Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Building your own Noah's Ark. But smaller and for knowledge.

Imagine for a moment: life without the Internet. Along with a heap of other conveniences, gone is effortless access to information on any conceivable topic. While extended periods of time without free and easy access to the web are hard to imagine, the cost for preparing for this contingency is tiny. Doing so takes up no physical space, is essentially free and the content won't expire.

The only real effort involves a thought exercise: what content do I want when our imaginary doomsday hits?

Sites like TruePrepper take a decidedly functional approach to this challenge. They recommend books and manuals to sharpen your survival skills. Survivor Library offers a more holistic approach. While they have an extensive section on individual survival , they have a broader mission: to provide the wisdom needed to power a society. They offer books on everything from accounting to weaving (what, no zoology?).

Initially, I thought I might download the documents on the Survivor Library, copy them to a Micro SD card and be done with this little experiment. But, as I started to think about what documents I'd want access to, it occurred to me that quality, not quantity is the goal. You can see what I've come up here, and the list continues to grow as ideas strike.

Once I had a list of URLs to PDFs, the next step was to write some code that would download these files to my computer. Once downloaded, I can copy them to a Micro SD card for safe, Internet-free keeping. As a bonus, I opted to copy them to an Amazon S3 bucket. This cloud based backup is useful if the original sources on the web become unavailable. The script libraryassist handles these uploading and downloading tasks. Here's the script in action as I ask it to process the 'medical' related documents I added to my catalog:

# Pull down documents from the web
$ ./libraryassist -a get-all
medical: Where_There_Is_No_Doctor.pdf (https://ia800207.us.archive.org/33/items/WhereThereIsNoDoctor-English-DavidWerner/14.DavidWerner-WhereThereIsNoDoctor.pdf)
medical: nato-emergency-war-surgery.pdf (https://www.survivorlibrary.com/library/nato-emergency-war-surgery.pdf)
medical: Survival_and_Austere_Medicine.pdf (https://www.survivorlibrary.com/library/survival-medicine.pdf)
medical: ditch-medicine-advanced-field-procedures-for-emergencies-1993.pdf (https://www.survivorlibrary.com/library/ditch-medicine-advanced-field-procedures-for-emergencies-1993.pdf)
medical: the_ship_captains_medical_guide_2014.pdf (https://www.survivorlibrary.com/library/the_ship_captains_medical_guide_2014.pdf)
medical: Where-There-is-No-Dentist.pdf (https://www.trueprepper.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Where-There-is-No-Dentist.pdf)
skills: SERE_Handbook.pdf (https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_a3/publication/afh10-644/afh10-644.pdf)
skills: The_American_Drawing_Book.pdf (http://www.projectarts.org/pdfs_texts/The%20American%20Drawing%20Book.pdf)
skills: how-to-find-your-way.pdf (https://www.survivorlibrary.com/library/how-to-find-your-way.pdf)
skills: CERT_Basic_Training.pdf (https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2019.CERT_.Basic_.PM_FINAL_508c.pdf)
skills: Drawing_on_the_Right_Side_of_the_Brain.pdf (https://ia802205.us.archive.org/0/items/pdfy-5dQt81v7NYVZl2La/The%20New%20Drawing%20on%20the%20Right%20Side%20of%20the%20Brain.pdf)
skills: American_Card_Player.pdf (https://archive.org/download/americancardplay00dick/americancardplay00dick.pdf)

# Cache the documents in S3, so I don't depend on another website to host them
$ ./libraryassist -a push-all
upload: medical/Where-There-is-No-Dentist.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/medical/Where-There-is-No-Dentist.pdf
upload: medical/the_ship_captains_medical_guide_2014.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/medical/the_ship_captains_medical_guide_2014.pdf
upload: skills/American_Card_Player.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/skills/American_Card_Player.pdf
upload: medical/survival-personal-wilderness-medical-kit.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/medical/survival-personal-wilderness-medical-kit.pdf
upload: medical/nato-emergency-war-surgery.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/medical/nato-emergency-war-surgery.pdf
upload: medical/Survival_and_Austere_Medicine.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/medical/Survival_and_Austere_Medicine.pdf
upload: skills/CERT_Basic_Training.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/skills/CERT_Basic_Training.pdf
upload: medical/ditch-medicine-advanced-field-procedures-for-emergencies-1993.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/medical/ditch-medicine-advanced-field-procedures-for-emergencies-1993.pdf
upload: medical/Where_There_Is_No_Doctor.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/medical/Where_There_Is_No_Doctor.pdf
upload: skills/how-to-find-your-way.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/skills/how-to-find-your-way.pdf
upload: skills/SERE_Handbook.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/skills/SERE_Handbook.pdf
upload: skills/The_American_Drawing_Book.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/skills/The_American_Drawing_Book.pdf
upload: skills/Drawing_on_the_Right_Side_of_the_Brain.pdf to s3://library-benjisimon-com/skills/Drawing_on_the_Right_Side_of_the_Brain.pdf

# Copy these to a Micro SD card

# Make the drive available WSL2
$ sudo mount -t drvfs 'D:' /mnt/d

# Copy the locally downloaded PDF library to the SD card
$ cd pdf
$ tar cf - . | (cd /mnt/d/ ; tar xvf -)

My library currently consists of 62 documents and weighs in at 629 Megabytes. That's about 2% of the space of a $6.00, 32 Gig SD card.

On one hand, the idea of stockpiling digital information is silly. What's the circumstance where resources are so limited that you need a text on say, providing health care without a doctor, yet at the same time you have electricity, a computer and a PDF reader at the ready? If this library is going to save the day, it's most likely because I've found myself at an airport with an extended layer over and nothing to read. And yet, there's something intriguing about this exercise.

Perhaps it's because it helps me appreciate the diverse, yet invisible quantity of wisdom that I depend on every day. Or, maybe it's the fact that I'm able to easily collect, organize and store a massive repository of information on a tiny sliver of plastic the size of my thumbnail.  Practical or not, such a library is a pure wonder.

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