These days, if you want to start learning about FPGAs, it can be a daunting experience. There’s a huge variety of different platforms and devboards and it can be difficult to know where to start. [RoGeorge] decided to take a different tack. Like a 16-year-old drag racer, he decided to run what he brung – a printer control panel cum FPGA development board (Romanian, get your Google Translate on).
[RoGeorge] was lucky enough to score a couple of seemingly defective control panels from HP Laserjets discarded by his workplace. Seeing potentially good parts going to waste, like keypads and LCDs, he decided to investigate them further – finding a 50,000 gate Xilinx Spartan IIE running the show. Never one to say no to opportunity, [RoGeorge] dived in to learning how to work with FPGAs.
The forum posts are a great crash course in working with this sort of embedded FPGA platform. [RoGeorge] covers initial mapping of the peripherals on the board & finding a JTAG connector and programming solution, before moving on to basic FPGA programming and even covers the differences between sequential programming on microcontrollers and the parallel operation of FPGAs. Even if you don’t intend to get down and dirty with the technology, spend half an hour reading these posts and you’ll be far more knowledgeable about how they work!
In the end, [RoGeorge] showed how to teach yourself to work with FPGAs for the price of a couple of programming cables – not a mean feat by any means. It’s a testament to the hacker spirit, and reminds us of [SpriteTM]’s efforts in hacking hard drive controllers.
The news was abuzz yesterday with coverage of a study released by Columbia University researchers warning consumers that HP laser printers are wide open to remote tampering and hacking. The researchers claim that the vast majority of printers from HP’s LaserJet line accept firmware updates without checking for any sort of digital authentication, allowing malicious users to abuse the machines remotely. The researchers go so far as to claim that modified firmware can be used to overheat the printer’s fuser, causing fires, to send sensitive documents to criminals, and even force the printers to become part of a botnet.
Officials at HP were quick to counter the claims, stating that all models built in 2009 and beyond require firmware to be digitally signed. Additionally, they say that all of the brand’s laser printers are armed with a thermal cutoff switch which would mitigate the fuser attack vector before any real fire risk would present itself. Despite HP’s statements, the researchers stand by their claims, asserting that vulnerable printers are still available for purchase at major office supply stores.
While most external attacks can easily be prevented with the use of a firewall, the fact that these printers accept unsigned firmware is undoubtedly an interesting one. We are curious to see if these revelations inspire anyone to create their own homebrew LaserJet firmware with advanced capabilities (and low toner warning overrides), or if this all simply fizzles out after a few weeks.
[Sprite_tm] sent us his latest project. He has found a way to display custom messages on a laserjet printer without a computer. He’s using an ATTiny2313 to send signals through a parallel port. This project is so cheap and quick to install it could be disposable. Just program your message before hand, pop it on and walk away.