Judge Spotlight: Andrew “Bunnie” Huang

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This week’s Judge Spotlight focuses on [Andrew "Bunnie" Huang]. If you haven’t heard of him you need to pay more attention. His hacker cred goes way back to the original Xbox, which he reverse engineered and laid bare its security flaws. Maintaining his hacker spirit he went on to design and hack the Chumby. More recently he took on the challenge of developing and Open laptop called Novena. All of this while continuing to explore and experiment with all kinds of electronics, posting about his adventures for those of us that care about an electronics ecosystem that doesn’t shut out the user from tinkering with the hardware. Join us after the break for our conversation with The Hackaday Prize judge [Bunnie Huang].

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Bunnie Talks to Us About Novena Open Hardware Laptop

 

We made a point to stop by the Freescale booth at Maker Faire where [Bunnie Huang] was showing off the Novena laptop. His past accolades (Wikipedia page) and the rabid success of the crowd funding round — which nearly tripled its goal — meant we had to make multiple attempts to speak with him. But the third time’s a charm and it was worth the wait!

Several things struck me about seeing the hardware in person. First off, I like that there’s a little bit of room inside but the case is still reasonably small. This really is a laptop aimed at hardware hacking; I would anticipate that the majority of backers intend to roll their own hardware for it. Second, [Bunnie] showed off several expansion boards as examples which use a standard 80-pin header to get at the onboard components. The example of a man-in-the-middle attack for the flash chip on a thumb drive was extremely tasty. But it was also interesting to hear about an SDR board which will ship to original backers since the campaign made its stretch goals.

If you don’t know much about this project, you can get some background from our post when the crowd funding went live. Open design info is available from the Novena page.

[Bunnie] Launches the Novena Open Laptop

Novena Laptop

Today [Bunnie] is announcing the launch of the Novena Open Laptop. When we first heard he was developing an open source laptop as a hobby project, we hoped we’d see the day where we could have our own. Starting today, you can help crowdfund the project by pre-ordering a Novena.

The Novena is based on the i.MX6Q ARM processor from Freescale, coupled to a Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA. Combined with the open nature of the project, this creates a lot of possibilities for using the laptop as a hacking tool. It has dual ethernet, for routing or sniffing purposes. USB OTG support lets the laptop act as a USB device, for USB fuzzing and spoofing. There’s even a high speed expansion bus to interface with whatever peripheral you’d like to design.

You can pre-order the Novena in four models. The $500 “just the board” release has no case, but includes all the hardware needed to get up and running. The $1,195 “All-in-One Desktop” model adds a case and screen, and hinges open to reveal the board for easy hacking. Next up is the $1,995 “Laptop” which includes a battery control board and a battery pack. Finally, there’s the $5000 “Heirloom Laptop” featuring a wood and aluminum case and a Thinkpad keyboard.

The hardware design files are already available, so you can drool over them. It will be interesting to see what people start doing with this powerful, open computer once it ships. After the break, check out the launch video.

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[Bunnie]‘s Open Source Laptop Is Ready For Production

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Just over a year ago, [Bunnie Huang] announced he was working on a very ambitious personal project: a completely open source laptop. Now, with help from his hardware hacker compatriot [xobs], this laptop named Novena is nearly complete.

Before setting out on this project, [Bunnie] had some must-have requirements for the design. Most importantly, all the components should be free of NDA encumbrances. This isn’t an easy task; an SoC vendor with documentation sitting around on their servers is rare as hen’s teeth, and Freescale was the only vendor that fit the bill. Secondly, the entire laptop should be entirely open source. [Bunnie] wasn’t able to find an open source GPU, so using hardware video decoding on his laptop requires a binary blob. Software decoding works just fine, though.

Furthermore, this laptop is designed for both security and hardware hacking. Two Ethernet ports (one 1Gbit and the second 100Mbit), a USB OTG port, and a Spartan 6 FPGA put this laptop in a class all by itself. The main board includes 8x analog inputs, 8x digital I/O ports, 8 PWM pins, and a Raspberry Pi-compatible header for some real hardware hackery.

As for the specs of the laptop, they’re respectable for a high-end tablet.  The CPU is a Freescale iMX6, a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 running at 1.2 GHz. The RAM is upgradeable to 4GB, an internal SATA-II port will easily accommodate a huge SSD, the ability to use an LCD adapter board to run the 13-inch 2560×1700 LED panel [Bunnie] is using. The power system is intended to be modular, with batteries provided by run-of-the-mill RC Lipo packs. For complete specs, check out the wiki.

Despite the high price and relatively low performance (compared to i7 laptop) of [Bunnie]‘s laptop, there has been a lot of interest in spinning a few thousand boards and sending them off to be pick and placed. There’s going to be a crowd funding campaign for Novena sometime in late February or March based around an “all-in-one PC with a battery” form factor. There’s no exact figure on what the price of a Novena will be, but it goes without saying a lot will be sold regardless.

If you want the latest updates, the best place to go would be the official Novena twitter: @novenakosagi

Hackaday Links: August 18, 2013

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Let’s start off with some lock picking. Can you be prosecuted if it was your bird that broke into something? Here’s video of a Cockatoo breaking into a puzzle box as part of an Oxford University study. [Thanks Ferdinand via Endandit]

[Augybendogy] needed a vacuum pump. He headed off to his local TechShop and machined a fitting for his air compressor. It uses the Venturi Effect to generate a vacuum.

Build your own Arduino cluster using this shield designed by [Bertus Kruger]. Each shield has its own ATmega328. Many can be stacked on top of an Arduino board, using I2C for communications.

[Bunnie Huang] has been publishing articles a few articles on Medium called “Exit Reviews”. As a treasured piece of personal electronics is retired he pulls it apart to see what kind of abuse it stood up to over its life. We found his recent article on his Galaxy S II quite interesting. There’s chips in the glass, scuffs on the bezel, cracks on the case, and pervasive gunk on the internals.

We’d love to see how this this paper airplane folder and launcher is put together. If you know of a post that shares more details please let us know.

Squeezing the most out of a tiny microcontroller was a challenge. But [Jacques] reports that he managed to get a PIC 10F322 to play a game of Pong (translated). It even generates an NTSC composite video signal! Watch the demo video here.

Hackaday Links: Sunday, July 14th, 2013

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Wanting to repair his much-used NES controllers [Michael Moffitt] sourced a replacement for the rubber button pads. They didn’t work all that well but he fixed that by using angle clippers on the part that contacts the PCB traces.

Here’s a neat Claw Game project show-and-tell video. [Thanks David]

We already know that [Bunnie] is building a laptop. Here’s an update on the project.

Hackaday alum [Caleb Kraft] continues his helpful hacking by adding an alternative to clicking an Xbox 360 stick.

[Blackbird] added a camera to the entry door of his house. He didn’t want to forget to shut it off (wasting power) so he built an automatic shutoff.

We’re not really sure what this computational photography project is all about. It takes pictures with the subject illuminated in different colors then combines individual color channels with a MATLAB script.

Finally, [Dave Jones] tears down a Nintendo 64 console on a recent EEVblog  episode.

“Hacking the Xbox” Released for Free in Honor of [Aaron Swartz]

Hacking the Xbox Cover

[Bunnie], the hardware hacker who first hacked into the original Xbox while at MIT, is releasing his book on the subject for free. The book was originally released in 2003, and delves into both the technical and legal aspects of hacking into the console.

The book is being released along with an open letter from [Bunnie]. He discusses the issues he faced with MIT legal and copyright law when working on the project, and explains that the book is being released to honor [Aaron Swartz]. [Swartz] committed suicide in January following aggressive prosecution by the US government.

The book is a great read on practical applications of hardware hacking. It starts off with simple hacks: installing a blue LED, building a USB adapter for the device’s controller ports, and replacing the power supply. The rest of the book goes over how the security on the device was compromised, and the legal implications of pulling off the hack.

[Bunnie]‘s open letter is worth a read, it explains the legal bullying that hackers deal with from a first hand prospective. The book itself is a fantastic primer on hardware hacking, and with this release anyone who hasn’t read it should grab the free PDF.

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