Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, mosquitoes and other flying pests are the last thing on anyone’s mind right now. The only bug that’s hindering gatherings at the moment goes by the name of COVID-19, but even if we weren’t social distancing, insects simply aren’t a concern at this time of year. So it’s little surprise that these months are often the best time to find a great deal on gadgets designed to deter or outright obliterate airborne insects.
Case in point, I was able to pick up this “Bug Zapper LED Bulb” at the big-box hardware store for just a few bucks. This one is sold by PIC Corporation, though some press release surfing shows the company merely took over distribution of the device in 2017. Before then it was known as the Zapplight, and was the sort of thing you might see advertised on TV if you were still awake at 3 AM. It appears there are several exceptionally similar products on the market as well, which are likely to be the same internally.
In all fairness, it’s a pretty clever idea. Traditional zappers are fairly large, and need to be hoisted up somewhere next to an electrical outlet. But if you could shrink one down to the size of a light bulb, you could easily dot them around the porch using the existing sockets and wiring. Extra points if you can also figure out a way to make it work as a real bulb when the bugs aren’t out. Obviously the resulting chimera won’t excel at either task, but there’s certainly something to be said for the convenience of it.
Let’s take a look inside one of these electrifying illuminators and see how they’ve managed to squeeze two very different devices into one socket-friendly package.
The Z80 was a big deal in the 1970s and 1980s, and while its no longer a dominant architecture today, its legacy lives on. [James Andrew Fitzjohn] is a fan of the Z, and decided to interface the real silicon with the Raspberry Pi, by and large for the fun of it!
The Z80’s address and data lines, as well as the clock, are hooked up to the Raspberry Pi through several MCP23017 GPIO expanders. The Pi’s GPIO lines aren’t known for their speed, of course, and using expanders through I2C isn’t exactly quick either. However, speed isn’t necessary, as the clock only goes as fast as the Raspberry Pi desires, since it’s controlling the clock along with everything else. There’s also an LCD for viewing the Z80s status, along with some era-appropriate blinkenlights.
This setup allows the Pi to run code directly on the Z80 itself, while managing the CPU’s RAM in its own memory, all through a Python script. It’s a fun hack that lets you run retro code on retro silicon without using an emulator. Techniques like these are useful for finding undocumented or edge case performance of a processor. If this hack isn’t enough Zilog for your liking, consider throwing one in your pocket as well!
The hacker was first noticed to have gained remote access to a computer system at the plant at 8 a.m. on February 5. An operator at a workstation controlling chemical dosing at the plant observed a remote connection, though did not initially raise the alarm as such access is common practice at the facility for troubleshooting purposes. However, at 1:30 pm, the hacker connected again, this time commanding the dosing system to raise levels of sodium hydroxide in the water from 100 to 11,000 ppm – dangerous levels that would make the city’s water unsafe to drink. The increased level command was immediately overridden by the operator, who then raised the alarm.
The city notes that other safeguards such as pH monitors at the plant would have triggered in the event the original intrusion went undetected. However, the event raises renewed questions about the level of security around critical utility systems connected to the internet. In the last decade, cyberattacks on physical infrastructure have become a reality, not a vague future threat.
Nothing’s known yet about the perpetrator, or how secure the system was (or wasn’t?) before the event. It’s been long known that a lot of infrastructure is simply connected to the internet, as Dan Tentler has been showing us since at least 2012. (Video, ranting.) Indeed, it’s amazing that we’ve seen so few malicious attacks.