Bringing USB Devices To The Apple Desktop Bus

During the development of the greatest member of the Apple II family, the Apple IIgs, someone suggested to [Woz] that a sort of universal serial bus was needed for keyboards, mice, trackballs, and other desktop peripherals. [Woz] disappeared for a time and came back with something wonderful: a protocol that could be daisy-chained from keyboard to a graphics tablet to a mouse. This protocol was easily implemented on a cheap microcontroller, provided 500mA to the entire bus, and was used for everything from license dongles to modems.

The Apple Desktop Bus, or ADB, was a decade ahead of its time, and was a mainstay of the Mac platform until Apple had the courage to kill it off with the iMac. At that time, an industry popped up overnight for ADB to USB converters. Even today, there’s a few mechanical keyboard aficionados installing Teensies in their favorite input devices to give them a USB port.

While plugging an old Apple keyboard into a modern computer is a noble pursuit — this post was written on an Apple M0116 keyboard with salmon Alps switches — sometimes you want to go the other way. Wouldn’t it be cool to use a modern USB mouse and keyboard with an old Mac? That’s what [anthon] thought, so he developed the ADB Busboy.

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NeXT Cubes And LCD Monitors

The NeXT slabs and cubes were interesting computers for their time, with new interesting applications that are commonplace today seen first in this block of black plastic. Web browsers, for example, were first seen on the NeXT.

Running one of these machines today isn’t exactly easy; there are odd video connectors but you can modify some of the parts and stick them in an LCD monitor. It’s a tradeoff between a big, classic, heavy but contemporary CRT and a modern, light, and efficient LCD, but it’s still a great way to get a cube or slab up and running if you don’t have the huge monitor handy.

The NeXT cube doesn’t have a single wire going between the computer and the monitor; that would be far too simple. Instead, a NeXT Sound Box sits between the two, providing the user a place to plug the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and audio connectors into. [Brian] took the board from this Sound Box and put it inside an old NEC LCD monitor he had sitting around. 12V and 5V rails were wired in, the video lines were wired in, and [Brian] created a new NeXT monitor.

There are two versions of the NeXT Sound Box – one for ADB peripherals (Apple IIgs and beige Macs), and another for non-ADB peripherals. [Brian] also put together a tutorial for using non-ADB peripherals with the much more common ADB Sound Board.

Android+Arduino – Face Following RC Car


To some of us, hacking an RC Car to simply follow a black line or avoid obstacles is too easy, and we’re sure [Shazin] would agree with that, since he created an RC Car that follows your face!

The first step to this project was to take control of the RC Car, but instead of hijacking the transmitter, [Shazin] decided to control the car directly. This isn’t any high-end RC Car though, so forget about PWM control. Instead, a single IC (RX-2) was found to handle both the RF Receiver and H-Bridges. After a bit of probing, the 4 control lines (forward/back and left/right) were identified and connected to an Arduino.

[Shazin] paired the Arduino with a USB Host Shield and connected it up with his Android phone through the ADB (Android Debug Bridge). He then made some modifications to the OpenCV Android Face Detection app to send commands to the Arduino based on ‘where’ the Face is detected; if the face is in the right half of the screen, turn right, if not, turn left and go forward.

This is a really interesting project with a lot of potential; we’re just hoping [Shazin] doesn’t have any evil plans for this device like strapping it to a Tank Drone that locks on to targets!

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Getting a Shell on any Android Device

If you’re an Evil Customs Agent or other nefarious Three Letter Agency Person, you’re probably very interesting in getting data off people’s phones. Even if the screen is locked, there’s a way around this problem: just use the Android Debug Bridge (ADB), a handy way to get a shell on any Android device with just a USB cable. The ADB can be turned off, though, so what is the Stasi to do if they can’t access your phone over ADB? [Michael Ossmann] and [Kyle Osborn] have the answer that involves a little-known property of USB devices.

USB mini and micro plugs have five pins – power, ground, D+, D-, and an oft-overlooked ID pin. With a particular resistance between this ID pin and ground, the USB multiplexor inside your phone can allow anyone with the proper hardware to access the state of the charger, get an audio signal, mess around with the MP3s on your device, or even get a shell.

To test their theory, [Michael] and [Kyle] rigged up a simple USB plug to UART adapter (seen above) that included a specific value of resistor to enable a shell on their test phone. Amazingly, it worked and the thought of having a secure phone was never had again.

The guys went farther with some proprietary Samsung hardware that could, if they had the service manual, unlock any samsung phone made in the last 15 years. They’re working on building a device that will automagically get a shell on any phone and have built some rather interesting hardware. If you’re interested in helping them out with their project, they have a project site up with all the information to get up to speed on this very ingenious hack.

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How to used an Android device with a shattered screen

This screen is not just cracked, it’s devastated. We can all agree that you’re not going to be carrying this around with you anymore, but it might still be useful in other endeavors. [Mr Westie] wanted to use it for the camera which is undamaged. The issue is how do you control an Android device with a broken screen?

He knew there are apps out there that let you control your device remotely. But these still depend on you being able to install and launch the program. He found he could get the image from the screen on his computer using a package called Screencast. It runs on your computer and doesn’t need to be installed on the phone, but it will require a rooted phone and the user must click to authorize root access. He got around that hangup by pushing keypress commands to the phone via ADB. The only problem left is if debugging mode is not enable.

Common Linux tools on Android without root by installing BusyBox

[Adam Outler] shows us how to expand the Linux tools available on Android without rooting the device. He does this by installing BusyBox. The binary is copied to the device using the Android Developer Bridge. He then opens an ADB shell, adds execution permissions to the binary, and runs it. BusyBox calls itself the Swiss Army Knife of Embedded Linux. It provides a set of very common tools which you’ll find useful in your tinkering. The one that [Adam] shows off in his video is the vi editor, but the basics that make a shell work are all there like: ls, mkdir, grep, dmesg, mount… you get the point.

So what are you going to do with your unrooted device now that you have these commands at your disposal? That’s really for you to figure out. [Adam] continues his demonstration by installing a package that does require root access. It’s BotBrew Basil, which adds apt-get and a few more complex packages. He then uses vi to write a C++ Hello World program, then compiles it and runs it. So if you’re looking to do some development on your phone this is one way.

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Android debug bridge released for the Raspi

Over on the XDA developers forums, something really cool is happening. Android hacker extraordinaire [AdamOutler] has managed to port the Android Debug Bridge to the Raspberry Pi.

The Android Debug bridge allows hardware tinkerers full access to their Android device. This feature has been used to build everything from telepresence robots to connecting a MIDI keyboard to a phone. With this port of the Android Debug Bridge, anyone can take advantage of the existing hacks and hardware written around the ADB to build something completely new.

Of course, the port of the Android Debug Bridge is only useful if your Raspi is running Android. Current Android builds for the Raspberry Pi are janky at best, but the current rate of progress does look encouraging. Hopefully with the most useful Android tool ported to everyone’s favorite credit-card sized computer, the progress of the Raspi/Android builds will pick up their pace.