Storing Data on a Single Atom

In the electronics industry, the march of time brings with it a reduction in size. Our electronic devices, while getting faster, better and cheaper, also tend to get smaller. One of the main reasons for this is the storage medium for binary data gets smaller and more efficient. Many can recall the EPROM, which is about the size of your thumb. Today we walk around with SD cards that can hold an order of magnitude more data, which can fit on your thumb’s nail.

Naturally, we must ask ourselves where the limit lies. Just how small can memory storage get? How about a single atom! IBM along with a handful international scientists have managed to store two bits of information on two pairs of holmium atoms. Using a scanning tunneling microscope, they were able to write data to the atoms, which held the data for an extended period of time.

Holmium is a large atom, weighing in at a whopping 67 AMU. It’s a rare earth metal from the lanthanide series on the periodic table. Its electron configuration is such that many of the orbiting electrons are not paired. Recall from our article on the periodic table that paired electrons must have opposite spin, which has the unfortunate consequence of causing the individual magnetic fields to cancel. The fact that holmium has so many unpaired electrons makes it ideal for manipulation.

While you won’t be seeing atom-level memory on the next Raspberry Pi, it’s still neat to see what the future holds.

Thanks to [Itay] for the tip!

Via Gizmodo.

So Long, and Thanks for all the Crystals

There was a time when anyone involved with radio transmitting — ham operators, CB’ers, scanner enthusiasts, or remote control model fans — had a collection of crystals. Before frequency synthesis, became popular, this was the best way to set an accurate frequency. At one time, these were commonly available, and there were many places to order custom cut crystals.

One of the best-known US manufacturers of quartz crystals still around is International Crystal Manufacturing (ICM). Well, that is, until now. ICM recently announced they were ceasing operations after 66 years. They expect to completely shut down by May.

In a letter on their website, Royden Freeland Jr. (the founder’s son), committed to fulfilling existing orders and possibly taking some new orders, raw materials permitting. The company started making products out of Freeland’s father’s garage in 1950.

Another big name that might still be around is Jan Crystals. We say might, because although their website is live, there’s not much there and the phone number is not quite disconnected but it is “parked.” There are also some posts on the Internet (where everything is true) indicating they are out of business.

Even if you didn’t do radio work, crystals are a staple in digital systems where an accurate clock is necessary and some types of filters, too. Of course, you can still get them, you just may not be able to get them made in the United States soon.

If you want to know more about the technology behind crystals [Jenny] has you covered. Crystals are one of those things that have not changed much in a long time, so you might enjoy the very 1960’s vintage U. S. Air Force training film below.

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WikiLeaks Unveils Treasure Trove of CIA Documents

The latest from WikiLeaks is the largest collection of documents ever released from the CIA. The release, called ‘Vault 7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed’, is the CIA’s hacking arsenal.

While Vault 7 is only the first part in a series of leaks of documents from the CIA, this leak is itself massive. The documents, available on the WikiLeaks site and available as a torrent, detail the extent of the CIA’s hacking program.

Of note, the CIA has developed numerous 0-day exploits for iOS and Android devices. The ‘Weeping Angel’ exploit for Samsung smart TVs,  “places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on.” This Fake-Off mode enables a microphone in the TV, records communications in the room, and sends these recordings to a CIA server. Additionally, the CIA has also developed tools to take over vehicle control systems. The purpose of such tools is speculative but could be used to send a moving car off the road.

It is not an exaggeration to say this is the most significant leak from a government agency since Snowden, and possibly since the Pentagon Papers. This is the documentation for the CIA’s cyberwarfare program, and there are more leaks to come. It will be a while until interested parties — Hackaday included — can make sense of this leak, but until then WikiLeaks has published a directory of this release.

Header image source (CC BY 2.0)

Nvidia Announces Jetson TX2 High Performance Embedded Module

The last year has been great for Nvidia hardware. Nvidia released a graphics card using the Pascal architecture, 1080s are heating up server rooms the world over, and now Nvidia is making yet another move at high-performance, low-power computing. Today, Nvidia announced the Jetson TX2, a credit-card sized module that brings deep learning to the embedded world.

The Jetson TX2 is the follow up to the Jetson TX1. We took a look at it when it was released at the end of 2015, and the feelings were positive with a few caveats. The TX1 is still a very fast, very capable, very low power ARM device that runs Linux. It’s low power, too. The case Nvidia was trying to make for the TX1 wasn’t well communicated, though. This is ultimately a device you attach several cameras to and run OpenCV. This is a machine learning module. Now it appears Nvidia has the sales pitch for their embedded platform down.

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Another Day, Another “IoT” Backdoor

As if you needed any reason other than “just for the heck of it” to hack into a gadget that you own, it looks like nearly all of the GSM-to-IP bridge devices make by DBLTek have a remotely accessible “secret” backdoor account built in. We got sent the link via Slashdot which in turn linked to this story on Techradar. Both include the scare-words “Chinese” and “IoT”, although the devices seem to be aimed at small businesses, but everything’s “IoT” these days, right?

What is scary, however, is that the backdoor isn’t just a sloppy debug account left in, but rather only accessible through an elaborate and custom login protocol. Worse still, when the company was contacted about the backdoor account, they “fixed” the problem not by removing the account, but by making the “secret” login procedure a few steps more complicated. Which is to say, they haven’t fixed the problem at all.

This issue was picked up by security firm Trustwave, but they can’t check out every device on the market all the time. We may be preaching to the choir here, but if you’re ever wondering why it’s important to be able to break into stuff that you own, here’s another reminder.

Solid State Battery from the Man Who Brought Us Lithium Ion

Who is [John Goodenough]? He’s 94, so he’s been around long enough that you ought to know him. He was one of the co-inventors of the lithium-ion battery. Think about how much that battery has changed electronics. [Goodenough] along with [Maria Helena Braga] may have come up with that battery’s successor: the solid state battery. There’s a paper available that is free, but requires registration. If you don’t want to register, you can read the news release from the University of Texas with no trouble.

Keywords used to describe the new battery are low-cost, noncombustible, long cycle life, high energy density, and fast charge and discharge rates. The pair is also claiming three times the energy density of a current lithium-ion battery. They also claim that the batteries recharge in minutes instead of hours. You can see a video from [Transport Evolved] that discusses the invention, below.

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$10 Raspberry Pi Zero W Adds WiFi and Bluetooth

The Raspberry Pi was born on February 29th which means we’re only three years away from its second birthday, and a new hardware release from the Pi Foundation is becoming somewhat of a tradition. This year is no different: a new Raspberry Pi has been announced. The Raspberry Pi Zero W is the latest iteration of the Pi foundation’s tiny and extremely inexpensive single board computer. It’s a Raspberry Pi Zero with WiFi and Bluetooth.

The specs of the new Pi Zero W are nearly identical to the previous incarnation of the non-W Zero. It sports a 1GHz single-core processor, 512 MB of RAM, features Mini HDMI and USB OTG ports, uses a micro USB port for power, features the now-standard 40-pin header with four additional pins for composite video and a reset button. This board, like the second hardware revision of the Pi Zero, also features a CSI camera connector.

Of course, the big feature is the addition of WiFi and Bluetooth. The Pi Zero W adds the wireless functionality from the Raspberry Pi 3B. That’s 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0.

The Pi Zero’s claim to fame was, of course, the price. The original Pi Zero was at first a bit of hardware glued to the cover of the MagPi magazine, later to sell for just $5 USD. The Raspberry Pi Zero W is priced at just $10.

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