Red Bull Creation hardware (Bullduino) arrives

The Bullduino’s are starting to arrive. When [Arclight] received his in the mail the first thing he did was to share the hardware details. Of course this is the hardware that participants in the Red Bull Creation contest will be receiving ahead of this year’s contest.

The board is an ATmega328 Arduino clone. Instead of an FTDI chip for USB this one is sporting an ATmega8u2. That’s not too much of a surprise as it should translate to a cost savings. [Arclight] reports that the stock firmware flashes a message in Morse code. It seems the Harford HackerSpace got their Bullduino several days ago and already decoded the message. It reads:

“Wouldn’t lou prefer a good game of chess?”

The guys that did the decoding speculate that this could be a type as ‘l’ and ‘y’ are inversions of each other in Morse code; or it could be some kind of clue. At any rate, if you want to do some disassembly and see if there’s anything lurking in the firmware, [Arclight] posted FLASH and EEPROM dumps from both ATmega chips along with his article.

DIY microcontroller-switched power strip

switched-power-strip

[Teknynja] was looking for a way to control several discrete AC-powered devices using a microcontroller, and while he did consider the Powerswitch tail 2 from Adafruit, handling 5 devices would get pretty expensive. Rather than buying a complete off the shelf solution, he decided to build his own 5-way switched outlet.

He picked up a sturdy metal power strip from a local hardware store along with some Sharp S201S06V relays he ordered online. After test fitting his relays inside the power strip’s chassis, he wired up 5 of the 6 outlets through them to allow for switching via a microcontroller. He configured the 6th outlet to be live at all times, providing a power source for the control system he planned on using to switch the other receptacles.

[Teknynja] pulled the connector from an old PS/2 mouse for use as a control wire, connecting one wire to each of the relays. He says that the strip is working quite well, and after a few months of use it is holding up nicely.

Checking out the temperature of a Raspberry Pi

[Remy] has access to a very nice Fluke thermal camera, so when his Raspberry pi came in he pointed the thermal camera at the Raspi (Spanish, Google translation) to see how far this neat computer could be pushed before it overheated.

There are three main sources of heat on the Raspberry Pi: the voltage regulator, the USB/Ethernet controller and the Broadcom SoC. At idle, these parts read 49.9° C, 48.7° C and 53° C, respectively; a little hot to the touch, but still well within the temperature ranges given in the datasheets for these components.

The real test came via a stress test where the ARM CPU was at 100% utilization. The Broadcom SoC reached almost 65° C while the Ethernet controller and regulator managed to reach the mid-50s. Keeping in mind this test was performed at room temperature, we’d probably throw a heat sink on a Raspberry Pi if it’s going to be installed in an extreme environment such as a greenhouse or serving as a Floridian or Texan carputer.

Thanks [Alberto] for sending this in.

CD/DVD Polisher may save your backups someday

CD and DVD payers can often keep the music or movie going despite a small scratch. But occasionally you’ll have to skip to the next chapter/track or the player will just give up. But with data back-ups, a scratch can bork a whole set of files. We think that most of the time these headaches can be cured with this simple polisher.

[Wotboa’s] thrift store finds yielded almost all of the components needed to build the device. It’s made up of a couple of motors and a jig. One motor slowly rotates the upturned optical disc while the other spins the polishing pad. That pad is made from felt weather-stripping and is helped along with some plastic polishing compound. [Wotboa] asserts that five minutes in the noisy contraption will work wonders on any disc. You can get an idea of what it’s capable of by watching the video clip after the break.

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DEFCON 20 Tamper Evident contest signup

DEFCON 20 is on its way and if you want to put a team together to compete in the Tamper Evident competition now is the time! The idea of the contest is simple: your team needs to break into something without anyone every knowing. The payload is protected by the best of modern tamper evident techniques. One of the things we really like about the competition is that there are multiple levels so if it’s your first time you DO stand a chance. The number of teams accepted is limited, so don’t wait too long and miss your chance to register.

There’s a ton to be learned from the contest RULES. But perhaps a better primer is going to be [Datagram’s] fifty-two minute talk which we’ve embedded after the break. He was one of the winners of all four contest levels at DEFCON 19 last year.

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Amateur radio field day is upon us

Looking for something to do this fine Saturday morning? For the US and Canadian readers out there, the fourth weekend in June is amateur radio field day, a day when all the amateur radio and ham geeks get together, string up a few antennas, and do their yearly community outreach/contact as many other radio heads as possible.

This weekend, there are more than 1600 field day events taking place all across the US and Canada. Odds are, you’re not more than a half hour drive from a field day event; you can find the closest one with the AARL’s handy Google Map of field day locations.

Since last year, we’ve seen a whole host of cool stuff to do with radio including a $20 software defined radio. If getting your license is too big of a step for you right now, you could at least plug a USB TV tuner dongle into your computer and see what is possible with radio. As a neat little bonus, you don’t even need a license for SDR. You might need a better antenna, and the ham guys at field day will be more than happy to point you into the right direction.