Hackaday Links: May 20, 2018

One of the more interesting pieces of tech from Hollywood that never seems to become a reality is a location tracker. Remember the ‘movement tracker’ in Alien that found the cat in the locker? Yeah, like that. Something that reports the direction and distance to a target, kind of like a PKE Meter from Ghostbusters. I think there was something like this in Predator. On Indiegogo, there’s a device that tracks other devices. It’s called the Lynq, and it’s a small, handheld device that tells you the distance and bearing of other paired devices. Hand them out to your friends, and you’ll be able to find each other at Coachella. While the device and use case is interesting, we’re wondering how exactly this thing works. Our best guess is that each device has a GPS module inside, and communicates with other paired devices over the 900MHz band. It’s a bit pricey at $80 per unit (although you need at least two to be useful), but this is a really interesting project.

The SDRPlay SDR1 and SDR2 are — as you would guess — software defined radio receivers, that retail for $2-300. Problem: a few of these units were stolen from a warehouse, and are winding up on eBay. Solution: SDRPlay has decided to disable the specific receivers ‘via the serial number’. In a move just slightly reminiscent of FTDIgate, a manufacturer has decided to brick products that are stolen or infringe on IP. It’s a solution, but I wouldn’t want to be on the customer service team at SDRPlay.

A few years ago, [Oscar] created the PiDP-8/I, a computer kit that miniaturized the venerable PDP-8/I into a desktop form factor, complete with blinkenlights and clicky switches. It’s a full simulation of a PDP-8 running on a Raspberry Pi, and if you took the PiDP-8/I back to 1975, you could, indeed, connect it to other computers. But the PDP-8/I isn’t the most beautiful minicomputer ever created. That honor goes to the PDP-11/70, a beast of a machine wrapped in injection molded plastic and purple toggle switches. Now, after years of work, [Oscar] has miniaturized this beast of a machine. The PiDP-11/70 is a miniature remake of the PDP-11/70, runs a Raspberry Pi, and is everything you could ever want in a minimainframe. The price will be around $250 — expensive, but have you ever tried to find a PDP-11 front panel on eBay?

The Nvidia TX2 is a credit card-sized computer with a powerful ARM processor and a GPU. The TX2 is a module designed for ‘AI at the edge’, or something along those lines, meaning you can take a trained data set, load it onto an SD card, and the TX2 will do all the fancy image processing and OpenCV without a connection to the Internet. The obvious application for the TX2 is something like an ‘AI camera’, and now this is finally a product. The DNNCam is a 4k, 60FPS camera attached to a TX2 and stuffed into an IP67-rated enclosure. If you’re thinking of building anything like a security camera attached to a GPU, this is the all-in-one solution. It’s pricey, yes, but the TX2 module isn’t exactly cheap.

38 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: May 20, 2018

  1. RE: SDRPlay, here’s their last statement: http://www.sdrplay.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3229 Basically, a local (nothing cloud-based) blacklist, and if you cooperate, you’ll get whitelisted. Cumbersome to customers? Yes. But do keep in mind that this would be more like FTDI saying “please give us the eBay listing info so that we can take the listing down for selling counterfeit goods, and your device will be working again”. In addition, this won’t affect any previous buyers, unlike the FTDI thing. Not giving my opinion, just putting a clarification out there.

    1. I doubt I’d rat out the seller for my own financial benefit. That would make me feel dirty.
      And keep in mind that the seller might himself have been duped by the thieves.
      So the net effect means I’d be annoyed by this serial block thing.

      Incidentally, I saw one listed on aliexpress I think, but it was pretty pricey and in fact might have been more expensive than the official sales sites, so maybe that was legit.

      1. Hey RFP-A, I have some stolen parts for you, real cheap, deal is you dont rat me out, interested? Some mighty be even your own, stolen by my friend straight from your house. I assume it wont be a problem for you, after all reporting me might make you feel dirty, or something …

      2. I have to confess to being pretty astonished at the inaccuracy of this original article and the attitude of this response. The report from the company stated that three separate consignments were stolen. the key word here is “consignments”. To me this clearly implies that they were taken whilst in transit. Now supposing a car manufacturer had a transporter with a dozen cars stolen on the way to a dealer. Some innocent buyer gets duped and buys one of these stolen cars. But the buyer has no keys, so he/she goes to their local dealer and says: “I bought this car from a cheap car supermarket, but it didn’t come with any keys. Can I have the keys please”. The dealer looks up the VIN number and say. “Sorry Sir/Madam, this car is a stolen vehicle. However, if you tell us where you bought it from and thus help us track down the thieves and we’ll give you the keys and let you keep the car”. Now the duped buyer could say, “sure of course I’ll help” or they could say “that’s a lot of hassle and besides, I don’t want to ‘rat out the seller’, so I blame you the car manufacturer for my problems”.
        Think of the software as being to the SDR what the keys are to the car. It’s what unlocks the devices functionality. No car dealer on earth would hand over the keys to cars that they know had been stolen from them and no right minded person for ever blame them for not doing so.
        The claim of bricking is more like confiscating the car and having it crushed. That very clearly has NOT been done. Nor have company taken this action because of ‘counterfeit’ devices. This analogy is totally wrong. They have been absolutely clear. It is for devices that have been STOLEN from them.

  2. >we’re wondering how exactly this thing works.

    it doesnt, its a scam, you can tell by indiegogo + flexible goal.

    >brick products that are stolen or infringe on IP.

    1 not bricked
    2 wtf is the second part? wasnt too clickbaity without you making up IP claims? Tell us more about helping thieves fence stolen goods.

    1. if you bought something without knowing it was stolen, like in this case is highly likely, should you then be the victim? Should it not be the police that looks for stolen stuff and arrest the thieves instead of the consumer having to?
      It makes a difference of course if you know it’s stolen, but you constantly find good deals on ebay and would not assume it’s stolen based on that and it’s impossible to tell. And ebay has measures in place to prevent and track such shenanigans I’m sure.
      And it is bricked unless you report it (do police work) and possibly get yourself in trouble since legally I think the cops can confiscate such stuff as evidence if it’s reported as a crime, which the theft is I expect, so once you ID yourself then the manufacturer can unlock it but then a cop might contact you to relinquish it anyway.

      1. Dunno, here if you buy something stolen and get caught, you are shit out of luck.
        Might not get fined due to getting the device in good faith.
        But if caught you don’t get to keep the stolen goods you got a bargain on.

        And it appears to be a simple client side software blacklist of serials (easy to modify) that just restricts the frequency coverage. So reduced features, not a 100% brick.

      2. I would totally report the seller, if they were a victim themselves then it gives them a chance to decide if they want justice for being mislead. Given that all of this reporting is done to the company it’s self and not the police, i would think that even if the police do come and confiscate the product that the company might find some way to make it right to the end customer. The thing is that you are making assumptions about jurisdiction, for example if the product was stolen in the UK, and i bought one online and then had it shipped to the US then it is not like the UK police or even the US authorities are going to come and confiscate it. The jurisdiction issues are probably why the company is asking for people to report it directly to them, the UK authorities have no ability to confiscate anything on US soil and the US authorities have no jurisdiction to be investigating a UK theft (note, they may cooperate on organized crime but this doesn’t seem like its a large volume theft). So i dont really see the problem with sending an email with the sellers info to SDRplay, as it seems like the company wants to make sure that they dont punish the end consumer (victim) but instead find the actual criminal and that does often require the help of the victim when the police cannot(legally) or will not(time and money) investigate outside of their jurisdiction.

        just my 2 cents, but some of your assumptions dont fly in the age of the internet and world wide shipping.

        if you bought something without knowing it was stolen, like in this case is highly likely, should you then be the victim? Should it not be the police that looks for stolen stuff and arrest the thieves instead of the consumer having to?
        It makes a difference of course if you know it’s stolen, but you constantly find good deals on ebay and would not assume it’s stolen based on that and it’s impossible to tell. And ebay has measures in place to prevent and track such shenanigans I’m sure.
        And it is bricked unless you report it (do police work) and possibly get yourself in trouble since legally I think the cops can confiscate such stuff as evidence if it’s reported as a crime, which the theft is I expect, so once you ID yourself then the manufacturer can unlock it but then a cop might contact you to relinquish it anyway.

        1. I think you are wrong on several counts, obviously there is a system in place for international thieves and there has been for a long long time.
          As for reporting it, I’m sure most people would and I can’t really fault them, I’m just saying that there are cases where a person might not based on his personal sense of right and wrong and/or possibly with the expectation of trouble and loss from doing so.
          Just because I would do thing A does not imply thing A is the absolute right, or even more extreme ‘moral’, thing to do.

        2. I just had a thought, what if there was no theft at all? What if it’s a scare tactic to force people to only buy from their dealers?

          People here suggest it wasn’t even reported to the cops, and that would be very very odd and unusual obviously.

          1. Oh good grief!!
            Let’s have a competition to see who can come up with the most absurd conspiracy theories:

            1. SDRplay made the whole thing up
            2. 911 was all a CIA plot
            3. The Americans never landed on the moon, it was all filmed in a studio
            4. The holocaust never happened.
            5. The earth is flat and every government in the world is in on the conspiracy

            or maybe you are simply making up statements with the intent of tarnishing the reputation of a company you don’t like for whatever reason? Can you point to a single shred of evidence to support this supposition?

          2. The company reported that they had some of the new devices stolen. Here is a quote:

            “Further to our previous post on this matter, what people will not yet be aware of is that we also had a consignment of the new product that is due to be announced tomorrow stolen. We have had three separate consignments stolen and devices from all three have turned up on the same ebay account and so this suggests that a single person is responsible for all three thefts.” This is from the following thread on their support forum:
            http://www.sdrplay.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3227

            Looking through ebay, I found this:

            https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/273203820694

            This listing was made 8 days BEFORE the new product was launched.

            Of course it is possible that the company ‘conspired’ with greenfields1001 to pretend that the crime had occurred when in fact it hadn’t, but if I were greenfields1001, I would hardly be happy to be publicly accused to peddling stolen merchandise.

          3. I have known people in the past who grew up in a rather competitive mindset who would in fact be able to pull such a trick.

            As for 911 I’d give it 60% chance it was arranged (real muslims fanatics played and assisted to do their thing) based on a lot of evidence that just makes no sense if it was as commonly portrait. (and don’t assume to know what evidence I view as legit and which I too think isn’t evidence but nonsense).

            And don’t forget the many many things the CIA admitted to eventually. Things that feel like you are in a very poorly written B movie, or on some very dodgy LSD trip maybe.

            Moon landing? Hmm, I used to not doubt it but then after lots of very odd efforts by NASA to convince people and some really nagging oddities I’ve reached a point where I give it a good 25% of having been faked in terms of humans on the moon.

            As for flat earth, I think that’s just an amusing intellectual joke challenge that some dumb people don’t get is a joke. And there aren’t actually more than 0.1% of the flat earth people who actually believe it for real.

            And the holocaust is only denied by anti-semites that don’t like jewish people getting sympathy I would say.

          4. Oh and as for large scale cooperation to push a lie, I think we all know now that’s not uncommon or impossible.
            Plus there’s santa and religion of course, which is very much in your face and hard to not be aware of.

      1. But SDRplay have made it VERY clear that they are NOT doing this. They are just asking people that are made aware (via the blacklisting) that they have stolen goods. They should contact the company and tell them where they got them from and SDRplay have said that they will whitelist the device and let them keep it, even though they have no legal right to it. This is a more than reasonable way to try to trace the thieves. In the UK if you become aware that you are in possession of stolen goods and do nothing, you yourself are committing a criminal offence.

        1. “In the UK if you become aware that you are in possession of stolen goods and do nothing, you yourself are committing a criminal offence.”
          Yeah OK, I’m not supporting theft and avoid buying stolen stuff myself, out of principle, law or no law. But having said that I also break many laws daily, just like any person, so throwing something like that at me won’t impress.

    1. The price might be like that because it’s a group buy, where the buyers decided to split all the extra costs equally (taxes, shipping, handling). Rounding the final price will be considered a commercial reselling, which might not be desired for a group buy.

  3. We had a Data General (Eclipse?) where I used to work, no PDP’s…
    Still, lots of lights and switches…
    About the only thing we had to “do” with it was, set the toggle switches to load the bootloader on 9-track tape.

  4. “One of the more interesting pieces of tech from Hollywood that never seems to become a reality is a location tracker.”

    Like using WiFi to detect things through the walls.

    “The SDRPlay SDR1 and SDR2 are — as you would guess — software defined radio receivers, that retail for $2-300. Problem: a few of these units were stolen from a warehouse, and are winding up on eBay. Solution: SDRPlay has decided to disable the specific receivers ‘via the serial number’.”

    Kind of like when iPhones are disabled when stolen.

    1. I’m not sure that disabling iphones is foolproof, if it was the theft would stop, but it doesn’t AFAIK. And skillful thieves can change the IMSI of devices I hear.

      Of course it’s also possible they sell the parts for off-the-books repairs. I don’t know.

  5. This LYNQ thing sounds cool! I can think of several uses (put one on you car so you can find it in a huge parking lot after an event, on your kid at Disney World, on a Drone, Near Space Balloon…)

    Can anyone think of a way to reverse-engineer this thing and put a DIY version in the public domain, or should I just wait for Chinese companies to flood the market with cheap clones?

    1. If uniquely named devices could Instant Message (or equivalent) their GPS Coordinates to each other; each could figure out the distance and direction to any other one (including altitude.) All that’s really needed is a private channel for the Apps to talk to each other (i.e. method to broadcast to nearby devices.)

      With web access, a common server could relay the information for world-wide distances, not just the 3 mile range of this thing.

      1. Communications Protocol:
        This basic Protocol works for either Device to nearby Device(s) (i.e. 3 mile range,) or Device to Web Server (world-wide.)

        You would register with other Device(s) or Web Server with a Unique Device Name (i.e. “Bob’s Device”), and keep a list of other device names you want to track. Each device sends location information every few seconds/minute; and requests location of device names they’re tracking.

        Send Location:
        Device –> SEND,,,,;
        Reply <– SEND_ACK,;

        Request Location:
        Device –> REQUEST,[,…];
        Reply <– REQUEST_ACK,,,,[,,,,];

        Example Data:
        Bob puts one device on his Cat so he knows where it is, and one on his Drone so he doesn’t lose it. Every few seconds the following takes place…

        Bob’s Device –> SEND,Bob’s Device,38.111111,-97.111111, 101.1;
        SEND,Whiskers,38.222222,-97.222222,102.2;
        SEND,Bob’s Drone,38.333333,-97.333333,133.3;
        ;
        Bob’s Device –> REQUEST,Whiskers,Bob’s Drone;
        <– REQUEST_ACK,Whiskers,38.222222,-97.222222,102.2,Bob's Drone,38.333333,-97.333333,133.3;

        Bob's Device then calculates the distance/direction between its location and the other locations.
        38.222222 – 38.111111 = Cat's Lat Delta 0.111111
        -97.222222 – -97.111111 = Cat's Long Delta -0.111111
        102.2 – 101.1 = Cat's Altitude Delta 1.1

        38.333333 – 38.111111 = Drone's Lat Delta 0.222222
        -97.333333 – -97.111111 = Drone's Long Delta -0.222222
        133.3 – 101.1 = Drone's Altitude Delta 32.2

        This could easily be set up for Smartphones with a Web Server to support the App; sent over http for error correction, or https for privacy.
        The Database could also include a Timestamp and an additional Flag in the Reply Protocol to indicate stale data; or use last known location, speed, and direction to estimate current location(s) (Dead Reckoning.)

        And if you really, really, REALLY have to… monetize it by sending and Advertising Link in the Reply Protocol every few minutes that gets displayed in a small, non-intrusive window (i.e. Reply <– ADVERTISMENT,http://www.FreeLYNQ.com;) (Free version, removed for paid accounts.)

  6. (Oops, it messed up my Protocol Format because it included Greater/Less Than symbols; let me try it this way…)

    Send Location:
    Device –> SEND,<UniqueDeviceName>,<Lat>,<Long>,<Alt>;
    Reply <– SEND_ACK,<UniqueDeviceName>;

    Request Location:
    Device –> REQUEST,<UniqueDeviceName>[,<UniqueDeviceName>…];
    Reply <– REQUEST_ACK,<UniqueDeviceName>,<Lat>,<Long>,<Alt>[,<UniqueDeviceName>,<Lat>,<Long>,<Alt>…];

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