Innovation Challenge Top Entries

When we started the UsenetServer Innovation Challenge, we pressed our users to get those creative juices flowing when we asked them to build a Do-It-Yourself project using a Raspberry Pi 2 micro computer as the starting point and key component of the project. We had no restrictions and left the field wide open for entries with only one caveat: the incorporation of our Usenet or VPN service. While we don’t have our winners yet, we wanted to share with you some samples of the awesome entries submitted before the judging period comes to a close!


The PocketPi is a project that uses solar technology in conjunction with multiple

sensors to create a sleek, portable survival device that would function even

without common power. These devices are fitted with a module that allows for 3G

connectivity. This allows for the device to connect to the UsenetServer network

and provide search data with an easy to use interface. This includes current

weather conditions, and the network is also used to upload data from a range of

sensors, to provide cloud-based analysis and data mining to find patterns.

Basically, the PocketPi is a very portable, very sleek and rugged piece of

equipment that is waterproof, dust-proof, etc and utilises the cloud to provide data

to the user, even if they are out-of-bounds of accessible power

WebTV Appliance

My idea is to use a Pi to create something akin to the old “”WebTv””. It

would plug into a TV and have a keyboard and a mouse. When first powered up, a

user would see something along the lines of what they’d see on a Smart Tv; it

would show; a browser, a music player, a video player and an e-reader program.

Usenet could be used as a way to stream news of interest to the user, perhaps in

something like a “”ticker””. Many people who access the Internet do not need the

full power of a PC. Something like this would allow these people a way to get

online without the frustrations of a PC or laptop.

Home Automation and Media Server

It’s not “What can you do with a Raspberry Pi 2?”, but what I’m doing with a

Raspberry Pi 2 and some of its brothers and sisters. The automated home, using a

3 Raspberry Pi’s (B+, B+ and 2) in a star network configuration, controlling: my

home alarm system (Honeywell), 6 zone garden sprinkler/irrigation system,

garden lights, swimming pool temperature, garage abd drive way lights, living

room lights, temperature sensors all over the house, using X10 and Z-wave

protocols, using the HomeGenie software framework with several custom written

apps to control everything. Experimenting with upnp (DNLA) for media to

control the home theatre experience, where a 4th RasPi can act as DNLA server

and usenet down-loader. All of this controllable via web interface, Android and

Windows Phone from inside the home or anywhere in the world.

Usenet Downloader

The current Raspberry Pi project I’m working on includes a PHP backend that

routinely checks an NZB RSS feed from any online NZB service that offers one.

It then parses any newly posted NZB links, cleans up the RSS entry, and sends

(via the Pushover service and CuRL) the NZB download URL to my Android

phone and tablet. There, Tasker and Auto-Notification intercept/dismiss the

Pushover notification, and create a new notification with a “Download” button

and the name of the binary posted. Once pressed, the NZB URL is sent back to

SABnzbD’s API (which is also running on the Raspberry Pi). Then the download

is queued up and started. I also get a Pushover notification when the download

has completed, and weather it was successful or not. This system currently works

great, and I can easily queue up new binary downloads from my Android Wear

watch-device as soon as they are posted. The next phase of the operation is to

build a web-based interface to tell the PHP script to skip notifying me if a post has

any specific text in the title, or send a “high-priority” notification with different

text in the title.

Fully Loaded Server

A fully personal and secure server equipped for all purposes, mainly to be lord

and master of all my bits and bytes as opposed to resort to free 3rd party cloud

solutions. I’d run a headless Raspbian Jessie, which I will use for the following

purposes: Web server (Linux, Nginx, Mysql, PHP which will host webmail using

Roundcube and a personal cloud server using ownCloud, and a Namecheap SSL

certificate for 9 bucks/year); Mail server (Postfix (with SPF support), Dovecot,

Amavis, Spamassassin (behind Amavis, with DCC, Razor and Pyzor), ClamAV

(behind amavis and auto updating signatures using Freshclam), Postgrey,

OpenDKIM, OpenDMARC, registered domain and all required records for MX,

TXT (for SPF, DKIM, DMARC), TLSA (for DANE)); Download server (Sonarr,

Couchpotato, NZBGet, Transmission daemon); NAS server (Samba for at home,

SSHFS [SFTP] for secure remote access via SSH); VPN server (SSH tunnels and

OpenVPN for secure access to home and the internet whenever I’m on the move

and using free wifi networks); To store my data, a fully LUKS encrypted external

HDD which unlocks using a key file on my USB stick, plus a second LUKS

keyslot random passphrase which I store in my password manager, as a backup.

I’d also use a separate LUKS encrypted swap file on the external HDD, encrypted

with a totally random key every time it boots. Every week my HDD will rsync to

separate HDD fully encrypted HDD for backups.

We have been truly impressed by the quality and quantity of submissions we have received in our Innovation Challenge. We’re thankful to everyone who entered and are amazed at the creativity from our entrants! Judging will be completed August 3, 2015 and we will announce the Innovation Challenge Winner on August 7, 2015.

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Was there a user entry that stood out to you? Tell us which one in the comments below!

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