Chaos Communication Camp 2015: Badges, Talks, and Culture

The Rad1o Badge

The rad1o badge is this great standalone HackRF clone, and great hardware hacking platform. On Day Two and most of Day Three, people were divided largely into two camps: those simply having fun with GNURadio and the software-defined radio (SDR) side of things, and those modifying and adding to the rad1o firmware to get the various peripherals up and working or simply make sweet animations.

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On the evening on Day Three, this all changed. [iggy] managed to get the HackRF PortaPack library ported over to the rad1o badge. We’re excited about this code because it lets the radio and microcontroller sides of the badge work together, and that means things like a standalone SDR radio sniffer with waterfall plot (pictured here picking up WiFi and Bluetooth signals) is feasible. Using the badge as a standalone transmit and receive platform can’t be far away. Things are starting to get really cool with the rad1o, and there’s still two days of camp left.

Meanwhile, on the SDR front, there was a packed house at the GNURadio workshop last night, and there’s going to be a repeat on Sunday since it was so popular. The Munich CCC has a great SDR scavenger hunt going on currently, and [Sec] and [Schneider] from Munich gave their talk on eavesdropping on the Iridium satellite pager system with a twist at the end: a live demo of decoding the pager’s beacon signals inside the tent, run on custom software and the rad1o badge.

Talks

We attended Internet Archive’s talk on how they’re getting along. If you don’t know the IA, they run the Wayback Machine, have preserved a bunch of old-school video games, and are currently running a large-scale book-scanning project. High points of the talk include the story of their legal self-defense against an intrusive National Security Letter, and the background of their workaround that lets them loan out books even when they’re still under copyright.

At the same time, [Will Scott] gave a talk on open proxies. Thanks to the saved talks, we watched both. A lot of computers out there (accidentally or otherwise) allow people to proxy their data

[Lieven Standaert]’s talk on prototyping is a great summary of a bunch of tricks and tips that he’s learned by shepherding students through some fairly ambitious design projects. He’s got a complete lab with CNC mill, laser cutter, and 3D printer and the focus of the talk is on how to use these various tools together most efficiently, playing to each of their various strong suits.

shot0001[Tarek Loubani] gave an inspirational talk “3D Printing High-Quality Low-Cost Free Medical Hardware“. Basically, he looked into stethoscope designs, and re-engineered a 3D printable version. All of the tech in stethoscopes is in the housing design and its shape, and they’re relatively expensive, so it’s a fantastic low-hanging fruit. Watch the talk if you’re thinking about doing some good with your 3D printer. (Not that printing out owls with top hats isn’t important for the world…)

If you’re looking to upgrade your DIY electronics manufacturing capabilities, [hunz]’s talk on “Pushing the Limits of DIY Electronics” is worth a look. As the cool parts get smaller, the DIYer faces a number of new challenges, from thin traces to reflow soldering of BGA parts. A great tip: some board houses offer free SMD solder stencils, and it can be easily worth it to order up a single-sided PCB from them just to get the stencil. He also got into the design side of DIY manufacture, including a discussion of transmission lines that we found helpful.

Here are two more talks that we probably don’t need to tell you are cool: space hacking and combat robots. Need we say more? Both talks are introductory and general, and if what you need is a little encouragement to get involved, you’ll find it here.

Life in Camp: Kids and the Lake

OK, we’re not going to lie: it got hot over the last two days. Like, really hot. One of the nicest features of camp life, then, is the lake (or the lakes, because there’s another one just outside the camp that’s larger and a bit less popular). If you’ve already caught up on your sleep, and your hacking projects are in a good place, or if it’s just too hot to work, nothing beats a dip in the cool water. Heck, even if you’ve got hacking to do, take a swim break for an hour. After all, that’s what makes Camp special.

IMG_20150815_145833Finally, we were surprised how kid-friendly Camp has become this time around. The accommodations for the still-too-young-to-hack are pretty amazing. From a petting zoo to a gigantic Lego-filled tent, to the nearly full schedule of finger painting and kiddie arts-and-crafts, you’d have almost as much to do at Camp if you were five as if you were twenty-five. Time passes, and even hackers don’t stay young forever, and it’s fantastic to see the community taking care of the next generation. Plus, the kids seem to love it.

Going On

Again, with so many things going on at Camp, it’s hard to keep up with everything. Look through the archived talks and see what strikes your fancy. If you find something you like, post up in the comments.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Nuclear Powered Random Number Generator

Random number generators come in all shapes and sizes. Some are software based while others, known as true random number generators, are hardware based. These can be created from thermal noise, the photoelectric effect and other methods. But none of these were good enough for [M.daSilva]. He would base his off of the radioactive decay of Uranium 238, and construct a working nuclear powered random number generator.

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Because radioactive decay is unpredictable by nature, it makes for an excellent source for truly random data. The process is fairly simple. A piece of old fiestaware plate is used for the radioactive source. Put it in a lead enclosure along with a Geiger tube. Then wire in some pulse shaping circuitry and a microcontroller to count the alpha particles. And that’s about it. [M.daSilva] still has to do some statistical analysis to ensure the numbers are truly random, along with making a nice case for his project. But all in all, it seems to be working quite well.

Be sure to check out the video for quick rundown of [M.daSilva’s] project. If randomness is your thing, make sure you check out entropy harvested from uninitialized RAM, and the story behind the NIST randomness beacon.

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Hackaday Links: August 16, 2015

[Matt] created an animated gif of New Horizon’s Pluto flyby. The source images were taken from the the raw LORRI images, modified so the background star field could be seen, and assembled with OpenCV. Because Pluto and Charon orbit each other around a point above Pluto’s surface, simply putting Pluto in the center of each frame wouldn’t work. It’s the best visual explanation of this weird arrangement yet, all brought to you by the magic of OpenCV and Python.

On the subject of Kickstarter creators that don’t understand the conservation of energy, I present this.

We don’t know exactly what’s going on with this one, but here’s a swimming pool covered with RGB LEDs. It’s controlled by two Rainbowduinos, and looks like the coolest disco floor you’ve ever seen.

[Frank]’s 2011 Hundai Santa Fe wasn’t cool enough, so he added an F16 flight stick to his shift knob. The choice of joystick is paramount here: Saitek joysticks look too techy, Logitech ones are too expensive, and the Warthog H.O.T.A.S costs $400. Joysticks are extremely niche peripherals these days, it seems. He ended up strapping an old F16 joystick from the 90s on his shift knob, and it looks close enough to the real thing.

Two bodgers are stuffing the engine from a Toyota Celica into a 1980 Mini, and they’re trying to make it look stock. We’ve seen their project before, and now there’s a new episode. In this episode: the pedal box, the steering wheel, and figuring out how to make the car drive straight.

Hand Controlled Robot uses Accelerometer

What do orchestra conductors, wizards, and Leap controller users have in common? They all control things by just waving their hands. [Saddam] must have wanted the same effect, so he created a robot that he controls over wireless using hand gestures.

An accelerometer reads hand motions and sends them via an RF module to an Arduino. This is a bit of a trick, because the device produces an analog value and [Saddam] uses some comparators to digitize the signal for the RF transmitter. There is no Arduino or other CPU on the transmit side (other than whatever is in the RF module).

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Design Diary: Varactor-Tuned Regen Receiver

[QRP Gaijin] likes to build regenerative receivers. If you’ve ever built a serious one, you know there are (at least) two problems: One is you need a variable capacitor (hard to find these days). The other annoyance is that if you cover a wide frequency range, you probably need more than one coil.

[QRP Gaijin’s] latest radio design doesn’t have either of these problems. He uses a coil with a single pole double throw switch to bandswitch a single coil. There is no traditional main tuning capacitor. Instead a 1SV149 varactor provides the radio’s main tuning capacity (the diode tunes between 35 to 500 pF).

The post provides a nice design and a neat looking build in a Tupperware container (well… the outside is neat, at least; the inside is… best left inside the Tupperware). Better still, [QRP Gaijin’s] post details how he got to the final design, starting with the idea, and detailing the original design and the changes he made along the way. He also used data from an earlier build to limit how much the regeneration control has to be changed over wide frequencies and details how that changed the design. The prototype actually lacks the planned bandswitch, but will cover 3 to 30 MHz with the right coil.

There are certainly simpler regenerative receivers out there. However, the sophistication of this design along with the details of the designer’s thought processes makes this an interesting intermediate weekend project.

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Cozy Heat Control with an Arduino

[George Dewar] and his wife live in a typical 1940’s house in New Zealand , which in case you didn’t know, have a little insulation in the ceiling… and nowhere else. Like most, they put up with the cold — but after having a baby, [George] decided it was time to start controlling the heat a bit better.

They have an electric oil radiator which works well, but isn’t very smart. It only has 6 settings — not very useful when you’re trying to stay at a certain temperature. First off, they looked into a plug-in thermostat controller, and found a cheap one called the HeaterMate. Unfortunately it left a lot to be desired. For example, it didn’t seem to have PID control at all — and for an oil radiator, when you turn it off… it’s still going to heat the room for a while. He also found that because of the high current load of a heater … the device would read a few degrees over room temperature when operating. Unperturbed, [George] took this opportunity to design and build his own PID thermostat controller instead.  Continue reading “Cozy Heat Control with an Arduino”

New Version of Raspberry Pi Thin Client

It is funny how many times you use your full-blown PC as a terminal to another computer (which is quite often not as capable as the terminal computer). If all you need is a remote display and keyboard, a Raspberry PI would be enough. One of the newer Pi 2 boards would be even better.

You could roll your own set of remote access software, but you don’t have to. [Gibbio] has already created a thin client image called RPiTC and recently released version 1.4. The build supports diverse remote protocols including Microsoft Remote Desktop, Citrix, VMWare, and even X3270.

It supports WiFi and VPN. We were a little disappointed that it didn’t seem to have any serial communication programs (in case we wanted to build one into an old TeleType case). Of course, it is just a Linux system so you can install anything you want or need.

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