The Hackaday 2015 Omnibus: A Puzzle So Dense, Even We Don’t Know The Answer

Print is dead, so we put a skull on it. That’s the philosophy behind the 2015 Hackaday Omnibus, the printed collection of the best Hackaday has to offer.

We have a few ideas of where we would like to take the print edition of Hackaday. Mad magazine-style fold-ins are on the list, specifically a fold-in style schematic that does two completely different things. Remember when records were included as a magazine insert? Those are called flexi-discs, and there’s exactly one company that still does it. All of these and more are plans for the future, and for the 2015 Hackaday Omnibus, we chose to include something we’re all very familiar with: a puzzle. This is no ordinary puzzle – even we don’t know what the solution is.

EOT ACK BS
The first clue on the front cover of the 2015 Omnibus

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Decypering The Hackaday.io Illuminati

A few months ago, a strange account popped up on hackaday.io. Whoever is behind this count is based in Bielefeld, Germany – a place that doesn’t exist. They are somehow related to the Berenstain / Berenstein Bears dimensional rift, and they may be responsible for giving Cap’n Crunch only three rank insignia on his uniform. There is something very, very strange about this account. Since August, a black and white image of static, 98 pixels wide and 518 pixels tall has sat on this account profile. The Illuminati has given us enough clues, but until now, no one has managed to crack the code.

The first person to make sense out of the patterns in static is [Moritz Walter]. What’s in the code? More codes. While that’s not really helpful, it is to be expected.

SecretCodes2The hackaday illuminati included one additional piece of information with their encoded static image: a 12×12 pixel bitmap. When this bitmap was XORed with the main image, symbols appeared. In total, there are only seven unique symbols in the image. These symbols seem to be stolen from the Fez alphabet, but there are some significant differences. These symbols are rotated multiples of 90 degrees, and are surrounded by a one pixel border that is either black or white (we’re calling the border a ‘sign’ bit). In total, these seven symbols arranged in four different rotations with two different signs yields forty unique variations of a symbol in the decoded image. At this point, it should be noted 7*2*4 = 56.

As of now, cracking the illuminati’s cyphered machinations has hit a roadblock. There’s a dead image file on the illuminati’s profile. Until that image is rehosted, there is no way to progress any further. That’s not going to stop people from trying, though: the chat channels on hackaday.io have been buzzing about the newly decrypted images. Hopefully, with time, someone will figure out what it all means.

Use Your Mouse Pointer to Send Data

[Ido Gendel] was thinking about new and interesting ways to send data between devices, when he realized that the answer was right in his hand. Literally: he decided to try sending data using the mouse pointer. What he came up with was an interesting hack that uses small movements of the mouse pointer to send data at up to 1200bps, or about 150 bytes per second.

The way he did this was very, very clever. He used an Arduino Leonardo that is set to emulate a mouse, working alongside his existing mouse. This setup means that he can use his existing mouse: the system just sees the Arduino as a second mouse, and the pointer just looks a little jerky when you zoom in. That is because the Arduino is just sending tiny movements, each of which is a code that represents a nybble (4 binary bits) of data. By using both a combination of three left-right or up-down movements, he was able to create 16 movements, each of which can encode 4 bits of data. Each of these encoding movements also returns the mouse to its origin point, so the mouse doesn’t mysteriously scroll off the screen when data is being sent.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Useful Code For Useful Things

The Hackaday Prize isn’t exclusively about building things that will help the planet; you can also build things that will enable others to build things to save the planet. [Eric] isn’t saving the world with his commonCode library, but it will make it vastly easier for other people to build the next great Thing.

The idea behind commonCode is the same as shared libraries you’ll find in any desktop application of reasonable size; it provides a common library for AVR microcontrollers to build just about anything. Bit manipulation, an interface for timers, math functions, graphics, I/O, and peripheral drivers are all available in the commonCode library. This makes it easy for the developmentally challenged among us to create whatever project they want.

The commonCode library wasn’t created just for The Hackaday Prize. [Eric] has been tinkering around with AVRs since well before the Arduino existed, and he has dozens of projects in permanent installations. It’s a great way to give back to the community, and the perfect way to allow people to develop their own things to solve whatever problem they have in mind.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Enigma Machine Wristwatch

We don’t find smartwatches to be supremely usable yet. This one sets a definition for usefulness. The Enigma machine is of course the cipher process used by the Germans during World War II. This Enigma Machine wristwatch is not only functional, but the appearance is modelled after that of the original machine. With the speckled gray/black case and the Enigma badge branding [Asciimation] has done a fine job of mimicking the original feel.

Driving the machine is an Arduino Pro Mini. We’ve seen Arduino Enigma Machines in the past so it’s not surprising to see it again here. The user interface consists of an OLED display at 128×64 resolution, three buttons, with a charging port to the right and on/off switch on the left.

The device is demonstrated after the break. Quite a bit of button presses are used to set up each of the three encoder wheels. But that’s hardly avoidable when you’re not committing to a full keyboard. We’re pretty impressed by the functionality of [Asciimation’s] interface considering it’s hardware simplicity.

This seems perfect for kids that are proving to have an interest in engineering. They learn about ciphers, embedded programming, and mechanical design and crafting (this is a hand-sewn leather wristband). Of course if you build one and start wearing it into the office we won’t judge.

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Open Source Binary Wristwatch Is Professional Quality

If you want to proclaim to the world that you’re a geek, one good way to go about it is to wear a wristwatch that displays the time in binary. [Jordan] designs embedded systems, and he figured that by building this watch he could not only build up his geek cred but also learn a thing or two about working with PIC microcontrollers for low power applications. It seems he was able to accomplish both of these goals.

The wristwatch runs off of a PIC18F24J11 microcontroller. This chip seemed ideal because it included a built in real-time clock and calendar source. It also included enough pins to drive the LEDs without the need of a shift register. The icing on the cake was a deep sleep mode that would decrease the overall power consumption.

The watch contains three sets of LEDs to display the information. Two green LEDs get toggled back and forth to indicate to the user whether the time or date is being displayed. When the time is being displayed, the green LED toggles on or off each second. The top row of red LEDs displays either the current hour or month. The bottom row of blue LEDs displays the minutes or the day of the month. The PCB silk screen has labels that help the user identify what each LED is for.

The unit is controlled via two push buttons. The three primary modes are time, date, and seconds. “Seconds” mode changes the bottom row of LEDs so they update to show how many seconds have passed in the current minute. [Jordan] went so far as to include a sort of animation in between modes. Whenever the mode is changed, the LED values shift in from the left. Small things like that really take this project a step further than most.

The board includes a header to make it easy to reprogram the PIC. [Jordan] seized an opportunity to make extra use out of this header. By placing the header at the top of the board, and an extra header at the bottom, he was able to use a ribbon cable as the watch band. The cable is not used in normal operation, but it adds that extra bit of geekiness to an already geeky project.

[Jordan] got such a big response from the Internet community about this project that he started selling them online. The only problem is he sold out immediately. Luckily for us, he released all of the source code and schematics on GitHub so we can make our own.

The Solution to the 10th Anniversary Code

A few weeks ago, [1o57], a.k.a. [Ryan Clarke] gave a talk about puzzles, DEFCON, and turning crypto puzzles into an art form at our 10th anniversary party. Ever the trickster, [1o57] included a crypto challenge in his talk, and a few days after our little shindig, nobody had yet solved the puzzle. Finally, someone bothered to sit down and figure it out. We don’t know what [tahnok] won, but as [1o57] said, solving it is its own reward.

Some of the slides in the presentation had a few characters sitting off to the side for no apparent reason. [tahnok] put these together and came up with:

DOXIYLDCYVDKIKNKUMKRYDNBYGONYMNXOC

In cases like this, you might try a Caesar cipher, or just shifting characters to the left or right a certain number of places. Since [1o57] noted this was the tenth anniversary of Hackaday, [tahnok] tried that first:

TENYOBTSOLTAYADAKCAHOTDROWEDOCDNES

It doesn’t look like much, but that’s only because the string is backwards. Tricky, tricky. tricky. With instructions to send a codeword to an email address, [tahnok] now needed to find a code word. There was one picture [1o57] put up on twitter that was still an unsolved part of the puzzle:

men

With no idea what these little stickmen are, he scoured google with variants of ‘stickmen code’ and ‘semaphore’ until he hit upon the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Dancing Men. It’s a simple substitution cypher, translated to, “codeword psychobilly ciphers”

And that’s the entire puzzle. As far as we know, this took about a month to solve, and compared to the DEFCON challenges, was fairly simple. [1o57] will probably chime in down in the comments to tell everyone how many people have picked up on the clues and sent an email.