Are you one of the lucky ones to own a Hackaday Supercon 2022 badge? Would you like to make it even easier to program than it already is? [brokebit] has exactly the project you might’ve been dreaming of all along — it’s a Supercon 2022 Badge programming adapter. With pass-through for all badge pins, four buttons, a total of ten DIP switches and four LEDs, the sheer IO of this add-on makes good use of the badge’s expansion header. But that’s not all, as there’s a USB-UART converter accessible through a MicroUSB socket.
Using mostly through-hole components, this board won’t leave you digging through parts drawers for exotic buttons or pin headers; most everything is jellybean. The pass-through capability of the adapter means that other badge add-ons will be compatible and you can even use this adapter to debug them, with DIP switches helping you disconnect whatever onboard circuitry interferes. For instance, if you’re not looking for USB-UART functionality provided by the classic CP2102, the dual DIP switches are right there for you to disconnect it on the fly.
The board is 6 layers, but since the quoted price was the same as a 4-layer board, it made for a more comfortable layout. Want a refresher on the badge? Here you go, and here’s our write-up about it before Supercon. Hackers have been stretching the limits of what the 2022 badge can get done — here’s a punch card reader, for instance.
It’s finally time! We’ve put together the 2022 Supercon Schedule, and you can check out all the talks, workshops, and events in one place – right now.
It all starts off with breakfast on Friday morning to power you up for a full day of badge hacking, workshops, and general mixing and mingling before the Friday night party. Fridays are significantly less formal, but swing by Supplyframe HQ any time to get registered, get your badge, and get a mellow head start on Supercon.
Saturday morning, the talks begin! After a brief introduction and welcome, keynote speaker Joe Grand takes the stage to kick things off. And from then on, it’s two tracks of talks on two stages until your brain explodes. Or at least until the Hackaday Prize Awards ceremony at 7:00 PM, followed by the awards after-party.
Pull yourself out of bed Sunday morning for another full day of stellar talks. And squeeze in some more last minute badge-hacking time somehow, because we close up Sunday evening with the always entertaining badge hacking contest and awards.
Jorvon [Odd Jayy] Moss to Speak
Plus, we’ve got one last bit of great news: Jorvon [Odd Jayy] Moss is giving a talk on his adventures in making companion robots, and his latest forays into adding more intelligence into his animatronic and artistic creations.
So if you haven’t bought your tickets yet, do it. ‘Nuff said. See you at Supercon!
And if you’re not able to make it live, all of the talks on the LACM Stage will be streamed live on our YouTube channel, and you can join in the discussion over at the Hackaday Discord server or on Hackaday.io’s Supercon Chat channel. And all the talks that we can’t stream, we’re recording for later release, so you can always catch up later.
Over the last several years, there’s been a trend towards designing ever more complex and powerful electronic event badges. Color displays, sensors, WiFi, USB, Bluetooth — you name it, and there’s probably a con badge out there that has packed it in. Even our own 2019 Supercon broke new ground with the inclusion of a Lattice LFE5U-45F FPGA running a RISC-V core. Admittedly, observing this unofficial arms race has been fascinating. But as we all know, a hacker isn’t defined by the tools at their disposal, but rather the skill and imagination with which they wield them.
So this year, we’ve taken a slightly different approach. Rather than try and cram the badge with even more state of the art hardware than we did in 2019, we’ve decided to go back to the well. The 2022 Supercon badge is a lesson in what it means to truly control a piece of hardware, to know what each bit of memory is doing, and why. Make no mistake, it’s going to be a challenge. In fact, we’d wager most of the people who get their hands on the badge come November 4th will have never worked on anything quite like it before. Folks are going to get pulled out of their comfort zones, but of course, that’s the whole idea.
Nobody likes opening up a hacking target and finding a black epoxy blob inside, but all hope is not lost. At least not if you’ve got the dedication and skills of [Jeroen Domburg] alias [Sprite_tm].
It all started when [Big Clive] ordered a chintzy Chinese musical meditation flower and found a black blob. But tantalizingly, the shiny plastic mess also included a 2 MB flash EEPROM. The questions then is: can one replace the contents with your own music? Spoiler: yes, you can! [Sprite_tm] and a team of Buddha Chip Hackers distributed across the globe got to work. (Slides here.)
[Jeroen] started off with binwalk and gets, well, not much. The data that [Big Clive] dumped had high enough entropy that it looks either random or encrypted, with the exception of a couple tiny sections. Taking a look at the data, there was some structure, though. [Jeroen] smelled shitty encryption. Now in principle, there are millions of bad encryption methods out there for every good one. But in practice, naive cryptographers tend to gravitate to a handful of bad patterns.
Bad pattern number one is XOR. Used correctly, XORing can be a force for good, but if you XOR your key with zeros, naturally, you get the key back as your ciphertext. And this data had a lot of zeros in it. That means that there were many long strings that started out the same, but they seemed to go on forever, as if they were pseudo-random. Bad crypto pattern number two is using a linear-feedback shift register for your pseudo-random numbers, because the parameter space is small enough that [Sprite_tm] could just brute-force it. At the end, he points out their third mistake — making the encryption so fun to hack on that it kept him motivated!
Decrypted, the EEPROM data was a filesystem. And the machine language turned out to be for an 8051, but there was still the issue of the code resident on the microcontroller’s ROM. So [Sprite_tm] bought one of these flowers, and started probing around the black blob itself. He wrote a dumper program that output the internal ROM’s contents over SPI. Ghidra did some good disassembling, and that let him figure out how the memory was laid out, and how the flow worked. He also discovered a “secret” ROM area in the chip’s flash, which he got by trying some random functions and looking for side effects. The first hit turned out to be a memcpy. Sweet.
Meanwhile, the Internet was still working on this device, and [Neil555] bought a flower too. But this one had a chip, rather than a blob, and IDing this part lead them to an SDK, and that has an audio suite that uses a derivative of WMA audio encoding. And that was enough to get music loaded into the flower. (Cue a short rick-rolling.) Victory!
Well, victory if all you wanted to do was hack your music onto the chip. As a last final fillip, [Sprite_tm] mashed the reverse-engineered schematic of the Buddha Flower together with [Thomas Flummer]’s very nice DIY Remoticon badge, and uploaded our very own intro theme music into the device on a badge. Bonus points? He added LEDs that blinked out the LSFR that were responsible for the “encryption”. Sick burn!
Editor’s Note: This is the last of the Remoticon 2 videos we’ve got. Thanks to all who gave presentations, to all who attended and participated in the lively Discord back channel, and to all you out there who keep the hacking flame alive. We couldn’t do it without you, and we look forward to a return to “normal” Supercon sometime soon.
We have just concluded a successful Hackaday Superconference where a highlight for many was digging into this year’s hardware badge. Shaped in the general form of a Game Boy handheld gaming console, the heart of the badge is a large FPGA opening up new and exciting potential for badge hacking.
Beyond our normal tools of compiling custom code or modifying hardware with a soldering iron, we now have the option to change core hardware behavior with Verilog. And people explored this new frontier to great effect, as seen at the badge hacking ceremony. (Video embedded below.)
FPGAs are not new, technically speaking, why are they exciting now? We can thank their recent growth in capability, their rapidly falling cost, and the relatively new availability of open source toolchains. These developments elevated FPGA into one of the most exciting trends in hardware today, so this year’s badge master [Sprite_TM] built an open FPGA playground for several hundred of his closest Supercon friends. Let’s take a look at what people were able to accomplish in just a few days using this unique and powerful hardware.
The obsession with over-the-top-hardware conference badges means that we as attendees get to enjoy a stream of weird and wonderful electronic gadgets. But for the folks putting these conferences on, getting a badge designed and manufactured in time for the event can be a stressful and expensive undertaking. To keep things on track, the designs will often cut corners and take liberties that you’d never see in commercial products. But of course, that’s part of their charm.
As a case in point, the OLED display on the 2019 KiCon badge is held on with just four soldered header pins, and can easily be bent or even snapped off. So [Jose Ignacio Romero] took it upon himself to develop a 3D printable mount which integrates with the PCB and gives the display some mechanical support. Any KiCon attendees who are looking to keep their badge in peak fighting condition for the long haul might want to start warming their extruders.
The design of this upgrade was made all the easier thanks to the fact that the KiCon badge is (naturally) open hardware. That meant [Jose] could import the PCB files directly into FreeCAD and have a virtual model of the badge to work with. This let him check the clearances and position of components without having to break out the calipers and measure the real thing.
Playing around with the virtual assembly, [Jose] quickly realized that the mounting holes in the OLED display don’t actually line up with the holes in the PCB; potentially why the screen didn’t get mounted on the final hardware. Once this misalignment was characterized, he was able to factor it into his design: the PCB side gets screwed down, and the screen snaps into printed “nubs” on the top of the mount.
Supercon badge hackers had to be ready to present their show-and-tell by 6 pm Sunday evening. This ruthless unmoving deadline meant every badge hack on stage represents an accomplishment in time management, and some luck, in addition to their own technical merits. But that deadline also meant a few fantastic projects lost their race against the clock. We were rooting for [Jac Goudsmit] to build an Apple I emulator as his badge expansion, but he wasn’t quite done when our badge hack ceremony began. After Supercon he went home, finished the project, and documented everything in a detailed writeup.
Our 2018 Supercon badge is built on a retro-computing theme, and the default firmware came with a BASIC interpreter as well as a Z80 emulator running CP/M. So an Apple 1 emulator should feel right home with its contemporaries. Mechanically speaking, all the parts were a tight fit on the badge expansion board given out to every attendee at Supercon. So tightly that [Jac] had to file down the two main chips in order to fit them side by side. The breadboard-like pattern of connected holes on the expansion board, intended to help ease in beginners for their badge hack soldering, proved to be an inconvenience in tightly packed arrangements such as this.
With all the work [Jac] had invested, it was heartbreaking to know he was only five minutes of soldering and 30 minutes of coding away when time ran out. Time pressure was part of the challenge faced by every Supercon badge hacker, and while we’re sad [Jac] missed the deadline for stage time we’re happy to see him finish and write it all up. We hope every badge hacker would write up their stories of frantic weekend projects. Those who do so on hackaday.io are encouraged to tag their project with “Supercon” and get them added to our list of badge hacks for everyone to admire.