Serial Data from the Web to an Arduino

In the old days, a serial port often connected to an acoustic coupler that gripped a phone handset and allowed a remote connection to a far away serial port (via another phone and acoustic coupler) at a blistering 300 baud or less. The acoustic coupler would do the job of converting serial data to audio and reconstituting it after its trip through the phone lines. Modems advanced, but have mostly given way to DSL, Cable, Fiber, and other high speed networking options.

In a decidedly retro move, [James Halliday] and [jerky] put a modern spin on that old idea. They used the webaudio API to send serial data to a remote Arduino. The hack uses a FET, a capacitor, and a few resistors. They didn’t quite build a real modem with the audio. Instead, they basically spoof the audio port into sending serial data and recover it with the external circuitry. They also only implement serial sending (so the Arduino receives) so far, although they mention the next step would be to build the other side of the connection.

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Managing an Unmanaged Switch

Network switches come in two different flavors: managed, where you have some interface to configure and monitor the equipment, and unmanaged where the device just does what it is supposed to do and you can’t really control it. [Tiziano Bacocco] wanted to manage his cheap unmanaged switch, so he did what any good hacker would do: he opened it up.

Inside the Digicom 10/100 switch he found an IP178CH controller IC and a quick search turned up a data sheet. [Tiziano] noticed there were three ways to configure the switch: Some hardware pins could control very basic functions; an EEPROM (absent on the PCB) could configure the device; or the chip would accept commands via a synchronous serial port.

Since the datasheet covered the protocol required, [Tiziano] commandeered an Arduino Pro Mini and used it to send commands to configure the switch. A few resistors and some quick code allowed him to control VLAN and other functions on the switch via the USB port. Of course, he mentioned you could use a Raspberry Pi if you wanted a network interface–or maybe that’s a good excuse to use one of those Ethernet shields you got on clearance at Radio Shack.

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Better TV Via Hacking

Smart TVs are just dumb TVs with a computer and a network connection, right? In a variation of rule 34, if it has a computer in it, someone will hack it. When [smarttvhacker] bought a Sony 48 inch smart TV, he noticed all the software licenses listed in the manual and realized that was a big leg up into hacking the TV.

We don’t have a comparable Sony model, but [smarttvhacker’s] post is a veritable travel log of his journey from TV viewer to TV ruler. By analyzing everything from network port scans to a dump of a firmware upgrade, he wound up being able to install a telnet server.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: netBOOT Powercycles Your Modem When You Can’t

Many people have their home network setup with a dynamic dns service in order to remote access their files, printers, or Pi based security camera systems. Many people also suffer from less than stellar internet connectivity and find themselves unable to access their home system due to a stalled signal.

netBOOT is an Arduino based device that automatically resets your modem for you, when you are unable to. Core of the system is a standard issue ATMEGA328p based Arduino board combined with a W5100 Ethernet module, and a relay module. The software on the Arduino periodically pings a list of IP addresses and listens for a response. If none is found within 3 tries the relay module, which is connected inline with the DC power of your modem, is clicked open for 10 seconds and then returned closed. Once your modem has rebooted and re-synced everything should be good to go.

We don’t remember seeing this feature in the list of specs for Google’s new OnHub. The ability to reset bad connections seems like a feature that should be built into future-thinking routers, right?

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hacking the Amazon Dash Button to Record Whatever You Want

We’re still not too sure if the Amazon Dash button is a brilliant marketing and advertising ploy, or is just downright stupid. But what we do know, is for $5, it’s a lot of hackable tech that could be used for more… useful purposes. The big A sells these dash buttons for one purpose — you push the button and whichever product is assigned to it shows up on your doorstep in a few days. [Ted Benson] wanted them to do more than that so he turned a few dash buttons into a way of tracking his baby’s health!

Apparently, data acquisition of your baby’s wake-up times and poops is useful to identify health patterns. [Ted] tried using some phone apps to keep track of this stuff, but found it would be a lot easier if there was just a big button on the wall or something… which is where he got the idea to make use of the Amazon Dash button.

It’s actually really simple to do. Buy the dash button, do the setup with Amazon… but don’t do the final step: selecting the product you want to order. If you don’t select anything, you won’t order anything…

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No Windows Drivers? Boot up a Linux VM!

[Voltagex] was fed up with BSODs on his Windows machine due to a buggy PL2303 USB/serial device driver. The Linux PL2303 driver worked just fine, though. A weakling would simply reboot into Linux. Instead, [Voltagex] went for the obvious workaround: create a tiny Linux distro in a virtual machine, route the USB device over to the VM where the drivers work, and then Netcat the result back to Windows.

OK, not really obvious, but a cool hack. Using Buildroot, a Linux system cross-compilation tool, he got the size of the VM down to a 32Mb memory footprint which runs comfortably on even a small laptop. And everything you need to replicate the VM is posted up on Github.

Is this a ridiculous workaround? Yes indeed. But when you’ve got a string of tools like that, or you just want an excuse to learn them, why not? And who can pass up a novel use for Netcat?

DNS Tunneling with an ESP8266

There’s a big problem with the Internet of Things. Everything’s just fine if your Things are happy to sit around your living room all day, where the WiFi gets four bars. But what does your poor Thing do when it wants to go out and get a coffee and it runs into a for-pay hotspot?

[Yakamo]’s solution is for your Thing to do the same thing you would: tunnel your data through DNS requests. It’s by no means a new idea, but the combination of DNS tunneling and IoT devices stands to be as great as peanut butter and chocolate.

DNS tunneling, in short, relies on you setting up your own DNS server with a dedicated subdomain and software that will handle generic data instead of information about IP addresses. You, or your Thing, send data encoded in “domain names” for it to look up, and the server passes data back to you in the response.

DNS tunneling is relatively slow because all data must be shoe-horned into “domain names” that can’t be too long. But it’s just right for your Thing to send its data reports back home while it’s out on its adventure.

Oh yeah. DNS tunneling may violate the terms and conditions of whatever hotspot is being accessed. Your Thing may want to consult its lawyer before trying this out in the world.