Raspberry Pi and Kindle Together Again

We’ve seen a lot of projects recently that take advantage of the Raspberry Pi 2’s augmented abilities. With the increased processor power and double the memory, it puts a lot more utility in the user’s hands. The latest project that takes advantage of this is the Pi-nk, which combines a Pi with a Kindle for some text-based awesomeness.

[Guillaume] has put together this detailed how-to which, unlike other builds we’ve seen in the past, uses wireless instead of USB for almost all of the connections, including the keyboard. Granted, this isn’t a new idea, but he’s presenting the way that he did it. To that end, all of the commands you’ll need to use are extremely well documented on the project page if you want to build your own. When everything is said and done, you’ll be SSHing into the Pi from the Kindle and using the popular “screen” program to get the Pi to use the Kindle as its display.

Additionally, [Guillaume] has posted some schematics for custom enclosures for the Pi-Kindle pair if you’re more ambitious. He points out that the e-ink display is great if the Pi is being run in text or command-line mode, and we’d have to agree. This is a very clean pairing of these devices and puts the strengths of both to great use!

Unlock Your Demo Kindle Paperwhite

If you’ve been holding off on upgrading your kindle, this project might inspire you to finally bite the bullet. [WarriorRocker] recently saved quite a few dollars on his Kindle upgrade by using a demo unit. Of course, it’s not as simple as just finding a demo unit and booting it up. There’s some hacking involved.

[WarriorRocker] found his Kindle Paperwhite demo unit on an online auction site for just $20. Kindles are great for reading but also make popular displays for your own projects. This used display model was much less expensive than a new unit, which makes sense considering it had probably received its share of abuse from the consumers of some retail store. The problem with a demo unit is that the firmware that comes with it is very limited, and can’t be used to sync up with your Amazon account. That’s where the hacking comes in.

pwdu-01The first step was to crack open the case and locate the serial port. [WarriorRocker] soldered a small three pin header to the pads to make it easier to work on his device as needed. He then connected the Kindle to his PC using a small serial to USB adapter. Pulling up the command prompt was as simple as running Putty and connecting to the correct COM port. If the wires are hooked up correctly, then it just takes a press of the enter key to pull up the login prompt.

The next step requires root access. The root password for each unit is related to the unit’s serial number. [WarriorRocker] obtained the serial number by rebooting the Kindle while the Serial connection was still open. The boot sequence will spit out the number. This number can then be entered in to an online tool to generate possible root passwords. The tool is available on [WarriorRocker’s] project page linked above.

Next, the Kindle needs to be rebooted into diagnostic mode. This is because root logins are not allowed while the device is booted to the system partition. To enter diagnostic mode, [WarriorRocker] had to press enter over and over during the boot sequence in order to kill the automatic boot process. Then he checked some environment variables to locate the memory address where the diagnostic mode is stored. One more command tells the system to boot to that address and into diagnostic mode.

The last step of the process begins by mounting the Kindle as a USB storage device and copying over the stock Kindle firmware image. Next [WarriorRocker] had to exit the diagnostic menu and return to a root command prompt. Finally, he used the dd command to copy the image to the Kindle’s partition bit by bit. Fifteen minutes and one reboot later and the Kindle was working just as it should. [WarriorRocker] even notes that the 3G connection still works. Not bad for $20 and an hour or two of work.

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.

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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.