Automated Air Cannon Shoots Smoke Rings

Air cannons are fun, and became a part of mainstream culture with the popular Airzooka toy. Of course, cocking and firing the Airzooka gets tiring after a while, and they’re kind of a little small. This build from [1alembic] delivers on both those counts. 

Cool, huh?

The result is a bigger air cannon that repeatedly fires all by itself. The cannon itself is built out of a trash can with the bottom cut out. It’s then fitted with a diaphragm made out of a heavy-duty trash bag covered in duct tape for added strength. Latex hose is then installed inside the trash can, attached to the diaphragm. Thus, the diaphragm can be pulled back, and when released, it’s pulled forward, creating a rush of air through the trash can which generates a vortex ring just like the smaller Airzooka.

The automation of the cannon is beautifully simple. A string is attached to the back of the diaphragm, and wrapped around a rod so it can be wound up. This allows a wiper motor to turn the rod via a set of gears, pulling the diaphragm back.

However, the drive gear on the wiper motor has half its teeth missing. The system is then set up so that once the diaphragm is pulled right back, the drive gear gets to the missing teeth, allowing the winder rod to spin back freely as the diaphragm shoots forward, firing the air cannon. The cycle then repeats as the drive gear re-engages the winding mechanism.

Paired with a smoke machine, the air cannon will whirr away, firing beautiful smoke rings at regular intervals until it’s switched off. It’s an elegant thing that we’d love to leave set up at a party to add some atmosphere. We’ve seen other air cannons built with some real fire-power, too. Video after the break.

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This Week In Security: Unicode Strikes, NPM Again, And First Steps To PS5 Crack

Maybe we really were better off with ASCII. Back in my day, we had space for 256 characters, didn’t even use 128 of them, and we took what we got. Unicode opened up computers to the languages of the world, but also opened an invisible backdoor. This is a similar technique to last week’s Trojan Source story. While Trojan Source used right-to-left encoding to manipulate benign-looking code, this hack from Certitude uses Unicode characters that appear to be whitespace, but are recognized as valid variable names.

const { timeout,ㅤ} = req.query;
Is actually:
const { timeout,\u3164} = req.query;

The extra comma might give you a clue that something is up, but unless you’re very familiar with a language, you might dismiss it as a syntax quirk and move on. Using the same trick again allows the hidden malicious code to be included on a list of commands to run, making a hard-to-spot backdoor.

The second trick is to use “confusable” characters like ǃ, U+01C3. It looks like a normal exclamation mark, so you wouldn’t bat an eye at if(environmentǃ=ENV_PROD){, but in this case, environmentǃ is a new variable. Anything in this development-only block of code is actually always enabled — imagine the chaos that could cause.

Neither of these are ground-breaking vulnerabilities, but they are definitely techniques to be wary of. The authors suggest that a project could mitigate these Unicode techniques by simply restricting their source code to containing only ASCII characters. It’s not a good solution, but it’s a solution. Continue reading “This Week In Security: Unicode Strikes, NPM Again, And First Steps To PS5 Crack”

Is This 12-layer PCB Coil The Next Step In Ferrofluid Displays?

[Applied Procrastination] is in the business of vertical ferrofluid displays, but struggles somewhat with the electromagnets available off the shelf and the proliferation of wiring that results. [Carl Bugeja] is in the business of making PCB coils, both with rigid and flex PCB substrates, so when the opportunity for a collaboration arose, [AP] jumped at the opportunity.

As [Simen from AP] mentions in the video after the break, they had considered using a large PCB with embedded coils for Fetch their ferrofluid display unit, but the possible magnetic field was just too weak, and attempting to crank up the amps, just overheats them. Some improvements were made, first sticking the coil PCB to a small disk of ferrous metal, which doubled up as a handy heatsink. Next, he tried adding a permanent magnet, which added a bit of bias field. Alone this was not enough to hold the ferrofluid in place, but with the coil powered, it was starting to look encouraging.

Much more progress was made when [Carl] sent over a new design of his, a 12-layer PCB coil. This obviously had a much larger field, but still not enough without the extra boost from permanent magnet.

[Simen] currently doesn’t think the PCB approach is quite there yet, and is looking for help to source PCB-mounted electromagnets of the wired variety. We would imaging prototyping with such a large 12-layer PCB would be rather prohibitively expensive anyway.

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M5Paper Gets Open Source Weather Display Firmware

We know you like soldering irons, we’re quite fond of them ourselves. But the reality is, modular components and highly capable development boards allow the modern hardware hacker to get things done with far less solder smoke then ever before. In fact, sometimes all you need to finish your project is the right code.

Case in point, check out the slick electronic paper weather display that [Danko Bertović] shows off in the latest Volos Projects video. While it certainly fits the description of a DIY project, he didn’t have to put any of the hardware together himself. The M5Paper is an ESP32 development kit designed around a crisp 4.7″, 960 x 540 e-paper panel that includes everything from environmental sensors to an internal 1150 mAh battery. To make your handheld e-paper dreams come true, the only thing you need to provide is the software.

The weather display code provided by [Danko] should certainly get you going in the right direction. Now don’t get us wrong, there’s certainly no shame in just flashing his code to the device and plunking it on your desk. It’s a gorgeous looking interface, and we all know that a sprinkling of open source code is often all it takes to make a standard consumer device extraordinary. But by using the code he’s provided as a launching point, you can take this turn-key device and really make it your own.

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