Stephen Hawking Forecasts The Weather

Stephen Hawking, although unable to speak himself, is immediately recognizable by his voice which is provided through a computer and a voice emulator. What may come as a surprise to some is that this voice emulator, the Emic2, has been used by many people, and is still around today and available for whatever text-to-speech projects you are working on. As a great example of this, [TegwynTwmffat] has built a weather forecasting station using an Emic2 voice module to provide audible weather alerts.

Besides the unique voice, the weather center is a high quality build on its own. An Arduino Mega 2560 equipped with a GPRS module is able to pull weather information once an hour. After the voice module was constructed (which seems like a project in itself) its relatively straightforward to pass the information from the Arduino over to the module and have it start announcing the weather. It can even be programmed to sing the weather to you!

All of the code that [TegwynTwmffat] used to build this is available on the project site if you’re curious about building your own Emic2 voice system. It’s also worth noting that GPRS is available to pretty much anyone and is a relatively simple system to start using to do things like pull weather information from, but you could also use it to roll out your own private cell phone network with the right equipment and licensing.

3D Printer Enclosure Is Pleasant On The Eyes And Ears

There’s a lot going on in the 3D printing world. Huge printing beds, unique materials like concrete, and more accessible, inexpensive printers for us regular folk. The only thing that’s often overlooked with these smaller printers is the ruckus that they can make. The sounds of all those motors can get tiresome after a while, which was likely the inspiration for [Fabien]’s home 3D printer workstation. (Google Translate from French)
After acquiring a new printer, [Fabien] needed a place to put it and created his own piece of furniture for it. The stand is made out of spruce and is lined with insulation. He uses a combination of cork, foam, and recycled rubber tile to help with heat, sound, and vibration respectively. Don’t worry, though, he did install a ventilation system for the fumes! After the printer housing is squared away, he place a webcam inside so that the user can monitor the print without disturbing it. Everything, including the current print, is managed with a computer on the top of the cabinet.
Having a good workspace is just as important as having a quality tool, and [Fabien] has certainly accomplished that for his new 3D printer. There have been a lot of good workspace builds over the years, too, including electronics labs in a portable box and this masterpiece workbench. If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of working in an area that wasn’t designed for the task at hand, you’ll easily be able to appreciate any of these custom solutions.

Security Problems with Gas Station Automated Tank Gauges

[HD Moore] recently posted an article on Rapid 7’s blog about an interesting security problem. They’ve been doing some research into the security of automated tank gauges (ATGs). These devices are used at gas stations and perform various functions including monitoring fuel levels, tracking deliveries, or raising alarms. [Moore] says that ATGs are used at nearly every fueling station in the United States, but they are also used internationally. It turns out these things are often not secured properly.

Many ATG’s have a built-in serial port for programming and monitoring. Some systems also have a TCP/IP card, or even a serial to TCP/IP adapter. These cards allow technicians to monitor the system remotely. The most common TCP port used in these systems is port 10001. Some of these systems have the ability to be password protected, but Rapid 7’s findings indicate that many of them are left wide open.

The vulnerability was initial reported to Rapid 7 by [Jack Chadowitz]. He discovered the problem due to his work within the industry and developed his own web portal to help people test their own systems. [Jack] approached Rapid 7 for assistance in investigating the issue on a much larger scale.

Rapid 7 then scanned every IPv4 address looking for systems with an open port 10001. Each live system discovered was then sent a “Get In-Tank Inventory Report” request. Any system vulnerable to attack would respond with the station name, address, number of tanks, and fuel types. The scan found approximately 5,800 systems online with no password set. Over 5,300 of these stations are in the United States.

Rapid 7 believes that attackers may be able to perform such functions as to reconfigure alarm thresholds, reset the system, or otherwise disrupt operation of the fuel tank. An attacker might be able to simulate false conditions that would shut down the fuel tank, making it unavailable for use. Rapid 7 does not believe this vulnerability is actively being exploited in the wild, but they caution that it would be difficult to tell the difference between an attack and a system failure. They recommend companies hide their systems behind a VPN for an additional layer of security.

[Thanks Ellery]

Build Your Own Desoldering Station on the Cheap

Desoldering Station on the Cheap

[Sable Wolf] tipped us off to his DYI desoldering station for under $70. We know we have seen this conversion before, but it hasn’t been featured on Hack a Day. [Sable Wolf’s] hack is unique and has added features that make building, cleaning and the overall longevity sounder. However, some kind of sound deadening housing would have to be built around the pump as it seemed uncomfortably loud in the video.

Some Chinese made desoldering stations are getting quite cheap so maybe it’s not worth the effort unless you can salvage more components for the build. Thanks to [Sable Wolf’s] detailed blog you can browse through his BOM and scrounge up the majority of these items from your salvage bins. A cheap but reliable desoldering station would be an extremely handy tool to have on your bench.

This is much safer than desoldering with a candle or using fire as featured in the past, and is kind of a flip around on the SMD hot air pencil hack.

Follow long after the break to watch the video of the desoldering station in action.

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Tour of Chicago hackerspace: Pumping Station One


As you may know I was on vacation in Chicago last week. I got a chance to jump on the blue line train from Chicago’s downtown loop for a short trip out to the Addison stop where I caught a quick bus ride over to one of Chicago’s hackerspaces: Pumping Station One. I was given a tour by some camera-shy members that were there when I popped in. The space had a large welding area with lots of equipment, metal lathes, metal brake and woodworking equipment. You name the shop tool, I think it was there. I even think I spotted a functioning scanning electron microscope! WOW!

The lower workspace was quite extensive. Yes, there’s a second-floor having sewing machines, vinyl cutters, 3-D printers and an entire room dedicated to electronics and robotics. Also, they are in the process of expanding to make the space even larger. If you’re in Chicago I recommend you check them out, it’s an amazing space and an easy commute from downtown.

I hope my iPhone video is good enough to show off their splendid space.
Follow along after the break to learn more and get a glimpse inside Pumping Station One.

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