Blu-ray player with 3 slides on a disk

Blu-ray Microscope Uses Blood Cells As Lenses

When you think of high-throughput ptychographic cytometry (wait, you do think about high throughput ptychographic cytometry, right?) does it bring to mind something you can hack together from an old Blu-ray player, an Arduino, and, er, some blood? Apparently so for [Shaowei Jiang] and some of his buddies in this ACS Sensors Article.

For those of you who haven’t had a paper accepted by the American Chemical Society, we should probably clarify things a bit. Ptychography is a computational method of microscopic imaging, and cytometry has to do with measuring the characteristics of cells. Obviously.

This is definitely what science looks like.

Anyway, if you shoot a laser through a sample, it diffracts. If you then move the sample slightly, the diffraction pattern shifts. If you capture the diffraction pattern in each position with a CCD sensor, you can reconstruct the shape of the sample using breathtaking amounts of math.

One hitch – the CCD sensor needs a bunch of tiny lenses, and by tiny we mean six to eight microns. Red blood cells are just that size, and they’re lens shaped. So the researcher puts a drop of their own blood on the surface of the CCD and covers it with a bit of polyvinyl film, leaving a bit of CCD bloodless for reference. There’s an absolutely wild video of it in action here.

Don’t have a Blu-ray player handy? We’ve recently covered a promising attempt at building a homebrew scanning electron microscope which might be more your speed. It doesn’t even require any bodily fluids.

[Thanks jhart99]

SGX Deprecation Prevents PC Playback Of 4K Blu-ray Discs

This week Techspot reported that DRM-laden Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs won’t play anymore on computers using the latest Intel Core processors. You may have skimmed right past it, but the table on page 51 of the latest 12th Generation Intel Core Processor data sheet (184 page PDF) informs us that the Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) have been deprecated. These extensions are required for DRM processing on these discs, hence the problem. The SGX extensions were introduced with the sixth generation of Intel Core Skylake processors in 2015, the same year as Ultra HD Blu-ray, aka 4K Blu-ray. But there have been numerous vulnerabilities discovered in the intervening years. Not only Intel, but AMD has had similar issues as we wrote about in October.

This problem only applies to 4K Blu-ray discs with DRM. Presumably any 4K discs without DRM will still play, and of course you can still play the DRM discs on older Intel processors. Do you have a collection of DRM 4K Blu-ray discs, and if so, do you play them via your computer or a stand-alone player?

When Hacking And Biosensing Collide

[Prof. Edwin Hwu] of the Technical University of Denmark wrote in with a call for contributions to special edition of the open-access scientific journal Biosensors. Along the way, he linked in videos from three talks that he’s given on hacking consumer electronics gear for biosensing and nano-scale printing. Many of them focus on clever uses of the read-write head from a Blu-ray disc unit (but that’s not all!) and there are many good hacks here.

For instance, this video on using the optical pickup for the optics in an atomic force microscope (AFM) is bonkers. An AFM resolves features on the sub-micrometer level by putting a very sharp, very tiny probe on the end of a vibrating arm and scanning it over the surface in question. Deflections in the arm are measured by reflecting light off of it and measuring their variation, and that’s exactly what these optical pickups are designed to do. In addition to phenomenal resolution, [Dr. Hwu’s] AFM can be made on a shoestring budget!

Speaking of AFMs, check out his version that’s based on simple piezo discs in this video, but don’t neglect the rest of the hacks either. This one is a talk aimed at introducing scientists to consumer electronics hacking, so you’ll absolutely find yourself nodding your heads during the first few minutes. But then he documents turning a DVD player into a micro-strobe for high speed microfluidics microscopy using a wireless “spy camera” pen. And finally, [Dr. Hwu’s] lab has also done some really interesting work into nano-scale 3D printing, documented in this video, again using the humble Blu-ray drive, both for exposing the photopolymer and for spin-coating the disc with medium. Very clever!

If you’re doing any biosensing science hacking, be sure to let [Dr. Hwu] know. Or just tear into that Blu-ray drive that’s collecting dust in your closet.

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The Real Story: How Samsung Blu Ray Players Were Bricked

In June, many owners of Samsung Blu Ray players found that their devices were no longer usable. Stuck in a boot loop, speculation was rife as to the cause of the issue. Now it seems that the issue has become clear – a badly formatted XML file may be responsible for the problems (via The Register).

The problem stems from the logging system that stores user data and passes it back to Samsung over the Internet. Which data is logged and sent back is managed by an XML file which contains the policy settings that control this behaviour. According to a source known only as “Gary” “Gray”, the XML file posted on Samsung’s servers on June 18 featured a malformed list element. This caused a crash in the player’s main software routine, leading the player to reboot.

The failure was exacerbated by the fact that the XML file is parsed very early in the boot sequence, even before checking for firmware updates or a new XML file. This has prevented Samsung from rolling out an update or fix over the air, and is why the player gets stuck in a loop of continuous reboots.

Reportedly, the file can be found at this URL, though is now an updated version that shouldn’t brick players. Samsung have had to resort to a mail-in repair scheme, wherein technicians with service tools can manually remove the offending XML file from the player’s storage, allowing it to boot cleanly once again. While this shows our initial assumptions were off the mark, we’re glad to see a solution to the problem, albeit one that requires a lot of messing around.

[Thanks to broeckelmaier for the tip!]

Ask Hackaday: What Can Be Done With Your Bootlooping Blu-Ray?

Last Friday, thousands of owners of Samsung Blu Ray players found that their home entertainment devices would no longer boot up. While devices getting stuck in a power-cycling loop is not uncommon, this case stands out as it affected a huge range of devices all at the same time. Samsung’s support forum paints a bleak picture, with one thread on the issue stretching to 177 pages in just a week.

So what is going on, and what can be done to fix the problem? There’s a lot of conflicting information on that. Some people’s gear has started working again, others have not and there are reports of customers being told to seek in-person repair service. Let’s dive in with some wild speculation on the problem and circle back by commiserating about the woes of web-connected appliances.

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Tearing Down A PS3 Blu Ray Drive

Optical drives are somewhat passe in 2019, with most laptops and desktops no longer shipping with the hardware installed. The power of the cloud has begun to eliminate the need for physical media, but that doesn’t mean the technology is any less marvellous. [Leslie Wright] and [Samuel Goldwater] took a deep dive into what makes the PS3’s optical drive tick, back in the heyday of the Blu Ray era.

The teardown starts by examining the layout of the assembly, and the parts involved. This is followed by a deep dive into an exploration of the triple-laser diode itself, There are tips on how to safely extract the delicate parts, which are highly sensitive to electrostatic discharge, as well as exhaustive specifications and measurements of performance. There’s even a break down of the optical package, too, including a patent search to shed more light on the complicated inner workings of the hardware.

And if this lures you to dig deeper into Sam’s Laser FAQ, prepare to spend the rest of the week.

We’ve seen other optical teardowns before, too – like this look inside a stereo microscope. It’s quite technical stuff, and may fly over the heads over the optically inexperienced. However, for those in the know, it’s a great look at the technology used in a mass-produced console.

Reverse Engineering A Blu-ray Drive For Laser Graffiti

There’s a whole lot of interesting mechanics, optics, and electronics inside a Blu-ray drive, and [scanlime] a.k.a. [Micah Scott] thinks those bits can be reused for some interesting project. [Micah] is reverse engineering one of these drives, with the goal of turning it into a source of cheap, open source holograms and laser installations – something these devices were never meant to do. This means reverse engineering the 3 CPUs inside an external Blu-ray drive, making sense of the firmware, and making this drive do whatever [Micah] wants.

When the idea of reverse engineering a Blu-ray drive struck [Micah], she hopped on Amazon and found the most popular drive out there. It turns out, this is an excellent drive to reverse engineer – there are multiple firmware updates for this drive, an excellent source for the raw data that would be required to reverse engineer it.

[Micah]’s first effort to reverse engineer the drive seems a little bit odd; she turned the firmware image into a black and white graphic. Figuring out exactly what’s happening in the firmware with that is a fool’s errand, but by looking at the pure black and pure white parts of the graphic, [Micah] was able guess where the bootloader was, and how the firmware image is segmented. In other parts of the code, [Micah] saw thing vertical lines she recognized as ARM code. In another section, thin horizontal black bands revealed code for an 8051. These lines are only a product of how each architecture accesses code, and really only something [Micah] recognizes from doing this a few times before.

The current state of the project is a backdoor that is able to upload new firmware to the drive. It’s in no way a complete project; only the memory for the ARM processor is running new code, and [Micah] still has no idea what’s going on inside some of the other chips. Still, it’s a start, and the beginning of an open source firmware for a Blu-ray drive.

While [Micah] want’s to use these Blu-ray drives for laser graffiti, there are a number of other slightly more useful reasons for the build. With a DVD drive, you can hold a red blood cell in suspension, or use the laser inside to make graphene. Video below.

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