Upgrading a voice recorder with a hex editor

[Alex] just bought a really nice TEAC VR-20 audio recorder, a very capable recorder perfect for recording your thoughts or just making concert bootlegs. This model was recently replaced by the Tascam DR-08 audio recorder. It’s essentially the same thing, but the Tascam unit can record at 96kHz, whereas the TEAC can only record at 48kHz. [Alex] figured out a way to upgrade his less capable but cheaper VR-20 to record at a higher bit rate with just a simple firmware hack.

The mod began by downloading the firmware for both the TEAC VR-20 and the Tascam DR-08. Both of these sets of firmware were exactly the same size, and after downloading a hex editor, [Alex] found a huge difference in the first 20 bytes of the firmware – the portion that tells the microcontrollers what it actually is.

The solution to improving the bitrate for the TEAC VR-20 was as simple as copying the first 20 bytes from the TEAC firmware over to the first 20 bytes of the Tascam firmware. After that, it’s a simple matter of upgrading his TEAC and getting the ability to record at 96kHz.

A very, very simple hack that’s really just flipping a few bits. Not bad for a two-fold improvement in the recording capability of a handheld audio recorder.

The ultimate low-cost dev board

We see a lot of microcontroller dev boards here at Hackaday, so much that we’re jokingly considering changing our name to Board a Day. These devices – from Arduinos to Arduino-compatible boards, very, very small boards, to extremely powerful ARM devices – are a great way to learn about the wonders of controlling electricity with code. There’s a problem, though: if you’re teaching a class on programming microcontrollers, giving each student a $20 board is nearly out of the question.

This is where the shrimp comes in. It’s a very, very minimal Arduino-compatible circuit meant to control all the pins on an ATMega328. The components only cost about £1.40 ($2.25 USD) when bought in volume, making it perfect for teaching a class or workshop on the Arduino and giving each student a circuit to take home.

The basic circuit is just an ATMega328 – the same microcontroller used in the Arduino Uno – with a few caps, resistors, and a 16 MHz crystal. It’s a very bare-bones system, but once built and programmed provides all the functionality of a $25 Arduino.

Like all microcontroller platforms, there’s the chicken-and-egg problem of actually programming the device. The Shrimp team is using a CP2102 USB to UART bridge to program each shrimp. Not an inexpensive part, but it is of course possible to only have one serial bridge for each workshop.

Heat-seeking firebot drowns out the flames

This robot can find and extinguish fires automatically. It is the culmination of an Embedded Design class project from last school year. [Dan] and his classmates developed a turret that holds both a spray nozzle and heat sensor which would be a fantastic building block for a real-life tower defense game.

The jewel of the sensor array is a TPA81 thermopile array. Note the use of the term ‘array’ in the name. This is more like eight temperature sensors aligned with each other. By monitoring them all, the direction from which the most heat is coming can be determined. Once it’s zeroed in on the fire getting water to the right place can be a difficult task. That’s where the other sensors come into play. An accelerometer allows the bot to determine the angle of the spray nozzle (a weed sprayer was used in this case). An ultrasonic range finder and few algorithms let the Arduino which drives it all make sure that the arc of the water lands on the hot spot. This is all shown quite clearly in the clip below the jump.

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Nikon WU-1a WiFi dongle hacking

Here’s a pretty tricky piece of consumer electronics reverse engineering. [Joe Fitz] came across the Nikon WU-1a. It’s a dongle that plugs into a Nikon D3200 camera, producing a WiFi connection which can be picked up and controlled from a smart phone. The app shows you the current image from the viewfinder, allows you to snap the picture, then pulls down the picture afterwards. The problem is that the same functionality for his D800 camera will cost him $1200, when this dongle can be had for $60. That’s a powerful incentive to find a way to use the WU-1a with his camera model. This is more than just rerouting some wires. It involves sniffing the USB traffic and drilling down in the datasheets for the chips used in the hardware. We’re not certain, but he may have even rolled new firmware for the dongle.

Details are a bit scarce right now. Your best bet is to watch the video embedded after the break. There is also a set of slides which [Joe] put together for a talk at this weekend’s BsidesPDX. It will give you a general overview of the process he went through. But he also started a forum thread and we hope to learn much more from that as the conversation gets going.

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