A picture of the camera in question, successfully uploading a pic thanks to the fix found

Fixing A Camera’s WiFi Connectivity With Ghidra

If your old camera’s WiFi picture upload feature breaks, what do you do? Begrudgingly get a new one? Well, if you’re like [Ge0rg], you break out Ghidra and find the culprit. He’s been hacking on Samsung’s connected cameras for a fair bit now, and we’ve covered his adventures hacking on Samsung’s Linux-powered camera series throughout the last decade, from getting root on them for fun, to deep dives into the series. Now, it was time to try and fix a problem with one particular camera, Samsung WB850F, which had its picture upload feature break at some point.

[Ge0rg] grabbed a firmware update .zip, and got greeted by a bunch of compile-time debug data as a bonus, making the reverse-engineering journey all that more tempting. After figuring out the update file partition mapping, loading the code into Ghidra, and feeding the debug data into it to get functions to properly parse, he got to the offending segment, and eventually figured out the bug. Turned out, a particularly blunt line of code checking the HTTP server response was confused by s in https, and a simple spoof server running on a device of your choice with a replacement hosts file is enough to have the feature work again, well, paired with a service that spoofs the long-shutdown Samsung’s picture upload server.

Turned out, a bunch more cameras from Samsung had the same check misfire for them, which made this reverse-engineering journey all that more fruitful. Once again, Ghidra skills save the day.

Using An Old Smartphone In Place Of A Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi was a fairly revolutionary computing device when it came on the scene around a decade ago. Enough processing power to run a full Linux desktop and plenty of GPIO meant almost certain success. In the past year, though, they’ve run into some issues with their chip supplier and it’s been difficult to find new Pis, which has led to some looking for alternatives to these handy devices. [David] was hoping to build a music streaming server and built it on an old smartphone instead of the ubiquitous single-board computer.

Most smartphones are single-board computers though, and at least the Android devices are fully capable of running Linux just like the Pi. The only problem tends to be getting around the carrier or manufacturer restrictions like a locked bootloader or lack of root access. For [David]’s first try getting this to work, he tried to install Navidrome on a Samsung phone but had difficulties with the lack of memory and had to build the software somewhere else and then load it on the phone. It did work, but the stock operating system kept killing the process for consuming too much memory.

Without root access, [David] decided to try LineageOS, a version of Android which, among other benefits, is typically much more configurable than the stock version of Android that is shipped with smartphones. This allowed him to disable or uninstall anything not needed for his music server to free up enough memory. After some issues with transcoding the actual music files he planned on streaming, his music server was successfully up and running on a phone that would have otherwise been relegated to the junk drawer. The specific steps he took to get this working can be found on his GitHub page as well.

[David] also mentioned looking at PostmarketOS for this job which is certainly a viable option for some, but the Linux distribution for phones is only supported on a few devices. Another viable alternative for a project like this if no Raspberry Pis are available might be any of a number of Pine64 devices that might also be sitting around gathering dust, like the versatile Linux-based Pinephone.

A Compact Camera Running Linux? What’s Not To Like!

One of the devices swallowed up by the smartphone for the average person is the handheld camera, to the extent that the youngsters are reported to be now rediscovering 20-year-old digital cameras for their retro cool factor. Cameras aren’t completely dead though, as a mirrorless compact or a DSLR should still blow the socks off a phone in competent hands. They’ve been around long enough to be plentiful secondhand, which makes [Georg Lukas]’ look at a ten-year-old range of models from Samsung worth a second look. Why has a deep dive into old cameras caught our eye? These cameras run Linux, in the form of Samsung’s Tizen distribution.

His interest in the range comes from owning one since 2014, and it’s in his earlier series of posts on hacking that camera that we find some of the potential it offers. Aside from the amusement that it runs an unprotected X server, getting to a root shell is fairly straightforward as we covered at the time, and it turns out to be a very hackable device.

Cameras follow a Gartner hype cycle-like curve in the popularity stakes, so for example the must-have bridge cameras and compact cameras of the late-2000s are now second-hand-store bargains. Given that mirrorless cameras such as the Samsung are now fairly long in the tooth, it’s likely that they too will fall into a pit of affordability before too long. One to look out for, perhaps.

An Old Netbook Spills Its Secrets

For a brief moment in the late ’00s, netbooks dominated the low-cost mobile computing market. These were small, low-cost, low-power laptops, some tiny enough to only have a seven-inch display, and usually with extremely limiting hardware even for the time. There aren’t very many reasons to own a machine of this era today, since even the cheapest of tablets or Chromebooks are typically far more capable than the Atom-based devices from over a decade ago. There is one set of these netbooks from that time with a secret up its sleeve, though: Phoenix Hyperspace.

Hyperspace was envisioned as a way for these slow, low-power computers to instantly boot or switch between operating systems. [cathoderaydude] wanted to figure out what made this piece of software tick, so he grabbed one of the only netbooks that it was ever installed on, a Samsung N210. The machine has both Windows 7 and a custom Linux distribution installed on it, and with Hyperspace it’s possible to switch almost seamlessly between them in about six seconds; effectively instantly for the time. Continue reading “An Old Netbook Spills Its Secrets”

AI And Savvy Marketing Create Dubious Moon Photos

Taking a high-resolution photo of the moon is a surprisingly difficult task. Not only is a long enough lens required, but the camera typically needs to be mounted on a tracking system of some kind, as the moon moves too fast for the long exposure times needed. That’s why plenty were skeptical of Samsung’s claims that their latest smart phone cameras could actually photograph this celestial body with any degree of detail. It turns out that this skepticism might be warranted.

Samsung’s marketing department is claiming that this phone is using artificial intelligence to improve photos, which should quickly raise a red flag for anyone technically minded. [ibreakphotos] wanted to put this to the test rather than speculate, so a high-resolution image of the moon was modified in such a way that most of the fine detail of the image was lost. Displaying this image on a monitor, standing across the room, and using the smartphone in question reveals details in the image that can’t possibly be there.

The image that accompanies this post shows the two images side-by-side for those skeptical of these claims, but from what we can tell it looks like this is essentially an AI system copy-pasting the moon into images it thinks are of the moon itself. The AI also seems to need something more moon-like than a ping pong ball to trigger the detail overlay too, as other tests appear to debunk a more simplified overlay theory. It seems like using this system, though, is doing about the same thing that this AI camera does to take pictures of various common objects.

A Single-Watt Hydroponic Lighting System

Hydroponic systems are an increasingly popular way to grow plants indoors using a minimum of resources. Even some commercial farming operations are coming online using hydroponic growing techniques, as these methods consume much less water, land area, and other resources than traditional agricultural methods. The downside is that the required lighting systems often take an incredible amount of energy. That’s why [ColdDayApril] set up a challenge to grow a plant hydroponically using no more than a single watt.

The system is set up to grow a single pepper plant in what is known as a deep-water culture, where the plant is suspended in a nutrient solution which has everything it needs to grow. The lightning system is based around the Samsung LM301B which comes close to the physical limits for converting electricity into white light and can manage around 220 lumens. A special power supply is needed for these low-power diodes, and the light is efficiently directed towards the plant using a purpose-built reflective housing. By placing this assembly very close to the plant and adjusting it as it grows, [ColdDayApril] was able to take the pepper plant from seed to flowering in 92 days.

It’s worth noting that the rest of the system uses a little bit of energy too. A two watt fan helps circulate some air in the hydroponic enclosure, and deep-water systems usually require an air pump to oxygenate the water which uses another two watts. This is still an impressive accomplishment as most hobbyist builds use lighting systems rated in the hundreds of watts and use orders of magnitude more energy. But, if you’re willing to add some fish into the system you can mitigate some of the energy requirements needed for managing the water system even further.

Samsung Bricks Smart TVs

Earlier this Fall, a Samsung warehouse in South Africa was robbed and the thieves got away with a quantity of smart televisions. Samsung proceeded to implement a little-known feature called “TV Block” which is installed on all of their TV products. The serial numbers of the stolen TV sets are flagged in their servers, and if one of these sets tries to connect the internet in the future, it will recognize that it is stolen and proceed to brick itself, disabling all television functionality.

So while this real-life scenario makes sense, it is a bit alarming to realize the implication of such a feature — the manufacturer can reach into your TV and disable it from afar. One can assume that Samsung won’t abuse this capability, because acting otherwise would harm their reputation. In a press release, Samsung announced that any consumers whose sets were incorrectly bricked can have their sets un-bricked after demonstrating proper ownership.

Despite such good intentions, the mere existence of such a feature is worrisome. What someone hacks the system and begins bricking TVs all over the world willy-nilly? If you are concerned about this possibility, one option of course is to never connect your TV set to the internet. But in that case, it might be better to just buy a “dumb” television set instead.

Anti-theft immobilizers are not new — one system was patented over 100 years ago to thwart car thieves. Car stereo systems have also long featured technology that renders them unusable when stolen. Although this robbery brought Samsung’s “TV Block” to consumers’ attention, we wonder if other manufacturers have similar anti-theft systems which aren’t well publicized. If you know of any, please share in the comments below.