Developing A Power Over Ethernet Stack Light

A common sight on factory floors, stack lights are used to indicate the status of machinery to anyone within visual range. But hackers have found out you can pick them up fairly cheap online, so we’ve started to see them used as indicators in slightly more mundane situations than they were originally intended for. [Tyler Ward] recently decided he wanted his build own network controlled stack light, and thought it would double as a great opportunity to dive into the world of Power Over Ethernet (PoE).

Now the easy way to do this would be to take the Raspberry Pi, attach the official PoE Hat to it, and toss it into a nice enclosure. Write some code that toggles the GPIO pins attached to the LEDs in the stack light, and call it a day. Would be done in an afternoon and you could be showing it off on Reddit by dinner time. But that’s not exactly what [Tyler] had in mind.

An early Arduino-based prototype.

He decided to take the scenic route and designed his own custom PCB that combines an Ethernet interface, PoE hardware, and the ESP32 into one compact unit. It’s no great secret that it only takes a few extra components to plug the ESP32 into the network rather than relying on WiFi, but it’s still not something we see done very often by hobbyists. Rarer still is seeing somebody roll their own PoE solution, but thanks to the in-depth documentation [Tyler] has provided for his circuit, that may change in the future.

On the software side [Tyler] has developed a firmware for the ESP32 that supports both Art-Net and RDM protocols, which are subsets of the larger DMX protocol. That means the controller should be compatible with existing software designed for controlling theatrical lighting systems. If you’d rather take a more direct approach, the firmware also sports a web interface and simple HTTP API to provide some additional flexibility.

While it’s exceptionally impressive, not everyone will need such a robust solution. If you just want a quick and easy way to fire up your stack light, a USB controlled relay and some Python can get you where you need to go.

Leaking Data Slowly By Switching Ethernet Speeds

Airgapping refers to running a machine or machines without connections to external networks. Literally, a gap of air exists between the machine and the outside world. These measures present a challenge to those wishing to exfiltrate data from such a machine, leading to some creative hacks. [Jacek] has recently been experimenting with leaking data via Ethernet adapters.

The hack builds on [Jacek]’s earlier work with the Raspberry Pi 4, in which the onboard adapter is rapidly switched between 10 and 100 Megabit modes to create a signal that can be picked up via radio up to 100 meters away. Since then, [Jacek] determined the Raspberry Pi 4, or at least his particular one, seems to be very leaky of RF energy from the Ethernet port. He decided to delve deeper by trying the same hack out on other hardware.

Using a pair of Dell laptops connected back to back with an Ethernet cable, the same speed-switching trick was employed. However, most hardware takes longer to switch speeds than the Pi 4; usually on the order of 2-5 seconds. This limited the signalling speed, but [Jacek] was able to set this up to exfiltrate data using QRSS, also known as very slow speed Morse code. The best result was picking up a signal from 10 meters away, although [Jacek] suspects this could be improved with better antenna hardware.

While slow data rates and the one-way nature of such communication limit the utility of such an attack, it nonetheless shows that securing a machine isn’t as simple as unplugging it from the network. We’ve done a feature on such hacks before for those interested in learning more. Video after the break.

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Tiny Ethernet Routers Now Available In Gigabit Speeds

If you need to move a lot of data, and fast, Gigabit Ethernet is a great way to do it. However, most network hardware outside of datacenters is fairly space inefficient, a headache if you’re building a robot or drone. Enter the Gigablox, a super-compact Gigabit router for just these applications.

The Gigablox takes its mission seriously, with its compact size the ultimate design goal. The entire switch fits on a tiny 45 mm x 45 mm PCB. To this end, it eschews the common RJ45 connector, which is bulkier than necessary. Instead, thin Molex PicoBlade connectors are used for the five ports on board. Cables are included to convert between the two connectors, and obviously crimping ones own is easy to do, too. For those who need to connect more devices, several Gigablox can be hooked up in the same way as any other Ethernet switch. The Gigablox is a non-blocking switch, too – meaning all five ports can run at full speed simultaneously.

The design is the sequel to the SwitchBlox, and the later SwitchBlox Nano, both designed by [Josh Elijah] earlier this year. The pace of development is impressive, and it’s great to see [Josh] bring Gigabit speeds to the compact form factor. We can imagine a few good uses for these boards; share your best ideas in the comments below! Video after the break.

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Ethernet At 40: From A Napkin Sketch To Multi-Gigabit Links

September 30th, 1980 is the day when Ethernet was first commercially introduced, making it exactly forty years ago this year. It was first defined in a patent filed by Xerox as a 10 Mb/s networking protocol in 1975, introduced to the market in 1980 and subsequently standardized in 1983 by the IEEE as IEEE 802.3. Over the next thirty-seven years, this standard would see numerous updates and revisions.

Included in the present Ethernet standard are not just the different speed grades from the original 10 Mbit/s to today’s maximum 400 Gb/s speeds, but also the countless changes to the core protocol to enable these ever higher data rates, not to mention new applications of Ethernet such as power delivery and backplane routing. The reliability and cost-effectiveness of Ethernet would result in the 1990 10BASE-T Ethernet standard (802.3i-1990) that gradually found itself implemented on desktop PCs.

With Ethernet these days being as present as the presumed luminiferous aether that it was named after, this seems like a good point to look at what made Ethernet so different from other solutions, and what changes it had to undergo to keep up with the demands of an ever-more interconnected world. Continue reading “Ethernet At 40: From A Napkin Sketch To Multi-Gigabit Links”

Faster Desktop Ethernet With Server Network Adapters

As far as consumer network hardware goes, we’re all expected to be pretty happy with 802.11n WiFi and Gigabit Ethernet over Cat 6 cables. For most home users, that’s plenty of bandwidth for streaming movies and posting K-pop fancams to Twitter on a daily basis. If you want a fatter pipe, things can get expensive, fast. However, [TobleMiner] found a way to use surplus server-grade cards in a regular PC – providing huge bandwidth on a budget.

The adapter is designed to allow a FlexibleLOM card to fit into a regular ATX PCI-E card slot. A small additional bracket should be used to fix the card in place with the typical bracket retention screw.

HPE’s FlexibleLOM standard consists of a special edge connector on HPE servers that lets the end-user fit a variety of network adapters in a form factor designed specifically for blade and rack mount servers. At the electrical level, it’s simply PCI-Express 8x. FlexibleLOM network cards are built for high-speed data center use, often featuring SFP+ and QSFP+ interfaces capable of 10 gigabit and 40 gigabit speeds, respectively.

These cards can be had for under $20 on eBay, but won’t fit in a standard PCI-Express slot. Enter [ToberMiner]’s adapter, which hooks up the relevant PCI-Express lines to where they need to go, and mechanically adapts the FlexibleLOM hardware to fit in a regular ATX PC case.

It’s a great way to get server-grade network adapters in your home rig, without breaking the bank. We’ve featured other attempts at high-speed home networking before, too. If you’ve got the low down on a great way to get multi-gigabit speeds out of cheap surplus hardware, you know who to call.

[Thanks to Marco for the tip!]

Reverse Engineering Teaches An Old Scope New Tricks

[PMercier] clearly loves his old Tektronix TDS3014 scope, which did however lack essentially modern connectivity such as an Ethernet port for control and a USB port for a convenient way to capture screenshots. So he decided to do some in-depth reverse engineering and design his own expansion card for it. The scope already has an expansion port and an expansion card, but given this model was first released in 1998, purchasing an OEM part was not going to be an option.

They don’t make ’em like they used to. Test equipment is today is built to last a decade — but usually lives on much longer. This is certainly true for the previous generations of kit. It’s no surprise that for most of us, hand-me-downs from universities, shrewd eBay purchasing, and even fruitful dumpster dives are a very viable way to attain useful and relevant test equipment. Now, while these acquisitions are more than adequate for the needs of a hobbyist lab, they are admittedly outdated and more to the point, inaccessible from a connectivity and communication standpoint. A modern lab has a very high degree of automated data acquisition and control over ethernet. Capturing screen dumps on a USB is a standard feature. These modern luxuries don’t exist on aging equipment conceived in the age of floppy disks and GPIB.

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New Teensy 4.1 Arrives With 100 Mbps Ethernet, High-Speed USB, 8 MB Flash

It was only last August that PJRC released Teensy 4.0. At that time, the 4.0 became the fastest microcontroller development board on the planet, a title it still holds as of this writing — or, well, not exactly. Today the Teensy 4.1 has been released, and using the same 600 MHz ARM Cortex M7 under the hood, is now also the fastest microcontroller board. What the 4.1 brings to the table is more peripherals, memory, and GPIOs. While Teensy 4.0 used the same small form factor as the 3.2, Teensy 4.1 uses the larger board size of the 3.5/3.6 to expose the extra goodies.

The now slightly older Teensy 4.0 — released on August 7th of last year — is priced at $19.95, with the new 4.1 version offered at $26.85. It seems that the 4.1 isn’t intended as a replacement for the 4.0, as they serve different segments of the market. If you’re looking for an ultra-fast affordable microcontroller board that lives up to its Teensy name, the 4.0 fits the bill. On the other hand, if you need the additional peripherals broken out and can afford the space of the larger board, the not-as-teensy-sized 4.1 is for you. How big is it? The sample board I measured was 61 x 18 mm (2.4 x 0. 7″), not counting the small protrusion of the micro-usb jack on one end.

Let’s have a look at all the fun stuff PJRC was able to pack into this space. Continue reading “New Teensy 4.1 Arrives With 100 Mbps Ethernet, High-Speed USB, 8 MB Flash”