Students Use Low Tech Hacks On High Tech Parking Enforcer

If you are a college student and you get too many parking fines, you are going to get in trouble. But one school didn’t count on students hacking their high tech parking violation deterrent. Some even got free internet from the devices.

You pay your taxes or — in the case of students — your tuition. But still, the city or university wants you to pay to park your car. In the old days, you’d get your car towed. But the people running the parking lot don’t really like having to share the fees they charge you with a tow truck driver. Many places clamp a device to your tire that makes it impossible to drive. Oklahoma University decided that was too much trouble, also, so they turned to Barnacle. Barnacle is a cheaper alternative to the old parking clamp. In sticks to your windshield so you can’t see to drive. The suction cups have an air pump to keep them secure and a GPS squeals if you move the car with it on there anyway.

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The Truth Is In There: The Art Of Electronics, The X-Chapters

If you’ve been into electronics for any length of time, you’ve almost certainly run across the practical bible in the field, The Art of Electronics, commonly abbreviated AoE. Any fan of the book will certainly want to consider obtaining the latest release, The Art of Electronics: The x-Chapters, which follows the previous third edition of AoE from 2015. This new book features expanded coverage of topics from the previous editions, plus discussions of some interesting but rarely traveled areas of electrical engineering.

For those unfamiliar with it, AoE, first published in 1980, is an unusually useful hybrid of textbook and engineer’s reference, blending just enough theory with liberal doses of practical experience. With its lively tone and informal style, the book has enabled people from many backgrounds to design and implement electronic circuits.

After the initial book, the second edition (AoE2) was published in 1989, and the third (AoE3) in 2015, each one renewing and expanding coverage to keep up with the rapid pace of the field. I started with the second edition and it was very well worn when I purchased a copy of the third, an upgrade I would recommend to anyone still on the fence. While the second and third books looked a lot like the first, this new one is a bit different. It’s at the same time an expanded discussion of many of the topics covered in AoE3 and a self-contained reference manual on a variety of topics in electrical engineering.

I pre-ordered this book the same day I learned it was to be published, and it finally arrived this week. So, having had the book in hand — almost continuously — for a few days, I think I’ve got a decent idea of what it’s all about. Stick around for my take on the latest in this very interesting series of books.

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CircuitPython Slithers Into 100th Board — The OHS 2020 Badge

CircuitPython reached a major milestone last week as it welcomed its 100th board into the fold: the wristwatch form factored badge designed for the 10th annual Open Source Hardware Summit, which takes place March 13th in New York City. Although CircuitPython — an open source derivative of MicroPython — was born at Adafruit, more than half of the boards on this list were produced outside of the company. That just goes to show the strength of the community in support of the snake.

The OSHW 2020 badge joins a litany of familiar boards happy to drop you into a Python interpreter. Among them there’s the Adafruit Feather ecosystem, the ItsyBitsy, specialized boards like the Edge Badge that was in some goodie bags at Supercon, and the CircuitPlayground — that Swiss army knife of sensors which now comes in a Bluetooth version. The first 100 boards were rounded out in strong fashion with [Joey Castillo]’s OpenBook e-reader and the Teensy 4.0. Continue reading “CircuitPython Slithers Into 100th Board — The OHS 2020 Badge”

Another IoT Debacle: Charter Offers Home Insecurity

If you are a glass-half-empty person, you’ll view Charter’s announcement that they will shutter their home security and smart home service on February 5th as another reason not to buy into closed-source IoT devices. If you are a glass-half-full person though, you’ll see the cable company’s announcement as a sign that a lot of Zigbee hardware will soon flood the surplus market. Ars Technica reports that after investigation it appears that some of the devices may connect to a standard Zigbee hub after a factory reset, but many others will definitely not.

As you might expect, users were less than thrilled. Especially those that shelled out thousands of dollars on sensors and cameras. This sort of thing might be expected if a company goes out of business, but Charter just doesn’t want to be in the home security business anymore.

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This Week In Security: Windows 10 Apocalypse, Paypal Problems, And Cablehaunt

Nicely timed to drop on the final day of Windows 7 support, Windows 10 received a fix to an extremely serious flaw in crypt32.dll. This flaw was reported by the good guys at the NSA. (We know it was the good guys, because they reported it rather than used it to spy on us.) It’s really bad. If you’re running Windows 10, go grab the update now. OK, you’re updated? Good, let’s talk about it now.

The flaw applies to X.509 keys that use elliptic curve cryptography. We’ve discussed ECC in the past, but let’s review. Public key encryption is based on the idea that some calculations are very easy to perform and verify, but extremely difficult to calculate the reverse operation.

The historic calculation is multiplying large primes, as it’s unreasonably difficult to factorize that result by a conventional computer. A true quantum computer with enough qubits will theoretically be able to factorize those numbers much quicker than a classical computer, so the crypto community has been searching for a replacement for years. The elliptic curve is the solution that has become the most popular. An agreed-upon curve and initial vector are all that is needed to perform the ECC calculation.

There are potential weaknesses in ECC. One such weakness is that not all curves are created equal. A well constructed curve results in good cryptography, but there are weak curves that result in breakable encryption.

With that foundation laid, the flaw itself is relatively easy to understand. An X.509 certificate can define its own curve. The Windows 10 implementation doesn’t properly check the curve that is specified. A malicious curve is specified that is similar to the expected curve — similar enough that the checks in crypt32 don’t catch it. Continue reading “This Week In Security: Windows 10 Apocalypse, Paypal Problems, And Cablehaunt”

New Part Day: Arduino Goes Pro With The Portenta H7

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is traditionally where the big names in tech show off their upcoming products, and the 2020 show was no different. There were new smartphones, TVs, and home automation devices from all the usual suspects. Even a few electric vehicles snuck in there. But mixed in among flashy presentations from the electronics giants was a considerably more restrained announcement from a company near and dear to the readers of Hackaday: Arduino is going pro.

While Arduino has been focused on the DIY and educational market since their inception, the newly unveiled Portenta H7 is designed for professional users who want to rapidly develop robust hardware suitable for industrial applications. With built-in wireless hardware and the ability to run Python and JavaScript out of the box, the powerful dual-core board comes with a similarly professional price tag; currently for preorder at $99 USD a pop, the Portenta is priced well outside of the company’s traditional DIY and educational markets. With increased competition from other low-cost microcontrollers, it seems that Arduino is looking to expand out of its comfort zone and find new revenue streams.

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CircuitPython Now Working On Teensy 4.0

Python is often touted as a great language for beginner coders to learn. Until recently, however, it simply wasn’t a viable choice in the embedded space. That’s begun to change with projects like CircuitPython, and now it’s available on the Teensy 4.0!

This milestone is thanks in part to [arturo182], who did the ground work of getting CircuitPython to run on the iMX RT series of microcontrollers. This was built upon by [tannewt], who is the lead in charge of the CircuitPython project.

There are some bugs to work out; currently, the project is in a very early stage of development. [Paul Stoffregen], who heads Teensy development, has already pointed out that there needs to be allowance for the 4096 byte recovery partition in the Teensy 4.0’s storage, for example. Development continues at a rapid pace, and those with ideas about where the project should go can weigh in online.

It’s an exciting development, which brings easy Python development to one of the more powerful embedded development platforms on the market. We look forward to seeing many more projects take advantage of the power of the Teensy 4.0 moving forward. If you’re eager to see what can be done with CircuitPython, be sure to check out projects we’ve featured before. Video after the break.

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