Low-Level Academy Gets Into Details

We often say that you don’t have to know how an engine works to drive a car, but you can bet that every driver at the Indy 500 knows exactly how it works. You could say the same for computers. You don’t need to understand the details, but it really helps, especially if something goes wrong. [Low-Level Academy] has an online class where you can program in Rust inside your browser to learn about low-level TCP and UDP networking details.

Just how low it goes, we aren’t exactly sure, yet. There are three of eight modules ready to go. The first three cover number encoding, exchanging messages with UDP, and fragmentation. Reliability, routing, server programming, TCP, and HTTP are not out yet, but the ultimate project is a web server. In addition, new modules are released to sponsors first, so the fragmentation module for example won’t be available for a few more days. While that seems unorthodox, it is no different than having to wait for an HBO show to show up on basic cable in reruns.

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Ask Hackaday: With Landline Use In Decline, What’s To Be Done With The Local Loop?

Walking is great exercise, but it’s good for the mind too: it gives one time to observe and to think. At least that’s what I do on my daily walks, and being me, what I usually observe and think about is the local infrastructure along my route. Recently, I was surprised to see a number of telephone company cabinets lying open next to the sidewalk. Usually when you see an open box, there’s a telephone tech right there, working on the system. But these were wide open and unattended, which I thought was unusual.

I, of course, took the opportunity to check out the contents of these pedestals in detail. Looking at the hundreds of pairs of brightly colored wire all neatly terminated and obviously installed and maintained at great expense, I was left wondering why someone would leave such a valuable asset exposed to the elements. With traditional POTS, or plain old telephone service, on the decline, the world may no longer have much use for the millions of miles of copper cable feeding back to telco central offices (COs) anymore. But there’s got to be something this once-vital infrastructure is still good for, leading me to ask: what’s to be done with the local loop?

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Faster Desktop Ethernet With Server Network Adapters

As far as consumer network hardware goes, we’re all expected to be pretty happy with 802.11n WiFi and Gigabit Ethernet over Cat 6 cables. For most home users, that’s plenty of bandwidth for streaming movies and posting K-pop fancams to Twitter on a daily basis. If you want a fatter pipe, things can get expensive, fast. However, [TobleMiner] found a way to use surplus server-grade cards in a regular PC – providing huge bandwidth on a budget.

The adapter is designed to allow a FlexibleLOM card to fit into a regular ATX PCI-E card slot. A small additional bracket should be used to fix the card in place with the typical bracket retention screw.

HPE’s FlexibleLOM standard consists of a special edge connector on HPE servers that lets the end-user fit a variety of network adapters in a form factor designed specifically for blade and rack mount servers. At the electrical level, it’s simply PCI-Express 8x. FlexibleLOM network cards are built for high-speed data center use, often featuring SFP+ and QSFP+ interfaces capable of 10 gigabit and 40 gigabit speeds, respectively.

These cards can be had for under $20 on eBay, but won’t fit in a standard PCI-Express slot. Enter [ToberMiner]’s adapter, which hooks up the relevant PCI-Express lines to where they need to go, and mechanically adapts the FlexibleLOM hardware to fit in a regular ATX PC case.

It’s a great way to get server-grade network adapters in your home rig, without breaking the bank. We’ve featured other attempts at high-speed home networking before, too. If you’ve got the low down on a great way to get multi-gigabit speeds out of cheap surplus hardware, you know who to call.

[Thanks to Marco for the tip!]

Underwater Datacenter Proves To Be A Success

Back in 2018, Microsoft began Project Natick, deploying a custom-designed data center to the sea floor off the coast of Scotland. Aiming to determine whether the underwater environment would bring benefits to energy efficiency, reliability, and performance, the project was spawned during ThinkWeek in 2014, an event designed to share and explore unconventional ideas.

This week, Microsoft reported that the project had been a success. The Northern Isles data center was recently lifted from the ocean floor in a day-long operation, and teams swooped in to analyse the hardware, and the results coming out of the project are surprisingly impressive.

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Hacking D-Link Firmware

When [0xRickSanchez] found some D-Link firmware he couldn’t unpack, he was curious to find out why. The firmware had a new encryption method which was doing its job of preventing tampering and static analysis. Of course, he had to figure out how to get around it and is documenting his work in a series of blog posts.

Looking at the entropy analysis showed the data to be totally random,  a good sign it was either encrypted or compressed. The target router cost about $200, but a similar cheaper router used the same encryption and thus this model became the hardware of choice for testing.

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Tiny Ethernet Switch Gets Even Smaller

As a project gets more complicated, some kind of internal communication network is often used to that all of the various modules and sensors can talk with each other. For hardware hackers like us, that usually means SPI, I2C, or maybe even good old fashioned UART. But if you’re pushing a lot of data around, like live video feeds from multiple cameras, you’ll need something a bit faster than that.

Which is why [Josh Elijah] has created the SwitchBlox Nano, a three port 10/100 Ethernet switch that fits on a one inch square PCB. All you need to do is provide it with power, with a generous input range of 5 to 50 volts, connect your devices to the Molex Picoblade connectors on the board, and away you go. There’s even a 5 V 1 A regulated output you can use to run your downstream devices.

If you’ve got a feeling that you’ve seen something very similar on these pages earlier in the year, you’re not imagining things. Back in April we covered the original five port SwitchBlox in a post that garnered quite a bit of attention. In fact, [Josh] tells us that the design of this new switch was driven largely by the feedback he got from Hackaday readers. The Nano is not only smaller and cheaper than the original, but now maintains full electrical isolation between each port.

The average Hackaday reader is as knowledgeable as they are opinionated, and we’re glad [Josh] was able to put the feedback he received to practical use. We’re proud that our community has had a hand in refining successful commercial products like the Arduboy handheld game system and the Mooltipass hardware password keeper. Now it looks like we can add a tiny Ethernet switch to the list of gadgets we’ve helped push up the hill. Maybe we should get a stamp or something…

Marian Croak Is The MVP Of VoIP Adoption

If you’ve ever used FaceTime, Skype, own a Magic Jack, or have donated money after a disaster by sending a text message, then you have Marian Croak to thank. Her leadership and forward thinking changed how Ma Bell used its reach and made all of these things possible.

Marian Croak is a soft-spoken woman and a self-described non-talker, but her actions spoke loudly in support of Internet Protocol (IP) as the future of communication. Humans are always looking for the next best communication medium, the fastest path to understanding each other clearly. We are still making phone calls today, but voice has been joined by text and video as the next best thing to being there. All of it is riding on a versatile network strongly rooted in Marian’s work.

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