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I agree that reCAPTCHA (all versions) are terrible. (At least, sometimes it is possible to avoid the problems by selecting the audio CAPTCHA, which tends to work better as far as I can tell.)

Instead, use the protocol-independent CAPTCHA. It is a SASL mechanism, which sends a challenge with plain ASCII text (and may include line breaks), and then accepts a single response of plain ASCII text, and then the server decides whether or not the response is acceptable. The similar thing can also be done with a simple HTML form, but using SASL would then allow working with any protocols and work with command-line interface just as well as HTML interface, too.

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