Cell phones have become part of our daily life. No longer just for making phone calls, cell phones are like tiny computers we carry around at all times. Just like any other computer, people are hacking cell phones like crazy. This could be anything from jailbreaking your iphone to rooting your android, but it isn't limited to that! We've seen android hacks ranging from tutorials for writing android apps to using your android phone to crack wifi passwords. Iphone hacks are pretty common too, like using an iphone to make vine timelapse movies.

Of course, there are also hacks out there involving cell phone accessories, like how to tripod mount anything, or how to turn your bluetooth headphones into a car auxiliary jack. How about using your cellphone to control a robot or having your cell phone tell you when you've caught a fish? We just can't get enough cellphone hacks!

Google Releases Project Ara MDK

Ara Modules

 

It’s been a little while since we’ve heard about modular smartphones, but Google has just released the Module Developers Kit (MDK) for Project Ara. The development kit gives an overview of the inner workings of the project, and provides templates for building your own modules.

Once you’ve agreed to the license agreement and downloaded the MDK, you’ll find a large specification document. It explains how a phone will comprise of many modules loaded into an endoskeleton, giving mechanical support and electrical connections. An interface block provides each module with power and data over LVDS. Modules are held in place by an electro-permanent magnet which can be toggled by software.

When you’re finished with the specification document, you can dive into the reference designs. These include templates and actual modules for WiFi, thermal imaging, a battery pack, and more. Mechanical CAD is provided as STEP files and drawings, and electrical design files are provided as Altium projects and PDF schematics.

We discussed both Project Ara and Phonebloks on Hackaday in the past, but now we’re starting to see real details. Google’s Project Ara Developer Conference takes place on April 15th and 16th, and you can register to take part remotely for free. Is this the start of an open, modular phone? Let us know what you think.

[Thanks to Adam for the tip]

Don’t Just Go Sticking That Anywhere: Protect the Precious With a USB Wrapper

Oooh, look, a public charging station. Should you trust it? You might get juice jacked. Oh wait, you’ve got a USB Wrapper designed by [Scasagrande] to deny access to your datas.

This project was inspired by the USB Condom, but the problem with those is that they completely cut out the data lines and limit the charge rate to USB 2.0 (500mA). The data lines are used to communicate information about the charger’s power sourcing capabilities to the device. Many manufacturers short D+ and D- together, but Apple applies specific voltages to those lines.

[Scasagrande]‘s USB Wrapper gives you options. You can set it to Dedicated Charging Port, Sony, Open Circuit, or Apple. The super-cool part of this hack is for you Apple fanboys. The bottom slider lets you emulate any Apple charger and use any USB cube (including one you may have made) as long as you have that funny cable in your messenger bag.  The hardware is open source and available at [Scasagrande]‘s repo.

Make the jump to see [Scasagrande]‘s nicely detailed video about the project.

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USB-ify your Old Cell Phone Chargers

phoneChargerUSBd

If you’re like us, you probably have a box (or more) of wall warts lurking in a closet or on a shelf somewhere. Depending on how long you’ve been collecting cell phones, that box is likely overflowing with 5V chargers: all with different connectors. Bring them back to life by doing what [Martin Melchior] did: chop off the ends and solder on a bunch of USB jacks.

You’ll want to use chargers rated for at least 500mA (if not 1A) for this project, or you may be wasting your time considering how much current devices pull these days. Get your polarity right, solder on a USB jack, and you’re finished. Sure, it’s a no-brainer kind of project, but it can clean out some of your closet and give you a charging station for every room of your home and the office. [Martin] glued the USB jack directly onto the adapters, so there are no tangled cords to worry about. iPhone users will need to do the usual kungfu if you want your Apple device to charge.

Automated Phone Cracker/App Tester Steps it Up a Notch

delta bot cracks your passwords

Delta robots like this automated phone tester are awesome: high speed, accuracy, and mesmerizing to watch. [Justin Engler], a security researcher from ISEC Partners (also speaks at DEFCON on occasion) needed a robot to help with repetitive testing. He contacted the folks over at Marginally Clever to see if they could help him out, and they came up with this slick delta robot.

Normally they build these robots out of plywood, but [Justin] requested a bit more of a modern look, and although it looks blue, it’s actually clear acrylic: they haven’t removed the protective film yet.  The robot is quite functional, but [Justin] plans on upgrading it in the future to increase the top speed. It currently has a built-in camera, using OpenCV to watch the log-in screen as it tries every combination as quickly as possible.

Stick around to see it in action!

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Photosphere’ing Made Easy and Cheap

photosphere

Android phones have a cool function called Photo Sphere — unfortunately, unless you’re very steady and can manipulate the phone around its camera’s axis… the results aren’t that amazing. Unless you make a cheap 360 degree panorama head for your tripod that is!

[Oliver Krohn] designed this super simple adapter which you can mount on any tripod. It’s a U-shaped bent piece of aluminum, a bottle cap with a 1/4-20 nut, a thick piece of wire, and a cellphone case. The wire is bent with a notch to sit just below the camera’s lens on the cellphone — it is also placed directly above the tripods panning axis. This puts the nodal point in the perfect place, which allows for a great photo sphere every time.

To see how it works (and the amazing results!) stick around for the following video.

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USB Charger Solves Mongolia Electricity Problem

thermoelectric

People living in remote areas of Mongolia do not have access to electricity or gas, and rely on traditional wood stoves for their homes, which are used almost all the time. Many use solar panels to generate some electricity for small tools, but unfortunately there are often times when it is cloudy for days on end. [Chingun Has] saw this problem and created his own clever solution — a small thermoelectric USB charger.

[Chingun's] device features an array of peltier plates inside of an aluminum shroud. The device is designed to sit on top of a stove, or to be strapped onto a stove pipe. When there is a large enough temperature differential between the two sides of a peltier plate, a charge is induced. He’s using a small fan to help cool the other side of the peltier plates. A small control box houses a voltage regulator circuit that provides 5V over USB.

The cool thing about this project is that it is partially the result of [Tony Kim], an MIT professor who traveled to Mongolia to teach students an edX circuits course about a year ago. [Chingun] was one of his students, and this is a great example of a solution to a real-world problem.

An excellent video after the break gives a complete explanation of the project, as detailed by [Chingun] himself — it’s well worth the watch!

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Open your Hackerspace Door with a Phone Call

elabHackerspaceDoor

[Mário] sent us a tip detailing the access control system he and his friends built for the eLab Hackerspace in Faro, Portugal. The space is located in the University of Algarve’s Institute of Engineering, which meant the group couldn’t exactly bore some holes through campus property and needed a clever solution to provide 24/7 access to members.

[Mário] quickly ruled out more advanced Bluetooth or NFC options, because he didn’t want to leave out members who did not have a smartphone. Instead, after rummaging around in some junk boxes, the gang settled on hacking an old Siemens C55 phone to serve as a GSM modem and to receive calls from members. The incoming numbers are then compared against a list on the EEPROM of an attached PIC16F88 microcontroller, which directs a motor salvaged from a tobacco vending machine to open the push bar on the front door. They had to set up the motor to move an arm in a motion similar to that of a piston, thus providing the right leverage to both unlock and reset the bar’s position.

Check out [Mário's] blog for more details and information on how they upload a log of callers to Google spreadsheets, and stick around for a quick video demonstration below. If you’d prefer a more step by step guide to the build, head over to the accompanying Instructables page. Just be careful if you try to reproduce this hack with the Arduino GSM shield.

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