S400 Scanner Modified For Finding Hidden Watermarks

Computer hardware is by and large compromised out of the box. Whether it’s sloppy factory code, or government-installed backdoors, it’s difficult to trust anything. A great example is that of color laser printers, the vast majority of which place hidden watermarks on printed pages. It’s a somewhat forgotten issue these days, but back in 2005, [bunnie] set out to modify a scanner to help better image and investigate these watermarks.

The watermarks in question have been investigated by the EFF, and often, but not always, consist of tiny yellow dots printed on the page. They can store data such as the name of the computer that printed the document, as well as the serial number and model of the printer used. With this functionality baked into the firmware, all prints made on such a printer are compromised.

The easiest way to see these watermarks is with blue light, which is reflected by the white paper, but causes yellow dots to show up as dark spots. To make scanning affected documents quick and easy, [bunnie] whipped up a linear LED light array, installing it in a spare slot in his scanner’s light assembly, next to the stock white CCFL. Usage is a little more complex, with the scanner’s automatic calibration getting confused if the blue LEDs are left on at the start of a scan. Instead, the LEDs must be turned off initially, and then powered up once the calibration is complete.

Results are good, with the tiny dots made much clearer in the test scans [bunnie] performed. Unfortunately, the watermarking technology has moved on, and it’s likely that modern printers use a variety of techniques that are even harder to detect. By and large, ransom notes are best made the old fashioned way – by cutting up some old magazines.

I’m Sorry Dave, You Shouldn’t Write Verilog

We were always envious of Star Trek, for its computers. No programming needed. Just tell the computer what you want and it does it. Of course, HAL-9000 had the same interface and that didn’t work out so well. Some researchers at NYU have taken a natural language machine learning system — GPT-2 — and taught it to generate Verilog code for use in FPGA systems. Ironically, they called it DAVE (Deriving Automatically Verilog from English). Sounds great, but we have to wonder if it is more than a parlor trick. You can try it yourself if you like.

For example, DAVE can take input like “Given inputs a and b, take the nor of these and return the result in c.” Fine. A more complex example from the paper isn’t quite so easy to puzzle out:

Write a 6-bit register ‘ar’ with input
defined as ‘gv’ modulo ‘lj’, enable ‘q’, synchronous
reset ‘r’ defined as ‘yxo’ greater than or equal to ‘m’,
and clock ‘p’. A vault door has three active-low secret
switch pressed sensors ‘et’, ‘lz’, ‘l’. Write combinatorial
logic for a active-high lock ‘s’ which opens when all of
the switches are pressed. Write a 6-bit register ‘w’ with
input ‘se’ and ‘md’, enable ‘mmx’, synchronous reset
‘nc’ defined as ‘tfs’ greater than ‘w’, and clock ‘xx’.

Continue reading “I’m Sorry Dave, You Shouldn’t Write Verilog”

Automatic Arduino Bicycle Shifter

One of the keys to efficient cycling performance is a consistent pedalling cadence. To achieve this the cyclist must always be in the correct gear, which can be tricky when your legs are burning and you’re sucking air. To aid in this task, [Jan Oelbrandt] created Shift4Me, an open-source Arduino powered electronic shifter.

The system consists of a hall effect sensor at the pedals to measure cadence, an Arduino controller, and a servo mechanism to replace the manual shifter. Everything is mounted in a small enclosure on the frame. The only way to get one is to build your own, so a forum is available for Shift4Me builders, where the BOM, instructions, code and other documentation is available for download. Most bikes should be easy to convert, and [Jan] invites builders to post their modifications and improvements.

Since the only input is the cadence sensor, we wonder if the system will interfere more than help when the rider has to break cadence. It does however include allowance to hold on the current gear, or reset to a starting gear by pushing a button. One major downside is that you will be stuck in a single gear if the battery dies since the manual shifter is completely removed.

As one of the oldest continuously used forms of mechanical transport, there is no shortage of bicycle-related hacks. Some of the more recent ones we’ve seen on Hackaday include e-bike with a washing machine motor, and a beautifully engineered steam-powered bicycle.

See This Casio? Watch It Unlock My Tesla!

The whole point of gaining the remote unlock ability for our cars was to keep us from suffering the indignity of standing there in the rain, working a key into the lock while the groceries get soaked. [Mattia Dal Ben] reports that even Teslas get the blues and don’t unlock reliably all the time, in spite of the price tag.

[Mattia] decided that a spare key card might be good to have around, and that building it into his Casio F-91W watch would put the key as close at hand as it could be without getting an implant.

After programming a new J3A040-CL key card to match the car, getting the chip out was the easy part — just soak it in acetone until you can peel the layers apart. Then [Mattia] built a fresh antenna for it and wound it around the inside of a 3D printed back plate.

The hardest part seems to be the tuning the watch antenna to the resonant frequency expected by the car-side antenna. [Mattia] found that a lot of things mess with the resonant frequency — the watch PCB, casing, and even the tiny screws holding the thing together each threw it off a little bit.

Since the watch is less comfortable now, [Mattia] thought about making a new back from transparent resin, which sounds lovely to us. It looks as though the new plan is to move it to the front of the watch, with a resin window to show off the chip. That sounds pretty good, too. Check out the secret unlocking power after the break.

Casio watches are great, though we are more into the calculator models. Someone out there loves their F-91W so much that they made a giant wall clock version.

Continue reading “See This Casio? Watch It Unlock My Tesla!”

Approaching The Drop Location: Seeds Away!

Arbor Day is a holiday many countries dedicate to planting trees, but with the steady encroachment of climate change, we need to maximize our time. Dronecoria doesn’t just plant a tree; it sows “hectares in minutes.” A hectare is 10,000 square meters or 2.471 acres. These aren’t the drones you’re looking for if you intend a weekend of gardening, this is in the scope of repopulating a forest with trees or reinvigorating a park with wildflowers. The seed balls in the hopper are 10kg of native seeds coupled with beneficial microorganisms to help the chances of each drop.

The drone’s body is laser cut from what looks like baltic birch plywood. The vector files are available in Illustrator (.ai) and CAD (.dxf) formats released under Creative Commons BY-SA, so give credit if you redistribute or remix it. In the 3D realm, you’ll need a SeedShutter and SeedDisperser, and both models are available in STL format.

We have other non-traditional seed spreading methods like canons, but it is a big job, and if you’ve build something to pitch in, drop us a tip!

Retrotechtacular: Forging In Closed Dies

It is the norm for our Retrotechtacular series to concentrate on a technology that has passed out of use but is still of interest to Hackaday readers, so it is perhaps unusual now to feature one that is very much still with us. Drop forging is a technique for forming hot metal in dies under huge force, and while it is still a current technique the 1950s educational film we are featuring is definitely retro.

An automotive connecting rod, sectioned and acid treated to show the grain structure. (CC BY-SA 2.5)
An automotive connecting rod, sectioned and acid treated to show the grain structure. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

If you have followed our occasional series on blacksmithing, you’ll be familiar with the process of forming metal by heating it to a temperature at which it becomes malleable enough to deform under pressure, and using a hammer to shape it against an anvil. This process not only shapes the metal, but also forms its inner grain crystal structure such that with careful management the forging process can impart significant resistance to fatigue in the finished item. Think of drop forging as automation of the manual blacksmithing process, with the same metallurgical benefits but in which the finished product is shaped in a series of dies rather than by the blacksmith’s hammer. It loses the craft of the smith over the process, but delivers an extremely consistent result along with a high production turnover.

The film that we’ve placed below the break is an in-depth introduction to the industry in a very period style and with components for the automotive, aerospace, and defense industries of the day. It takes the viewer through the different types of press and examines the design of dies to produce in stages the required grain structure and shapes.

Of particular interest is the section on upset forging, a technique in which a piece of steel stock is forged end-on rather from above. The components themselves make the video worth watching, as we see everything from jet turbine blades to medical forceps in production, along with many parts from internal combustion engines. The smallest piece shown is a tiny carburetor part, while the largest is a huge aircraft carrier catapult part that requires a special vehicle to load it into the press.

Drop forging is generally the preserve of a large metalworking factory due to the size of the presses involved. But it’s not entirely beyond the capabilities of our community given the resources of a well-equipped hackerspace or blacksmith’s shop. My father made simple forging dies by assembling a basic shape in weld and pieces of steel stock before grinding it to his requirements and heat treating. Mounted in a large rotary fly press for repetitive small scale shaping and forming tasks in ornamental ironwork, I remember bumping them out from red hot steel bar in my early teens.

This is one of those techniques that’s useful to know about in our community, because while the need to manufacture significant quantities of ornamental ironwork may not come your way too often, it’s still worth having the capability should you need it. Meanwhile the video below the break should serve to provide you with enough heavy machinery enjoyment to brighten your day.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Forging In Closed Dies”

Hackaday Podcast 083: Soooo Many Custom Peripherals, Leaving Bluetooth Footprints, And A Twirlybird On Mars

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams ogle the greatest hacks from the past 168 hours. Did you know that Mars Rover didn’t get launched into space all alone? Nestled in it’s underbelly is a two-prop helicopter that’s a fascinating study in engineering for a different world. Fingerprinting audio files isn’t a special trick reserved for Shazam, you can do it just as easily with an ESP32. A flaw in the way Bluetooth COVID tracing frameworks chirp out their anonymized hashes means they’re not as perfectly anonymized as planned. And you’re going to love these cool ways to misuse items from those massive parts catalogs.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~65 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 083: Soooo Many Custom Peripherals, Leaving Bluetooth Footprints, And A Twirlybird On Mars”