Gutted USB Power Packs run Your TV

With a computer in every pocket, being tethered to large mains-powered appliances is a bit passe. No longer must you be trapped before the boob tube when you can easily watch YouTube on your phone. But you might be jonesing for the big screen experience in the middle of a power outage, in which case learning to build a simple battery bank built from cheap cell-phone power packs might be a good life skill to practice.

Looking more for proof of concept than long-term off-grid usability from his battery bank, [Stephen] cobbled together a quick battery bank from 18650 lithium ion batteries and a small 300W inverter. All the hardware was had on the cheap from an outfit called Cd-r King, a Phillipines-based discount gadgetorium we’d like to see in the states. He got a handful of USB power packs and harvested the single 18650 battery from each, whipped up a quick battery holder from 1/2″ PVC pipe and some bolts to connect the inverter. With four batteries in series he was able to run a flat-screen TV with ease, as well as a large floor fan – say, is that a Mooltipass on [Stephen]’s shelf in the background? And what’s nice about the gutted USB power packs is that they can still be used to recharge the batteries.

As [Stephen] admits, this is a simple project and there’s plenty of room to experiment. More batteries in parallel for longer run times is an obvious first step. He might get some ideas from this laptop battery bank project, or even step up to Tesla Li-ion battery hacking – although we doubt Cd-r King will be of much help with the latter.

Continue reading “Gutted USB Power Packs run Your TV”

Solder More USB Ports to the Raspberry Pi Zero

Slowly, Raspberry Pi Zeros are falling into the hands of everyone who wants one. Quickly, though, it was realized that one USB port wasn’t enough, and having a single USB OTG port was only just the most economical solution. The Pi Zero does have a lot of test points exposed on the back, and [Peter van der Walt] is clever enough to come up with a 4-port hub you can solder directly to the Pi Zero.

[Peter] has a bit of experience with USB ports on the Pi, and the test points available on the bottom of this cheap and wonderful board provide everything you need to break out the single USB OTG port to a USB hub. We’ve seen this done before with a few tenuous solder connections between the Zero and an off-the-shelf USB hub. [Peter]’s build does it by soldering a USB hub directly to the Pi through these test points. It’s the first purpose built bit of hardware designed for the express purpose of giving the Pi four USB ports while only making it a sliver thicker.

The chip [Peter] is using for the build is the TI TUSB2046B, a device that turns a single USB port into a 4-port hub. This is a part that only costs about $2 in quantity, and the USB connectors themselves are only about $0.60 if you want to build a thousand of these solderable USB hubs. Now you see why the Pi Foundation didn’t include a whole host of ports on the Pi Zero, but it does mean you should be able to pick this board up for under $10 when it’s inevitably cloned in China.

[Peter] doesn’t have this board working yet. In fact, he’s only just sent the Gerbers off to the PCB fab. There will be an update once [Peter] gets the boards back and solders up the tiny but tolerable 0603 parts.

Raspberry Pi $2 WiFi Through Epic SDIO Hack

These are the times that we live in: the Raspberry Pi Zero comes out — a full freaking Linux computer on a chip for $5 — and people complain that it doesn’t have this or that. Top place on the list of desiderata is probably a tie between audio out and WiFi connectivity. USB is a solution for both of these, but with one USB port it’s going to be a scarce commodity, so any help is welcome. hacker [ajlitt] is looking for a way out of the WiFi bind. His solution? The Raspberry Pi series of chips has a special function on a bunch of the GPIO pins that make it easier to talk to SDIO devices. SDIO is an extension of the SPI-like protocol that’s used with SD memory cards. The idea with SDIO was that you could plug a GPS or something into your PDA’s SD card slot. We don’t have PDAs anymore, but the SDIO spec remains.

[ajlitt] dug up an SDIO driver for the ESP8089 chip, and found that you can liberate the ESP8266’s SPI bus by removing a flash memory chip that’s taking up the SPI lines. Connect the SPI lines on the ESP8266 to the SDIO lines on the Raspberry Pi, and the rest is taken care of by the drivers. “The rest”, by the way, includes bringing the ESP’s processor up, dumping new firmware into it over the SPI/SDIO lines to convince it to act as an SDIO WiFi adapter, and all the rest of the hardware communication stuff that drivers do.

The result is WiFi connectivity without USB, requiring only some reasonably fine-pitch soldering, and unlike this hack you don’t have to worry about USB bus contention. So now you can add a $2 WiFi board to you $5 computer and you’ve still got the USB free. It’s not as fast as a dedicated WiFi dongle, but it gets the job done. Take that, Hackaday’s own [Rud Merriam]!

Thanks [J0z0r] for the tip!

4 Port USB, Raspberry Pi Zero Piggy-Back Hack

[Frederick] decided his new Zero needed a USB hub. He noticed a small, on hand, USB hub was the same size as the Zero. As any good hacker would, he stripped it from its case to piggy-back it onto the Zero. What’s with the piggy-backing since we just saw that with another Zero hack that added a WiFi dongle? Is it something in the water? Nah, probably just a natural fit with the mini-sized Zero.

It certainly helps that the USB and power pads on the back of the Zero are available and of a good size to accept direct, soldered wire connections. The USB connections on the hub were a little more tricky. The wires were soldered to the surface mount pins of the mini-B connector. But [Frederick] managed to get that done, also.

A nice advantage of this hack is that a couple of soldered jumper wires let the Zero draw power from the hub’s wall-wart, eliminating one cable from those needed to work with the Pi. Using hot glue for strain relief on the wiring is a nice touch. To keep the boards from shorting he put a piece of foam between them and help them together with elastic bands. Simple and easy.

First Raspberry Pi Zero Hack – Piggy-Back WiFi.

And we have the first Raspberry Pi Zero hack! In less than 72 hours from the official release announcement [Shintaro] attached an Edimax WiFi USB Adapter directly to the USB solder pads on the Pi Zero. He couldn’t bear to disturb the small dimensions of the Pi Zero by using the USB On-the-Go (OTG). The OTG is needed to convert the micro-USB connector on the board to a full USB-A connector.

The case was removed from the Edimax and the device and Zero wrapped in Kapton to insulate the exposed solder points. Power was taken from the PP1 and PP6 points on the back of the board. These are the unregulated inputs from the USB power so should be used with caution. Some cheap USB power supplies can put out more that 5 volts when first connected and that might let the smoke out of a device.


The data wires were connected to PP22 and PP23, also on the back, and behind the USB data connector. Since USB is a differential signal these wires were carefully kept of equal length to avoid distorting the signal.

An SD card was created and edited on a Raspberry Pi B 2 to set the WiFi credentials. Inserted into the Zero it booted fine and started up the WiFi network connection.

Congratulations, [Shintaro] for the first Hackaday Raspberry Pi Zero hack. Is that a Hack-a-Zero-Day hack?

The USB Killer – Now A Crowdfunding Campaign

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and every other crowdfunding site out there frequently have projects that should never be products. The latest promises to protect you from security breaches and identity theft by blowing up your computer. It’s the USB Killer, and for only $99 USD, you too can destroy the USB port in your computer and everything else attached to it.

The USB Killer is a device that plugs into the USB port on any computer, charges up several caps, and dumps all that voltage back into the computer. The process repeats until something breaks. We’ve seen it used on a poor Thinkpad X60, and from the video evidence it does exactly what it’s designed to do: kill a computer.

The Indiegogo campaign for the USB killer comes with a web page for the campaign that goes over the function of the device in much more detail. Inside the USB killer is a DC/DC converter that charges a few capacitors to -110V. When the caps are charged, that voltage is dumped back into the USB port where something will happen. Somewhat surprisingly, the folks behind the USB Killer have a video of a computer not dying when the USB Killer is plugged in. Only killing the USB port in a computer is not a guaranteed functionality, as the Indiegogo campaign has the following disclaimer: “Please be aware: USB Killer may cause damage to the motherboard, depending on your computer. By making a pre-order you acknowledge that you are aware of this fact.”

The USB Killer, Version 2.0

There are a lot of stupid things you can do with the ports on your computer. The best example is the Etherkiller, an RJ45 plug wired directly to a mains cable. Do not plug that into a router. USB is a little trickier, but with a sufficient number of caps, anyone can build a USB killer that will fry any computer (.ru, Google Translatrix)

The USB Killer v2.0 is [Dark Purple]’s second version of this device. The first version was just a small board with a DC/DC converter, a few caps, and a FET. When plugged in to a computer, the converter would charge the caps up to -110V, dump that voltage into the USB signal wires, and repeat the entire process until the computer died. This second version is slightly more refined, and it now dumps -220V directly onto the USB signal wires. Don’t try this at home.

So, does the device work? Most definitely. A poor Thinkpad X60 was destroyed with the USB killer for purposes of demonstration in the video below. This laptop was originally purchased just for the test, but the monster who created the USB killer grew attached to this neat little laptop. There’s a new motherboard on the way, and this laptop will live again.

Continue reading “The USB Killer, Version 2.0”