Morale: The Traveling TeraByte Project


August 17, 2006: Computer hackers, attending the recent Defcon computer security conference, came up with an idea for improving troops morale in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. It's all about a suitcase. One of the software engineers had a terabyte size suitcase (two 500 gigabyte hard drives in a hardened "Pelican" suitcase) that he had used on a job, but that he no longer needed. So he went around and collected nearly a terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of video, music and text files, and mailed the suitcase off to a contractor buddy at an Iraq military base, with instructions to take what he wanted off the suitcase, and pass on to other soldiers and civilian (although often former military) geeks over there. Many of the Defcon crowd had run across soldiers online, because the troops who maintain networks with combat units, visit the technical message boards looking for answers to security problems they have. On those boards, the users often chat about other things, and the troops have mentioned the bombs, gunfire, and lack of access to large technical and entertainment files. There is limited bandwidth in the combat zone.

The Defcon volunteers called this their effort; the "Traveling TeraByte Project" (TTB). The Pelican case contains all needed USB and fire wire cables, as well as a power supply. All a soldier has to do is plug in the TTB, attach the right cable (USB or firewire) to their laptop, and copy whatever strikes their fancy. The Pelican case also contains a notepad, for users to write down any useful stuff for subsequent recipients of the TTB. Users are asked to add their own files to the TTB, and, as a result, the TTB is expected to acquire lots of combat zone vids made by the troops.

Something like the TTB is a big morale boost, because, while the troops overseas have Internet access, they usually don't have broadband. And if they do have broadband, it's reserved for Internet phone calls (VOIP) and video conferences. File transfers are discouraged, if not outright forbidden, in most locations. Troops are always asking the folks back home for CDs and DVDs of video and music files. The TTB is meant to be something-for-everyone, a goody bag for the troops (over a quarter of them), who bring their laptops with them to the combat zone.

The TTB crew are planning on getting additional suitcases into circulation as well.


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