Advanced Transcend WiFi SD Hacking: Custom Kernels, X, and Firefox

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[Dmitry] read about hacking the Transcend WiFi cards, and decided to give it a try himself.   We already covered [Pablo's] work with the Transcend card. [Dmitry] took a different enough approach to warrant a second look.

Rather than work from the web interface and user scripts down, [Dmitry] decided to start from Transcend’s GPL package and work his way up. Unfortunately, he found that the package was woefully incomplete – putting the card firmly into the “violates GPL” category. Undaunted, [Dmitry] fired off some emails to the support staff and soldiered on.

It turns out the card uses u-boot to expand the kernel and basic file system into a ramdisk. Unfortunately the size is limited to 3MB. The limit is hard-coded into u-boot, the sources of which transcend didn’t include in the GPL package.

[Dmitry] was able to create his own binary image within the 3MB limit and load it on the card. He discovered a few very interesting (and scary) things. The flash file system must be formatted FAT32, or the controller will become very upset. The 16 (or 32)GB of flash is also mounted read/write to TWO operating systems. Linux on the SD card, and whatever host system the card happens to be plugged in to. This is dangerous to say the least. Any write to the flash could cause a collision leading to lost data – or even a completely corrupt file system. [Read more...]

Hacking Facebook to remove the social value facade

We see [Ben Grosser's] point that all the metrics found on the Facebook user interface make the experience somewhat of a game to see if you can better your high score. He thinks this detracts from the mission of having social interactions that themselves have a value. So he set out to remove the ‘scores’ from all Facebook pages with a project he calls the Facebook Demetricator.

You can see two UI blocks above. The upper offering is what a normal user will see. The lower is the page seen through the lens of the Demetricator. [Ben's] feels it doesn’t matter how many people like something or share something, but only that you are genuinely interested in it. With the numbers removed you’re unlikely to follow the herd mentality of only clicking through to things that are liked by a huge number of people. He explains this himself in the clip after the break.

The Demetricator works much like the Reddit Enhancement Suite. It’s a browser add-on for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari that selectively strips out the metrics as the page renders.

Hacking Hack a Day with Greasemonkey

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Ever since Hack a Day first emerged on the scene in 2004, the site’s design has been pretty consistent. The black background with its green and white text, while a bit dubious looking at work, is fine by me. For others however, the site’s design is a constant eyesore both figuratively and literally. [James Litton] is one of those readers, and he wrote in to share a tip that helps him read up on the latest hacks without killing his eyes.

[James] uses Firefox to browse the web, so he whipped up a small Greasemonkey script that tweaks Hack a Day’s style sheet once it reaches his browser. His script inverts the background while changing a few other items, making for a much more comfortable read. Overall we found the change to be pretty reasonable, but go ahead and judge for yourself – you can see the before and after screen shots in greater detail on his site.

[James] also points out that the script should work just fine in Chrome, for those of you who prefer that browser instead.

So if your eyes are a bit on the sensitive side, feel free to grab his script and customize away – I don’t think we’ll be changing the theme any time soon.

Speed up Web Browsing in Linux

In modern computer systems, the biggest bottleneck of information tends to be in communicating with the hard disks. High seek times and relatively slow transmission rates when compared to RAM speeds can add up quickly. This was a necessary evil back when RAM space and costs were at a premium, but now it is not uncommon to see 4GB of RAM on laptops, and even 12GB on desktops. For  users whose primary computer use is browsing the internet (either for work, writing articles, or lolcats) and have some extra RAM, moving the browser cache to the RAM from the hard disk is a definite option for increasing speed.

In Linux systems (specifically Fedora and Ubuntu systems), this can be achieved for Chrome and Firefox by creating a larger ramdisk, mounting the ramdisk after boot, and then setting the browser of choice to use that ramdisk as a cache. The necessary commands to do this are readily available on the internet, which makes life easy. Using ramdisks for performance boosts are not exclusive to browsers, and can be used for other software such as Nagios for example.

We have previously covered a tool called Espérance DV for moving cache to RAM in Mac OSX, and for any Windows users feeling left out, there are ways of making Firefox bend to your will. Obviously you will see an increase in RAM use (duh), but this shouldn’t be a problem unless you are running out of free RAM on your system. Remember, free RAM is wasted RAM.

Software security courtesy of child labor

We couldn’t help but poke a little fun in the headline. This is [Alex Miller], a twelve year old who claimed a $3000 bounty from Mozilla. See, [Alex] is a self-taught security guru. When Mozilla upped the reward for discovering and reporting critical security flaws in their software he went to work searching for one. He estimates that he spent an hour and a half a day for ten days to find the hole. Fifteen hours of work for $3000? That’s pretty good!

Is it good or bad to pay for these kind of submissions? The real question: Is the bounty high enough to get blackhats to report vulnerabilities, rather than selling software that exploits them? Let us know what you think in the comments.

[via Zero Day]

Firesheep: Promoting privacy in a scary way

Often, software hackers are the activists that push software giants towards updating vulnerable applications. In todays example, [Eric Butler] is pushing Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and more all at the same time. By creating a user script-kiddie friendly extension for Firefox, he has allowed just about anyone to sniff unsecured connections on public Wi-Fi access points and log into these unprotected accounts.

Right now the extension is available for Windows and Mac, with a Linux port coming soon. Temporarily, the best way for a user to avoid getting taken advantage of would be to not use these social networking sites on a public connection, or to implement a secure proxy for these connections that would keep your data safe. Hopefully these websites will have a quick rebuttal that allows for security without workarounds. With all of the bad press they are recieving, they certainly have incentive to.

Are there any software or security buffs out there? We would love to see someone port this to an iPhone or Android app that could check and log open Wi-Fi points. We’ll leave the foot work to the experts out there, but do be sure to give us a heads up if anyone manages to make it happen, okay?

Digikey sort by price script

Does anyone else find it a little ironic the electronic retailer SparkFun is advocating scripts to help Digikey have a Sort By Price function? Regardless, to reiterate now Firefox (and we hear Google Chrome too) users with the Greasemonkey plugin can sort Digikey items. Personally, some of us here are just Mouser fans at heart.

[Thanks Charper and Mohonri and Satiagraha, image credit Make]

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