Unmanned ocean crossing

This is the Pinta, an autonomous sailboat built to attempt an ocean crossing from Ireland to Martinique (in the Caribbean). A group of researchers at Aberystwyth University built her as part of the Microtransat Challenge.

To keep tabs on the vessel her creators included an Iridium short burst data modem with a backup system made from a SPOT satellite tracker using a PIC microcontroller to trigger a transmission every six hours. The sailing systems are a conglomeration of a Gumstix board, GPS, a windshield wiper motor to control the sail, and a tiller pilot for steering. A set of solar panels helps to top off the lead-acid batteries that power the system.

Unfortunately the old gal has encountered problems. You can see from the tracking data that, although it sailed 500 km in the last twelve days, she is still just off the coast of Ireland. The primary tracking system has failed, which could signal a system-wide computer failure. We hope the team will eventually recover the vessel as we’re interested in finding out what caused this unfortunate turn of events.

Gutting an air freshener for the parts

[Doug Paradis] took a good look inside the Air Wick Freshmatic Compact i-Motion and then stole all the parts for other projects. We’ve looked at adding a manual spray button or making air fresheners Internet enabled before. Those models didn’t have parts that were all that interesting, but this one has a passive infrared motion sensor. You’ll also gain three switches, a PNP transistor, and an LED.

Price seems to be all over the map for this model, but [Doug] says you can find it for $8 or less. After showing how to make a tool to bypass the triangular security screws, he explains how to access the PIR sensor. But if you want to be all you can be with the hardware, he details the modifications needed to patch into the analog and digital circuitry on the rest of the board too.

The HDCP master key

Pastebin has the HDCP master key that we talked about in a post last week. This is the encryption protocol used for HDMI content protection on media such as Blu-Ray and High Definition cable television.

The master key array is a 40×40 set of 56-bit hex used to generate the key sets. You get one brief paragraph at the top of the document explaining what to do with this information. If you ask us we’re more interested in how this set was determined. So for some background information read the key selection vector (KSV) Wikipedia page. That points us to an interesting discussion proposing that if 40 unique device-specific KSVs can be captured, they could be used to reverse-engineer the master key. And finally, a bit of insight from a Reddit user (make your own decision on the dependability of this information) commenting on the value of having the master key.

In his comment, [iHelix150] covers the revocation system that HDCP uses to ban devices that are being used to circumvent copy protection. He says that having the master key makes it possible to push your own revocation lists onto devices. Each time a list is written to your device (TV, Blu-ray, etc.) the version number field for the list is updated. If you push an update with nothing on the revocation list, and set the version number to a binary value of all 1’s it will prevent any more rewrites of the list. This means that any previously banned hardware will be allowed back into the chain or trust.

So far this probably means nothing for you. But it’s fun to watch the cat-and-mouse involved in the DRM struggle, isn’t it?

Thieves, armed with a vacuum cleaner, still on the run

Thieves in Paris have been stealing money with the clever use of a vacuum. Not just bits of change here and there, they’ve stolen over 500,000 euros. They noticed that Monoprix supermarkets use a pneumatic tube system to transport rolls of cash to and from the safe. Realizing this was the weakest point in the security, they simply drilled a big hole in the tube, hooked up a vacuum and sucked the cash out. Forget lock picking or safe cracking, this had to be ridiculously easy.

The thieves are still out there, sucking their way to riches. At this point, they’ve hit 15 locations. Their luck has to run out some time right?

[via Slashdot]

Full-featured AVR time-lapse

This time-lapse photo trigger was built [Lukasz Goralczyk]. It is controlled by an ATmega168 and we were surprised to read that it uses about 12k of code. Curious about what takes up that much space, we were impressed to see all the features demonstrated in the video after the break. The small device, running on two AA batteries, has a well-designed user interface displayed on a 3V character LCD that is navigated with a clickable rotary encoder.

It isn’t the smallest intervalometer we’ve ever seen, but it deserves respect for the features packed into a diminutive form-factor.

[Read more...]