A disturbing trend in consumer electronics has been a steady disappearance of replaceable batteries on our devices. Finding a mobile phone with a swapable battery is a struggle, and many other devices follow the trend by sealing in a Li-Po cell. The result is an ever-shorter life for electronics, and a greater problem with devices going to recycling or worse still, landfill. Hope is at hand though, thanks to a proposed European Union law that would if passed make batteries in appliances “designed so that consumers can easily remove and replace them themselves“.
In case any readers in the rest of the world wonder what it has to do with them, the EU represents such a huge market that manufacturers can neither ignore it, nor in most cases afford to make separate EU and rest-of-world versions of their products. Thus if the EU requires something for sale in its territories, in most cases it becomes the de facto norm for anything designed to be sold worldwide. We’ve already seen this with the EU’s right to repair legislation, and while we have not doubt that manufacturers will do their best to impede this new law we don’t think they will ultimately prevail.
When it comes to repairability of electronic devices, much depends on how helpful the original manufacturer is. Some make repairs very easy by publishing detailed service manuals and selling spare parts. Others keep everything under wraps to protect their intellectual property, turning even a supposedly simple fix into a reverse engineering ordeal. When [BuyItFixIt] got his hands on a FLIR multimeter-thermal camera combination instrument with a broken display, he quickly found that FLIR was firmly in the “all our designs are top secret” camp and wouldn’t even tell him what kind of display they had used.
Not to be deterred, [BuyItFixIt] took the meter apart and tried to find out what was going wrong. The signals from the microprocessor seemed to reach the display OK, so the fault was somewhere in the screen itself. The display’s part number didn’t return any useful results online, but AliExpress did have a very similar-looking display available with a slightly different part number. This display seemed to work at first, but the instrument then got caught in a boot loop.
Unlike FLIR, the supplier of the replacement display was happy to supply datasheets, and even had one available for the original FLIR part. With this new information [BuyItFixIt] was able to deduce that the new screen didn’t output one signal that the processor expected to see, causing it to reset itself. A simple workaround was to connect the corresponding pin to a PWM signal from the backlight controller, which fooled the CPU into thinking the proper display was connected.
In this case, a $12 display and a single piece of wire were enough to bring an expensive instrument back to life, but things are not always that simple. More complex machines can take weeks to debug, even if parts are available. If not, you might even need to design your own. Continue reading “Cheap Display Fix Brings Thermal Camera Back To Life”
A few weeks ago, some tantalizing social media posts emerged from a Def Con talk, in which [Sick Codes] broke into the screen control unit for a John Deere tractor live on stage, and proceeded to play a special Deere-themed DOOM level upon it. At the time there was nothing more to go on, but we’re pleased to find out that the whole talk has been put online.
The talk starts with an introduction to the topic, to the basics of the control units within the machine and to the various different ages of Deere screen unit. We find that the earlier machines, which are still at work on farms worldwide, rely on outdated Windows CE versions, though the very latest screens run a Linux variant.
It’s one of these last screens to which he turns his attention, and we’re treated to an in-depth look at some of its secrets. After a lot of dead ends and learning exercises the final result is distilled into a pogo pin adapter for the hardware part, and a simple enough
cron job to bypass one of Deere’s defenses by keeping the filesystem writable so a file can be updated. There’s a bit more detail about the special DOOM level too, as a special bonus.
You can see our original mention of this talk, or read some of our past Deere coverage.
Continue reading “Finally We Can Watch The Deere Cracking Def Con Talk”
Say what you will about Tesla, but there’s little doubt that the electric vehicle maker inspires a certain degree of fanaticism in owners. We’re used to the ones who can’t stop going on about neck-snapping acceleration and a sci-fi interior. But the ones we didn’t see coming are those who feel their cars are so bad that they need to stage a hunger strike to get the attention of Tesla. The strike is being organized by a group of Tesla owners in Norway, who on their website enumerate a long list of grievances, including design defects, manufacturing issues, quality control problems, and customer service complaints. It’s not clear how many people are in the group, although we assume at least 18, as that’s the number of Tesla cars they used to spell out “HELP” in a parking lot. It’s also not clear how or even if the group is really off their feed, or if this is just a stunt to get the attention of Tesla honcho and notorious social media gadfly Elon Musk.
Continue reading “Hackaday Links: September 4, 2022”
The countdown for the first step on humanity’s return to the Moon has begun. The countdown for Artemis 1 started on Saturday morning, and if all goes well, the un-crewed Orion spacecraft atop the giant Space Launch Systems (SLS) booster will liftoff from the storied Pad 39B at Cape Canaveral on Monday, August 29, at 8:33 AM EDT (1233 GMT). The mission is slated to last for about 42 days, which seems longish considering the longest manned Apollo missions only lasted around 12 days. But, without the constraint of storing enough consumables for a crew, Artemis is free to take the scenic route to the Moon, as it were. No matter what your position is on manned space exploration, it’s hard to deny that launching a rocket as big as the SLS is something to get excited about. After all, it’s been 50 years since anything remotely as powerful as the SLS has headed to space, and it’s an event that’s expected to draw 100,000 people to watch it in person. We’ll have to stick to the NASA live stream ourselves; having seen a Space Shuttle launch in person in 1990, we can’t express how much we envy anyone who gets to experience this launch up close.
Continue reading “Hackaday Links: August 28, 2022”
The Internet, or at least our corner of it, has been abuzz over the last few days with the news of a DEF CON talk by [Sick.Codes] in which he demonstrated the jailbreaking of the console computer from a John Deere tractor. Sadly we are left to wait the lengthy time until the talk is made public, and for now the most substantive information we have comes from a couple of Tweets. The first comes from [Sick.Codes] himself and shows a game of DOOM with a suitably agricultural theme, while the second is by [Kyle Wiens] and reveals the tractor underpinnings relying on outdated and un-patched operating systems.
You might ask why this is important and more than just another “Will it run DOOM” moment. The answer will probably be clear to long-term readers, and is that Deere have become the poster child for improper use of DRM to lock owners into their servicing and deny farmers the right to repair. Thus any breaches in their armor are of great interest, because they have the potential to free farmers world-wide from this unjust situation. As we’ve reported before the efforts to circumvent this have relied on cracked versions of the programming software, so this potential jailbreak of the tractor itself could represent a new avenue.
As far as we’re aware, this has so far taken place on the console modules in the lab and not in the field on a real tractor. So we’re unsure as to whether the door has been opened into the tractor’s brain, or merely into its interface. But the knowledge of which outdated software can be found on the devices will we hope lead further to what known vulnerabilities may be present, and in turn to greater insights into the machinery.
Were you in the audience at DEF CON for this talk? We’d be curious to know more. Meanwhile the Tweet is embedded below the break, for a little bit of agricultural DOOM action.
Continue reading “Did You See A John Deere Tractor Cracked At DEF CON?”
It’s been a frequent criticism of Apple, that their products are difficult to repair. They’ve hit back with a self-repair program for iPhones, and should you wish to take advantage of it they will hire you a tool kit. Not the iFixit box you might expect, instead they give you two hefty suitcases that contain 36 Kg of tools and equipment. Yes, you can repair an iPhone, but they ensure that it’s not for the faint-hearted.
In the kit is an impressive array of everything you might need for your iDevice, including the proper heat plate and press for the job. None of that messing about with a hot air gun for your $49 rental cost and $1200 if you don’t return the tools, but it remains an impossibly difficult and expensive process for all but the most dedicated of Apple fanboy technicians.
The sense from the Verge article is that Apple have had their arm twisted to the extent that they must provide a repair option, but they’ve gone to extravagant lengths to make it something nobody in their right mind would pursue. There’s an attraction in the idea of playing with a fully-equipped Apple repair kit for a few days, but maybe it’s not worth the cost.
Even without the Apple toolkit, it’s still possible to upgrade your iPhone.
Thanks [Nikolai Ivanov] for the tip.