Raiders of the Lost OS: Reclaiming A Piece of Polish IT History

In today’s digital era, we almost take for granted that all our information is saved and backed up, be it on our local drives or in the cloud — whether automatically, manually, or via some other service.  For information from decades past, that isn’t always the case, and recovery can be a dicey process.  Despite the tricky challenges, the team at [Museo dell’Informatica Funzionante] and [], as well as researchers and scientists from various museums, institutions, and more all came together in the attempt to recover the Polish CROOK operating system believed to be stored on five magnetic tapes.

MEERA-400 Tape Recovery 1

Originally stored at the Warsaw Museum of Technology, the tapes were ideally preserved, but — despite some preliminary test prep — the museum’s tape reader kept hanging at the 800 BPI NRZI encoded header, even though the rest of the tape was 1600 BPI phase encoding. Some head scratching later, the team decided to crack open their Qualstar 1052 tape reader and attempt to read the data directly off the circuits themselves!!

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Captain Hermano’s Mystery Box is Full of Puzzles

[Raffi] needed a birthday present idea but he wanted to do something extra special. He realized that a big part of gift giving is the anticipation and excitement of opening the present. In order to prolong this experience, [Raffi] built an electronic puzzle box. The box contains the final gift, but first a series of puzzles must be solved in order to open the box.

The project runs on an Arduino Mega. This is hooked up to several sensors, including a temperature sensor, GPS unit, and CO sensor. There is also an LCD screen and numeric keypad for user input and output. The project page contains a flow chart that shows all of the puzzles and their solutions. One of the more interesting puzzles requires the user to blow tobacco smoke into a tube. The CO sensor detects the smoke and unlocks the next puzzle.

Some of the puzzles require interacting with outside systems. For example, one puzzle requires the user to send an email to the fictional Captain Hermano’s email address. If the correct keyword is included in the email, the user will receive a reply with the code to enter into the box. Another puzzle requires the user to call a particular phone number and listen for another riddle. We’ve included the video demonstration below.

This isn’t the first puzzle box we’ve seen, but each one has its own special flair. This one is very well made and looks like a lot of care was put into it. We’ve seen another that uses only discrete components. We’ve seen yet another that uses Morse code. Continue reading “Captain Hermano’s Mystery Box is Full of Puzzles”

Hacklet 26 – Arduino Projects

Arduino is one of those boards that has become synonymous with hacking and making. Since its introduction in 2005, over 700,000 official Arduino boards have been sold, along with untold millions of compatible and clone boards. Hackers and makers around the world have found the Arduino platform a cheap and simple way to get their projects off the ground. This weeks Hacket focuses on some of the best Arduino based projects we’ve found on!

drawingbot[Niazangels] gets the ball – or ballpoint pen – rolling with Roboartist, a robot which creates line drawings. Roboartist is more than just a plotter though. [Niazangels] created a custom PC program which creates line drawings from images captured by a webcam. The line drawings are converted to coordinates, and sent to an Arduino, which controls all the motors that move the pen. [Niazangels] went with Dynamixel closed loop servo motors rather than the stepper motors we often see in 3D printers.

tape[Peter Edwards] is preserving the past with Tapuino, the $20 C64 Tape Emulator. Plenty of programs for the Commodore 64, 128, and compatibles were only distributed on tape. Those tapes are slowly degrading, though the classic Commodore herdware is still going strong. Tapuino preserves those tapes by using an Arduino nano to play the files from an SD card into the original Datasette interface. [Peter] also plans to add recording functionality to the Tapuino, which will make it the total package for preserving  your data. All that’s missing is that satisfying clunk when pressing the mechanical Play button!


[Dushyant Ahuja] knows what time it is, thanks to his Infinity Mirror Clock. This clock tells time with the help of some WS2812B RGB LED. [Dushyant] debugged the clock with a regular Arduino, but when it came time to finish the project, he used an ATmega328 to create an Arduino compatible board from scratch. Programming is easy with an on-board Bluetooth module. [Dushyant] plans to add a TFT lcd which will show weather and other information when those power-hungry LEDs are switched off.

alarm2[IngGaro] built an entire home alarm system with his project Arduino anti-theft alarm shield. [IngGaro] needed an alarm system for his home. That’s a lot to ask of a standard ATmega328p powered Arduino Uno. However, the extra I/O lines available on an Arduino Mega2560 were just what the doctor ordered. [IngGaro] performed some amazing point-to-point perfboard wiring to produce a custom shield that looks and works great! The alarm can interface with just about any sensor, and can be controlled via the internet. You can even disarm the system through an RFID keycard.

Want MORE Arduino in your life? Check out our curated Arduino List!

That’s about all the millis()  we have for this weeks Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

A look at the (now patched) security of [Kim Dotcom’s] MEGA cloud storage service


MEGA is a new, encrypted cloud storage system founded by [Kim Dotcom] of MegaUpload fame. They’re selling privacy in that the company won’t have the means to decrypt the data stored by users of its service. As with any software project, their developers are rapidly making improvements to the user interface and secure underpinnings. But it’s fun when we get some insight about possible security problems. It sounds like the issue [Marcan] wrote about has been fixed, but we still had a great time reading his post.

The article focuses on the hashes that the website uses to validate data being sucked in from non-SSL sources using some JavaScript. Those insecure sources are a CDN so this type of verification is necessary to make sure that the third-party network hasn’t been compromised as part of an attack on the MEGA site. The particular security issue came when the hashes were generated using CBC-MAC. [Marcan] asserts that this protocol is not adequate for the application it’s being used for and goes on to post a proof-of-concept on how the messages can be forged while retaining a hash that will validate as authentic.

[Thanks Christian]

Arduino EMF sensor

As a biomedical equipment technician [Adam Outler] equipment needs to be in top working condition. The emergency room staff were complaining about erroneous noise on the electrocardiogram and it’s his job to fix it. He suspected EMF interference so as a quick first step he decided to throw together an EMF detector using an Arduino. It uses a bank of LEDs as an indicator bar to reflect the EMF picked up by the red antenna. In the video after the break [Adam] checks a room for possible sources of interference, treating the recharging circuit from the emergency lights as the most likely culprit. Since the ECG is many times more sensitive to EMF than the Arduino, this turns out to be a quick and easy way to make sure he’s not barking up the wrong tree.

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From sign language to spoken language

As part of a senior design project for a biomedical engineering class [Kendall Lowrey] worked in a team to develop a device that translates American Sign Language into spoken English. Wanting to eclipse glove-based devices that came before them, the team set out to move away from strictly spelling words, to combining sign with common gesture. The project is based around an Arduino Mega and is limited to the alphabet and about ten words because of the initial programming space restraints. When the five flex sensors and three accelerometer values register an at-rest state for two seconds the device takes a reading and looks up the most likely word or letter in a table. It then outputs that to a voicebox shield to translate the words or letters into phonetic sounds.

Chiptune instrument from NES

[Jarek Lupinski] wanted an instrument that would let him play chiptunes live, without a need for pre-programming a cartridge for playback during a concert. His preferred hardware is an original Nintendo Entertainment System because of its familiar nostalgic sound. After picking up a lot of 5 broken NES units he set out to build a midi-compliant device.

The five NES units he bought had nothing wrong with them other than the 70-pin cartridge connector. He fixed them all, then de-populated the board on one and tried to build out a circuit on a breadboard. After much trial and error, forum searching, and conversations with others who were familiar with the hardware he got the circuit working. He’s posted a schematic and had a board fabricated which takes the transplanted chips and transforms them into an instrument. Check out the test notes being played by an Arduino Mega after the break.

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