Racing with Dyson’s spare parts

When it comes time to unwind at the Dyson design facility these engineers know how to do it right. Recently, the company challenged their engineers to a grown-up version of the Pinewood Derby in which they raced their own cars powered by a Dyson motor.

The video after the breaks shows a large collection of these time trials on a track made from upturned wooden pallets. Most of the vehicles are made from parts which we don’t recognize. But some of them are very familiar like our favorite hand dryer ever (seen above) and the iconic goldenrod manifold from the Dyson ball vacuum cleaner.

The course ends abruptly, as you can see in the last run of the video. There is one entry that included a human rider and he seems to be going nearly as fast as the riderless carriages are. The video cuts away before he hits the wall, but we can’t image he had the time to include brakes in that design.

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Easter Egg Challenge

Beer

Often, hardware designers include nonfunctional additions into designs to make them feel more personal. Commonly known as easter eggs, these additions can often go unnoticed by the public for years. While taking apart an Atari San Francisco Rush: The Rock sound board, reader [Jason] noticed a hidden message on the PCB (see above). Other more recent hardware easter eggs include the inside of the Zune HD, which has the inscription “For our Princess” to commemorate a development team member who passed away, or the Amiga 1000 which features the signatures of the design team on the inside if the case (Pictures after the break).

What we want from you: We want to see the best HARDWARE easter eggs you have found or seen. Leave us a comment with a video, picture, or article that explains what you found, and possibly the background story behind it. Anyone can google easter eggs, and we all know about the easter eggs all over DVDs, video games, etc, but we prefer the kind you find when you are busy voiding your hardwares warranty.

Edit: good catch, that was the Amiga 1000 not an Atari 1000. Thanks to all the commentors.

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POV fan EEPROM hack

pov_fan_eeprom_hacking

Hacking with Gum got their hands on one of the persistence of vision display fans that Cenzic was giving away at Blackhat this year. It’s not the biggest fan-based POV display we’ve seen but it’s still a fun device to tinker with. They hacked into the EEPROM on the device in order to change the message the fan displayed.

This is very similar to the other EEPROM reading/writing we’ve seen recently. Hacking with Gum read the data off of the EEPROM and then disassembled it to discover how the message data is stored on the chip. This was made easier by noting the messages displayed when the fan is running. The first byte of data shows the number of words in the message, then each chunk of word data is preceded by one byte that represents the number of letters in that work. Data length was calculated based on the number of pixels in each display character. Once he knew the data-storage scheme, it was just a matter of formatting his own messages in the same way and overwriting the chip.

This is a great write-up if you’re looking for a primer on reverse engineering an unknown hardware system. If you had fun trying out our barcode challenges perhaps deciphering EEPROM data from a simple device should be your next quest.

[Thanks James]

Barcode challenge

barcode_challenge

This morning we logged into Google to find a Barcode instead of the normal logo (how strange that Google would change their graphic!). Apparently today is the anniversary of the Barcode. This method of easily labeling items for computer scanning is used for every type of commodity in our society. But do you know how to get the cryptic information back out of the Barcode?

Here’s the challenge:  The image at the top of the post was created by the devious writers here at Hack a Day. Leave us a comment that tells us what the message says and explains how you deciphered it. There are programs that will do this for you and some smartphones can do this from a picture of the code, but we’re looking for the most creative solutions.

The winner will be decided in a totally unfair and biased way and gets their name plastered all over Hack a Day (and possibly slandered a bit).  So get out there and start decoding that machine-readable image.

Update: We’ve announced a winner for this challenge.

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