Who can resist the insane deals on bizarre hardware that pop up on auction websites? Not [Dane Kouttron], for sure. He stumbled on Armor X7 ruggedized tablets, and had to buy a few. They’d be just perfect for datalogging in remote and/or hostile locations, if only they had better batteries and were outfitted with a GSM data modem… So [Dane] hauled out his screwdrivers and took stuff apart. What follows is a very detailed writeup of the battery management system (BMS), and a complete teardown of this interesting tablet almost as an afterthought.
First, [Dane] tried to just put a bunch more batteries into the thing, but the battery-management chip wouldn’t recognize them. For some inexplicable reason, [Dane] had the programmer for the BMS on-hand, as well as a Windows XP machine to run the antiquated software on. With the BMS firmware updated (and the manufacturer’s name changed to Dan-ger 300!) everything was good again.
Now you may not happen to have a bunch of surplus X7 ruggedized tablets lying around. Neither do we. But we can totally imagine needing to overhaul a battery system, and so it’s nice to have a peek behind the scenes in the BMS. File that away in your memory banks for when you need it. And if you need even more power, check out this writeup of reverse-engineering a Leaf battery pack. Power to the people!
The latest hardware project from [Bunnie] is the Novena, a truly open source laptop where nearly every part has non-NDA’d datasheets. This is the ideal laptop for hardware hacking – it has an FPGA right on the motherboard, a ton of pin headers, and a lot of extras that make interfacing with the outside world easy.
While the crowdfunding campaign for the Novena included a completely custom laptop, it was terribly expensive. That’s okay; it’s an heirloom laptop, and this is a DIY laptop anyway. With the Novena now shipping, it’s time for people to build their laptops. [Ben Heck] is the first person to throw his hat into the ring with his own build of the Novena laptop, and it’s fantastic.
The second video of the build was dedicated to what is arguably the most important part of any laptop: the keyboard. For the keyboard, [Ben Heck] went all out. It’s a completely mechanical keyboard, with backlit LEDs built around the Phantom PCB with Cherry MX switches. Because this is a DIY laptop and something that is meant to be opened, the keyboard is completely removable. Think of something like the original Compaq luggable, but turned into a laptop that looks reasonably modern.
The laptop enclosure was constructed out of a sandwich of an aluminum and laser cut plastic. These layers were glued and screwed together, the parts were carefully mounted into the case. The USB keyboard was attached directly to one of the chips on the motherboard with a few flying wires and hot glue.
The finished build is fantastic, even if it is a bit thick. It’s the ultimate hacker’s laptop, with an FPGA, Linux, open source everything, and even a cute little secret compartment for storing tools and cable adapters. A great build from one of the best builders around.
Continue reading “Building The Novena Laptop”
We’ve got two hacks in one from [Serge Rabyking] on fingerprint scanning. Just before leaving on a trip he bought a laptop on the cheap. He didn’t pay much attention to the features and was disappointed it didn’t have a fingerprint scanner. Working in Linux he uses sudo a lot and typing the password is a hassle. Previously he just swiped his finger on the scanner and execution continued.
He found a cheap replacement fingerprint scanner on hacker’s heaven, also known as eBay. It had four wires attached to a 16 pin connector. Investigation on the scanner end showed the outer pair were power and ground which made [Serge] suspect it was a USB device. Wiring up a USB connector and trying it the device was recognized but with a lot of errors. He swapped the signal lines and everything was perfect. He had sudo at his finger tip.
Next he wonder if it would work with a Raspberry Pi. He installed the necessary fingerprint scanning software, ran the enrollment for a finger, and it, not terribly surprisingly, worked.
On Linux the command fprintd-enroll reads and stores the fingerprint information. By default it scans and saves the right index finger but all ten fingers can be scanned and stored. Use libpam-fprintd to enable account login using a finger. Anyone know how you can trigger other events using a different finger? A quick search didn’t turn up any results.
In true hacker style, [Serge] created his own fingerprint reader from a replacement part. But you can jump start your finger usage by purchasing one of many inexpensive available readers.
As laptops have become smaller and easy to carry around, they have also picked up the most unfortunate property of being easy to steal. We’ve read the stories of how some victims are able to track them down via webcam still images of the thief. [Mastro Gippo] decided to take it one step further and add a remotely operated hardware self destruct to his laptop. The idea is if the laptop becomes unrecoverable, it will become useless and any sensitive data will be destroyed without harming the area around it.
It’s somewhat inception like, as it’s a hack within a hack. It’s based on the Crunchtrack, a CAN bus reverse engineering tool equipped with GPS and a SIM800 GSM module, which was also developed by [Mastro Gippo]. The idea is to tuck the small board somewhere in the laptop and wire it up between the battery and some sensitive parts. Send a single SMS text and ‘poof’, bye-bye laptop.
He wrote all the code in less the 24 hours for the BattleHack Hackathon. He decided to spice up the act with some firecrackers and a detonator, which made his team the crowd favorite and earned a victory.
Continue reading “Don’t Steal This Laptop”
All laptops have a working keyboard and mouse built into them, the only problem is that you can’t use these tools on other computers that don’t have them. At least, until now. [Peter] has created the KeyMouSerial in order to use his laptop’s keyboard and mouse as physical devices on his Raspberry Pi, finally freeing the bonds holding our laptops’ human interface devices back.
The software for KeyMouSerial copies keystroke and mouse information and sends this out via a serial port on his laptop (using a USB to serial adapter). From there the information is translated by an Arduino into HID commands which are sent via USB to the target computer, in this case a Raspberry Pi. It’s a pretty elegant solution to carrying a bulky keyboard and mouse along just for a Raspberry Pi, or for any computer that might not have access to a network and SSH.
[Peter] has also been working on using his iPod as a serial-to-USB converter, so if you’re a Rockbox developer and want to help out then drop him a line. All of the software is available (for Windows, Mac, or Linux) including the Arduino sketch if you want to try this software out for yourself. And, if you don’t want to turn a computer into a keyboard and want to go the other direction and turn a keyboard into a computer, that is also an option.
We’ve all seen the cheesy hacker scenes in movies and on TV. Three dimensional file system browsers, computer chip cityscapes, and other ridiculous visualizations to make the dull act of sitting at a keyboard look pretty on the silver screen. While real hackers know those things are often silly and impractical, sometimes we do go out of our way to pretty things up a bit.
Hollywood might be able to learn a thing or two from this latest hack. [Yuri] modified his Linux terminal to change the color of the back lights on his laptop’s keyboard. It’s the kind of thing that actually would look good in a modern hacker movie, and [Yuri] is living proof that it’s something that a real-life hacker would actually use!
[Yuri] has been running Simple Terminal. The Simple Terminal project aims to build a replacement for the default xterm program that removes all of the unnecessary features and simplifies the source code. It also aims to make your terminal experience prettier. Part of making things prettier means that you can choose the font color for your terminals, and of course each terminal window can have its own color if you so choose.
[Yuri] happens to own an Alienware laptop. This laptop comes with RGB LEDs behind the keyboard, allowing you to light them up just about any color you could ever want. [Yuri] thought it would be cool if his keyboard color matched the font color of his terminal windows. Thanks to AlienFX, he was able to write a simple patch for Simple Terminal that does exactly this. Now whenever he selects a terminal window, the keyboard automatically switches colors to match the text in that window. Be sure to check out the video below. Continue reading “Simple Terminal Hack is Fit For Hollywood”
We’re pretty fond of home-built arcade cabinets, especially when those cabinets feature a giant HaD logo on the front. We teased you with a picture of two predators playing it at Maker Faire Kansas City, and we thought you might like to see what makes it tick.
[Dustin and Nick] have dubbed this the Dustin and Nick Arcade [DNA]. They built the cabinet from the ground up out of 5/8″ MDF, primed it, and painted it with exterior paint to ward off moisture damage. At the heart of this build is the bottom half of a laptop that suffered from a broken screen. The plexiglass overlay lets players view the guts of the thing, which we think is a nice touch that literally exemplifies Open Design.
So, what happens when you drop your proverbial coin? [Dustin and Nick] used an C# NES/SNES emulator that runs from the command line using a WPF interface. [Nick]’s software selects the appropriate emulator for the approximately 700 available games. You’ll find [Nick]’s code and a ton of build pics at [Dustin]’s site. No wonder they won a Maker of Merit ribbon!
Don’t have the space to build a full-scale cabinet? You could make a mini Ms. Pac-Man cabinet, but then you’d only have Ms. Pac-Man to play with. And we’re pretty sure she’s spoken for.