Photographic key duplication


[Ben] and his associates over at the University of California at San Diego came up with a way to duplicate keys using a picture of them. They developed an algorithm that uses measurements from known key blanks to extrapolate the bitting code. Because the software is measuring multiple points it can correct the perspective of the photo when the key is not photographed on a flat surface, but from an angle.

They went so far as to test with cell phone cameras and using a telephoto lens from 195 feet away. In most cases, correct keys were produced within four guesses. Don’t miss their wonderful writeup (PDF) detailing how key bitting works, traditional covert duplication methods, and all the details of their process. The lack of available code prevents us all from playing secret agent (or felon) with this idea but [Ben] did mention that if there is sufficient interest he might release it.

Lock bumping showed us how weak our security is, but this is a bit scary.

[Thanks Mike]

Seawater cooled data centers


Remember Mauritius from High School geography? We didn’t either, but apparently it’s a small island nation east of the southern tip of Africa. It seems they are trying to develop an industry in eco-friendly data centers. The plan is to use a pipeline to gather cold water from the ocean, run it two miles to the island, and use it as inexpensive cooling. Because rooms packed with servers generate copious amounts of heat it’s easy to see how this can reduce the cost of maintaining a data center.

The thing that struck us here is, how eco-friendly is this? The article mentions that this technology is fairly mature and is already used in several places. With that in mind, isn’t this just another way to raise the temperature of the oceans, or does the environmental savings of not using electricity or gas to produce the cooling offset this?

[Thanks Vesanies]

New Wii drive hardware emulation


The Wii-Optical-Drive-Emulator (WODE) makes it possible to load Wii and GameCube ISO files from an SD card or USB storage device. This hack uses the ribbon cable for the optical drive to connect to the Wii, requiring no soldering. The WODE is based on an ARM9 processor, runs Linux, and features a backlit LCD screen and 4-way center click joystick. Storage can be hot plugged and then an ISO selected using the stick and LCD display. Selected ISO files appear in the game channel as if an original disc had just been inserted into the drive.

The developers claim that a Wii firmware upgrade will not be able to lock out the WODE. There is also a second ribbon-cable connector to use as a pass-through, giving the option to keep the optical drive hooked up if you so desire. Now the race is on for a replacement case that can house all of this new hardware and still look nice like the original. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a homebrew channel program that allows ISO selection without having to walk over to the console.

The original report (in dutch) is a dead link so here’s the Google cache copy translated. These links came via the translated Tweakers article (here’s the original Dutch). Video after the break. Don’t pirate video games!

[Thanks Roy]

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TI lashes out at their biggest fans


Texas Instruments has issued a DMCA notice to United TI, a group of enthusiasts. They had been cracking the keys that sign the operating system binaries in an attempt to gain access and possibly expand on the features. This seems, at least a little counter productive to us. Texas Instruments doesn’t sell the operating system separately do they? These people were buying their product and expanding on it. There is no difference in their income, except possibly a gain as people flock to the one they can modify. Maybe they are charging more for an expanded feature set that is crippled in the OS.

[via slashdot]

Barcode scanner in Processing


Reader [Nikolaus] decided that instead of using an existing image based bar code decoder, he would write his own. Using the Processing language he created a scanner that parsed the black and white pattern when a bar code was centered on the image. His code then parsed that data and compared it with the initializing character to provide a reference. Currently his scanner supports three character sets of the Code 128 encoding, and provided his complete code so that others could add as they see fit. He admits that the code is a bit messy due to the lengthy character tables, but very straight forward.

Cheap Yaris cabin filter

Cheap-Yaris-Cabin-Air-Filter (8)

[Jake] never ceases to amaze with his inventions, from his Powered respirator to his Steampunk LCD and more. Today he proves that not every hack has to be an amazing one requiring hundreds of hours, tons of soldering, and an Arduino. Instead, he was tired of being charged $50 for a $5 cabin air filter. With a quick squeeze he had access to the filter bay. It was only a matter of finding a similar filter at a home improvement store and then using a scrap wood jig, he could cut and glue his own filter. It’s stuff like this that tends to make us think, what else are we getting ripped off on?

Introduction to FTDI bitbang mode


It was an interface that launched a thousand hacks. Near trivial to program, enough I/O lines for useful work, and sufficiently fast for a multitude of applications: homebrew logic analyzers, chip programmers, LCD interfaces and LED light shows, to name a few.

Today the parallel printer port is on the brink of extinction (and good riddance, some would say). Largely rendered obsolete by USB, few (if any) new peripherals even include a parallel connector, and today’s shrinking computers — nettops, netbooks, media center PCs — wouldn’t have space for it anyway. That’s great for tidy desks, but not so good if you enjoyed the dirt-cheap hacks that the legacy parallel port made possible.

Fear not, for there’s a viable USB alternative that can resurrect many of these classic hacks! And if you’ve done much work with Arduino, there’s a good chance it’s already lurking in your parts drawer.

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