The “razor and blades model” probably set a lot of young hackers on their current trajectory. If we buy a widget, we want to pick our widget refills instead of going back to the manufacturer for their name-brand option. [Flamingo-Tech] was having none of it when they needed a new filter for their Xiaomi air purifier so they set out to fool it into thinking there was a genuine replacement fresh from the box. Unlike a razor handle, the air purifier can refuse to work if it is not happy, so the best option was to make a “mod-chip.”
The manufacturer’s filters have a Near-Field Communication (NFC) chip and antenna which talk to the base station. The controller receives the filter data via I2C, but the mod-chip replaces that transmitter and reassures the controller that everything is peachy in filter town. On top of the obvious hack here, [Flamingo-Tech] shows us how to extend filter life with inexpensive wraps, so that’s a twofer. You can create your own mod-chip from the open-source files or grab one from [Flamingo-Tech’s] Tindie store.
The ESP32 and ESP8266 spread like wildfire a few years ago due to their small form factor, low price, and wireless capability. They didn’t just take over the DIY scene, though. Plenty of mass market products began to incorporate these tiny chips as well, which means that there are some interesting pre-made devices around that are ripe for modification. In this case, using an off-brand smart light bulb as a base for an semi-proprietary lighting setup.
The lighting in this build is a generic RGB light bulb with the ability to control its color over Wi-Fi. Since it has an ESP8266 chip in it, it can be made to work with Philips Hue lights with some minor modifications, allowing a much wider range of control than otherwise available. For this one, [Vadim] needed to pry open the bulb case to access the chip, then solder wires to it for reprogramming. It needed power during this step which meant plugging the resulting mess of wires back into a lamp socket, but after this step the new programming allows the bulb to be reprogrammed remotely.
After that step is complete, though, the generic bulb is ready for its inclusion into a Hue lighting system. In this case, [Vadim] is using diyHue, a Hue emulator that allows control of the bulbs without needing to use any cloud services, running on a BeagleBone. It’s a fairly comprehensive way of adding many different types and brands of bulbs to one system, and avoids any subscription models or the use of a cloud service, which is always something we can get behind.
Here’s the scene: in the late 90s, Konica partnered with photo shops to provide a photo scanning service, delivering digital scans of film photos on 3.5″ floppy disks, and that’s exactly what [Dave] had to work with. The disks were in good condition, and since modern desktop computers still support floppy drives and the FAT filesystem, in theory all one needs to do is stick disks into the reader one at a time in order to access the photos.
Sadly, problems started early. A floppy drive is revoltingly slow compared to any modern storage device, so [Dave]’s first step was to copy all of the files to his machine’s local storage before working on them. This took a bit of wrangling to deal with 8.3 format file names and avoid naming collisions across disks while still preserving some metadata such as original creation date. It was nothing a quick python script couldn’t handle, but that soon led to the next hurdle.
The photos in question were in an obsolete and proprietary Konica .KQP format. [Dave] went through a number of photo viewing programs that claimed to support .KQP, but none of them actually recognized the images.
Fortunately, each disk contained a copy of Konica’s proprietary “PC PictureShow” viewer, but despite having a variety of versions dated between 1997 and 2001 (making them from the Windows 98 and Windows ME eras) [Dave] could not get any version of the program to run in Windows 10, even with compatibility mode for legacy programs enabled. The solution was to set up a Windows XP virtual machine using Oracle’s Virtualbox, and use that to ultimately run PC PictureShow and finally access the photos. After all that work, [Dave] finally had a stroke of luck: Konica’s software had a handy feature to export images in JPEG format, and it worked like a charm.
The only thing more surprising than finding out TiVo actually put out a new 4K set-top box recently is learning that somehow they didn’t bother to build WiFi into the thing. You’re forced to buy a special wireless adapter to the tune of $60 USD to add the feature. We’d make a joke about the company living in the past, but frankly, it would be too easy.
Operating under the assumption that the TiVo would only talk to a WiFi adapter based on the same Broadcom BCM43569 chipset used in the official one, [xxbiohazrdxx] started by trying to find a standard USB dongle that might be a drop-in replacement. Unfortunately, it looks like this particular chip was almost exclusively used in proprietary applications, most commonly as a WiFi board inside of smart TVs. But as it turns out, that wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker.
After some searching, [xxbiohazrdxx] eventually found the promising CyberTAN NU361-HS board. Not only was it based on the right chipset and ran from 5 volts, but its FCC ID entry had a complete pinout for the connector. This particular WiFi module is used in a number of budget TVs and is widely available as a spare part for less than $10. By combing the board and a USB breakout PCB inside of a 3D printed case, you’ve got a plug-and-play WiFi adapter that the TiVo thinks is the real deal.
This deep dive into the Linux-powered Reolink B800 IP camera started because of a broken promise from its manufacturer. When [George Hilliard] purchased a kit that included six of the cameras and a video recorder, the website said they were capable of outputting standard RTSP video. But once he took delivery of the goods, and naturally after his return window had closed, the site was updated to say that the cameras can only function with the included recorder.
Taking that as something of challenge, [George] got to work. His first big break came when he desoldered the camera’s SPI flash chip and replaced it with a socket. That allowed him to easily take the chip out of the device for reading and flashing as he tinkered with modifying the firmware. After adding cross-compiled versions of busybox, gdb, and strace to the extracted firmware, he bundled it back up and flashed it back to the hardware.
If you think that’s the end of the story, it isn’t. In fact, it’s just the beginning. While getting root-level access to the camera’s OS would have potentially allowed for [George] to dump all the proprietary software it was running and replace it with open alternatives, he decided to take a different approach.
Instead of replacing the camera’s original software, he used his newly granted root powers to analyze it and figure out how it worked. This allowed for to sniff out some very suspect “encryption” routines built into the software, and eventually write his own server side in Rust that finally allowed him to use the cameras with his own server…albeit with a bit more work than he bargained for.
Proprietary components are the bane of anyone who dares to try and repair their own hardware. Nonstandard sizes, lack of labeling or documentation, and unavailable spare parts are all par for the course. [Jason] was unlucky enough to have an older Dell computer with a broken, and proprietary, cooling fan on it and had to make some interesting modifications to replace it.
The original fan had three wires and was controlled thermostatically, meaning that a small thermistor would speed up the the fan as the temperature increased. Of course, the standard way of controlling CPU fans these days is with PWM, so he built a circuit which essentially converts the PWM signal from the motherboard into a phantom thermistor. It’s even more impressive that it was able to be done with little more than a MOSFET and a Zener diode.
Unfortunately, there was a catch. The circuit only works one way, meaning the fan speed doesn’t get reported to the motherboard and the operating system thinks the fan has failed. But [Jason] simply disabled the warning and washed his hands of that problem. If you don’t want to use a CPU fan at all, you can always just dunk your entire computer in mineral oil.
Some companies insist on using proprietary pieces. It can be really frustrating when there is no apparent reason other than consumer lock in. It irritates us to feel like we’re being forced to buy their pieces. This is one of the more popular reasons listed when you ask a hacker or modder what got them started. This project takes us through making a normal power supply work with the compaq proprietary 14 pin plug found in some smaller desktop PCs.
Aside from the plug itself being different, the motherboards require a 3.3v standby voltage. A normal power supply usually only has a 5v. Though there are even simpler ways of bypassing the issue, he chose to put an inline voltage regulator. Schematics are available on the site.