We love all of the creative Halloween costumes that have started trickling in now that the holiday is finally over, and people have found time to document their last minute projects. Take this functional Etch A Sketch costume made by [mazinbenny]. The knobs are lawnmower wheels. The pulley system is strung with 1/16″ wire rope to move a carrier for a dry erase marker. The marker draws directly on an acrylic screen. HowStuffWorks has a post on how a real aluminum powder based Etch A Sketch works.
We’ve covered more technical Etch A Sketch projects in the past. We’ve seen them hooked up to computer mice, drawing portraits at Maker Faire, and commenters have even suggested turning mechanical dry erase boards into giant Etch A Sketches.
[Dean Kamen]’s company, the people behind the Segway, have created a hybrid car that uses a Stirling engine instead of a standard internal combustion engine. Stirling engines are closed cycle, meaning heat is applied to the outside of the cylinder walls. They are generally more efficient than standard car engines, but haven’t been used much outside of industrial applications. We suspect that the drivetrain arrangement is similar to the Chevy Volt where the engine is used to charge batteries which are in turn driving an electric motor. This is different from modern hybrids that can have either electric motor or gas engine driving the wheels. The article is unfortunately full of classic [Kamen] hyperbole and minimal detail. He calls the Stirling engine “an insurance policy” for the electric car since it can recharge the battery. That’s right, folks. If you run out of juice, you can put gas in the car. I doubt many Prius owners will fall out of their chair over that. Being a Stirling engine, we’d be more impressed if you could charge the thing by rubbing warm toast on it.
Attempting to put our past behind us as quickly as possible, TIME has released what they feel are the best inventions of 2008. While there’s some pretty wishy-washy lab-only stuff on the list, we’re glad to see a lot of cool hardware made the cut. Some of our favorites are: The Tesla roadster proving electric cars can be fun. IBM breaking the petaflop barrier with LANL’s Roadrunner. The Large Hadron Collider for getting everyone scared about physics all over again. Have a look at the list for many other tech highlights from this year.
[Martin Beck] and [Erik Tews] have just released a paper covering an improved attack against WEP and a brand new attack against WPA(PDF). For the WEP half, they offer a nice overview of attacks up to this point and the optimizations they made to reduce the number of packets needed to approximately 25K. The only serious threat to WPA so far has been the coWPAtty dictionary attack. This new attack lets you decrypt the last 12 bytes of a WPA packet’s plaintext and then generate arbitrary packets to send to the client. While it doesn’t recover the WPA key, the attacker is still able to send packets directly to the machine they’re attacking and could potentially read back the response via an outbound connection to the internet.
[John Peterson] created this postal scale device for a Renesas design contest. The Weasure not only calculates the package’s total weight but the dimensions as well. He built it using a SKP16C62P evaluation board that had an LCD, pushbuttons, and indicator LEDs. The original DigiWeigh parcel scale was modified to provide PWM output and tare control. He embedded photoresistors every inch along each axis. They were angle slightly upward and the surroundings were painted black to minimize reflection. The Weasure outputs everything via a serial connection so it can be used with shipping software to generate postage.
The G1 ‘execute every command you type‘ bug naturally spawned ‘rm -rf /’ jokes. rm is the Linux command for deleting files. The -r and -f flags will cause it to remove files recursively and ignore confirmation. Executed as root it will annihilate the entire filesystem. Won’t it? [Jon Hohle] decided to test exactly how destructive the command was to *nix systems. How functional would the system be afterwards? He tested it side by side with the Windows equivalent, both ‘format c:’ and ‘del /F /S /Q’. He wanted to see what protections were available and what would be left working. Linux ended up completely broken while Windows, thanks to file locking, actually shutdown cleanly… and never came back. Some OSes, like Solaris, refuse to run the command ‘rm -rf /’ to prevent accidents.
We’re barely past Halloween and people are already working on their next LED based holiday decorations. For Hanukkah, Gizmodo pointed out the PCB menorah pictured above. It uses a set of DIP switches to control which LEDs are lit. A couple years ago, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories put together a tutorial for building a more minimal LED menorah. Each of the nine LEDs are soldered directly to the legs of an ATtiny2313 microcontroller. Every time you power up the device an additional LED is lit. [Ori] liked the project and decided to take a slightly different approach. He used an LM3914 DIP18 LED bar driver. A potentiometer controls how many of the LEDs are illuminated.