HackRF PortaPack Firmware Spoofs All The Things

The HackRF is an exceptionally capable software defined radio (SDR) transceiver, but naturally you need to connect it to a computer to actually do anything with it. So the PortaPack was developed to turn it into a stand-alone device with the addition of a touchscreen LCD, a few buttons, and a headphone jack. With all the hardware in place, it’s just a matter of installing a firmware capable enough to do some proper RF hacking on the go.

Enter MAYHEM, an evolved fork of the original PortaPack firmware that the developers claim is the most up-to-date and feature packed version available. Without ever plugging into a computer, this firmware allows you to receive, decode, and re-transmit a dizzying number of wireless protocols. From firing off the seating pagers at a local restaurant to creating a fleet of phantom aircraft with spoofed ADS-B transponders, MAYHEM certainly seems like it lives up to the name.

[A. Petazzoni] recently put together a detailed blog post about installing and using MAYHEM on the HackRF/PortaPack, complete with a number of real-world examples that show off just a handful of possible applications for the project. Jamming cell phones, sending fake pager messages, and cloning RF remotes is just scratching the surface of what’s possible.

It’s not hard to see why some have already expressed concern about the project, but in reality, none of these capabilities are actually new. This firmware simply brings them all together in one easy-to-use package, and while there might be an argument to be made about proliferation, we all know that the responsibility to behave ethically rests on the user and not the tools.

An IMac All-In-One’s New Life

There’s a sleek form factor for desktop computers known as an “all-in-one” that enrobes a computer in a monitor. While the convenience of having all your computing in a neat package has some nice benefits, it comes with an unfortunate downside. Someday the computer inside is going to be old and outdated in comparison to newer machines. While a new OS goes a long way towards breathing life into an old machine, [Thomas] has decided to take the path less travelled and converted an old iMac all-in-one into a discrete monitor.

The iMac in question is the 20″ iMac G5 iSight (A1145) with an LG-Philips LM201W01-STB2 LCD panel. Looking back, [Thomas] would recommend just ordering an LCD driver controller kit from your favourite auction house. But for this particular modification, he decided to do things a little bit more manually and we’re quite glad he did.

Luckily for [Thomas], the panel supports TMDS (which both DVI and HDMI are compatible with). So the next step was to figure out the signalling wires and proper voltages. After some trouble caused by a mislabeled power line on the iMac PCB silk-screen (12v instead of 3.3v), he had all the wires identified and a plan starting to form. The first step was a circuit to trick the inverter into turning on with the help of a relay. The female HDMI plug with a breakout board was added and sticks out through the old firewire port. The minuscule wires in the display ribbon cable to the monitor were separated and soldered onto with the help of [Thomas’] daughter’s microscope. Resistances were checked as HDMI relies on impedance matched pairs. To finish it off, an old tactile toggle switch offers a way to turn the monitor on and off with a solid thunk.

We love seeing old hardware being repurposed for new things. This project nicely complements the iMac G4 Reborn With Intel NUC Transplant we saw earlier this year, as they both try to preserve the form factor while allowing a new computer to drive the display.

He’s The Operator Of His Pocket Arduino

The band Kraftwerk hit the music scene with its unique electronic sound in the 70s in Germany, opening the door for the electronic music revolution of the following decade. If you’re not familiar with the band, they often had songs with a technology theme as well, and thanks to modern microcontroller technology it’s possible to replicate the Kraftwerk sound with microcontrollers as [Steven] aka [Marquis de Geek] demonstrates in his melodic build.

While the music is played on a Stylophone and a Korg synthesizer, it is fed through five separate Arduinos, four of which have various synths and looping samplers installed on them (and presumably represent each of the four members of Kraftwerk). Samplers like this allow pieces of music to be repeated continuously once recorded, which means that [Steven] can play entire songs on his own. The fifth Arduino functions as a controller, handling MIDI and pattern sequencing over I2C, and everything is finally channeled through a homemade mixer.

[Marquis] also dressed in Kraftwerk-appropriate attire for the video demonstration below, which really sells the tribute to the famous and groundbreaking band. While it’s a great build in its own right and is a great recreation of the Kraftwerk sound, we can think of one more way to really put this project over the top — a Kraftwerk-inspired LED tie.

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Finally! The ROM You Wished Your Sinclair Spectrum Had!

If there is one thing that Sir Clive SInclair was famous for, it was producing electronic devices that somehow managed to squeeze near-impossible performance out of relatively meagre components. This gave us some impressive products, but it’s fair to say that sometimes this philosophy pushed the envelope a little too far. Thus even some of the most fondly remembered Sinclair products concealed significant flaws, and this extended to both their hardware and their software.

Sir Clive never gave us this!
Sir Clive never gave us this!

The SInclair ZX spectrum’s ROM for example had more than its fair share of bugs, and its BASIC programming experience with single keypress was unique but also slow to run. It’s something [Jonathan Cauldwell] has addressed with his Arcade Game Designer ROM, a complete and ready to run replacement for the original Spectrum ROM that contains a scripting language, a compiler, editors for in-game assets, and a game engine upon which to run your games. It’s the ROM you wanted back in 1983, when you were struggling to fit a bit of Z80 code in a Sinclair Basic REM statement.

If you’re a Spectrum enthusiast and think this sounds a little familiar then you are of course correct. It builds upon his past work with his Arcade Game Designer, with the distribution by ROM allowing the developer to use the full 48k available on all but a very few early 16k machines. You’ll need your own EPROM on which to burn it, but we suspect that if you’re the kind of person who has a Spectrum and has writing these games in mind, you already have access to the relevant equipment.

If you’re new to all this Spectrum stuff and where its ROM came from, then maybe it’s time for a trip down memory lane.

Atreus Gets A TrackPoint And Layer LEDs

Fancy, split keyboards are cool and all, and they can really help with repetitive strain injury issues depending on a lot of different factors. But the big, glaring problem is that they often lack nice features that regular keyboards have — things like a number pad, media buttons, or in [discordia]’s case, a ThinkPad-style pointing stick. Fortunately, there’s a perfect spot for one between the two halves of the Keyboardio Atreus.

[discordia] is happy with the Atreus, but the whole layers thing can take some getting used to. Since Atreus only has 44 keys, it utilizes a layering system to change their function to cover all the keys you’d find on a full keyboard. After getting stuck in one rarely-used layer for a while, they decided to remedy the situation with some RGB LEDs to indicate the active layer. If you’ve got an Atreus that could use a few upgrades, check out [discordia]’s step-by-step instructions for adding a trackpoint and one-wire RGB LEDs.

If you have an old enough ThinkPad on your hands, then you may want to liberate the clicky keyboard, too.

Hackaday Podcast 095: Booting FreeDOS From A Vinyl Record, Floating On Mushrooms, And Tunneling Through A Living Room

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams are talking turkey about the world of hardware hacking. This short episode brings news updates about the Nintendo Game and Watch hacking progress, the sad farewell to Areceibo, the new chip from Espressif, and the awesome circuit sculptures from our recent contest. We wrap up the show with a lightning round of quick hacks.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (17 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

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Repurposing Large Electronic Price Tags

If you’ve recently braved the pandemic long enough to make a trip to a big box retailer, you may have spotted a few massive e-paper price tags affixed to large items like appliances. These seven inch displays were likely designed to be used in e-readers such as the Kindle, but through some surplus deal, are now shouting out clearance savings on last year’s washing machine. After checking out a particularly good price for a Samsung refrigerator at the local Home Depot, [YodaLogic] got to wondering if they could be bent to the hacker’s will.

Now to be clear, [YodaLogic] didn’t steal any of these tags. It turns out you can pick them up on eBay for less than $15 a pop, or at least that’s what they cost before this article went out. It’s an exceptionally good price when you realize that these displays are actually capable of color…albeit only two. Apparently when the retailer orders the so-called “Chroma 74” tags, they can pick between either yellow or red as the secondary color. While not quite as exciting as a full-color display, it certainly sets them apart from most of the e-paper panels we’ve seen used in DIY projects thus far.

The panel gets mighty close to the HaD color scheme

We’d like to tell you that [YodaLogic] cracked one of these things open and was able to wire it right up to a Pi or microcontroller, but the truth is a bit more complicated. Connecting the Chroma 74’s panel to the control board intended for a similar Waveshare 7.5 inch display didn’t seem to do anything. After some poking and prodding, it became clear that the WFD0750BF19 e-paper panel used in the Chroma needed a custom software profile to bring it to life. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a datasheet available for this particular panel.

By combining what could be gleaned from the datasheets of similar displays with a bit of experimentation, [YodaLogic] came up with a configuration profile that mostly works. It doesn’t seem like the yellow is as vibrant as it should be, and a refresh can take as long as 20 seconds, but it’s certainly a start. Perhaps the code can be tightened up with some input from the community, or even better, maybe somebody out there knows where we can get our hands on the datasheet for this panel.

While we’ve started to see more projects use e-paper displays, their high price still keeps many hackers away. Being able to repurpose cheap hardware like this could really spur some interesting development, so we’re excited to see [YodaLogic] put the finishing touches on this project and opened it up to a wider audience.