A Simple Streaming Radio Receiver

For those interested in a career in broadcast radio there aren’t many routes into the business. Student radio, pirate radio, and hospital radio usually feature somewhere near the start of any DJ’s resumé. Hospital radio stations often don’t have a transmission license and have historically relied on wired systems, but since those can’t reach everywhere they are now more likely to look to the Internet. [AllanGallop] has created the Mini Web Radio for the hospital station in the British city of Milton Keynes, a compact battery-powered single station streaming radio receiver that can pick up those tunes anywhere with a wireless network connection.

Inside the neatly designed 3D printed box the hardware is quite straightforward, a WeMos ESP32 board and a MAX98357A I2S digital amplifier module all powered by an 18650 cell. There’s a volume control and headphone socket, which is all that’s needed for the user interface. The software has code for both Arduino and Platform.io and is configured as you might expect through a web interface. Everything can be found in a handy GitHub repository should you wish to build one yourself. Meanwhile, it’s particularly pleasing as a Hackaday scribe to feature a project with roots in one’s own hackerspace, in this case, Milton Keynes Makerspace.

Thanks [Cid] for the tip!

What’s That Scope Trace Saying? UPD And Wireshark

[Matt Keeter], like many of us, has a lot of network-connected devices and an oscilloscope. He decided he wanted to look into what was on the network. While most of us might reach for Wireshark, he started at the PCB level. In particular, he had — or, rather, had someone — solder an active differential probe soldered into an Ethernet switch. The scope attached is a Textronix, but it didn’t have the analyzer to read network data. However, he was able to capture 190+ MB of data and wrote a simple parser to analyze the network data pulled from the switch.

The point of probing is between a network switch and the PHY that expands one encoded channel into four physical connections using QSGMII (quad serial gigabit media-independent interface). As the name implies, this jams four SGMII channels onto one pair.

As is common in networking schemes, the 8-bit byte is encoded into a 10-bit code group to ensure enough bit transitions to recover the synchronous clock. The decoding software has to examine the stream to find framing characters and then synchronize to the transmitted clock.

What follows is a nice tour of the protocol and the Python code to decode it. It seems complex, but the code is fairly short and also executes quickly. The output? Pcap files that you can process with Wireshark. Overall, a great piece of analysis. He also points out there are other tools already available to do this kind of decoding, but what fun is that?

Wireshark can do a lot of different kinds of analysis, even if you aren’t usually capturing from a scope. You can even decrypt SSL if you know the right keys.

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Hackaday Links: August 14, 2022

What’s this? News about robot dogs comes out, and there’s no video of the bots busting a move on the dance floor? Nope — it looks like quadruped robots are finally going to work for real as “ground drones” are being deployed to patrol Cape Canaveral. Rather than the familiar and friendly Boston Dynamics “Big Dog” robot, the US Space Force went with Ghost Robotics Vision 60 Q-UGVs, or “quadruped unmanned ground vehicles.” The bots share the same basic layout as Big Dog but have a decidedly more robust appearance, and are somehow more sinister. The dogs are IP67-rated for all-weather use, and will be deployed for “damage assessments and patrols,” whatever that means. Although since this is the same dog that has had a gun mounted to it, we’d be careful not to stray too far from the tours at Kennedy Space Center.

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Starlink Ground Stations Successfully Hacked

Belgian security researcher [Lennert Wouters] has gotten his own code running on the Starlink “Dishy McFlatface” satellite terminals, and you can too! The hack in question is a “modchip” with an RP2040 and a MOSFET that crowbars the power rails, browning out the main CPU exactly when it’s verifying the firmware’s validity and bypassing that protection entirely. [Lennert] had previously figured out how to dump the Starlink firmware straight from the eMMC, and with the ability to upload it back, the circle of pwnership is closed. This was a talk at DEFCON, and you can check out the slides here. (PDF)

The mod chip itself was a sweet piece of work, being tailored to fit into the Starlink’s motherboard just so, and taking good advantage of the RP2040’s PIOs, which are probably the microcontroller’s superpower.

[Lennert] says he submitted his glitch attack to Starlink and they took some precautions to make the glitching harder. In particular, [Lennert] was triggering his timing off of the USART port coming up on the Starlink unit, so Starlink just shut that down. But it’s not like he couldn’t trigger on some other timing-relevant digital signal, so he chose the eMMC’s D0 data line: they’re not going to be able to boot up without it, so this hack is probably final. No shade against Starlink here. It’s almost impossible to shield a device against an attacker who has it on their bench, and [Lennert] concludes that he found no low-hanging fruit and was impressed that he had to work so hard to get root.

What can you do with this? Not much, yet. But in principle, it could be used to explore the security of the rest of the Starlink network. As reported in Wired, Starlink says that they’ve got a defence-in-depth system and that just getting into the network doesn’t really get you very far. We’ll see!

Thanks [jef] for the tip!

The project's hardware, including the ESP32 camera module, stuffed into the GoPro-intended waterproof shell. The camera portion of the ESP32 module sticks out exactly where the GoPro's camera would be. To the left, a hacked ESP32-CAM module is shown.

Hackaday Prize 2022: Solar-Harvesting ESP32 Camera Is Waterproof, Repeatable

[alberto nunez] shows off his sleek build of a solar-harvesting ESP32 camera – waterproof, somewhat energy-efficient, and able to be built by more-or-less anyone. For that, he’s chosen fairly jellybean components – an ESP32-CAM module with a matching protoboard, a small solar cell, a LiFePO4 battery, and a waterproofed GoPro shell that all of these parts neatly fit into.

A BQ25504 energy harvesting chip is used to ensure the ‘solar’ part of the project can meaningfully contribute to the project’s power budget, with energy otherwise mainly provided by the LiFePo4 battery. Since this battery’s nominal voltage is 3.2 V, it can be wired straight to ESP32’s power input and there’s no need for a regulator – thus, that one got mercilessly desoldered. [alberto] has also modded the board using a FET to gate power to the ESP32-CAM module’s camera, with all of these hacks bringing the board’s deep sleep current from 2.8 mA to 0.8 mA. Not great for a low-power device, but not terrible for something you can build so easily. Plus, it’s waterproof, dust-resistant, and quite robust!

These ESP32 camera modules are seriously nifty – we see them put to good use on the regular. Whether you need to detect motion in your Halloween project, decode your water meter readings, or perhaps merely a security camera, it’s worth having a few in your toolbox. Maybe even pick up a programming helper for these while you’re at it!

This Snake Has Legs

[Allen Pan] loves snakes. He loves them so much that he’s decided to play god, throwing away millions of years of evolution — just to give snakes back the legs they’ve “lost”.

Ok, so this hack has tongue planted firmly in cheek, but it’s still pretty darn cool. [Allen] designed and 3D printed what can best be described as a robot for snakes to ride.

The build wasn’t easy. Allen’s first attempts using toys based on [Jamie Mantzel]’s giant robot didn’t go exactly to plan. Thankfully those were only tested with a plush snake test dummy.  Thankfully [Allen’s] second was on target.

The robot itself consists of 4 legs, each with 3 joints and two servos. The foot joint pivots freely to handle any uneven terrain. The robot’s gait is derived from lizards Allen observed in a pet shop. The main body of the robot is a clear plastic tube. Once Shinji the snake decides to get in the robot, it isn’t strapped in. In fact, the snake is free to leave whenever it wants.

Currently, the whole system just walks forward. [Allen] appears to be using a servo controller with a hard-coded walking sequence. We’d love to see the next step – figuring out a way for the snake to control the robot’s direction.  Perhaps with a camera with gaze detection?

We’ve covered robots driven by animals before, and we’ve covered some of [Allen]’s builds — like this electromagnetic rendition on Mjölnir.
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Mahmut's kid in a helmet, riding the go-kart outside on pavement

Hoverboard Go-Kart Build Is A Delight To Watch

Hoverboards have been an indispensable material for hackers building their own vehicles in the last few years. [Mahmut Demir] shows how he’s built a hoverboard-powered go-kart for his son. Unable to hack the board’s firmware, he instead set out to reuse the hoverboard without any disassembly, integrating it into the go-kart’s frame as-is. This build is completely mechanical, distinguished in its simplicity – and the accompanying six minute video shows it all.

This go-kart’s frame is wood and quite well-built, with the kind of personal touch that one would expect from a father-son gift. Building the vehicle’s nose out of a trashcan gave us a chuckle and earned bonus points for frugality, and the smiley face-shaped wheel is a lovely detail. As for the ‘hoverboard reuse’ part, the board is pivoted backward and forward, just as it normally would be. Rather than feet, the kart uses a lever that’s driven with two pedals through a pulley-string arrangement, giving granular speed control and the ability to reverse. It’s a clever system, in fact we don’t know if we could’ve done it better. You can see [Mahmut]’s son wandering in the background as [Mahmut] goes through the assembly steps — no doubt, having fun doing his own part in the build process.

[Mahmut] tells us he’s also added a remote off switch as a safety feature, and we appreciate that. We’ve seen hoverboards in go-kart builds before, as well as rovers, e-bikes, robot vehicles, and even mobility platforms. Truly, the hoverboard is a unicorn of hacker transportation helpers.
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