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.
Addressable LEDs are a staple of homemade Christmas decorations in our community, as is microprocessor control of those LEDs. So at first sight [Glen Akins]’ LED decorated Christmas tree looks pretty enough, but isn’t particularly unusual. But after reading his write-up you’ll discover there’s far more to the project than meets the eye, and learn a lot about the technologies behind it that has relevance far beyond a festive light show.
The decoration is powered exclusively from power-over-Ethernet, with a PIC microcontroller translating Art-Net DMX-over-Ethernet packets into commands for the LED string. The control board is designed from the ground up and includes all the PoE circuitry, and the write-up gives a very thorough introduction to this power source that takes the reader way beyond regarding PoE as simply another off-the-shelf black box. Along the way we see all his code, as well as learn a few interesting tidbits such as the use of a pre-programmed EEPROM containing a unique MAC address.
So if your house has CAT5 wiring and you want an extra dimension to your festive splendour, you’ve officially got a whole year to build your own version. He’s featured here before, with his buzzer to break the Caps Lock habit.
Continue reading “PoE Powers Christmas Lights, But Opens Up So Much More”
We’re all used to the humble LED as a ubiquitous source of light, but how many of us are aware that these components can also be used as photodiodes? It’s something [Giovanni Blu Mitolo] takes us through as he demonstrates a simple data link using just a pair of LEDs and a couple of Arduinos. It’s a showing off his PJON networking layer, and while you’d need a bit more than a couple of LEDs on breadboards for a real-world application, we still think it’s a neat demonstration.
PJON itself is very much worth a look, being an implementation of a robust and error-tolerant network for Arduinos and other small microcontroller platforms. It has a variety of communication strategies for various different media, and as this LED demonstration shows, its strength is that it’s capable of working through media that other networks would balk at. Whether it’s controlling home automation through metal heating ducts or providing an alternative to LoRa at 433 MHz, it’s definitely worth a second look. We’ve mentioned it before, but remain surprised that we haven’t seen it more often since. Take a look, the video is below the break.
Continue reading “Optical Communication Using LEDs Alone”
Coming straight to you from the “Department of Redundant Redundancies” comes this clever hack that turns a Switch into a switch. More specifically, a network switch. Not even a half bad one either, judging by the speed tests [Cynthia Revström] performed after setting it all up. We wouldn’t advise you dump your existing network gear in favor of a repurposed game system, but perhaps in a pinch…
Despite what you might be thinking, there’s no hardware modifications at work here. This is a fully functional Nintendo Switch that’s just had two USB to Ethernet adapters plugged into it. The secret ingredient is the addition of some Penguin Power, up and running on Nintendo’s latest and greatest thanks to a project called switchroot.
With Linux running on the system, all [Cynthia] had to do was make sure that the USB to Ethernet adapters were supported, and fiddle around with the
ip commands to configure a bridge between the interfaces to get the packets moving. Putting the Switch between the main network and a test computer showed it had a throughput of just over 90 Mbps, which is about all that could be expected from the USB-connected network interfaces.
From here it wouldn’t have taken much more effort to get the system working as a wireless router and providing services like DHCP and NAT to clients. But since Nintendo didn’t see fit to call it the Router, that would’ve offered minimal meme value. There’s always next generation.
Seeing the Nintendo Switch do a surprisingly good job running as an Ethernet switch is even more surprising given the fact that it struggles to function with accessories that are actually intended for it. Though to be fair, the migration to USB-C has been a little rockier than most of us would have hoped.
We’re used to extending our network connections and being no longer constrained in our use of Ethernet by proximity to a switch or hub. Our houses routinely contain wireless networks, and of course powerline-Ethernet units passing data over our mains wiring. [Peter Franck] had a similar problem but without the mains power, for a distributed sprinkler system he needed to send Ethernet over DC cables.
The solution is a surprisingly simple one, taking one of those powerline Ethernet units and converting it by removing its mains power section. These devices contain the Ethernet and powerline modem chip with its associated circuitry, and a small switch-mode power supply. He’s removed the power supply and put in a capacitive coupling to the DC cabling, resulting in a relatively inexpensive DC powerline network device.
Powerline Ethernet devices are not without their own issues, for instance they are not popular with radio amateurs due to their effect on the RF noise floor. We’d therefore be curious to see what the RF emissions are like for this hack, but we still think it’s a useful weapon in the armoury as well as something to do with all those surplus powerline Ethernet bricks.
If civilization goes sideways and you need to survive, what are the bare essentials that should go in your bunker? Food and fresh water, sure. Maybe something to barter with in case things go full on The Postman. That’s all sensible enough, but how’s that stuff going to help you get a LAN party going? If you’re anything like [Jay Doscher], you’ll make sure there’s a ruggedized Raspberry Pi system with a self-contained network with you when the bombs drop.
Or at least, it certainly looks the part. He’s managed to design the entire project so it doesn’t require drilling holes through the Pelican case that serves as the enclosure, meaning it’s about as well sealed up as a piece of electronics can possibly be. The whole system could be fully submerged in water and come out bone dry on the inside, and with no internal moving parts, it should be largely immune to drops and shocks.
But we imagine [Jay] won’t actually need to wait for nuclear winter before he gets some use out of this gorgeous mobile setup. With the Pi’s GPIO broken out to dual military-style panel mount connectors on the front, a real mechanical keyboard, and an integrated five port Ethernet switch, you won’t have any trouble getting legitimate work done with this machine; even if the closest you ever get to a post-apocalyptic hellscape is the garage with the heat off. We especially like the 3D printed front panel with integrated labels, which is a great tip that frankly we don’t see nearly enough of.
This is actually an evolved version of the Raspberry Pi Field Unit (RPFU) that [Jay] built back in 2015. He tells us that he wanted to update the design to demonstrate his personal growth as a hacker and maker over the last few years, and judging by the final product, we think it’s safe to say he’s on the right path.
Join us on Wednesday, October 30 at noon Pacific for the SatNOGS Update Hack Chat with Pierros Papadeas and the SatNOGS team!
Ever since the early days of the Space Race, people have been fascinated with satellites. And rightly so; the artificial moons we’ve sent into orbit are engineering marvels, built to do a difficult job while withstanding an incredibly harsh environment. But while most people are content to just know that satellites are up there providing weather forecasts and digital television, some of us want a little more.
Enter SatNOGS. Since winning the very first Hackaday Prize in 2014, SatNOGS has grown into exactly what Pierros Papadeas and the rest of the team envisioned: a globe-spanning network of open-source satellite ground stations, feeding continuous observations into an open, accessible database. With extensive documentation and an active community, SatNOGS has helped hundreds of users build ground stations with steerable antennas and get them connected. The network tracks hundreds of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites each day, including increasingly popular low-cost Cubesats.
Join us as the SatNOGS crew stops by the Hack Chat to give us an update on their efforts over the last few years. We’ll discuss how winning the Hackaday Prize changed SatNOGS, how the constellation of satellites has changed and how SatNOGS is dealing with it, and what it takes to build a global network and the community that makes it work.
Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, October 30 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.
Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.