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P2P Hard Disk System Warns of Tsunamis 192

Posted by Zonk
from the using-existing-tech-over-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes to mention an article on NetworkWorld about a free software application that detects Tsunamis by listening for vibrations in the hard drives of computers. The peer-to-peer network uses the technology that allows HDDs to keep read-write heads on track, and passes the information to a network for analysis. From the article: "If an earthquake that could lead to a tsunami is detected, the supernodes inform the other nodes. Computers running the client software and connected to the peer-to-peer network can then warn of such events. The software is able to provide such warnings because the seismic waves produced by earthquakes travel at about 5,000 kilometers per hour, while tsunamis move much slower at 500 to 1,000 kilometers per hour"
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P2P Hard Disk System Warns of Tsunamis

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:27PM (#16061876) Homepage Journal
    I like the science.
    I like helping people.
    I don't like Windows only java clients which include dll files (they say on the front page its java based, but then on download page you see Mac OS X and Linux version in preparation. I think the DLL is going to pretty much stop all that.

    I don't like running random programs accessing none standard data from my harddrive without knowing exactly what its looking at and what happens to my drive if its not got the required capabilities.

    There is no technical information about this program or what it actually examines on a harddrive, coupled with the crypto java code buried inside the package (look in bcprov-jdk14.jar\org\bouncycastle\crypto) makes me nervous.

    Negating all that it looks cool and if the technical aspects are cleared up I will try it.

    I wonder if this functionality could be used to give any standard laptop a similar alarm feature as on the latest macbooks?
    • by Em Ellel (523581) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:32PM (#16061912)
      While I agree with you, there is no way to do this in pure java - it will HAVE to have a DLL or some form of native code and it will be highly dependant on hardware. That being said, I agree that it I would be more inclined to run open source code for something like this...

      -Em
      • by timeOday (582209)
        While I agree with you, there is no way to do this in pure java - it will HAVE to have a DLL or some form of native code and it will be highly dependant on hardware.
        Does the linux /proc filesystem provide this sort of info? The format would still be system-dependent, but at least you wouldn't need to link in any native code.
        • by skids (119237)
          No, but what it does provide is CPU temps and fan speeds. I've always wondered whether a huge distributed network of PCs could provide a statistically meaningful level of surface meteorological data somehow -- resolution on these meters is horrible, but if the exact transition times between units were recorded...

          Of course, much better products exist for PC based weather data collection, but generally aren't the subject of many people's christmas lists.
          • CPU temps and fan speeds ... could provide ... surface meteorological data

            Well folks, it's either 180 degrees Farenheit in Boston, or one of our ABC(TM) Action-News(TM) WeatherSpotters(TM) is crunching a lot of data on his laptop right now.

            • by skids (119237)
              We're talking hundreds of thousands to millions of machines, of course, and examining cumulative patterns in transition times between units, as I said. Such a scenario would not occur.
    • It probably gathers a user profile (SSN, banking details, passwords etc) to build a statistical user model that is used to generate cross-correllated weighting data for the best fit matrix.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RickySan (887756)
      Hmm.. let me see the options here..

      1) Need a dll but know about a tsunami, pretty good i'd say
      2) no dll, hence no working software, no tsunami warning, could work against me..

      the choices, what should i do.. sigh..
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by megaditto (982598)
        how about:

        3) buy an alarmclock with EAS (used to be EBS, emergency broadcast) feature (set you back US$15)
        or
        4) download one of those WeatherBug spyware thingies for your windows tray (at least they only track your web habits). They actually pool EAS.
        or
        5) move AWAY from the sea; go live in CO, WY, NE, KS, even UT.
        • 5) move AWAY from the sea; go live in CO, WY, NE, KS, even UT.

          I think I would rather die in a Tsunami than live in any of those places.

          • by Pope (17780)
            But that's where all the good skiiing is! Plus Mormon girls are hot, and you can often find fallen ones...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Whoops, misread TFA!
  • by QuantumFTL (197300) * <justin DOT wick AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:28PM (#16061882)
    This should end the need for wasting countless millions on professional seismic research stations. Once again, free software triumphs.
    • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @04:03PM (#16062106)

      This should end the need for wasting countless millions on professional seismic research stations. Once again, free software triumphs.

      Actually, hard drives capable of stuffing a billion bits per square centimeter and needing the ability to position the head above each one separately triumph. And you know what drives hard drive development ? The need for inexpensive record space of course. And what causes this need ? Pirated movies, games and music.

      In other words, piracy saves lives.

      • Dude, that was so beautiful it brought a tear to my eye.

        Does this mean that pirated full bandwith HD streams could also detect the gravity waves from our sun as it marches inexoriably towards sprnova (or whatever the hell the spelling of the week for that site is).

        -nB
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fmobus (831767)
        And what causes this need ? Pirated movies, games and music and porn.
    • by Skevin (16048) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @04:15PM (#16062168) Journal
      I thought it was a joke, but for a different reason.

      I thought the title read "PSP Hard Disk System Warns of Tsunamis". Boy, Sony is sure pushing the envelope on hyping the Playstation Portable! Imagine how many more disasters the PS3 could avert! Too bad they're only making a million in their first run.

      Solomon
  • Sooo.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:29PM (#16061886) Journal
    If everybody in China jumped off of a 1 foot step ladder at the same time, would there be a sudden drop in P2P data that might indicate the event?

    (of course I didn't RTFA, I'm just trying to avoid work this afternoon by wandering around making incoherent posts)
  • false warnings (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrSvenSven (962916) * on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:29PM (#16061888)
    I don't think all earthquakes cause tsunamis. Seems like there may be a lot more false warnings than real tsunamis.
    • by Brenin (954751)
      I would think that members of this P2P would want to register geographic locations so that seismic events can be mapped out to plot the epicenter and derive the location of a potential tsunami.
      • Even is it is determined that a quake is under the ocean, not all quakes cause the floor to shift in a tsunami-causing way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by budgenator (254554)
      I don't think all earthquakes cause tsunamis
      A quick look at IRIS [iris.edu] will confirm that, out of 334 earthquakes in the last 30 days, 6 had tsunami potential and there were no reported tsunami. I was quite interested in tsunami after the boxing day quake, and was preparing to help an open source project that fizzeled. The reality is there are enough siesmometers to analyse all ready, what's need is several fold,
      one problem is geopolitical, many countries ignored the established warning systems because they were r
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by grcumb (781340)

        Remote villages near the coast could get one of these radios with solar cell recharged bateries, then use their own system localy.

        Remote villages usually manage alright with tsunamis (provided there is high ground nearby; if there isn't, a warning system isn't going to do any good anyway), for a couple of reasons:

        • Villagers know enough to head for the hills when the ocean recedes[*]. During a recent localised tsunami in Vanuatu, there was only one fatality when a man foolishly went to grab a few stranded
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HoboMaster (639861)
      If you read TFA (or even just the summary), you'll notice that it takes quakes of a certain frequency to create a tsunami. High frequency quakes don't cause tsunamis, they just cause a vibration of the water.
    • I don't think all earthquakes cause tsunamis. Seems like there may be a lot more false warnings than real tsunamis.

      "Oh no, I have just hiked up the hill for nothing, again."

      VS

      "Oh no, a giant wave has, without warning, violently pushed an 18 wheeler through my wall and onto my head."
  • Cool! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skynet (37427) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:31PM (#16061903) Homepage
    Wouldn't be very effective in third world areas, though.

    I wonder how many simultaneous reports it takes to trigger it.
    • by mangu (126918)
      So, do we now have a justification to put a compatible disk in the children's laptop?
    • Indeed. The problem with this project is that the countries where computers are very common (say, the United States) already have effective tsunami systems. The IOC offers tsunami warnings [tsunamiwave.info] as well in most of the Pacific, and are extending their coverage. The problem is that the third world governments often have problems with disseminating the information, and it's these very same countries that also don't have a lot of modern computers with motion detectors. The places that have effective end-to-end tsunam

    • Wouldn't be very effective in third world areas, though.

      Nothing is effective in 3rd world areas :(

      But when we all get rid of our spinny HDs for solid state wonders, someone can start a recycling project where our old junk will save lives. Mebbe.
  • by ConfusedSelfHating (1000521) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:33PM (#16061917)
    I like the idea of disaster prevention through reading hard disk vibration and all, but isn't this the sort of thing that professionals should be responsible for?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Pizentios (772582)
      Probably, but to me (and probably a few other people out there) the world governments haven't done much to setup a warning system that all countries can afford and that is easy to install and configure.In my opinion, if the governments aren't going to do much about it, it's up to us (the general public) to find the solution.

      A system like this could even help with aid...how do you ask? If a aid company (like Red Cross) got a early warning they could then mobilize and deliver aid much quicker...IMHO the soone
      • There is more than enough "proper" seismic equipment out there generating copious amounts of quality seismic data. In fact, the data from the CTBTO [ctbto.org] will be used for tsunami warning. The problem is not data--the problem is in the analysis of the data and the dissemination of the warning. I am quite skeptical that the data from this technique will not be suitable for tsunami warnings.
        • argh...I meant to say I am skeptical whether the data from this technique will be suitable for tsunami warnings.
          • by Fred_A (10934)
            From what I gathered it's supplemented by data from the salt water detectors in modern disks.
    • What happens when everyone running this thing jumps up and cheers (or yells) after the first touchdown of the Superbowl? (or this weekend's Ohio State vs Texas game?)

      What about the random noise that could be caused by rushhour traffic past someone's apartment/office building? Or even just your furnace/air conditioner turning off and on?
      • by westlake (615356)
        What about the random noise that could be caused by rushhour traffic past someone's apartment/office building? Or even just your furnace/air conditioner turning off and on?

        Random events are, well, random. You use statistical analysis to filter out the noise.

        • by morie (227571)
          The filter may pose problems, since neither the object of measurement nor the noise are truely random. Consider a trafic light and the buildup of periodic tremors caused by passing trucks. May look a lot like earthquakes.

          The spread of harddisks would help though, since earthquakes tend to travel further than traffic noise
    • by MankyD (567984)
      I think, and I could be wrong about this, that the idea is quantity over quality. They might not get huge accuracy or great sample rates from an individual hard drive, but pooled together, significant trends can be seen.

      Thought of another way, (and professional's can yell at me for my ignorance here,) if I go and jump up and down next to a seismograph, it's going to read something and that erroneous data must be filtered out. If I go and jump up and down next to my computer, it also might register false e
      • by ronanbear (924575)
        So the coffee hitting millions of screens after one particularly funny /. comment or another incident similar to the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident might cause lots of vibrations simultaneously around the world and set of an alarm.
        • by Gnavpot (708731)
          So the coffee hitting millions of screens after one particularly funny /. comment or another incident similar to the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident might cause lots of vibrations simultaneously around the world and set of an alarm.

          If this Janet Jackson thing should happen again, it would be advisable to seek cover anyway.

        • by mgblst (80109)
          Sure, if everybody read the slashdot comment at the same time - which I am pretty sure does not happen. Of course, even discounting this, people react differently to funny slashdot comments (I usually react by pressing the submit comment just before such comment is posted!).

          Not sure what Janets incident has to do with any of this? Do that many people get excited over Janet? Do that many people watch the superbowl on their computers?
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      I think the idea is to use something like SETI@home scenario. More eyes, better detection. Also, more geographic locations - better coverage.

      My question is: have it been tested really?
    • I like the idea of disaster prevention through reading hard disk vibration and all, but isn't this the sort of thing that professionals should be responsible for?

      Ideally, in a Star Trek eutopia, yes.
      In the real world, one should compare the number of available hard drives to the number of available, fully equipped seismologists in order to determine which -should- be used.
  • Heheeheeee (Score:1, Funny)

    by cheftw (996831)
    CAn any of you honestly say you would kick a few hard drives just to pis the thing off?
  • Tracking (Score:2, Insightful)

    Helping people avoid natural disasters is a good thing but I cannot see this program taking off too far. Too many people will fear what this progam could possibly be looking at other then just the vibration data. not to mention the possible exploits available to those looking use is maliciously.
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:39PM (#16061957)
    Now we need a distributed P2P app that runs over WiFi - so we can detect, graph, and measure the relative drunkeness of the MacBook-using population, using their tilt sensors.

    In the name of Science, of course.

  • by Gryffin (86893) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:40PM (#16061959) Homepage

    *** DISK ERROR ***

    [A]bort, [R]etry, [F]lee to high ground? : _

    • by lpangelrob (714473) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:47PM (#16062012)
      [A]bort, [R]etry, [F]lee to high ground? : F
      ...
      [A]bort, [R]etry, [F]lee to high ground? : F
      ...
      [A]bort, [R]etry, [F]lee to high ground? : F!
      ...
      [A]bort, [R]etry, [F]lee to high ground? : F dammit!
      ...
      [A]bort, [R]etry, [F]lee to high ground? : F!!! F!!!
      ...
      <end transmission>
  • If we all jump up and down at the same time we CAN cause an earthquake. I always knew it.

  • by matt me (850665) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:40PM (#16061963)
    Seismic waves range between 40 and 200 Hz.

    Immediately we have electrical interference at multiples of 50Hz. If this is supposed to be a delocalised system eg, SETI@home running in geeks' houses we're going to have much more interference: kicking your computer, bass speakers, fans..
    • by certsoft (442059)
      Seismic waves range between 40 and 200 Hz.

      No they don't. They are often sampled at those frequencies but the waves themselves are much slower.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lelitsch (31136)
      No, we don't. If you have many nodes, filtering out the effects that you mention is a simple matter of correlation. Earthquakes send shockwaves over wide areas, your effects are very localized. If you see a few nodes firing in a city, it's probably a subway train. If you see a wave of messages from many nodes in a radial fashion from some center, you probably have an earthquake or a similar event.
  • by ElephanTS (624421) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:42PM (#16061977)
    I tried this out on my Macbook.

    http://www.suitable.com/tools/seismac.html [suitable.com]

    Does a similar thing. Once caveat: you can never touch the mac. So it's useless really but an interesting demo of the motion detectors. They are suprisingly accurate. Footsteps nearby show up for instance.
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @04:28PM (#16062261)

      Does a similar thing.

      No, not really. That application just shows a graph; this system collects and correlates data from many systems.

      Once caveat: you can never touch the mac.

      Again, no, not really. The system described (not Seismac) correlates data from many systems, and an earthquake will affect many systems. Your typing, jumping up and down, or even a big truck rumbling by, will not. Nevermind that earthquakes have a very charachteristic vibration, so individual nodes are unlikely to be fooled easily in the first place. The supernodes would look for correlation.

      To really dumb it down: if an earthquake happens, PCs will see the same/similar vibration in an expanding circle pattern. Similar systems are used with microphones in some cities for gunshot detection- many of them can, with just a few 'listening stations', pinpoint gunfire to within a dozen feet.

      • by ElephanTS (624421)
        No, I do understand how it works. That's why I said 'similar' and not 'identical'. I understand that the software I talked about is not linked into a net etc etc. It's just a bit like it, that's all - similar.

    • It might be useless on a macbook but I have two headless computers that merely sit in my crawl space, one handling NAT/firewall and the other webserver stuff. Seems like a good thing for them. But maybe not so applicable for the Qube-2 that I'm trying to stuff in a radio-control car, with a webcam, so I can chase the dog around the house while I'm at work.
  • by Evro (18923) <evandhoffman&gmail,com> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:46PM (#16062003) Homepage Journal
    There's an earthquake every 5 minutes in Queens under the 7 train!
  • by FleaPlus (6935) * on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:49PM (#16062025) Journal
    I'm running this thing right now, after downloading from here [ninsight.at]. It's kind of neat, but it'd be really nice if it gave some sort of feedback to the user to show it was actually operating. I'd like to be able to, say, kick my computer and watch a little seismometer guage move around, just to let me know the thing is working.

    Also, to the commenter who was worrying that things like kicks or shifts to a computer would result in false alarms, that's part of why they're using a P2P network. By aggregating the results from many machines, you can toss out false alarms. Of course, if a bunch of people got together on IRC to coordinate times at which they'd all kick their computers, that could probably trigger it... ;)

    • by Joseph Vigneau (514) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:55PM (#16062053)
      it'd be really nice if it gave some sort of feedback to the user to show it was actually operating

      No problem- keep an eye on your bank account and credit card statements.
    • I'd like to be able to, say, kick my computer and watch a little seismometer guage move around, just to let me know the thing is working.

      Free Seismology Programs for Windows: [binghamton.edu]

      Seismic/Eruption, Seismic Waves and data retrieval. View earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in close to real time. Developed for the Geology Hall of the Smithsonian.
      AmaSeis, a program to obtain seismographs from the AS-1 Amateur Seismometer. [jclahr.com] The AS-1 is based on a classic project from Scientific American's "The Amateur Scientist."

    • Actualy it would be much easier to just diseminate false data, let's say we generate an 11.5 earthquake signiture, adjust arival times to be consistant with arrivial times from the Yellowstone caldera valcano for each station and hack enough of the code to inject the false data into the system; they'd think the end of the world just happened which is pretty much what would happen if yellowstone went off!
  • Too bad it's illegal in Spain.
  • by greenegg77 (718749)

    Do you know how many false alarms my wife will set off when she's stomping through the house to yell at me? (you never said anything about not letting the kids play with Mr. Chainsaw, dear)
    Or how many my coworker will generate as he shakes the freaking floor when he walks around?
    Ooh jEeZ. HeRe hE cOmEs aGaIn

  • Oh great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by GweeDo (127172) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @04:00PM (#16062087) Homepage
    This will work well until a few idiots playing with "MacSaber" make me have to flee town due to the forth coming Tsunami!!
  • Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jerf (17166) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @04:03PM (#16062105) Journal
    In the absense of further knowledge, I'm somewhat skeptical about the hard drives being sensitive enough, but I mean that in the original meaning of "skeptical", as in, updated pending further evidence, not forever committed to not believing in it. Clearly, this guy thinks they are sensitive enough.

    But if that hurdle can be cleared, processed correctly the data will be very useful. Most objections Slashdotters are going to raise will be irrelevant. Local aberrations will be cancelled out at the supernode, because the aberrations will only appear at that one node. Simple interference at constant frequencies is also easy to detect and mask out with "Introduction to Signal Processing"-level signal processing.

    Merging the data together is a bit more challenging but should be doable.

    The only thing I don't see is talking about knowing where the machines are in the real world, which would be very helpful, and that may be coming later. The other thing is that the system probably won't work very well with a simple "IsEarthquake" signal coming out of the clients; the supernodes really ought to examine all the data from its clients and then decide if there's an earthquake. Otherwise, several correctly-timed local abberations could all look like "earthquakes", even with completely different characteristics, if all that is going to the supernode is "IsEarthquake". Of course, the real system may already have both of these things covered and the article merely oversimplified.

    Upshot is, signal processing can do some very surprising things with data that seems to consist almost entirely of noise, if you have enough data coming in.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Percy_Blakeney (542178) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @05:06PM (#16062524) Homepage
      The only thing I don't see is talking about knowing where the machines are in the real world, which would be very helpful, and that may be coming later.

      I would be curious to see if they could automatically tell you where you are, using only the vibration data from your hard drive. Given a month or so of data, they might be able to correlate major events in your data set with major events in other data sets from known locations, thus allowing them to derive your geographic location.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cachorro (576097)
      The only thing I don't see is talking about knowing where the machines are in the real world...

      Seems to me they could run the algorithm backwards a couple of times using a known seismic event along with a few machines in a known location and find where you are.

      Oh no... something else to be paranoid about.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ssyladin (458003)
      The only thing I don't see is talking about knowing where the machines are in the real world


      Hell, if the porn sites know where I live, I'm sure this guy can figure it out too.

      • by rbarreira (836272)
        The porn sites try get your location from your IP address (such as this site [ip2location.com] does), which is often quite wrong. For example, even though I'm in Denmark right now, my company proxies http through Ireland, so I often get ads for "slutty girls in Dublin". Even when proxying is not being used, the result is often the location of your ISP's headquarters, for example.
    • First of all, the guys in the article don't really know what they are talking about, there is really two problems, the first and most hazzardous is the "in your face event" that doesn't give enough time for the official warning to be desimated, all you need here is a detector that seperates out a wave at low enough frequency and high enough amplitude to issue an warning that's basically "run for high ground and don't look back". For everything else the official channels have enough instruments and computati
  • Little scams have larger scams, who on their backs unite 'em.

    And larger scams have bigger still, and so ad infinitum

    Can anyone say "social engineered virus on a Slashdot scale?"

  • "If an earthquake that could lead to a tsunami is detected, the supernodes inform the other nodes. Computers running the client software and connected to the peer-to-peer network can then warn of such events. The software is able to provide such warnings because the seismic waves produced by earthquakes travel at about 5,000 kilometers per hour, while tsunamis move much slower at 500 to 1,000 kilometers per hour"

    "'Ere! That swappable hard drive just ejected itself."
    "Really?"
    "Yes."
    "It works! It works!"
  • I see more potential in P2P networks for warning users for vulcanos or tsunamis than in detecting an earthquake. Exploring hard drive sensors may be interesting but not very reliable. However, a P2P network, combined with geotagging, may be a good way to target computer users of an imminent event. At least, it could be an additional media to disseminate the information and complementary to TV and radios.
  • I remember a meme from long ago about how NYC demographers would buy data from (whoever manages the sewerage in NYC) in order to determine, from a time-series map of sewer line pressure fluctuations, just exactly when and where people got up to use the plumbing during prime-time television. With a slight staggering of commercial breaks amongst the various media and maybe a bit of curve filtering, you could then determine who is watching which program over the course of an evening.

    I can't *believe* the numb

  • A week or so ago there was a thread here about stolen computers calling home. The problem still remaining was that most of them did not have GPS and could tell anybody where they were. However, if there were some central database of siesmiographic info, a computer could figure out where it was by triangulating the data from known locations.. Then it could call home and say "This is where I am. Come get me."
  • how does it ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by White Shade (57215) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @10:17PM (#16078617)
    Just out of curiousity, how is it supposed to correlate IP address to physical location in the world?

    I thought that all the attempts to connect IP to physical locations had pretty much died of non-maintenance, and impossibility of getting all the location information from ISP's in anything remotely resembling realtime?

    that seems like an awful big hurdle to the operation of this thing to me...

    has something changed?

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