Bidirectional IP with New Packet Radio

There are a few options if you want to network computers on amateur radio. There are WiFi hacks of sort, and of course there’s always packet radio. New Packet Radio, a project from [f4hdk] that’s now on, is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s a modem that’s ready to go, uses standard 433 ISM band chips, should only cost $80 to build, and it supports bidirectional IP traffic.

The introductory documentation for this project (PDF) lays out the use case, protocol, and hardware for NPR. It’s based on chips designed for the 433MHz ISM band, specifically the SI4463 ISM band radio from Silicon Labs. Off the shelf amplifiers are used, and the rest of the modem consists of an Mbed Nucleo and a Wiznet W5500 Ethernet module. There is one single modem type for masters and clients. The network is designed so that a master serves as a bridge between Hamnet, a high-speed mesh network that can connect to the wider Internet. This master connects to up to seven clients simultaneously. Alternatively, there is a point-to-point configuration that allows two clients to connect to each other at about 200 kbps.

Being a 434 MHz device, this just isn’t going to fly in the US, but the relevant chip will work with the 915 MHz ISM band. This is a great solution to IP over radio, and like a number of popular amateur radio projects, it started with the hardware hackers first.

DNA Computers are in the Lab Now

Although it isn’t very real-world practical, researchers at Cal Tech have produced a DNA-based programmable computer. Spectrum reports that the system executes programs using a set of instructions written in DNA using six bits. Like any programmable computer, this one can execute many programs, but so far they have run 21 different programs.

Using DNA for computation isn’t new — your body does it all the time. But, in general, DNA computers were akin to some logic gates that would do one set of things, not a general-purpose reprogrammable computer.

DNA has two parts composed of four different chemicals — you can think of each part as a ladder cut vertically down the middle with each “rung” being one of the four chemicals. Each part will try to pair up with a part that has a complementary set of rungs. The researchers created DNA strands to act like logic gates that have two inputs and two outputs. They combine five of these gates to create a layer with six inputs and six outputs. A program contains a stack of these six-bit layers.

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Grab an Image From Your O-scope The Easy Way

The Rigol DS1054Zed is the oscilloscope you want. If you don’t have an oscilloscope, this is the scope that has the power and features you need, it’s cheap, and the people who do hardware hacks already have one. That means there’s a wealth of hardware hacks for this oscilloscope. One small problem with the ‘Zed is the fact that capturing an image from the screen is overly complicated, and the official documentation requires dedicated software and a lot of rigolmarole. Now there’s a simple python script that grabs a screen cap from a Rigol scope.

The usage of this python script is as simple as plugging the DS1054Z into your USB port and running the script. A PNG of whatever is on the screen then appears on your drive. Testing has been done on OS X, and it probably works on Linux and Windows. It’s a simple tool that does one job, glory and hallelujah, people are still designing tools this way.

This work was inspired by the efforts of [cibomahto], who spent some time controlling the Rigol with Linux and Python. This work will plot whatever is being captured by the scope in a window, in Linux, but sometimes you just need a screencap of whatever is on the scope; that’s why there were weird Polaroid adapters for HP scopes in the day.

Yes, it’s a simple tool that does one job, but if you need that tool, you really need that tool. [rdpoor] is looking for a few people to test it out, and of course pull requests are accepted.

Hash and Roll Your Way To Secure Passwords

In the electronic battlefield that is 2019, the realm of password security is fraught with dangers. Websites from companies big and small leak like sieves, storing user data in completely unsecure ways. Just about the worst thing you can do is use the same password across several services, meaning that an attack on one gives entry to multiple accounts. The challenge is to generate a unique and secure password for each and every application, and [Ilia]’s way of doing that is called HashDice.

No, it’s not a password manager, or an app – it’s a simple method that can be readily applied by anyone with the right tools. A simple dice is used to create random numbers, which are used to select words from a list to form the basic secret phrase. This is then combined with the name of the service or application to be accessed, the date, and a salt, before hashing using the SHA256 algorithm. The final hash is then truncated to create the password. You can do it all on a device that’s airgapped from the world, ensuring your core secret is never exposed, thus maintaining security.

There are some pitfalls to this method, of course. Many websites make things harder by requiring special characters or enforcing length limits on passwords. [Ilia] helpfully suggests several workarounds for this, but admits that no system is perfect in the face of these obstacles.

If you’re now wondering if your current password is safe, there are ways to investigate that, too.


A Pet Robot, Just Like Boston Dynamics Makes

Every few months or so, a new video from Boston Dynamics will make the rounds on the Internet. This is their advertising, because unless the military starts buying mechanical mules, Boston Dynamics is going to be out of business pretty soon. You’ll see robots being kicked down the stairs, robots walking through doors, and robots acting like dogs. If a hundred or so highly skilled and highly educated roboticists, technologists, and other experts can put together a walking dog robot in a decade, obviously one person can cut through the cruft and build one in a basement. That’s what [Misha] is doing. It’s the Dizzy Wolf, a robotic wolf, or dog, or cat, we don’t actually know because there’s no fur (or head) yet. But it is interesting.

The key component for any quadruped robot is a high-torque, low-noise servo motor. This isn’t a regular ‘ol brushless motor, and for this application nine gram servos go in the trash. This means custom made motors, or DizzyMotors. You’re looking at a big brushless motor with a planetary gearset, all squished into something that could actually fit into the joint of a robotic wolf’s leg.

There’s a driver for these motors, strangely not called the DizzyDriver, that turns a BLDC into a direct drive servo motor. It is effectively a smart servo, that will move to a specific rotation, receive commands over RS-485, and write back the angular position. It also applies constant torque. Of course, there is a video of the DizzyMotor and servo driver below.

Building a robotic dog that will walk around the house is one of the hardest engineering challenges out there. You’ve got fairly crazy kinematics, you’ll need to think about the strength of the frame, control systems, and eventually how to fit everything in a compact design. This project is hitting all the marks, and we can’t wait to see the Dizzy Wolf do a backflip or chase a ball.

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Printed Perching Pals Proliferate

Anansi in African folktale is a trickster and god of stories, usually taking physical form of a spider. Anansi’s adventures through oral tradition have adapted to the situation of people telling those stories, everything ranging from unseasonable weather to living a life in slavery. How might Anansi adapt to the twenty-first century? [odd_jayy] imagined the form of a cyborg spider, and created Asi the robot companion to perch on his shoulder. Anyone who desire their own are invited to visit Asi’s project page.

Asi was inspired by [Alex Glow]’s Archimedes, who also has a project page for anyone to build their own. According to [Alex] at Superconference 2018, she knew of several who have done so, some with their own individual customization. [odd_jayy] loved the idea of a robot companion perched on his shoulder but decided to draw from a different pool of cultural folklore for Asi. Accompanying him to various events like Sparklecon 2019, Asi is always a crowd pleaser wherever they go.

Like every project ever undertaken, there is no shortage of ideas for Asi’s future and [odd_jayy] listed some of them in an interview with [Alex]. (Video after the break.) Adding sound localization components will let Asi face whoever’s speaking nearby. Mechanical articulation for legs would allow more dynamic behaviors while perched, but if the motors are powerful enough, Asi can walk on a surface when not perched. It’s always great to see open source projects inspire even more projects, and watch them as they all evolve in skill and capability. If they all become independently mobile, we’ll need clarification when discussing the average velocity of an unladen folklore robot companion: African or European folklore?

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Executing A Vehicle Keyless Entry Attack

You read about well-publicised security exploits, but they always seem to involve somebody with a deity’s grasp of whatever technology is being employed, as well as a pile of impossibly exotic equipment. Surely a mere mortal could never do that!

Happily, that’s not always the case, and to prove it [Gonçalo Nespral] replicated an attack against RF devices such as some garage doors and motor vehicle locks that use a rolling code. His inspiration came from a device from2015, that encouraged the owner of a key to keep transmitting fresh codes. It did this by swamping the receiver of the car, garage door, or whatever with a strong slightly off frequency signal. This would cause the lock to not work, so the user would try again and again. The attacker listens with a very narrow bandwidth receiver on-frequency that is good enough to reject the jamming signal, and can harvest a sequence of the rolling codes enough to compromise it.

[Gonçalo]’s set-up uses a YARD stick One transceiver dongle as its transmitter, and an RTL-SDR for receive. A GNU Radio setup is used to retrieve the key data, and some custom Python code does the remaining work. We wouldn’t advocate using this in the wild and it could conceivably also gain you access to another car with a flashing light on top, but it’s an interesting exposé of the techniques involved.

Rolling code keyfob attacks are something we covered a few years ago, back when these attacks were all shiny and new.