Serial Studio One Year On

Last year we wrote about [Alex Spataru]’s Serial Studio project, which started life as serial port data visualizer, like a souped-up version of the Arduino serial plotter. [Alex] has been actively improving the project ever since, adding a variety of new features, including

  • JSON editor for data formats
  • TCP, UDP, and Multicast
  • New and more flexible display widgets
  • Multi-signal plots
  • FFT and logarithmic plots
  • VT-100 emulation
  • Support for plugins and themes
  • Added MQTT support

[Alex] originally came up with Serial Studio because he was involved in ground station software for various CanSat projects, each one with similar yet slightly different data formats and display requirements. Rather than make several different programs, he decided to make Serial Studio which could be configured using JSON descriptor files.

The program is open-source and multi-platform. You can build it yourself or download pre-compiled binaries for Windows, Linux, and Mac. See the project GitHub repository for more details. In addition to English, it has also been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and German. What is your go-to tool for visualizing serial data telemetry these days? Let us know in the comments below.

Giant Wheels Make For Exciting Powered Rollerskates

Roller skates are fun and all, but they’re pretty well limited to rolling on relatively smooth surfaces. [Fireball Tool] wanted something a little more rugged, so set about a build of his own. 

The challenge of the design was to build these skates using as many wheelchair parts as possible, including the wheels. Roughly 22″ tall, the wheels have great bearings inside and are designed to run on a single-sided axle support, perfect for the skates. A metal bracket is then used to attach a snowboard boot binding so the wheels can be fitted to the wearer’s feet. Training wheels were fitted to the rear to make it easier for the rider, while a chainsaw engine was pressed into service to provide some welcome propulsive force.

In a short test on a flat workshop floor, the wheels performed ably. The hope is that the large diameter wheels should do better than traditional roller skates would on rough surfaces like grass or dirt. We look forward to seeing that test in action as a comparison to other powered skates we’ve seen. Video after the break.

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PicoEMP EMFI tool

Glitch Your Way To Reverse-Engineering Glory With The PicoEMP

Most of our projects are, to some extent, an exercise in glitch-reduction. Whether they’re self-inflicted software or hardware mistakes, or even if the glitches in question come from sources beyond our control, the whole point of the thing is to get it running smoothly and predictably.

That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes inducing a glitch on purpose can be a useful tool, especially when reverse engineering something. That’s where this low-cost electromagnetic fault injection tool could come in handy. EMFI is a way to disrupt the normal flow of a program running on an embedded system; properly applied and with a fair amount of luck, it can be used to put the system into an exploitable state. The PicoEMP, as [Colin O’Flynn] dubs his EMFI tool, is a somewhat tamer version of his previous ChipSHOUTER tool. PicoEMP focuses on user safety, an important consideration given that its business end can put about 250 volts across its output. Safety features include isolation for the Raspberry Pi Pico that generates the PWM signals for the HV section, a safety enclosure over the HV components, and a switch to discharge the capacitors and prevent unpleasant surprises.

In use, the high-voltage pulse is applied across an injection tip, which is basically a ferrite-core antenna. The tip concentrates the magnetic flux in a small area, which hopefully will cause the intended glitch in the target system. The video below shows the PicoEMP being used to glitch a Bitcoin wallet, as well as some tests on the HV pulse.

If you’re interested in the PicoEMP and glitching in general, be sure to watch out for [Colin]’s 2021 Remoticon talk on the subject. Until that comes out, you might want to look into glitching attacks on a Nintendo DSi and a USB glitch on a Wacom tablet.

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Recycling Soda Bottles Into Filament To Print Smaller Soda Bottles

Thermoplastics are great, because you can melt them down and reform them into whatever you like. This is ably demonstrated by [The Q] by recycling old soda bottles into usable 3D printer filament.

Cute, huh? Why aren’t Coca-Cola making these? Tiny fake grocery items already proved hugely popular in Australia.

Soda bottles are usually made out of PET plastic, or polyethylene terephthalate, which is one of the most popular thermoplastics in modern society. A soda bottle can be cut into a continuous long, thin strip with the use of a simple hand-operated machine that slices the bottle with a blade. This strip of plastic can then be fed through a heated nozzle in order to produce filament for 3D printing. [The Q] demonstrates both parts of this process, including using a motorized reel to take up filament as the bottle material is fed through the extruder.

The filament is then demonstrated by printing tiny versions of soda bottles. [The Q] fills these with soda and gives them the appropriate lids and labels for completion’s sake. It’s a neat way to demonstrate that the filament actually works for 3D printing. It bears noting that such prints are almost certainly not food safe, but it’s really a proof of concept rather than an attempt to make a usable beverage container.

Like similar builds we’ve seen in the past, the filament is of limited length due to the amount of plastic in a single bottle. We’d like to see a method for feeding multiple bottles worth of plastic into the extruder to make a longer length spool, as joining lengths of filament itself can be fraught with issues. Video after the break.

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The Eerie Sounds Of Ioalieia: An ESP32/Valve/Analog Hybrid Circuit Sculpture

We’ve not had a circuit sculpture piece for a while, so here’s “ioalieia” a lovely hybrid digital-analog sound sculpture by [Eirik Brandal] to dig into.

Tidy straight lines. Nice job!

The host of the show is the ESP32 module, which generates audio frequency square waves, which are fed into a MCP4251 digital potentiometer. From there, it is fed into a AS3320 Voltage controlled filter (VCF), from Latvia-based ALFA (which is new to us, despite them being manufacturing electronics for sixty years!) This is an interesting device that has a four independently configurable filter elements with voltage controlled inputs for frequency control and resonance. The output from the VCF is then fed into a 6n2p (Soviet equivalent to the 12ax7) twin-triode vacuum tube, which is specifically aimed at audio applications.

The suitably distorted filtered square waves then pass into a Princeton Tech Corp PT2399 echo processor chip, which being digitally constructed, uses the expected ADC/RAM/DAC signal chain to implement an audio echo effect. As with the VCF, the echo depth can be modulated via the digipot, under the ESP32’s command. For a bit of added bling, the vacuum tube output feeds back into the ESP32, to be consumed by the internal ADC and turned into a light show via some PWM controlled LEDs. Lovely.

The final audio output from the echo chip is then fed into a speaker via a pair of LM380 amplifiers giving a power of about 5 W. It sounds pretty good if you ask us, and software configurable via Wi-Fi, giving this sculpture plenty of tweakabilty.

Of course circuit sculpture come in all shapes and sizes, and it wouldn’t do to not mention at least one sculpture clock project, and while we’re on it, here’s last year’s Remoticon circuit sculpture workshop.

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Hacking Is Hacking

Tom Nardi and I had a good laugh this week on the Podcast when he compared the ECU hacks that enabled turning a VW with steering assist into a self-driver to a hack last week that modified a water cooler to fill a particular cup. But it’s actually no joke — some of the very same techniques are used in both efforts, although the outcome of one is life-and-death, and the other is just some spilled ice-cold water.

This reminded me of Travis Goodspeed’s now-classic talk “In Praise of Junk Hacking” from way back in 2016. For background, this was a time when IoT devices and their security were in their relative infancy, and some members of the security community were throwing shade on the dissection of “mere” commercial crap. (Looked back on from today, where every other member of a Botnet is an IP camera, that argument didn’t age well.)

Travis’ response was that hacking on junk lets us focus on the process — the hack itself — rather than getting distracted by the outcome. Emotions run high when a security flaw affects millions of individuals, but when it’s a Tamagotchi or a pocket calculator, well, it doesn’t really matter, so you focus on the actual techniques. And as Travis points out, many of these techniques learned on junk will be useful when it counts. He learned about methods to defeat address-space randomization, for instance, from an old hack on the TI-85 calculator, which garbage-collected the variables that needed to be overwritten.

So I had junk hacking in the back of my mind when I was re-watching Hash Salehi’s great talk on his work reverse engineering smart meters. Funnily enough, he started off his reverse engineering journey eleven years ago with work on a robot vacuum cleaner’s LIDAR module. Junk hacking, for sure, but the same techniques taught him to work on devices that are significantly more serious. And in the craziest of Hackaday synergies, he even hat-tipped Travis’ talk in his video! Hacking is hacking!

555 timer circuit for the contest

Doing The Right Thing The Wrong Way: Dumping STM8 Firmware With 555 Timers

When [Jarrett] decided to enter the 555 Contest that’s just wrapped up, he leaned up on an idea that’s been rattling around in his noggin for a few years: Using 555 timers to trigger a firmware dump on a microcontroller. It’s definitely the wrong tool for the job, but [Jarrett] got it working and documented it nicely at

The premise is that by interrupting the power supply to the STM8 microcontroller at just the right time and for just the right duration, it would skip the instruction telling it not to allow its firmware to be read. Time and duration… things the 555 is well known for being capable of. There was a problem, however.

The first problem is that the duration was to be measured in nanoseconds. A garden variety 555 has can only pulse down to about 10 microseconds. The solution? Well, you’ll have to read the excellent project page to find out, but don’t worry- it’s a 555. The second problem? He was using 555’s!

Was [Jarrett] successful? After much fiddling and twiddling, he absolutely was! The old firmware was dumped from the STM8 processor and the new firmware could be flashed with impunity.

This 555 contest has seen some truly epic entries, including but not limited to this 555 based accordion like instrument that this particular author just can’t get enough of!