Free communication in remote areas using balloons: Project Loon

The idea of using the stratosphere for improving communications was introduced and tested almost a decade ago. The European project Capaninia developed wireless and broadband technologies for use on high altitude platforms (HAP) floating at an altitude around 20 km. HAPs float above aircrafts, but below satellites. Thus, they do not interfere with any device. The main purpose was to provide low cost communications to remote areas.

Some days ago Google announced  its Loon project. Project Loon is a network of balloons that will provide internet and communications to rural and remote areas. The project will fill coverage gaps and bring people back online after disasters. The balloon-balloon and balloon-ground communication are be obtained through radio frequency using ISM bands between  2.4 and 5.8 GHz. Each balloon can provide service to an area up to 40 km diameter, with a speed equivalent to 3G (Image 1).

Image 1. Baloon-balloon and balloon-ground communication
Image Source: Project Loon

How it works?
The balloons are made of polyethylene plastic sheets. Once fully inflated, they are 15 m wide and 12 m high. Each unit is powered by solar panels able to produce up to 100 Watts. Besides, the panels also charge a battery for night use; hence, each unit is able to work the whole day by using only renewable energy.
Each unit also has a box containing the circuit boards that control the system, batteries to operate at night, radio antennas to communicate with other balloons, and the internet antennas to provide the service.

Project Loon takes advantage of the fact that winds in the stratosphere are usually steady and slow, with velocities between  5 and 20 mph. Besides, it is stratified in layers with different wind direction and wind magnitude. Thus, dedicated algorithms determine the required direction of the balloon, so that the balloon will move to the layer with the required wind (Image 2).

Image 2. Balloons navigation according to the wind
Image Source: Project Loon

The following video (Animation 1) summarizes the project and its functioning.

Animation 1. Project Loon
Source: Project Loon

References & Further Reading
Google experiments with internet-bearing baloons
Google's loon project put balloon technology in spotligth
Stratospheric broadbans
The Loon project

Garbage patch in lakes

All the garbage produced and wasted will eventuallyend up in the oceans and major water bodies. Then, currents will turn it into micro particles and accumulate them into certain areas creating the so called garbage patch. Such GP poses a big threat to marine ecosystem. It looks like food to fish, birds and other creatures. This garbage is undigestible, and once swallowed it fill the animals stomach creating a fatal blockage
Image 1. Debris extracted from water bodies

In a previous post we introduced those so called garbage patch and showed that they are present in all the oceans. Unfortunately, such garbage patches are not exclusively in the oceans. They are also present in other major water bodies.

Some time ago, scientists found garbage patch in the great lakes. Moreover, they found that the concentration of poly aromatic hydrocarbons is twice the concentration found at the oceans. Other particularity of such lakes garbage patch is the predominance of micro plastic particles smaller than 1 millimeter.

Considering that current brings together all floatable materials, e.g. plastic and other thrash, understanding the circulation patterns of water bodies may help the study of such patches.Thus, in an effort to understand the spread of plastic debris and garbage patches, researchers are working on exploratory projects for detecting plastic debris and accumulation areas. For instance, water circulation patterns (image 2) may easily allow to detect potential debris areas.
Image 2. Water current patterns of the great lakes
Source: NOAA

The problem (garbage patch in water bodies) exists. Garabage patches were found in all the oceans and some lakes. It is very likely that garbage patches are (o will be) present in other water bodies. we must be conscious of plastics that we use and dispose of. Try using reusable water bottles and shopping bags. Try using products with less packaging and avoid single use plastics. The more we reduce plastics consumption, the cleaner we can keep our oceans.

References and Further Reading
Great lakes garbage patch presents major threat to region's marine life, scientists say
New concerns about plastic pollution in great lakes garbage patch
Garbage patch in the oceans
Mean circulation in the great lakes

Passphrase instead of password

A recent study reported that 90% of all passwords are vulnerable to being hacked in just seconds. Moreover, it was stated that the 10000 most common passwords dictionary may easily allow access to 98% of all secured accounts (Video). That means that we are prone to being attacked.
Image 1. Source: PCMag

Just a fast glance at the dictionary and I could find some common patterns in the "random" passwords listed. The use of worldwide famous brands. The alfa-numerical combinations always have the numbers at the end. The numbers are always used in a given order; ascendant, descendant or a given relation, e.g. progression. The capital letters are used as the first character.

Image 1. Source

The main problem is that we are quite lazy for typing and thinking. Long passwords are not only difficult to write, but also difficult to remember. Typing any random combination of characters is also difficult to remember. The main question is how to get a password that is strong, easy to use and easy to remember.

Some days ago PCMag published an article about using passphrases. The main advantage is that they are larger; thus, more difficult to hack. The magazine also published a so called S.M.A.R.T. approach for creating passwords. As we will see, most of the advantages of this suggestion are implicitly accomplished when using passphrase.

Strong, which is simply to use many characters. With a simple phrase we can easily exceed 20 characters in an easy way to remember them. If we just type random characters, for sure it will be easy to forget them.

As already stated, when trying to use multi-character in a single password, we simply put the capital and the numeric characters either at the end or at the end. When using passphrase, we can easily  use a special character to sepparate words. Most password systems don't allow the space character. Thus, one typically  way to separate the words is to capitalize the first letter of a word. Other alternative could be to intercalate a full capital word with a full minuscules word. Other suggestion could be to separate the words with a capital, a number or a special character, e.g. a dash.

Avoid association
Most people usually uses passwords related to their pets name or car o birthday or some other "personal" information. I underlined the word personal, since the social media changed the meaning of personal information. Now it is very easy for a hacker to find some personal information just by some internet surfing. However, if we do not  use something personal, we may easily forget what was the phrase.

This random is not about random characters, but for using different passwords for different accounts. If we use one master password for everything, there is the risk that if such password is hacked then all our accounts are accessible.
The only advise, would be to follow a rule of thumb of one passwords for some 5 sites. However, also the use of passphrases would solve this issue. One paragraph could easily provide several passphrases.

This suggestion is about using a password management tool (PMT). PMT is a software that organizes passwords within a database. The main difference from normal databases, is that PMT encrypts the data.
Personally, I still have doubts about such tools, since the database is as accessible as any other file. Nevertheless, I admit that such software force us to.

To summarize, it is important to realize that with the internet web all computers are linked in a single network. We have access to communication and data, but at the same time it shares our information whether we want it or not. Besides, we are prone to receive virus or other unwanted data-files. Some unwanted files not only steal our information, but also damage our computer.

Some basic suggestion not only to protect our files and our equipment, but for surfing the internet:
Use a passphrase instead of password. One phrase from a text or a favorite quotation. That would easily provide us a passwords long, random and multicharacter password
Be careful with the information that we publish online. Let's realize that when we publish something online, we share it with the whole world

References and Further Reading: