Category Archives: Aaron Swartz Day

Matteo Borri in Mondo 2000

I have been doing a fair bit of writing again, and just wrote this piece for Mondo 2000 about my friend and collaborator, Matteo Borri.

(Matteo is on the Aaron Swartz Day Advisory Board and the Swartz-Manning VR Destination Advisory Board.)

Meet Matteo Borri & His Most Recent Inventions

Matteo Borri, 2018.

From the Mondo 2000 article:
LR: Tell me about this stuff you invented to help Puerto Rico. It is really interesting. The solar cell phone charger and the thing you call a “Vampire Charger,” that enables you to get whatever battery power is left out of any battery without the danger of blowing up your phone if the voltage doesn’t match.

MB: Yes. I named it the “Vampire Charger.” It is an inefficient but flexible device which will take any voltage that you might find in the world – from 1.5 volts to 12 volts – to even 110! (That’s when it stops, as 220 will blow it up, but 220 is not a common voltage in the U.S., so if you’re over here, it’s not a problem. I’ll have to come up with an European adapter 🙂

LR: So this is for when something bad has happened, obviously, and you need whatever power you can get, right?

MB: Yes. The idea is that you can use it with any kind of source of power that still works. You don’t know the voltage, you don’t know the current. You don’t even know which is plus and which is minus. You don’t even know if it’s AC or DC!

It has two alligator clips.You connect them to ANY two contacts of the part in question, in any way. (To be clear: the color it doesn’t even matter, in this case.) And it gives you USB power, safely!

LR: I’ve never seen anything else like these Vampire Chargers – in terms of options to keep your phone alive after a disaster. I mean there are batteries that you can keep charged up; and this. Right?

Vampire Charger – How It Works
Here’s a short video where Matteo explains how the Vampire Charger works.
Step 1: find a battery in some device, and you don’t know exactly:
-what exactly the voltage is
-what exactly the current is
Step 2: Connect the contacts to your phone:
– plus or minus/color doesn’t matter
– AC or DC

LR: Why doesn’t the plus or minus or AC/DC matter? What is going on technically?

MB: It has a Schottky rectifier. Then it has a step up. Then it has a step down. So, it’s a bit inefficient, but flexible.


Back to the old blog

It’s been over a year technically – and many many years, since I have really blogged on this thing on a regular basis.

I guess at some point that projects I was working on consumed so much time there was no room for blogging, and now it’s like a whole decade of my life that I’ve lost. Or at least don’t have as well indexed as the six years before that. (I started blogging in 2001.)

Well, no time like the present to go back and catch up! My life has become beautiful and surreal in unexpected ways this last year. Aaron Swartz Day has blossomed into a historical occasion (video and transcripts here) that I’ll be writing about for months to come. I’m lecturing at San Francisco State University and finding it to be one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, and I’ve launched also a new career as an independent film maker, with a Kickstarter campaign that’s currently in mid-swing.

My first movie is entitled “From DeadDrop to SecureDrop,” and focuses on the open source anonymous whistleblower submission platform SecureDrop (originally protyped as “DeadDrop” by Kevin Poulsen and Aaron Swartz.)

SecureDrop is alive and well over at the Freedom of the Press Foundation. There are now over 19 news and non-profit organizations that have SecureDrop implementations. You’ll be hearing a lot more about SecureDrop over the next few weeks and months, as it’s one of my current obsessions, not only as I make this film, but as I teach my classes and write articles and blogposts about how I truly believe that SecureDrop is an important tool to help make the world a better place.