Amazon Dash: Hack It to Run Your Own Code

The Amazon Dash is a $5 push-to-buy-cat-litter button which has excellent potential for repurposing, but you need to know what is going on inside first. [Tony Dicola] has the details in this excellent bare metal guide to the Dash. In this, he covers how to get inside the Dash and reprogram it to do something more interesting than buying cat litter.

He first cracks the device open, connecting a programmer, then building a toolchain to compile programs to run on. This isn’t for the faint-hearted because you are programming directly for a device that wasn’t really built for it, but [Tony] has posted examples and there are few tools to hold your hand on the way. There is a safety net, [Tony] provided details on how to reset the Amazon Dash Button if you manage to brick it.

We have seen some interesting hacks that repurpose the Dash to capture your child’s bowel movements by intercepting the device connecting to WiFi, but this guide takes it a step further. It allows you to run your own code, which turns this into a really low-cost and well-engineered all-in-one WiFi device. The missing piece is proof-of-concept code to run the WiFi module inside. If you’re working on that we’d love to hear about it!

50 thoughts on “Amazon Dash: Hack It to Run Your Own Code

  1. The hardware for the dash button is surprisingly powerful compared to what it does. The microphone & powerful MCU is apparently so that they can configure wifi with audio played back from a phone. But I wonder why it needs so much flash on board.

      1. The microphone is used to configure the device similar to how Chromecast uses your phone’s mic and your TV’s speaker to communicate. It’s a really cheap and easy alternative to something like bluetooth.

          1. 2nd TFH comment from you.

            do you have anything USEFUL to contribute or are you just here to create noise?

            if you are trying to be funny, you are not succeeding. perhaps a sharks-with-lasers joke is more your speed?

          2. Companies everywhere strive to put less hardware possible into products to save money but Amazon engineers not only design and build the audio circuitry but also leave it in place with the mic for no apparent purpose in a device they sell at a loss?
            Whatever is your view on the matter, you must admit the mic presence is not that clear.

          3. Just because your life’s not worth spying on, doesn’t mean they won’t do it. And if there’s some way of extracting money from total surveillance, they’ll try put it in every home.

            When the cost of spying on people goes down, from cheaper cameras, or cheaper megacomputers to analyse the data, people do more spying. New applications are found for it. I’ve somehow ended up explaining capitalism here.

            There’s always some handy genius popping up with a money-spinning way to exploit gigantic databases of people.

          4. Why do you think that has to be in tin foil hat land? Amazon is all about collecting as much info as possible..The boast it.. They think they collect so much data about you that then can ship you a product before you even order it.. In case you don’t remember the Ubuntu scandal where they were collecting ubuntu user’s data in order to sell it to amazon so amazon could provide targeted ads within unity. I had a Nintendo WiiU that did the same thing.. Except its got a camera and a mic.. They listen to you.. so they can provide targeted ads. My Nintendo WiiU remote would be off all night long, but when I open my door and come out into the living room in the morning, often times the display would pops on, chime a tone, and start showing ads on it. Device was totally off.. console was off.. but the display/remote would still be on, still be displaying ad content.

            If you don’t think companies would take advantage of any resources at their disposal, you’re pretty foolish.

            That’s not paranoia.. Its common sense.

            You act as if a corporation has never been caught violating a person’s rights, or causing damage, or death, or anything bad in the interests of profit.

        1. I’ll defend this comment, I do not believe any TFH is actually here. It may not be initiated at this point in time but with all the privacy issues with google, ms and their windows 10 fiasco, etc….. why wouldn’t amazon want to get as much data as they possibly can when you push a button. If these companies can get away with it they will and then they will push it further to see what they can actually do.

          1. The simple explanation of why this probably won’t occur is that it will kill the battery very quickly, not to mention that it would record tons of silence, and it doesn’t have a ton of storage available. It is currently able to operate for years on a single battery because it only uses power to wake up. The more interesting answer here is that we have now broken it down and are able to check the code for ourselves and see that this is not the case. Also there is no way to push an upgrade to it over WiFi so the code on the device is designed to be the code that lives on it forever. Sure they could try to implement it in later versions, but we are gonna keep repurposing them and we will notice if it’s changed.

            Sometimes a microphone is just a microphone, not a listening device for some big company.

        2. Why not.. They were spying on Ubuntu users without their knowledge or consent. Unity was setup to collect and track behavior so Amazon could provide targeted ads within the dock.

          People acting as if multi billion dollar corporations have never violated peoples rights in the interests of profits.. please..

          Amazon, through their own admission, says they collect enough data to be able to ship you a product before you even know you want it, so that when you decide you do, its already on its way by the time you order it..

          Think about that.. Just really think about that..

  2. I think
    “There is a safety next, [Tony] provided details on how to reset the Amazon Dash Button if you manage to brick it.”
    should be
    “There is a safety net, [Tony] provided details on how to reset the Amazon Dash Button if you manage to brick it.”

    1. And “slow-cost” is probably meant to be “low-cost”. Although “a really slow-cost […] device” could also refer to low initial cost and the higher recurring cost when using it as intended.

        1. I’ll jump on the bandwagon here:

          “The missing piece if proof-of-concept code to run the WiFi module inside.”
          =>
          “The missing piece is proof-of-concept code to run the WiFi module inside.”

          How embarrassing. (three typos???)

          1. “Hmm, all these complaints about typos, but I still understood and enjoyed the article perfectly…”

            Hmm, all of these holes in the aeroplane, but we still got here safely (this time).

          2. Some hackaday readers dislike typos enough to make comments that point out the typos. Other hackaday readers dislike comments about typos. Solution: Hackaday should hack itself, or its website, and add a “point out typo” feature. E.g. users selects text in article and presses a “report typo” button. If > N number of ip numbers tagg a word/sentence as typo then the text author is notified about it. Typo haters get to be useful. Hackaday writers get a little help. Typo comment haters see less typo comments. If there are too many typo reports then turn up N until the number of notifications become feasible to handle. That should catch the “most serious” typos. win win win.

  3. I always ask this before buying a new connected device:

    – does it have a mic? can it truly be disabled?
    – does it hae a camera? same question.

    if I can’t disable it to my own satisfaction, I don’t buy it. hackable or not, I simply don’t trust things that can bug my place.

    I realize that cell phones can be bug devices, too; but the one who turns that on already is, pretty much, all-powerful (sigh). otoh, I’m not going to voluntarily buy a mic-enabled item from amazon or google or anyone like that.

    (and yes, I have been thinking of adding a spst switch in series with my cellphone mic. and my camera is already disabled.) ;)

      1. the ‘tinfoil hat’ comment belongs pre-snowden.

        get with the times. we all, now, KNOW that spying happens and whatever the hardware vendors say, its mostly not trustable (could be flat-out lie or just a partial lie). but an embedded cam and mic are vectors and YOU would be nuts to trust anything with those devices designed-in.

        I’m not paranoid. I’m just aware of how evil our overlords are and how happy the hardware vendors are to 100% ignore any privacy issues if their revenue stream could, at all, be affected.

        I’m hoping you trolled me and that you don’t really believe vendors when they say ‘trust us!’.

        1. Seriously. I was thinking you hadn’t gone far enough with a switch on just the mic. You’d need one on the speaker(s) as well. And while you’re at it, some way to disable the accelerometers in case they ever figure out how to infer more than touch input from them.

        2. Spying doesn’t matter in the slightest. Surveillance contributes to truth. The only issue is when people use it for bad purposes, and when they do so, they do it alone. Individuals aren’t the NSA. Individuals aren’t the Government. Idiot.

          1. And this is why America and the rest of fiveeyes trawl through almost every international packet and share data to spy on their own.

            Government not evil? Tell that to the Taliban.
            Couldn’t happen to my government? Ask everyone vaguely interested in civil rights or same sex relationships during McCarthy / Cold War eras.
            Think it’s a problem with individuals that can be overcome by committee? Individuals are smart, people are dumb animals

          2. Think of the IRS being used against conservative groups. And remember all agency heads are political appointees. Whoever is in power at any particular point in time wants to keep that power. Power corrupts, as they say. It is human nature.

            That said, if they want to look at my butt with a webcam, then they can just poke their eyes out.

        3. It really annoys me how you gonna get bashed when you’re saying that you don’t want other companies mics or cameras in your home.

          Get over it guys. Other ppl have other opinions. I don’t write a comment under everyones “pro mic and cam” comments either…

          1. Light elements only help slow them down, you need something with a high neutron cross section to actually capture them…
            Although, the isotope with the biggest neutron cross section is a gas at std. conditions, so I guess that does count as a light element.

    1. The Amazon thingy only needs it’s mic for initial setup. I suppose you could desolder it, or stick a pair of scissors through it, once that’s done.

      Although since the likely reason you’d get one of these is to hack it anyway, it doesn’t matter. Put in your own software.

  4. Good grief!!! I can think of several dozen things I’d rather do with that much time. I bought six Dash buttons to mess around with (thanks, Amazon!), but I’ll be quite content to hack them on the “intercept the communications” level and save my bare-metal work for a more promising platform.

    On the other hand, if someone builds an IDE that utilizes all the capabilities of the Dash hardware, I will bow in awe, humility, and gratitude.

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