[Sprite_TM]‘s Keyboard Plays Snake

Hackaday Prize judge, hacker extraordinaire, and generally awesome dude [Sprite_TM] spends a lot of time at his computer, and that means a lot of time typing on his keyboard. He recently picked up a board with the latest fad in the world of keyboards, a board with individually addressable LEDs. He took this board to work and a colleague jokingly said, ‘You’ve had this keyboard for 24 hours now, and it has a bunch of LEDs and some arrow keys. I’m disappointed you haven’t got Snake running on it yet.” Thus began the quest to put the one game found on all Nokia phones on a keyboard.

The keyboard in question is a Coolermaster Quickfire Rapid-I, a board that’s marketed as having an ARM Cortex CPU. Pulling apart the board, [Sprite] found a bunch of MX Browns, some LEDs, and a 72MHz ARM Cortex-M3 with 127k of Flash and 32k of RAM. That’s an incredible amount of processing power for a keyboard, and after finding the SWD port, [Sprite] attempted to dump the Flash. The security bit was set. There was another way, however.

Coolermaster is actively working on the firmware, killing bugs, adding lighting modes, and putting all these updates on their website. The firmware updater is distributed as an executable with US and EU versions; the EU version has another key. Figuring the only difference between these versions would be the firmware itself, [Sprite] got his hands on both versions, did a binary diff, and found only one 16k block of data at the end of the file was different. There’s the firmware. It was XOR encrypted, but that’s obvious if you know what to look for.

flashdata The firmware wasn’t complete, though; there were jumps to places outside the code [Sprite] had and a large block looked corrupted. There’s another thing you can do with an executable file: run it. With USBPcap running in the background while executing the firmware updater, [Sprite] could read exactly what was happening when the keyboard was updating. With a small executable that gets around the weirdness of the updater, [Sprite] had a backup copy of the keyboard’s firmware. Even if he bricked the keyboard, he could always bring it back to a stock state. It was time to program Snake.

The first part of writing new firmware was finding a place that had some Flash and RAM to store the new code. This wasn’t hard; there was 64k of Flash free and 28K of unused RAM. The calls to the Snake routine were modified from the variables the original firmware had. If, for example, the original keyboard had a call to change the PWM, [Sprite] could change that to the Snake routine.

Snake is fun, but with a huge, powerful ARM in a device that people will just plug into their keyboard, there’s a lot more you can do with a hacked keyboard. Keyloggers and a BadUSB are extremely possible, especially with firmware that can be updated from a computer. To counter that, [Sprite] added the requirement for a physical condition in order to enter Flash mode. Now, the firmware will only update for about 10 seconds after pressing the fn+f key combination.

There’s more to playing Snake on a keyboard; Sprite has also written a new lighting mode, a fluid simulation thingy that will surely annoy anyone who can’t touch type. You can see the videos of that below.

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IcosaLEDron: A 20-Sided Light Up Ball

Tired of balls that are just balls, and not glowing geometric constructions of electronics and wonderment? Get yourself an IcosaLEDron, the latest in Platonic solids loaded up with RGB LEDs.

The folks at Afrit Labs wanted a fun, glowy device that would show off the capabilities of IMUs and MEMS accelerometers. They came up with a ball with a circuit board inside and twenty WS2812B RGB LEDs studded around its circumference

The frame of the ball is simply a set of twenty tessellated triangles that can be folded up during assembly. The outer shell of the ball is again printed in one piece, but fabricated out of transparent NinjaFlex, an extraordinarily odd, squishy, and likely indestructible material.

Inside the IcosaLEDron is a PCB loaded up with an ATMega328p, an accelerometer, a LiPo battery charger, and quite a bit of wiring. Once the ball is assembled and locked down, the squishy outer exterior is installed and turned into a throwable plaything.

If 20 sides and 20 LEDs aren’t enough, how about a an astonishing 386-LED ball that’s animated and knows its orientation? That’s a project from Null Space Labs, and looking at it in person is hypnotic.

via Makezine

The Trompe-l’œil Menorah

Hanukkah decorations have been up in stores since before Halloween, and that means it’s time for electronic Menorahs with blinking LEDs, controllers, and if you’re really good, a real-time clock with support for the Jewish calendar. [Windell] over at Evil Mad Scientist just outdid himself with the Mega Menorah 9000. It’s a flat PCB with nine LEDs, but it uses stippling and a trompe-l’œil effect to make it appear three-dimensional.

Making a 2D object look three-dimensional isn’t that hard – you just need the right shading. A few years ago, [Evil Mad Scientist] created StippleGen, a library to turn images into something that can be easily reproduced with the EggBot CNC plotter. It’s actually quite impressive; there are Voronoi diagrams and travelling salesmen problems, all to draw on eggs. The library can be used for much more, like properly shading a PCB so that it looks three-dimensional.

The Mega Menorah 9000 is surprisingly large, at about 7.5″ wide. It’s powered by an ATtiny85 loaded up with the Adafruit Trinket firmware, making it a truly USB enabled Menorah. While it may just be a soldering kit, it is a fantastic looking PCB, something we’d like to see some more examples of in the future.

iPhone-Controlled Daft Punk Helmet

A few years ago, [Marc] had access to a really big, very expensive 3D printer. Daft Punk helmets were – and still are – extremely cool builds, so with a bit of modeling, [Marc] and his friend [Alex] put together a model and printed out a Daft Punk [Thomas] helmet with the intention of turning it into the keystone of a great costume. A few things got in the way, and the [Thomas] helmet was left on a shelf for a few years. Fast forward to a few months ago and [Marc] took up the project again. The result is a 3D printed Daft Punk helmet loaded up with 320 WS2811 LEDs.

The 3D printed helmet was modeled well and printed in polycarbonate, but with any extrusion-based printer, there will be ridges and layers to sand, fill, prime and paint. This task was delegated to another friend, [Shaggy], while [Marc] got busy on the electronics.

The LEDs for the visor and ‘earmuffs’ are WS2811 LEDs, but not the SMD versions we’re so used to seeing. These are 8mm through-hole LEDs mounted in a lasercut piece of acrylic. Control of the LEDs is done with a Teensy 3.1 with [Paul Stoffregen]‘s OctoWS2811 library. With the matrix wired up, batteries installed, WiFi capability added, and the helmet painted (not chromed; that will probably happen later, though), [Marc] had a copy of the [Thomas] helmet controllable through an iPhone.

If you’d like to check out more of [Marc]‘s work, we posted something on his RGB LED suit and pneumatic Star Trek doors a few years ago.

Video below.

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A Watercooled Headlamp, Because Why Not?

There are extremely high powered LEDs out there, and most of the ‘creative’ uses of these are extremely high-powered flashlights, complete with heatsinks, forced air cooling, and beefy power supplies. [Christian] wanted to play around with one of these LEDs, but he wanted something a little more unique. He chose a headlamp, a build that is made even more impressive by the fact it is watercooled.

The body of the headlamp was milled out of aluminum, with a space for the LED in the front and channels in the back for coolant. Also in this enclosure are two buttons, a temperature sensor, and a port for the hose that carries the tubes and wires.

This hose connects to a large battery pack that houses four large lithium phosphate batteries and a boost converter built around an Arduino. The pack also houses a pump and reservoir that is able to keep the LED cool even at 130W.

A Pair of Projects to Scare the Trick-or-Treaters

The countdown is on! There’s only a few days left until Halloween, and if you’re still looking for something to spice up the experience for the kids heading to your door, [MagicWolfi] has just what you need. He’s put together two motion-sensing projects that are sure to startle any trick-or-treater.

The first project is a chain of LED-lit pumpkins that are activated by a motion sensor. A set of inverters paired with RC delay lines light up the pumpkins sequentially. They are arranged almost like a strand of Christmas lights and are powered by AA batteries, so in theory they could be expanded to make a strand as long as needed. The project was inspired by a motion-sensing dress and works pretty well as a Halloween decoration!

9378581414283863206[MagicWolfi] is pairing the LED pumpkins with his second project which uses another motion sensor to play scary sound effects. Dubbed the Scare-o-Matic, this device uses a 45-millimeter speaker connected to a SparkFun microSD audio module to produce the scary sound effects. Each time it is triggered it plays a different sound from the list. There are videos and schematics for each of these projects on the project sites if you are interested in recreating any of these before Friday!

Simple POV Bike Effects with WS2811 Strips

[Andrew] wrote in with a new take on the classic persistence of vision bike spoke hack. While many of these POV setups use custom PCBs and discrete LEDs, [Andrew]‘s design uses readily available off-the-shelf components: WS2811 LED strips, an Arduino, an Invensense IMU breakout board, and some small LiPo batteries.

[Andrew] also implemented a clever method of controlling his lights. His code detects when the rider taps the brakes in certain patterns, which allows changing between different light patterns. He does note that this method isn’t incredibly reliable due to some issues with his IMU, so now he senses when the rider taps on the handlebars as well.

If you want to build your own bike POV setup, you’re in luck. [Andrew] wrote up detailed instructions that outline the entire build process. He also provides links to sources for each part to make building your own setup even easier. His design is pretty affordable too, coming in at just under $50 per wheel. Check out a video of [Andrew]‘s setup in action after the break.

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