The Ubo Pod by [Mehrdad Majzoobi] is a very highly polished extension pack and enclosure for the Raspberry Pi 4, which shows you how far you can go to turn a bare PCB into something that rivals the hardware offerings from Google and others. Gadgets like the Sonos speakers and Amazon or Google’s covert listening devices (aka Echo, Alexa, or whatever they’re branded as) are fun to play with. Still, the difficulty of hacking custom applications into them and god-forbid adding one’s own extension hardware, makes them fairly closed ecosystems. Add in the concerns of privacy and data security; they look less and less attractive the closer you look. Luckily the Raspberry Pi and its friends have improved the accessibility to the point where it’s positively easy to create whatever you want with whatever hardware you need, and to that end we think [Mehrdad] has done a splendid job.
The custom top PCB sits below the wooden top surface, hosting a central LCD display with push buttons located around it. Also sitting atop are some IR transmitters and receivers as well as RGB LEDs for the ring lighting. This top PCB acts as a RPi hat, and plugs into an RPi4 below, which then attaches to a side board via some PCB-mounted connectors, matching up with the USB and audio connectors. This board seems to act purely as an interconnect and form-factor adaptor allowing interfaces to be presented more conveniently without needing wires. This makes for a very clean construction. Extensive use of resin printing is shown, with lots of nice details of how to solve problems such as LED diffusion and bleeding. Overall, a very slick and well-executed project, that is giving us a few ideas for our own projects.
As we have seen time and time again, not every device stores our sensitive data in a respectful manner. Some of them send our personal data out to third parties, even! Today’s case is not a mythical one, however — it’s a jellybean Amazon Echo Dot, and [Daniel B] shows how to make it spill your WiFi secrets with a bit of a hardware nudge.
There’s been exploits for Amazon devices with the same CPU, so to save time, [Daniel] started by porting an old Amazon Fire exploit to the Echo Dot. This exploit requires tactically applying a piece of tin foil to a capacitor on the flash chip power rail, and it forces the Echo to surrender the contents of its entire filesystem, ripe for analysis. Immediately, [Daniel] found out that the Echo keeps your WiFi passwords in plain text, as well as API keys to some of the Amazon-tied services.
Found an old Echo Dot at a garage sale or on eBay? There might just be a WiFi password and a few API keys ripe for the taking, and who knows what other kinds of data it might hold. From Amazon service authentication keys to voice recognition models and maybe even voice recordings, it sounds like getting an Echo to spill your secrets isn’t all that hard.
There’s so much obsolete technology out there with great design. It’s really sad to see it end up in the landfill, because even though the insides may be outdated, good design is forever. Take this 1980s Panasonic answering machine, for instance. The smoky plastic of the cassette lid is the perfect screen for Dot, because it lets the light through while hiding the modernity of the thing in the process. Check it out in action after the break.
What [ehans_makes] has written is really more of an overall guide to repurposing old electronics and fighting e-waste in the process. First, they non-destructively figure out what needs to be done to both the old thing and the newer thing to get them to play nicely together — what 3D printed parts need to be added, what can be salvaged and reused from the old thing, and what parts of the old enclosure can be Dremeled away. In this case, [ehans_makes] ended up printing an adapter to be able to re-use the original speaker’s mounting points inside the answering machine, and printed a mount for the Dot as well. The STLs are available if you happen to find the same answering machine at your local thrift store or neighbor’s estate sale.
While we’ve always managed to hold on to the screws when we disassemble something, [ehans_makes] has an even better idea: draw a diagram of where they go, and tape the actual screws to the diagram as you remove them.
Smart speakers have always posed a risk to privacy and security — that’s just the price we pay for getting instant answers to life’s urgent and not-so-urgent questions the moment they arise. But it seems that many owners of the 76 million or so smart speakers on the active install list have yet to wake up to the reality that this particular trick of technology requires a microphone that’s always listening. Always. Listening.
Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys geek out over the latest hacks. This week we saw a couple of clever CNC builds that leverage a great ESP32 port of GRBL. The lemonade-pitcher-based submarine project is everything you thought couldn’t work in an underwater ROV. Amazon’s newest Dot has its warranty voided to show off what 22 pounds gets you these days. And there’s a great tutorial on debugging circuits that grew out of a Fail of the Week. Plus, we get the wind knocked out of us with an ambitious launch schedule for airless automotive tires, and commiserate over the confusing world of USB-C.
Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!
Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!
Here’s a Big Mouth Billy Bass with extra lip thanks to Alexa. If you’re not already familiar, Big Mouth Billy Bass is the shockingly popular singing animatronic fish designed to look like a trophy fish mounted to hang on your wall. In its stock condition, Billy uses a motion sensor to break into song whenever someone walks by. It’s limited to a few songs, unless you like to hack things — in which case it’s a bunch of usable parts wrapped in a humorous fish! Hackaday’s own [Bob Baddeley] combined the fish with an Amazon Echo Dot, connecting the two with an ATtiny84, and having Billy speak for Alexa.
[Bob] had a few problems to solve, including making Billy’s mouth move when there was audio playing, detecting when the Echo was on, moving the motors and playing the audio. After a bit of research and a lot of tweaking, a Fast Fourier Transform algorithm designed for the ATtiny was used was used to get the mouth moving. The mouth didn’t move a lot because of the design of the fish, and [Bob] modified it a bit, but there was only so much he could do.
It’s all well and good for the fish to lie there and sing, but [Bob] wanted Billy to move when Alexa was listening, and in order the detect this, the best bet was to watch for the Dot’s light to turn on. He tried a couple of things but decided that the simplest method was probably the best and ended up just taping a photo-resistor over the LED. Now Billy turns to look at you when you ask Alexa a question.
With a few modifications to the Dot’s enclosure, everything now fits inside the original mounting plaque and, after some holes were drilled so the Dot could hear, working. Billy has gone from just a few songs to an enormous entire library of songs to sing!
It takes a surprising amount of planning and work if you want something to look old. [vemeT5ak] wanted the Echo Dot sitting on his desk to fit a different aesthetic motivated by a 1940s Canadian radio. Armed with Solidworks, a Tormach CNC, and some woodworking tools at Sector67 hackerspace, he built a retro-futuristic case for the Amazon Alexa-enabled gadget. Future and past meet thanks to the design and material appearance of the metal grille and base molding wrapping the wood radio case. The finishing touch is of course the ring of blue light which still shines through from the Echo itself.
It took about 15 hours of modeling, scaling, and tweaking in Solidworks with an interesting design specification in mind: single-bit operation. This single-bit is not in the electrical sense, but refers to the CNC milling operation. All pieces are cut with a 1/4″ end mill, without any tool changes. Metal pieces were milled from 6061 aluminum and the hickory case (with burgundy stain) was mostly cut on a table saw, but the holes were CNC machined.
What looks like an otherwise perfect build has a single flaw that eats up [vemeT5ak]’s soul; the Echo Dot has a draft angle that wasn’t considered during modeling, and the hole is ever so slightly too wide, meaning it didn’t press fit perfectly flush. Fortunately it’s not noticeable behind the metal grill, and unless you knew (please help keep his dirty little secret), you would think everything turned out perfectly.
It turns out building a case for the Echo Dot is challenging for a few reasons; the rubbery material on the bottom doesn’t allow anything to stick to it, and the sides are smooth and featureless with a taper that makes it difficult to lock it in. Many cases resort to clipping over the top to hold it in place. Others install it into a fish or a furby.