Hardware Hacking

Atom-Based JaguarBoard To Take On Raspberry Pi (hothardware.com) 120

MojoKid writes: The tiny single-board PC movement that's leading the Internet of Things (IoT) market is largely dominated by ARM-based processors, and for good reason — they're cheap, low power and capable. However, what if you prefer to work with the x86 architecture? JaguarBoard looks strikingly similar to Raspberry Pi, which is arguably the most popular single-board mini PC. But unlike Raspberry Pi, JaguarBoard allows users to develop for x86, courtesy of its Intel Atom Z3735G (Bay Trail) foundation. The chip is a quad-core part clocked at 1.33GHz to 1.83GHz with 2MB of L2 cache, offering a fair amount of horsepower for IoT applications. In addition to an Atom processor, JaguarBoard also boasts 1GB of DDR3L memory, 16GB of eMMC storage, three USB 2.0 ports, 10/100M LAN port, HDMI 1.4 output, SDIO 3.0 socket, two COM ports, four GPIO pins, and audio ports. It's an interesting device that you could use strictly as a mini PC for general purpose computing, as an embedded system, a learning or research tool, or for whatever DIY projects you can conjure up. It's not the only hobbyist-appropriate x86 board, but those specs are pretty good for $45.
Hardware Hacking

Sys-Admin Dispenses Passwords With a Banana (thenewstack.io) 89

An anonymous reader writes: A network administrator in Denmark is requiring users to perform a finger press on a banana to receive their Wi-Fi passwords. "The banana is mounted and in production," he posted Thursday, sharing two pictures. The banana uses a special new circuit board from Makey Makey to form a connection between the banana and a cheap Raspberry Pi computer with a screen attached, according to one technology site. They note that it could also detect finger presses on a doughnut, an apple, or even Jell-o, and offer this quote from the sys-admin about his motivations. "It's fun... It'll make people smile. It beats a static WPA password in funnyness." And most importantly, "When people leave our office, they can't access our WI-Fi because there's no banana to touch." This guy deserves some kind of award, come July 29th.

Building a Laptop Enclosure To Last (makezine.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Build quality is a characteristic many people value in laptop design, but one that often goes unrepresented on a spec sheet. Over at Make, Kurt Mottweiler took build quality to the next level with his laptop enclosure design, which replaces the typical plastic clamshell with a wood veneer filled with e-glass cloth and cork composite. The article shows his build process in detail. Quoting: "The LCD panel and main enclosure components are assembled using vacuum bag clamping techniques. After assembling the layers of the panels at the glue station, the assembly is transferred to the molding station where it is put into a seamed bag and sealed up with a roller rod and clamps. Then a special vacuum pump is used to evacuate the bag and allow atmospheric pressure to clamp the layers together while the epoxy binder cures. ... To increase the strength, improve heat dissipation, and enhance the aesthetic properties of the Heirloom's main enclosure, I chose to use an undulating shape across the width of the bottom panel. The slight wave provides a semi-monocoque structure that stiffens the otherwise flat section of the case while providing for a measure of air flow across the bottom of the case."

Cheap Web Cams Can Open Permanent, Difficult-To-Spot Backdoors Into Networks 77

An anonymous reader writes: They might seems small and relatively insignificant, but cheap wireless web cams deployed in houses and offices (and connected to home and office networks) might just be the perfect way in for attackers. Researchers from the Vectra Threat Lab have demonstrated how easy it can be to embed a backdoor into such a web cam, with the goal of proving how IoT devices expand the attack surface of a network. They bought a consumer-grade D-Link WiFi web camera for roughly $30, and cracked it open. After installing a back-door to the Linux system that runs the camera, and then turning off the ability to update the system, they had an innocent seeming but compromised device that could be stealthily added to a network environment.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: Cheap and Fun Audio Hacks? 135

An anonymous reader writes: A few years back I discovered that even a person of limited soldering skills can create a nifty surround-sound system with the magic of a passive matrix decoder system; the results pleased me and continue to, It's certainly not a big and fancy surround system, but I recommend it highly as a project with a high ratio of satisfaction to effort. (Here's one of the many, many tutorials out there on doing it yourself; it's not the long-forgotten one I actually used, but I like this one better.) I like listening to recorded music sometimes just to hear how a particular playback system sounds, not just to hear the music "as intended." I'd like to find some more audio hacks and tricks like this that are cheap, easy, and fun. Bonus points if they can be done with the assistance of a couple of smart children, without boring them too much. I have access to Goodwill and other thrift stores that are usually overflowing with cheap-and-cheerful gear, to match my toy budget. What mods or fixes would be fun to implement? Are there brands or models of turntable I should look for as the easiest with which to tinker? Are there cool easy-entry projects akin to that surround sound system that I could use to improve my radio reception? I'm not sure what's out there, but I'd like to get some cool use out of the closet-and-a-half I've got filled with speakers and other gear that I can't quite bear to toss, since "it still works."
Hardware Hacking

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Adhesive Tape (hackaday.com) 119

szczys writes: You take tape for granted, but it's truly an engineering wonder. For instance, Scotch Magic tape exhibits triboluminescence; it will generate a bit of bluish light when coming off the roll in a darkened room. It emits X-Rays if unrolled in a vacuum. But this common tape is just the tip of the iceberg. Nava Whiteford looks at lab uses of many different types of tape. Kapton tape is thermally stable and non-conductive. Carbon tape is conductive but resistive. That moves into the non-resistive and more niche tape types. There's a tape for every function. This instant and non-messy way to connect two things together has a lot of science behind it, as well as ahead of it in experimentation, manufacturing, and of course household use.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: Any Dishwasher Hackers Out There? 481

New submitter writes: I just replaced my dishwasher with a basic, inexpensive Sears model. It works fine, but only has 3 different wash cycles. I'm betting that the code to manage more cycles (as in more-expensive models) is already in the microcontroller and just needs inputs to select it. Is there any information available on this? Beyond dishwashers, have you done any useful hacks to household appliances more generally? I'd probably support a Kickstarter project that adds nice wireless notifications to my oven, clothes washer, and dishwasher.
Hardware Hacking

Forrest Mimms On Modern Air Travel With a Bag Full of Electronics 169

Evidently even Forrest Mimms isn't famous enough to fly without hassle when carrying a briefcase full of electronics; he writes at Make about his experiences, both before and after 2001. A relevant slice: After police were called when I was going through security at the San Antonio International Airport and after major problems going through security in Kona, Hawaii, I finally realized the obvious: Most people who don’t make things have no idea how to evaluate homemade equipment. Some are terrified by exposed wires and circuit boards, maybe because of bomb scenes in movies. So I gave up. Now my carryon bag is only half stuffed with electronics; the rest is shipped ahead via FedEx.

Hacker Cracks Lumia Bootloader, Offers Tool For Root Access and Custom ROMs (hothardware.com) 72

MojoKid writes: Microsoft and Nokia have worked hard making Lumia smartphones difficult to break into at a low-level, but software hacker Heathcliff has just proven that it's not impossible. He's just released a solid-looking tool called Windows Phone Internals, and it can do everything from unlocking the bootloader to replacing the phone's ROM. WP Internals is a completely free download, though Heathcliff welcomes donations by those who've found the tool useful. According to the "Getting Started" section of the tool, supported models include Lumia 520, 521, 525, 620, 625, 720, 820, 920, 925, 928, 1020, and 1320. If your model is not on the list, the developer has said that he hopes to add more models in the near future.
Hardware Hacking

Raspberry Pi Unveils New $5 Mini-computer 243

An anonymous reader writes: The Raspberry Pi Foundation unveiled the Pi Zero, a new $5 mini-computer, Thursday morning. The board is the smallest Raspberry Pi yet, containing the first-gen Raspberry Pi's BCM2835 chip (safely overclocked to 1GHz) and 512MB RAM. The latest issue of The Magpi will include a free Raspberry Pi Zero and hits U.K. newsstands Thursday. The announcement came just a few days before the highly anticipated C.H.I.P. $9 mini-computer goes on sale to the public. puddingebola writes: How can they achieve this price, you may ask? "Its 40-pin GPIO header has identical pinouts, although the pads on the circuit board are "unpopulated," meaning you'll have to solder on your own connector. The same goes for the composite video output: The connection is available, but if you need a socket, you must solder it yourself." Dude, go to Radio Shack. Some relevant specs besides those mentioned above, from the blog post linked:
  • Micro-SD card slot
  • mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
  • Micro-USB sockets for data and power
  • Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
  • An unpopulated composite video header
  • "Our smallest ever form factor, at 65mm x 30mm x 5mm"

New submitter graffitiwriter adds a note that the newest Pi has "already been turned into a retro gaming console. It turns out the Pi Zero is more than capable of running Retro Pie and other emulators, and even has a video output that lets you play games on an old CRT TV."


The Tamagochi Singularity Made Real: Infinite Tamagochi Living On the Internet (hackaday.com) 84

szczys writes: Everyone loves Tamagochi, the little electronic keychains spawned in the '90s that let you raise digital pets. Some time ago, XKCD made a quip about an internet-based matrix of thousands of these digital entities. That quip is now a reality thanks to elite hardware hacker Jeroen Domburg (aka Sprite_TM). In his recent talk called "The Tamagochi Singularity" at the Hackaday SuperConference he revealed that he had built an infinite network of virtual Tamagochi by implementing the original hardware as a virtual machine. This included developing AI to keep them happy, and developing a protocol to emulate their IR interactions. But he went even further, hacking an original keychain to use wirelessly as a console which can look in on any of the virtual Tamagochi living on his underground network. This full-stack process is unparalleled in just about every facet: complexity, speed of implementation, awesome factor, and will surely spark legions of other Tamagochi Matrices.
Hardware Hacking

Adding Eye Control To Wheelchairs for Quadriplegics (hackaday.com) 15

szczys writes: The inventor of the Eyedriveomatic has ALS. This prevents him from controlling his electric wheelchair, but it didn't prevent him from teaming up with two other people (one also a quadriplegic) to design a way around the limitation. Eyegaze hardware is what lets people speak through a computer using only their eyes. Eyedrivomatic is an open source project that uses common materials to connect the Eyegaze to the joystick of the wheelchair without altering the chair (which is rented equipment in most cases). A 3D-printed gimbal is strapped over the existing joystick, but does not prevent it from still being used normally by caregivers. The gimbal's servo motors actuate the joystick with commands from the Eyegaze.

FCC Clarifies: It's Legal To Hack Your Router (betanews.com) 85

Mark Wilson writes with an update to an earlier report that the wording of new FCC regulations could mean that it would be illegal to modfiy the software running on wireless routers by installing alternative firmwares. Instead, The commission has now acknowledged that there was more than a little confusion from people who believed that manufacturers would be encouraged to prevent router modifications. The FCC wants to make it clear that most router hacking is fine and will remain fine. With a few exceptions, that is. In a blog post entitled Clearing the Air on Wi-Fi Software Updates, Julius Knapp from the FCC tries to clear up any misunderstandings that may exist.
Hardware Hacking

Hacked Amazon Echo Controls a Wheelchair (roboticstrends.com) 23

An anonymous reader writes with a cool hack for making an electric wheelchair voice activated. Robotics Trends reports: "Amazon Echo, which is designed around your voice, answers to 'Alexa' and can tell you scores, read your book, play your music, or check your calendar. And if you have a smart home, Echo can control lights and other technology. Bob Paradiso, however, wondered if he 'could push Echo's utility a little further.' He certainly did. Paradiso turned an electric wheelchair into a voice-controlled wheelchair using Echo, a Raspberry Pi and Arduino Uno. Echo thinks it's turning lights on and off, but it's really controlling the wheelchair. Paradiso says, 'Alexa, turn on left 4' and the wheelchair spins. He then says, 'Alexa, turn on forward 4' and the wheelchair moves forward."
Christmas Cheer

Slashdot Asks: Notes For Next Hallowe'en? 151

There are 364 more shopping days until next year's Hallowe'en. But while this year's is still fresh in the memory, I'd like to start gathering ideas for next year in the hopes of actually making my neighborhood worthwhile as a trick-or-treating destination, specifically for fun projects to actually give my yard a haunted-house feel. (For the second time in three years, there were zero candy-seekers, and I'd like to convince my neighbors to make the whole block more decorated and spooky, even if we never get all Alek Komarnitsky.) Did you create an animatronic zombie for your yard? Glowing eyes to appear from behind the bushes? Poltergist-style rising graves to frighten the children? Remote-controlled candy dispensers? If you used any kind of complex haunt technology at home, what things worked and what didn't? (I hear too many stories about fog machines leaking to make them sound like a good idea.)
Emulation (Games)

Hacking Jules Coaxes Android Wear To Run Nintendo 64 and PSP Emulators (androidpolice.com) 37

Espectr0 writes: YouTube user Hacking Jules would like you to see his collection of game emulators running on Android Wear. He manages to play classic 3D Mario and Zelda games running in a Nintendo 64 emulator on the original LG G-Watch, while also running Monster Hunter on the PPSSPP emulator.As the linked article admits, this is a work of passion rather than practicality -- if you actually want to play those games enjoyably, don't trade your console or conventional emulator for a smart watch.

Hackers, Activists, Journos: How To Build a Secure Burner Laptop (vice.com) 139

sarahnaomi writes to describe a presentation by security researcher Georg Wicherski at the t2'15 infosec conference; Wicherski outlined in his talk several steps that could be taken to render an ordinary Chromebook immune (or at least very, very resistant) to malware attacks, even when an adversary has physical access to it. These customizations make it difficult for an attacker to use any sort of turnkey solution, presenting a barrier to any off-the-shelf equipment attackers might use. At border crossings, Wicherski said possible attackers might have "an appliance, that comes with a manual, and low-skilled operators." By using a setup that is not very common, the border cops might not know what to do.
Emulation (Games)

MAME Emulating a Sonic the Hedgehog Popcorn Machine (polygon.com) 33

New submitter AmericaCounterweight writes: Polygon is reporting that the MAME development team has unearthed and emulated one of the most obscure pieces of Sonic heritage: a popcorn machine. MAME developer David Haywood reports that contributors "purchased the PCB for another novelty Sonic item, this time a SegaSonic Popcorn Shop, a popcorn dispenser machine with a video display. It runs on the Sega C2 board (Genesis type hardware)." This follows news from earlier this year that the MAME team would be switching to a true Open Source license for the project and concentrating on more than just arcade games. MAME project coordinator Miodrag Milanovic also recently appeared at the BalCCon2k15 event to speak about MAME, the current direction of the project, and software preservation.

Official, Customized Raspberry Pi Versions Coming Soon (linuxgizmos.com) 93

DeviceGuru writes: The immensely popular Raspberry Pi will soon be offered in customized versions, through an exclusive arrangement between Raspberry Pi Trading and Element14. According to the companies' announcement, Element14 will provide design and manufacturing services to OEM customers to create 'bespoke designs' based upon the Raspberry Pi technology platform. That's weird U.K. English for saying that contracts for creating customized Raspberry Pi SBCs will entail substantial NRE fees and 3,000 to 5,000 unit orders, depending on the nature of the customization. The tweaked Pi's are likely to have revised board layouts, additional or alternative functions, interfaces, connectors, and memory configurations, and more. A handful of unsanctioned Raspberry Pi knock-offs have already appeared over the past couple of years, including various Orange Pi and Banana Pi flavors, which certainly didn't involve any 'bespeaking.' More info is at Element14's CustomPi page.

Hands-On With the Fairphone 2 Modular Android Smartphone (arstechnica.com) 107

An anonymous reader writes: In just a couple of months, the world's first consumer-ready modular smartphone will start shipping. It's called the Fairphone 2, and it will run Android 5.1. Ars Technica got hands-on time with the device, and they say it works surprisingly well. It's a bit thicker than most modern phones, but that's the trade-off for being able to swap out components. "The smartphone consists of seven major building blocks: the back cover, removable battery, display assembly, main chassis, receiver module, rear camera module, and speaker module. Positioned this way, the components that break most often, like the screen, are isolated for better repairability. In addition to swappable blocks, you can even change things inside the modules: for example, a mic or a speaker. They are press-fit, not glued, and can be extracted with simple tools."

Assembly and disassembly is pretty straightforward, as well: "The modules are held together by Phillips screws marked with blue circles. All screws are the same, so you won't have to remember which one goes where. It's quite hard to make a mistake in the assembling process, however Fairphone promises to release additional manuals and video instructions in collaboration with iFixit." The company also thinks it's important to get the phone's materials and components from ethical sources.

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