Pink wireless-terminal of wonder

[Hunter Davis] is at it again, this time hacking the pink IM-ME to use as a wireless terminal. It sells for between $12-16 and he ordered it to get free shipping with another purchase. The wireless antenna registered as an HID device when he plugged it into his Linux box. He then sat down for a long USB sniffing session only to be surprised by the lack of any type of security. Everything transferred to the device is just plain text in hexidecimal. Because of possible DMCA issues he hasn’t posted a driver but does explain most of the process to write your own.

[Hunter] has given us a lot of handheld hacks. This device is meant as a remote terminal for instant messaging. We’re sure you can think up a lot better uses so let us know in the comments and don’t forget to send in any projects you come up with.

[Thanks Paul]

Comments

  1. Max says:

    Wireless tty coming right up.

  2. M4CGYV3R says:

    keylogger with remote readout – plug it in and watch what they type.

  3. marek sokal says:

    how about making it not pink? :P

  4. Alastair says:

    remote for a HTPC (play, pause, next/prev track, etc) with custom commands. i.e. add/remove file to playlist, search for file (type/name) … slick way to control your music in the living room from the kitchen.

  5. PosiCat says:

    There’s always vinyl dye, it’ll un-pink that thing really quickly. Otherwise that might be the perfect terminal for home-automation and interfacing with a MythTV (or both). I’ll watch the progress with anticipation.

  6. captain says:

    oh how CUTE!

    he he he

  7. cde says:

    There are boy/non-pink versions out there.

  8. wifigod says:

    @Alastair

    I like this suggestion, perhaps a custom interface could be created for VLC, or perhaps you could “hardcode” keyboard shortcuts to use whatever ‘strokes’ get sent by the HID/Receiver.

  9. Alastair says:

    @wifigod

    Yea. The more I think about this the more I’m tempted to give it a go. First reaction was to throw together a few shell scripts … This might go without saying, but I’ve found there’s python binding for VLC.

  10. andrew says:

    “he hasn’t posted a driver but does explain most of the process to write your own.”

    He hardly explained anything except how he figure out it was sending plain hex. And the link he cites only describes how to check to see if the devices is plugged into the computer. That’s hardly “most of the process.”

  11. Hunter Davis says:

    Hey Andrew,

    “Most” is certainly subjective in this context. I had (perhaps a bit presumptuously) assumed that the communication snoop in the spreadsheet I posted was enough for most people to write a skeleton driver to init and start injecting/intercepting text. Are there specific questions you had about implementation?

  12. Peter says:

    What are the DMCA issues? I thought DMCA only covered circumvention of ‘encrypted’ information, which this obviously would not be.

  13. poweruser says:

    Isn’t the DMCA only concerned with breaking of crypto (for the purpose of piracy, specifically)? How could it be illegal to reverse engineer a device so you can use it in a different OS?

  14. andrew says:

    Hey Hunter, I wasn’t trying to dog on you. It’s certainly your prerogative to provide as much or as little info as you want. In this age of DMCA takedowns, I appreciate what you’ve chosen to share. My comment was more directed towards the summary which, according to my reading, seemed to have been crafted too hastily.

    From my previous attempts to grasp them, USB drivers have remained something of a dark-art. So, you might imagine my disappointment when Jesper stopped where he did.

  15. Hunter Davis says:

    Hey Andrew,

    No offence taken, I understand completely. I’m of the opinion that information should be free. It’s true what you say about about device drivers being something of a dark art. I recall not too many years ago a CS major had to take courses in EE for device drivers, and they tended to be windows specific (ick). I think (cross-platform) libusb is a great pedagogical tool for this reason alone. I’m not an expert, but I have done some work and would be happy to assist you if you end up working on this. Good Luck!

  16. Hunter Davis says:

    Hey Peter, Poweruser,

    I admit IANAL, and perhaps there is no issue. I’ve received complaints about one of the previous drivers I’ve released, I believe the issue is the use of the proprietary driver/software stack in sniffing the device, but it could have been an issue specific to that situation and the powerful foreign manufacturer involved. Not prudent to discuss it really as it involved contract work with a former employer.. Anyway hopefully when I get some free time I’ll write a full driver and not just the dirty libusb one I was playing around with, post up a video or something if people are still interested. I’ve got a thick stack of other devices I’m working on and haven’t released info on yet, gotta start prioritizing and pushing out the updates :)

  17. Max says:

    @Hunter

    So the program on the PC is the one that is appending the user names? The device is just displaying whatever the PC sends it?

    I’m thinking about maybe picking this up and seeing if its a similar setup (which i doubt considering it has a relatively complex menu system built in)

    and I too would love to see your simple driver you were messing with, even if you remove the actual init values (can get them from spread sheet)

  18. Hunter Davis says:

    Hey Max,

    Yes, the PC is receiving all IM communication and directing the messages to the device by unique identifier (name).

    That rip-roar is quite an interesting device. Seems there are a lot of specialty hardware devices in this niche category. I’ve got a couple more I’ve been meaning to mess with, may throw this in my next amazon order too.

    I’ll try and clean up my half-assed libusb driver a bit to the point where it’s not embarrassing to post it for you. I’m quite interested to hear what this new device is doing if you pick it up. Thanks for the heads up and good luck!

  19. Skrommel says:

    How about using it for PowerPoint presentations? It controls the presentation, and the notes are displayed on the terminal.

  20. GCL says:

    I like it except for the color.
    The Amazon site brings up a pair complete with accessories. We then need to see where quantity one can be bought.

  21. Hunter says:

    Max, My thoughts exactly.

    M4CGYV3R, neat idea. The short wireless range and large pink receiver would be the limiting factors. You have to be fairly close to the PC and if it’s under a desk even closer.

    Skrommel that’s a great idea! I would use openoffice impress rather than office, but both have python bindings available.

    Alastair, I’m a big popcorn hour user myself. I like the zipit2 ssh->pch control scheme I’ve been using, but this definitely sounds like a sweet (pink) remote interface to vlc or a myth box.

  22. bro says:

    Where to buy one in germany? :)

  23. rasz says:

    that Rip Roar is cheaper than buying LCD display of same size alone, nice deal.

  24. Blockatiel says:

    Blockatiel approves of this!

    Also it’s piss cheap for what it does, even unmodded

  25. tantris says:

    a linux driver makes this thing really interesting: you can hook it up to a usb router/embedded server running linux (wl-530gu was $30 somewhere this week). this adds a cheap console to your router. and if you wanted to, you could even use it for texting with your own service of choice and without the need to have the pc running all the time.
    and since it works both ways like a normal terminal: you could have it control your sprinkler system or use it to display updated weather reports.

  26. nitroburn says:

    Damn lucky kids these days. (oh god, I think i just felt myself age) I remember 10 years ago when I was 15 and saw devices like this in store. Loved the idea, knew not many other kids parents would spend $100 for it so there was no point as the devices were P2P. However, this was before 80% of kids had cellphones with text messaging.

  27. tantris says:

    correction: 520gu, of course

  28. Rollyn01 says:

    Sounds like a good device to manage and diagnose a NAT drive. You can check the health of the drive without booting your PC and can even use it to track problems down to a single PC with a server/packet sniffer setup.

    Damnit… Wheres “really damn small linux w/ VPN and server emulations” when you really need it? :(

  29. UltraMagnus says:

    this post is really pointless without a driver..

  30. tj says:

    It’s too bad you can’t do anything with them because DMCA says so. Politically correct tool ideology 4 life!!

  31. Rollyn01 says:

    @tj

    And since when has that stopped hackers from doing what feeds their need…. to adapt, improve and reinvent?

  32. GCL says:

    @tj:
    The DMCA concerns itself with the uses of, and abuses of content. Such as the vast collections of MP3 items we all collect. Hunter would need to explain himself further on that one.

    @Rollyn01:
    Why not write your own? I believe the Linux stuff brought to the routers is amendable for the job.

  33. cptfalcon says:

    I must be tired; my first thought was how this would be carpel tunnel hell, but then I read a few posts and realized this is way cooler than a small remote terminal. I didn’t notice any takeaparts; how difficult would it be to say wire your own button?

  34. zeflo says:

    greepy introduction video at:

    http://www.girltech.com/electronics-imMe.aspx

    :D

  35. PlastBox says:

    I’m not entirely sure about the details of this device and the software on it, but I’d absolutely LOVE to have some slick little thing like this with a (semi-)full querty keyboard, a simple lcd screen and a wireless->usb connection to a host!

    Vlc and MythTV have been mentioned, as have presentation software. Thing is.. one could write software that hooked into Live Messenger, connected to IRC, home automation interface and vlc (to mention a few) and send commands from the device to switch between the different “tabs/interfaces”.

    This could pretty much be the ultimate accessory for a properly geeky living space! Nice job! =D

  36. Rollyn01 says:

    @GCL:
    I’ve always thought the penguin would knock out some of the features needed to support a VPN/server emulation( i.e. lost application port, security-specific drivers, odd refresh timing). Then again, I could be blowing smoke where there’s a fire.

    @cptfalcon:
    You might have to etch a new board with the same config w/ your new button in the design. Or just wire it to the side and load in a new key map. Or both.

  37. Rollyn01 says:

    I just thought of something. How wonderful would it be if you can run DOS on this and use it to bypass a PC’s OS to look directly into the hard drive? Or even just to track what programs are starting up in realtime while your PC boots? A remote task manager…. *starts drooling at controlled speedbooting*

  38. asdf says:

    This looks like an interesting small terminal for home automation purposes and other uses. I looked for its technical specification (cpu architecture, available ports for reflashing, etc.) but had no luck. Could anyone find them? A few photos of its guts would be really useful.

  39. floe says:

    any ideas about where to get one in europe?

  40. tj says:

    @GCL: I thought it was created to better handle emerging violations of copyright infringement as a whole from digital domains? This includes modification of firmware and consumer electronics.

    I was just making fun of the guy’s sesame street engineering ethics.

  41. polossatik says:

    Why don’t we get funky stuff like this or the zipit in the EU?

    damn..

  42. GCL says:

    @tj:
    When you consider that he’s the one who turned around the entire line of reasoning for the Zip-It from a slowly stilting up lack of interest group to one that every six or seven months releases something special… Then his ethics aren’t from that 40 year old wonder.

  43. Bill Flora says:

    Hunter
    Your hack is amazing. Have you considered hacking the Peek Mobile E-mail Device found on Amazon for less than $20? It seems to have a nice screen. Perhaps Bluetooth could be used for communication to a PC.

  44. Haku says:

    It’s a shame the manufaturers/creators/sellers don’t add extra features as standard to these miniature handheld IM devices to allow them to be more than just an IM device – they’d sell a lot more of them to the kind of people who read HaD, and HTPC peeps.
    Just imagine having a 9TB raid array with a couple of thousand DVD images on, with a database containing the details of each film (name, genre, actors etc.) and being able to simply type something like “Bruce Willis” into the handheld device and getting a pictorial type list of films he’s in up on screen.

  45. marek sokal says:

    How much juice do you need to send info from space back to earth?

  46. Wwhat says:

    Since when is writing your own driver violating a DMCA? Has the world/US gone mad? Oh wait it did, but quite that mad? Really?
    You know MS was founded on reverse engineering, and this isn’t even doing that.
    Really if writing a driver for this would be against a DMCA then me typing a message is too, as is reading and breathing and existing.

  47. Hunter Davis says:

    Hey Bill Flora,

    I’ve looked at the peek yes. The dev team seems really open to others hacking the device. The use of cellular for net access would limit connectivity, as the peek people have to pay for any data sent. They explain it in a blog post here http://www.geekypeek.com/?p=13 …..

    Looks like the locosto platform is an integrated armv7 (nice photo: http://images.intomobile.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/clipboard03.jpg )

    Also looks like you can get a consulting gig with peek for porting linux to their platform:
    http://www.geekypeek.com/?p=344 . Places like this offer me jobs all the time so that’s not really an incentive… But if you’re interested then I’m interested! I’ll pick one up and put it on my to-hack list.

    Max, Rasz

    I’m also picking up a rip-roar and putting it on the to-hack list.

    All,

    My hacked pile is getting really huge, so I’m probably going to have a big ole holiday giveaway soon. I’ll post up an article on my site with the details, probably have about 20 or 30 hacked devices to give away, get some good karma out of it.

  48. tantris says:

    @wwhat:
    come on! breathing will always be free.
    as long as it is for personal use only, you don’t breath through a tube, through a filter, into a container, or employ a method of breathing that facilitates changes to your co2 level, helps with stress or sickness or monitor breathing or teach any of the above to other mammals or animals with gills.

  49. midnight says:

    Nice ideas guys, like the hack.

    But errr… I was controlling my systems with a nokia n61 like 5 years ago even with the webcam via bluetooth.

    Why bother with some crappy screen and not do similar things with a recent phone :)

    Just a thought. The hack stays cool :)

  50. Gee whiz. Sounds like some male hackers an’t man enough to use pink. Accent it with black, and be retro back to the late 50s/early 60s. Sitting here to figure out what I could use it for.

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