Noodles Time Themselves While Cooking

Despite the name, so-called “instant” noodles still need to sit for a few minutes before they’re actually ready to eat. Most people would likely use a simple kitchen timer to let them know when it’s time to chow down, but this unique mechanical timer uses the weight of the noodles themselves to power a timing mechanism.

The timer acts in much the same way that a pendulum clock would, in that a weight provides the energy to drive the clock’s mechanism which releases that energy in discrete steps. Besides a few metal parts and some magnets, the majority of the clock is 3D printed with a small platform on the side where the noodles rest. As the platform falls the weight drives the clock mechanism which will finally alert the user when they finish their descent three minutes later with the help of a small bell. There’s even an analog display which shows the number of minutes remaining before the noodles are ready to eat.

As far as single-purpose kitchen appliances go, this is one that we might find ourselves sacrificing some counter space for not only for the usefulness but also for the aesthetic appeal of the visible clock movements and high-quality design. It could even go beside the automatic ramen cooker for when we’re too busy (or lazy) to even boil the water for instant noodles ourselves.

Continue reading “Noodles Time Themselves While Cooking”

Clock Mixes Analog, Digital, Retrograde Displays

Unique clocks are a mainstay around here, and while plenty are “human readable” without any instruction, there are a few that take a bit of practice before someone can glean the current time from them. Word clocks are perhaps on the easier side of non-traditional displays but at the other end are binary clocks or even things like QR code clocks. To get the best of both worlds, though, multiple clock faces can be combined into one large display like this clock build from [imitche3].

The clock is actually three clocks in one. The first was inspired by a binary clock originally found in a kit, which has separate binary “digits” for hour, minute, and second and retains the MAX 7219 LED controller driving the display. A standard analog clock rests at the top, and a third clock called a retrograde clock sits at the bottom with three voltmeters that read out the time in steps. Everything is controlled by an Arduino Nano with the reliable DS3231 keeping track of time. The case can be laser-cut or 3D printed and [imitche3] has provided schematics for both options.

As far as clocks builds go, we always appreciate something which can be used to tell the time without needing any legends, codes, or specialized knowledge. Of course, if you want to take a more complex or difficult clock face some of the ones we’re partial to are this QR code clock which needs a piece of hardware to tell the time that probably already has its own clock on it.

A PCB business card with a built-in 4x4 tic-tac-toe game on the back.

2024 Business Card Contest: A Game For Two

If you want to make a good first impression on someone, it seems like the longer you can keep them talking, the better. After all, if they want to keep talking, that’s a pretty good sign that even if you don’t become business partners, you might end up friends. What better way to make an acquaintance than over a friendly game of tic-tac-toe?

This one will probably take them by surprise, being a 4×4 matrix rather than the usual 3×3, but that just makes it more interesting. The front of the card has all the usual details, and the back is a field of LEDs and micro switches. Instead of using X and O, [Edison Science Corner] is using colors — green for player one, and red for player two. Since playing requires the taking of turns, the microcontroller lights up green and red with alternating single-button presses.

Speaking of, the brains of this operation is an ATMega328P-AU programmed with Arduino. If you’d like to make your own tic-tac-toe business card, the schematic, BOM, and code are all available. Be sure to check out the build and demo video after the break.

Continue reading “2024 Business Card Contest: A Game For Two”

A picture of the camera in question, successfully uploading a pic thanks to the fix found

Fixing A Camera’s WiFi Connectivity With Ghidra

If your old camera’s WiFi picture upload feature breaks, what do you do? Begrudgingly get a new one? Well, if you’re like [Ge0rg], you break out Ghidra and find the culprit. He’s been hacking on Samsung’s connected cameras for a fair bit now, and we’ve covered his adventures hacking on Samsung’s Linux-powered camera series throughout the last decade, from getting root on them for fun, to deep dives into the series. Now, it was time to try and fix a problem with one particular camera, Samsung WB850F, which had its picture upload feature break at some point.

[Ge0rg] grabbed a firmware update .zip, and got greeted by a bunch of compile-time debug data as a bonus, making the reverse-engineering journey all that more tempting. After figuring out the update file partition mapping, loading the code into Ghidra, and feeding the debug data into it to get functions to properly parse, he got to the offending segment, and eventually figured out the bug. Turned out, a particularly blunt line of code checking the HTTP server response was confused by s in https, and a simple spoof server running on a device of your choice with a replacement hosts file is enough to have the feature work again, well, paired with a service that spoofs the long-shutdown Samsung’s picture upload server.

Turned out, a bunch more cameras from Samsung had the same check misfire for them, which made this reverse-engineering journey all that more fruitful. Once again, Ghidra skills save the day.

Old Spotify Car Thing Hacks Gain New Attention

If you haven’t heard by now, Spotify is shutting down support for their “Car Thing” on December 9th of this year. Once that happens the automotive media player will officially be useless, with users being advised to literally throw them in the trash come December 10th. Call it an early Christmas present from your friends at the multi-billion dollar streaming company.

Surely the hardware hacking community can do a bit better than that. As it turns out, there’s actually been a fair amount of hacking and research done on the Car Thing, it’s just that most of it happened a couple years back when the device first hit the market. Things stagnated a bit in the intervening years, but now that the clock is ticking, there’s far more interest in cracking open the gadget and seeing what else we can do with it.

[lmore377]’s Car Thing macropad hack from 2022.
The car-thing-reverse-engineering repository on GitHub has a wealth of hardware and software information, and has been something of a rallying point for others who have been poking around inside the device. Unsurprisingly, the Car Thing runs Linux, and with relatively minor work you can gain U-Boot and UART access. With just 512 MB of RAM and a Amlogic S905D2 chip that’s similar to what powers the Radxa Zero, it’s not exactly a powerhouse. Then again, we’ve seen plenty of awesome projects done with less.

If you’re more into the step-by-step approach, security researcher [Nolen Johnson] did a write-up about getting access to the Car Thing’s internal Linux system back in 2022 that’s certainly worth a look. As you’d imagine, there’s also a few YouTube videos out there that walk the viewer through gaining access to the hardware. This one from [Dinosaur Talks Tech] not only provides a good overview of how to get into the system, but covers flashing modified versions of the stock firmware to unlock various features and tweaking the internal Linux OS.

Interestingly enough, while we’ve seen plenty of homebrew hardware players for Spotify over the years, this is the first time the Car Thing has ever crossed our path. Something tells us though that this isn’t the last time we’ll hear about this forlorn Linux gadget.

Continue reading “Old Spotify Car Thing Hacks Gain New Attention”

Walking Through A Scene From Riven On The Apple II

Twenty years before the 1997 release of Riven – Cyan’s sequel to the critically acclaimed title Myst – a fruity company in California released the Apple II, a 6502-based microcomputer that would be produced until 1993. With the upcoming remake by Cyan of Riven into a fully 3D experience, [deater] found themselves wondering how much of the original game’s click-and-puzzle game would fit on a 140 kB floppy for the Apple II series of computers. Since Myst was able to be squeezed  onto a mere three floppies and provide a reasonably playable version of the game on the Apple II, surely the same could be done for this sequel?

The Maglev in the Apple II port of Riven. (Credit: [deater])
The Maglev in the Apple II port of Riven. (Credit: [deater])
Just a look at the system requirements for Riven (Win95+, 100 MHz Pentium, 16 MB RAM and 75 MB disk space) and the knowledge that the game came on five CD-ROMs (until the DVD release) should instill some trepidation that a serious demake would be needed. Ultimately [deater] managed to set the system requirements for the port to any Apple II with at least 48 kB of RAM. The same custom game engine as for the Myst port is used, with the original CG stills downsampled and the movies rotoscoped at fairly low framerate.

Although the ‘Disk 39’ in the video is currently the sole floppy, containing part of Dome Island and the Maglev, it is probably a fair assessment of how many 140 kB disks would be needed to port the entire game. Even with the downsampled graphics, [deater] reckons it would take on the order of hundreds of floppies to fit the whole thing.

Continue reading “Walking Through A Scene From Riven On The Apple II”

CH32V003 Provides Ultra Cheap Speech Recognition

Speech recognition was once the stuff of science fiction, but it’s now possible with relatively modest hardware. Just how modest, you ask? How about a 10 cent microcontroller?

[Brian Smith] has achieved a very basic form of speech recognition on a CH32V003 RISC-V microcontroller. It may only recognize spoken digits, but that it does so at all on such a modest platform is impressive in itself.

For training purposes it enlists the help of a desktop Linux computer, however the recognition process is purely in the ten cent chip. He goes into much detail about how it achieves this on a system without floating point arithmetic, as well as the other shortcomings of such a limited platform.

We’ve become used to thinking of super-cheap chips as of limited use, but the truth is they’re surprisingly more capable than expected. We’re seeing them starting to appear as subsidiary processors on some badges, so it will be interesting to see them proliferate in more projects now their availability problems have eased. Go on – for ten cents, what do you have to lose?