Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Avast! It be Anti-Pirate Technology!

pirate ship and dragon

Maybe we can blame it on the three Disney movies, but pirates are back in full strength– these days off the horn of Africa.

Nick Davis who, for $30,000, will arrange a team of private guards to travel on your boat and scare away pirates. Without any lethal weaponry.

He runs a company called APMSS- Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions (Non-Lethal). I would have thought they would have gone something cooler, like “Avast Ye Lilly Livered Scallywag“. Alas!

While I don’t know what technology APMSS uses specifically, these are the kinds of things that are used against pirates.

  • Long Range Acoustic Device
    This is a crowd-control device that can emit high frequency and high volume sounds that are capable of permanently damaging hearing.
  • Magnetic Audio Device
    This can be used as a modern version of the bullhorn in its simplest capacity- to notify, direct or warn the enemy.
  • Thermal Imagers
    To see in the dark, through smoke and so forth.
  • Night Sun Torches
    Not sure what these are, but they sound like something I’d want.
  • Anti-Boarding Systems
    Things like 9000 vole electrifying fences and alarms that will activate floodlights and a siren on detecting pirates. The shock is supposed to be painful but not fatal.
  • Finally, knives
    On NPR, when confronted with the possibility that a pirate may get on board, Davis admitted that they may resort to knives. And they are trained Marines and former Special Forces types.

And then, there are the lethal variety of technology. Of course, as Davis said, if they fire first, they are the pirates.

Change Watch: A National CTO is not a Fairy Godmother

Everybody seems to have a wishlist for the incoming president. Some organizations have even put together humongous documents with recommendations for the new administration. I’ve been covering some of them here— when they seem interesting and within my areas of interest– but the sheer volume of “what I really want from the new president” is astonishing. Many on the left are already disappointed with Obama, 60 days before his inauguration.

One position that everyone on the Internet seems to have an opinion about is the mythical Chief Technology Officer that Obama had promised the nation. has been formed– not by the campaign- to solicit ideas for a CTO agenda.

Jim Harper makes an excellent point. A CTO can’t undo legislation or executive orders or court orders. Says Harper:

I’ve got some news or you: These are policy proposals that would be beyond the purview of any CTO. Policy proposals go through Congress and the President, advised by his policy staff. They do not go through a CTO.

If the Baltimore Ravens asked the team physician to kick field goals, the results would be about what you’d get from asking a federal CTO to carry out these policies.

Excellent point. The CTO cannot repeal the DMCA or the USA Patriot Act or mandate Net Neutrality. What the CTO can do is shine sunlight (thanks Jim Harper). A CTO can open up federal government data with portable and open data formats. RSS, XML, APIs– ways for people and machines to process, visualize and analyze the governments (our) data.
Obama’s official agenda says the following:

  • Open Up Government to its Citizens: Use cutting-edge technologies to create a new level of transparency, accountability, and participation for America’s citizens.
  • Bring Government into the 21st Century: Use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure the safety of our networks and lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

UPDATE: I’ve added this as a suggestion on the web site- “bring expectations for CTO in check. CTO is not Santa.”

A CTO will not have power over courts, legislation and executive orders. A CTO will have power over how government uses technology- so bring your expectations down to earth, and ask for things like more transparency in Federal government and use of open standards in federal communications, documents, etc.

Vote for it! Use the system to change the system.

Monty Python’s Online Circus


The question for a 70s era comedy group is not so much “how do we squash all these kids pirating our work”. It’s more along the lines of “how do we remain relevant in the modern media culture”.

There are many that choose to go the route of “sue our fans” so that they buy our DVDs, CDs and nifty merchandise. Thankfully, Monty Python are not one of them. They have launched the Monty Python YouTube Channel. With all the clips from their shows and films already freely available on YouTube, they only had two alternatives.

They could either try to sue every video off the Internet, which is a losing battle against your own fans. Or they could choose to become the first result on every search page any time anyone ever searches for their clips– thereby taking control of the path their fans take on the Internet. If the content is going to be out there anyways, why not put it up yourself, at high quality, stay relevant and make a buck by reminding people of who you were (and selling CDs, DVDs and nifty merchandise). Read the rest of this entry »