some sort of confusion in the field. I do not seriously expect any servicemember to accidentally grab a TTB Drive in the heat of a firefight and attempt to chamber it into his or her weapon, but still... no need to introduce realisitic-looking faux-ordinance into a combat area, i suppose.
So instead of those flash drives, we're going to likely go with these...
... which ironically are also called "bullet" style by their vendor. They screw shut and have a water-proofing rubber gasket seal. Aside from an IronKey product, they seem to be pretty robust and in line with what the TTB has come to develop as the hallmark of our field equipment.
We're going to see how well we can do on pricing and attempt to color-match them (as in my mocked up image above) to the existing art scheme of the Project. It looks like we can get them in 32GB capacity, for about $43 each. That's not the price of a Blu-Ray disc, for sure... but it's cheap enough that i can produce them in bulk (with some help from the Project's other backers) and not really worry about them after they've been sent into the field.
For the first run of these drives, I'm estimating we'll have about $2500 in costs. A little over $2000 of that will be producing the drives themselves, and the rest will go to sourcing things like lanyards and dog tags (all of which will be attached to the flash drives as way of making them less likely to be lost and more easily recognized, etc.)
Expect more news here soon!
2010-12-29 - We may need to consider a new direction
Ineffectiveness. Blindness. Frustration. All of these factors, i am sad to say, are plaguing the Traveling Terabyte Project. Have a look at the progress page to better understand the current situation. Over the past months i have had to slowly and sadly start marking some TTBs as "status uncertain" which is the closest i'll come to saying they're listed M.I.A.
I am not saying they are stolen. I am also not saying that they are no longer providing entertainment to men and women in uniform. They are, however, all but totally beyond my effective control and sphere of awareness. These TTBs have been passed from one unit to another in-country and the people responsible are (a) not great about informing us the specific details and (B) not great about responding to our emails asking for status updates.
Herein lies the biggest problem I'm having with how the Traveling Terabyte Project functions...
TTBs that are sent to rear-echelon positions are more easily accounted for, but they don't touch as many lives... and they're particularly not reaching the people for whom the project was created, namely folk who are totally out-of-touch with usual avenues of entertainment like TV broadcast, DVD rentals, radio, etc.
TTBs that are sent to more forward positions actually do reach people who are desperate for a taste of home and deeply appreciate the content, but then it becomes all but impossible for us to track the drives and monitor their progress.
It is for this reason that i am thinking about re-designing the project and rearranging much of the logistics.
During the winter holiday seasons, i love putting together the TTB X-Mas DVD and mailing it to loads and loads of places. Even though this is a reduced-size package of data, it can be shipped out en masse and i don't have to concern myself with tracking or return of the discs.
I may start something similar for the TTB Project as far as front-line folk are concerned. I may begin to maintain two types of care packages...
The traditional TTB Hard Drive Case, with 1 TB of music, TV, and movies
TTB Blu-Ray Discs, with 25 or 50 GB of the most recent content. Either that, or TTB Flash Drives in 32 GB size.
Thus, when friends and loved ones of servicemembers contact us and ask for a care package to be sent, we will generate a copy of the latest TTB Blu-Ray Disc or Flash Drive and dispatch it in the mail. This will be good in a number of ways...
1. The shipping will cost substantially less
2. A simple envelope is likely to move faster through the APO/FPO system than a box
3. We have no need for the disc to be tracked or returned to us at a later date
4. Additional, updated discs/drives can be produced in short order and at much less cost than the cased hard drives could.
I still plan on maintaining the master TTB archive and updating the cased hard disks, but these will tend to service established fixed positions (such as USO locations, medical centers, Fisher Houses, etc).
What do people think of this new plan? Is Blu-Ray a good choice for the new discs? Would Flash Drives be better? Should we be re-thinking the format in which the material is encoded, etc? (would MP4 be better, given the number of iPods, iPads, and mobile tech that play this style of file instead?)
Who would like their friends or loved ones in uniform to receive a copy of the new disc when the project gets off the ground in this new direction?
I would like to hear input from people regarding any and all of the above questions. Please, email us and share your thoughts.
2010-06-09 - TTBs continuing their slow progress
I must apologize to those who check this site frequently, hoping for lots of updates, etc. The very slow pace at which parcels make their way to APOs and FPOs is a constant speedbump in the project's progress. However, we have recently dispatched yet another case to a unit in the field and one of the older ones is making its way back to the homebase for maintenance and content updates.
2010-02-23 - TTB arrives at the Warrior Center
The Director of the USO in Kaiserslautern has informed me that the latest TTB case has arrived there and that it's already been well-received by the recovering men and women at the Warrior Center. I can't think of individuals more deserving of your contributions and support. Thank you to everyone who has helped this project grow and develop.
2010-01-22 - the newest TTB design
I've completed the first of what i hope will be many new TTBs. The new design that we're going with is the smallest version yet. It's simply staggering how much technology has progressed since we started this project. Have a look at more shots of the new case and drive in the photo galleries here and here.
2009/12/07 - x-mas DVDs are all out
I have finished sending out TTB Holiday DVDs to everyone who was on my list of potential recipients. Some of my friends have taken batches of them for distribution at bases and USO locations local to them, but even with all of this having been completed i still have over a dozen remaining, all complete with media mailer envelopes and the included TTB x-mas card.
If you have a friend or loved one who is deployed either state-side or overseas and would like a TTB holiday gift DVD to make its way to them, please let me know and i'll get on that as soon as possible.
2009/11/27 - supermediastore.com has Super Fail
I am so completely done with these people. ugh. In a fit of poor recollection, i failed to realize that supermediastore.com was the same establishment that last year caused an unacceptable delay in TTB X-Mas project disc production. Foolishly, i ordered again from them this year, only to have a similar result. Let me retell the whole story here briefly, in the hopes that no one ever makes the mistake of giving money to these people.
Super Media Store, also known as Linkyo Corp (why do so many of these fly-by-night California warehouses have a bunch of names? is that part of their shady nature? or do they just have to change their identity so often due to bad customer service?) is one of a few outfits with decent pricing on ink for my Dymo Disc Painter which i use in creating the TTB Holiday DVDs. Since i was ordering ink from them last year, i also placed in a request for printable discs.
My original order of "Ritek" discs on October 24th of 2008 turned out to be fake (those who know how to use CD and DVD identifier tools know how common this practice is, sadly) and generated all sorts of burn and read errors.
On November 6th i was finally able to get Idera in their customer service dept to give me RMA information and swap the fake Riteks for Verbatim discs.
Nearly three weeks later, on November 24th i still hadn't received my replacement discs, despite sending back the bad ones ages ago. After numerous calls i was able to reach Priscilla in their service department who gave me tracking information for my package. It was due to arrive in two days. I suspect that they never sent it and just scrambled to get a box in the mail, then read off a UPS number.
Two days later, a package did indeed arrive. It was the wrong goddamn discs... more fake Riteks. I called back again (their phone system seemed to change at various times during this process, if i recall correctly) and eventually, after many mumbled and garbled voice menus, reached Rebecca. She confirmed that my desired product was available and that it could ship out right away. The shipping prices for a rush order (which was what i desperately needed at this point) were outrageous, and Super Media Store wouldn't give any special consideration to us after all we'd been through.
"Fuck that," i said, "just cancel my order." I was transferred to returns and managed eventually to send back the rest of the defective discs... long after i had acquired another source for them.
This year, for Christmas 2009, i was getting the process underway again. Like a fool, i did a simple product search for Dymo Disc Painter ink and just placed an order with the first outfit i could find. It was Super Media Store... they are really good at getting high rank in Google listings.
Tuesday the 24th, before Thanksgiving, i placed my order. Three-day saver shipping would reach me by Friday or at the latest Monday, given the holiday. It wasn't until some time on Wednesday that i saw an email from their system stating that because i had the audacity to place an order over $100 with expedited shipping and not use a phone number for contact (i handle all ordering through email so i have a record of everything) things would be on hold until i contacted them.
I called Super Media Store that day and reached only their automated system. I tried calling them on Thanksgiving, knowing full well that they wouldn't be open. Only now, Friday (when i had hoped to maybe have the discs) did i reach them. After much fumbling through broken phone menus again (the system would only play recorded messages and hang up on you... i had to eventually just keep pressing zero to reach a human) i spoke to Yvette.
When i asked about all the problems i had reaching anyone to respond to their "your order is on hold" email, she stated "Oh, right... they've been making a lot of changes with vendors and other resources and our phone system has been giving us a lot of grief." So possibly i could have reached a human back on Wednesday if i had resorted to pressing zero over and over back then.
Yvette said she had "two addresses on file" for us, then said that maybe they didn't when i pressed her for more details. I confirmed our location and asked when we could have the discs. "Tuesday or Wednesday" came the reply. When i indicated that wasn't fast enough, and we had wanted them by Monday, Yvette stated "well, we can cancel the order or change it to free ground shipping" which would take even longer.
"Uhm, maybe you're not understanding me," i clarified... "we need the products faster, hence our original expedited order." After another hold, Yvette came back saying that for a Monday delivery we could pay $23.90 in shipping. We had originally already paid $17.97. I asked, "With this being a $6 difference, would Super Media Store be willing to cover that part, in recognition of all that we've been through?"
"No," was her instant, cold reply. Ok, how about splitting that cost with us? I explained about the TTB Project, our gifts to men and women in uniform overseas, etc. "Super Media Store will not cover that, sir," came the response. I was shocked. They wouldn't even go in for $3 to help out a charitable organization after delaying the order by days? I expressed sympathy over the fact that she may not have the power to do anything about this and if that was the case, i told her, i didn't want to take up more of her time... "Is there anyone else i can talk to about this?" i then asked.
"Yes. Hold on," she snipped. I was on hold for a moment, then i was speaking to a dial tone. Apparently that is the only party to whom Super Media Store refers you when you ask for any help or consideration of your difficulties. Yvette had taken my phone number down earlier in the conversation... but no one made an attempt to call us back.
I'm so fucking done with these people. I will not be so forgetful next year. Mere seconds after this all happened, i was on amazon.com and had found exactly what i needed. With a few bucks extra, i was able to have Saturday delivery and can start work on the discs tomorrow.
While Super Media Store may have some rock-bottom prices, they come at a cost. Next time, i'm willing to pay the extra $30 to $35 and go with a reputable supplier. Everyone awaiting TTB X-Mas DVDs this year, sit tight... i'll be cranking them out very soon now.
2009/11/22 - Holiday Project Happening Again
I'll be the first to admit that I absolutely hate the "holiday creep" that seems to get worse every year due to malls and other retailers trying to get people whipped up into a feeding frenzy of commerce. As the amazing comedian Lewis Black once said, "Remember when Halloween was Halloween, and Santa wasn't poking his fat ass backwards into it? And when Thanksgiving was a time for family... not Christmas, part one." So then given my distaste for any holly and garland that appears before the turkey and mashed potatoes are cleared away from the dinner table, what am I doing talking about the winter holidays so soon?
Well, as anyone with friends or loved ones in the service knows, sending packages to deployed personell can take quite a bit of time. Therefore, the Traveling Terabyte's latest project -- a Christmas gift special push -- will have to start its holiday planning even earlier than Wall-Mart, Sears, Macy's, and the rest of the unscroupulous retail world does.
This year, we'd like to try to bring cheer to as many people as possible. Consequently, we have selected the best holiday themed selections from our media library and are loading them on to DVD discs which we will produce en-masse and attempt to send to anyone with friends and family stationed away from home this holiday season.
DVDs of Christmas Cheer - If you have a friend or loved one who will be serving overseas, send us an email telling us who they are and a word or two about their unit. We will happily send them the DVD package of christmas videos and music... or, alternately, we'll happily send it to you here in the States and allow you to forward it along, as this will (if my math is correct) save us a little bit on postage.
"So, wait," you're asking, "this is all totally FREE?!?" Yes, as long as we have the resources to keep buying discs and dropping them in the mail, we will churn them out to every single service family who requests one.
More info about this whole endeavor can be found on this page.
2009/11/09 - An Interesting Technological Companion
dosman recently showed me something rather unique. He has an associate who works with the Polar Grid project... much of their operation involves the ferrying of huge loads of data to and from Greenland and Antarctica. The method they use for this sort of operation is strikingly similar to our configuration for the TTB project. Have a look...
2009/07/06 - A New Harware Configuration
The time has come to make a change to the TTBs, i've decided. While the original "Pelican 1400 case with paired 500 GB drives" served us well in the past, times are changing, prices are dropping, and new technologies are replacing old ones. We're moving to a new system where the TTBs will be based around a single 1 TB SATA drive housed in a Pelican 1200 case. These TTBs will be lighter and smaller than our original design, but still able to bring just as much great content to men and women overseas. Check out the photos of the first such TTB that i have recently built.
2009/01/30 - Major Re-Supply Underway
I have been undertaking a major overhaul and refit of the terabytes, their content, and the servers in order to kick off the new year. I've been acquiring new episodes, movies, and music to fill out the archives, updating the contents of the drives, and maintaining the servers. Speaking of the servers, Thorn has done a great job of getting vBulletin set up and we hope to have that up and running very soon for members of the public to login and post their thoughts, comments, and suggestions regarding the Traveling Terabyte Project.
I'll be seeking new destinations for the TTBs to rotate to on their next tour, which i'm tentatively going to say is likely to kick off in mid to late February. So please don't hestitate to send me an email if you or someone you care about could use some morale from the homefront sent out to the field.
2008/07/12 - educating some overseas leathernecks
The tan TTB is overseas again with a detatchment of US Marines on embassy detail. This volume, the "knowledge" TTB, is loaded with all sorts of educational films and programs (much content is from the Discovery channel and History channel) along with thousands and thousands of hours worth of reading matter in both eBook and Audio Book format. Here's to folks who better themselves everyday, including taking the opportunity to learn new things in their spare time. Some new images from these Marines can be found in the photos section.
2008/04/20 - entertainment for the Iron Rakkasans
The green TTB has made its way to the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne in Iraq. Hopefully we'll get some photos and feedback from those folk soon. Word has it that their distribution platoon took the time to deploy the TTB and a spare laptop in the unit's Morale, Welfare and Recreation center. It should stay there a while then move on somewhere in-country. Next destination is still up in the air.
2008/04/18 - enlightening the Marines in Dushanbe
Well, I am rotating back to Tajikistan and this time Deviant gave me the tan "knowledge" TTB to share with all the Marines where i'm stationed. It's not as high-brow, crack-open-the-books as it may sound, however. The "knowledge" TTB has things like MythBusters, Tiger Team, and plenty of other really entertaining options from broadcasters like the Discovery Channel, not to mention loads of really well done documentaries and historical films.
- AST Cell
2008/03/10 - entertainment to Iraq
The green TTB is making its way to Iraq to bring some much-needed revelry to the fianceé of the music teacher at a school where I consult. I hope that it makes it safely and quickly to his unit and that they send us some photos with a few choice thumbs up, etc. if it meets with their approval.
2008/01/23 - a new recruit
Well, we're back in business with the Tan TTB. A wonderful member of the hacker community, xor, sent me a new 500 gig drive and I picked up a new enclosure just the other day. Sadly, nowadays it seems harder to find the "Mini Portable Disk" style enclosures that the project uses. The one I found was from a site that sells discontinued items... and it only supports USB2, not FireWire. Ah well, I'll take what I can get for now. The drives are both hooked up at the Home Base now, getting updated archives of films, shows, etc.
2008/01/15 - TTB casualty
Groan. One of the TTB cases made its way back to Home Base finally today only to arrive missing an entire drive. Those involved in the project are very upset about this. Steps are being taken to replace the equipment as soon as possible. I am certain that with a little luck and a little effort we will keep to our schedule of having both the Tan and the Green cases fully updated and ready to go out in the field again by the time everyone arrives at ShmooCon.
2007/09/30 - a proper website goes online
I've spent the couple days of downtime that i had after speaking in Bergen, Norway getting acclimated to Eastern time before traveling home. This has involved a lot of staying up incredibly late and i've used that time to author an actual website for the Traveling Terabyte Project. While we're not hosting it with an actual provider yet, so there's no forums and email is limited... but it's quite an improvement over the bare photos page.
2007/08/24 - TTB #1 arrives in Tajikistan
The OD Green "Entertainment" terabyte was presented to the Marines stationed at the US Embassy in Tajikistan. Up until now, most of them didn't believe that the project was real... they thought it was simply an urban legend. We were very pleased to reveal the truth to them. They were pretty tanked when I gave it to them, but they love it. See its reception in the photos section.
- AST Cell
2007/08/01 - both TTBs arrive in Las Vegas for DefCon 15
Both of the current terabytes have come with me to Las Vegas in order to make an appearance at DefCon, an annual ritual. From there, they will be handed off to friends who are traveling overseas to active duty zones. AST Cell will take the green TTB back to Tajikistan and Valkrie should be connecting with associates in Kuwait.
2007/07/29 - home base created for the project
I've cobbled together some surplus parts and some additional hard drives in order to create a proper home base for the Traveling Terabytes. With 2TB of data storage, i'm able to maintain a local home archive of the content that is being borrowed by friends and family overseas. New donations can be added, low-ranked items can be deleted, and a this can serve as a master copy used to create additional TTBs should more hardware be donated in the future. See all the details in the photos section.