Hacking An Extra SATA Port Into A Thin Client

Thin clients were once thought by some to be the future of computing. These relatively low-power machines would rely on large server farms to handle the bulk of their processing and storage, serving only as a convenient local way for users to get access to the network. They never quite caught on, but [Jan Weber] found an old example and set about repurposing it as a NAS.

The Fujitsu Futro S900 was built up to 2013, and only had one SATA port from the factory. [Jan] wanted to add another as this would make the device more useful as a network attached storage server.

The motherboard design was intended primarily for industrial control or digital signage applications, and thus has plenty of interfaces onboard. [Jan]’s first target was some unpopulated footprints for SATA ports onboard, but after soldering on a connector, it was found that the BIOS wouldn’t recognise the extra ports anyway.

However, after reflashing the BIOS with one from an alternate model, the port worked! The system also seemed to then imagine it was connected to many additional LAN interfaces, but other than that glitch, the hack is functional. Now, with a pair of 2 TB SSDs inside, the S900 is a great low-power NAS device that can store [Jan]’s files.

It’s a tidy hack, and one that will likely appeal to those who prefer to run their own hardware rather than relying on the cloud. If you’re working on your own innovative NAS project, be sure to let us know!

An Off-Grid Makeshift Cell Network

When traveling into the wilderness with a group of people, it’s good to have a method of communications set up both for safety and practicality. In the past people often relied on radios like FRS, CB, or ham bands if they had licenses, but nowadays almost everyone has a built-in communications device in their pocket that’s ready to use. Rather than have all of his friends grab a CB to put in their vehicle for their adventures together, [Keegan] built an off-grid network which allows any Android phone to communicate with text even if a cell network isn’t available.

The communications system is built on the LoRa communications standard for increased range over other methods like WiFi using a SX1278 chip and an ESP8266. The hardware claims a 10 km radius using this method which is more than enough for [Keegan]’s needs. Actually connecting to the network is only half of the solution though; the devices will still need a method of communication. For that, a custom Android app was created which allows up to 8 devices to connect to the network and exchange text messages with each other similar to a group text message.

For off-grid adventures a solution like this is an elegant solution to a communications problem. It uses mostly existing hardware since everyone carries their own phones already, plus the LoRa standard means that even the ESP8266 base station and transmitter are using only a tiny bit of what is likely battery power. If you’re new to this wireless communications method, we recently featured a LoRa tutorial as well.

So. What’s Up With All These Crazy Event Networks Then?

As an itinerant Hackaday writer I am privileged to meet the people who make up our community as I travel the continent in search of the coolest gatherings. This weekend I’ve made the trek to the east of the Netherlands for the ETH0 hacker camp, in a camping hostel set in wooded countryside. Sit down, connect to the network, grab a Club-Mate, and I’m ready to go!

Forget the CTF, Connecting To WiFi Is The Real Challenge!

There no doubt comes a point in every traveling hacker’s life when a small annoyance becomes a major one and a rant boils up from within, and perhaps it’s ETH0’s misfortune that it’s at their event that something has finally boiled over. I’m speaking of course about wireless networks.

While on the road I connect to a lot of them, the normal commercial hotspots, hackerspaces, and of course at hacker camps. Connecting to a wireless network is a simple experience, with a level of security provided by WPA2 and access credentials being a password. Find the SSID, bang in the password, and you’re in. I’m as securely connected as I reasonably can be, and can get on with whatever I need to do. At hacker camps though, for some reason it never seems to be so simple.

Instead of a simple password field you are presented with a complex dialogue with a load of fields that make little sense, and someone breezily saying “Just enter hacker and hacker!” doesn’t cut it when that simply doesn’t work. When you have to publish an app just so that attendees can hook up their phones to a network, perhaps it’s time to take another look . Continue reading “So. What’s Up With All These Crazy Event Networks Then?”

SCADA Security Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, July 14 at noon Pacific for the SCADA Security Hack Chat with Éireann Leverett!

As a society, we’ve learned a lot of hard lessons over the last year and a half or so. But one of the strongest lessons we’ve faced is the true fragility of our infrastructure. The crumbling buildings and bridges and their tragic consequences are one thing, but along with attacks on the food and energy supply chains, it’s clear that our systems are at the most vulnerable as their complexity increases.

And boy are we good at making complex systems. In the United States alone, millions of miles of cables and pipelines stitch the country together from one coast to the other, much of it installed in remote and rugged places. Such far-flung systems require monitoring and control, which is the job of supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems. These networks have grown along with the infrastructure, often in a somewhat ad hoc manner, and given their nature they can be tempting targets for threat actors.

Finding ways to secure such systems is very much on Éireann Leverett’s mind. As a Senior Risk Researcher at the University of Cambridge, he knows about the threats to our infrastructure and works to find ways to mitigate them. His book Solving Cyber Risk lays out a framework for protecting IT infrastructure in general. For this Hack Chat, Éireann will be addressing the special needs of SCADA systems, and how best to protect these networks. Drop by with your questions about infrastructure automation, mitigating cyber risks, and what it takes to protect the endless web of pipes and wires we all need to survive.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, July 14 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Just How Did 1500 Bytes Become The MTU Of The Internet?

[Benjojo] got interested in where the magic number of 1,500 bytes came from, and shared some background on just how and why it seems to have come to be. In a nutshell, the maximum transmission unit (MTU) limits the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted in a single network-layer transaction, but 1,500 is kind of a strange number in binary. For the average Internet user, this under the hood stuff doesn’t really affect one’s ability to send data, but it has an impact from a network management point of view. Just where did this number come from, and why does it matter?

[Benjojo] looks at a year’s worth of data from a major Internet traffic exchange and shows, with the help of several graphs, that being stuck with a 1,500 byte MTU upper limit has real impact on modern network efficiency and bandwidth usage, because bandwidth spent on packet headers adds up rapidly when roughly 20% of all packets are topping out the 1,500 byte limit. Naturally, solutions exist to improve this situation, but elegant and effective solutions to the Internet’s legacy problems tend to require instant buy-in and cooperation from everyone at once, meaning they end up going in the general direction of nowhere.

So where did 1,500 bytes come from? It appears that it is a legacy value originally derived from a combination of hardware limits and a need to choose a value that would play well on shared network segments, without causing too much transmission latency when busy and not bringing too much header overhead. But the picture is not entirely complete, and [Benjojo] asks that if you have any additional knowledge or insight about the 1,500 bytes decision, please share it because manuals, mailing list archives, and other context from that time is either disappearing fast or already entirely gone.

Knowledge fading from record and memory is absolutely a thing that happens, but occasionally things get saved instead of vanishing into the shadows. That’s how we got IGNITION! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants, which contains knowledge and history that would otherwise have simply disappeared.

Linux Fu: A Little Bit Of (Network) History Repeating Itself

These days, embedded systems often have networks and that can make them significantly more complex. Networks are usually pretty nondeterministic and there are a variety of oddball conditions. For example, when your public-access pick and place machine gets written up on Hackaday and you suddenly get a 50X surge in traffic, how does your network stack handle it? While there’s no silver bullet for network testing, there are some tricks that can make it easier and one of those is the tcpreplay utilities that allow you to record complex network traffic and then play it back in a variety of ways. This has many benefits, especially if you manage to capture that one thing that triggers bad behavior sporadically. Being able to play it back on demand can speed up diagnostics considerably.

General Idea

You probably know that tcpdump allows you to grab packet captures from a network interface and save them to a file. If you prefer a GUI, you probably use Wireshark, which uses the same underlying library (libpcap) to grab the data. In fact, you can capture data using tcpdump and look at it with Wireshark, although there are other tools like tcptrace or Ngrep that can work with the output, also.

While the output of the command can be a little cryptic without tool support, a program called tcpreplay can take that data and feed it back in a variety of ways. Of course, you can modify the file first — there are tools to make that easier and — if you need to — you can craft your own network traffic by hand or using one of a variety of tools. This process is often called “packet crafting.”

Continue reading “Linux Fu: A Little Bit Of (Network) History Repeating Itself”

Open Source Electric Vehicle Charging

Electric vehicles are becoming more and more common on the road, but when they’re parked in the driveway or garage there are still some kinks to work out when getting them charged up. Sure, there are plenty of charging stations on the market, but they all have different features, capabilities, and even ports, so to really make sure that full control is maintained over charging a car’s batteries it might be necessary to reach into the parts bin and pull out a trusty Arduino.

This project comes to us from [Sebastian] who needed this level of control over charging his Leaf, and who also has the skills to implement it from the large high voltage switching contactors to the software running its network connectivity and web app. This charging station has every available feature, too. It can tell the car to charge at different rates, and can restrict it to charging at different times (if energy is cheaper at night, for example). It is able to monitor the car’s charge state and other information over the communications bus to the vehicle, and even has a front-end web app for monitoring and controlling the device.

The project is based around an Arduino Nano 33 IoT with all of the code available on the project’s GitHub page. While we would advise using extreme caution when dealing with mains voltage and when interfacing with a high-ticket item like an EV, at first blush the build looks like it has crossed all its Ts and might even make a good prototype for a production unit in the future. If you don’t need all of the features that this charging station has, though, you can always hack the car itself to add some more advanced charging features.

Continue reading “Open Source Electric Vehicle Charging”