September « 2017 « Hackers For Charity

Touchdown of our first flown shipment to Puerto Rico!

The bird has landed! We are so thrilled. Thanks to your support, and that of countless members of the community, our first shared cargo shipment has touched down on a plane funded by “an international Puerto Rican bank” who wishes to remain anonymous.

The detail of that shipment are outlined here.

Here are first photos of the plane, with Carlos and Juan waiting at the side of the runway:


Here’s a visual account of the gear that’s now on soil in Puerto Rico, thanks to you:

Thanks for your support, but we still have a journey ahead of us. We are going to get more power gear there, hopefully within this next week and hope to fill the gap as larger efforts begin to get underway. 

Please consider supporting our efforts by donating here. 

Our first non-commercial shipment to Puerto Rico


We have another shipment taking off from Miami on Saturday morning, September 30 detained for Puerto Rico. (Update: Plane arrived. See more recent post). We are sharing space in a larger plane and sending a good amount of gear.

First Mycroft sent a metric crapload of radios, including 30 Baofeng BF-888S handheld radios and 29 LT-316 handhelds, which are basically (Luiton RT/WLN rebrands). The Luiton’s are exceptional for our situation because they are USB-charged.

To power all of this we are sending four base stations including one medium and three stations.

The medium-sized stations include:

This can be used as a main neighborhood charging hubs or small law enforcement bases. 

The Yeti 400 can fully charge approximately twenty-five radios per day, or can be used to charge laptops, phones, tablets and more. The Nomad 100 should charge the 400 in approximately nine hours. Puerto Rico has approximately 5.5 hours of full sun per day, but we hope a fully discharge of the 400 will be rare. These power stations can also be charged from generator.

Each station will also include a Light-a-Life 4-light set and an additional Mini USB. These can be daisy chained to light an entire office. We will also include Torch tri-power (solar, USB charge and crank) combination spotlight, emergency signal light and flood light. The torch can also be used to charge the USB radios as well as any other USB device.

The mini base stations are for neighborhood hubs and include:

These portable Yeti 150’s can charge up to ten radios per day, or can be used to charge phones, tablets and more. The dual Nomad 28’s should charge the 150 in approximately five hours.

Each mini base station will also include a Light-a-Life hanging light and well as a Torch tri-power (solar, USB charge and crank) combination spotlight, emergency signal light and flood light. The torch can also be used to charge the USB radios as well as any other USB device.

We used this calculator to calculate the power requirements. This one is for the Yeti 400.

We are thrilled to have this first “non-commercial” shipment in motion. As you might recall, we had our previous shipment checked as luggage with Carlos and Juan. We have another potential shipment coming up on October 6 out of Pensacola. This shipment should allow us to send larger solar generators to assist local law enforcement, government, Civil defense and EMS.

Thanks so much for your support. This operation is taking a lot of time, effort and financial support. There are so many members of our community working on this from so many directions including and we couldn’t do it without each and every one of you. This is a true community effort! To pitch in, please stop by the Puerto Rico Disaster Relief donation page.

Planes and power math

We have a line on a plane to get our shipment down to Puerto Rico. This could happen by October 6. Hopefully, this will give our guys time to settle in a bit with their families and reconnect before we dump all this gear on them. 

Based on Goal Zero Nomad 28, Yeti 150, and Baofeng BF-888S handheld radios, we’re looking at this math. This will be a neighborhood radio charging station for (at most) ten radios:

Our larger setup will be based on (4) Yeti 1000 Generators, and (8) Nomad 100W folding panels. These will be larger systems not only for charging radios, but also fans, fridges, lights, comm gear and much more at operational bases serving Fire, EMS, Civil Defense and local Police.

We had looked at permanent install panels and larger folding 200W panels, but they are too big for the planes we’re looking at using for this next shipment. We also like the Nomad 100 because it weighs in at around ten pounds.

That’s where we are right now. We should be placing the order today. 

Thanks everyone!




Gear to Puerto Rico: First shipment

So far, we’ve been able to get the bare necessities to Carlos and Jose as they begin their journey back to their friends and family in Puerto Rico.

Our focus at this early stage was to get lightweight, immediate-need gear that could be checked on to their commercial flight. Based on their needs we included solar panels, power packs, lights and communications equipment. 

Thanks to a generous discount from Goal Zero, the following equipment was shipped to C&J and checked as luggage:

Mycroft also sent 30 Baofeng BF-888S handheld radios to get them started.

Here are some photos of the Goal Zero gear that was sent:

At this stage, we are working on logistics to get a larger pallet of radios and gear down to Puerto Rico, but we’ve run into some logistical problems. I have no doubt this team will get those issues sorted.

We will keep you posted and thanks for the support! 

Hackers working together to support Puerto Rico

As some of you know, this has been a devastating hurricane season for the US and coastal islands.

Although the season technically started in April, with devastating tropical depressions and continued through August with more intense tropical storms and Category 1 and 2 storms Franklin and Gert, most of us tuned in later in August, as Category 4 hurricane Harvey devastated southern Texas and most notably the Houston area. Within days, media attention was diverted to Irma as it quickly intensified into a Category 5 hurricane.

I distinctly remember one reporter saying that Puerto Rico had acted as a “shield” protecting South Florida from “catastrophic damage”.

Media attention was then briefly diverted to Maria, another Category 5 Hurricane, but once it was obvious that it would not affect the coastal US, media attention promptly returned to South Florida.

As this season unfolded, I personally felt helpless. I wanted to do something, but I had no clue what to do. Alan Young connected me with ITDRC (the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center), to its founder and to the FEMA coordination calls. I discovered the ITDRC was a great resource for getting techies like us connected to local (and surprisingly, remote) work to aid in disaster recovery. We planned an on-site to Houston to show that despite the lack of media attention, Houston was a mess and in need of assistance. But as it turned out, members of our community were already deeply involved in the horrors of this hurricane season, but not as volunteers.. as victims.

Our eyes were opened to what had happened “between the lines” of the media coverage of both Irma and Maria.

As it turns out, Irma, the first hurricane, was devastating to Puerto Rico. As my friend, fellow hacker and resident of Puerto Rico Carlos Perez told me, “Irma knocked out 75% of the power in Puerto Rico” before Maria even struck.

After Irma struck, Carlos was scheduled to teach a course to 45 students at Derbycon in Louisville, Kentucky. Knowing that students were already traveling to attend his course, Carlos’ wife, Marely Del Valle, insisted that he fly to Derbycon to teach. At first, Carlos was hesitant to leave his wife and three children (ages ten, three and four months) but she insisted. According to Carlos, she “was solid with her faith that whatever hit, they could handle [it]”. They felt prepared.

Carlos, and his friend and B-Sdies Puerto Rico director Jose Quinones headed out to Kentucky, fairly confident that things couldn’t get much worse. However, once Maria hit, he says, “everything changed”.

He was on the phone with Marely when the eye of Maria passed over Puerto Rico and communications dropped. Carlos was obviously terrified, but he “made the best effort to keep it cool in front of his students” and tried to “focus on delivering the class.”

He was somewhat comforted by the fact that his house was made of cement and rebar and had been “designed to hold”. He described the bars on his windows as being able to “withstand two-hundred mile-per-hour winds.

When communication returned, Carlos discovered that his assumptions were somewhat flawed. “We where lucky,” he said. His family was safe and his home suffered “minor property damage” but his neighbors, whose building standards were identical to his, were not so lucky.

Carlos’ efforts to get an earlier return flight were in vain. The entire island was without power. The airport had taken extensive damage, the airline file supply had been contaminated and the harbor was blocked by countless shipwrecks. Flooding was extensive. Roads and bridges were destroyed.

Marely made the best of it, sheltering neighbors and family, taking care of not only their three children but also Carlos’ parents, his brother’s and sister’s family and had even been looking after her father, whose home was severely damaged by a fallen tree.

The family was safe, but conditions were worsening. Carlos’ youngest children were suffering from minor respiratory problems because of the intense heat and fumes from neighbor’s gas generators. The family had stocked up on drinking water but despite the flooding that ravaged the island, they faced a shortage of water for washing, bathing and clearing toilets.

The photos and video footage can’t accurately capture the devastation: See these Spanish and English-language articles.

According to Carlos, Marely is “soldiering on” but he’s desperate to make his flight home to help her out and work to make a difference in his community.

I learned of the unfolding tragedy in our community from Josh Marpet, a fellow hacker with a superpower for connecting and motivating people. With a keen eye for figuring out who to “spin up to get things done” he quickly moved into action.

As news spread, our community jumped into the fray. What began as simple fundraising has turned into a multi-faceted disaster relief response to help not only Carlos and Jose, but their families and immediate community with an eye on helping local law enforcement as well. 

According to Carlos, the primary needs are for alternative power and communication. At this point, this solution consists of UHF/VHF handheld radio equipment to connect families, communities and law enforcement and solar equipment to keep things powered. Having worked with Goal Zero in the past, we turned to them for continued support and were thrilled to again find them a willing partner. They offered us a deep discount on solar equipment and overnight shipping to get this portable gear into Jose and Carlos hands before their flight on September 27. At this point, we have shipped the following to Kentucky:

We are also planning a much larger shipment of equipment to Puerto Rico in the coming week and are working on land freight and flight logistics with “friends of the community” (non-hackers) who were in the right place at the right time, saw what we were doing and were motivated to help.

We will also be coordinating efforts to get community members on-site in Puerto Rico. This will be coordinated with the ITDRC. If you’re interested in volunteering either in-person, or remotely, please sign up here. We ask that you list “” in the referral source so that our volunteers can be fast-tracked.

To date, the following individuals and organizations have financially supported our efforts. We are deeply grateful to each and every one of them (listed in no particular order):

  • HushCon
  • NolaCon
  • BsidesDE
  • ShmooCon
  • Shannon McMurtrey
  • Chad Rikansrud
  • Lauren Rogers
  • Andrew Click
  • Afterwits
  • Lorenzo Ireland
  • Simone Tartaglia
  • NoStarch Press
  • Forgotten
  • Pilgrim
  • Anjul
  • Spencer
  • James Gilsinn
  • Lou Arruda
  • Jeffrey S Boden
  • Alejandra Espinosa
  • Marc Séguin
  • John Kostuch
  • Andrew Orr
  • Travis Rhodes
  • Dorann Norman
  • Charles Pacheco
  • Todd Miller
  • jean stanford

We will post updates as they happen, most frequently through my twitter account @ihackstuff.