Friday Hack Chat: All About Crypto

What is crypto? Crypto means ‘hidden’, and it’s meant ‘hidden’ since before the Greek alphabet was written, but don’t let that stop you from arguing. For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking all about cryptography, a medium of exchange for secrets. If you need confidentiality, integrity, or authenticity, you need cryptography.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat will be none other than Nick Sayer. Nick is a frequent attendee of the Hackaday meetups and he’s been building gadgets and gizmos and selling them on Tindie for years now. He’s given talks on design for manufacturing. This year, he designed and developed the Orthrus, an appliance that creates a cryptographically secured USB volume from two microSD cards. Basically, it’s like the Captain Planet team, only instead of rings, you need all the SD cards, and instead of Captain Planet, you summon your data.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to sit down with and talk about all things cryptography, including understanding what you need, what you don’t, and picking the correct tools. Items of interest will include:

  • When cryptography is needed
  • Cryptography tools
  • The best practices for cryptography

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Cryptography Hack Chat and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.

join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Friday, November 16th, at noon, Pacific time. If time zones got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

The Value of Cardboard In Product Design

A while ago, [Eric Strebel] created a backpack hanger. The result was great — by just bolting this backpack hanger to the wall, he kept his backpack off the floor and out of the way. There was even a place for him to set his phone to charge. [Eric] is thinking about turning this idea into a product, and just posted a video on his process of making a cardboard mockup.

Since this is a study in industrial design, any mockup will need to keep in mind how the finished article will be constructed. In this case, [Eric] is going to use 4-5mm thick aluminum, cut on a water jet, bent into place, and finally anodized. The finished product will be made out of bent sheet aluminum, so this little bit of product design will use Matboard — a thick, heavy cardboard often used for mounting pictures in frames. The Matboard will substitute for the aluminum, as it is carefully cut, bent, and glued into shape.

The tools for this build are simple, just a hobby knife, razor blade, ruler, and a pen. But there are a few tricks to working with Matboard. To bend these pieces perfectly, [Eric] is painting one side with water. This loosens the fibers in the Matboard, allowing for perfect creases before one layer of the build is glued together.

Once a few layers of this Matboard are glued together, the finished product becomes less like cardboard and more like a very soft wood. This allows [Eric] to use belt sanders and countersink drill bits to give a little bit of polish to this one-off prototype. This finished article works great, and now [Eric] is looking at taking this idea into production.

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The Mighty D Battery Becomes A USB Powerbank

[Jan] is one of those people who’s always playing around with synthesizers, and in this day and age, that means a lot of USB cables supplying power. If you want to make a synth setup portable, your best option is looking at USB powerbanks with their fancy lithium cells. These will work just fine, but remember: you can buy D cells just about anywhere, and they actually hold a ridiculous amount of energy. They’re cheap albeit one-use and disposable, so why not build a USB power bank out of a massive pair of batteries?

The build started off, naturally, with a pair of Energizer D cells that hold 20,000mAh. A battery holder for these cells is cheap and easy to source, leaving the only other needed component a cheap 5V boost converter. This was simply hot glued to the back of the battery holder in parallel, a simple switch was added, and the entire thing was fitted in a neat little 3D printed case that looks like a car (motorcycle?) battery.

Testing the with a phone revealed this thing will charge at 570mA from 3V, which is more than sufficient for [Jan]’s needs. Sure, using disposable batteries in 2018 is more than a little wasteful, but a project like this is meant to be a simple solution to the problem of providing power to USB devices anywhere. You can get D cell batteries everywhere, and what this build produces in damage to the environment is more than made up for in its convenience.

Sprite_TM’s Magic Paintbrush

When it comes to hackers we love, there’s no better example than Jeroen Domburg, a.k.a. Sprite_TM. Sprite’s now working for Espressif, makers of the fantastic ESP8266 and ESP32, where he created a miniature Game Boy and turned this PocketSprite into a real product. He’s installed Linux on a hard drive, and created a Matrix of virtualized Tamagotchis. In short, if you’re looking for someone who’s building the coolest, most technical thing of sometimes questionable utility, you need look no further than Sprite_tm.

Sprite was back at this year’s Superconference, and again he’s bringing out the big guns with awesome hardware hacks. This time, though, Sprite is tapping into his artistic side. Sprite is very accomplished in making PCB art and DaveCAD drawings, but actual art is something that’s been out of reach. No problem, because you can just buy an inkjet printer and make your own art. Sprite’s doing something different, and he’s turning his inkjet into a Magic Paintbrush.

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New Part Day: A $6 Linux Computer You Might Be Able To Write Code For

The latest news from the world of cheap electronics is a single board computer running Linux. It costs six dollars, and you can buy it right now. You might even be able to compile code for it, too.

The C-Sky Linux development board is listed on Taobao as an ‘OrangePi NanoPi Raspberry Pi Linux Development Board” and despite some flagrant misappropriation of trademarks, this is indeed a computer running Linux, available for seven American dollars.

This board is based on a NationalChip GX6605S SoC, a unique chip with an ISA that isn’t ARM, x86, RISC-V, MIPS, or anything else that would be considered normal. The chip itself was designed for set-top boxes, but there are a surprising number of build tools that include buildroot, GCC and support for qemu. The company behind this chip is maintaining a kernel, and support for this chip has been added to the mainline kernel. Yes, unlike many other single board computers out there, you might actually be able to compile something for this chip.

The features for this board include 64 MB of DDR2 RAM, HDMI out (with a 1280 x 720 framebuffer, upscaled to 1080p, most likely), and a CPU running at just about 600 MHz. There are a few buttons connected to the GPIO pins, two USB host ports, a USB-TTL port for a serial console, and a few more pins for additional GPIOs. There does not appear to be any networking, and we have no idea what the onboard storage is.

If you want a challenge to get something compiled, this is the chip for you.

Hackaday Links: The Eleventh Day Of The Eleventh Month, 2018

For the better part of the last five years, the Great War Channel on YouTube has been covering the events of the Great War, week by week, exactly 100 years later. It’s hundreds of episodes designed for history buffs, and quite literally one of the most educational channels on YouTube. It’s the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eighteenth year, which means the folks behind the Great War Channel are probably taking a well-deserved vacation. If you haven’t heard of this channel, it might be a good time to check it out.

Ikea is now selling NFC locks. [Mike] wrote in to tell us he found the new ROTHULT drawer deadbolts for $18 at Ikea. No, these aren’t meant for your front door, they’re meant for file cabinets. That’s a different threat model, and no lock is ever completely secure. However, there are some interesting electronics. You get a lock powered by three AAA batteries and two NFC cards for $18. Can’t wait for the teardown.

The biggest news from the United States this week is big. People gathered in the streets. Millions made sure their voices were heard. Journalists were cut down for asking questions. This is a week that will go down in history. The McRib is back for a limited time. It’s just a reconstituted pork patty, pickles, onions, and sauce on a hoagie roll, but there’s more to the McRib than you would think. McDonalds only releases the McRib when the price of pork is low, and in late October, pork belly futures hit their lowest price since the last time the McRib came to town. This has led some to claim the McRib is just a second lever for McDonalds in an arbitrage play on the price of pork. McDonalds is always buying pork futures, the theory goes, and when it looks like they’re going to lose money, McDonalds simply turns on the McRib production line, pushing pork consumption up, and netting McDonalds a tidy profit. With the volume you’re looking at, McDonalds will never lose money by betting on pork.

You can turn anything into a quadcopter. A dead cat? Yes, it’s been done. How about a quartet of box fans? That’s what the folks at Flite Test did, and while the completed article was wobbly and didn’t survive its first crash, it was a quadcopter made out of box fans.

Redesigning the Musical Keyboard with Light-Up Buttons

A piano’s keyboard doesn’t make sense. If you want to want to play an F major chord, just hit an F, an A, and a C — all white keys, all in a row. If you want to play a B major chord, you hit B, a D#, and an F#. One white key, then two black ones. The piano keyboard is not isomorphic, meaning chords of the same quality have different shapes. For their entry into the Hackaday Prize, [CSCircuits] and their crew are working on a keyboard that makes chords intuitive. It’s called the Kord Kontroller, and it’s a device that would also look good hooked up to Ableton.

The layout of the Kord Kontroller puts all the scale degrees arranged in the circle of fifths in the top of the keyboard. To play 90% of western music, you’ll hit one button for a I chord, move one button to the left for a IV chord, and two buttons to the right for a V chord. Chord quality is determined by the bottom of the keyboard, with buttons for flat thirds, fourths, ninths, elevenths and fourteenths replacing or augmenting notes in the chords you want to play. Since this is effectively a MIDI controller, there are buttons to change octaves and modes.

As far as hardware goes, this keyboard is constructed out of Adafruit Trellis modules that are a 4×4 grid of silicone buttons and LEDs that can be connected together and put on a single I2C bus. The enclosure wraps these buttons up into a single 3D printed grid of button holes, and with a bit of work and hot glue, everything looks as it should.

It’s an interesting musical device, and was named as a finalist in the Musical Instrument Challenge. You can check out a demo video with a jam sesh below.

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