The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'gps'
The street finds its own uses for things yet again: a hacktivist group calling itself the Electronic Disturbance Theater has hacked a cheap GPS-enabled mobile phone into a device for helping Mexican immigrants across the US border:
We looked at the Motorola i455 cell phone, which is under $30, available even cheaper on eBay, and includes a free GPS applet. We were able to crack it and create a simple compasslike navigation system. We were also able to add other information, like where to find water left by the Border Angels, where to find Quaker help centers that will wrap your feet, how far you are from the highway—things to make the application really benefit individuals who are crossing the border.
We’re at the end of the alpha stage, in terms of the technology, so the next level, which will be the most difficult, is interfacing with communities south of the border: NGOs, churches, and other communities that deal with people preparing to cross the border. How can we train them to use this? What is the proper methodology? Those are really going to be the most nuanced and difficult elements with, let’s call it, the sociological aspect of the project.Of course, once the militias capture one of these (and presumably they'll start searching captured immigrants for them), they will know where the water is stashed. I wonder whether the Electronic Disturbance Theater has put in any sort of self-destruct mechanism.
(via Boing Boing)
Hot on the heels of the TrollTech Greenphone, a company named FIC is releasing an open-source, Linux-based mobile phone. The OpenMoko won't have WiFi (as the GreenPhone will), but it will have a GPS receiver built in, as well as Bluetooth, USB, a MicroSD slot and a multi-touch touchscreen capable of understanding two-fingered dragging gestures. More importantly, it's not so much a mobile phone (which is to say, a locked-down proprietary appliance) as an openly hackable general-purpose computer with a GSM module and GPS receiver attached. (The radio components are, for regulatory reasons, closed modules; everything else, though, is fair game.) And apparently it will have a Debian-style package management system built in which can download new (or updated) software components on demand. And, also unlike the Greenphone, it will be released to the mass market (they say in January, which could mean sometime in the first half of 2007).
Impressive hack of the day: turning a Nintendo DS into a GPS-enabled map viewer, using a GPS unit wired to its serial port and a CompactFlash card full of map tile images purloined from Google Maps.
The use of downloaded Google Maps tiles is interesting; I wonder how long until someone writes a map viewer for PalmOS which uses these, effectively cutting into the market share of programs like Tube (which have limited coverage, and often annoying qualities such as being unable to scroll between map tiles; a pain when you're looking for somewhere just off the map, or in the intersection between two tiles). Then again, Google may be able and/or obliged to use the DMCA against any software which attempts to use its map tiles in this fashion (though I am not a lawyer).
The EU is planning to launch its own navigation satellite system to rival the US military-controlled GPS network. The CESMs fear that the US' track record for throwing its weight around would extend to tactically distorting GPS results to punish trade rivals or such; some would argue that given that GPS is a US military facility, one which has only been opened to civilian access out of the goodness of their hearts (much like the original Internet), they have every right to use it; though, by the same logic, the Europeans (and the Chinese and Russians and whoever) have the right to launch their own networks. The Pentagon claims that this is a dreadful waste of resources given that they have GPS, though reserves the right to manipulate GPS accuracy for tactical reasons.
The ideal would be a unified global network controlled by a non-partisan body (the UN perhaps, or a multinational infrastructure cartel like the ones that lay submarine cables). Maybe in 50 years we'll reach that level.
Of course, this is all assuming that Galileo, the ESA's GPS alternative, gets off the ground. After the Iraq debacle, Britain is unlikely to support it for one (the Blair administration has been outspoken in condemning multipolarism, and given that Washington is unhappy with potential challenges to its supremacy, London probably won't hurry to pay its share of the Galileo bills, and may even attempt to scrap it); meanwhile, the system is mired in the usual Eurobureaucracy, with international squabbling over funding halting work. And if they wish to go ahead, they'd better hurry; the frequencies allocated to Galileo by the ITU will be forfeited if a satellite isn't launched by 2005.