Archive | October, 2004

Bummer: Indyblogs is down

File this under: don’t miss it until it’s gone. Rabble’s Indyblogs is an aggregator of syndication feeds from bloggers who are associated with Indymedia. Over the six months or so that it’s been around, it’s become one of my favorite websites, giving me great one-stop-shopping for a pile of great blogs written by smart indymedia activists.

Now Indyblogs has been down for a few days due to a hard drive crash at, which hosts the site, and I feel like a junkie needing a fix. Sure, I can visit all of the sites individually, and I’ve got many of them in my aggregator, but it’s just not as convenient. Plus, Indyblogs let’s me see important indymedia news filter across the network, getting processed and elaborated. Last week, when the FBI seized IMC server hard drives, I learned a lot about the story quickly from the bloggers on Indyblogs, several of whom are Indymedia techs with intimate knowlege of IMC’s server infrastructure.

I’m pretty certain many of my fellow Indybloggers also rely on this service, which creates a sort of metaconversation on topics of interest. But because all the Indybloggers are independent thinkers and writers, it doesn’t turn into the echo chamber that characterizes much of the blogosphere.

It’s good to know that blog tools, such as RSS syndication, aren’t just hip-cred for the blog elite, but are actually useful catalysts for communication.

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(i)Pirate Radio — It’s not cool until hipster yuppies are doing it

Back in June the blogosphere was alive with the discovery that a cheapo Part 15 FM transmitter for the iPod could be hacked to broadcast a little further than the typical fifteen or twenty feet. Of course, this wasn’t news to anyone familiar with low-power FM and micropower broadcasting, since these cheap little transmitters have been around for more than 10 years, when the BA1404 transmitter on a chip became available.

Ever since then stories have been circulating around the blogosphere about people running their own “pirate” stations with their pricey iPods and cheapo transmitters. Now ABC News is all over it with a gushing story, leaving aside all the typical mainstream press suscipicion of “illegal” activity or any need to see what the legality might be, or what the FCC might say about mobile broadcasting without a license.

Even though the lead iPirate subject in the story says that he’s playing, “some profanity. Comedy, R-rated comedy, Chris Rock’s early stuff” on his car-based iPod station, the story doesn’t even blink at the suggestion that he’s playing material that multi-million dollar FCC fines are made of. But of course, he can’t be threatening or dangerous, because he’s clearly a law abiding middle class citizen “wading through traffic on the way to his New Canaan, Conn., corporate consulting job,” using his uber-hip $400 techno-yuppie toy.

If you want to quit playing with toys and get serious about broadcasting, for the $300 – $400 it costs to buy an iPod, you can get a much better legal low-power microtransmitter or a real FM transmitter with 1, 10 or more watts and still have some change (like $100 – $300) left over to buy a cheaper, less trendy mp3 player to drive it, or even build a small studio.

But then, that might be truly dangerous to society, since you’d be eschewing a hip toy in order to actually focus on broadcasting, maybe even using equipment that would reach more than “four car-lengths.” It would go from a harmless lark on the morning commute to being real pirate radio, the kind of thing that could get you busted under state law in Florida.

However, when your pirate is a safe middle-class corporate consultant commuter using the ultimate gadget of the moment, it’s just cool, hip and unthreatening. He won’t be agitating for change, or worse, revolution. Just playing some Chris Rock and profanity to piss off the squares on their way to work in the adjacent cubicle.

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Millipower Radio Revolt in Minneapolis

Wired News covers the Radio Re-Volt project at Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center. Right now the Center is conducting workshops where participants build very small transmitters into boxes or other fun objects, like toy trucks or stuffed animals.

Even though Wired mistakenly calls them “single-watt” transmitters, these are pretty much legal low-power transmitters, putting out only a few milliwatts. But with some careful mods and a good antenna you could probably easily exceed Part 15 limits.

Even though their range is only 200 feet to maybe a quarter mile, I think it’s still an exciting idea to just hand out transmitters. I’ve always thought that these legal ultra-low-power transmitters are perfect for broadcasting in densely populated areas, such as large apartment buildings or dormatories.

That’s essentially the approach advocated by “mini-radio” pioneer Tetsuo Kogawa. Kogawa started experimenting with very low power and easy to build homebrew transmitters in the 1980s, believing them to be well suited to Japan’s extremely dense cities. It’s my understanding that low-power FM broadcasting (from milliwatts to a few watts) is largely unregulated in Japan and that there are thousands of such stations are on the air in cities like Tokyo.

As part of the Radio Re-Volt project, the Walker Art Center is holding a conference called RAD: Radio, Access, Democracy at the end of the month. I’ll be going along with John
Anderson of Kogawa will be there, so I hope to meet him and maybe do an interview. In any event, I’ll be filing reports here and on the radio show.

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FBI Seizes Global Indymedia Servers

According to U-C IMC, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, the FBI seized the hard drives from servers hosted by Rackspace which have the websites for several IMCs, including Uruguay, UK and Western Massachussetts. An e-mail from Rackspace says they received no rationale from the FBI, although “the request originated with the Swiss police.”

Apparently the situation started a few days ago,

when they [the FBI] visited Indymedia’s ISP demanding the removal of identifying information from photographs of undercover police officers that was posted on the Nantes Indymedia website. When asked what the US government was doing requesting the removal of information from a French-run website that contained information about Swiss police actions, the FBI stated that this was a “courtesy” to the Swiss government.

It is very likely that Rackspace may be under a gag order, similar to when Seattle IMC was visited by the FBI back in April 2001.

Clearly, this constitutes a violation of press freedom, and, more particularly, an act of intimidation against independent media, which has no incentive and bares no obligation to kow-tow to any goverment.

One of the practical problems the IMC network faces at this very moment is getting the 23 affected websites back up. One of the great strengths of Indymedia has always been its decentralized non-hierarchical organizational structure. Unfortunately, Indymedia’s Internet resources have not been so decentralized, resulting in a strike against one IMC website also knock off 22 others.

At least IMCs are more decentralized than three – four years ago, when the same server hosted nearly all the sites. Urbana-Champaign was one of the first to host its own server — in face when we first inquired about joining on, we were told, great, as long as we didn’t expect any server support. In the end, having our own decentralized tech infrastructure has been more of an advantage.

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Freak Radio Santa Cruz Shut Raided and Shut Down

On Wednesday, Sept, 29, Federal Marshals aiding the Federal
Communications Commission raided and shut down long-standing free radio
station, Freak Radio Santa
. As word of the raid spread around 150 listeners and
supporters came to the station to protest the raid and express

There’s good coverage of the raid in a feature at
Global Indymedia
and at Sa
nta Cruz IMC.

Like San Francisco
Liberation Radio
and Radio Free
, Freak Radio had also received endorsement from their
local city council. In San Francisco the board of supervisor even went
so far as to ask that the city police not aid any federal raid on
Liberation Radio, a request which, unfortunately, the SFPD ignored when
station was shut down in Oct., 2003.

However, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz
police offered no help to the Marhals or FCC agents conducting the raid,
although they did respond when the tires on the feds’ vehicles were

Station volunteers have vowed to go back on the air and have already
restored their webstream, which, according to,
is apparently being rebroadcast in solidarity by
other pirate stations around the country.

The FCC made its last of many unarmed visits to Freak Radio back in May, just after the station moved to its current location. I talked to V-Man and Skidmark Bob on the radioshow in a live dual-simulcast broadcast live on WEFT and Freak Radio. You can listen to that program in mp3 and ogg vorbis.

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