Blue light special: Earn $10 by installing spyware

sears

Ars technica is reporting on the ruling from the FTC about the software shenanigans of Kmart and Sears. The marketing geniuses behind the parent company of Sears and Kmart decided they needed more information about the users of their website. Their solution? Offering $10 to users who install their custom software which phones home with data on just about everything they do on their computer. Not content with just browsing habits of webites, the software apparently recorded everything the user did online, including secure sessions. Under the settlement (PDF) with the FTC, Sears says they will stop collecting data and promises to destroy any and all information they’ve collected so far. Selling what websites you’ve been to, how much money you have, which prescriptions you take and what products you’re interested in for the low low price of $10 seems like a bargain.

Laser spiro made from junk

P6080017

Sometimes we need someone like [FireMyLaser] to show us that you really don’t need things like custom PCB’s, expensive tools, or laser cutters to pull of a hack. His laser spiro subsists mostly of  toothpicks, hotglue, and determination. It is a two motor spiro with a base motor and a motor mounted in a  spinning cage. The cage gets power through brushes much like other projects we’ve covered. See a video of it in action after the break.
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Pictures from space for $150

prelaunch

Ever wanted to be able to launch a balloon into space, track its location via GPS, take some photographs of the curvature of the earth, and recover the balloon, all for the low low cost of $150? [Oliver Yeh] sent in his teams project, Icarus, which does just that. The group of MIT students found that they could use a weather balloon filled with helium to reach heights of around 20 miles above the earth;  their particular balloon achieved 93,000 feet (17.5 miles). Then, utilizing only off the shelf components with no soldering, conjured up a GPS tracker using a Motorola i290 Prepaid Cellphone. They then used a Canon A470 loaded with the chdk open source firmware to take pictures. After seeing the results of their launch, the team hopes that this could rejuvenate interests in science and the arts.

Beer brewer’s temperature controller

freezer_temperature_controller

Steady fermentation temperatures, usually at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, are an important part of brewing beer. Because of this, the wort (unfermented beer) is often temperature controlled during fermentation. [android] needed a temperature controller for fermenting beer in a chest freezer. Much like the energy efficient fridge hack from last month, the chest freezer is switched on and off to achieve the desired temperature. Instead of buying a controller, [android] built around an existing design. His project uses a solid state relay to switch an outlet on and off.

The temperature is controlled by a home thermostat. He removed the thermistor from the unit and extended it with 24 gauge wire so that it can go inside of the chest freezer. Utilizing a junction box, the freezer is plugged into one switched outlet and controlled by the thermostat via the relay. The other outlet is unswitched and provides DC power for the relay using a wall wort transformer. Although this thermostat cannot be set cold enough for lagering, it is perfect for keeping kegs at the correct beer serving temperatures when not being used for fermentation.

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