The speaker PCB inside of the speaker, with a flash chip ZIF holder soldered to the SPI flash pads on the PCB

Bluetooth Speaker Domesticated Through Firmware Mod

This might sound like a familiar problem – you get a Bluetooth speaker, and it sounds nice, but it also emits all kinds of weird sounds every now and then. [Oleg Kutkov] got himself a Sven PS460 speaker with FM radio functionality, but didn’t like that the “power on” sound was persistently loud with no respect for the volume setting, and the low battery notification sounds were bothersome. So, he disassembled the speaker, located a flash chip next to the processor, and started hacking.

Using a TL866 and minipro software, he dumped the firmware, and started probing it with binwalk. The default set of options didn’t show anything interesting, but he decided to look for sound file signatures specifically, and successfully found a collection of MP3 files! Proper extraction of these was a bit tricky, but he figured out how to get them out, and loaded the entire assortment into Audacity.

From there, he decided to merely make the annoying sounds quieter – negating the “no respect for the volume setting” aspect somewhat. After he exported the sound pack out of Audacity, the file became noticeably smaller, so he zero-padded it, and finally inserted it back into the firmware. Testing revealed that it worked just as intended! As a bonus, he replaced the “battery low” indicator sound with something that most of us would appreciate. Check out the demo video at the end of his write-up.

Domesticating your Bluetooth speakers tends to be called for. If you can’t do that for whatever reason, you can rebuild them into an audio receiver – or perhaps, build your own Bluetooth speakers, with aesthetics included and annoyance omitted from the start.

Ask Hackaday: Is Bigger (E-mail) Better?

While pundits routinely predict the end of e-mail, we still get a ton of it and we bet you do too. E-mail has been around for a very long time and back in the day, it was pretty high-tech to be able to shoot off a note asking everyone where they wanted to go to lunch. What we had on our computers back then was a lot different, too. Consider that the first e-mail over ARPANET was in 1971. Back then some people had hardcopy terminals. Graphics were unusual and your main storage was probably a fraction of the smallest flash drive you currently have on your desk. No one was sending photographs, videos, or giant PDF files.

Today, things are different. Our computers have gigabytes of RAM and terabytes of storage. We produce and consume richly formatted documents, photographs at high resolutions, and even video. Naturally, we want to share those files with others, yet e-mail has turned up woefully short. Sure, some systems will offer to stash your large file in the cloud and send a link, but e-mailing a multi-megabyte video to your friend across town is more likely to simply fail. Why?

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2022 Hackaday Prize: Hack It Back And Make It Yours

The 2022 Hackaday Prize continues to hurtle along, with two of the five Challenges already in the rear-view mirror. While we’re naturally excited about every phase of this year’s contest, we’ve got particularly high hopes for what the community can do with this third Challenge: Hack it Back.

It’s a simple formula: find some outdated and disused piece of gear, spruce it up, and keep it out of the landfill. But extending the lifetime of consumer hardware is only one side of the coin, by upgrading and modifying something instead of buying an off-the-shelf replacement, you also turn the mundane into something unique and personal. But of course, we hardly have to explain the benefits to you fine folk — this is the sort of bespoke engineering we see on a nearly daily basis here at Hackaday. The difference now is that there’s cash prizes on the line.

Custom iPod, some Assembly Required

So if there’s an old iPod collecting dust in your desk, perhaps now is the time to replace its guts with some modern silicon and teach it a few new tricks. Sure a brand-new robotic vacuum might be nice, but you could save yourself some money by picking up a second-hand Roomba and tucking an ESP8266 onboard. Got a nice piece of test equipment that predates the handy data export functions we take for granted these days? You might need to use the nuclear option and skim the desired data right off the unit’s LCD controller. We could spend all day pulling examples from the archives, but you get the picture.

What’s that you say? You aren’t the type to be seduced by shiny new features? Happy to keep things local while others ship it all off to the cloud? You’ll get no complaints from us, and that’s why the Hack it Back Challenge also recognizes repairs that simply put a piece of gear back into service. But don’t be fooled, as fixing something can often be harder than rebuilding it from scratch.

When you’ve got to crack out the x-ray machine to find all the damaged traces on a decades-old PCB, only to then tediously replace them all with microscopic bits of wire, you may find yourself wondering what you’ve done to anger the Keeper of the Magic Smoke. On the other hand, plenty a gadget has been disabled due to nothing more exotic than a single bad solder joint. In either event, there’s a certain sense of satisfaction when you can return a literal piece of history to working condition.

Ready to put your hardware-reviving skills on display? Just head over to, make a new project page, and get hacking. But don’t wait too long, you’ve only got until July 24th to enter the Hack it Back Challenge and stake your claim on one of the ten $500 awards up for grabs.

The Secrets Of The Pop Pop Boat

Many kids get an early introduction to mechanics with tin pop-pop boats. If you haven’t played with one – you’re missing out! Pop Pop boats are fun toys – but how they work is often misunderstood. To clear this up, [Steve Mould] takes a deep dive into the theory of operation of the pop pop boat.

Most people think these toys operate like a simple steam engine, with water being flashed into steam inside a tiny tin boiler. Turns out that’s not the case. To explain the physics, [Steve] commissioned a glass version of the boat.

The glass boat shows that during normal operation, there isn’t any water at all in the “boiler” at all. The water is only in the boat’s small exhaust tubes. The air inside the tank is heated by a candle. The air expands and pushes the water out of the tubes. This allows the air to cool, and return to the tank. The water then rushes back up the tubes, and the process repeats.

One of the more interesting facts of the video is that the glass boat doesn’t pop. The popping sound associated with the boat is actually made by the tin diaphragm on top of the “boiler”.

[Steve] has gotten pretty good at explaining complex topics using clear cutaway models. If this tickles your fancy, check out his water computer.

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The circuit, assembled on a purple PCB, with a large capacitor and a sizeable white resistor, wires soldered to holes in the PCB

Protect Your Drivers When The Motor Stalls

[Mark Rehorst] tells us about a tragic incident involving an untimely demise of $200 worth of motor driving hardware, and shares a simple circuit so that we can prevent such tragedies in the future. His Arrakis sand table project has quite a few motors involved, and having forgotten to add limits into the software, he slammed a motor-driven mechanism into a well-fixed part of the table. The back EMF of the motor created a burst of energy, taking out the motor driver, the controller board, and the power supply.

With the postmortem done, he had to prevent this from happening again – preferably, in hardware. Based on a small appnote from Gecko Drives, he designed a simple PCB that shunts the motor with a high-power resistor, as soon as the current starts flowing into a direction it’s not supposed to flow into. He goes in depth about the way that the circuit works and the reasoning behind parts selection, as well as shows an LTSpice simulation and shares the PCB files. This was his first time designing PCBs in KiCad, and we believe he’s done a great job! This worklog is certainly worth reading if you’d like to understand how such circuits work and what goes into building one.

He dubs this a “bank account protection” circuit, and we can absolutely relate. It’s not just CNC tables that need such protections of course – we’ve seen a solution for small hacky makeshift electric vehicles, for instance. A motor’s generative properties aren’t always a problem, however – here’s just one example of a hacker trying to put them to good use.

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