Someone had some fun with the Dallas early warning tornado siren system on Friday, April 8th. All 156 tornado sirens were hacked to go off just before midnight until they were manually turned off individually, reports The Washington Post. Thousands of residents flooded 911 call centers asking if they were under attack, if there was a tornado or if the zombie apocalypse had begun. The sirens were blaring for at least an hour and was originally put down as a malfunction, however it was later revealed that it was a hack and the “hacker” must have had physical access to the siren control center.
This isn’t the first time Dallas has had problems with “hackers” breaking into their infrastructure, Only last year some unknown person/persons hacked electronic road signs (a prank we’ve seen before) in and around Dallas claiming “Work is Canceled — Go Back Home” and “Donald Trump Is A Shape-shifting Lizard!!”. Mayor Mike Rawlings claims the perpetrators will be found and prosecuted although we don’t share his confidence since last year’s attackers are still at large.
The video below is one of many on YouTube filmed by bemused Dallas residents.
UPDATE: This hack seems to have been accomplished via DTMF signals broadcast on radio frequency in the clear. Recognizing the vulnerability after the fact, the system is now using some form of encryption for the control messages. Thanks [Dan J.] for posting this in the comments below.
Everyone pays close attention to the weather, but for those who live where tornadoes are prevalent, watching the sky can be a matter of life and death. When the difference between making it to a shelter or getting caught in the open can be a matter of seconds, it might make sense to build an internet enabled Raspberry Pi weather alert system.
We know what you’re thinking – why not just buy an off-the-shelf weather alert radio with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) reporting, or just rely on a smartphone app? As [Jim Scarborough] explains, living in the heart of Tornado Alley and having had a brush with tragedy as a kid teaches you not to be complacent with severe weather. He found a problem with the SAME system: lack of locational granularity below the county level, leading to a tendency to over-warn during tornado season. [Jim]’s build seeks to improve SAME by integrating National Weather Service polygon warnings, which define an area likely to see a severe weather event as a collection of geographic vertices rather than a political unit. He’s using a Raspberry Pi NOAA weather radio receiver with SAME decoding, and while details are sparse and the project is ongoing, the idea seems to be to use the Pi to scrape the NWS site for polygon data once a county-level warning is issued.
It’s an interesting idea, and one we’ll be keeping an eye on as [Jim] continues his build. In the meantime, you can brush up on weather radio and SAME encoding with this Arduino SAME decoder.
Sometimes having a deep inventory of parts in your shop is a pain – the clutter, the dust, the things you can’t rationally justify keeping but still can’t bear to part with. But sometimes the parts bin delivers and lets you cobble together some emergency lighting when a tornado knocks out your power.
It has been hard to avoid discussions of the weird weather in the US this winter. The eastern half of the country has had record warm temperatures, the west has been lashed by storms, and now December tornadoes have ripped through Texas and other parts of the south, with terrible loss of life and wide-ranging property damage. [TheTimmy] was close enough to one massive EF4 tornado to lose power on Saturday night, and after the charm of a candlelight Christmas evening wore off, he headed to the shop. He had a bunch of sealed lead acid batteries from old UPSs and a tangle of 12V LED modules, and with the help of some elastic bands and jumper clips he wired up a bunch of lights for around the house. Safer than candles by a long shot, and more omnidirectional than flashlights to boot.
The power came back before the batteries ran out of juice, so we don’t get to see any hacks for recharging batteries in a grid-down scenario. Still, it’s good to see how a deep parts bin and good mindset can make a positive impact on an uncomfortable situation. We’ve seen similar hacks before, like this hacked cordless tool battery pack or powering a TV with 18650 batteries. Be sure to share your story of epic power-outage hacks in the comments below.
If you’re going to pass the hat for donations to your hackerspace, you might as well add to the value proposition and give potential donors a little something for their generosity. And what better way to cash in than to channel the inner Brony in your donors with a My Little Pony themed dollar-bill vortex box?
Sick of the boring cheezy-poof jug her hackerspace was using as a donation jar, not-a-Brony [Michelle] was inspired by the CRASH Space mascot Sparkles, pictured left, to build a new box that will maximize donations by providing donors with a multimedia extravaganza. The Plexiglas box, resplendent with laser-cut acrylic hearts and spangled with My Little Pony stickers, is fitted with a sensor so that donations trigger an MP3 of the MLP theme song. A scrolling LED marquee flashes a gracious message of thanks, and to complete the experience, a pair of fans creates a tornado of the fat stacks of cash in the bin.
Putting a little [Twilight Sparkle] into your donation box makes good financial sense, as does providing incentive to deposit bills rather than coins. This project reminds us of our recent post about a custom claw machine which could be leveraged as a value-added donation box – just add a coin slot. And rainbows.
The last few years have seen a lot of dangerous storms rip through middle section of the United States. We’re surprised to hear that many residents in that part of the country don’t have basements to take refuge in when in imminent danger. But a resourceful hacker will always be able to find a way to improve their own situation. This example is particularly useful. It’s a steel storm shelter which opens into the garage.
It all starts with a cage made of square tube. With the skeleton fully assembled it is wrapped in steel plate, adding weld joints running nearly the entire length of each of the cage’s ribs. The image at the left shows the steel door frame clamped in position. Check out the finished version on the right after the shelter has been slid into place and bolted to the concrete slab.
The Reddit discussion includes a debate on whether the door should swing in or out. Swinging out means you could be trapped if the opening is blocked by debris. But there may be scientific research that proves this is a better orientation. Either way, we hope the three dead bolts, door latch, and heavy-duty hinges will stand up to the pressure if this is ever used.
Recreate the look of a tornado by building this water vortex art piece. The components that go into it are all very simple and can be found in your recycling bin with the exception of a motor and a way to drive it. The hard part is going to be getting to the point where you don’t have any leaks.
[Ixisuprflyixi] went with an empty salsa bottle to house the vortex. It’s a pleasant shape for the project since it’s both tall and narrow and it’s got a bit of a sexy curve to it. The base of the machine is a plastic bottle which looks like it might have been for Metamucil, but we’re not sure. The important part is that it needs to be made from HDPE, as a portion of the container will be used to make the impeller. That’s the part that attaches to the motor shaft inside of the container. Give it a spin and you’ve got yourself a tornado in a bottle. See it in action after the jump.
[Peter] provided a great write up on how he built the app. The server side is Python, using the Tornado web server and Tornadio2 + Socket.IO for handling live updates in the client. To deal with the challenge of streaming audio, he wrote a LAME interface for Python that handles encoding the raw, beat-matched audio into MP3 blocks. These blocks are queued up and sent out to the client by the web server.
Another challenge was choosing songs. Forever.fm takes the “hottest” songs from SoundCloud and creates a graph. Then it finds the shortest path to traverse the entire graph: a Travelling Salesman Problem. The solution used by Forever.fm finds an iterative approximation, then uses that to make a list of tracks. Of course, the resulting music is going to be whatever’s hot on SoundCloud. This may, or may not, match your personal tastes.
There’s a lot of neat stuff here, and [Peter] has open-sourced the code on his github if you’re interested in checking out the details.