The Economics of Fuzz Testing with the Intel Edison


The Intel Edison is an incredibly small and cheap x86 computing platform, and with that comes the obvious applications for robotics and wearable computing. [mz] had another idea: what if the Edison could do work that is usually done by workstations? Would it make economic sense to buy a handful of Edisons over a single quad-core Xeon system?

[mz] thought the Edison would be an ideal platform for fuzz testing, or sending random, automated data at a program or system to figure out if they’ll misbehave in interesting ways. After figuring out where to solder power and ground wires to boot an Edison without a breakout board, [mz] got to work benchmarking his fuzz testing setup.

Comparing the benchmarks of a fuzzing job running on the Edison and a few servers and workstations, calculations of cost-efficiency worked out well for this tiny x86 system on module. For parallelizable tasks, the Edison is about 8x less powerful than a reasonably modern server, but it’s also about 5-8x cheaper than a comparable desktop machine. Although renting a server is by far the more economic solution for getting a lot of computing power easily, there are a few use cases where a cluster of Edisons in your pocket would make sense.

Don’t You Just Love Comic Sans?

Type Writer Uses Comic Sans!

Trick question! Of course you do, everyone loves Comic Sans! It’s only like the best font in the history of the internet! Why would you ever use anything else?

Oh! Is it because you feel like writing your novella on a computer is cheating? You wish you could use Comic Sans on your classic Sears-branded Brother Charger 11 typewriter from the 70’s? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Jokes aside, this is actually a pretty clever hack. He’s modified a typewriter to use custom letters which he has laser cut out of acrylic and super glued to the strikers of the typewriter. [Read more...]

This Message Will Self-Destruct in 5 Seconds

Mission Impossible Self Destructing Messages

Good morning, Mr. Hunt. Your mission, should you choose to accept it… blah blah blah… This post will self-destruct in five seconds.

This is [Diego Trujillo Pisanty's] latest project dubbed “This Tape Will Self-Destruct“, and it’s a fully functional small scale printer, whose media catches on fire immediately after printing. Beyond the obvious Mission Impossible connection, you could also think of it as real-life snapchat — just throw a webcam on there and some faxing capabilities…

Apparently [Diego] was inspired to build this machine after the BBC reported that a Kremlin security agency was upgrading the office with typewriters in attempt to reduce privacy leaks from computer hardware, in fear of WikiLeaks and [Edward Snowden].

It is an art piece (the horror!) but is actually quite the piece of hardware. So unfortunately, like most art pieces, the artist doesn’t give much detail on how it works, because that would ruin the illusion of the project… or something. Still, it’s an amusing project. Video below.

[Read more...]

Creating a 2D Film with 3D Printed Frames


In the early days of film, there was a time when French 3D Cinema was called “Relief Cinema”. The word, Relief, however brings the idea of something physical to mind when we hear it, which is why the name was later tweaked to include the more intangible term, 3D. Playing on this fact, French Artist [Julien Maire] has designed and built an over-sized projector for his installation titled “Relief“, that creates an animation by passing light through a series of individual 3D vignettes.

[Julien’s] intricately built projection reel in itself is an impressive mechanical feat, arguably out-staging the image it exists to produce on the wall of the gallery space. The eighty-five individual frames that create the short clip of a man digging a hole in the ground, consist of small figurines made with a stereo lithography printer. The semi-transparent nature of the resin used by the SLA printer gives the shadow cast by the projector a series of foggy-values that create a three dimensional appearance instead of merely casting a silhouette of the shape. This installation blends new and old technologies together to produce something we’re familiar with, but leaves us admiring an object that we’ve never seen before.


[Julien’s] “Relief” is currently being exhibited at iMAL (interactive Media Art Laboratory in Brussels) which will run throughout the month of October. If you happen to find yourself on a long stay in Europe before the Hardware Workshop in Munich, you could make a pitstop and check it out!

Reverse Engineering a Bathroom Scale for Automated Weight Tracking

Bathroom Scale

[Darell] recently purchased a fancy new bathroom scale. Unlike an average bathroom scale, this one came with a wireless digital display. The user stands on the scale and the base unit transmits the weight measurement to the display using infrared signals. The idea is that you can place the display in front of your face instead of having to look down at your feet. [Darell] realized that his experience with infrared communication would likely enable him to hack this bathroom scale to automatically track his weight to a spreadsheet stored online.

[Darell] started by hooking up a 38khz infrared receiver unit to a logic analyzer. Then he recorded the one-way communication from the scale to the display. His experience told him that the scale was likely using pulse distance coding to encode the data. The scale would start each bit with a 500ms pulse. Then it would follow-up with either another 500ms pulse, or a 1000ms pulse. Each combination represented either a 1 or a 0. The problem was, [Darell] didn’t know which was which. He also wasn’t sure in which order the bits were being transmitted. He modified a software plugin for his logic analyzer to display 1’s and 0’s on top of the waveform. He then made several configurable options so he could try the various representations of the data.

Next it was time to generate some known data. He put increasing amounts of weight on the scale and recorded the resulting data along with the actual reading on the display. Then he tried various combinations of display settings until he got what appeared to be hexadecimal numbers increasing in size. Then by comparing values, he was able to determine what each of the five bytes represented. He was even able to reconstruct the checksum function used to generate the checksum byte.

Finally, [Darell] used a Raspberry Pi to hook the scale up to the cloud. He wrote a Python script to monitor an infrared receiver for the appropriate data. The script also verifies the checksum to ensure the data is not corrupted. [Darell] added a small LED light to indicate when the reading has been saved to the Google Docs spreadsheet, so he can be sure his weight is being recorded properly.

3D Printing Goes Hand in Hand with Iron Man Inspired Prosthetic


It’s exciting how much 3D printing has enabled us to produce pretty much any shape for any purpose on the fly. Among the most thoughtful uses for the technology that we’ve seen are the many functioning and often beautiful prosthetics that not only succeed in restoring the use of a limb, but also deliver an air of style and self-expression to the wearer. The immediate nature of the technology allows for models to be designed and produced rapidly at a low-cost, which works excellently for growing children. [Pat Starace’s] Iron Man inspired 3D printed hand and forearm are a perfect example of such personality and expert engineering… with an added dash of hacker flair.

With over twenty years of experience in animatronics behind him, [Starace] expertly concealed all of the mechanical ligaments within the design of his arm, producing a streamline limb with all the nuance of lifelike gesture. It was important that the piece not only work, but give the wearer that appropriate super hero-like feeling while wearing it. He achieves this with all the bells and whistles hidden within the negative space of the forearm, which give the wearer an armory of tricks up their sleeve. Concealed in the plating, [Starace] uses an Arduino and accelerometer to animate different sets of LEDs as triggered by the hand’s position coupled with specific voice commands. Depending on what angle the wrist is bent at, the fingers will either curl into a fist and reveal hidden ‘lasers’ on the back of the hand, or spread open around a pulsing circle of light on the palm when thrust outward.

The project took [Starace] quite a bit of time to print all the individual parts; around two days worth of time. This however is still considered quick in comparison to the custom outfitting and production of traditional prosthetics… not to mention, the traditional stuff wouldn’t have LEDs. This piece has a noble cause, and is an exciting example of how 3D printing is adding a level of heroism to everyday life.

Thank you Julius for pointing out this awesome project to us!

[Read more...]

Open-Source Water Quality Tester

Open-Source Water Quality Tester

Contaminated water is a huge problem in many third-world countries. Impure water leads to many serious health problems, especially in children. Installing a water purification system seems like a simple solution to this problem, but choosing the right purification system depends on the level of contaminants in the water.

Water turbidity testers are often used to measure the severity of water contamination. Unfortunately most commercial water turbidity testers are very expensive, so [Wijnen, Anzalone, and Pearce] set out to develop a much more affordable open-source tester. Their tester performs just as well as commercial units, but costs 7-15 times less.

The open-source water tester was designed in OpenSCAD and 3d printed. It houses an Arduino with a custom shield that measures the frequency from several TSL235R light-to-frequency converters. An LED illuminates the water and the sensors measure how much light is diffused and reflected off of particles in the water. Another sensor measures the brightness of the LED as a baseline reference. The turbidity of the water is calculated from the brightness values, and is displayed on a character LCD. More details about the tester are included in a fairly extensive paper.

[Thanks Andrew]


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