After The Prize: Chipwhisperer

We’re less than a week away from the Hackaday Superconference, where we’ll be announcing the winners of the Hackaday Prize. The Hackaday Prize is a celebration of the greatest hardware the Hackaday community has to offer, and in the past three years we’ve been running this amazing contest, we’ve seen some awesome stuff.

While not every project entered into the Hackaday Prize has gotten off the ground — the lawnmower-powered killacopter of decapitation is still tethered to its test stand — there have been some spectacular projects over the past few years that have already had an incredible impact in industry, academia, and the security industry. For the next few days, we’re going to revisit these projects, see how they’re doing, and look at the impact they’ve had on the world of Open Source hardware.

The first project we’re taking a look at is the ChipWhisperer a tool created by Colin O’Flynn to look at the secret insides of chips and firmware despite whatever embedded security is enabled on said chip. The ChipWhisperer was an entry into the first Hackaday Prize where it won second place. Since then, the ChipWhisperer has become the de facto hardware tool for investigating clock glitching, side channel analysis, and other exotic magic tricks that make security analysis so much fun.

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Ask Hackaday: DIY Handwriting Recognition

Computer handwriting recognition is very cool by itself, and it’s something that we’d like to incorporate into a project. So we went digging for hacker solutions, and along the way came up with an interesting bit of history and some great algorithms. We feel like we’ve got a good start on that front, but we’re stuck on the hardware tablet sensor itself. So in this Ask Hackaday, we’re going to make the case for why you could be using a tablet-like device for capturing user input or doing handwriting recognition, and then we’re going to ask if you know of any good DIY tablet designs to make it work.

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Three Of Our Favorite Hackers

It’s one thing to pull off a hack, it’s another entirely to explain it so that everyone can understand. [Micah Elizabeth Scott] took a really complicated concept (power glitching attacks) and boiled a successful reverse engineering process into one incredible video. scanlime-power-smoothing-alterationsWe know, watching 30 minutes of video these days is a huge ask, just watch it and thank us later.

She explains the process of dumping firmware from a Wacom tablet by hacking what the USB descriptors share. This involves altering the power rail smoothing circuit, building her own clock control board to work with the target hardware and a ChipWhisperer, then iterating the glitch until she hones in on the perfect attack.

This, of course isn’t her first rodeo. Also known as [scanlime], she’s been on the scene in a big way for a while now. Check out more of her work, and perhaps congratulate her on recently being scooped up for a Principal Researcher role that we’d like to attribute in part to the hacks she’s been demoing online. You should also thank her for being a Hackaday Prize Judge in 2015 and 2016.

led-handbag-debra-ansel-geekmomprojects-closeupThis year we spotted [Debra Ansell] at Maker Faire, not as an exhibitor but an attendee taking her newest creation out in the wild. [Debra’s] LED matrix handbag is a marvel of fabrication — both design and execution are so great it is hard to believe this is not a commercially available product. But no, the one-of-a-kind bag uses woven leather strips spaced perfectly to leave room for WS2812 RGB LED modules to nestle perfectly. Look slike she even posted a tutorial since we last checked! If you don’t recognize her name, you might recognize her company: GeekMomProjects. She’s the person behind EtchABot, a robotic addendum to the diminutive pocket Etch a Sketch which [Debra] sells on Tindie.

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The custom PCBs of Veronica (in troubleshoot mode)

Our fascination with [Quinn Dunki]’s work goes way way back. She has a software background but her hardware chops are to be admired. Recently we’ve delighted in her efforts to beef up the fabrication abilities of her shop. Want to know how to vet your new drill press — [Quinn] has you covered. We also enjoyed seeing her bring an inexpensive bandsaw up to snuff. There are too many other great hacks from [Quinn Dunki] to start naming them all. We’ll leave you with her amazing work on Veronica, the scratch-built 6502 computer that she brought with her for her Hackaday 10th Anniversary talk. Her avatar at the top is from one of her PCB etching tutorials.

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day

Today is the second Tuesday in October — it’s Ada Lovelace day, a worldwide celebration of women in science and technology. The hackers above are some of our all-around favorites and we have featured all of their work frequently. Their impact on technology is undeniable, we give them much respect for their skills and accomplishments. We’d love to hear your own favorite examples of women who have incredible game when it comes to hardware hacking. Please let us know in the comments below.

Glitching USB Firmware For Fun

[Micah Elizabeth Scott], aka [scanlime], has been playing around with USB drawing tablets, and got to the point that she wanted with the firmware — to reverse engineer, see what’s going on, and who knows what else. Wacom didn’t design the devices to be user-updateable, so there aren’t copies of the ROMs floating around the web, and the tablet’s microcontroller seems to be locked down to boot.

With the easy avenues turning up dead ends, that means building some custom hardware to get it done and making a very detailed video documenting the project (embedded below). If you’re interested in chip power glitching attacks, and if you don’t suffer from short attention span, watch it, it’s a phenomenal introduction.

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Teensy Adds S/PDIF To Library

With Arduino library support on an ARM Cortex M4 processor, it’s no surprise that we’re fans of the Teensy 3.1. And lately, [Paul Stoffregen] has been building out the Audio Library for this platform, making it even more appealing to the synth / audio geeks among us. And now, with just the addition of a highfalutin LED and some software, the Teensy can output digital audio over optical fiber.

S/PDIF, and more specifically optical TOSLINK, uses LED light sent down an optical fiber to encode audio data. The advantage of this over any voltage-level signals (like with regular wires) is that the source and destination devices aren’t electrically connected at all, which gets rid of the dreaded ground loop hum and any RF interference.

An S/PDIF audio data stream is a bit complex, but if you’re interested [Micah Scott] has a fantastic dissection of it up on her blog. Of course, you don’t have to know anything about any of that to simply use S/PDIF with the Teensy Audio Library.

We love open source hardware and software because of the collaborations that make ultra-rapid development of niche stuff like this possible. You can follow along with the development of the Teensy’s S/PDIF capabilities on the PJRC forum. Contributor [Frank B] modestly claims that “everything was already on the internet”, but that doesn’t make it any less cool that they got from zero to working library in a few weeks. (And note the clever use of a precomputed lookup table for speed.)

LED_TOSLINK2On the hardware side, [Paul] has posted up his adapter board for a cheap, but very professional looking, optical TOSLINK sender. But if you’re feeling ghetto, you can simply use a red LED pointed just right into the optical cable.

The end result? Lossless transmission of CD-quality audio from an Arduino-esque microcontroller, sent on a beam of light, for less than the cost of a latté.

2015 Hackaday Prize: Build Something That Matters

Last year we challenged you to build the next generation of connected devices. Six months later, the best teams and projects from around the world battled for the greatest prize of all: the respect of their peers and a trip to space. This year, we’re issuing a call to hackers, engineers, makers and startups from all over the world, to focus their creative efforts on nothing less than solving serious issues facing humanity.

Fix the World

thp2015-build-something-that-matters-a6We’ll all be facing a lot of problems in the next few decades, whether they’re from rising costs and consumption of oil, droughts, access to food, demographic shifts in populations, or increasing health care costs. These problems need to be dealt with, and there’s no better time than right now to start working on solutions.

What do we want from you? We want you to identify the greatest problems faced by humanity in the next few years and come up with a solution. This can be anything from better, lower-cost solar power components, inexpensive ultrasound machines, better ways to store drugs, more advanced ways of measuring farm production, or cheaper, more sustainable smartphones to bridge the digital divide. The world is full of problems, but if there’s one thing hackers have taught us, it’s that there are more than enough people willing to find solutions.

Prizes

If worldwide notoriety isn’t enough personal incentive, Hackaday is back with a huge slate of prizes for those devices that best exemplify solutions to problems that matter.

The Grand Prize is a trip to space on a carrier of your choice or $196,883 (a Monster Group number). Other top prizes include a 90-Watt laser cutter, a builder kit (pcb mill, 3d printer, cnc router, bench lathe), a tour of CERN in Geneva, and a tour of Shenzhen in China.

New this year is the Best Product award. Go the extra mile and show a production-ready device (in addition to supplying three beta test units for judging) and you can score $100,000! The entry is of course still eligible to compete for the Grand prize and other top prizes.

We’re able to pull this off once again thanks to the vision of Supplyframe who managed to unite giants of the electronics industry as sponsors of the 2015 Hackaday Prize. Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, Mouser, and Texas Instruments have all signed on in supporting this mission.

Individuals, Colleges, Hackerspaces, and Startups

If you just don’t want to go-it alone, get your team excited. After all, it was a team that won the Grand Prize last year. SatNOGS transformed the cash-option of $196,418 into a jumpstart for a foundation to carry the project forward. Get the boss on board by touting the notoriety your company will get from showing off their engineering prowess. Or help build your resume by herding your college buddies into some brainstorming session. And the Best Product prize is perfect for Startups who want to show off their builds.

Judges

Joining the Judging Panels this year are Akiba (Freaklabs), Pete Dokter (Sparkfun), Heather Knight (Marilyn MonRobot), Ben Krasnow (GoogleX & host of Applied Science on YouTube), Lenore Edman & Windell Oskay (Evil Mad Scientist Labs), and Micah Scott (Scanlime).

Our returning judges are Limor “Ladyada” Fried (Adafruit), Jack Ganssle (Ganssle Group, & The Embedded Muse), Dave Jones (EEVBlog), Ian Lesnet (Dangerous Prototypes), and Elecia White (Logical Elegance).

You can read all of the judge bios and find social media and webpage links for them on our Judges page. We are indebted to these industry experts for sharing their time and talent to make the Hackaday Prize possible.

Tell Everyone

We don’t ask often: please tell everyone you know about the 2015 Hackaday Prize! Social media share icons are just above the image at the top of this post. Submit this page or the prize page (http://hackaday.io/prize) to all your favorite sites. No hacker should get through this day without hearing about #HackadayPrize and we can’t reach total media saturation without your help. Thanks in advance!

GET STARTED NOW

Don’t wait, put up an idea right now and tag it with “2015HackadayPrize”. We’re sending out swag for early ideas that help get the ball rolling. And as you flesh out your plans you could score prizes to help build the prototype like PCBs, 3D prints, laser cutting, etc. Make it to the finals and you’ll be looking at the five top prizes we mentioned earlier. A simple idea can change the world.

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Reverse Engineering A Blu-ray Drive For Laser Graffiti

There’s a whole lot of interesting mechanics, optics, and electronics inside a Blu-ray drive, and [scanlime] a.k.a. [Micah Scott] thinks those bits can be reused for some interesting project. [Micah] is reverse engineering one of these drives, with the goal of turning it into a source of cheap, open source holograms and laser installations – something these devices were never meant to do. This means reverse engineering the 3 CPUs inside an external Blu-ray drive, making sense of the firmware, and making this drive do whatever [Micah] wants.

When the idea of reverse engineering a Blu-ray drive struck [Micah], she hopped on Amazon and found the most popular drive out there. It turns out, this is an excellent drive to reverse engineer – there are multiple firmware updates for this drive, an excellent source for the raw data that would be required to reverse engineer it.

[Micah]’s first effort to reverse engineer the drive seems a little bit odd; she turned the firmware image into a black and white graphic. Figuring out exactly what’s happening in the firmware with that is a fool’s errand, but by looking at the pure black and pure white parts of the graphic, [Micah] was able guess where the bootloader was, and how the firmware image is segmented. In other parts of the code, [Micah] saw thing vertical lines she recognized as ARM code. In another section, thin horizontal black bands revealed code for an 8051. These lines are only a product of how each architecture accesses code, and really only something [Micah] recognizes from doing this a few times before.

The current state of the project is a backdoor that is able to upload new firmware to the drive. It’s in no way a complete project; only the memory for the ARM processor is running new code, and [Micah] still has no idea what’s going on inside some of the other chips. Still, it’s a start, and the beginning of an open source firmware for a Blu-ray drive.

While [Micah] want’s to use these Blu-ray drives for laser graffiti, there are a number of other slightly more useful reasons for the build. With a DVD drive, you can hold a red blood cell in suspension, or use the laser inside to make graphene. Video below.

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