Build Your Own Home Security System

Scare intruders away with a ridiculously loud alarm

4 min read
Build Your Own Home Security System
Photo: W. Wayt Gibbs

photo of microphone connected to a Wi-Fi\u2013enabled Arduino UnoHome-brew House Guard: A microphone connected to a Wi-Fi–enabled Arduino Uno listens for the Scout’s alarms. A wireless switch turns on the siren.Photo: W. Wayt Gibbs

The last straw was a midday break-in right next door. For months, my wife and I had worried that our neighborhood in the Seattle suburbs was suffering from a nasty rash of home burglaries. We had toyed with getting a security system for our house but balked at the monthly fees and installation hassle of conventional systems. Then our neighbors alerted us that intruders had just busted into their home—only a few meters from ours—in broad daylight.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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