reCAPTCHA

reCAPTCHA in action
reCAPTCHA

Recapture Logo

I spent the day yesterday installing reCAPTCHA to help combat spam I’ve been getting on this and some other websites. I’ve known about the technology for a while, but I really hadn’t realised how far it had come.

Quick History:
The term “CAPTCHA” was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper, and John Langford (all of Carnegie Mellon University). It is an acronym based on the word “capture” and standing for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”

Well, that’s where it started and the idea is quite noble. Spam is suppressed because bots/computers can’t pass the test. We use computers to generate and assess a test that humans can generally pass, but the computers themselves, can’t. The video below is from the designer of reCAPTCHA and he details why this system is better.

It is.

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Basically, the time people spend solving CAPTCHAs is “wasted” time. It is unproductive. However, the reCAPTCHA project “uses” this time constructively. There are many large projects that are digitising old books, and the process involves scanning these books and using OCR to transcribe them. But as with CAPTCHAs, OCR suffers the same problem and can’t decipher all the words. This is where reCAPTCHA comes in. The images you see are words from scanned documents.

scanned document
scanned document

reCAPTCHA actually uses the human who is passing the test to solve OCR problems that computers can’t. I’m not doing the project justice. Check out the following document for some real world examples. This is pretty good stuff.

Once you’ve check that out, you can check out the following video from the reCAPTCHA team/project.

Oh, and by the way, back in 2009, reCAPTCHA was acquired by Google.

Let’s go back further: I watched a video a few years back, another guy had a very similar idea for cataloguing all the images on the internet. Unfortunately, this video is long, but he came up with a novel way of doing it. He created a game whereby people played a (re)CAPTCHA style of game. The funny part about this game was, CAPTCHAs annoy people, yet people played this game voluntarily.

Edit: this has been installed for a few days now and I haven’t got any spam since. Worth the free price I paid and 15 minutes to install! (I have a multi-site system)

Waterproof cameras… What to select?

lumix
Lumix DMC-FT1

I want a waterproof camera, and an old friend of mine once borrowed a Lumix (pictured) and it worked great. But at one point it got condensation INSIDE and as a consequence, no longer worked. It was repaired under warranty, but since he’d borrowed it, he bought his own anyway. On another trip, this one also developed a condensation issue in the lens and so two-from-two he’s had problems with the Lumix.

I can’t recall what happened with the second one, if it cleared up or not.

But in searching the web the other day I came across this little video, at least I now have some other choices to think about.

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A tow job gone wrong

I don’t normally post random videos, but this one is GOLD! What a winner! (I do like how when the woman get’s back into the car, the tow truck driver just checks to make sure the rear wheels are secure. I can imagine him saying to himself “She’s not going to get out of this!” LOL)

Towing FAIL – watch more funny videos

Flashing LED Microcontroller Project

A few years ago I got into microcontrollers and had grand plans to change the world with my micro projects. For one reason or another I stopped working on what I was doing and pretty much dropped them overnight.

Well, I’ve picked up the ball again and starting from scratch (since I’d seemed to have forgotten almost everything). So I’m starting with the basics.

Most microcontroller projects will usually have a flashing LED as the first objective. Well, I did that and this is the next step. Pulse Width Modulation. Here is a short video of a LEDs brightness being controlled through the use of PWM. This project uses an ATMega 128 AVR microcontroller (yeah, a little bit of overkill for a flashing LED, but hey!)

The next video here is taking the last video just one more step further, and that is having the LED pulsate, or as I prefer to call it, “breathing”. So much cooler than a simple flashing LED ;-)