Dangerous machines, like ones that can quickly reduce you to a fine red mist or a smoking cinder, tend to have a Big Red Button™ to immediately stop whatever the threat is. Well, if a more dangerous machine than social media has ever been invented, we’re not sure what it would be, which is why we’re glad this social media kill switch exists.
The idea behind [Gunter Froman]’s creation is to provide a physical interface to SocialsDetox, a service that blocks or throttles connectivity to certain apps and websites. SocialDetox blocks access using either DNS over HTTPS (DoH) or, for particularly pesky and addictive apps, a service-specific VPN. The service does require a subscription, the cost of which varies by the number of devices you want to protect, but the charges honestly seem pretty reasonable.
While SocialsDetox can be set up to block access on a regular schedule, say if you want to make the family dinner a social-free time, there may be occasions where killing social access needs to happen right now. This is where the Big Red Button comes into it, which is attached to a Wemos D1 Mini. Pressing the kill switch sends an API request to either enable or disable the service, giving you a likely much-needed break from the swirling vortex of hate and envy that we all can’t seem to live without. Except for Hackaday, of course — it’s totally not like that here.
The irony of using an IoT appliance to restrict access to social media is not lost on us, but you work with the tools you’ve got. And besides, we like the physical interface here, which sort of reminds us this fitting enclosure for a PiHole.
There’s a dreaded disease that’s plagued Internet Service Providers for years. OK, there’s probably several diseases, but today we’re talking about bufferbloat. What it is, how to test for it, and finally what you can do about it. Oh, and a huge shout-out to all the folks working on this problem. Many programmers and engineers, like Vint Cerf, Dave Taht, Jim Gettys, and many more have cracked this nut for our collective benefit.
When your computer sends a TCP/IP packet to another host on the Internet, that packet routes through your computer, through the network card, through a switch, through your router, through an ISP modem, through a couple ISP routers, and then finally through some very large routers on its way to the datacenter. Or maybe through that convoluted chain of devices in reverse, to arrive at another desktop. It’s amazing that the whole thing works at all, really. Each of those hops represents another place for things to go wrong. And if something really goes wrong, you know it right away. Pages suddenly won’t load. Your VoIP calls get cut off, or have drop-outs. It’s pretty easy to spot a broken connection, even if finding and fixing it isn’t so trivial.
That’s an obvious problem. What if you have a non-obvious problem? Sites load, but just a little slower than it seems like they used to. You know how to use a command line, so you try a
ping test. Huh, 15.0 ms off to Google.com. Let it run for a hundred packets, and essentially no packet loss. But something’s just not right. When someone else is streaming a movie, or a machine is pushing a backup up to a remote server, it all falls apart. That’s bufferbloat, and it’s actually really easy to do a simple test to detect it. Run a speed test, and run a ping test while your connection is being saturated. If your latency under load goes through the roof, you likely have bufferbloat. There are even a few of the big speed test sites that now offer bufferbloat tests. But first, some history. Continue reading “Bufferbloat, The Internet, And How To Fix It”
For those interested in a career in broadcast radio there aren’t many routes into the business. Student radio, pirate radio, and hospital radio usually feature somewhere near the start of any DJ’s resumé. Hospital radio stations often don’t have a transmission license and have historically relied on wired systems, but since those can’t reach everywhere they are now more likely to look to the Internet. [AllanGallop] has created the Mini Web Radio for the hospital station in the British city of Milton Keynes, a compact battery-powered single station streaming radio receiver that can pick up those tunes anywhere with a wireless network connection.
Inside the neatly designed 3D printed box the hardware is quite straightforward, a WeMos ESP32 board and a MAX98357A I2S digital amplifier module all powered by an 18650 cell. There’s a volume control and headphone socket, which is all that’s needed for the user interface. The software has code for both Arduino and Platform.io and is configured as you might expect through a web interface. Everything can be found in a handy GitHub repository should you wish to build one yourself. Meanwhile, it’s particularly pleasing as a Hackaday scribe to feature a project with roots in one’s own hackerspace, in this case, Milton Keynes Makerspace.
Thanks [Cid] for the tip!
Once upon a time, I was doing on-site support for a hardware install at a hotel a few years ago. The remote tech’s remote desktop software didn’t want to play with my Linux laptop, so he couldn’t get into the switch he needed to configure, to make the install work. I asked if it had an SSH port he could use, were he were in the room with me. Of course it did, but that didn’t do him much good. I ran a reverse SSH tunnel out to my public server, and pointed it at the switch on the local side. I convinced him to SSH to my server on the given port, and he was magically connected to his switch. He was literally in awe of that trick, and demanded to know how it could be done. SSH is magical, but tunneling traffic over SSH is straight-up wizardry. [Shawn Powers] agrees, and decided to help the rest of us understand the process.
Continue reading “SSH Is Magic, But Tunnels Are Even Better”
As a quantified-self experiment, [Ayan] has tracked several daily habits and moods for a couple of years and discovered some insights. Too much coffee is followed by anxiety while listening to music leads to feelings of motivation and happiness. There was a strong correlation in the data, but [Ayan] wondered if external factors like the weather and air quality also played a role.
To find out, [Ayan] extended the custom dashboard built in Notion.so with weather data and some local sensors. Working at Balena.io (yes, the makers of the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi SD card flashing tool, Etcher), [Ayan] turned to balenaCloud to translate the data from (you guessed it) a Raspberry Pi into the dashboard via Notion’s API beta. We think Notion holds a lot of promise for all sorts of web-based dashboards as a research notebook and organizational tool. Who knows where the API will lead any interested readers?
Check out the full tutorial where [Ayan] walks you through the hardware used and each step to connect the APIs that bring it all together. [Ayan] plans to add a coffee-maker integration to automate that data entry and would welcome help getting a manual trigger set up for the data integrations.
Debugging network issues isn’t easy; many a sysadmin has spent hours trying to figure out which of the many links between client and server is misbehaving. Having a few clear pointers helps: if you can show that the internet connection is up, that already narrows down the problem to either the server or, most likely, the client computer.
After hearing “is the internet up” one too many times, [whiskeytangohotel] decided to make a clearly visible indicator to show the status of the local uplink. He used his father’s old Simpson 260 VOM as a display, with its large analog indicator pointing at a steady value if the internet’s up, and wagging back and forth if there’s an outage. The exact value indicated is determined by the average ping time for a couple of different servers, so that you can also tell if the connection is slower than normal.
The ping times are measured by an ESP8266 connected to WiFi, which checks a predefined list of web servers and calculates the average ping time every fifteen seconds. An analog value in the 2.5 V range is then generated and measured by the meter. The smooth motion of an old analog meter stands in nice contrast to the modern-day problem of unstable WiFi.
While analog multimeters definitely have their uses, we’re the first to admit that our classic meters don’t see as much action as they could. Repurposing them as [whiskeytangohotel] did is a neat way of keeping those heirlooms around for the next generation. Of course, if you don’t have an analog multimeter, you could also use an analog clock for your ping meter. Continue reading “Classic Multimeter Tells You If Your WiFi’s Working”
If you have ever taken to Twitter to gauge the zeitgeist, you’ll have noticed that among the trending hashtags related to major events of the day there are sometimes outliers of minority interest associated with single-issue causes. When a cause with a distasteful pedigree was cited one as proof of widespread public support in a debate in the UK’s House of Lords there were concerns raised that a flaw in the ranking algorithm might be responsible, and it was left to [Mallory Moore] to prove the hypothesis by getting a #ThisIsAnExploit hashtag trending without a groundswell of popular support.
Some previous detective work had established that equal ranking might be awarded equally not simply for Tweeting a hashtag but also for retweeting it. The exploit takes advantage of this by means of a relatively small cadre of people all Tweeting the tag a number of times, then retweeting all other instances of it. The resulting rank gain is then in the order of the square of the number of accounts interacting with the tag, and thus hugely inflated over the number of real participants. To test this she created the #ThisIsAnExploit tag and asked her followers to do just that: Tweet it and retweet all others containing it. In a short time the exploit succeeded, beating a very high-profile tag associated with the travails of the British Prime Minister in the process, and with most of the effort due to only 50 accounts.
Our world is now significantly influenced by social media because for many it appears more trustworthy than the old-style mass media with a print origin. Work like this is important because a reminder that transferring the message from newspaper proprietors to tech barons does not confer credibility is sorely needed. Meanwhile now the weakness is in the wild we wonder how Hackaday readers might have fun with it. Does anyone want to see a #RaiseTheJollyWrencher hashtag top the pile?