Adding Fluke 54 II features to a 51 II thermometer

The difference between Fluke’s 54 II and 51 II thermometers is the addition of a second channel for dual temperature sensing, and buttons which control data logging. Oh, and an additional $150 in price for the higher model. [TiN] was poking around inside and with the help of some forum members he figured out how to unlock additional features on his low-end Fluke temperature meter. You can do the same if you don’t mind cracking open the meter, sourcing and soldering most of the components seen above, cutting holes in the case for the buttons, and hoping it still works when you put everything back together.

It seems that Fluke designed one full-featured unit and watered it down to fill a hole in the lower-priced market just like some other testing-hardware manufacturers (Rigol’s digital storage oscilloscopes come to mind). But the MSP430 P337I in this meter cannot be reflashed, so this would most likely be unhackable hardware if the firmware for the two models is different. After some intensive study of the PCB layout [TiN] found a set of resistors which seemed to serve no external hardware purpose. They do connect to the microcontroller and together they create a two-bit code. He was able to get pictures of the four different hardware models and work out which resistor combinations identify the different meters. Now he can get the firmware to believe it is operating a Fluke 54 II, the rest is just putting the correct passive components onto the unpopulated locations.

We think the quest is what is of interest with this hack. [TiN] did an amazing job of photographing and writing about each step in the process. We’re unlikely to try this ourselves but loved reading about it.

Part 2: Help me reverse engineer an LED light bulb

Almost a month ago I started trying to reverse engineer an inexpensive LED color changing light bulb. With your help I’ve mapped out the circuit, and taken control of the bulb. But there’s still a few mysteries in this little blinker. Join me after the break to see what I’ve done so far, peruse the schematic and source code, and to help solve the two remaining mysteries.

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Help me reverse engineer an LED light bulb

hack LED bulb

I went to the last monthly meeting of Sector 67, a hackerspace in Madison, WI. One of the things shown off was a color changing LED light bulb that Menards was clearing out for $1.99. Inside there’s two RGB LEDs controlled by an ATtiny13 and powered by an AC/DC buck converter. An ATtiny13 will run you around $1.25 by itself so this price is quite amazing. I grabbed a couple of these bulbs and set to work on them. Join me after the break to see what I’ve got so far.

Update: read a follow-up to this post.

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Homebrew firmware upgrade for VCI-100 turntable controller

We love hacks that take quality products and make them better. This enhanced firmware for the VCI-100 is a great example of that. In a similar fashion as the Behringer hack, [DaveX] reverse engineer the firmware for the device and figured out a few ways to make it better. It improves the scratch controller and slider accuracy to use 9-bit accuracy from the ADC readings, which in the stock version were being shifted down to 7-bits. There’s also a few LED tricks they call Disco Mode. They’re selling a “chip” that you need to flash the firmware but from what we can see it’s simply an RS232 converter so you might be able to figure out how to work without that part. We’ve embedded a demo of firmware version 1.4 after the break.

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Decapping integrated circuits with sap

[James] is interested in reverse engineering some integrated circuits. One of the biggest hurdles in this process has always been just getting to the guts of the chip. He used acetone to dissolve the plastic case but had trouble getting through the epoxy blob. Commonly, the epoxy is soaked in nitric acid for a few minutes but [James] didn’t have access to that chemical. Instead he popped into the local music store and picked up some rosin (used to make violin bows sticky enough to grab the strings of the instrument). After boiling down the rock-hard rosin and the chip for 20 minutes, he got a clean and relatively undamaged semiconductor that he can easily peer into.

Reverse engineering USB drivers


When [Jespersaur] purchased a Luxeed LED keyboard, he was disappointed to find that the drivers were not open source and didn’t support all the features he wanted. His solution? Hack the drivers that come with it, and implement his own. In his article, he gives a basic rundown of beginning reverse engineering by multiple methods and a brief introduction to libusb. For the Linux drivers, check out [Kurt Stephens]‘s site, where he supplies a link to the source code, instructions on building it, and a tutorial on sending commands to the keyboard.

The Malware Challenge


Our own [Anthony Lineberry] has written up his experience participating in the 2008 Malware Challenge as part of his work for Flexilis. The contest involved taking a piece of provided malware, doing a thorough analysis of its behavior, and reporting the results. This wasn’t just to test the chops of the researchers, but also to demonstrate to network/system administrators how they could get into malware analysis themselves.

[Anthony] gives a good overview of how he created his entry (a more detailed PDF is here). First, he unpacked the malware using Ollydbg. Packers are used to obfuscate the actual malware code so that it’s harder for antivirus to pick it up. After taking a good look at the assembly, he executed the code. He used Wireshark to monitor the network traffic and determine what URL the malware was trying to reach. He changed the hostname to point at an IRC server he controlled. Eventually he would be able to issue botnet control commands directly to the malware. We look forward to seeing what next year’s contest will bring.