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.
All BluRay player, devices, and drives contain a key that unlocks the encryption and DRM present on BluRay discs. Since 2007, the consortium responsible for this DRM scheme has been pushing updates and revocation lists on individual BluRay releases. Putting one of these discs in your drive will brick the device, and this is the situation [stephen] found himself in when he tried to watch Machete Kills. Not wanting to update his software, he searched for a better solution to unbrick his drive.
Every time [stephen] played or ripped a disc, the software he was using passed a key to the drive. This key was compared to the revocation list present on the drive. When a match was found, the drive bricked itself. Figuring the revocation list must be stored on a chip in the device, [stephen] broke out the screwdriver and started looking around inside the drive.
There aren’t many chips inside a modern BluRay drive, but [stephen] did manage to find a few Flash chips. These Flash chips can be dumped to a computer using a BusPirate, and comparing the dump to a publicly available ‘Host Revocation List Record’, [stephen] was able to find the location on the Flash chip that contained the revocation list.
The next task was to replace the revocation list currently on the drive with an earlier one that wouldn’t brick his drive. [stephen]’s MakeMKV install made this very easy, as it keeps a record of all the revocation lists it runs across. Updating the Flash in the drive with this old list unbricked the drive.
This is only a temporary fix, as [stephen] still can’t put a new disc in the drive. A permanent fix would involve write protecting the Flash and preventing the drive from ever updating the revocation list again. This would be a very complex firmware hack, and [stephen] doesn’t even know what architecture the controller uses. Still, the drive works, saved from terrible DRM.
[Jay] hacked a Blu-Ray laser diode into a keychain enclosure. He found a heavy brass keychain light from Lowe’s and stuffed the diode and a larger battery inside. The existing batteries weren’t powerful enough, so he drilled out the endcap to fit a 200mAh 3.6v lithium battery inside. He also modded the power button to only momentarily turn on the diode. With the larger battery, the laser can run for about an hour between charges. In addition to a Blu-Ray lasers, he also has versions with a 200mW red diode.
The video above supposedly shows a Playstation 3 booting a game from the hard drive by booting a legitimate game from disc. There aren’t many other details besides a comment that backing up Blu-ray discs takes a lot of space. So, if this does actually work, it’s doubtful we’ll see much piracy because of it.