Hackit: What did you get?

adp1

It’s the season of gift giving. Did you get anything interesting/hackable? What will you work on next?

We gave ourselves an Android Dev Phone 1 (ADP1). We hadn’t really considered getting a G1 until the ADP1 was announced… It’s actually a lot of fun to use as our primary phone. Our favorite app so far is connectbot, the SSH client. The interface is really smart, way better than all of the iPhone clients.

What did you get?

Surviving a hacker conference

concrowd

With another hacker conference looming in front of us, it’s time to start thinking about hardware security. Hacker conventions have the most hostile network you’ll ever encounter. [Security4all] points out that 25C3 already has an extensive page on securing your hardware. It starts from the ground up with physical security, BIOS passwords, and locking down bootloaders. There’s a section on securing your actual OS and session. Finally, they cover network usage. It mentions using SSH for dynamic forwarding, which we feel is a skill everyone should have. We’ve used it not just for security, but for bypassing brainless bandwidth restrictions too. There’s also the more trick transparent version. Every piece of data you bring with you, you risk losing, so they actually recommend just wiping your iPhone and other devices before attending. It’s important to remember that it’s not just your own data at risk, but everyone/thing you communicate with as well.

How to properly dispose of fruitcake

While doing serious fruitcake research, (no, really) we stumbled across the Great Fruitcake Toss held every January in Colorado. The particular entry above caught our eye. Omega 380 was built by a group of Boeing engineers and currently holds the distance record of 1,420feet. It’s a large compressed air cannon. All pressure is human generated using an exercise bike turning a pump. Apparently the team’s first contest entry was a classic surgical tubing slingshot. It eventually broke down during a very cold year, so they switched to this newer design. You can see more videos on the Operation Fruitcake blog.

NYC CCTV scouting

nypd

On a recent trip to New York City, [sherri] noticed the abundant “NYPD Security Camera” signage. She Ò on her little sousveillance tour and did some digging to learn more about the system. According to a recent NY Post article, the city intends to have 2,000 cameras installed by 2009. Each unit has at least two cameras, an onboard DVR, battery backup, a webserver, and wireless connection. The CrimeEye product line is manufactured by Total Recall—the people who brought you BABYWATCH. While the company site doesn’t list any specs, we found a price list that was provided to New York State. Each unit lists for $28-39K. They can have image sensors up to 2 megapixels, hold 30fps video for 5-15days, and transmit wirelessly on the 4.9GHz public safety band.

[sherri] wonders what systems are in place to guarantee the security of the camera network and to make sure the data is handled properly. We’ve seen bad implementations of cameras with webservers
in the past. She suggests a third-party system to verify security, operation, and storage. Right now there’s no reason the government won’t use footage for invasive data mining. As a publicly funded system monitoring public areas, we see no reason why the video streams from these devices shouldn’t be widely available.

[Thanks Tendency]

Working with VFDs

vfd

We love old display technology, like Nixie tubes, but they’re often difficult to work with because they require higher voltages than digital logic. Vacuum florescent displays (VFD) fall into this category. While not necessarily “old”, they are becoming far less common than LCDs. The main benefit of a VFD is that it actually produces light directly; it doesn’t require a backlight. You’ll find these displays on various players and appliances: CD, DVD, VCR, microwaves, stoves, car headunits, and others.

[Sprite_tm] had written off some VFDs, but recently revisited them with renewed interest. He started by testing what sort of voltage would be required to drive the display. It took 3V for the filament plus 15V to drive the grids. There are VFD controller chips available, but he wanted to get this working with what he had on hand. He had experience with older 40xx series logic, which can be powered by much higher voltages than 5V 74xx. His final schematic has three 4094 serial to parallel chips with an ATtiny2313 controller. A 5V power supply is dropped to 3V with diodes to drive the filament while a boost converter brings it up to 15V for the 4094s that switch the segments. While the code is specific to this display, it would be a great place to start your own project.

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