Towers Of Power – Final project Idea and class 3 assignment

I’m not exactly sure where the two assignments for this week begin and end but the two ideas I’d like to pursure include a project relevant to my thesis work and a contribution to a NYC mesh network.

My thesis project its related to “people counting” based on radio communications. Initially my plan was to use Wifi and Bluetooth but I’m curious if it’s feasible to use GSM as the core technology. What I’m able to do with Wifi is sniff packets and tally unique MAC addresses of the various wifi clients and devices sending probe requests. This number is ok in terms of counting people but theres a lot of problems with people having multiple Wifi devices in certain areas and people disabling wifi connections on their phones. GSM seems like a great solution to this problem since most people (in highly connected economies) carry only one GSM device and rarely disable its signal. I’m not sure if this is achievable by just listening to GSM and demodulating (my preferred approch) or if I would need to set up my own BTS and actually have devices connect to it. Ideally this set up can be small enough to “wear” and it would count/estimate the population surrounding it’s user. There are a lot of potential applications of this kind of people counting. It could be used by retailers to gauge for traffic in an area, by city planners to understand where people experience the most crowding, or by organizers to estimate the size of an event without relying on 3rd party data or labor intensive hand counting.

A separate project, that would probably utilize a lot of the same research, would be some kind of contribution to the NYC mesh network. It seems pretty easy to join their network at a low cost and they have a bunch of volunteer opportunities to help install and maintain infrastructure. I was thinking that it could be cool to set up a node and maybe build a short range GSM system on top of their internet connection. I don’t know how realistic this is but I like the idea of contributing to a network that may help subvert telecom monopolies and improve local communication during emergencies.


NYCmesh Nodes

Readymades – Sound Project Concept

Over the past couple of years I’ve been trying to keep an old Apple Laptop alive by doing things like replacing hard drives, upgrading ram and clearing out dust. However, it finally stopped working in a final way in September. I’ve since bought a new laptop thats better in almost every way but it feels kind of empty. I had my old computer through college and for the start of ITP so there was tons of weird crap on it; my home folder was filled with torrent files, uninstallers, one off episodes of tv shows, games, papers I had written, versions and and more versions of resumes. It was like a playroom with toys scattered all over it.

My goal for this Readymades assignment is to give my computer this kind of appearance/personality with sound. My plan is to collect a bunch of system sounds, tv clips, and sound effects from games I’ve played and play them through the dead computers speakers if I can. I’m thinking about joining it with a few other dead computers that have accumulated at my parents house and doing the same. These sounds will be triggered via various means; Initially I want to work with accelerometers so that if the computer is moved or interacted with it begins spewing out these seemingly instinctual sounds it remembers from it’s past life. On the other laptops may make simple sounds when they detect movement via a PIR sensor. Ideally this will appear as a pile of zombie computers each with their own characteristics but all abandoned and not useful, made for you but no longer able to fulfill its purpose.


I’d like to to look like a cross between these two images ^


I also started working with Max MSP and strung together some sounds from a video game I spend a lot of time playing (Railroad Tycoon 3). 

Right now I’m thinking the sensors will be mapped to increase the computers level of “excitement” which will accordingly play more sounds it “remembers” and maybe at a faster tempo. Overtime this excitement level will cool down and the computers will become quiet again. I think the metronome will be useful in controlling when the different sounds fire so that they don’t all just overlap into unintelligible random sound. I picture the user picking up or sifting through the laptops and noticing that one or more of them seems to respond to stimuli. If the computer with the accelerometer is picked up for instance it might get really excited and start making all sorts of fast and crazy noises, but when its put down the speed and number of sounds its making fades until it goes quiet again.

More coming soon.

Towers Of Power – OpenVPN

Setting up openVPN took a few hours of flipping back and forth between the documentation for openVPN, our Towers of power git hub and the virtual machine. Not to mention the obligatory google searches. I tried to do as much in the terminal as possible; using the nano editor to create the conf files and navigating the file paths. Ultimately I think I have a decent understanding of what I  did. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to generate my own CA and client keys which in retrospect may not have been necessary. One difference I had from the instructions was that I ended up having to use the sudo command a lot. I’m not sure if this means I was working in some sort of protected directory or if that was something we were intended to figure out. Either way I’m glad I seemingly got this up and running in the end. I understand how this is relevant for secure connections to to devices like a BSC but I’m still a little fuzzy on why this would be necessary exactly (I know it has to do with public vs private IPs but that concept hasn’t totally clicked yet.)

-Built to last reading-

These chapters of built to last really drove home the benefit of having guiding principles or core ideologies behind a company (or any institution). However my concern with this idea is that, as far as I understand it, it is in some conflict with the way the American corporate finance and legal system work. While a founder or CEO may appreciate the need and usefulness of core principles and favoring other ideal over profit most of our large companies are publicly traded and are majority owned by a series of atomized investors who rely on these profits exclusively. Ford may be a stable long term business but how much can that matter to a person who’s close to retirement and who holds an investment in the company through a byzantine structure of special retirement amounts, mutual funds and stock brokers. It seems like our system of investment is arranged to create un-visionary companies focused on short term profits. With this in mind It makes sense to me why many of the behemoths of Silicon Valley have adopted corporate structures that insulate founders & CEOs from their investors. This seems like a smart move to preserve the power of core principles (or at least core decision makers). But I wonder if this has its own, unaccounted costs. These chapters really made me think about what a financial system that incentivizes goal oriented organizations rather than profit hungry companies would look like.


(I have some screenshots of the terminal but I’m gonna hold of on posting them until I’m sure they don’t contain sensitive information about my computer) :/

RWET – Terminal Assignment

This week for Reading and Writing electronic set we were asked to do something creative with command line text manipulation. As a source material I started working with two thesis papers I wrote in college. One was for a Transportation Geography class that dealt with the impact of mobile phones on transit preferences and the other was for a class on Public Finance where I had written about GPS (GNSS) systems and the economic structure behind them. I’ve done a lot of work related to transportation and to a certain extend behavioral economics while at ITP so I thought going back and working with these half remembered papers would be interesting.

First I converted the files from their “.Docx” format to “.txt” to use with terminal. This worked but resulted in really long lines. Apparently in this instance the lines were broken where there had been paragraph breaks. I used the cut command to try and break up these lines into words or even sentences but had a hard time with that. Eventually I used Fold to force the paragraphs into lines 80 units long. Fold had broken the paragraphs at odd points so there were fractions of words at the beginning and end of each line. I kept playing around with the cut command and figured out that I could take the second word off of each line and come up with a list of full words that were pseudo randomly selected from each paper. I though comparing a random selection of words from each paper could be interesting to see how they differ. I guess I was curious if the topic or my writing style would stand out under this comparison. I took both lists, sorted them and pasted the two columns next to each other in a separate file. Alone this wasn’t very interesting but when I ran different grep searches for words it would sometimes yield some interesting stuff.

Grep eco

become about

become about

becomes achieve

ecosystem as

for become

incentive economic

second not

socio-economic of

was second


Grep tech

technology. of

whose technology

willing technology

with technology

with technology

world technology


I thought this was an OK application of terminal but I felt like I could have gotten more out of this if I hadn’t spent so much time struggling with the weird line lengths. I would have preferred being able to pair words from both texts in a more complete and contextual way. However I was happy that I figured out how to compress most of this process into a couple lines in terminal. Mostly it was:

fold <CapstoneEcon.txt | cut -d ‘ ‘ -f 2 | sort >AlpListwordsEcon.txt

fold <geogcap.txt | cut -d ‘ ‘ -f 2 | sort >GeogFoldSort.txt

paste AlpListwordsEcon.txt GeogFoldSort.txt >CombinedEconGeog.txt