Browsing the web one step at a time

After modifying his new manual treadmill to fit under his standing desk, [Brian Peiris] found a way to let him stroll all over the internet.

After removing the treadmill’s original time/distance display, [Peiris] reverse engineered the speed sensor to send data to an Arduino and his PC.  We’ve seen a number of projects that interface treadmills with virtual worlds, but what really makes this project stand out is a simple script using the Throxy Python library which allows the treadmill to throttle his machine’s internet connection.

The end result is a browsing experience that reacts to how fast the user runs.  In the demonstration video, you can see Peiris tiptoe through images or jog through YouTube videos.  A minimum bandwidth setting keeps the connection live, so if you can’t make it all the way through that HD Netflix movie, taking a breather won’t time out the connection.

It’s certainly a great way to get in shape, or at the very least, it’ll make your ISP’s bandwidth cap feel a lot bigger.

Video after the jump.

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Free yourself from social media with classical conditioning

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While [Robert] and [Dan] should be working on their dissertation, they found they actually spend a whole lot of time whiling away their days on Facebook and other social media sites. Taking inspiration from a Skinner box, they rigged up their computer to shock them every time they surfed on over to Facebook.

Their build uses the UI inspector in OS X and a Python script to activate an Arduino connected to one of those trick ‘shocking chewing gum’ pranks. The contacts for this shocker are attached to a keyboard wrist rest, providing a wonderful tingling sensation whenever the guys surf on over to Facebook.

Because shocks just aren’t extreme enough, [Robert] and [Dan] took their build one step further by invoking the wrath of Mechanical Turk users. They wrote a Python script to look at their UI inspector and submit a job to Mechanical Turk whenever they logged on to Facebook. The result is a random person being paid $1.40 to yell at [Robert] or [Dan] over the phone for wasting time on Facebook.

Video below, and be sure to like this post on Facebook.

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Defeating reddit’s CAPTCHA

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Here’s something we’re sure SEO specialists, PR reps, and other marketeers already know: how to write a script to game reddit.

The course of upvotes and downvotes controls which submission makes it to the front page of reddit. These submissions are voted on by users, and new accounts must log in and complete a CAPTCHA to vote. [Ian] discovered that reddit’s CAPTCHA is not really state-of-the-art, and figured out how to get a bot to solve it

The method exploits the 8-bit nature of the distorted grid in the CAPTCHA. Because this grid isn’t pure black or pure white, it’s at a lower intensity than the letters in the CAPTCHA. Putting the CAPTCHA through a threshold filter, deleting any blocks of pixels smaller than 20 pixels, and running it through a classifier (PDF there), a bot can guess what the letters of the CAPTCHA should be.

Out of the 489 CAPTCHAs [Ian] fed into his algorithm, only 28 – or 5.73% – were guessed correctly. However, because he knows which CAPTCHAs had failed segmentation, ignoring those can increase the success rate to 10%. Theoretically, by requesting new CAPTCHAs, [Ian] can get the accuracy of his CAPTCHA bot up to about 30%.

Combine this with a brilliant auto voting script that only requires someone to enter CAPTCHAs, and you’ve got the recipe for getting anything you want directly to the front page of reddit. Of course you could do the same with a few memes and pictures of cats, but you knew that already.

Making Digi-Key much, much prettier

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We all love Digikey, but of all the major component retailers out there, their web interface really isn’t that great. A lot of online sources for parts are much, much prettier, but nothing a good Greasemonkey script can’t fix. This is all the work of [Ben], and adds a ton of really, really useful features to the Digikey web interface.

First up is a whole bunch of pictures right at the top of the search results. If you’re looking for pin headers or weird connectors, this is an astonishing useful feature that will help you select the right part faster. After that is a ‘helper’ button for voltages. As you know, selecting a part with a 5V input requires clicking multiple options including 3.3-5V, 2.3-6V, and 5-40V. Clicking on the helper button and entering 5 V will select all the entries in the filter that contain a 5V part.

[Ben]‘s project has been tested with Firefox and Chrome with Greasemonkey extensions. Head on over to his project page for a much better demo of all the features for this really great tool.

Finally, a firewall for all the porn on the Internet

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The current UK government is proposing an Internet porn firewall. Unlike other countries with Internet firewalls, such as North Korea, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, the citizens of the UK are so especially helpful some of them decided to help code the new porn filter. The idea behind the Great Firewall of Porn is simple: if a user wants to visit a NSFW website, let them. If, the user wants to visit the other 19% of the Internet, block it, and forward them to a page with hand drawn cockswains a baubles as the background.

The way the firewall works is actually pretty clever – it checks each request against the OpenDNS FamilyShield filter. If the request is denied, load the page, and if the OpenDNS request is allowed, block the page.

The genius behind this filter, [sicksad], provided all the tools required to get your own porn filter up and running over on his git. There’s also a great setup tutorial video available below, with a little social commentary thrown in for free.

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A different type of Arduino Internet shield

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The cost of an Ethernet shield for an Arduino isn’t horrible; generally between $17 and $32 depending on which one you buy. But have you seen the cost of a WiFi shield? Those are running North of $70! [Martin Melchior] has a solution that provides your choice of Ethernet or WiFi at a low-cost and it’ll work for most applications. He’s using a WiFi router as an Arduino Internet shield.

This is the TP-Link WR703N which has been very popular with hackers because of its combination of low price (easy to find at $25 or less) and many features: the USB is super hand and, well, it’s a WiFi router! The Arduino Pro Mini shown dead-bug style is talking to the router using its serial port. [Martin] wires a pin socket to the router, which makes the rest of assembly as easy as plugging the two together. The rest of his post deals with handling bi-directional communications with Arduino code.

If you really just need that direct Ethernet pipe consider building an ENC28J60 chip into your designs.

Raspberry Pi Tor proxy lets you take anonymity with you

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Your web traffic is being logged at many different levels. There are a few different options to re-implement your privacy (living off the grid excluded), and the Tor network has long been one of the best options. But what about when you’re away from you home setup? Adafruit has your back. They’ve posted a guide which will turn a Raspberry Pi into a portable Tor proxy.

The technique requires an Ethernet connection, but these are usually pretty easy to come by in hotels or relatives’ homes. A bit of work configuring the Linux network components will turn the RPi into a WiFi access point. Connect to it with your laptop or smartphone and you can browse like normal. The RPi will anonymize the IP address for all web traffic.

Leveraging the Tor network for privacy isn’t a new subject for us. We’ve looked at tor acks that go all the way back to the beginnings of Hackaday. The subject comes and goes but the hardware for it just keeps getting better!