DEF CON’s X86 Badge

This year’s DEF CON badge is electronic, and there was much celebrating. This year’s DEF CON badge has an x86 processor, and there was much confusion.

These vias are connected to something.
These vias are connected to something.

The badge this year, and every year, except badges for 18, 17, 16, 15, and 14, designed by [Joe Grand], and badges from pre-history designed by [Dark Tangent] and [Ping], was designed by [1057], and is built around an x86 processor. Specifically, this badge features an Intel Quark D2000 microcontroller, a microcontroller running at 32MHz, with 32kB of Flash and 8kB of RAM. Yes, an x86 badge, but I think an AT motherboard badge would better fulfill that requirement.

As far as buttons, sensors, peripherals, and LEDs go, this badge is exceptionally minimal. There are eight buttons, laid out as two directional pads, five LEDs, and a battery. There’s not much here, but with a close inspection of the ‘chin’ area of the badge, you can see how this badge was programmed.

As with any [1057] joint, this badge features puzzles galore. One of these puzzles is exceptionally hard to photograph as it is in the bottom copper layer. It reads, “nonpareil bimil: Icnwc lsrbcx kc htr-yudnv ifz xdgm yduxnw yc iisto-cypzk”. Another bottom copper text reads, “10000100001 ΣA120215”. Get crackin’.

A gallery of the Human and Goon badges follows, click through for the best resolution we have.

This post has been updated to correct the record of who designed badges for previous cons.

Join Us at Vintage Computer Festival West This Weekend

VCF West is happening this Saturday and Sunday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. This on of our favorite events; a celebration of the hardware that paved the way for our modern world. VCF attracts an impressive amount of rare and interesting computers and other technology items. That hardware doesn’t make it to the festival on its own. The people at VCF — exhibitors, speakers, attendees, etc — are themselves an incredible collection of stories from salvage and restoration to the inside story on the teams that made the computers in the first place.  Check out some of Brian Benchoff’s coverage of VCF East earlier this year.

VCF_coverI ran into Vintage Computer Federation President Evan Koblentz ten days ago and he shared an interesting anecdote I think you’ll enjoy. Bil Herd was a featured speaker at VCF East a few years back. He was the Senior Design Engineer behind the Commodore C128 — obviously a fascinating person to headline the event. The year after Bil spoke at the festival, Evan as surprised to run into him wandering around the event again. Bil didn’t just want to speak, he wanted to see all the cool stuff and has attended, spoken, and conducted workshops at several of the festivals since.

Who will show up this year is anyone’s guess. But we know this event is incredible and you will be amazed at who you run into. It is important to recognize where our technology comes from, to celebrate those who made it happen, and to encourage young people to start on the path to becoming a computer engineering wizard. For all of these reasons we are happy to be sponsoring VCF West. On the inside cover of every festival program you’ll find this epic art by our Illustrator, Joe Kim. You can also click the image on the right to embiggen.

Joshua Vasquez will on hand for Hackaday at VCF West. He’s looking for the best bits to feature on our front page. If you want get a hold of him to show off your wares, or to grab some excellent Hackaday stickers, hit him up on Hackaday.io.

The Problem with Software Defined Radio

There’s a problem with software defined radio. It’s not that everyone needs to re-learn what TEMPEST shielding is, and it’s not that Bluetooth is horribly broken. SDR’s biggest problem is one of bandwidth and processing. With a simple USB TV Tuner, you can listen in on aircraft, grab Landsat images from hundreds of miles up, or sniff the low-power radios used in Internet of Things things. What you can’t do is make your own WiFi adapter, and you can’t create your own LTE wireless network. This is simply a problem of getting bits from the air to a computer for processing.

At HOPE last weekend, the folks behind the very capable LimeSDR and a new company working with Lime’s hardware laid out the possibilities of what software defined radio can do if you make a link to a computer very fast, and add some processing on the SDR itself.

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DEF CON Meetup At The Grave Of James T. Kirk

DEF CON is just around the corner, and that means in just a few days thousands of hardware hackers will be wandering around the casinos in Vegas. Yes, in a mere handful of hours, the tech literati will be accosted by the dead, disaffected eyes of dealers and the crass commercialization of every culture in humanity’s recorded history. The light of god does not penetrate mirrored ceilings. Vegas is terrible, it’ll be 120ºF outside, but at least there’s cool stuff happening Thursday through Sunday.

Hackaday is going to be there, but we really don’t want to spend the entire weekend walking around casinos. That’s why we’re hosting a meetup at the most unlikely place possible: Veridian III, the site of the battle between the Duras sisters and the Enterprise, the crash site of NCC-1701-D, and the final resting place of Admiral James Tiberius Kirk.

We’ll be visiting Veridian III at the Valley of Fire State Park on Wednesday, August 3rd, starting at 1pm. It’s about an hour north of Vegas. As you would expect, hats, sunscreen, good shoes, and a supply of water that could be categorized as “survivalist” are a good idea. Hackaday will be at the visitor center at 1PM, and after a half hour or so, the entire meetup will drive a few miles north to cooler looking rocks.

If you want an FAQ, here you go:

  • What’s this all about, then?
    • Drive out to the desert because cool rocks.
  • No, really, what’s up?
    • Watch Star Trek: Generations. We’re going to the filming location of Soren’s launch site on Veridian III. This is where Kirk died (on a bridge), and where he was buried by Picard.
  • Where and when?
    • Valley of Fire State Park. Here’s the Google Map. 1PM, August 3rd. It’s about an hour north of Vegas. We’re going to meet at the visitor center around 1pm. Around 1:30, we’re going a few miles north to the White Dome trailhead. Look for the Hackaday Flag. It’ll be flying on a PVC pipe taped to a car.
  • Why are you going to the desert, in August, in the middle of the day, with no plan whatsoever?
    • Because Benchoff.
  • Why would extinguishing a star alter its gravity? The mass of the star would still be there, which means the Nexus ribbon wouldn’t be deflected at all. Is this crazy? What’s going on here?
    • Because Rick Berman.
  • Why weren’t there two Picards after Picard and Kirk returned from the Nexus?
    • Rick Berman.
  • Is this really the grave site of James T. Kirk?
    • No, because Kirk was resurrected by the Borg and his katra restored by Romulans.

This meetup will be a continuation of a series of Hackaday meetups in the middle of nowhere. Earlier, we had a gathering at the childhood home of the worst president of the United States of America. That meetup was a roaring success, with people travelling from surprisingly far away. If you’re unlucky enough to be in Vegas for DEF CON a day early, this is one of the weirdest meetups you could possibly attend.

By the way, if enough people attend, it will serve as proof we can do a meetup anywhere. I have my eyes on Spillville, Iowa, Oregon’s House of Mystery, and one of the remaining Blockbuster stores in El Paso. If you support this idea, come on out.

Yes, You Should be Hacking Your Car’s Data System

If you own a car, I would wager it’s the most complex device you own. Within you find locomotion, safety systems, and an entertainment system that may be using technology from several decades ago (but that’s a rant for a different article). Jalopy or Sweet Hotness, your ride has an underlying data network that is a ton of fun to hack, and something of a security dinosaur. Both were discussed by Craig Smith and Erik Evenchick during their talk on Car Hacking tools at Hope XI.

You should recognize both of these names. Eric Evenchick is a Hackaday contributor who has been traveling the world presenting talks and workshops on his open source car hacking hardware called CANtact. Craig Smith is founder of OpenGarages and author of the Car Hacker’s Handbook which we highly recommend. The pair made a great joint presentation; both were charismatic, using wit to navigate through the hardware, software, techniques, and goals you want to have in mind to jump into car hacking.

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Cory Doctorow Rails Against Technological Nihilism; Wants You to Have Hope

I was skeptical about a two hour block allotted for Cory Doctrow’s keynote address at HOPE XI. I’ve been to Operas that are shorter than that and it’s hard to imagine he could keep a huge audience engaged for that long. I was incredibly wrong — this was a barnburner of a talk. Here is where some would make a joke about breaking out the rainbows and puppies. But this isn’t a joke. I think Cory’s talk helped me understand why I’ve been feeling down about our not-so-bright digital future and unearthed a foundation upon which hope can grow.

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Hands-on the AND!XOR Unofficial DEF CON Badge

DEF CON 24 is still about two weeks away but we managed to get our hands on a hardware badge early. This is not the official hardware — there’s no way they’d let us leak that early. Although it may be unofficial in the sense that it won’t get you into the con, I’m declaring the AND!XOR badge to be officially awesome. I’ll walk you through it. There’s also a video below.

Over the past several years, building your own electronic badge has become an impromptu event. People who met at DEF CON and have been returning year after year spend the time in between coming up with great ideas and building as many badges as they can leading up to the event. This is how I met the trio who built this badge — AND!XORAndrew Riley, and Jorge Lacoste — last year they invited me up to their room where they were assembling the last of the Crypto Badges. Go check out my guide to 2015 Unofficial DEF CON badges for more on that story (and a video of the AM transmissions that badge was capable of).

The outline is this year’s badge is of course Bender from Futurama. Both eyes are RGB LEDs, with another half dozen located at different points around his head. The microcontroller, an STM32F103 ARM Cortex-M0 Cortex-M3, sits in a diamond pattern between his eyes. Above the eyes you’ll find 16 Mbit of flash, a 128×64 OLED screen, and a reset button. The user inputs are five switches and the badge is powered by three AA batteries found on the flip side.

bender's-nose-closeup

That alone makes an interesting piece of hardware, but the RFM69W module makes all of the badges interactive. The spring coming off the top of Bender’s dome is a coil antenna for the 433 MHz communications. I only have the one badge on hand so I couldn’t delve too deeply what interactive tricks a large pool of badges will perform, but the menu hints at a structure in place for some very fun and interesting applications.

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