Recent Posts by Lucien Langton

My Data Controllers (evolution, models)

Note: “My Data Controllers” (working title) is part of a home cloud kit, which was described in a previous post and that will be composed by four various artifacts, both physical and digital.

The kit will be distributed freely at the end of the project.

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Continuing our design process, we milled the first prototypes of the five connected objects, which consist in tangible versions of the five main folders present in our alternative version of Owncloud (“A Personal Cloud”, working title as well).

As explained in this post, each object is based on the same elementary brick which brings and manages a natural interaction between the connected object, the personal cloud and its contained data, files and folders –therefore becoming a controller–. This elementary brick holds the Raspberry Pi, sensors and hardware necessary to physically interact with Owncloud. This interaction will be slow and discrete.

Furthermore than the identified objectives through the ethnographic field study and design sketches we’ve lead along the research, our approach to these networked objects was fueled by complementary meaningful references. The first one (image below) consisting in a different approach to the behavior users adopt in their interaction with the “technological home”, Shaker furniture:

 

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I&IC Workshop #5 with random International at ECAL: work in progress

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Our workshop with Dev Joshi from rAndom International is going on well during the week, with different ideas cast into the direction of digital shadows, traces and footprints.

The students are encouraged to produce objects, although it has been suggested that they take advantage of space as well (installations), as the workshop takes place in a large studio (cinema studio at ECAL).

I&IC Workshop #5 at ECAL, tips: RaspberryPi’s and the GrovePi+

By Monday, November 16, 2015 Tags: ECAL, Hardware, Tools Permalink 0

If you are not familiar with the Raspberry Pi and remote access, a previous post was written here and here.

 

School’s specials:

Your RaspberryPi is preconfigured with an updated version of wheezy (2015.03.20_Dexter_Industries_wheezy.img) specifically designed to work with the GrovePi+.

If during the week you need to re-run updates just type in the following:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Note also that you can access a few tutorials and “how to’s” on the same Dexter Industries website. “Get Started with the Grove Pi” and “Example Projects” have been already linked on our resources section out here.

However beware, the school network might not let you do this, you might have to choose another network for that (like your phone’s).

 

The easiest way to access your Pi is via VNC with an Ethernet connection. First you need to install VNC viewer for your mac. During the installation process just check install viewer, no need to install server.

Once done and your Raspberry booted, you should be able to VNC into it through Ethernet connection:
169.254.0.2:5901

Note that :5901 indicates to connect to shared-screen number 1, if you configure other screens the number 2 would be :5902, and so on.

Once connected, to configure wifi go to wpa_gui on your desktop and configure the wifi network details (with your wifi-dongle plugged in ;).

Your RaspberryPi was configured for remote access, to ssh it via Ethernet (if it doesn’t work, unplug your wifi  dongle and plug it back in once done):
ssh pi@169.254.0.2

 

Once connected you can check if you have an active connection:
ping www.google.com

If you don’t, you can check if you Raspberry Pi is at least scanning the right networks:
sudo wpa_cli scan && sleep 5 && wpa_cli scan_results

For more wifi troubleshooting follow this guide

 

To set screens, or kill them via the command line there are these commands:

sudo tightvncserver :1
sudo tightvncserver -kill :1

If for some reason you need to change the static IP set for ethernet connection, you can edit it via a simple card reader by editing the IP set in cmdline.txt situated in the root folder of your card. (if it doesn’t work, check if your computer has a dynamically allocated IP for ethernet connection, in this case we’ll check it out together)

As the week goes on I’ll update this post with new ressources. Enjoy!

Decentralization tools – links

By Thursday, April 2, 2015 Tags: 0000, Links, Tools Permalink 0

A brief post on additional open-source services, software, hardware, community and art projects we stumbled upon during our ongoing research:

 

Commodify.us (service) enables users to retrieve their Facebook data, anonymize it and sell it back for market value. We’re not sure it’s legit (there’s a security warning while loading the site). It however seems to be the same people behind another service of the sort: GiveMeMyData.com

Freifunk.net (community) is a community-powered free wireless network originating from Germany.

Guifi.net (community) is an open, free and neutral telecommunication network built piece by piece (by literally deploying cables and antennas) by the community. The project originates from Spain.

Superglue.it (service, community) is a free tool to build and host your website at home. The project seems ambitious as it combines self-hosting hardware standards with a custom-made WYSIWYG webpage builder and a template repository fed by users (all webpages built become open-source templates).

FluidNexus.net (software) is a mobile messaging app for Windows and Android. It uses Bluetooth and the movement of crowds to spread data and suppresses the need for operators, a bit like the Firechat app. It however seems that the project has been abandoned in 2009.

Uncloud (software) is an application that enables anyone with a laptop to create an open wireless network and share information. Users can connect wirelessly while remaining disconnected from the internet.

GoTenna (hardware) is a product enabling users to text and share their location even when there is no telecom tower or satellite coverage.

AirChat (software, hardware) is a free, secure and open-source telecommunication network built by LulzLabs working a laptop and a hacked radio.

Alternet.cc (speculative design) is a free and secure communications network hypothetically built and maintained by the community.

Project Maelstrom Last but not least, Project Maelstrom is BitTorrent latest proposition to decentralize web hosting through the BitTorrent protocol – We cannot help to ask ourselves: Is it still decentralization if it’s owned by a company?

Project Fi While we’re in the corporate sphere: Google is apparently aiming to take over the front-end costumor away from telecom companies. Perhaps decentralization is becoming just another marketing argument for companies who actually want centralize (read: capitalize on) your data.

We will continue to add links as our research goes forward. In the meanwhile, you can find all the links mentioned in the research project on Delicious under the tag “i&ic_designresearch” (note: also mentioned in this previous post, “Public Survey on Delicious“, within the Resources category on this blog).

 

For additional and updated resources, a Github is maintained that lists tools:

https://github.com/redecentralize/alternative-internet

http://redecentralize.org/

Heating homes with Clouds – links

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Using excess heat generated by data centers to warm homes isn’t a new idea. Earlier in our research we stumbled upon Qarnot, a french company proposing to decentralize the data center into meshed radiators to distribute computing resources across people’s homes (we’re guessing they took their name from Carnot’s Limit ;). They announced a partnership with the city of Paris to heat 350 low-income housings in 2013.

However, they are not the only rats in the race…

I&IC Workshop #4 with ALICE at EPFL-ECAL Lab: output > Distributed Data Territories

Note: the post I&IC Workshop #4 with ALICE at EPFL-ECAL Lab, brief: “Inhabiting the Cloud(s)” presents the objectives and brief for this workshop.

 

The week of workshop with ALICE finished with very interesting results and we took the opportunity to “beam” the students presentation to LIFT15, where Patrick Keller and Nicolas Nova were presenting the research project at the same time. The EPFL architecture laboratory already published a post about the workshop on their blog. The final proposals of the intense week of work were centered around the question of territoriality, and how to spread and distribute cloud/fog infrastructures. You can check out the original brief here and a previous post documenting the work in progress there.

 

Data territories – a workshop at EPFL-ECAL Lab with ALICE from iiclouds.org design research on Vimeo.

 

 

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The students Anne-Charlotte Astrup, Francesco Battaini, Tanguy Dyer and Delphine Passaquay presenting their final proposal on friday (06. 02) in the workshop room of the EPFL-ECAL Lab.

 

Visibility?

Proposing to make these infrastructures visible raised a flood of questions concerning their social and architectural status. Similarly, it questions several fields about the presence of private data in the public space. How do we represent the data center as a public utility? What types of narratives/usage scenarios emerge from such a proposition? By focusing on different but correlated territorial scales, participants were able to produce scenarios for each case.

 

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The overall Inhabiting the Cloud(s) research sketches on the wall.

 

Swiss territoriality and scale(s)?

The three distinct territorial scales chosen were the following: the national/regional scale, the village/town or city, and the personal/common habitat scale. The proposals were established on the basis of an analysis of the locality where the workshop was held: the small city of Renens and its proximities. The research process focused on preexisting infrastructures which responded to several criteria necessary to implement server rack structures: access to regular and alternative power sources, access to cooling sources (water and air), preexisting cabled networks and/or main and stable access routes (in the mindset that the telegraph/telephone lines were setup along the train lines), and finally seismic stability as well as a certain security from other natural disasters.

Doing so, it also speculates about the fact that data centers could (should?) partly become public utilities.

 

Water, water mills?

The first proposition was to rehabilitate old water mills along existing rivers on the countryside leading to cities and villages in the role of “data sorting centers” or “data stream buffers” facilities. As there is no cabling this proposition may seem odd, however especially concerning Switzerland’s topography, the idea is interesting as it investigates several culturally rich aspects, not to mention the abundance of water. The analogy between water streams and network flows seems obvious, but water is also a necessary cooling source for data infrastructures. It could also be considered as a potential energy source. One could even go further and speculate on the potential interactions between the building and wildlife, as in the image used to cover this article published by Icon magazine just a few days ago.

 

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Water Mills, water cooling scenarios and their local position on the map (around the city of Renens).

 

Disused post offices?

On the scale of the city, the preexisting infrastructure chosen was the Post Office. Postal services are still functioning, but the buildings are deserted of much of their social interaction with the public since the coming of age of internet access. The buildings are also identically structured on a national scale, which could facilitate implementation. They are strategically positioned and already well equipped with network standards. Moreover, it could revive the social role of the village square, or redefine the city as a radial organization around data (versus spirituality). Amongst the implementations discussed were the ability to use the excess heat to create a micro-climate over the square and the possibility of redefining the public space inside the post office as a Hackerspace and Makers Lab, a bit in the same way libraries function.

 

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The “front” and “back ends” of most villages’ disused post offices offer quite interesting and appropriate spatial organization, if not metaphors.

 

Neighborhoods’ nuclear shelters (from the cold war period)?

On the scale of the office or housing building, the nuclear shelter was immediately proposed. In Switzerland, every home is to have a nuclear bomb shelter. This situation is unique in the world, and most obviously, better serves local metal groups and wine cellar enthusiasts then security. Nevertheless, however awkward this may seem, these shelters are almost a blueprint for a personal data center. Every one of them is equipped with high-end air filtering systems, generators for use in case of power outings, and solidity and stability standards set to resist a nuclear attack. This couldn’t become a model for the other countries though…

 

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The building would therefore embed the capacity to develop it’s own thermal ecosystem alongside the usage of private, communal and public dataspaces.

 

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This last proposition is finally interesting as it would redefine the organization of the habitat as a radial one, a bit like the students-researchers suggested earlier above for the city. The building could therefore become a transition space in itself between public space, community space and private space. Different directions were also explored with a particular interest on the vernacular “chalet” as a possible candidate for an alpine “meshed data harvesting facilities” scenario.

For now, we’ll stick to the dream that one day, every family in Switzerland will be able to send their kids play in the data center downstairs. But remember: No Ovomaltine on the ethernet hub!

 

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Acknowledgments:

Many thanks to the ALICE team in general and to Prof. Dieter Dietz in particular, Thomas Favre-Bulle for leading the workshop, Caroline Dionne and Rudi Nieveen for organizing it. Thanks to Nicolas Henchoz for hosting us in the EPFL-ECAL Lab, Patrick Keller and Nicolas Nova for their introduction to the stakes of the overall project, Lucien Langton for its hard work, good advices and documentation along the week and last but not least to the students, Anne-Charlotte Astrup, Francesco Battaini, Tanguy Dyer and Delphine Passaquay for their great work and deep thinking proposals.

I&IC Workshop #4 with ALICE at EPFL-ECAL Lab, Work in progress

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Above: an illustration of the third scaled model presented further.

 

As the week unrolls the workshop is starting to produce scenarios. Wednesday (yesterday) we had a quick presentation of the work in progress, which is documented briefly in the current post. Students Delphine Passaquay, Tanguy Dyer, Francesco Battaini & Anne-Charlotte Astrup working on Inhabiting the Cloud(s) as a team developed a global perspective on the subject. Their approach is focusing on four distinct territorial scales in order to question the centralized data center model. While the proposal doesn’t have a name yet, it however clearly speculates about a distributed isotrope network. The student architects focused on the preexisting urban infrastructure in order to establish their proposal.

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