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Censorship Your Rights Online

The Cuban Memory Stick Underground 427

Posted by kdawson
from the digital-samizdat dept.
circletimessquare writes "The NyTimes has an aticle describing how students and others in Cuba have taken to passing around media on memory sticks, as this is the only way they can get around state-controlled media. Also driving this phenomenon is the fact that there are so few places to get on the Internet. In Old Havana there is only one Internet cafe; getting online there for an hour costs 1/3 of the average Cuban's monthly wages. Local entrepreneurs get the memory sticks from European friends, since they are scarce to find in Cuba through normal channels, and expensive."
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The Cuban Memory Stick Underground

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  • by gnick (1211984) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:51PM (#22666894) Homepage
    Not bad bandwidth, but the lag time can be a bitch.
  • I see... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Aegis Runestone (1248876) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:52PM (#22666914) Homepage Journal
    I see that your memory stick is as big as mine.
  • sneakernet (Score:4, Informative)

    by graveyhead (210996) <fletch.fletchtronics@net> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:52PM (#22666928)
    Great example of the sneakernet in action. Quick RIAA, ban shoes! :-)

    This is really smart. Maybe the college kids here in the US could learn a thing or two from this. Why provoke the beast when nobody has to know about your trading?

    (I'm not advocating copyright infringement, just pointing out how silly attacks on internet users are)
    • Re:sneakernet (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:57PM (#22667018) Journal
      Sounds like an opportunity for propagandizing. Take a few thousand cheap USB keys, fill them with american media, put them in a water tight enclosure and drop them off outside cuban waters.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ISurfTooMuch (1010305)
        American media? With the garbage we produce here, this would likely end up backfiring.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Sounds like an opportunity for propagandizing. Take a few thousand cheap USB keys, fill them with american media, put them in a water tight enclosure and drop them off outside cuban waters.
        Actually, toss them in the Windward Passage off the northwest tip of Haiti. Current there tends to loop clockwise around Cuba. Cylindrical containers might be more likely to be urged to the inside of the loop.
      • Re:sneakernet (Score:5, Interesting)

        by powerlord (28156) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:21PM (#22668450) Journal
        Why not just package an offline Wikipedia Reader [209.85.165.104] onto some memory sticks, and let them loose. :)

        (sorry for the cached link, but the original seems to have disappeared)
      • Re:sneakernet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by grcumb (781340) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:55PM (#22668986) Homepage Journal

        Sounds like an opportunity for propagandizing. Take a few thousand cheap USB keys, fill them with american media, put them in a water tight enclosure and drop them off outside cuban waters.

        Or just hand them to a citizen of any other country in the world, who can put them in a suitcase and bring them over on the plane.... 8^)

    • Maybe the college kids here in the US could learn a thing or two from this. Why provoke the beast when nobody has to know about your trading?

      Who says this isn't already widely taking place? Private DC [wikipedia.org] hubs come to mind. Additionally, I can assure you there are many private FTP servers, sitting on fat pipes, maintained and expanded (content-wise) by groups of like-minded individuals. I am speaking from past experience in this case, and knowing human nature.. if some of my nerd friends did this in college, then many others are doing the same currently. The RIAA just goes after the lowest common demoninator, which in many cases means people sit

      • by Eccles (932)
        But why not just copy hard drives? With 500 GB for $100, that's a heck of a lot of music. Even movies if you're willing to go MP4. And the transfer speed once going is pretty darned fast.
        • by gnick (1211984)

          But why not just copy hard drives? With 500 GB for $100, that's a heck of a lot of music.

          That's what we did back in college. 5 or 6 of us that were all active in collecting large sets of large files would each bring a couple of drives to one of our houses, set up a couple of boxes for copying, and share 100's of GB of data in a matter of hours. Of course, that was before DVD-burners and thumb drives were accessible to college students so who knows what the popular methods are these days...

          Hey wait - Anyone know what the popular methods are these days? I've been out of the loop for a while.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by perlchild (582235)
          1) they are harder to hide(bigger)
          2) that's 100$ in the US, not how much it is in Cuba
    • by IBBoard (1128019)
      I'm only in my early 20s and we had people doing that at University anyway, but with HDDs. They'd give a HDD to one guy, who'd give it to another, who'd give it to another, who'd give it back and then each of the guys in the group could share their music/movies without the hassle of downloading them (which was ridiculously fast on the Uni network anyway).

      (I'm also not advocating copyright infringement, just pointing out a method that friends of mine were using a whole half decade ago for mass transfer)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Okay, I'm tired of waiting for someone else to post this. The steps taken to get around the censorship gives rise to the new slogan: "Cuba, putting the sneak back into sneakernet."
  • Bandwidth (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:56PM (#22666986)
    Never underestimate the bandwidth of a pre-revolutionary automobile loaded with thumb drives!
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:56PM (#22666988)
    or did you just get a new batch of porn?
  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:57PM (#22667010) Homepage
    Then the US should drop their trade sanctions, and station ships off the Cuban coast, or possibly blimps flying over Cuba, with *huge* wireless network systems on. Basically, turn a ship into one giant floating wireless AP, with a satellite connection to the Internet. Then give all the people USB wireless adaptors.
    • by LMacG (118321)
      > blimps flying over Cuba

      A new life awaits you in the off-shore colonies. A chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!
    • by megaditto (982598)
      What good is free Internet if you don't have a computer? I heard somewhere that it would take an average Cuban about 5 months' worth of salary to afford a $100 OLPC
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        What good is free Internet if you don't have a computer? I heard somewhere that it would take an average Cuban about 5 months' worth of salary to afford a $100 OLPC

        Or even a little more. TFA says that "the state-owned cafe charges a third of the average Cuban's monthly salary -- about $5 -- to use a computer for an hour", so that puts you at over 6 months salary to have $100.

        The average Cuban is very poor. I doubt that there are a lot of computers in individual households, and that's not gonna change soon

        • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:52PM (#22667988) Journal
          But, despite their living conditions, many Cubans are happy with their country and don't want to embrace American style capitalism either.

          Sure, there's a lot of apparatchiks in Cuba, just like there are in any totalitarian regime.

          I think most of them still largely believe in the ideals of Casto and Guevara.

          It's amazing what propaganda can accomplish when any dissenters can be tossed in Jail. Lots of north koreans worship that repugnant little elvis impersonator who rules their country.

          -jcr

      • by gnick (1211984)

        I heard somewhere that it would take an average Cuban about 5 months' worth of salary to afford a $100 OLPC
        FTA, 1-hour of internet access costs $5 - About 1/3 of the average Cuban's monthly salary. I'm starting to think that Cuba may not be the paradise that Michael Moore made it out [imdb.com] to be... [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KillerCow (213458)
      Riiight... because Cuba can't defend its own sovereignty [cnn.com]. If it was that easy, don't you think that the Americans would have invaded by now [wikipedia.org]?
      • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:26PM (#22667436)

        Riiight... because Cuba can't defend its own sovereignty.
        I don't think you are suggesting that Cuba's defenses are capable of defending the island against invasion by the US... if you are, that would be silly. The Bay of Pigs was not a US invasion, though it did have financial support from the US. Had there been some kind of active military support, they might have stood a chance.

        In any event, they haven't even tried to kick the Americans out of Gitmo.

        If it was that easy, don't you think that the Americans would have invaded by now?
        No, because part of the deal ending the Cuban Missile Crisis was a promise to the Soviets not to invade.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          Had they not been screwed over by JFK and actually had a decent landing area, operational security, good intelligence, air cover, and everything else needed for a good invasion, it would have worked. NOTHING was done right on the Bay of Pigs invasion. NOTHING.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      Nice idea except that the US has been transmitting news and entertainment to Cuba for the last 40 years. The Cuban jam it. If the US tried to put blimps or ships with wifi anywhere near Cuba the Cubans would shoot them down. Hey if the brave Cuban air force will attack a Cessna Skymaster in international waters with just two Mig 29s what makes you think they wouldn't attack a blimp.
      Also what makes you think that those people have there own PCs?
      • Also what makes you think that those people have there own PCs?

        Where do you think they use their memory sticks?
        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          School, Office, Libraries.... Since a half an hour at an Internet Cafe costs two weeks wages I would bet that a PC is probably a bit more.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      As much as I defend Cuba, I do have to agree that the state-control of media outlets continues to piss me right the hell off. However, the article does make a very interesting omission:

      Yes, the internet cafe does cost a lot in Cuban dollars. However, it is in downtown Havana, which means it's in tourist central, so it's likely that the people who go there are part of the tourist economy, which means they can make thirty or forty Canadian dollars in a day, and spend every last second of spare time in th
  • by nedburns (1238162) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:57PM (#22667020)
    But.. but.. I thought Cuba is a utopian society with perfect free healthcare that the rest of the world should aspire to emulate!? ( see movies by fat slobs who don't know what they're talking about [imdb.com] )
    • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:05PM (#22667132)
      They have first rate low tech preventative and pre/post natal health care. Which gives them a lower infant mortality rate than the US and a life expectancy just a bit lower that the US.
      • by The End Of Days (1243248) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:12PM (#22667230)
        And a choice of presidential candidates just one behind the US as well.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by STrinity (723872)
        Do those life expectancy figures include people dying from acute lead poisoning?
        • Do those life expectancy figures include people dying from acute lead poisoning?

          Wait, are those the Cubans, or American kids with toys made in China? I'm confused.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Serge_Tomiko (1178965)
        Totally false. They don't count a child as "born" in Cuba until it has lived for a week. Since a significant portion of infants die during that time, it should not be a surprise their statistics indicate a lower infant mortality rate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        And all they've given up is their inalienable rights as human beings. Yay!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Omestes (471991)

          And all they've given up is their inalienable rights as human beings. Yay!


          Er... where do I find these "inalienable rights" for all human beings? Last I checked, the common interpretation was that these only apply to US citizens, if we had to extend them to everyone else our current international (and increasingly domestic) policies would dissolve.

          To all of our leaders, since FDR (perhaps before), the only "inalienable right" that the US has stood for is opening your markets to our corporations, and do wha
      • nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Quadraginta (902985) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:43PM (#22667800)
        This bullshit urban legend about the "low" infant mortality rate in the US has got to stop.

        The reason the infant "mortality" rate in the US is low is because the US is one of the very few countries that tries to save the life of severely premature babies and babies with severe birth defects. Not surprisingly, quite a lot of these sad cases die, up to 80% in the case of severely premature babies. By contrast, most other countries don't even try to save those infants, and simply record them as late miscarriages or stillbirths. Since they're never "born" they can't "die," so they don't count in infant mortality statistics. Hey presto! A lower infant mortality rate than the US! Congratulatory headlines in any random self-hating US media outlet...

        Here's a related fun fact: university hospitals often have higher death rates than community hospitals for grave disease, e.g. heart attacks, strokes. Is this because they're less competent? Some strange corruption where the richer and more prestigious hospital is screwing up because of its callous disregard for humanity, i.e. the kind of "logic" used to criticize the US infant mortality rate? Nope. It's just because the most serious cases prefer to go to university hospitals, or get transferred there from community hospitals, and because university hospitals often admit people for experimental therapies that usually don't work, whereas less sophisticated hospitals just send folks to hospice or home to die.

        Whenever you compare statistics, it really needs to be apples to apples, and when the statistic is so politically-charged as a quality of life versus type of government measurement, you really need to ask some hard and detailed questions about the methodology. It's amazingly easy to lie with statistics.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 0111 1110 (518466)
        They have first rate low tech preventative and pre/post natal health care.

        Well, I agree with the 'low tech' part. As for the rest, getting the nurses there to stop reusing hypodermic needles would be a good start. I was waiting at a clinic in Havana with my (Cuban) ex-girlfriend for a blood test and was amazed at the Cubans waiting their turn to get an injection from the same needle. At least they washed it in a tray of water between shots. Yeah, Cuba is the high tech health care capital of the world. I dem
    • If you can get 15 different types of ketchup in the store then clearly you have a great society.

      All societies have pros and cons. Personally, even though I'm a geek, I'd say having a reasonable healthcare for all should be prioority ofver bandwidth for all.

      • There is a fatal flaw in the "healthcare for all" idea. Because most people who are for this universal healthcare thinks they will be able to get universally great healthcare for free. It's not free and we likely will not be able to afford to give everyone some "platinum plan" healthcare. Instead of a robotic arm with realistic flesh you'd get a plastic one with a choice of 3 different skin tones. Instead of braces for your kid's teeth they might have to wear headgear. Instead of designer glasses frames you
    • by Scareduck (177470) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:18PM (#22667322) Homepage Journal
      The real problem I had with Moore's citing of Cuba is that we have no idea how good their official statistics are. Also, if anyone is getting shafted by their medical system, was there any real chance of Moore -- or any outsider, for that matter -- finding out about it?
    • Micheal Moore only spoke about their health care system, not the other social problems.

      Mind you, with decent free health care, they have something fundamentally good that Americans don't, and the way things are going, never will have.

      How many people in the US can't change jobs because of losing health insurance if they do?

      I have known a few myself, doesn't seem either fair or pleasant.
  • I suppose European friends are the way to go, but in general non-USA friends. I am not sure which would be worse for a USA citizen, being discovered that you are subverting state censorship or being discovered by your government that you have been to Cuba.
  • I can hear it already:

        Yo está apesadumbrado, podría usted descargar el Internet sobre esto?

    And for once, it'll actually make sense!

    (If the translation sucks, blame babelfish. ;) )
  • Sony's proprietary format is popular some place!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Memory stick: generic term for portable flash media, usually USB drives
      Memory Stick: name for Sony's flash media format

      The capitalization is important
  • by andyfrommk (1021405) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:08PM (#22667182) Homepage
    We should donate our old memory sticks to them, I've got a 128mb mp3 player which is worthless to westerners but could be of use to people in the third world to dissemenate information.
  • by Bombula (670389) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:15PM (#22667274)
    Jeez, I finally get it! And here I thought the whole strategy of destroying a country through decades of economic sanctions based on political ideology two generations out of date was one of the great disasters of US foreign policy. But it's actually a clever strategy to turn a whole nation into a think tank and foster innovation the old fashioned way: by creating necessity! It's so simple!
  • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:26PM (#22667426)
    About 16 years ago, in a time of floppy disks, 486s and joysticks, I also was a part of such a network. Media such as the anarchist cookbook and all kinds of software were passed around by hand through packs of floppy disks from one person to another, spreading through everyone.

    Mind you, that took place in a western european country, a free country with freedom of expression as best as the world could muster. Yet, that network, which TFA tries to label as a sign of subversive actions against a government went ahead anyway. How could that be?

    The thing is, that has absolutely nothing to do with dissent or trying to overthrow any government. People form data sharing networks because they want to share data. With the internet we belong to multiple P2P networks. Before that we had FTPs. Before that we had BBS. If there is no electronic network available then that doesn't stop anyone. Instead of a computer network, people networks are formed. Nowadays, instead of floppy disks or even CD-RWs we have USB mass storage devices such as flash drives.

    So quite simply the article is nothing more than yet another piece of anti-Cuba propaganda. Just because there are people in Cuba sharing media around does that mean that they do it with subversive intentions in mind? If you fire up your FTP client does it mean that you are also trying to overthrow your country's government? What about your USB drive? And what about SD cards? What a rebellion.
    • Nothing stated in the article is an erroneous conclusion. I failed to see any sort of logic like, "Because the kids are passing around memory sticks, they are subverting the government." They are forming their network to subvert government controls.

      Note that the article also never made any blanket statements like, "All networks are created with subversive intent."

      What the author left unsaid, and what you might have realized if you were not a complete simpleton, is that all sorts of people create all sorts o
  • Cuba a few tons of clones Cisco gear, some slew of Linux servers, a fat pipe into the Internet, and pay off the Cuban government to open up.

    But, do it in some diplomatic Asian way that might gain inroads into Cuba. Apparently, the US/Western ways must suck pretty bad. SOME government SOMEwhere needs to overtly defy the US. Externally oppressing Cuban citizens and denying US citizens visitation of Cuba is plain evil and heinous. It's just a matter of time before Cuba opens up. i just think their elite don't
    • by davidsyes (765062) *
      http://www.cfr.org/publication/11113/ [cfr.org]

      "Cuba has the "same effect on U.S. administrations that the full moon has on a werewolf.""

      "What is the likelihood that the United States and Cuba will resume diplomatic relations?

      Given the range of issues dividing the two countries, experts say the possibility of normalization remains distant. "We don't use that language [normalization] anymore because the relationship is so toxic," Sweig says. Wayne Smith, director of the Cuba program at the Center for International Pol
  • all those of you who find good things to say about the current Cuban government that the same government makes sure that the Cubans can't read your words.

    Interesting eh?

    Steven
  • A very long pedal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @04:56PM (#22668072)
    You need to transfer a 4Gbyte file. Your Internet connect speed is 256Kb/s. How far must you be transferring the data for it to be faster to transfer it via your connection rather than via a man on a bicycle carrying a thumb drive?

    This used to be a standard exam question when I taught CS, only back then he was only armed with a floppy. As floppys got larger faster tha bandwidth increased (back then it was proabbly 2400bps dialup) the poor guy kept having to ride further and further.

    Lets see - the file will take 8*4x10^9/256x10^3 (back in asynch dialup days that multiplier was 10, not 8) = 0.125x10^6 seconds. Lets suppose the bicyclist average 10 miles per 3600 seconds. So break even is 10*1.25x10^5 /3.6x10^2 ~ 4x10^3 (4000) miles.

    For extra marks: How large a thumbdisk would a swimmer need to carry from Florida to Cuba so that the transfer rate would be faster than the entire bandwidth of the island? There are no extra marks for speculating where the swimmer would carry it.

  • The embargo against Cuban travel by the united states is a terribly counter-productive policy. If Americans were hopping over to cuba for the weekend, dropping off laptops, satellite dishes and money, the citizens of that nation would be free by now. Instead Cuba has remaned the communist boogyman on our doorstep for 50 years. Sick.

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