Access to tools
Access to tools and facilities for this type of work can be difficult to obtain. If you are working with us in the Bay Area then you can become a member of Biocurious in the South Bay and use their facilities. This requires passing some basic safety training. We are hard at work setting up Counter Culture Labs, a new community lab in Oakland.
If you are not in the bay area, then DIYbio.org has a list of local groups engaged in biohacking. Some of these groups have laboratory facilities, but many do not. If you are in a company with free or cheap college/university education, then signing up for a lab course is a great way to gain experience. If there are pre-requisites then do whatever you can to bypass or social engineer your way around them, as long as they are not safety courses. Always take courses related to safety or sterile technique first if available!
You can also set up your own home lab. In the U.S. craiglist and ebay are good sources for used gear. University dumpsters can be excellent sources of old and working or broken but fixable gear. Most of the essential equipment can be improvised from off the shelf equipment, but the cost of reagents can still be daunting. If a company won't sell you reagents, try ordering with a fictitious corporation at a commercial address (you probably know someone who will let you use their commercial address) or set up a real corporation at a commercial address (it's neither difficult nor expensive).
WARNING: Following any of the advice in the text below may be illegal depending on the laws of your country. Do your own research to ensure that you are not breaking the law.
Access to knowledge
- bioRxiv - If you can't find the published article, this might have a free pre-print
- Science Direct
- Google Scholar
- The Patent Lens
Unfortunately many textbooks and scientific articles are not available under free and open licenses. While a more in-depth guide is currently being written, here are some ways to get access:
If you have a University login already, you should be able to use your University's proxy server to access scientific articles. If you don't, someone you know may be willing to lend you their login. It may be worth it to sign up for a class at a community college to get a login (that may not expire for a long time after the end of the class) but all university access is not created equal so you may still be denied access to some journals.
If you are willing to take some amount of risk then you can trade or buy logins from some of the shadier forums online (ezproxy is a good keyword), or you could simply set up something like the WiFi Pineapple at a place where University Students hang out, and phish for login information. Many students never change their passwords unless forced and if you only use it for article access it is unlikely to be detected, but use Tor and or a VPN to be safe.
The main Library Genesis Search Engine also has scientific articles. They have a surprising amount of articles for direct download.
If you can't find your article anywhere else, try sci-hub. If that link doesn't work then you can usually find the currently working URL in the right-hand side-bar on the sci-hub wikipedia article. This site is awesome. It has an astounding amount of articles and if it doesn't have the article you need it will use one of a set of hacked paid accounts to download the article and serve it up.
Request on mailing lists
Asking on one of the following mailing lists is a good last resort for getting access to an article:
- DIYBio mailing list (for bio-related articles)
- Counter Culture Labs mailing list (for articles related to CCL projects)
The Russian pirate library Library Genesis is awesome. They have a large amount sof all english language textbooks for free direct download. They cap their download speeds at a few KB per second, but books are usually small downloads anyway. Sometimes the downloads will fail part way through. Use something that's capable of restarting a failed download just in case (e.g. Firefox).
Pirate from open torrent trackers
If you are lucky you can find the book via one of the open torrent trackers. These are good places to start:
If you can't access these sites, they may be blocked by your country. You can use a VPN such as Mullvad to bypass these restrictions.
Pirate from private torrent trackers
There are many private torrent trackers. Most of them are of much higher quality than the open trackers and several are dedicated to ebooks.
Some of them have an interview process. Some of them are invite only. All of them require the user to upload at least as much as they download and follow a set of strict rules. This can be somewhat technically challenging as it can require a bit of strategy in selecting what to download (downloading only unpopular things means no-one downloads from you), or it may mean that you need to set up port forwarding or even a dedicated seed box to live up to the seeding requirements. This may seem daunting, but once you know how it works and have access it can be a great resource and community!
The private trackers generally do not like to be mentioned on other websites and we don't want to attract their ire, so if you want to go this route, talk to us in person.
Go to OpenLibrary.org and search for the book. If you're lucky there is a free download available. If you're less lucky you may be able to borrow a digital edition via your local library.
Even if OpenLibrary doesn't list the ability to borrow a digital edition, your local library may still have a digital edition. Check with them directly.
If there's no digital edition, your library might still have a physical edition.
Even if no copies are available at your local library you may be able to borrow it from a remote library, though it may take some time. Some libraries even allow you to request that they buy a certain book and some will let you sign up to be the first to borrow it once it has been bought.
Some university libraries will allow you access by showing a student ID and won't actually look you up in their database to check if you're still a student until you try to check out a book. If you used to be a student and the student ID doesn't have an expiration date then this basically means lifetime access.
Liberate from Amazon
If you really can't find the book anywhere, check if there is a digital edition available for sale on Amazon. If there is, simply download and install the free Kindle application for your operating system. Then purchase the digital edition from Amazon. It should download into your Kindle application. Now close the Kindle application and download and install Calibre (the free and open ebook management and reading application)/. Follow this guide to install the the DeDRM plugin for Calibre. This plugin will allow you to remove Digital Restrictions Management from the book you bought from Amazon. Now open the book you bought from Amazon. You may have to search for the file for the book to figure out where the Kindle application saved it. Once it is in Calibre, use the DeDRM plugin to remove the DRM. Make a copy of the book with the DRM stripped somewhere safe just in case. Now you can return the digital book to Amazon for a full refund. You may have to do a bit of searching to actually find out how to do this, but it _is_ possible. Once it is returned you have your free ebook that you can share with your friends without restrictions! Hurry up and put it on your favorite torrent site!
It almost goes without saying that you don't want to do this too often from the same Amazon account.
For many books you can find a used copy cheap from a third-party reseller via Amazon. If you have to resort to this, then please ensure that the book is scanned and made available for others. You can find a publicly available non-destructive book scanner at the hackerspace in San Francisco.