The WebStick Is A Small, Cheap NAS

The ESP8266 was one of the first chips that provided wireless functionality at a cost low enough to be widely popular for small microcontroller projects. This project uses one to provide rapid, small, and inexpensive network-attached storage (NAS) capabilities wherever you happen to go.

With an ESP12F board at the heart to provide network connectivity, the small device also hosts a micro SD card slot and a USB-A port to provide power and programming capabilities for the device. It’s Arduino-compatible, and creator [tobychui] has provided the firmware source code necessary to bring it up on your network and start serving up files. Originally intended for people to host web services without experience setting up all of the tools needed for it, there’s services for storing and streaming music and video over the network as well.

While it includes a lot more functionality than is typically included on a NAS, [tobychui] notes that with a library, something like WebDAV could be added to provide more traditional NAS capabilities. As it stands, though, having networked storage with web hosting capabilities on a PCB with a total cost of around $5 is not something to shy away from. If you’re looking for something a little more powerful for your home network, take a look at this ARM-based NAS instead.

The SDWire board plugged into some SoM's breakout board's MicroSD socket

Automated MicroSD Card Swapping Helps In Embedded Shenanigans

[Saulius Lukse] has been working on some single board computer, seemingly, running Linux. Naturally, that boots from a microSD card – and as development goes on, that card has to be reimaged all the time. Sick of constantly plugging and unplugging the microSD card between the SBC and an SD card reader, [Saulius] started looking for a more automated solution – and it wasn’t long before he found out about the SDWire project, a hardware tool that lets you swap a card between a DUT (Device Under Test) and your personal computer with no moving parts involved.

SDWire is an offshoot from the Tizen project, evidently, designed to be of help in device development, be it single-board computers or smartphones. The idea is simple – you plug your MicroSD card into the SDWire board, plug the SDWire into a MicroSD slot of your embedded device, and then connect a USB cable from the SDWire to your development computer. This way, if you need to reflash the firmware on the SBC you’re tinkering with, you only need to issue a command to the SDWire board over the USB cable, and the MicroSD card appears as a storage drive on your computer. SDWire is a fully open source project, both in hardware and in software, and you can also buy preassembled boards online.

Such shortening of development time helps in things like automated testing, but it also speeds your development up quite a bit, saving you time between iterations, freeing you from all the tiny SD card fiddling, and letting you have more fun as you hack. There’s a clear need for a project like SDWire, as we’ve already seen a hacker assemble such a device using breakouts.

Size Does Matter When It Comes To SD Cards

The SD card first burst onto the scene in 1999, with cards boasting storage capacities up to 64 MB hitting store shelves in the first quarter of 2000. Over the years, sizes slowly crept up as our thirst for more storage continued to grow. Fast forward to today, and the biggest microSD cards pack up to a whopping 1 TB into a package smaller than the average postage stamp.

However, getting to this point has required many subtle changes over the years. This can cause havoc for users trying to use the latest cards in older devices. To find out why, we need to take a look under the hood at how SD cards deal with storage capacity. Continue reading “Size Does Matter When It Comes To SD Cards”

Digging Deep Into SD Card Secrets

To some, an SD card is simply an SD card, notable only for the amount of storage it provides as printed on the label. However, just like poets, SD cards contain¬†multitudes.¬†[Jason Gin] was interested as to what made SanDisk’s High Endurance line of microSDXC cards tick, so he set out to investigate.

Naturally, customer service was of no help. Instead, [Jason] started by scraping away the epoxy covering which hides the card’s test points. Some delicate soldering was required to hook up the test points to a breakout board, while also connecting the SD interface to a computer to do its thing. A DS Logic Plus signal analyzer was used to pick apart the signals going to the chip to figure out what was going on inside.

After probing around, [Jason] was able to pull out the NAND Flash ID, which, when compared to a Toshiba datasheet, indicates the card uses BiCS3 3D TLC NAND Flash. 3D NAND Flash has several benefits over traditional planar Flash technology, and SanDisk might have saved [Jason] a lot of time investigating if they’d simply placed this in their promotional material.

We’ve seen other similar hacks before, like this data recovery performed via test points. If you’ve been working away on SD cards in your own workshop, be sure to let us know!

USB Flash Drive Reveals Strange SD Card Heart

Many a hacker has dug an old flash drive out of the bottom of a backpack, and peeled apart the damaged plastic case to look inside. More often then not, you’d expect to see some SMD chips on a PCB along with a few passives, an LED and a USB port. [Gough] found something else entirely, and documented it for the interested public.

Inside the Comsol 8GB USB stick, [Gough] found an entire microSD card. One might be led to think this is a card reader and microSD masquerading as a normal flash drive, but the reality is far different. Instead, the drive contains a Flash memory controller which addresses the microSD card as raw NAND, through test points normally covered up on consumer-grade cards. The drive appears to be manufactured from factory second microSD cards that don’t pass the normal tests to be onsold to the public.

Armed with software obtained through spurious channels, [Gough] is able to dive deeper into the guts of the flash drive. The engineering tools allow the card to be optimised for capacity or speed, and different levels of error correction. It’s even possible to have the flash drive emulate a U3 CD ROM drive for OS installs and other purposes.

It’s a great dive into how USB drives work on a low level, and how the firmware and hardware work together. We’ve seen other flash drive hacks before too – like this simple recovery trick!

Teardown: Wonder Bible

Even the most secular among us can understand why somebody would want to have a digital version of the Bible. If you’re the sort of person who takes solace in reading from the “Good Book”, you’d probably like the ability to do so wherever and whenever possible. But as it so happens, a large number of people who would be interested in a more conveniently transportable version of the Bible may not have the technological wherewithal to operate a Kindle and download a copy.

Which is precisely the idea behind the Wonder Bible, a pocket-sized electronic device that allows the user to listen to the Bible read aloud at the press of a button. Its conservative design, high-contrast LED display, and large buttons makes it easy to operate even by users with limited eyesight or dexterity.

The commercial for the Wonder Bible shows people all of all ages using the device, but it’s not very difficult to read between the lines and see who the gadget is really aimed for. We catch a glimpse of a young businessman tucking a Wonder Bible into the center console of his expensive sports car, but in reality, the scenes of a retiree sitting pensively in her living room are far closer to the mark.

In truth, the functionality of the Wonder Bible could easily be replicated with a smartphone application. It would arguably even be an improvement by most standards. But not everyone is willing or able to go that route, which creates a market for an affordable stand-alone device. Is that market large enough to put a lot of expense and engineering time into the product? Let’s crack open one of these holy rolling personal companions and find out.

Continue reading “Teardown: Wonder Bible”

Cramming Dual SIMs & A Micro SD Card Into Your Phone

There are plenty of dual SIM phones on the market these days, but most of them are a hamstrung by packaging issues. Despite their dual SIM capability, this usually comes at the expense of the microSD card slot. Of course, hackers don’t accept such nonsense, and [Tweepy] went about crafting a solution. Sadly the make and model of phone aren’t clear.

It’s a simple case of very carefully shaving both the microSD card and the nano-SIM down until both can fit in the card tray. The SIM is slimmed down with the application of a heat gun helping to remove its plastic backing, saving precious fractions of a millimeter. The SD card is then filed down to make just enough space for the SIM to fit in underneath. Thanks to the springiness of the contacts in the phone, it’s just barely possible to squeeze both in, along with some Kapton tape to hold everything in place.

Your mileage may vary, depending on the construction of your SD card. Overall though, it’s a tidy hack that should prove useful to anyone with a dual SIM phone and limited storage. We saw a similar hack a few years ago, too.

[Thanks to Timothy for the tip!]