Take Security Up A Notch By Adding LEDs

All computers are vulnerable to attacks by viruses or black hats, but there are lots of steps that can be taken to reduce risk. At the extreme end of the spectrum is having an “air-gapped” computer that doesn’t connect to a network at all, but this isn’t a guarantee that it won’t get attacked. Even transferring files to the computer with a USB drive can be risky under certain circumstances, but thanks to some LED lights that [Robert Fisk] has on his drive, this attack vector can at least be monitored.

Using a USB drive with a single LED that illuminates during a read OR write operation is fairly common, but since it’s possible to transfer malware unknowingly via USB drives, one that has a separate LED specifically for writing operations will help alert a user to any write operations that might be trying to fly under the radar. A recent article by [Bruce Schneier] pointed out this flaw in USB drives, and [Robert] was up to the challenge. His build returns more control to the user by showing them when their drive is accessed and in what way, which can also be used to discover unique quirks of one’s chosen operating system.

[Robert] is pretty familiar with USB drives and their ups and downs as well. A few years ago he built a USB firewall that was able to decrease the likelihood of BadUSB-type attacks. Be careful going down the rabbit hole of device security, though, or you will start seeing potential attacks hidden almost everywhere.

DIY Studio Lights To Improve Your Videos

It’s 2018, a full thirteen years since YouTube was founded. With an online sharing service up and running, and high-resolution cameras in just about every mobile phone, the production of video has been democratized. Sadly, for those citizens with eyes, the production of good video is not so widespread. What’s one thing you need for good video? Good lighting – and you can build it yourself.

This build from [DIY Perks] relies upon readily available components and uses simple build techniques accessible to the average maker. Using cheap LED strips (albeit photography-grade ones), along with off-the-shelf plastics and dimmer modules, it’s possible to build a light that preserves colour integrity while being lightweight, compact, and easy to use. The final product is remarkably elegant – at a glance it could be a commercial product. Nifty tricks like daisy chaining the power supplies and combining different spectrum LEDs for better control add to the functionality.

Overall, it’s a build that does take some time, but it could easily be completed in a weekend and the results are top notch. It’s not the first lightbox build we’ve seen here, either. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Keith O for the tip!]

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Bringing A Christmas Lights Show Inside

Instructables user [Osprey22] has been building towards this Christmas for years. Why? This year, he has brought an impressive musical Christmas light display inside, and at a fraction of the cost too!

An box at the tree’s base hides the power supply and the controller boards — a Raspberry Pi and a SanDevices e682 Pixel controller for the 400 WS2811 RGB LEDs — with an added router to connect them to the main network. The Pi is running Falcon Pi Player and a projector somewhere in the region of $100 complements the light show.

As far as mapping out the LEDs, Xlights is the program of choice, locating the LEDs in space with the help of a cell phone video recording. [Osprey22] had to write a quick program in C to fix the LED overlaps in the grid. (A spreadsheet would work just as well, here). Oh, and the gifts at the bottom of the tree double as a projector screen!

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A Mobile Bar In A Trailer!

Ok, there are some worthy laws in place regulating the sale and distribution of alcohol — and for good reason. For many a bootlegger, however, the dream of renovating an old trailer from 1946 into a mobile bar is a dream that must– wait, what? That already exists?

It’s no mobile workshop, but the bar was initially built to accommodate guests at their wedding. [HelloPennyBar] has shared the reconstruction process with the world. Inside, there’s everything you’d need to serve beverages, including a (double) kitchen sink. In addition to a water tank, a pair of car batteries serve as the central power with electrical work installed for interior lights, a small fan to keep the bartenders cool, exterior lights, a water pump, the trailer lights, and more exterior lights so the patrons can party the night away.

Before you say anything, [HelloPennyBar] says they would need a license to sell alcohol, but alleges that for serving alcohol at private events in their state it suffices to have an off-site responsible serving license. Furthermore, a few helpful redditors have chimed in regarding battery safety and cable-mounts, to which [HelloPennyBar] was amenable. Safety and legality noted, the mobile bar must make for a novel evening of fun.

[via /r/DIY]

A Very MIDI Christmas Lightshow

Christmas light displays winking and flashing in sync to music are a surefire way to rack up views on YouTube and annoy your neighbours. Inspired by one such video, [Akshay James] set up his own display and catalogued the process in this handy tutorial to get you started on your own for the next holiday season.

[James], using the digital audio workstation Studio One, took the MIDI data for the song ‘Carol of the Bells’ and used that as the light controller data for the project’s Arduino brain. Studio One sends out the song’s MIDI data, handled via the Hairless MIDI to serial bridge, to the Arduino which in turn sets the corresponding bit to on or off. That gets passed along to three 74HC595 shift registers — and their three respective relay boards — which finally trigger the relay for the string of lights.

From there, it’s a matter of wiring up the Arduino shift register boards, relays, and connecting the lights. Oh, and be sure to mount a speaker outdoors so passers-by can enjoy the music:

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Arduino Lighting Controller With Remote Twist

The time for putting up festive lights all around your house is nigh, and this is a very popular time for those of us who use the holiday season as an excuse to buy a few WiFi chips and Arduinos to automate all of our decorations. The latest in this great tradition is [Real Time Logic]’s cloud-based Christmas light setup.

In order to give public access to the Christmas light setup, a ESP8266 WiFi Four Relay board was configured with NodeMCU. This allows for four channels for lights, which are controlled through the Light Controller Server software. Once this is setup through a domain, all anyone has to do to change the lighting display is open up a web browser and head to the website. The creators had homeowners, restaurants, and church displays in mind, but it’s not too big of a leap to see how this could get some non-holiday use as well.

The holidays are a great time to get into the hacking spirit. From laser-projected lighting displays to drunk, animatronic Santas, there’s almost no end to the holiday fun, and you’ve still got a week! (Or 53!)

Cellular Automata Explorer

Well all know cellular automata from Conway’s Game of Life which simulates cellular evolution using rules based on the state of all eight adjacent cells. [Gavin] has been having fun playing with elementary cellular automata in his spare time. Unlike Conway’s Game, elementary automata uses just the left and right neighbors of a cell to determine the next cell ahead in the row. Despite this comparative simplicity, some really complex patterns emerge, including a Turing-complete one.

[Gavin] started off doing the calculations by hand for fun. He made some nice worksheets for this. As we can easily imagine, doing the calculations by hand got boring fast. It wasn’t long before his thoughts turned to automating his cellular automata. So, he put together an automatic cellular automator. (We admit, we are having a bit of fun with this.)

This could have been a quick software project but half the fun is seeing the simulations on a purpose-built ecosystem. The files to build the device are hosted on Thingiverse. Like other cellular automata projects, it uses LED matrices to display the data. An Arduino acts as the brain and some really cool retro switches from the world’s most ridiculously organized electronics collection finish the look of the project.

To use, enter the starting condition with the switches at the bottom. The code on the Arduino then computes and displays the pattern on the matrix. Pretty cool and way faster than doing it by hand.