Is A Pigeon Faster Than The Internet?

[Jeff Geerling]’s latest project is for the birds — literally. Even though he has a brand new high-speed fiber optic internet connection, online backups of YouTube video projects still take hours. He decided to see if the conclusions from a 2009 in South Africa study still hold true today — that using carrier pigeons to send files can be faster than the internet. [Jeff] sets up an experiment to send 3 TB of data by homing pigeon a distance of one mile to establish a baseline. Next, [Jeff] sends the same 3 TB of data over the internet, and donning the cap of honorary pigeon, simultaneously embarks on a journey by air to his off-site backup service in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

[Jeff] points out that you also have to consider the transfer time of your files onto and from the pigeon-suitable memory cards. He jumped through several hoops to minimize that, but it still consumed 2-1/2 hours total. Trying to keep the comparison fair, he also spent a couple days optimizing his internet connection to eek out the best possible speed. Continue reading “Is A Pigeon Faster Than The Internet?”

Stay Online When The Power Goes Out With This Fiber Modem UPS Hack

It’s desirable to have your Internet connection up at all times, particularly as it can take some time to get back online if you have a power interruption or similar. [Brink] had some issues with the power supply in their apartment, so they set about whipping up a backup power solution to keep their Verizon ONT fiber modem up and running in such events.

The I-211M-L modem is actually equipped to run on backup battery power, but by default, it will only keep phone service online. Data and television services are normally switched off when the mains supply goes out. Thankfully, a minor mod to the unit’s power cable shared by [mousehunt] enables it to keep data services online when running on backup power. Grounding a bunch of pins with a strip of foil is enough to do the job.

From there, it’s a simple matter of hooking up a stout 12 V battery to the modem via its backup power connector. [Brink] specified a nifty 12 V rechargeable lithium ion pack for the job, which is sold as a portable power unit for running LED strips. Some neat cabling to keep the battery charged later, and you’ve got a working UPS setup to keep the comms online.

Combined with a UPS to run the rest of your computers and networking equipment, this is a great solution to stay online during local power outages. We’ve featured some other great UPS hacks over the years, too, like these supercap UPSs for special cases. If you’ve got your own nifty power hacks, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

Share Your Projects: Leave Breadcrumbs

I’ve talked about a low-effort way to document your projects by taking plenty of pictures, and about ways that your PCBs could be documenting themselves. Today, let’s talk about a quick and easy way that you could help other hackers as you go through your own hacking adventures — leaving breadcrumbs.

In short, breadcrumbs are little pieces of crucial information that you had to spend time to figure out. They are solutions to problems that another hacker just like you could stumble upon in the future, something that you perhaps wish you didn’t have to figure out on your own, and certainly something that others won’t need to spend time figuring out.

Breadcrumbs are about saving time, for you and others. It helps if you think of your solved problems in terms of time spent. If you figure out a small problem and then publish your solution, you might be saving half an hour, a full hour, or a good few hours of time another hacker that’s could even be less experienced in debugging than you. In fact, your breadcrumb might even make a difference between someone completing a project and abandoning it!

However, there’s also the trade-off of taking time to document something. If you can’t publish your solution in a few minutes’ time, it might become much harder to persuade your brain to publish the next time you have something notable. Here’s a guideline: if you’ve just figured out a cool terminal command that helps you solve a certain kind of problem, you should have a quick way to publish that command within a minute. The good news is, the internet has a hundred different places you could easily share your findings, depending on the kind of problem you’ve solved! Continue reading “Share Your Projects: Leave Breadcrumbs”

2600 Breaks Free From DRM With PDF/EPUB Subscription

Hackaday has been online in some form or another since 2004, which for the Internet, makes us pretty damn old. But while that makes us one of the oldest surviving web resources for hacker types, we’ve got nothing on 2600 — they’ve been publishing their quarterly zine since 1984.

Summer 2023 Issue of 2600

While the physical magazine can still be found on store shelves, the iconic publication expanded into digital distribution some time ago, thanks largely to the Kindle’s Newsstand service. Unfortunately, that meant Amazon’s recent decision to shutter Newsstand threatened to deprive 2600 of a sizable chunk of their income. So what would any group of hackers do? They took matters into their own hands and spun-up their own digital distribution system.

As of today you’re able to subscribe to the digital version of 2600 in DRM-free PDF or EPUB formats, directly from the magazine’s official website. Which one you pick largely depends on how you want to read it: those looking for the highest fidelity experience should go with PDF, as it features an identical layout to the physical magazine, while those who are more concerned with how the content looks on their reader of choice would perhaps be better served by the flexibility of EPUB. After signing up you can download the current Summer issue immediately, with future issues hitting your inbox automatically. Load it onto your home-built Open Book, and you can really stick it to the establishment.

While the ending of this story seems to be a happy one, we can’t help but see it as a cautionary tale. How many other magazines would have the means and experience to offer up their own digital subscriptions? Or for that matter, how many could boast readers savvy enough to utilize it? The reality is many publications will be injured by Amazon’s decision, some mortally so. That’s a lot of power to be put into the hands of just one company, no matter how quick the shipping is.

Your Guide To Using Amazon’s Sidewalk Network For The Internet Of Things

As the Internet of Things became a mainstream reality, it raised an interesting point about connectivity. We quickly learned it wasn’t ideal to have every light bulb, toaster, and kettle buzzing away on our main WiFi networks. Nor was it practical to sign up for a cellular data plan for every tracker tag or remote sensor we wanted to use.

To solve this issue, various tech companies have developed their own low-power mesh networking solutions. Amazon’s Sidewalk network is one of the widest spread in the US. Now, it’s opening it up for wider use beyond its own products, and you can get in on the action.

Continue reading “Your Guide To Using Amazon’s Sidewalk Network For The Internet Of Things”

The Modern WWW, Or: Where Do We Want To Go From Here?

From the early days of ARPANET until the dawn of the World Wide Web (WWW), the internet was primarily the domain of researchers, teachers and students, with hobbyists running their own BBS servers you could dial into, yet not connected to the internet. Pitched in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee while working at CERN, the WWW was intended as an information management system that’d provide standardized access to information using HTTP as the transfer protocol and HTML and later CSS to create formatted documents inspired by the SGML standard. Even better, it allowed for WWW forums and personal websites to begin to pop up, enabling the eternal joy of web rings, animated GIFs and forums on any conceivable topic.

During the early 90s, as the newly opened WWW began to gain traction with the public, the Mosaic browser formed the backbone of the WWW browsers (‘web browsers’) of the time, including Internet Explorer – which licensed the Mosaic code – and the Mosaic-based Netscape Navigator. With the WWW standards set by the – Berners-Lee-founded – World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the stage appeared to be set for an open and fair playing field for all. What we got instead was the brawl referred to as the ‘browser wars‘, which – although changed – continues to this day.

Today it isn’t Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that’s ruling the WWW while setting the course for new web standards, but instead we have Google’s Chrome browser partying like it’s the early 2000s and it’s wearing an IE mask. With former competitors like Opera and Microsoft having switched to the Chromium browser engine that underlies Chrome, what does this tell us about the chances for alternative browsers and the future of the WWW?

Continue reading “The Modern WWW, Or: Where Do We Want To Go From Here?”

A cat skull enclosed in a domed security camera enclosure with green LEDs illuminating the eye sockets, sitting on a table with other skulls and rocks.

Cat Skull For Internet Connection Divination

[Emily Velasco] has an internet provider that provides sub-par connectivity. Instead of repeatedly refreshing a browser tab to test if the network is up, [Emily] decided to create an internet status monitor by embedding indicator lights in a cat skull…for some reason.

The electronics are straightforward, with the complete parts list consisting of an Arduino Nano 33 IoT device connected to a pair of RGB LEDs and 50 Ohm resistors. The Nano attempts to connect to a known site (in this case, the Google landing page) every two seconds and sets the LEDs to green if it succeeds or red if it fails.

The cat skull is thankfully a replica, 3D printed by one of [Emily]’s Twitter acquaintances, and the whole project was housed in a domed security camera enclosure. [Emily] mounts the LEDs into the skull to create a “brain in a jar” effect.

The source is available on GitHub for those wanting to take a look. We’ve featured internet connectivity status indicators in the form of traffic lights here before, as well as various network status monitors and videoconferencing indicator lights.