Software Challenge’s Solution Shows Reverse Engineering In Action

[0xricksanchez] participated in a software reverse-engineering challenge and recently wrote up the solution, and in so doing also documented the process used to discover it. The challenge was called Devil’s Swapper, and consisted of a small binary blob that output a short message when executed. The goal of the challenge? Discover the secret key and the secret message within. [0xricksanchez]’s writeup, originally intended just as a personal record, ended up doing an excellent job of showing how a lot of reverse engineering tools and processes get applied to software in a practical way.

What’s also great about [0xricksanchez]’s writeup is that it uses standard tools and plenty of screenshots to show what is being done, while also explaining why those actions are being chosen and what is being learned. It’s easy to follow the thought process as things progress from gathering information, to chasing leads, and finally leveraging what’s been learned. It’s a fascinating look into the process of applying the reverse engineering mindset to software, and a good demonstration of the tools. Give it a read, and see how far you can follow along before learning something new. Want more? Make sure you have checked out the Hackaday 2020 Remoticon videos on reverse engineering firmware, and doing the same for PCBs.

SMD Challenge Extreme Edition Gets Our Flux Flowing

Skills challenges have become a fun way to facilitate friendly competition amongst anyone who appreciates a fine solder joint. If you’ve seen any Supercon / Remoticon coverage there’s surely been a mention of the infamous soldering skills challenge, where competitors test their mettle against surface mount components sized to be challenging but fair. What if there was a less friendly SMD challenge designed to make you hold your breath lest you blow the components away? Well now there is, the SMD Challenge Extreme Edition by friend-of-the-Hackaday and winner of the 2019 Supercon soldering challenge [Freddie].

When assembled the SMD Extreme Edition uses a 555 timer and a 74HC4017 decade counter to light a ring of 10 LEDs lights around its perimeter, powered by a coin cell. However the  Extreme Edition deviates from the typical SMD Challenge format. Instead of ramping up in difficulty with ever-shrinking components, the Extreme Edition only has one size: torturous. See those gray blobs in the title image? Those are grains of rice.

The Extreme Edition’s 0201-sized LEDs aren’t the absolute smallest components around, but to minimize enjoyment all passives are 01005. (Check out the SMD Challange Misery Edition for even 01005 LED action.)

The Extreme Edition has other tricks up its sleeve, too. That 555 may be venerable in age, but this version is in an iron-frustrating 1.41 x 1.43 mm BGA package, which pairs nicely with that decade counter in 2.5 mm x 3.5 mm QFN.

Despite the wordwide pandemic locking down travel and conferences, a few brave challengers have already taken up their iron and succeeded at Extreme SMD. Want to see it in action? Check out the original Tweets after the break.

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Climbing Everest One Hill At A Time – And Keeping Track Of It

The internet is full of self-proclaimed challenges, ranging from some absolutely pointless fads to well-intended tasks with an actual purpose. In times of TikTok, the latter is of course becoming rarer, as a quick, effortless jump on the bandwagon is just easier for raising your internet points. Cyclists on the other hand love a good challenge where they compete with one another online, testing their skills and gamifying their favorite activity along the way. One option for that is Everesting, where you pick a hill of your choice, and within a single session you ride it up and down as many times as it takes until you accumulated the height of Mount Everest on it. Intrigued by the idea, but not so much its competitive aspect, [rabbitcreek] became curious how long it would take him to reach that goal with his own casual bicycle usage, so he built a bicycle computer to measure and keep track of it.

While the total distance and time factors into the actual challenge, [rabbitcreek]’s primary interest was the accumulated height, so the device’s main component is a BMP388 barometric pressure sensor attached to a battery-powered ESP32. An e-paper display shows the total height and completed percentage, along with some random Everest-related pictures. Everything is neatly packed together in a 3D-printed case that can be mounted on the bicycle’s handlebar, and the STL files are available along with the source code in his write-up.

Of course, if you’re actually interested in the challenge itself, you probably have an assortment of sports tracking equipment anyway, but this is a nice addition to keep track as you go, and has a lower risk of ransomware attacks. And in case [rabbitcreek] sounds like a familiar name to you, he’s indeed become a Hackaday regular with his environmental hacks like the tide clock, a handheld particle sniffer, or logging temperatures in the Alaskan wilderness.

2020 Hackaday Prize Hack Chat With Majenta Strongheart

Join us on Wednesday, May 27 at noon Pacific for the 2020 Hackaday Prize Hack Chat with Majenta Strongheart!

It hardly seems possible, but the Hackaday Prize, the world’s greatest hardware design contest, is once more at hand. But the world of 2020 is vastly different than it was last year, and the challenges we all suddenly face have become both more numerous and more acute as a result. We’ve seen hackers rise to the challenges presented by the events of the last few months in unexpected ways, coming up with imaginative solutions and pressing the limits of what’s possible. What this community can do when it is faced with a real challenge is inspiring.

Now it’s time to take that momentum and apply it to some of the other problems the world is facing. For the 2020 Hackaday Prize, we’re asking you to throw your creativity at challenges in conservation, disaster response, assistive technology, and renewable resources. We’ve teamed up with leading non-profits in those areas, each of which has specific challenges they need you to address.

With $200,000 in prize money at stake, we’re sure you’re going to want to step up to the challenge. To help get you started, Majenta Strongheart, Head of Design and Partnerships at Supplyframe, will drop by the Hack Chat with all the details on the 2020 Hackaday Prize. Come prepared to pick her brain on what needs doing and how best to tackle the problems that the Prize is trying to address. And find out about all the extras, like the “Dream Team” microgrants, the wild card prize, and the community picks.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, May 27 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Hackaday Links: October 27, 2019

A year ago, we wrote about the discovery of treasure trove of original documentation from the development of the MOS 6502 by Jennifer Holdt-Winograd, daughter of the late Terry Holdt, the original program manager on the project. Now, Ms. Winograd has created a website to celebrate the 6502 and the team that built it. There’s an excellent introductory video with a few faces you might recognize, nostalgia galore with period photographs that show the improbable styles of the time, and of course the complete collection of lab notes, memos, and even resumes of the team members. If there were a microchip hall of fame – and there is – the 6502 would be a first-round pick, and it’s great to see the history from this time so lovingly preserved.

Speaking of the 6502, did you ever wonder what the pin labeled SO was for? Sure, the data sheets all say pin 38 of the original 40-pin DIP was the “Set Overflow” pin, an active low that set the overflow bit in the Processor Status Register. But Rod Orgill, one of the original design engineers on the 6502, told a different story: that “SO” was the initials of his beloved dog Sam Orgill. The story may be apocryphal, but it’s a Good Doggo story, so we don’t care.

You may recall a story we ran not too long ago about the shortage of plutonium-238 to power the radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) for deep-space missions. The Cold War-era stockpiles of Pu-238 were running out, but Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists and engineers came up with a way to improve production. Now there’s a video showing off the new automated process from the Periodic Videos series, hosted by the improbably coiffed Sir Martyn Poliakoff. It’s fascinating stuff, especially seeing workers separated from the plutonium by hot-cells with windows that are 4-1/2 feet (1.4 meters) thick.

Dave Murray, better known as YouTube’s “The 8-Bit Guy”, can neither confirm nor deny the degree to which he participated in the golden age of phone phreaking. But this video of his phreaking presentation at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo reveals a lot of suspiciously detailed knowledge about the topic. The talk starts at 4:15 or so and is a nice summary of blue boxes, DTMF hacks, war dialing, and all the ways we curious kids may or may not have kept our idle hands busy before the Interwebz came along.

Do you enjoy a puzzle? We sure do, and one was just laid before us by a tipster who prefers to stay anonymous, but for whom we can vouch as a solid member of the hacker community. So no malfeasance will befall you by checking out the first clue, a somewhat creepy found footage-esque video with freaky sound effects, whirling clocks, and a masked figure reading off strings of numbers in a synthesized voice. Apparently, these clues will let you into a companion website. We worked on it for a bit and have a few ideas about how to crack this code, but we don’t want to give anything away. Or more likely, mislead anyone.

And finally, if there’s a better way to celebrate the Spooky Season than to model predictions on how humanity would fare against a vampire uprising, we can’t think of one. Dominik Czernia developed the Vampire Apocalypse Calculator to help you decide when and if to panic in the face of an uprising of the undead metabolically ambiguous. It supports several models of vampiric transmission, taken from the canons of popular genres from literature, film, and television. The Stoker-King model makes it highly likely that vampires would replace humans in short order, while the Harris-Meyer-Kostova model of sexy, young vampires is humanity’s best bet except for having to live alongside sparkly, lovesick vampires. Sadly, the calculator is silent on the Whedon model, but you can set up your own parameters to model a world with Buffy-type slayers at your leisure. Or even model the universe of The Walking Dead to see if it’s plausible that humans are still alive 3599 days into the zombie outbreak.

Go Subterranean With This DARPA Challenge

Whether it comes to rescuing people from a cave system or the underground maze of sewers, tunnels and the like that exist underneath any major city, having accurate maps of the area is always crucial to know what the optimal routes are, and what the expected dangers are. The same is true for combat situations, where such maps can mean the difference between the failure or success of a mission. This is why DARPA last year started the Subterranean Challenge, or ‘SubT’ for short.

This challenge seeks new approaches to map, navigate, and search underground environments during time-sensitive combat operations or disaster response scenarios, which would allow for these maps to be created on-demand, in the shortest amount of time possible. Multidisciplinary teams from the world are invited to create autonomous systems that can map such subsurface networks no matter the circumstances.

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Single Part Boost Converter Challenge (Completed)

[Josh] posed an interesting challenge. Create a boost converter that can light a blue LED using a nearly dead battery and one part. Well, we were skeptical until we saw he wasn’t counting an ATtiny processor as a part. You can see a video of the challenge, below.

The challenge has already been solved, so if you view the link, you might want to avoid the comments until you’ve had time to think about your own solution. We’ll confess, the first one we thought of was probably not workable for reasons [Josh] explains. The final answer neatly fits the criteria of a hack.

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