Toothbrush Goes From Mouth-Whitening To Room-Brightening

Some of the hacks we see make us wonder why they aren’t already a commercial product, and this electric toothbrush turned rechargeable flashlight is one of them. Sure, these things exist, but we haven’t seen one with a dedicated charging stand. They usually just take micro USB or whatever, so it’s on you to remember to plug it in. How great would it be to have a fully-charged flashlight always at the ready, especially one in a position to illuminate the room? Although [wannabemadsci] makes it look easy, this conversion took quite a bit of doing.

Perhaps the most amazing part is that [wannabemadsci] found a halfway decent flashlight at the dollar store. Better than average, this thing has a main light, a side light, and takes 3xAAs instead of a couple of AAAs. The only issue is that the toothbrush batteries don’t quite put out enough voltage for the flashlight’s LED, so [wannabemadsci] used a booster board.

Of course, there’s a lot more to this hack than sawing off the USB connector from the boost converter so it fits. The toothbrush handle had to be modified to accept the flashlight guts, and the threads relocated from the flashlight. Since the battery charge indicator shines through the momentary button on the toothbrush, [wannabemadsci] wanted to reuse it, but it required a small board that converts it to a latching push button. Finally, the flashlight bezel had to be painted white. Paint is such an easy thing to do, and this detail makes all the difference in how professional this looks.

There’s a lot you can do with a functioning electric toothbrush as your base, like brute-forcing the pins of a lock with vibration.

This Week In Security: Good Faith, Easy Forgery, And I18N

There’s a danger in security research that we’ve discussed a few times before. If you discover a security vulnerability on a production system, and there’s no bug bounty, you’ve likely broken a handful of computer laws. Turn over the flaw you’ve found, and you’re most likely to get a “thank you”, but there’s a tiny chance that you’ll get charged for a computer crime instead. Security research in the US is just a little safer now, as the US Department of Justice has issued a new policy stating that “good-faith security research should not be charged.”

While this is a welcome infection of good sense, it would be even better for such a protection to be codified into law. The other caveat is that this policy only applies to federal cases in the US. Other nations, or even individual states, are free to bring charges. So while this is good news, continue to be careful. There are also some caveats about what counts as good-faith — If a researcher uses a flaw discovery to extort, it’s not good-faith.
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The Huge Apple Toolkit For Fixing Your IPhone

It’s been a frequent criticism of Apple, that their products are difficult to repair. They’ve hit back with a self-repair program for iPhones, and should you wish to take advantage of it they will hire you a tool kit. Not the iFixit box you might expect, instead they give you two hefty suitcases that contain 36 Kg of tools and equipment. Yes, you can repair an iPhone, but they ensure that it’s not for the faint-hearted.

In the kit is an impressive array of everything you might need for your iDevice, including the proper heat plate and press for the job. None of that messing about with a hot air gun for your $49 rental cost and $1200 if you don’t return the tools, but it remains an impossibly difficult and expensive process for all but the most dedicated of Apple fanboy technicians.

The sense from the Verge article is that Apple have had their arm twisted to the extent that they must provide a repair option, but they’ve gone to extravagant lengths to make it something nobody in their right mind would pursue. There’s an attraction in the idea of playing with a fully-equipped Apple repair kit for a few days, but maybe it’s not worth the cost.

Even without the Apple toolkit, it’s still possible to upgrade your iPhone.

Thanks [Nikolai Ivanov] for the tip.

Wireless Power: Here? Now?

Outside of very small applications, Nikola Tesla’s ideas about transmitting serious power without wires have not been very practical. Sure, we can draw microwatts from radio signals in the air and if you’re willing to get your phone in just the right spot you can charge it. But having power sent to your laptop anywhere in your home is still a pipe dream. Sending power from a generating station to a dozen homes without wire is even more fantastic. Or is it? [Paul Jaffe] of the Naval Research Laboratory thinks it isn’t fantastic at all and he explains why in a post on IEEE Spectrum.

Historically, there have been attempts to move lots of power around wirelessly. IN 1975, researchers sent power across a lab using microwaves at 50% efficiency. They were actually making the case for beaming energy down from solar power satellites. According to [Jaffe] the secret is to go beyond even microwaves. A 2019 demonstration by the Navy conveyed 400 watts over 300 meters using a laser. Using a tightly confined beam on a single coherent wavelength allows for very efficient photovoltaic cells that can far outstrip the kind we are used to that accept a mix of solar lighting.

Wait. The Navy. High-powered laser beams. Uh oh, right? According to [Jaffe], it is all a factor of how dense the energy in the beam is along with the actual wavelengths involved. The 400 watt beam, for example, was in a virtual enclosure that could sense any object approaching the main beam and cut power.

Keep in mind, 400 watts isn’t enough to power a hair dryer. Besides, point-to-point transmission with a laser is fine for sending power to a far-flung community, but not great for keeping your laptop charged no matter where you leave it.

Still, this sounds like exciting work and while it might not be Tesla’s exact vision, it sounds like laser transmission might be closer than it seemed just a few years ago. We’ve seen similar systems that employ safety sensors, but they are all relatively low power. We still want to know what’s going on in Milford, Texas, though.