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The Counter-Strike Airsoft Robot

อาทิตย์, 08/24/2014 - 21:01

[Jon] and his brother converted an RC car into a robot that can fire airsoft pellets into the air. The little motorized vehicle was disassembled and a handheld was attached to the top. A pulling mechanism was put in place and a safety procedure was added to make sure no accidents occurred.

An Arduino was used to get the servo working, and a chassis stand was created to hold the handle. The setup was then tested at this point, and a Raspberry Pi server was configured to install a motion sensing camera that would act as the eyes for the robot. Once everything was in place, the wheels hit the ground and the vehicle was able to move around, positioning itself to aim the servos at a designated target. Footage was transmitted via the web showing what the robot was looking at.

A video of the remote-controlled counter-strike robot can be seen after the break. You could consider this your toy army. That makes this one your toy air force.

Filed under: toy hacks

FPGA with Open Source Propeller 1 Running Spin

อาทิตย์, 08/24/2014 - 18:01

Open Sourcing something doesn’t actually acquire meaning until someone actually uses what has been unleashed in the wild. We’re happy to see a working example of Propeller 1 on an FPGA dev board. That link takes you to a short description and some remapping of the pins to work with a BeMicro CV board. But you’ll want to watch the video below, or rather listen to it, for a bit more explanation of what [Sylwester] did to get this working.

You’ll remember that Parallax released the Propeller 1 as Verilog code a few weeks back. This project first loads the code onto the FPGA, then proves it works by running SIDcog, the Commodore 64 sound emulation program written in Spin for p8x32a processors.

We do find this to be an interesting first step. But we’re still waiting to see what type of hacks are made possible because of the newly available Verilog code. If you have a proof of concept working on other hardware, certainly tell us about it below. If you’ve been hacking on it and have something you want to show off, what are you waiting for?

Filed under: FPGA, Microcontrollers

Why Are We Limited to Just C-Clamps?

อาทิตย์, 08/24/2014 - 15:00

For decades, nay, centuries, we have been limited to the C-clamp, one of the most versatile, useful and perhaps most recognized tool. But why does C get all the glory? What of the other 25 letters?

People of my generation, my father’s generation, and my grandfather’s generations have clamped with one letter, and one letter only. But why C? And why now?

Here at Clamp-Co we thought we needed a change. So we set out to develop an entire line of Alphabet Clamps.

[Robb Godshaw] is the mastermind behind this revolution in clamping technology. Designed to German standards (DIN 1451), and made in America, the Alphabet Clamp set provides unrivaled clamping functionality for work in the industry, at the shop, or even at home. Perhaps the most functional previously unheard-of clamp is the U-Clamp, providing a deep throat for those extra hard to reach parts.

Our personal favorites though have to be the I, L and T clamps which provide unmatched usability and style.

Filed under: tool hacks

Lucid Dreaming with Plastic Milk Cartons

อาทิตย์, 08/24/2014 - 12:00

Being aware that oneself is in a dream can be a difficult moment to accomplish. But as [Rob] showed on his blog, monitoring the lucid experience once it happens doesn’t have to be costly. Instead, household items can be fashioned together to make a mask that senses REM sleep cycles. We were tipped off to the project by [Michael Paul Coder] who developed an algorithm to communicate inside a dream.

[Rob] cut up plastic milk cartons for this ‘DreamJacker’ project and attached a webcam to produce a simple way to detect eye movements. A standard game adapter with a triangular array of white LED’s was added to the plastic cover in order to provide the necessary illumination needed for the camera. After testing it out, he switched to red light to balance sensitivity issues. Another iteration later and [Rob] attempted to create hypnagogic imagery during the drowsiness state that occurs right before falling asleep. He did this by fitting a single tri-color LED that he scrapped from Christmas lights that were dumped on his street.

The mask is tied to the back of the head with shoelaces, and acts like an eye patch during Wake Back to Bed sessions (WBTB). The end result produces an eerie looking graph of eye twitching taken throughout the night. We would be interested confirming that this setup helps the user experience a lucid dream, so it might be time to make our own.

Since writing his post, [Rob] has since adapted a mouse for use inside the mask cup to integrate with the LucidScribe REM FIELD-mouse plugin developed by [Michael Paul Coder].

Filed under: wearable hacks

Hackaday Retro Edition: Browser Wars On Solaris

อาทิตย์, 08/24/2014 - 09:00

After seeing an earlier Hackaday post on old, old Unix systems loading up our retro edition, [Eugenio] decided he would play out the late 90s browser wars on a few machines of his own. Yes, it’s Internet Explorer vs. Netscape in a fight to the death. No <blink> or <marquee> tags were involved, but a Sun Ultra 5 was. We’re looking at the peak of the workstation world circa 1999 here, and only one browser would emerge victorious (it’s neither IE nor Netscape, btw).

The Solaris 9 system [Eugenio] has supports both Internet Explorer 5 and shipped with Netscape 4. Compared to the functionality of modern browsers, both IE5 and Netscape 4 are ancient and terrible. Remember kids, even the scroll wheel on a mouse is a relatively new invention.

Our retro edition doesn’t have any CSS, Javascript, or any of the new Web weirdness, so everything loaded as it should. One interesting problem [Eugenio] encountered was an inverse color desktop when the IE5 window was in focus. Bringing another window into focus returned the desktop to the right color. I guess Netscape wins the Solaris browser war.

[Eugenio] also dug out an old VT320 terminal and connected it to a Vaio x505 (the same approximate vintage as the Sun Ultra 5). This worked beautifully in both 80 and 132 column mode.

We’re always looking for new submissions of old computers loading up our retro site. We haven’t had many minicomputers loading the site, so dig out those Vaxxen and send something in.

Filed under: classic hacks

Kruger’s Zippo Remote

อาทิตย์, 08/24/2014 - 06:00

Inspired by the detonator in the Captain America: The First Avenger movie, [Jon] modified a normal Zippo lighter to activate a relay on a receiver module. His instructables shows how to create such a device by adjusting the insert in such a way that if someone flipped it open, all they would see would be a flint wheel, flint, wick, and all that stuff; nothing would be abnormal. In order to do this, the components would have to be perfectly concealed.

To acquire a remote signal, [Jon] used the whole metal case as an antenna instead of replacing the wick with one. An antenna pin on an RF module was attached to the insert to get the necessary effect. The flint wheel was then turned into a button and a notification LED was installed. Once the code was uploaded and a receiver module was fashioned together, the end product produced a flash of sparks on the other end.

This hack was made for educational use, and is only meant for demonstration purposes.

Filed under: handhelds hacks, radio hacks

Defcon Side Trip: Pololu And Robots

อาทิตย์, 08/24/2014 - 03:00

During our trip out to Vegas for Defcon, we were lucky enough to catch up with a few of the companies that should be of interest to Hackaday readers. One of the companies based out of the area is Pololu, makers and purveyors of fine electronics and robots. In an incredible bit of lucky scheduling, LV Bots, the Las Vegas area robot builders club, was having an event the same weekend we were there. A maze challenge, no less, where builders would compete to build the best robot and write the best code to get a pile of motors and electronics through a line-following maze in the fastest amount of time.

The Bots

The LV Bots events are held in the same building as Pololu, and unsurprisingly there were quite a few Pololu employees making a go at taking the stuff they developed and getting it to run through a maze. At least one bot was based on the Zumo kit, and a few based on the 3pi platform. Interestingly, the Raspberry Pi Model B+ was the brains of quite a few robots; not extremely surprising, but evidence that the LV Bots people take their line-following mazes seriously and are constantly improving their builds.

Each robot and builder ‘team’ was given three runs. For each team, the first run is basically dedicated to mapping the entire maze. A carefully programmed algorithm tries to send the robot around the entire maze, storing all the intersections in memory. For the second and third runs, the bot should – ideally – make it to the end in a very short amount of time. This is the ideal situation and was only representative of one team for that weekend’s event.

The worst case scenario is a bot that doesn’t quite have the proper mapping algorithm down. For example:

If, however, a robot can figure out all the nodes in the line following map, the second and third runs can go by pretty quick:


Although I did arrive a bit after normal working hours, [Ryan] and [Kevin] were kind enough to take me around their shop for a small tour of the joint. It’s more or less what you would expect: one giant room with pick and place machines, giant ovens, solder paste dispensers, enough equipment for all the testing and rework, and a giant wall of filled with all their products. One of the more interesting pieces of equipment was a soldering robot. Yes, as in a robot with a soldering iron. Here are the pics:

Being after hours, the machines were not running. [Kevin] did send me a video of the manufacturing process of their A-Star 32U4 Micro, shown below:

In addition to their huge manufacturing room, the guys took me up to their dev lab where they come up with the design of all their products. Lego abound, surprisingly in already built configuration. I’ll let the picture galleries speak for themselves, shown below.

The Bots Pololu
Filed under: hardware, Interviews

Smartphone VR Viewer Roundup

อาทิตย์, 08/24/2014 - 00:01

In June 2014, Google revealed a low-cost Smartphone Adapter and VR SDK at their annual software developer conference in San Francisco, California. During the event, Google handed out 6,000 cardboard kits and released a tutorial online, which prompted homemade versions to surface on the web within three hours. This then sparked an iPad case manufacturer to fashion together their own cardboard VR kit that could be bought for $25. After a week, Google gained over 50,000 downloads of their cardboard Android app.

Although the popularity of this VR viewer skyrocketed extremely fast, the idea for a cheap VR solution is nothing new. Developers have been experimenting with these types of objects for years. In fact, a group of Cupertino high school sophomores debuted a similar device called ‘Face Box’ at an entertainment and technology conference at Stanford University on June 17, more than a week before Google’s I/O presentation. A few months earlier, researchers at the Mixed Up Research Lab (MxR) at USC launched an open source DIY VR website that showed how to create virtual reality headsets with a 3D printer. The smartphone enabled head-mounted display had schematics for both Android and iPhone. The MxR lab was where [Palmer Luckey] worked at as an engineer before founding Oculus (the company that Facebook eventually acquired for approximately $2 billion). So when [Palmer] saw that Google released their cardboard kit, he vocalized his opinion by calling it a clone of his colleagues’ research on Reddit.

Since virtual reality has exploded over the last year or so, we rounded up as many easy-to-make solutions as possible to see what is available on the market, with a focus on portability. Here is what we found:


DODOcase was the first to market with a cardboard VR toolkit. Their cutout viewer was released so fast that Google barely had enough time to splice images of the DODOcase kit into their presentation at Google I/O. For a mere $25, anyone with a smartphone can purchase the toolkit and begin peering into the internet-connected metaverse. This has positioned DODOcase to become one of the quickest companies to capitalize on the exploding virtual reality trend. With this easily accessible device, the growth of the VR movement is bound to take off soon.

I interviewed [Craig Dalton], co-founder and CEO of DODOcase, at the biggest virtual reality event in Southern California’s history to date about the rise in the DIY VR developer community. This mini-conference was hosted by a local meetup group called VRLA and attracted over 600 people with a variety of virtual reality demos and presentations. I wrote about the whole event on Virtual Reality Reviewer’s website. [Craig] was happy to speak with us about how he thinks “the next million people to experience VR are going to experience it through one of these.” After seeing their kit and hearing what he had to say, we agree; especially if large corporations purchase a lot of them and hand them out to their employees and/or community members.



In the MxR Lab (where [Palmer Luckey] spun out of) a team of researchers led by [Mark Bolas] developed a lost-cost virtual reality solution that utilized the capabilities of a smartphone to allow the user to gaze into 3D generated worlds. On their website, they state that “these low-cost, lightweight systems can be used to create portable virtual reality applications for training, education, health and fitness, entertainment and more.

The idea stemmed from an early foam board prototype called the FOV2GO, which was created in 2012. This was the device that [Palmer Luckey] was referring to when he called out Google on Reddit. I visited the legendary lab at the 2nd VRLA event a while ago and interviewed [Mark Bolas] about the role that technology has on the education of inner city kids. The first part of the video (1 of 4) can be seen embedded below. In it, [Mark] picks up one of the 3D printed VR2GO headsets. He also talks about how he wanted to have a Radioshack open 24/7, and now this lab is essentially that.

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Other Smartphone Enabled Devices

In Google’s VR presentation, they showcased some of the inspiration behind their cardboard design. Of those referenced was vrAse which raised over £66,000 on Kickstarter and went on to become a world leader in smartphone visualization devices. Hasbro even entered the virtual ring with their elongated, plastic 3D viewer specialized for the iPhone and iPod touch. A similar device called Nvis, a gaming-based viewer named Durovious Dive, and the FOV2GO were depicted as well.

Homemade Virtual Reality Goggles

[Marcus] fashioned together a simple headset by 3D printing an enclosure and using two 50mm focal lenses. His design looks to have been created sometime in 2013, based on the link’s provide on his website (including a reference to the FOV2GO MxR device). The goggles are a little bit rough around the edges, which should be expected because of the time in which he was working. There were not a lot of readily available tutorials or materials then, so he had to make his own DIY 3D virtual reality goggles.

Going back even further, we found this head-mounted computer made of cardboard which we covered all the way back in 2009. This is probably the earliest iteration of a cardboard smartphone enabled VR viewer. The creator was named [Andrew] and managed to develop the device with a HTC Magic handset and a few dollars worth of ‘Harbor Freight crap.’ Of course fast forward to Google Cardboard and it only took about a week to see a DIY version of it.

Recently, Gadgetsin documented a way to produce a more durable virtual reality headset using Polycarbonate, which is also based on the Google cardboard design.


Despite the initial spark of virtual reality in the 1990’s, then it’s sudden decline, followed by the recent rise again, VR is here to stay. It shows no signs of slowing down. And with cheap, smartphone virtual reality toolkits like these, millions of early adopters will begin to explore the possibilities surrounding VR. The rapid growth of VR content will come from developers trying out their work on items similar to cardboard cutouts. The price is so low now that consumers will also start purchasing kits just to see what virtual reality is like.

For more information about the mobile VR viewer that brought virtual reality into the main stream, check out Google’s cardboard developer website and be sure to watch the full video below of them presenting the idea at I/O 2014.

[Thanks to William Correa for filming the interview with Mark Bolas!]

Filed under: roundup, Virtual Reality

RFID Audio Book Reader For the Visually Impaired

เสาร์, 08/23/2014 - 21:00

When [Willem] visited home last year, he stopped in at his grandparents’ house and found that his very active 93-year-old grandfather had recently gone almost completely blind and was passing the days just sitting in a chair. [Willem] suggested that he listen to audio books, but his grandfather wasn’t receptive to the idea until [Willem] convinced him that the well-narrated ones can be very gripping and entertaining. Once his grandfather was on board, [Willem] knew that he needed a much more accessible solution than a tiny device with tiny controls, so he built an RFID audio reader using a Raspberry Pi.

[Willem] has posted the build details at his personal site. Essentially, the box you see above contains a Raspi and an RFID reader. He created different ‘books’ by placing RFID cards inside of DVD boxes, which makes them more tangible and accessible. When a book is placed on the box, the RFID reader tells the Pi which mp3 files to load. The large colored buttons let the user pause, rewind 20 seconds, and control the volume.

We love to see this kind of build. It’s simple, effective, and greatly enhances the user’s quality of life. [Willem]‘s grandfather loves it and uses it every day.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

Disabling Tap To Pay Debit Cards

เสาร์, 08/23/2014 - 18:00

Some people aren’t too crazy about the rush of RFID enabled credit & debit cards, and the problem is, you don’t really have a choice what card you get if the bank sends you a new one! Well if you really don’t like this on your card for whatever reason, it’s pretty easy to disable.

[James Williamson] recently got a new debit card with RFID technology — the problem is it was messing with his access card at work, the readers would beep twice, and sometimes not work. He decided to disable it because of this and that he didn’t really use the tap to pay feature, nor was he completely convinced it was as secure as the bank said.

Since these RFID chips use antennas made of copper wire, he could have just started slicing his card with a knife to break the antenna — but, since he has access to a CT scanner, he thought he’d scan it to figure out where everything was.

Simply make a small notch in the edge of your card, or snip off one of the corners. This breaks the antenna and prevents power to the chip when held near a reader — though if you don’t have access to a CT scanner you might want to double-check next time you buy something!

Now there is another side to this — maybe you actually like the whole tap to pay thing, well, if you wanted to you could get a supplemental card, dissolve it in acetone, and then install the RFID chip into a finger ring for Jedi-like purchasing powers!

Filed under: how-to

Converting Cigarette Butts into Batteries

เสาร์, 08/23/2014 - 15:00

Trillions of cigarettes are smoked every year, leaving behind discarded filters containing non-biodegradable materials that can be recycled into carbon-based products for electrochemical components. This was discovered by a team of South Korean scientists who presented their unique energy storage solution in IOP Publishing’s journal of Nanotechnology.

The materials inside the cigarette filters offered up better performance than commercially bought carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes at the time. They hoped to coat electrodes of supercapacitors with the material to be inserted into computers, handheld devices, and electric vehicles. A simple one-step burning process called pyrolysis reduced the filters down into a carbon-based byproduct with tiny pores. The leftover porous substance ensured higher power densities for supercapacitors. This was then tested out to see how well the material absorbed electrolyte ions and discharged them. It did better than expected and stored higher amounts of electrical energy than other commercially available options.

The full paper is linked at the bottom of their article but it’s behind a paywall. If you have a subscription and the time to look it over, please let us know if you think there’s potential for this unorthodox material source or if they’re just blowing smoke.

[Thanks for the tip Ryoku!]

Filed under: green hacks

Stewart Platform Ball Bearing Balancer

เสาร์, 08/23/2014 - 12:00

For their Mechanical Engineering senior design project at San Jose State University, [Tyler Kroymann] and [Robert Dee] designed and built a racing motion simulator. Which is slightly out of the budget of most hackers, so before they went full-scale, a more affordable Arduino powered Stewart platform proof of concept was built. Stewart platforms typically use six electric or hydraulic linear actuators to provide motion in six degrees of freedom (6 DOF), surge (X), sway (Y), heave (Z), pitch, roll, and yaw. With a simple software translation matrix, to account for the angular displacement of the servo arm, you can transform the needed linear motions into PWM signals for standard hobby servos.

The 6 DOF platform, with the addition of a resistive touch screen, also doubled as a side project for their mechatronic control systems class. However, in this configuration the platform was constrained to just pitch and roll. The Arduino reads the resistive touch screen and registers the ball bearing’s location. Then a PID compares this to the target location generating an error vector. The error vector is used to find an inverse kinematic solution which causes the actuators to move the ball towards the target location. This whole process is repeated 50 times a second. The target location can be a pre-programmed or controlled using the analog stick on a Wii nunchuck.

Watch the ball bearing seek the target location after the break.

Thanks to [Toby] for sending in this tip.

We at Hackaday look forward to the real life implementation of Marble Madness!

Need help Demystifying PID Control? Or perhaps you would like to build your own Stewart Platform?

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, robots hacks

Introducing Hat a Day! Not to be Confused With the Real HaD of Course…

เสาร์, 08/23/2014 - 09:00

With the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ model comes a whole slew of extra GPIO connectors, a whopping 40 of them in fact — Almost double the original B model! A HAT stands for Hardware Attached on Top, and Adafruit is celebrating by trying to create a new hat, every day.

A HAT is a rectangular board measuring 65x56mm with mounting holes for the Raspberry Pi B+ and a 40 pin GPIO header. That doesn’t sound too special by itself, but two of the header pins are reserved for a special auto-configuration system that allows your Pi to have automatic GPIO and driver setup! Now we’re talking!

So far Adafruit has made a handful of prototype HATs including the Perma-proto HAT, a GPS HAT, a TFT HAT, an Arcade HAT and even a Servo HAT. But they’re looking for more! We think they’ve slipped up on the one a day record though…

We’re excited to see more integrated projects with the B+ since it’s so much more friendly for add-on hardware than the original — What kind of hardware would you like to see in HAT form? Do you like the idea of HATs?

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

The Hackaday Prize: Unofficial Statistics

เสาร์, 08/23/2014 - 06:00

Hackaday Prize entries over time. You people really know how to procrastinate. Click to embiggen.

What is the Hackaday crew doing this weekend? Judging Hackaday Prize entries, of course! We need to pare down the hundreds of entries we received to 50 primo entries for the quarterfinals round. We’re going to be slammed the entire weekend, so don’t expect any news on who’s in and who’s out of the competition until Monday.

Each of us has about 15 hours of video to go through (multiply the number of entries by two minutes. It’s a lot), and of course we need to read each entry and rate them. We’re literally looking at more than a man-month of work here, and yes, we’ve all read the book.

Until then, here’s some totally unofficial statistics, courtesy of [Greg Kennedy] and his web scraping skills. The graph above shows the number of Hackday Prize entries over time, from the first announcement of the contest to the cutoff time. You people really, really like to procrastinate. The day with the most entries was August 20th, the deadline to get your project in. The day with the most validated entries (i.e. meeting the requirements of a video and four project logs) was August 19th. Needless to say, it’s been a busy week on Hackaday.io.

As a side note, the rules for THP say you must upload a video to qualify for the quarterfinals. This video may be uploaded to YouTube or Youku. Only one project uploaded a video to Youku. Now you know what to do next time to get some free publicity.

It’s highly unlikely we’re going to publish this many official stats, especially now that [Greg] has it pretty much covered. We’ll get the list of all the quarterfinalists out on Monday. Until then you can entertain yourself by watching nearly 15 hours of Hackaday Prize entry videos, all embedded below.

Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Hacklet #12 – Last Minute Hackaday Prize Submissions

เสาร์, 08/23/2014 - 03:01

If hackers and engineers are notorious for anything, it’s for procrastinating. Many of us wait until the absolute last-minute to get things done. The Hackaday Prize has proved to be no exception to that. Anyone watching the newest projects could see the entries fly in the last few days. Let’s take a quick look at a few.

[Cyrus Tabrizi] submitted Handuino just a few short hours before the deadline. Handuino is an Arduino based human interface device. You can use it to control anything from R/C cars to 3D printers, to robots to Drones. Input is through the joystick, switches, and buttons, and output through the on-board 2.2″ LCD. Projects can interface to the Handuino via a USB port, or an XBEE radio. Nice Work [Cyrus].

[txyz.info] wants to make us more human than human with Bionic Yourself, an implantable device to make you a bionic superhero. [txyz] plans to use sensors such as an electromagnetic field sensor, accelerometers, and Electromyography (EMG) muscle activity detectors. The idea is to not only sense the implanted wearer, but the world around them. The wearer can then use an embedded Bluetooth radio to send commands. The entire system runs on the Arduino platform, so updating your firmware will be easy. Not everyone has a charging port, so [txyz] has included wireless battery charging in the system.

[Laurens Weyn] wants to wake us all up with Overtime: the internet connected alarm clock. Overtime is a Raspberry PI powered clock with a tower of 7 segment displays. The prototype displays were sourced from an old exchange rate sign. Overtime does all the normal clock things, such as display the time, and date. It even allows you to set and clear alarms. The display is incredible – there are enough pixels there to play Tetris. Overtime is currently running on an Arduino Mega, but [Laurens] plans to move to a Raspberry PI and hook into the internet for information such as Google calender events.

We’re going to cut things a bit short this week. Your work is done (for now) but for the Hackaday staff, the work is just beginning. We’re already on task, reviewing the entries, and picking which submissions will move on to the next round. Good luck to everyone who entered.

As always, See you in next week’s Hacklet. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Filed under: Hackaday Columns

Plan B: An Open Source Powder Based 3D Printer

เสาร์, 08/23/2014 - 00:01

3D printers come in all shapes and sizes. Most widely known is the FDM (fused deposition modeling) style, which was the easiest to adapt to a consumer grade machine. We’re still waiting for widespread availability of some of the more advanced 3D printing technologies — so you can guess how excited we were when [Yvo de Haas] dropped us a line on his open-source powder based 3D printer!

Powder based 3D printing is one of the most economic and easy to use technologies in the commercial industry because of one wonderful thing — no support material required! They work by laying down fine layers of powder which can then be bonded together either by laser sintering, or by using a binding agent applied by something similar to an inkjet head. Because of this, the surrounding powder acts as a support for any complex geometry you might need — you can quite literally print anything on this style of machine.

[Yvo] has just finished his own version of this style of 3D printer, called the Plan B. Mechanically similar to a regular 3D printer, his is capable of laying down fine powders, and then binding them together using a hacked HP inkjet cartridge. Check it out after the break.

And if you happen to have a laser cutter or engraver, you might be able to make your own SLS machine as well!

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Fear and Loathing at DEFCON 22

ศุกร์, 08/22/2014 - 21:01

Nothing says “Welcome to Vegas” like a massive turbulence on a plane full of drunk people who, instead of holding on to their seats, frantically laugh and shout “we’re all going to die!” At 105 Fahrenheit outside, the heat was getting into everyone’s head. After a bumpy touchdown, the in-flight entertainment system rebooted, and a black terminal screen flashed onto everyone’s face:

RedBoot(tm) bootstrap and debug environment [RAM] (MAS eFX) release, version ("540060-212" v "0.1.02") - built 12:00:35, Nov 19 2004

Now, that was a beautiful sight – an IFE system that hadn’t been updated for almost a decade. For people who didn’t come here to participate in a big zero-sum game that is Vegas, this was a sign.

DEFCON was waiting for us right outside of that front cabin door.

It was Friday afternoon, and I was already late for the party. [Mike] and [Brian] had been on the ground for more than 24 hours and kept sending us messages on how awesome everything was. I was jealous and simply had to come. Our buddy [Chris Gammell] felt the same way and flew in all the way from Cleveland. The two of us met at Terminal 1 and hailed a taxi.

“You have to be careful at events like this,” [Chris] said as the driver lady was speeding through the desert. ” I heard that last year someone spoofed the cell tower and hijacked lots of passwords.” He offered me access to his OpenVPN instance somewhere in England as a way to protect myself.

“Sure,” I reasoned, “It’s fair to assume that all the traffic can be intercepted, but as long as you use SSL, you should be all right.” I felt good about the fact that only a couple of days ago, we had finally pushed HTTPS on Hackaday.io. Losing that one-password-to-rule-them-all would result in a world of pain for me.

“The real concern is keylogging,” I continued. “If someone was to capture your keystrokes, all that fancy transport-level security might not be of much help.” We pondered on this for a bit, and the driver finally pulled in front of the Palms lobby.

As she was opening the trunk, I saw her turn around and ask: “So how would you do keylogging on a voice-controlled smartphone?”

I guess everyone cares about computer security around here.

An hour later, we were standing on the floor of Palms, admiring the casino layout. A perfectly crafted maze, with no right angles, optimized to prevent the brain from making decisions, as [Chris] explained. Relatively new to Vegas, I found this fascinating. “So it’s like AB testing on the Web… but in real life?”

I guess once the whole “Internet of Things” goes mainstream, this is how the entire world is going to look — like a big fat Vegas casino.

Oh well, I better start getting used to it.

Before long, Hackaday’s finest have arrived. [Mike] was completely spaced out, with a blissful smile on his face, high on all the raving feedback his blinky hat got at the show that day.

[Brian] was in his usual mood.

“Bitcoin is broken,” that’s the first thing he said to me, “I met this guy, and there’s stuff…” His voice slowly faded out, and eyes began to wander in an indeterminate direction.

One thing to know about [Brian]; sometimes, he says crazy things, and when that happens, you don’t want to be the rational guy that tells him it’s not true. It would mean missing out on so much fun that goes inside that weird mind of his. And that night, I really wanted in.

“What happened? Something that would disincentivize the miners pehaps?” For entertainment sake, I assumed that, of course, there *is* a guy and that, Bitcoin *was* in fact “broken.” There’s proof, pictures I hear.

Sadly, he wasn’t in the mood and changed the subject. No apocalyptic visions for me this time.


Somewhere around 10PM we finally headed out to DEFCON central – Hotel Rio. We knew it was too late for us to pick up conference badges now, but figured out we’d still get in somehow.

First lesson you learn at DEFCON – knowing the right people helps. [Chris] called up his friend [dragorn] from KismetWireless, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and he pleaded for us in front of DEFCON’s puzzle master supreme – [LosT], aka [1o57]. Next thing you know, we were on the inside, sipping our drinks and talking shop with the hackers at the BlackPhone party.

“Have you heard about a guy walking around the floor all day today hacking Pineapples?” someone asked. The Hak5 guys have just released the Mark V version of their Pineapple WiFi network auditing tool at DEFCON, and everyone and their mother rushed to buy one. Completely sold out.

“Well, it turned out that there was a zero-day exploit in the latest firmware, and someone wanted to make a point by spending all day bricking these brand new devices that kept popping up on the network.”

I guess that lesson was worth $99.99 to all the proud new product owners out there. Pentest and be pentested. Fortunately, the Hak5 guys issued a firmware update that fixes this, so it was just a playful little annoyance altogether.

After a fantastic DJ set, the Blackphone party started to cool down, so we decided to move on. [Mike's] blinky hat was a total attention grabber, and it quickly got us a lot of new friends in the DEFCON’s busy hallways. Finally, we ended up in the big hall where MC Frontalot was just finishing his show.

Not my thing, but I hear this “nerdcore” stuff is quite popular these days.

Then came something that only an 80’s kid can appreciate – Anamanaguchi, the chiptunes extravaganza. [Brian] started jumping all over the place, and it was infectious. Next thing you know, we were all doing it.

What better way to end your first night at a hacker conference than lamenting over a more elegant age, when 8 bits was enough and owning a computer still made you feel special.


DEFCON waits for no one, hung over or not. Saturday is the busiest day, and we had to get up early if we were to hear some talks. Save all the sleeping for when we’re back home.

The first talk I went to had a title you simply couldn’t resist: “Hacking 911: Adventures in Disruption, Destruction, and Death.” Speakers gave a chilling inside view of 911’s archaic dispatch system and how easy it can be exploited to launch Swatting attacks and mischiefs alike. I always enjoy a good adversarial take on the world and was genuinely excited to hear what’s next.

However, for the next couple of hours, I simply couldn’t find a single talk I liked. Everything was either too trivial, self-promotional, or someone was trying to sell something.

I started to lose faith when I came into the Wireless Village where [Jared Boone] was giving a talk called “PortaPack: Is that a HackRF In your pocket?” and I loved it! It had everything – great product, things to learn about SDR, some old tricks for FPU approximation using integer arithmetics… It felt good. There are still talks worth listening to. (We did get the chance to interview [Jared] about the PortaPack)

As we were walking out of the room, we met [dragorn] again, and he seemed seriously bummed out.

“Some kid has been running around DEFCON saying he hacked the BlackPhone,” he said.

We had already seen it all over the news that morning. The real story, he told us, wasn’t as big of a deal as the media presented.

The guy claimed he found three security flaws: the first one was a vulnerability that has already been fixed in the latest firmware update, but his phone was still running an old version. The second one was an issue with core Android code and technically not a BlackPhone thing. The third one was just the ability to enable the Android Debug Bridge, which has been disabled by default. From what we can understand, this was left out as an actual “feature,” so also not really a bug.

Still, nobody cared to hear any of this. “Unhackable phone gets hacked at DEFCON” makes for a much better news story anyway, so it kept spreading all over the Interwebs.

It’s a shame, but it’s not like the BlackPhone expected applause from this crowd. After all, everyone needs their 15 minutes of fame.

[Brian] hacking on an SDR, [Mike] hacking on the conference badge, and [Eric Evenchick] talking to [Chris] and [Alek] (both out of frame)

We, on the other hand, couldn’t wait for [Mike's] hat to be cracked, yet there were still no takers. Our biggest fear coming into DEFCON was that this little OpenWrt box sitting on top of [Mike's] head would not survive for more than 10 minutes. Yet, there we were, two days in and still waiting. Most likely because not enough people cared, but also because the ones that did seemed to have been solving way too many of [LostBoY's] puzzles and were overthinking the hat problem big time.

“I have indexed all the content on the Dune Wiki and am trying a dictionary attack against the hashes,” one of the guys said, assuming that usernames from Herbert’s masterpiece were somehow a clue.

“Just brute force it,” [Mike] had to give a hint, slightly embarrassed but happy that people were trying.

Later that day, we ended up in the Whiskey Pirates room. This one was #1031 in one of Rio’s towers, and it looked like everything you ever dreamed of as a teenager — a hotel room packed with weird looking people, arcade machines, phone booth and a big electronic microscope in the bathroom. Everyone was building something, sharing knowledge and simply being awesome. We’ll be giving this one it’s own post soon.

If this room were the only reason DEFCON existed, it would be totally worth it.

That night, The Orb played at the main stage, and the whole place had an irresistible school “reunion” feel to it.

I came to realize that, in a way, this is what DEFCON is all about – a big party, started 22 years ago, which has yet to end.

The next morning, [Mike's] hat finally got hacked.


Filed under: cons, Featured

Disabled Chiahuahua Gets New Outlook on Life with 3D Printed Cart

ศุกร์, 08/22/2014 - 18:01

[Turbo] is a disabled Chiahuahua who has brought in quite a bit of media interest after [Mark Deadrick] designed and 3D printed some new wheels for the pup.

He was born without his front legs due to a genetic defect and quickly became the runt of the litter, as the other pups prevented him from getting much food — at 4 weeks old he only weighed 10 ounces! The couple owning the dogs didn’t want to give up on the little guy but weren’t sure what to do — most veterinarian clinics they visited didn’t offer much support, until they found [Amy Birk] at the Downtown Veterinarian in Indianapolis.

[Amy], the manager of the clinic, had little [Turbo] examined and determined that the there was nothing physically wrong with the puppy, other than his missing legs — this meant [Turbo] could still have a full and happy life — with the help of some extra wheels. The only problem? Dog carts are generally built for their canine users when they stop growing — not much available for puppies — nor would it be cheap.

In a rush to get [Turbo] something to use, the employees at the clinic were able to hack together a makeshift dog cart using the wheels from a Fisher-Price toy helicopter, a few copper pipes and a ferret harness:

It worked okay but wasn’t the greatest — lucky for them, the original news story got shared so much, [Mark Deadrick] heard about the predicament and started designing his own 3D printed cart for [Turbo]. Since he wasn’t local he made some estimations about [Turbo's] size, and mailed the clinic two prototypes for [Turbo] to try out. They both worked quite well but still didn’t fit the dog just right. The clinic is now working on getting a cast mold of [Turbo] to send back to [Mark] for further revisions.

With all the media attention [Turbo] has received, the clinic is hoping to start up a charity for other disabled dogs in need — similar to E-nable group for people, it’s hoped that they can make a difference for handicapped animals too.

[Thanks Bryant!]



Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Halo-style Paintball

ศุกร์, 08/22/2014 - 15:01

It seems as though [Nathan] has taken some serious inspiration from the Warthog. The iconic armored buggy from Halo video games has a turret mounted to the roof. Although [Nathan]‘s buggy only shoots paintballs from its turret.

Mounting paintball markers (guns) to various objects such as vehicles, robots, or other machines isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems. Vibrations from anything can transfer through a clamping system and cause paintballs to break. This, of course, inhibits the functionality of the marker and is a messy cleanup to boot. Then there has to be a way to fire the paintballs, which is usually handled by soldering to the electrical connections in the marker. And the entire rig has to stand up to the normal jostling and sudden turns from the buggy.

[Nathan] has solved these problems first by creating a custom fast-change mount that allows any malfunctioning markers to be changed rapidly. The electronic firing mechanism is handled by an ATtiny microcontroller and there is a custom electrical connection that is automatically made when the marker is bolted to the mount.

The new system allows markers to be changed in about 30 seconds, much better than any other system. Maybe in the future [Nathan] can upgrade the buggy’s turret to accommodate a paintball minigun.

Filed under: weapons hacks

Hacking out of Necessity — Fixing Your Own CPAP Machine

ศุกร์, 08/22/2014 - 12:01

One of our avid readers named [Felix] suffers from sleep apnea, and needs a CPAP machine in order to not suffocate while he sleeps — After a recent power-outage, his machine broke, so he decided to try his hand at fixing it.

A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine ensures people suffering from sleep apnea breath throughout the night, by preventing their throats from closing. As a medical device, they tend to be super expensive, which is why [Felix] wanted to try fixing his (at least until he gets a new machine covered by insurance).

Upon opening up the machine, it was easy to see the problem: the circuit board was completely fried. Luckily, the machine is pretty simple. It has a brushless DC motor (12V), and two chambers with air filters, along with an air pressure sensor. Since the motor is brushless, it’s not quite as simple as just hooking it up to a power supply. It had a whopping 8 separate leads.

To figure out which was which he shorted the various leads together. If the motor still spun by hand it meant he was shorting a hall effect sensor cable — if he found the two wires going to the motors coils (which he did) shorting them would cause the motor to resist being spun (known as “plug braking” a motor).

Once he identified the various wires, he grabbed an 15A turnigy motor, an Arduino, and quickly found a sketch online to program it. It doesn’t have pressure control, or ramp up times, but it does the trick and allows [Felix] to sleep again.

Filed under: Medical hacks

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