SAINTCON Badge (Badge Hacking for Mortals)

[Josh] attended his first SAINTCON this weekend before last and had a great time participating in the badge hacking challenge.

The 2014 SAINTCON is only the second time that the conference has been open to the public. They give out conference badges which are just an unpopulated circuit board. This makes a lot of sense if you figure the number of people who actually hack their badges at conferences is fairly low. So he headed off to the hardware hacking village to solder on the components by hand — it’s an Arduino clone.

This is merely the start of the puzzle. We really like that the published badge resources include a crash course on how to read a schematic. The faq also attests that the staff won’t solder it for you and to get your microcontroller you have to trade in your security screw (nice touch). Once up and running you need to pull up the terminal on the chip and solve the puzzles in the firmware’s menu system. This continues with added hardware for each round: an IR receiver, thermistor, EEPROM, great stuff if you’re new to microcontrollers.

[Josh] mentions that this is nothing compared to the DEFCON badge. Badge hacking at DEFCON is **HARD**; and that’s good. It’s in the top-tier of security conferences and people who start the badge-solving journey expect the challenge. But if you’re not ready for that level of puzzle, DEFCON does have other activities like Darknet. That is somewhere in the same ballpark as the SAINTCON badge — much more friendly to those just beginning to developing their crypto and hardware hacking prowess. After all, everyone’s a beginner at some point. If that’s you quit making excuses and dig into something fun like this!

A-Z of Electronics – Capacitors

a_to_z_electronics

[Jeri Ellsworth] recently released another video in her “A-Z of Electronics” series – this time Capacitors are the subject. As a penance for my boneheaded AC Capacitor suggestion yesterday (I swear it was lack of sleep talking), [Caleb] suggested that I be the one to write this article. Since I’m not an electrical engineer (I majored in Comp Sci), I enjoy watching these videos, and I share them with individuals who are new to electronics. [Jeri] always presents the subject matter in a clear and concise manner, so the subjects do not seem daunting or intimidating.

She briefly discusses the early development of capacitors, including Leyden Jars, then focuses on modern capacitors and their usage. She covers wiring capacitors in circuits, demonstrating the difference between series and parallel configurations, as well as how electrode distance affects capacitance.

If you have a spare minute, be sure to check out her current video as well as those she has previously released.

RGB “Tilty cube”

[Ben’s] introduction to microcontrollers was this fun little gift he calls the “tilty cube”. It is an acrylic box with 3 LEDs mounted inside that changes color based off of how you tilt it. Sounds like a fun toy, and a good project to learn with. [Ben] chose the PIC12F615 as the brains and laid it all out on a perfboard.  Since this was his first microcontroller experience he had to learn how to blink the LEDs, then figure out PWM etc. Though there is no video of the project in its finished state, since it was given away as a gift, we assume he figured it out pretty well.  He does state that the LEDs are dimmer than he had hoped and offers some thoughts on how he would do the entire project better next time.

Introductions: 3 new writers

We would like to introduce our new writers [Rachel Fee], [Greg Jacobs], and [Jacob Nahin]. They will be focusing on software reviews and tutorials in response to the daily requests for posts that don’t require that you be an electrical engineer to understand.

The Hack a Day community is growing very fast and we are happy to be a valued source of information to our readers.