Overengineering A Smart Doorbell

Fresh from the mediaeval splendour of the Belgian city of Gent, we bring you more from the Newline hacker conference organised by Hackerspace Gent. [Victor Sonck] works at the top of his house, and thus needed a doorbell notifier. His solution was unexpected, and as he admits over engineered, using machine learning on an audio stream from a microphone to detect the doorbell’s sound.

Having established that selling his soul to Amazon with a Ring doorbell wasn’t an appropriate solution, he next looked at his existing doorbell. Some of us might connect directly to its power to sense when the button was pressed, but we’re kinda glad he went for the overengineered route because it means we are treated to a run-down how machine learning works and how it can be applied to audio. The end result can sometimes be triggered by a spoon hitting a cereal plate, but since he was able to demonstrate it working we think it can be called a success. Should you wish to dive in further you can find more in his GitHub repository.

How would you overengineer a doorbell? Use GNU radio and filters? Or maybe a Rube Goldberg machine involving string and pulleys? As always, the comments are open.

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Hey, MiSTer Emulator, Gimme Almost Any Classic Platform!

I’m back with another of the talks from Hackerspace Gent’s NewLine conference, fresh from my weekend of indulgence quaffing fine Belgian food and beers while mixing with that country’s hacker community. This time it’s an overview from [Michael Smith] of the MiSTer project, a multi-emulator using an FPGA to swap out implementations of everything from an early PDP minicomputer to an 80486SX PC.

At its heart is a dev board containing an Intel Cyclone SoC/FPGA, to which a USB hub must be added, and then a memory upgrade to run all but the simplest of cores. Once the hardware has been taken care of it almost seems as though there are no classic platforms for which there isn’t a core, as a quick browse of the MiSTer forum attests. We are treated to seamless switching between SNES and NED platforms, and even switching different SID chip versions during a running Commodore 64 demo.

There are many different routes to a decent emulator set-up be they using hardware, software, or a combination of both. It’s unlikely that there are any as versatile as this one though, and we’re guessing that as it further evolves it will become a fixture below the monitor or TV of any gamer.  It’s a step up from single-platform FPGA emulators, that’s for certain!

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EM-Glitching For Nintendo DSi Boot ROMs

Some hacker events are muddy and dusty affairs in distant fields, others take place in darkened halls, but I went to one that can be experienced as a luxury break in a European city steeped in culture and history. Newline takes place at Hackerspace Gent, in the Belgian city of that name, and I was there last weekend to catch the atmosphere as well as the programme of talks and workshops. And of those a good start was made by [PoroCYon], whose fascinating introduction to the glitching techniques involved in recovering the boot ROMs from a Nintendo DSi taught us plenty of things we hadn’t seen before.

The talk which you’ll find below the break starts by describing the process of glitching — using power supply interference to interrupt the operation of a microprocessor and avoid certain instructions — to bypass security code. It then moves on to some of the protection mechanisms used in the various generations of Nintendo consoles and handhelds, before moving on to the work on the DSi at which point the talk moved onto a field which may be old hat in glitching circles but was new to me; that of EM glitching.

EM glitching involves using a small coil to generate precisely timed electromagnetic pulses which induce the glitch voltages in the chip. The fascinating part is that the EM probe can be made small enough to target individual areas of the chip, so using it involves a brute-force technique trying all combinations of timing and position with the probe held in a computer-controlled X-Y mount.

The DSi has two processors on board, this achieves success with the ARM7 but leaves its companion ARM9 as yet untapped. There are a promising set of attack vectors left to try, of which the ARM7 placing the ARM9 into a state from which it can be glitched seems to be the most promising. It’s fairly obvious that there’s plenty more to come from this quarter.

More details of the talk can be found in this repository, and for those interested in EM glitching you can find out more in this video and in this project using it to attack a Gecko microcontroller.

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2021 Hackaday Remoticon: Call For Proposals

The Hackaday Remoticon is happening this November 19th and 20th and the whole Internet is invited. This time around we’re packing the weekend with talks about all the hardware, software, special skills, and inspiration that gets poured into the world of electronic stuff.

Send in your talk proposal now! I know, Call for Proposals sounds so official, but it’s really just a matter of giving us a summary of what the talk will cover, and an in-depth description where you make your case on why the talk is relevant to the people who will be watching it.

We go out of our way with all of our Hackaday conferences to get first-time speakers up on stage (or I suppose in front of a webcam in this case). Whether it’s your first time or your fortieth, the substance of the talk is what matters the most — we want to see what you’ve been doing at your workbench and in your lab so please give us a window into that part of your life.

Like many of you, we desperately wanted to get back to an in-person Hackaday Superconference this year. We waited until now to make the call in hopes that maybe a smaller live conference would be possible, but at this point, even if we could pull off the weekend safely, it’s hard to imagine people would have the relaxing good time that Supercon has come to be known for. On the plus side, holding a virtual event like Remoticon means more of the Hackaday community gets to join in on the action. To shake things up for 2021, we’re pivoting away from workshops to make room for more talks and adding some excellent new ways for you to participate that we’ll be sharing more about very soon.

But to pull it off we need a slate of engineers, hackers, and geeks who want to share what they’re passionate about with a captive audience of like-minded individuals. Think you’re up to the challenge? Submit your ideas and let’s build something amazing. Or if you’d rather just kick back and watch, reach out to your favorite hacker and encourage them to speak. The one huge upside of a virtual conference is that it breaks down the time and treasure barriers of travelling to Pasadena to participate, and having this event accessible to a much wider range of people is something we can all get behind.

Reporting From BornHack 2021: Hacker Camps Making It Through The Pandemic

In a normal summer we would be spoiled for choice here in Europe when it came to our community’s events, with one big camp and a host of smaller ones near and far. Only the most hardcore of travelers manage to make it to all of them, but it’s usually possible to take in at least one or two over the season. But of course, this isn’t a normal summer. Many of us may now be vaccinated against COVID-19, but we remain in the grip of a global pandemic. The massive Dutch MCH camp was postponed until 2022, and most of the smaller camps have fallen by the wayside due to uncertainty. But one hacker camp carried on.

BornHack in Denmark was the world’s only in-person summer hacker event of 2020, and on its return last week made it the only such event in Europe for 2021. Having secured a ticket earlier in the year when they went on sale, I navigated the tricky world of cross-border European travel in a pandemic to make my way to the Hylkedam scout camp on the Danish isle of Fyn for a week in the company of hackers from all over Northern Europe. BornHack had achieved the impossible again, and it was time to enjoy a much-needed week at a hacker camp.

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Hands-On: Whiskey Pirates DC29 Hardware Badge Blings With RISC-V

The Whiskey Pirates have once again dropped an excellent electronic badge for DEF CON 29. This is, of course, unofficial, but certainly makes the list of the hottest custom bling seen so far this year.

I’m not able to make it to the con in person, but the Pirates sent over one of these badges anyway for an early look. It’s gorgeous, and peering into the circuit board it would be easy to think that the chip shortage ain’t got nothin’ on this badge. But this was possible only because of some very creative parts sourcing, and a huge dose of inspired design work.

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Hands On: DEF CON 29 Badge Embraces The New Normal

To say that 2020 was a transformative year would be something of an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the way we worked, learned, and lived. Despite all those jokes about how much time people spend on their devices rather than interacting face-to-face with other humans, it turns out that when you can’t get more than a few people together in the same room, it throws our entire society into disarray.

Our community had to rethink how we congregated, and major events like HOPE, DEF CON, and even our own Hackaday Supercon, had to be quickly converted into virtual events that tried with varying degrees of success to capture the experience of hundreds or thousands of hackers meeting up in real life. While few would argue that a virtual hacker convention can ever truly replace a physical one, we learned there are undeniable benefits to embracing the advantages offered by cyberspace. If nothing else, the virtual hacker meetups of 2020 saw a far larger and more diverse array of attendees and presenters than ever before.

As we begin seeing the first rays of light at the end of the long, dark, tunnel we’ve been stuck in, it’s clear that some of the changes that COVID-19 forced on our community are here to stay. As eager as we all are to get back to the epic hackfests of old, nobody wants to close the door on all those who would be unable to attend physically now that they’ve gotten to peek behind the curtain.

With this in mind, this year’s DEF CON is being presented in both physical and virtual forms simultaneously. If you made to Las Vegas, great. If not, you can follow along through chat rooms and video streams from the comfort of your own home. Following the theme, the DC29 badge is not only a practical tool for virtual attendees, but an electronic puzzle for those who are able to bring a few of them together physically. Let’s take a closer look at this socially distanced badge and the tech that went into it.

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