Nixies Adorn A Cold War Relic To Make A Geiger Clock

Say what you will about the centrally planned economies of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War, but their designs had a brutal style all their own. When one comes across an artifact from that time, like a defunct Polish Geiger counter from 1971, one celebrates that style the only way possible: by sticking Nixies tubes on it and making it into a Geiger clock.

Right off the hop, we’ve got to say that we’re in love with the look of [Tom Sparrow]’s build. And we’ll further stipulate that most of the charm comes from the attractive Bakelite case of the original Geiger counter. This looks like the real deal, with the marbleized look presumably caused by different color resins mixing in the mold. [Tom] did an admirable job bringing back the original shine with some polish and elbow grease; no doubt the decades had taken their toll on the original shine. The meter was gutted to make room for the clockworks, which is an off-the-shelf Nixie module. The tubes stick through holes drilled in the top; a pair of LEDs adorn the front panel and an incandescent bulb provides a warm glow behind the original meter. Combined with the original rotary switch and labels, the whole thing has a great look that’s perfect for a desk.

We’ve featured a lot of retro-classic Nixie builds, from digitizing a 1940s radio to a 1970s multimeter turned into a dice-roller. As for Nixie clocks, we’re just glad to take a break from the Nixie steampunk trend for a bit.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

The Newbie’s Guide To JTAG

Do you even snarf?

If not, it might be because you haven’t mastered the basics of JTAG and learned how to dump, or snarf, the firmware of an embedded device. This JTAG primer will get you up to snuff on snarfing, and help you build your reverse engineering skills.

Whatever your motivation for diving into reverse engineering devices with microcontrollers, JTAG skills are a must, and [Sergio Prado]’s guide will get you going. He starts with a description and brief history of the Joint Test Action Group interface, from its humble beginnings as a PCB testing standard to the de facto standard for testing, debugging, and flashing firmware onto devices. He covers how to locate the JTAG pads – even when they’ve been purposely obfuscated – including the use of brute-force tools like the JTAGulator. Once you’ve got a connection, his tutorial helps you find the firmware in flash memory and snarf it up to a file for inspection, modification, or whatever else you have planned.

We always appreciate guides like these that cover the basics, since not everyone is in the same place in their hardware hacking journey. This puts us in the mood to crack something open and start looking for pins, if for no other reason than to get some practice.

[Thumbnail image source: LufSec]

Bitluni Brings All The ESP-32 Multimedia Hacks To Supercon

Of all the people I was looking forward to meeting at Supercon, aside from my Hackaday colleagues with whom I had worked for five years without ever meeting, was a fellow from Germany named Matthias Balwierz. The name might not ring a bell, but he’ll certainly be familiar to Hackaday readers as Bitluni, the sometimes goofy but always entertaining and enlightening face of “Bitluni’s Lab” on YouTube.

I’d been covering Bitluni’s many ESP32 hacks over the years, and had struck up a correspondence with him, swapping ideas and asking for advice on the many projects I start but somehow never finish. Luckily for us, Bitluni is far better on follow-through than I am, and he brought that breadth and depth of experience to the Design Lab stage for that venue’s last talk of the 2019 Superconference, before the party moved next door for the badge-hacking presentations.

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Hacking USB Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, February 26 at noon Pacific for the Hacking USB Hack Chat with Kate Temkin!

For all its aggravating idiosyncrasies, the Universal Serial Bus has been a game-changer in peripheral connections for nearly a quarter of a century now. What was once simply a means to connect a mouse and a keyboard to a computer has been extended and enhanced into something so much more than its original designers intended. The flexibility that led to these innovative uses for USB also led to its ubiquity, with some form of the connector sprouting from nearly every imaginable device.

Kate Temkin is well-versed in the intricacies of the Universal Serial Bus. As a software lead for Great Scott Gadgets, Kate has developed software and firmware for GSG’s products, like GreatFET and HackRF. Kate also contributes to and maintains a number of open-source projects, including the FaceDancer project. And when she’s not busy with all of this, she can be found sharing her deep knowledge with USB security training courses, where she shows how USB is vulnerable to attack, and what to do to prevent it.

Join us for the Hacking USB Hack Chat this week, where Kate will discuss anything and everything about USB. Come learn about what the future holds for the USB standard, and what you can do to keep your USB project on track.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, February 26 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have 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 Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about. Continue reading “Hacking USB Hack Chat”

Hackaday Links: February 23, 2020

If you think your data rates suck, take pity on New Horizons. The space probe, which gave us lovely pictures of the hapless one-time planet Pluto after its 2015 flyby, continued to plunge and explore other, smaller objects in the Kuiper belt. In January of 2019, New Horizons zipped by Kuiper belt object Arrokoth and buffered its findings on the spacecraft’s solid-state data recorders. The probe has been dribbling data back to Earth ever since at the rate of 1 to 2 kilobits per second, and now we have enough of that data to piece together a story of how planets may have formed in the early solar system. The planetary science is fascinating, but for our money, getting a probe to narrowly miss a 35-kilometer long object at a range of 6.5 billion km all while traveling at 51,500 km/h is pretty impressive. And if as expected it takes until September to retrieve all the data from the event at a speed worse than dialup rates, it’ll be worth the wait.

Speaking of space, if you’re at all interested in big data, you might want to consider putting your skills to work in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The Berkeley SETI Research Center has been feeding data from the Green Bank Telescope and their Automated Planet Finder into the public archive of Breakthrough Listen, a 10-year, $100 million initiative to scan the million closest stars in our galaxy as well as the 100 nearest galaxies for signs of intelligent life. They’re asking for help to analyze the torrents of data they’re accumulating, specifically by developing software and algorithms to process the data. They’ve set up a site to walk you through the basics and get you started. If you’re handy with Python and have an interest in astronomy, you should check it out.

Staying with the space theme, what’s the best way to get kids interested in space and electronics? Why, by launching a satellite designed to meme its way across the heavens, of course. The Mission for Education and Multimedia Engagement satellite, or MEMESat-1, is being planned for a February 2021 launch. The 1U cubesat will serve as an amateur radio repeater and slow-scan TV (SSTV) beacon that will beam down memes donated to the project and stored on radiation-hardened flash storage. In all seriousness, this seems like a great way to engage the generation that elevated the meme to a modern art form in a STEM project they might otherwise show little interest in.

It looks as though Linux might be getting a big boost as the government of South Korea announced that they’re switching 3.3 million PCs from Windows to Linux. It’s tempting to blame Microsoft’s recent dropping of Windows 7 support for the defenestration, but this sounds like a plan that’s been in the works for a while. No official word on which distro will be selected for the 780 billion won ($655 million) effort, which is said to be driven by ballooning software license costs and a desire to get out from under Microsoft’s thumb.

And finally, in perhaps the ickiest auction ever held, the “Davos Collection” headed to the auction block this week in New York. The items offered were all collected from the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the world’s elites gather to determine the fate of the 99.999%. Every item in the collection, ranging from utensils and glassware used at the many lavish meals to “sanitary items” disposed of by the billionaires, and even hair and fluid samples swabbed from restrooms, potentially holds a genetic treasure trove in the form of the DNA it takes to be in the elite. Or at least that’s the theory. There’s a whole “Boys from Brazil” vibe here that we find disquieting, and we flatly refuse to see how an auction where a used paper cup is offered for $8,000 went, but if you’d like to virtually browse through the ostensibly valuable trash of oligarchs, check out the auction catalog.

Fun-Size Tesla Might Be The World’s Smallest

We get all kinds of tips about “the world’s something-est” widget, which normally end up attracting the debunkers in droves. So normally, we shy away from making superlative claims about a project, no matter how they bill themselves. But we’re comfortable that this is the world’s smallest Tesla, at least if we have to stretch the definition of Tesla a bit.

This clown-car version of the Tesla Model S that [Austin] built is based around a Radio Flyer replica of the electric sedan. The $600 battery-powered original doesn’t deliver exactly the same neck-snapping acceleration of its full-size cousin, so he stripped off the nicely detailed plastic body and put that onto a heavily modified go-cart chassis. The tiny wheelbase left little in the way of legroom, but with the seat mounted far enough back into the wheelie-inducing zone, it was possible for [Austin] to squeeze in. He chose to pay homage to Tesla’s battery pack design and built 16 modules with fourteen 18650 cells in each, a still-substantial battery for such a small vehicle. Hydraulic brakes were also added, a wise decision since the 4800 Watt BLDC is a little snappier than the stock motor, to say the least. The video below shows the build, as well as a dangerous test ride where the speed read 72 at one point; we’re not sure if that’s MPH or km/h, but either way, it’s terrifying. The drifts were pretty sick too.

It seems [Austin] has the need for speed, and for drifting.  We’ve seen his water-cooled electric drift trike before, as well as his ridiculously overpowered crazy cart.

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Restoring The Coolest Laptop Ever

Well-seasoned readers will no doubt remember GRiD laptops, the once and always tacti-cool computers that dominated the military market for decades. GRiDs were the first laptops to go to space, and they were coveted for their sleek (for the time) good looks and reputation as indestructible machines.

The GRiDs went through many iterations, and even though their military roots make them nearly unobtanium, [Simon] scored a GRiD laptop and set about restoring it. His theme was the 1986 movie Aliens, which featured a few GRiD Compass computers as props. [Simon]’s 1550SX came a little later than the Compass 2, but documents with the machine reveal it was a Royal Air Force machine that had been deemed unserviceable for reasons unknown.

[Simon] carefully tore it down – pay close attention to the video below and you’ll hear the telltale plink of the magnesium case parts rather than the dull thud of plastic; they don’t make them like that anymore – and cleaned it up. He replaced the original display with a PiMoroni 10″ retro game display to keep the original 4:3 aspect ratio. A Raspberry Pi 4 went inside, along with a Teensy to take care of adapting the GRiD keyboard to USB and lighting up some front-panel LEDs. A second Teeny allows the original IsoPoint mouse to be used, which is a real gem. With the addition of appropriate graphics, the machine looks like it would be at home on a Colonial Marines dropship.

We love the retro feel of [Simon]’s build, and the movie nostalgia. We’re just glad he didn’t include a LiPo battery, which might not get along with the magnesium case. Game over, man!

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