[Bunnie] mods Chumby to capture epic time-lapse video

When [Bunny] moved into his apartment in Singapore he was surprised to find that a huge building project was just getting started on the other side of the block. Being the curious sort, he was always interested in what was going on, but just looking in on the project occasionally wasn’t enough. Instead, he set up a camera and made a time-lapse video.

This isn’t hard, you can find a slew of intervalometer projects which we’ve covered over the years. But being that [Bunnie] is one of the designers of the Chumby One, and frequently performs hacks on the hardware, it’s no surprise that he chose to use that hardware for the project.

Luckily, he’s sharing the steps he used to get Chumby capturing images. He mentions the hardest part is finding a compatible USB camera. If you have one that works with a 2008 Linux kernel you should be fine. The rest is done with shell scripts. Mplayer captures the images when the script is called from a cron job. Once all the frames are captured, he used mencoder to stitch the JPEGs into a movie. See the result after the break.

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[Bunnie’s] archives: Unlocking protected microcontrollers

A few years back [Bunnie] took a crack at cracking the security fuses on a PIC microcontroller. Like most of the common 8-bit microcontrollers kicking around these days, the 18F1320 that he’s working with has a set of security fuses which prevent read back of the flash memory and EEPROM inside. The only way to reset those security fuses is by erasing the entire chip, which also means the data you sought in the first place would be wiped out. That is, if you were limited to using orthodox methods.

[Bunnie] had a set of the chips professionally uncapped, removing the plastic case without damaging the silicon die inside. He set to work inspecting the goodies inside with an electron microscope and managed to hammer out a rudimentary map of the layout. Turns out that flash memory can be erased with ultraviolet light, just like old EPROM chips. Microchip thought of that and placed some shielding over the security fuses to prevent them being reset in this manner. But [Bunnie] managed to do so anyway, creating an electrical tape mask to protect the rest of the data stored in the chip while bouncing UV light underneath the shielding at an angle.

Want to uncap some chips of your own without enlisting the help of others? Give this method a try.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

Chumby hacking by Bunnie


[bunnie] is one of the main people behind the Chumby, and even he can’t resist modding the things. He decided to outfit one with a larger LCD – using a stereo microscope to do the really fine pitch work – and a laser cutter to create a custom bezel for the finished piece. The new LCD is still a touchscreen and allows the Chumby to display 640×480 resolution over the stock 320×240. The mod requires a few parts, but the ultimate difficulty is caused by the surface mount connectors. If you’d rather have some software fun, you might want to check out [bunnie]’s Chumby wifi sniffer.

Where Are They Now: Terrible Kickstarters

Kickstarter started out as a platform for group buys, low-volume manufacturing, and a place to fund projects that would otherwise go unfinished. It would be naive of anyone to think this would last forever, and since these humble beginnings, we’re well into Peak Kickstarter. Now, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and every other crowdfunding platform is just another mouthpiece for product launches, and just another strategy for anyone who needs or wants money, but has never heard of a business loan.

Of course there will be some shady businesses trying to cash in on the Kickstarter craze, and over the last few years we’ve done our best to point out the bad ones. Finding every terrible Kickstarter is several full-time jobs, but we’ve done our best to weed out these shining examples of the worst. Following up on these failed projects is something we have been neglecting, but no longer.

Below are some of the most outrageous Kickstarters and crowdfunding campaigns we’ve run across, and the current status of these failed entrepreneurial endeavors.

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The Spirit of Hackaday Shines in Shenzhen

Hackaday loves to spread the message of the hardware hacking lifestyle. That’s only possible where there are hardware hackers willing to spend their time getting together to talk the future of the hardware industry, and to celebrate where we are now. We’re honored that you came out en masse for our Shenzhen Workshop and Meetup!

Zero to Product

[Matt Berggren] has presented his Zero to Product  workshop a few times now as part of our Hackaday Prize Worldwide series. This spring that included Los Angeles, San Francisco, and ten days ago it was Shezhen, China.

We partnered with MakerCamp, a week-long initiative that pulled in people from all over China to build a Makerspace inside of a shipping container. Successful in their work, the program then hosted workshops. The one caveat, Shenzhen in June is a hot and sticky affair. Luckly our friends at Seeed Studio were kind enough to open their climate-controlled doors to us. The day-long workshop explored circuit board design, using Cadsoft Eagle as the EDA software to lay out a development board for the popular ESP8266 module.

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Reverse-Engineering a Superior Chinese Product

It makes an Arduino look like a 555.  A 364 Mhz, 32 bit processor. 8 MB RAM. GSM. Bluetooth. LCD controller. PWM. USB and dozens more. Smaller than a Zippo and thinner than corrugated cardboard. And here is the kicker: $3. So why isn’t everyone using it? They can’t.

Adoption would mandate tier after tier of hacks just to figure out what exact hardware is there. Try to buy one and find that suppliers close their doors to foreigners. Try to use one, and only hints of incomplete documentation will be found. Is the problem patents? No, not really.

[Bunnie] has dubbed the phenomenon “Gongkai”, a type of institutionalized, collaborative, infringementesque knowledge-exchange that occupies an IP equivalent of bartering. Not quite open source, not quite proprietary. Legally, this sharing is only grey-market on paper, but widespread and quasi-accepted in practice – even among the rights holders. [Bunnie] figures it is just the way business is done in the East and it is a way that is encouraging innovation by knocking down barriers to entry. Chinese startups can churn out gimmicky trash almost on whim, using hardware most of us could only dream about for a serious project.

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RISC, Tagged Memory, and Minion Cores

Buy a computing device nowadays, and you’re probably getting something that knows x86 or an ARM. There’s more than one architecture out there for general purpose computing with dual-core MIPS boards available and some very strange silicon that’s making its way into dev boards. lowRISC is the latest endeavour from a few notable silicon designers, able to run Linux ‘well’ and adding a few novel security features that haven’t yet been put together this way before.

There are two interesting features that make the lowRISC notable. The first is tagged memory. This has been used before in older, weirder computers as a sort of metadata for memory. Basically, a few bits of each memory address tag each memory address as executable/non-executable, serve as memory watchpoints, garbage collection, and a lock on every word. New instructions are added to the ISA, allowing these tags to be manipulated, watched, and monitored to prevent the most common single security problem: buffer overflows. It’s an extremely interesting application of tagged memory, and something that isn’t really found in a modern architecture.

The second neat feature of the lowRISC are the minions. These are programmable devices tied to the processor’s I/O that work a lot like a Zynq SOC or the PRU inside the BeagleBone. Basically, they’re used for programmable I/O, implementing SPI/I2C/I2S/SDIO in software, offloading work from the main core, and devices that require very precise timing.

The current goal of the lowRISC team is to develop the hardware on an FPGA, releasing some beta silicon in a year’s time. The first complete chip will be an embedded SOC, hopefully release sometime around late 2016 or early 2017. The ultimate goal is an SOC with a GPU that would be used in mobile phones, set-top boxes, and Raspi and BeagleBone-like dev boards. There are enough people on the team, including [Robert Mullins] and [Alex Bradbury] of the University of Cambridge and the Raspberry Pi, researchers at UC Berkeley, and [Bunnie Huang].

It’s a project still in its infancy, but the features these people are going after are very interesting, and something that just isn’t being done with other platforms.

[Alex Bardbury] gave a talk on lowRISC at ORConf last October. You can check out the presentation here.