Capture the Flag Challenge is the Perfect Gift

Nothing says friendship like a reverse engineering challenge on unknown terrain as a birthday present. When [Rikaard] turned 25 earlier this year, his friend [Veydh] put together a Capture the Flag challenge on an ESP8266 for him. As a software guy with no electronics background, [Rikaard] had no idea what he was presented with, but was eager to find out and to document his journey.

Left without guidance or instructions, [Rikaard] went on to learn more about the ESP8266, with the goal to dump its flash content, hoping to find some clues in it. Discovering the board is running NodeMCU and contains some compiled Lua files, he stepped foot in yet another unknown territory that led him down the Lua bytecode rabbit hole. After a detour describing his adjustments for the ESP’s eLua implementation to the decompiler he uses, his quest to capture the flag began for real.

While this wasn’t [Rikaard]’s first reverse engineering challenge, it was his first in an completely unknown environment outside his comfort zone — the endurance he demonstrated is admirable. There is of course still a long way down the road before one opens up chips or counts transistors in a slightly more complex system.

7 thoughts on “Capture the Flag Challenge is the Perfect Gift

  1. Full disclosure, I’m super jealous of these single people with enough free time to do these massively time consuming projects.

    Typing this comment is the extent of my daily free time.

    Moral: Don’t get married and have kids…. kids.

    1. I can moralize about my life choices too and tell other’s to review their priorities too, and it’s just as (ir)relevant.
      You can have a kid, or a Ferrari. Both are engaging and will keep you busy throughout your youth (this line from a friend with a kid in Texas who gets in trouble a lot).

      I didn’t have kids. I had money, time, fun, and a life so full of experiences that if you start right now and run as hard as you can, while living to 100 – you’re not going to catch me. I’m a godfather and tutor of numerous kids – it’s great, and it’s also great I can tell them to go home and they’re not already there.

      Friends of mine with kids have almost uniformly had all their rough edges – their special uniqueness, simply worn off of them. It’s a sorry thing to see that level of loss, yet a joyful thing to see what they gained via seeing the world through the kids eyes. It’s not a cut and dried call, no matter your personal beliefs. No one ever knows “how it would have been”.

      To each their own, there’s advantages either way. Just like a major investment – it might pay off, or not. Look at what happened to people who thought they’d be able to buy a home and make the payments forever not so long ago. Now they have it and are stuck and can’t relocate to a job, or got foreclosed. Yet everyone gave advice to get a home, a home base you can deal from – and it was good advice at the time.
      FWIW, I got lucky and paid cash as I retired, so,,, that one doesn’t apply to me.
      But it’s silly to expect everyone to buy into either your or my religion on “how to have the best life.”
      “Drive your enemies before you and hear the lamentations of their women” work for some, but I’m not the warrior type.
      Just one example.

    2. For all those with young ones, I can tell you that it does get better when they get a bit older. I personally find it even more rewarding to include them in some way with some of my projects.

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