iPhone NVMe Chip Reversed with Custom Breakout Boards

Ever so slowly, the main storage in our computers has been moving from spinning disks, to SSDs over SATA, to Flash drives connected to a PCI something or other. The lastest technology is NVMe — Non-Volitile Memory Express — a horribly named technology that puts a memory controller right on the chip. Intel has a PCI-based NVMe drive out, Samsung recently released an M.2 NVMe drive, and the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are built around this storage technology.

New chips demand a reverse engineering session, and that’s exactly what [Ramtin Amin] did. He took a few of these chips out of an iPhone, created a board that will read them, and managed to analize the firmware.

Any reverse engineering will begin with desoldering the chip. This is easy enough, with the real trick being getting it working again outside whatever system it was removed from. For this, [Ramtin] built his own PCIe card with a ZIF socket. This socket was custom-made, but the good news is you can buy one from ITEAD. Yes, it is expensive — that’s what you get with a custom-made ZIF socket.

With the chip extracted, a custom PCIe card, and a bit of work with the NVMe implementation for Linux, [Ramtin] had just about everything working. Eventually, he was able to dump the entire file system on the chip, allowing anyone to theoretically back up the data on their iPhone or MacBook Air. Of course, and especially for the iPhone, this data is encrypted. It’s not possible to clone an iPhone using this method, but it is a remarkably deep dive into the hardware that makes our storage tick.”

Clearly the Best Way to Organize SMD Parts

Have some plexiglas (acrylic) leftovers lying around? Well, they could be put to good use in making this SMD organizer. It comes in handy if you deal with a lot of SMD components in your work. No longer will you waste your time trying to find a 15K 1206 resistor, or that BAS85 diode… or any other component you can think of soldering on the PCB. The basic idea is fairly straightforword, which helped keep this short.

2SMD resistors are packed in thick paper tapes that don’t bend easily, and thus need larger containers than other components, which are packed mainly in flexible PE tapes. The first version of this organizer was built with a 96mm diameter space for resistors and 63mm diameter for other components, but it seems that there is no need for such large compartments. If I were to make it again, I would probably scale everything down to about 80% of it’s current size.

The best way to join all plexiglass parts is to use four M4 threaded rods. There is also a 1.5mm steel rod which holds SMD tape ends in place and helps to un-stick the transparent tape which covers the components. At the top of the organizer there is a notch for paper, used for components labels. Most SMD components are packed in 8mm wide tapes, making the optimal compartment width 10mm. It is not easy to cut the 10mm thick acrylic and get a neat edge – instead, you could use more layers of thin sheets to make the spacers. Using 5mm acrylic you can combine more layers for any width of tape, which contains wider components, like SMD integrated circuits. The only thing that you have to be careful about, is to keep the distance between the thin steel rod and acrylic, which is marked as “2-4mm” on the drawing. It is good if this space is just a few tenths of a millimeter wider than the thickness of SMD tapes.

smd_orthoThe CorelDraw file that can be used for laser cutting the acrylic parts, is available for download. If you scale the profiles, don’t forget to readjust the hole diameters and some other dimensions which have to remain intact. If you have 5mm acrylic pieces, you should probably use two layers of acrylic for every tape (red parts on the drawing). The barrier layers would be made of thin acrylic — for instance 2mm (the blue parts). Edge layers (green) are once again 5mm thick, and there are also the end pieces (yellow), glued to the previous borders and used to “round up” the whole construction and to protect your hands from the threaded rods and nuts.

While you’re building this for your bench, make a vacuum picking tool for SMDs out of a dispensing syringe with a thick needle. It’s a common trick for hackers to use an aquarium air pump, just turn the compressor unit by 180°, so that it creates vacuum instead of blowing the air outside. This process is described by R&TPreppers in the video below.

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Never Forget Your USB Stick Again

USB sticks are very handy. They are a very portable and relatively inexpensive means of storing data. Possibly the most annoying part about using one of these devices is when you inevitable leave it behind somewhere by accident. This is especially true if it contains sensitive information. [Eurekaguy] feels your pain, and he’s developed a solution to the problem.

[Eurekaguy] designed a custom cap for USB sticks that beeps approximately every minute after the USB stick has been plugged in for five minutes. The cap is 3D printed and then slightly modified with four 1mm holes. Two wires are routed between these holes to make contact points for the VCC and GND pins of the USB stick.

The beep circuit is comprised of a tiny PIC12F629 microcontroller along with a couple of other supporting components. The circuit is wired together dead bug style to conserve space. Three AG5 batteries power the circuit. A small piezo speaker provides the repeating beep to remind you to grab your USB stick before you walk away from the computer.

[Thanks Irish]

Auto Roll-up Tool Storage

Auto Roll-up Tool Storage

[Anred’s] got the right idea. Everybody and their mother has a toolbox: rectangular, wooden, crowded. You’re not impressing anyone with that old thing. Instead, why not spice it up by rolling it up, with a tool case that spins to store in style?

This storage hack seems to draw its inspiration from field medic roll-up bags, where everything’s laid out for easy access with a quick toss. [Anred] started by taking inventory of all the items he wanted to use on a regular basis, organizing them across a sturdy fabric. Next, he marked all the mounting spots and affixed some elastic material with needle and thread to hold each tool in place. The tools then roll up around a center rod, like an upside-down pull curtain.

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Hackaday Links: March 23, 2014

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[Jack] sent us a link to a Metropolitan Museum of Art video showing off a mechanized desk that plays music and has a ton of hidden compartments. Furniture makers of yore built hidden compartments in furniture all the time. After all, there weren’t credit cards back in the day and you had to keep important documents, cash, and everything else on hand. What strikes us is that this mates woodworking of the highest caliber with precision mechanics.

Before you get rid of that old box spring, ask yourself if you need to store dimensional goods. If you rip off the outer fabric, the network of wire inside makes a reasonable lumber rack.

And since we’re talking trash, we enjoyed seeing this water bottle wire spool minder which [Daniel] sent our way.

You know those portable DVD players you can hang from a headrest to entertain the kids on long trips? Well [John’s] broke, and like chasing the dragon, once you’re hooked on watching videos during car trips there’s no going back. Luckily he was able to throw a Raspberry Pi at the problem. He now has a portable OpenElec XBMC device controlled via a smartphone.

[Jaromir] posted some breakout board footprints that you can use. It’s not the footprints that impress us, but the idea of using them to fill up board space when spinning a new PCB. [Thanks Sarah]

LEGO Gachapon. Need we say more? Okay, truth be told we had to look it up too; Wikipedia says it’s spelled Gashapon. These are coin-operated machines that dispense toys inside of plastic capsules. This one’s made of LEGO and it’s awesome.

[Mikhail] actually built his own ballast resistors for some HeNe laser tubes. This is a bit easier than it might sound at first, as they are much lower power than the tubes used in cutters. But none-the-less an interesting, and successful, experiment.

Light Your Way to the Correct Resistor

click-and-see

Who doesn’t have issues with component storage (seriously, tell us your secret in the comments)? IF you can get your spare parts organized, it’s still quite difficult to figure out where you actually squirreled them away. Labeling drawers is one thing, but what if you have hundreds or thousands of drawers (we’re looking at you, every Hackerspace that’s been around for more than a few months). This project adds a digital cue to well-organized parts storage by lighting up the component drawer for stock selected from your computerized inventory (translated).

The idea is that all of your parts are assigned a drawer space on the computer. When you go into the index and select a part, the assigned drawer is illuminated by an LED. The setup here is a breakout board for an I2C LED driver which interfaces with a Raspberry Pi, but the concept should be easy to implement with just about any system.

Need help getting to the point where you’re organized enough to implement this? So do we. Maybe revisiting this storage roundup will help.

Direct, Wall-Mounted Storage with Lasers and Polymorph

parts-storage-brackets

We’re sure everyone could use some more storage and organization in their workshop. [Nixie] is no exception, though he also hates sacrificing tabletop space for boxes. His solution was to attach them to the wall directly by hacking together some brackets. This hack allowed him to hang everything without using internal screws which were a pain to get at if he need to removed the boxes from the wall to take with him.

[Nixie] started by laser-cutting a negative pattern for a mounting bracket that would fit the dovetail rails already on the sides of the boxes. He then pressed a piece of polymorph into this mold, slid the bracket along the side of the box…and realized it wouldn’t work. The piece wiggled around too much because it did not sit firmly in the rail. Back at the drawing board, [Nixie] split the project into two steps. He cast the screw-hole portion of the bracket in its own separate mold, then cast the railing part of the bracket directly in the dovetail section of the box, providing him a much higher degree of accuracy. After joining the two pieces, [Nixie] had a sturdy support bracket that he duplicated and attached around the rest of the bins.