X-Ray Sleuthing Unveils The Fake In Your Adaptors

Lets face it, the knock-off variety of our favourite adaptors, cables and accessories are becoming increasingly challenging to spot. We would be the first to admit, to have at some point, been stooped by a carefully crafted counterfeit by failing to spot the tell-tale yet elusive indicators such as the misplaced font face, the strategically misspelled logo or perhaps the less polished than expected plastic moulding and packaging. When you finally come around to using it, if you are lucky the item is still more or less functionally adequate, otherwise by now the inferior performance (if not the initial cost!) would have made it pretty obvious that what you have is infact a counterfeit.

[Oliver] recently found himself in a similar situation, after acquiring a seemingly original Lightning to Headphone Adaptor. Rather than dismay, [Oliver] decided to channel this energy into an excellent forensic investigation to uncover just what exactly made this imitation so deceptive. He began by comparing the packaging, printed typeface and the plastic moulding, all of which gave very little away. [Oliver] concluded that atleast superficially, the clone was rather good and the only way to settle this was to bring out the X-ray, of course!  

The resulting images of the innards make it blatantly obvious as to why the adaptor is indeed very fake. For a start, compared to the original adaptor, the clone hosts a far more thin BOM count! If you are really serious in getting some training to better spot counterfeits, check out a post we featured earlier on the subject!

Hackaday Links: November 17, 2019

Friday, November 15, 2019 – PASADENA. The 2019 Hackaday Superconference is getting into high gear as I write this. Sitting in the Supplyframe HQ outside the registration desk is endlessly entertaining, as attendees pour in and get their swag bags and badges. It’s like watching a parade of luminaries from the hardware hacking world, and everyone looks like they came ready to work. The workshops are starting, the SMD soldering challenge is underway, and every nook and cranny seems to have someone hunched over the amazing Hackaday Superconference badge, trying to turn it into something even more amazing. The talks start on Saturday, and if you’re not one of the lucky hundreds here this weekend, make sure you tune into the livestream so you don’t miss any of the action.

The day when the average person is able to shoot something out of the sky with a laser is apparently here. Pablo, who lives in Argentina, has beeing keeping tabs on the mass protests going on in neighboring Chile. Huge crowds have been gathering regularly over the last few weeks to protest inequality. The crowd gathered in the capital city of Santiago on Wednesday night took issue with the sudden appearance of a police UAV overhead. In an impressive feat of cooperation, they trained 40 to 50 green laser pointers on the offending drone. The videos showing the green beams lancing through the air are quite amazing, and even more amazing is the fact that the drone was apparently downed by the lasers. Whether it was blinding the operator through the FPV camera or if the accumulated heat of dozens of lasers caused some kind of damage to the drone is hard to say, and we’d guess that the drone was not treated too kindly by the protestors when it landed in the midsts, so there’s likely not much left of the craft to do a forensic analysis, which is a pity. We will note that the protestors also trained their lasers on a police helicopter, an act that’s extremely dangerous to the human pilots which we can’t condone.

In news that should shock literally nobody, Chris Petrich reports that there’s a pretty good chance the DS18B20 temperature sensor chips you have in your parts bin are counterfeits. Almost all of the 500 sensors he purchased from two dozen vendors on eBay tested as fakes. His Github readme has an extensive list that lumps the counterfeits into four categories of fake-ness, with issues ranging from inaccurate temperature offsets to sensors without EEPROM that don’t work with parasitic power. What’s worse, a lot of the fakes test almost-sorta like authentic chips, meaning that they may work in your design, but that you’re clearly not getting what you paid for. The short story to telling real chips from the fakes is that Maxim chips have laser-etched markings, while the imposters sport printed numbers. If you need the real deal, Chris suggests sticking with reputable suppliers with validated supply chains. Caveat emptor.

A few weeks back we posted a link to the NXP Homebrew RF Design Challenge, which tasked participants to build something cool with NXP’s new LDMOS RF power transistors. The three winners of the challenge were just announced, and we’re proud to see that Razvan’s wonderfully engineered broadband RF power amp, which we recently featured, won second place. First place went to Jim Veatch for another broadband amp that can be built for $80 using an off-the-shelf CPU heatsink for thermal management. Third prize was awarded to a team lead by Weston Braun, which came up with a switch-mode RF amp for the plasma cavity for micro-thrusters for CubeSats, adorably named the Pocket Rocket. We’ve featured similar thrusters recently, and we’ll be doing a Hack Chat on the topic in December. Congratulations to the winners for their excellent designs.

Turning A Sony Into A Leica Through Extreme Camera Modding

The quality of a photograph is a subjective measure depending upon a multitude of factors of which the calibre of the camera is only one. Yet a high quality camera remains an object of desire for many photographers as it says something about you and not just about the photos you take. [Neutral Gray] didn’t have a Leica handheld camera, but did have a Sony. What’s a hacker to do, save up to buy the more expensive brand? Instead he chose to remodel the Sony into a very passable imitation.

This is a Chinese language page but well worth reading. We can’t get a Google Translate link to work, but in Chrome browser, right clicking and selecting “translate” works. If you have a workaround for mobile and other browsers please leave a comment below.

The Sony A7R is hardly a cheap camera in the first place, well into the four-figure range, so it’s a brave person who embarks on its conversion to match the Leica’s flat-top aesthetic. The Sony was first completely dismantled and it was found that the electronic viewfinder could be removed without compromising the camera. In a bold move, its alloy housing was ground away, and replaced with a polished plate bearing a fake Leica branding.


Extensive remodelling of the hand grip with a custom carbon fibre part followed, with significantly intricate work to achieve an exceptionally high quality result. Careful choice of paint finish results in a camera that a non-expert would have difficulty knowing was anything but a genuine Leica, given that it is fitted with a retro-styled lens system.

We’re not so sure we’d like to brace Leica’s lawyers on this side of the world, but we can’t help admiring this camera. If you’re after a digital Leica though, you can of course have a go at the real thing.

Thanks [fvollmer] for the tip.

How Much Apple Does A Hamburger Get You?

A while ago, [Skippy] bought a cheap knock-off of the Apple USB mains charger from an AliExpress seller, for the British low, low price of 89p. Normally we’d give you a dollar conversion, but since that’s coincidentally the price of the basic McDonalds hambuger in the UK we’ll go with the hamburger as a unit of conversion. And as any self-respecting hacker would, he subjected it to a teardown and gave it a few tests.

Surprisingly though its pins were a little long it was just within the BS1363 pin spacing specification, probably due to its external dimensions copying the Apple original. The emissions test he performed might surprise readers, as it gave the little device its first pass. Radiated RF emissions were well below the test threshold, a welcome sight for anyone who has had to test a device. Sadly the same could not be said for conducted emissions, and it was happily spraying RF to all and sundry from its connections.

Taking a look inside revealed the usual litany of frightening safety fails. There was no insulation between the mains pins and the circuit board, and a secondary capacitor was even touching one of the pins. Meanwhile another capacitor connecting both sides of the circuit was not of the required Y rating. These and a raft of others make the device illegal for sale in Europe without further tests, but to give some numbers to it all he subjected it to a screen test applying 600 VAC common mode to its pins and checking for leakage current through the device. This it failed, and indeed it did not recover from the test.

So in this case, the price of a hamburger definitely does not get you an Apple, nor even does it get you an equivalent. But of course, you knew that, because we’ve talked about fake Apple chargers and power supplies many times before.

What Good Are Counterfeit Parts? Believe It Or Not, Maybe A Refund

[Charles Ouweland] purchased some parts off Aliexpress and noticed that the Texas Instruments logo on some of his parts wasn’t the Texas Instruments logo at all, it was just some kind of abstract shape that vaguely resembled the logo. Suspicious and a little curious, he decided to take a closer look at the MCP1702 3.3v LDO regulators he ordered as well. Testing revealed that they were counterfeits with poor performance.

Left: counterfeit part. Right: genuine Microchip MCP1702-3302

Looking at the packages, there were some superficial differences in the markings of the counterfeit MCP1702 versus genuine parts from Microchip, but nothing obviously out of place. To conclusively test the devices, [Charles] referred to Microchip’s datasheet. It stated that the dropout voltage of the part should be measured by having the regulator supply the maximum rated 250 mA in short pulses to avoid any complications from the part heating up. After setting up an appropriate test circuit with a 555 timer to generate the pulses for low duty cycle activation, [Charles] discovered that the counterfeit parts did not meet Microchip specifications. While the suspect unit did output 3.3 V, the output oscillated badly after activation and the dropout voltage was 1.2 V, considerably higher than the typical dropout voltage of 525 mV for the part, and higher even than the maximum of 725 mV. His conclusion? The parts would be usable in the right conditions, but they were clearly fakes.

The usual recourse when one has received counterfeit parts is to dump them into the parts bin (or the trash) and perhaps strive to be less unlucky in the future, but [Charles] decided to submit a refund request and to his mild surprise, Aliexpress swiftly approved a refund for the substandard parts.

While a refund is appropriate, [Charles] seems to interpret the swift refund as a sort of admission of guilt on the part of the reseller. Is getting a refund for counterfeit parts a best-case outcome, evidence of wrongdoing, or simply an indication that low value refund requests get more easily approved? You be the judge of that, but if nothing else, [Charles] reminds us that fake parts may be useful for something perhaps unexpected: a refund.

Is That Part A Counterfeit? Here Are A Few Pointers

If you order an electronic component, how do you know what it is you are receiving? It has the right package and markings, but have you got the real thing from the original manufacturer or have you got an inferior counterfeit? We hear so much about counterfeit parts, and sometimes the level of effort put in by the fraudsters is so high that from either a visual or electrical standpoint they can be hard to spot.

[Robb Hammond] writes for Aeri, with an extremely interesting guide to some of the cues for spotting a counterfeit semiconductor part. In doing so he gives us something of an insight into the techniques used by the fraudsters.

The first feature of a package to be examined are the indents. Relabeled chips often have their old markings sanded off and a coating applied to simulate the surface of an unmolested chip, and this coating can either obliterate or partially fill any indentations. Using comparison photos we are shown discernable hidden indents, and partially filled indents.

We’re shown textures and paints, and how markings can sometimes be shown as counterfeit by washing with solvent. A Cypress-marked part is found to be a cheaper Altera one under the paint, and other parts are shown with misaligned markings and markings placed over indents. Wildly varying countries of origin are claimed while seemingly retaining the same batch codes, an impossibility confirmed by manufacturers.

If you order your parts from legitimate distributors then it’s likely that what you receive will be the genuine article. However with the popularity of online auction sites and online bazaars the possibility has become ever more likely of being left with a counterfeit. Knowing some of these tips might just make the difference between the success or failure of your work, so it’s an interesting read.

Have you had any dodgy parts on your bench? Tell us about them in the comments. Meanwhile, it’s a subject we’ve covered before.

Via Hacker News.

Fail Of The Week: Cheap Chips Cause Chaos

We all know the old saw: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. But nowhere does this rule seem to break down as regularly as when we order parts. Banggood, AliExpress, and eBay are flooded with parts ready to be magically transported across the globe to our doorsteps, all at prices that seem to defy the laws of economics.

Most of these transactions go off without a hitch and we get exactly what we need to complete our Next Cool Thing. But it’s not always so smooth, as [Kerry Wong] recently discovered with an eBay order that resulted in some suspicious chips. [Kerry] ordered the AD633 analog multiplier chips as a follow-up to his recent Lorenz Attractor X-Y recorder project, where he used an Arduino to generate the chaotic butterfly’s data set as a demo for the vintage instrument. Challenged in the comments to do it again in analog, [Kerry] did his homework and found a circuit to make it happen. The needed multipliers were $10 a pop on DigiKey, so he sourced cheaper chips from eBay. The $2 chips seemed legit, with the Analog Devices logo and everything, but the circuit didn’t work. [Kerry]’s diagnosis in the video below is interesting, and it’s clear that the chips are fakes. Caveat emptor.

Here’s hoping that [Kerry] sources good chips soon and regales us with a successful build. Until then, what are your experiences with cheap chips? Have you been burned by overseas or domestic suppliers before? Does any single supplier seem like a better bet to you, or is it all hit or miss? Sound off in the comments below.

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