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(en) European PGA* Conference Newspaper - conntents - Dijon, Digital Struggles Theme

Date Wed, 11 Oct 2006 08:30:55 +0200


RFID Background text: Author: nadir.org
RFID: identification technology for single objects and how-to build
means of protection against it
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is being massively rolled out
with big money involved. All the big players in the IT market are
involved, e.g. Thales, Siemens, IBM. The biggest customers so far
are the U.S. Army, Nation States (with their e-pass), Logistics,
Clothing (Levy's) and Retail (e.g. Wal Mart and Metro). Public
Transport Systems are more and more into it, e.g. in London (Oyster
Card) and Delhi (Thales).

What is it?

RFID systems are minimally build up with a reader and tags that are
read. Most often, some middleware or database is hooked onto the
reader, or at least some networking connection to some database.

The Tag consists of a chip with an antenna. The chip contains an
unique number in its minimal version, often it has some rewritable
memory and even cryptograpic capacities. Tags come in two version:
passive and active. Passive tags get their energy from the reader,
while active ones have their own power supply per battery.

The Reader is emmitting an electromagnetic field, that "wakes up"
the tag. The tags responds by sending its unique number plus
possibly more data. The data transmission range varies a lot,
depending on a lot of parameters, between a few millimeters and
hundreds of meters with active tags. Different Frequencies are used
for different applications. 13.56 Mhz is very common with passive
tags, 2.4 Ghz with active ones. The relation of reader and tag is
master and slave.

What is bad about it?

It is used for identification purposes in any imaginable field. RFID
includes basically two upgrades for identication technologies: in
difference to the common bar code, that you find on any good, it is
not only a serial number, but also a unique number that is on the
tag. This means that any single object is identifyable: to trace its
history, its usage... Second, data transmission is not feasible or to
recognise by any human sense: via waves, there is nothing to see
(opposed to the optical transmission with barcodes), and radio waves
can pass through walls. Readers may be hidden anywhere, reading
out passing tags, without notice. The tags can also easily be hidden,
e.g. in the sole of shoes. Some tags are textile tags: mashine
washable and woven into the fabric. Others are just as small as a
sandgrain, made for banknotes and documents. What makes RFID
so spooky: it is a machine to machine communication, that operates
without the knowledge of those you carry tags.

What can I do against it?

Tags that are covered with aluminium foil (or any other metal) are
not readable. The metal stops the waves. To put some foil in your
electronic passport makes it impossible to read out the data without
your knowledge as the foil has to be removed.

Tags are easily destroyed: once you notice some strange tag
somewhere, you can put it into a microwave. But be careful: it burns
faster than you think.

Best way we know so far: The RFID Zapper - a reengineered snap
shot camera. Using the capacitor of its flash, a huge amount of enery
is being emitted into the environment in a very short moment,
silencing the tag forever. It is smart, as it leaves no traces of
destruction. It is low-cost: all in all maximum 7 Euros. It takes
around 3 hours to build, depending on the cameramodel. It may be
build by anyone. Little soldering is needed, don't worry: this can be
done by anyone.

Documentation and How-To of RFID-Zapper:
23b.nadir.org/rfidzapper English translations soon to come! Please
send us photos, drawings, translations into french, spanish etc,
scripts and any experiences concerning the RFID Zapper:
rfid@nadir.org

Credits for the Zapper go to three young it students from Berlin, who
invented it, but whose names we don't know and would not publish
anyway.

URLs concerning RFID: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFID
http://www.rfidvirus.org/index.html http://www.spychips.com/
http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/cat_rfid.php
http://www.nearfield.org

How to build your own RFID Zapper.

Material

Parts you will need: - single use camera (for example "Fuji
Quicksnap") - 1 meter of painted (or insulated) copper wire - button
(to replace the trigger)

Tools you will need: - a soldering iron - solder - wire cutters - a
small knife

And here is the recipe...

1. Unpack the camera and open it. Be careful with the paper cover.
Try to avoid breaking it so it can be put back on afterward.

2. Remove the battery and the film. If you are careful enough you
might still be able to use the film.

3. Remove the optical parts of the camera including the "view
finder". Then remove the inner contents of the camera, leaving the
back plate in order to have a flat surface. Try to keep the electronic
part with the capacitor and the flash undamaged.

4. Unload the capacitor (otherwise you might be hurt by an electric
shock afterward)

5. Cut or break a hole where the old trigger used to be.

6. Cut a broad slit from the inner wall of the space for the film to the
middle part of the camera.

7. Cut a short piece of the copper wire that will lead from the trigger
to the capacitor.

8. Form a coil out of the copper wire by winding it around an
(imaginary) credit card (approx. 5 x 8.5 cm). Leave a few
centimeters untouched at both ends.

9. Insert the coil into the camera so it rests upon the rear wall.

10. Remove the insulation from all four wire ends by scratching it off
or burning it with a lighter.

11. Solder one end of the coil to the capacitor and the other end to
the button. With the short wire, connect the other side of the button
to the other side of the capacitor.

12. Put the battery back into place and test if the electric circuit
works. (for a Fuji camera: turn on the "flash" by pulling out the
plastic switch on the front. You should hear a high sound or have
some optical feedback depending on the camera you use.) Wait a
little and pull the trigger. If you can hear the capacitor being reloaded
afterward it was unloaded and the electric circuit is okay.

13. To seriously test it you can come to the medialab in Berlin or
some other space where you can try it upon RFID chips..

14. Depending on your personal taste and needs you can put the
camera together again and beautify it.

15. You are done. Have fun.

more information: https://23b.nadir.org/rfidzapper

New digital tools for activists

by anonymous

The world is changing, our struggle is changing, and we need to
evolve along with it. Indymedia made waves in 1999 and allowed
new levels of international (and local) collaboration. What are the
new tools that could help us in the present struggles?

Here in Dijon, we discussed some ideas as street protesters and
activist techies came together. Of course technology can never solve
all our problems, but sometimes we can use it to organize more
effectively. (Imagine putting together this conference without email
and websites.) The tools mentioned below are still being designed,
so please get in touch with any input, since we want them to reflect
real needs of activists, not just be "cool" tech projects.

One idea that came out of the Autonomus Spaces meetings was
overhauling squat.net to actually make it a useful tool for squatters
again. A number of ideas were proposed for ways this website could
help the squatter's movement.

One project was to compile a set of guides on the legal information
on squatting and repression in every European country. They would
discuss the current laws, as well as possibly some tactics people use
to deal with courts. These would be very helpful for legal defenses of
our spaces. If you know of a guide for your country or would like to
help write one, please contact legal@squat.net . There were a
number of other ideas on how to link together various squats in a
network that would enable more solidarity. These include creating a
directory of Autonomous Spaces, allowing spaces to post alerts like a
pending evicition where they need support, and hosting an intersquat
newsletter of sorts to exchange ideas and techniques. There was also
an idea that squats could post resources that they need or can share,
so squats can find home for the pile of onions in the living room, and
borrow a sound system for the big demo (or concert) they're
planning. Finally, people mentioned the idea of long-term squat
exchanges, where a collective member who has some useful skills
(like carpentry, pirate radio, etc.) moves to another squat for a
number of months to share skills and also to learn from the people at
his or her new home.

All of these techniques could help squats connect with one another
and support each other's projects. But the website won't do anything
by itself, it needs people to use it and make it useful. If you want to
add a space you're involved with to the network, please visit
http://squat.pga.taz/, while you're at the tanneries. If you are
interested in helping design the website, please contact Maxigas (
maxigas@anargeek.net ) or Dark Veggy ( darkveggy@pimienta.org
).

The other project that was presented comes from the riseup
collective, and spawned some discussion among activists at the
meeting. It is codenamed CrabGrass
(http://stamp.poivron.org/MeetingNotes/CrabGrass) and is designed
to facilitate communication in groups of activists, especially when
the members live in different cities (or countries). It consists of a
number of online meeting tools, with support for a number of
techniques we use in meetings, like straw polls, consensus, smaller
discussion sessions, etc. It also has a number of tools to help
organize minutes and task lists.

While this could be useful in local organizations, the most exciting
possibility is allowing large, distributed networks to coordinate
effectively (and democratically) without large, central gatherings.
From Global Days of Action and the Chain Refl-Action idea, to an
international tech collective, to a virtual flash mob, this tool could
allow us to easily experiment with new forms of actions. It is also
being designed to allow for secure online communication, so we can
actually discuss actions online without tipping off the cops. The
collective is beginning to code it and a basic version should be ready
for initial testing in early 2007.

View of Digital Sruggle meeting:

The meeting was very rich, lot's of exchange of knowledge and
expériences and also concrete projets. There were people from
lot's of countries.

Humains problems also happens, kind of tipical problems of this
scene, and what we can focus is that words exchange in workshops
of different size and with people from others topics, helped to being
aware of those problems. A reflexion is in progress to finds solutions

Indymedia is dead

In the Digital Struggles discussions of the conference we had a
chance to evaluate the status of the Indymedia project from a
broader historical perspective. In the beginning Indymedia managed
to bring something revolutionary to the alternative media scene with
the technical feature of _open publishing_ and the social feature of a
more _closely-knit global network_ of alternative media producers,
advocators, distributors and techies. In terms of content, it was built
around the concept of carrying news by activists, for activists, about
activists. Basically it managed to overwrite mainstream media for
most activists. With time it became very popular and has evolved
into the strongest _brand name_ in the radical movement. By now it
is a grassroots success story. Indymedia activists are writing its
history. In fact, it is history, it just lives on in an animated state as
projects tend to do in our postmodern/postmortem world.

However, a collaborative weblog was progressive and effective in
1999 but lost its novelty with the rise of the globoshpere and the
invention of tools like tagging, RSS feeds and social networking
services. The focus on repression reports and action news that is
central to the Indymedia vision is still vital for the internal and
external communication of the movement, but became boring to a
lot of readers and media makers. The concept of Indymedia as a
service to the movement also has its downsides. On the one hand,
sometimes the specialisation of Indymedia activists is problematic
when they only show up to document an action and disappear
afterwards in the same way as the journalists of mainstream media.
On the other hand, sometimes the specialisation of Indymedia
activists is problematic when contributors treat them as a service in
the capitalist sense of the word, publishing articles knowing that
there is an editorial team to deal with the moderation of comments
and the correction of typos and the organisation of information.
During great events like anti-G8 summits Indymedia activists are
glad to work together with the organisers, often in dangerous
situations, to cover the event. During the CPE movement in the
Spring in France they were glad to lose sleep and edit the hastily
updated newswire items. However, during normal operation they are
somewhat tired of "cleaning up after people".

All in all, there was some general understanding about Indymedia
not being the progressive and interesting project that it once was.
However, there was a sense of having to sustain the network
because it is still an infrastructure of vital importance for the
movement. Moreover, new directions have been suggested by
various parties. In general, there are two areas to discover. Once, the
next wave that changed the Internet after the advent of blogs has
been social networking software, which makes a lot of sense for
activist. Actually, it makes more sense to activists: they don't just
talk, but they want to organise and act in the real world as well. A
social networking tool that appreciates the fact that activists organise
in collectives and affinity groups could greatly empower the
movement.

Twice, while the end of the twentieth century was about the freedom
of information which Indymedia translated to open publishing and
public website, the beginning of the twenty first century is about
control and cryptography. With the recent wave of server seizures
which went hand-in-hand with crackdowns on squats radical
activists began to appreciate privacy. Collecting the list of
autonomous spaces taught me that there is a great deal of content
which anarchist organisers would like to access but wouldn't like to
publish. In this light an information infrastructure which serves
content only to trusted peers definitely makes sense. Laws are
changing rapidly, especially in Europe, so that providing
cryptographic communication channels is slowly becoming illegal.
Therefore, we need more sophisticated tools to route around the
surveillance techniques of the authorities and the data retention laws
of goverments. At the end, we might even need to resort to dropping
the concept of servers and use peer-to-peer data sharing platforms.

What Indymedia activists can do to escape the zombie state of their
project and once again provide useful and innovative services to the
movement? On the one hand, it is certain that Indymedia should not
be a series of websites, but rather an electronic platform where
people can create whole information structures with websites,
mailing lists and chat channels instead of mere articles. On the other
hand, it has to provide an easy-to-use but exceptionally secure
communication channel, possibly outside of the World Wide Web,
but still inside the Internet. It will not be an alternative media
network any more. It will be a darknet of a new subculture.

So what to do with the Indymedia assets? In the final analysis, the
most valuable part of the project turns out to be the social network
behind it. These people can once again write history by teaching
each other the revolutionary tech tools of the next generation and
acting as arbitrators of the know-how. We can sell the domain
names to fund the next underground inforgent network.

disclaimer: the article is a subjective reflection on the conference and
does not necessarily reflect broader indymedia views.

maxigas@anargeek.net Indymedia.hu

The author is the member of the Horizon Research Institute

maxigas Horizont Kutató Intézet / Horizon Research Institute /
hi.zpok.hu indymedia.hu ak57
---------------------------------

Crossover: Digital Struggles as seen by the participants involved in
other themes

An overview based on 4 interviews and and brief notes of the various
points of views gleaned during the discussion.

"Who? What? What for? Why?"

* H, London - Autonomous Spaces - alternatives to the system
(not neccessarily just strictly activist based )
* F, Montpellier - CPE - squats, collective cafes, infoshops.
* H, Rouen - CPE - various, squats, infoshops, guerilla gardens
and community gardens(for growing food).
* F, Dijon, - Autonomous Spaces - similiar networks, pga,
antifascist, feminist, political ecology.

(editorial note - CPE stands for contract of first employment, a
draconian job scheme for school leavers proposed by the french
government earlier this year, and the focus of many of the protests in
march2006 )

Perceptions of digital struggles, tools and the people involved :

* Everything that is linked to computer use that is free and non
proprietary - using linux rather than windows, mozilla rather than
internet explorer, email service providers such as no-log (respecting
personal privacy, anonimity)
* alternative software: tools (ex: free/opensource software) which
are created in an autonomous, collective manner, to free ourselves
from dependance on big commercial companies and the monoploy
of microsoft
* alternative servers = virtual autonomous spaces
* autonomous computers - energy usage, connectivity,
administrators, systems, users, moderators

Advantages:

* freedom and autonomy from commercial companies.
* freedom and privacy: permits anonimity; financially accessible.
* basic tools to inform ourselves, co-ordinate and organise.
* open access for everyone to communication tools, to reduce the
power of hierarchies.
* fast, interactive, horizontal, integrated.
* weapon for activist anti capitalist struggles and other
movements,tool for creating other alternatives
* facilitating struggles allows a critique of the system, to do
research and inform people about the dysfunctionality of the system,
problem of internet censorship in China
* a method of denouncing and alerting people to serious threats to
digital freedoms and digital struggles( the seizure of the indymedia
server, legislation in France)

Problems :

* lack of training, a need for training: a need for training/education
on open source software in schools and colleges ( there are only
courses offered in proprietary software, and proprietary software is
used everywhere in these institutions)
* problems with specialisation - too esoteric: difficulty
communicating in plain language to share knowledge/information.
* lack of openess: groups need to be more open/ welcoming to
beginners in opensource and also to spread knowledge beyond just
activist circles.
* language problems, discussions are often just in english, (and a
geeky english that is scary!)
* virtual life, risks of isolation, being scattered, dependancy etc etc
,

software tools that we use':

ordi, firefox (internet), no-log (mail), photoshop, the gimp, publisher
(texts), word, but now we're using openoffice and other free software
with Ubuntu (alternative linux operating system), indymedia project
in Montpellier. Ah? there are some texts of 'group discussions' of
"digital struggles"

*

buried in their 'thing' (geek), difficult for others to join in and get
involved/interested
* good feedback from the skillshare workshop,made people want
to know more and participate in opensoftware training in the
autonomous spaces where they live
* would have been good to have someone able to teach the basics
that you need to know: a sense of embarrassment/disempowerment
from not knowing more.
* had met some people from the group DS (digital struggles) who
had helped install Ubuntu.
* found it normal that people got together amongst themselves to
get things done/ take things forward
* understood the desire of those who are passionate about
opensource to work amongst themselves, but that it can be
exclusionary/ a problems for new people. We need also to be careful
that holding all this knowledge doesn't become a power control
problem
* hopes that the geek community can become less closed ( male
dominated and 'experts') but they have to take this on board ( be
conscious of this) amongst themselves as well

autonomous spaces and digital struggles crossover

"who are all that people with laptops writing strange things that we
can't understand? They seem to be strange, but i think they are this
people who do the internet connection work in the social centre."

"why do this people who are suposed to be activists keep on using
strange software like "windows"? It seems that they think free
software is too complicated for them."

So it seems to be quite clear for everybody that there is some kind of
gap or separation going on many times between the so called
"techies" and the rest of the activist comunities. Also for those like
me who recently started to use free software (and are really happy
and proud of it) and understood why it is so crappy to have an email
account in yahoo, it is really difficult to understand what is to
administrate a server or how to create those email lists that fill our
mailboxes.

As i said I started recently to be aware of all that work behind any
digital resources that I was actually using, like activist info webpages
or email accounts. So i opened my eyes and started asking questions
as I always do. I realized that many of the people who was actually
working on that resorces felt too much as "service providers" for a
community they belong to. And that was not nice for them. I also
realized that most of the time communication about these issues was
difficult because I was not able to understand everything I was told,
and many times my partners were not able to speak using a "normal"
language. That made me think that any kind of encounter between
these two worlds would be really useful. I think this crossover
meeting we made in the PGA conference between the "digital
struggles" group and the "defense of autonomous spaces" group was
kind of useful. At least for me.

I could do a summary of the things that were said in the meeting,
but this can be found here [1]. So I felt free to just make my own
conclusions as i prefer to write some personal article rather than a
report. So, please take it as it is, some personal opinions helped by
the way i understood peoples reflections on that very issue.

For shure one of my conclusions should be that there are many
different levels of specialization going on in this issue. To set an
example, let's say that i would be a complete beginner for the group
of people involved in digital struggles, but when i come back to my
town i'm the only one who knows a little bit about free software, for
exemple. Of course if i could get some technical skills about free
software and other stuff around it, everyone can. Of course i would
need years of work to learn how to administrate a server, and i'm not
really ready for that. I still spend most of my time with human
beings, and maybe I prefer to learn other things related to
technology. But, c'mon, i believe that i have to learn a little bit about
anything that i use, from my computer to a train, from a guitar to a
piece of bread. I think that if i am intelligent enough to eat, i'm also
intelligent to understand how my stomach works.

Anyway, there was something really interesting that was said in the
meeting, about the importance of making people understand what's
behind autonomous uses of technology. I guess that if i learned
something in those last times, it was probably because i had some
great people to learn from, but also because i understood the
importance of this issues.

In the other hand it seems to me (since i have my eyes opened to
that) that maybe we don't realize so much the work that is being
done by some people about administrating servers, updating pages,
creating and moderating email lists... As somebody said in the
meeting, this happens usually with many many works that are not
visible for most of the people involved in activism, like cooking in a
gathering, or cleaning a social centre, or taking care of your
"comrades" (sorry for this bit of communism, i don't know where it
came from) and how they feel in their very hearts. And of course this
is related to gender most of the times (and also to other "factors").
And HAS TO BE spoken as something political, to be assumed by
anyone in our communities. So the problem seems to be more
complicated than "geeks/non geeks". So, as far as i understood, the
keys can be to think about technical issues as something political
and try to solve them as such, with all the complications this implies.
And of course, to make personal and collective efforts in "both sides"
in order to come closer and empathize.

So, yes, i think that crossover is a great word, that refers not only to
hardcore bands playing a little bit of metal.

[1]http://stamp.poivron.org/DigitalStrugglesAndAutonomousSpacesCrossover

norman
==========================
* PGA is an antiauthoritarian anticapitalist direct action network
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