Hackit: Ripping DVDs

A recent report from Futuresource Consulting states that just under 1/3 of Americans and just over 1/3 of UK residents have engaged in some form of DVD ripping in the last 6 months. Though [Jacqui Cheng] of Ars Technica was unphased, we were very surprised to learn that one of the most common methods is possibly the most low-tech, yet certainly cross-platform: hooking a DVD player to a DVD recorder via coaxial cable or composite. Our toolbelt is somewhat different, as we imagine yours is.

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Subwoofer makes cornstarch dance

People tend not to think about the non-Newtonian properties of foodstuffs, but we’re glad at least one person did. When it comes to cornstarch, it’s indeterminate viscosity when mixed with water made it the perfect solution for a pretty neat trick: making a liquid move in reaction to a subwoofer. The unique motion can be attributed to the physical properties of the solution: when enough force is applied quickly, it acts as a solid. Otherwise, it flows like a liquid. The erratic bouncing of the sound waves combined with a little tactile manipulation create varying degrees and speeds of applied pressure, which in turn create a mass of flowing shapes that almost appear to be alive.

We’ve covered weird fluids before, but this is perhaps most similar to SnOil, a game that uses ferrofluids to achieve a similar result. SnOil, however, does not depend of vibrations to create shapes in the fluid, it uses small electromagnets and magnetically charges liquid instead. We love the ordered appearance of the SnOil unit, but the chaotic motion of the cornstarch and it’s non-Newtonian properties make it appear almost otherworldly. We wonder how ferrofluids would react in a situation similar to the cornstarch above, since it would respond to both the vibration and the voice coil’s magnetic field.

[via Neatorama]

Packet trace anonymization with PktAnon

If you’re a network researcher or systems administrator, you know that network traces are often necessary, but not easy to share with colleagues and other researchers. To help with both ease of use and handling of sensitive information, the Institute of Telematics has developed PktAnon, a framework that anonymizes network traffic.

It works by using a profile-based scheme that supports various anonymization primitives, making it easy to switch between different network protocols and anonymization methods. New primitives can easily be added, and several pre-defined profiles are bundled into the distro. The profiles are all XML-based.

Essentially, there are two major uses for network traces: anonymizing user traffic in order to research it, and anonymizing in-house usage, thus preventing the leakage of sensitive information. It’s a rather rigid scheme, but using profiles for this was a stroke of genius that made it a lot easier, more flexible, and as a result, more useful and powerful.

[via TaoSecurity]
[photo: mlpoulter]

Map abstraction API in Javascript

Maybe you’ve tinkered a bit with the Google Maps API. Most of the software produced with it is not all that useful or entertaining, but a few gem have shone through. Still, wouldn’t it be better if applications produced with it could be easily ported to other online mapping services like Mapquest or Yahoo! Maps?

This is possible with Mapstraction, a Javascript API that works with nine mapping services and plans to incorporate more into the fold. Mapstraction has open-source features that normalize functions across the biggest services, which makes searching for map data a consistent, predictable experience no matter which service you use.

Some of Mapstraction’s current features are what you would expect: point, line, and polygon support, image overlay, GeoRSS and KML feed importing, and several others. We’re really looking forward to future versions with OpenStreetMap support. Currently Mapstraction works with only commercial mapping services, but OpenStreetMap combined with Mapstraction directly hits the sweet spot; a customizable, open source map.

[via Hackszine]

Dancing Wall-E and Rhythmic Synth

Whether you loved, hated, or didn’t see Wall-E, it’s hard not to fall in love with the iDance Wall-E toy. Connect him to an audio source and Wall-E will dance around like an epileptic Billy Bass.

[Gian Pablo Villamil] at NYC Resistor wondered whether it would work with his custom made Rhythmic Synth, and to his and our delight, it does! The Rhythmic Synth is an older project of his; it is a simple rhythm generator with 4 pitch knobs, 4 modulation knobs, and 4 phase switches. The case was taken from an old external Iomega CD-ROM drive.

Getting the Wall-E to dance isn’t much of a feat, but something about the dancing combined with a synth with embedded lights just screams robot dance party, and that can never be wrong. We’d love to see the Wall-E dancing to a cleaner, more complete synth: maybe this one. Check out Wall-E busting a move after the break.

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Pirate Bay hits the road, angles for encryption

Piratbyrån and their hearties from The Pirate Bay are on a pan-European summer journey that will end at the Manifesta art biennial in Italy, but in the meantime they’ve been hard at work lobbying for total network encryption, a system that would protect users of a network (say, a P2P network) from deep packet inspection and other forms of activity analysis.

The system by which this will be achieved is called IPETEE, and it works by replacing the basic operating system network stack and doing all encryption and decryption itself. More details can be found in the IPETEE technical proposal.

Ars Technica pointed out numerous holes in the scheme, noting that most torrent apps already have encryption options. IPETEE applies to more than just torrents, though, so the larger problem is that encrypted packet still need source and destination IP addresses, meaning that one of the most crucial things you’d want to keep private (your destination site) is still accessible.

Portable air conditioner

The dog days of Summer are looming just over the horizon like a hot sticky wave of impending doom, but you don’t have to take it lying down. Building a portable air conditioner is cheap easy, and we daresay refreshing.

You’ll need the following materials: a condenser, heater core, or radiator, a styrofoam cooler, a submersible water pump, a few case fans, some adapters to power the works, and a few other materials. The pump circulates cold water through the condenser as the fan pushes air through it and the rest of the box.

We’ve never been huge fans of swamp coolers like this one since they offer no true refrigeration cycle. What’s more, they pump a good deal of humidity into the air, which makes the heat worse in the long run, or creates a vicious cycle of cooling and humidifying. Still, when the heat is scrambling our brains, it’s hard to say no to any relief, however ephemeral.