Stripping Kindle DRM with Lego

DRM

Consider a book sitting on a shelf. You can lend it out to a friend, you don’t need a special device to read it, and if you are so inclined, you can photocopy it. This isn’t true with Kindle eBooks that place severe restrictions on what you can do with a book via DRM. Although it is possible to strip eBook DRM with a few programs on your computer, [Peter] came up with a fool-proof way that’s an amateur engineering marvel. He’s turning Kindle eBooks into plain text using Lego.

[Peter] is using a few bits of a Lego NTX system to press the, ‘next page’ button on his Kindle, then smash the space bar on his Mac to take a picture. These pictures are then sent to a cloud-based text recognition service. After a few hours of listening to plastic gears grinding, [Peter] has a copy of his eBook in plain text format sitting in his computer.

As impractical as it looks, using a robot, camera, and OCR is actually a really, really good way to turn eBooks plagued with DRM into a text file. Even if Amazon updates their DRM to make the current software cracking methods break, [Peter] will always have his Lego robot ready to scan a few hundred pages of text at a time.

[Read more...]

Kindle hack adds value to the wallpaper

kindle-screensaver-hack
What if your Kindle displayed useful information as the “screensaver”? Now it can thanks to this extension of the Kindle weather display hack we covered a year ago. [Pablo Jiménez Mateo] figured out how to display time, date, weather, and tasks as his Kindle wallpaper while retaining the original functionality of the device as an ePaper reader.

The hack isn’t strictly standalone. Like the Kindle weather station hack on which it is based, you need a computer to act as the server. We see this as a good thing. The server generates a vector graphic which is used as the Kindle screensaver. This process of scraping and packaging the data is just too much for the computing power of the Kindle alone.

Now that [Pablo] got this working without disrupting the normal function of the device, you can remix the hack with your own information sources by working with the server-side code. For those that aren’t familiar with the Linux commands needed to get the Kindle ready, don’t worry. This is reasonably non-invasive. You do need to Jailbreak your device. But once you do, the steps used simply load a small script to grab the images.

Kindle weather and recycling display

kindle-weather-and-recycling-display

We’ve seen a fair number of hacks like this one that reuse a Kindle basically just for its ePaper display. [HaHaBird] has this device hanging on his refrigerator to display the weather and remind him about recycling day. It kind of make us wonder why we’re not seeing cheap ePaper modules on the hobby market?

The concept isn’t new, but [HaHaBird] does move it along just a little bit. He started by following the guide which [Matt] wrote after pulling off the original Kindle weather display hack. It uses a separate computer running a script that polls the Internet for weather data and generates a vector graphic like the one seen above. The Kindle then loads the image once every five minutes thanks to a cron job on the rooted device. But why stop there? [HaHaBird] tweaked the script to include a reminder about his municipality’s irregular recycling schedule.

Don’t overlook the quality of the hardware side of this hack. With its prominent place in the kitchen he wanted a nicely finished look. This was achieved by building a frame out of cherry and routing passages on the back to make room for the extension cable (so it could hang in landscape orientation) and a toggle to hold the Kindle firmly in place. Additional information on the build is available here.

One Kindle launcher to rule them

kindle-launcher

Ask around and chances are you can find a friend or family member that still has their early generation Kindle but doesn’t use it anymore. There are quite a number of different things you can do with them, and now there’s a single Launcher that works for all models of hacked Kindles. KUAL is the Kindle Unified Application Launcher.

Loading the launcher on your device does require that it be Jailbroken/Rooted, but that’s really the entire point, right? Once on your device the system is easy to configure. Menus themselves can be customized by editing the XML and JSON pair for each list. The screenshot on the left illustrates some of the applications you might want to run. We could see a VNC viewer being useful, and everyone likes to have games – like Doom II or the entire Z-machine library – on hand when they unexpectedly get stuck somewhere. But MPlayer? Does anyone actually use their ePaper device to watch videos?

Jailbreaking the Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon’s newest e-ink reader featuring a touch interface with a higher contrast display, is now officially jailbroken.

[geekmaster], the geek master behind this hack, based his jailbreak off [Yifan]‘s previous hack  to jailbreak the Kindle Touch. Installation is a snap, and only requires you to upload the data.stgz file to the root directory of the Paperwhite and restart the device. On the next boot, the Paperwhite will be jailbroken, allowing you to do tons of cool stuff with a tiny Linux device connected to an e-ink screen.

We’ve already seen a few really cool uses for jailbroken Kindles including a weather station display and a serial terminal for your Raspberry Pi. Cracking the newer and better Kindle Paperwhite means those e-ink projects you’ve been thinking about building just became much more attractive.

One word of warning from [geekmaster], though: USB downloader mode isn’t yet enabled. If you brick your device, you’ll need to connect your Kindle to a serial port. This shouldn’t be a problem for Hackaday readers, but it is something to watch out for.

Turning a Kindle into a weather display

Since the first time [Matt] saw an e-paper display, the idea of using it as a regularly updated, non real-time display consumed him. It really is the perfect platform for very readable calendars, agendas or, as [Matt] found out, a weather display.

[Matt]‘s build uses a server to fetch and parse weather data and forecasts from NOAA. This data is then inserted into an SVG file, rendered, converted into a PNG, and finally converted into a grayscale, no transparency image required by the Kindle.

After the image is crafted by [Matt]‘s server, a small script running on the Kindle fetches the image, clears the screen, and displays the image. This entire process happens twice a day, often enough for [Matt] to get a good idea of the weather outside without having to look out a window.

The really striking feature of [Matt]‘s build is how good his weather display looks. The wonderful iconography of this weather display comes partly from graphics found on The Noun Project, with a few weather conditions drawn by [Matt] himself. It looks great, and is an awesome example of an excellent use of e-paper.

Using a Raspberry Pi as your travel computer

Do you think you could travel for the entire summer and leave your laptop at home? [Gef] did just that. With the help of his Kindle he used a Raspberry Pi as his travel computer. This was an easy association to think up, since he planned to bring the Kindle along as his reading material anyway. All it was going to take was some creative hacking to get it working as a display for the single-board computer.

The Kindle is merely connecting to the Raspberry Pi through a terminal emulator. This happens via USB, and requires that you Jailbreak the kindle and install a package called USBnetwork. The problem with the technique is that you’re going to go crazy trying to use the tiny keyboard that is built into the eBook reader. [Gef] decided to take a USB keyboard along with him, but how is he going to use it to control the terminal screen on the Kindle? The answer is the ‘screen’ application. We’ve used it a lot to keep programs running on a machine after we’ve exited from an SSH session. It turns out it can also be used to host multiple users on the same terminal session. Pretty neat!

[via Make]