In the lab: SIM reader


Adafruit Industries sent us one of their SIM Reader kits a few weeks ago to test. Assembly was a breeze thanks to the through hole components and good documentation. We plugged it into our USB -> RS232 converter and tried out the provided pySimReader software. It worked fine, but our modern SIM card out of an N95 didn’t prove very interesting. It was too new to attempt cloning and being a smart phone it doesn’t rely on the SIM for storing anything unless you specifically tell it to. The story was the same for a SIM we pulled out of a Treo. We tried the device with [Dejan]‘s SimScan and a copy of Woron Scan. Both worked without any issue. Conclusion: the device works great despite us lacking anything interesting to do with it.

The Underhanded Hardware Challenge

The Polytechnic Institute of NYU is hosting an interesting embedded systems contest. They’ve constructed a solid state cryptographic device that uses a 128-bit private key. Contestants will be tasked with designing and implementing several trojans into the system that will undermine the security. The system is built on a Digilent BASYS Spartan-3 FPGA board. The trojans could do a wide variety of things: transmitting unencrypted, storing and transmitting previously entered plain text, or just shutting down the system entirely. The modified devices still need to pass the factory testing procedure though, which will measure power consumption, code size, and function. After a qualification round, participants will be given the necessary hardware to compete.

[via NYC Resistor (Happy Birthday!)]

Das Uber Airsoft Gun Turret


Hot on the heels of the Wii missile launcher, Das Uber Airsoft Gun Turret is here to put our past airsoft turrets to shame. Made by [Miltron_B], this autonomous beast not only has gorgeous LED indicators, it has lasers. Three of them. Three freaking lasers. Take a moment to wipe the drool from your chin.

We’ve seen plenty of turrets before, but this one really excels in design. It features two webcams for more precision detection and tracking and when set to manual mode, it can be controlled with an XBox 360 controller. He’s posted great pictures of the process with a step by step break down. Tons of useful links are included to help you out.

Someone should construct a Portal sentry gun case for this thing and add voice clips.

FEMA phone system hacked


Over the weekend, a hacker broke into FEMA’s new PBX voicemail system, made over 400 overseas phone calls to Asia and the Middle East, and ran up a $12,000 bill. The low tech hack took advantage of a “hole” that was not covered when a contractor upgraded the voicemail system. FEMA is currently conducting its own internal investigation, but FEMA spokesman [Tom Olshanski] did not have any information about the contractor responsible or what specific hole was the cause of the breach. Ironically, Homeland Security, of which FEMA is a part, had issued a warning in 2003 about the very same vulnerability.

[photo: silas216]

Microsoft’s data centers growing by the truckload

The growing demands of Microsoft’s core customers necessitate dramatic alterations in the way Microsoft’s data centers are set up. Before their server racks were replaced one at a time, Microsoft’s new solution to server management is to truck in servers in sealed shipping containers and set them up without even taking them out. If a core number of servers start to fail within the shipping container it is removed, returned to the manufacturer, and replaced. This strategy helps Microsoft manage the desires of its consumer base for search, video, photo services and other services provided under the Microsoft Online umbrella. Although Microsoft’s method of server management makes the process of running data centers more efficient, thereby saving costs and power, Microsoft still has to contend with old networking protocols. It’s counting on the industry to innovate in these areas.

[via Boing Boing]

BBS on a Commodore 64


[Lief Bloomquist] was in need of some geeky nostalgia. He thought making a BBS server on a Commodore 64 would fill that need perfectly. He used a PC running some routing software to make the BBS server available over the net, without any long distance charges. Anyone with an Internet connection can telnet to the BBS and join the fun.

[Jason Scott] made BBS: the Documentary. He has interviewed [Lief] and taken some pictures of the set up. You can view them, as well as download a PowerPoint about the project here.

[thanks HighNoon]