Hackaday Podcast Episode 280: TV Tubes As Amplifiers, Smart Tech In Sportsballs, And Adrian Gives Us The Fingie

Despite the summer doldrums, it was another big week in the hacking world, and Elliot sat down with Dan for a rundown. Come along for the ride as Dan betrays his total ignorance of soccer/football, much to Elliot’s amusement. But it’s all about keeping the human factor in sports, so we suppose it was worth it. Less controversially, we ogled over a display of PCB repair heroics, analyzed a reverse engineering effort that got really lucky, and took a look at an adorable one-transistor ham transceiver. We also talked about ants doing surgery, picking locks with nitric acid, a damn cute dam, and how to build one of the world’s largest machines from scratch in under a century. Plus, we answered the burning question: can a CRT be used as an audio amplifier? Yes, kind of, but please don’t let the audiophiles know or we’ll never hear the end of it.

Worried about attracting the Black Helicopters? Download the DRM-free MP3 and listen offline, just in case.

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This Week In Security: Snowflake, The CVD Tension, And Kaspersky’s Exit — And Breaking BSOD

In the past week, AT&T has announced an absolutely massive data breach. This is sort of a multi-layered story, but it gives me an opportunity to use my favorite piece of snarky IT commentary: The cloud is a fancy way to talk about someone else’s servers. And when that provider has a security problem, chances are, so do you.

The provider in question is Snowflake, who first made the news in the Ticketmaster breach. As far as anyone can tell, Snowflake has not actually been directly breached, though it seems that researchers at Hudson Rock briefly reported otherwise. That post has not only been taken down, but also scrubbed from the wayback machine, apparently in response to a legal threat from Snowflake. Ironically, Snowflake has confirmed that one of their former employees was compromised, but Snowflake is certain that nothing sensitive was available from the compromised account.

At this point, it seems that the twin problems are that big organizations aren’t properly enforcing security policy like Two Factor Authentication, and Snowflake just doesn’t provide the tools to set effective security policy. The Mandiant report indicates that all the breaches were the result of credential stealers and other credential-based techniques like credential stuffing. Continue reading “This Week In Security: Snowflake, The CVD Tension, And Kaspersky’s Exit — And Breaking BSOD”

Retrotechtacular: Ford Model T Wheels, Start To Finish

There’s no doubt that you’ll instantly recognize clips from the video below, as they’ve been used over and over for more than 100 years to illustrate the development of the assembly line. But those brief clips never told the whole story about just how much effort Ford was forced to put into manufacturing just one component of their iconic Model T: the wheels.

An in-house production of Ford Motors, this film isn’t dated, at least not obviously. And with the production of Model T cars using wooden spoked artillery-style wheels stretching from 1908 to 1925, it’s not easy to guess when the film was made. But judging by the clothing styles of the many hundreds of men and boys working in the River Rouge wheel shop, we’d venture a guess at 1920 or so.

Production of the wooden wheels began with turning club-shaped spokes from wooden blanks — ash, at a guess — and drying them in a kiln for more than three weeks. While they’re cooking, a different line steam-bends hickory into two semicircular felloes that will form the wheel’s rim. The number of different steps needed to shape the fourteen pieces of wood needed for each wheel is astonishing. Aside from the initial shaping, the spokes need to be mitered on the hub end to fit snugly together and have a tenon machined on the rim end. The felloes undergo multiple steps of drilling, trimming, and chamfering before they’re ready to receive the spokes.

The first steel component is a tire, which rolls down out of a furnace that heats and expands it before the wooden wheel is pressed into it. More holes are drilled and more steel is added; plates to reinforce the hub, nuts and bolts to hold everything together, and brake drums for the rear wheels. The hubs also had bearing races built right into them, which were filled with steel balls right on the line. How these unsealed bearings were protected during later sanding and grinding operations, not to mention the final painting step, which required a bath in asphalt paint and spinning the wheel to fling off the excess, is a mystery.

Welded steel spoked wheels replaced their wooden counterparts in the last two model years for the T, even though other car manufacturers had already started using more easily mass-produced stamped steel disc wheels in the mid-1920s. Given the massive infrastructure that the world’s largest car manufacturer at the time devoted to spoked wheel production, it’s easy to see why. But Ford eventually saw the light and moved away from spoked wheels for most cars. We can’t help but wonder what became of the army of workers, but it probably wasn’t good. So turn the wheels of progress.

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Supercon 2023: Bringing Arcade Classics To New Hardware

The processing power of modern game consoles is absolutely staggering when compared to the coin-op arcade machines of the early 1980s. Packed with terabytes of internal storage and gigabytes of RAM, there’s hardly a comparison to make with the Z80 cabinets that ran classics like Pac-Man. But despite being designed to pump out lifelike 4K imagery without breaking a virtual sweat, occasionally even these cutting-edge consoles are tasked with running one of those iconic early games like Dig Dug or Pole Position. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug…

As long as there are still demand for these genre-defining games, developers will have to keep figuring out ways to bring them to newer — and vastly more complex — systems. Which is precisely the topic of Bob Hickman’s 2023 Supercon talk, The Bits and Bytes of Bringing Arcade Classics to Game Consoles. Having spent decades as a professional game developer, he’s got plenty of experience with the unique constraints presented by both consoles and handhelds, and what it takes to get old code running on new silicon.

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FLOSS Weekly Episode 792: Rust Coreutils

This week Jonathan Bennett and Jeff Massie chat with Sylvestre Ledru about the Rust Coreutils! Why would we want to re-implement 50 year old utilities, what’s the benefit of doing them in Rust, and what do the maintainers of the regular coreutils project think about it?

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Hacker Tactic: Single-PCB Panels

Ordering a PCB? Two of them? Three? Five? For about eight years now, I’ve been regularly ordering large numbers of different PCBs, and, naturally, have developed a toolkit to make things smoother. One trick is PCB panelization, and you should really know about it.

You might’ve encountered PCB panels already. Perhaps, if you order PCBA at a fab, you will get your board returned in a whole new form-factor, with rails on the sides that you have to snap off before your PCB is usable. Those rails are used so that your PCBs are easier to handle during assembly, but that’s far from the only reason why you would make a panel.

If you need multiple pieces of a PCB, your fab may say that building 50 pcs is classified as “large batch” and that takes longer than 30 days, which delays your entire PCB order. I’ve been there, five years ago, running out of time right before Chinese New Year. The fix was simple – I made a 2×2 panel and ordered that in quantity of 10-15. Panelization might be a little more expensive, or maybe even cheaper, but, most importantly, it will be faster.

In a few hours’ time, I sat down, figured out that KiCad has built-in features for panelization, and ordered panels instead of separate PCBs. Thanks to that, I made the Chinese New Year deadline that year and could successfully restock my store, letting me earn a fair bit of money instead of keeping a popular product out-of-stock – ultimately, helping my family stay up on rent that month.

Panelization lets you hack around many PCB ordering and assembly limitations, and I’ve only gotten started – there’s way way more! For now, let’s sort out panelizing multiples of the same PCB. As long as your boards are using KiCad (or KiCad-converted from Eagle/EasyEDA/Altium/gerbers), there’s no better software than KiKit.

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Show Us Your Minimalist Games, And Win

Sometimes the tightest constraints inspire the highest creativity. The 2024 Tiny Games Challenge invites you to have the most fun with the most minimal setup. Whether that’s tiny size, tiny parts count, or tiny code, we want you to show us that big fun can come in small packages.

The Tiny Games Challenge starts now and runs through September 10th, with the top three entries receiving a $150 gift certificate courtesy of DigiKey.

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