Tiny SAO, Tough CTF Challenge!

Over the year or two since the SAO connector specification was published, otherwise known as the Shitty Addon, we’ve seen a huge variety of these daughter boards for our favourite electronic badges. Many of them are works of art, but there’s another subset that’s far less about show and more about clever functionality. [Uri Shaked]’s little SAO is rather unprepossessing to look at, being a small round PCB with only an ATtiny microcontroller, reset button, and solitary LED, but its interest lies not in its looks but its software. It contains a series of CTF puzzles within, and despite its apparent simplicity should contain enough to detain even the hardiest puzzle-solving hackers.

It’s a puzzle of three parts, at the simplest level merely flashing the LED is enough, while the next level involves retrieving a buried string from the firmware and the last requires replacing the string with one of your own. You are only allowed to do so through the SAO connector, but fortunately you do have the benefit of access to the source code to trawl for vulnerabilities. There is a hefty hint that the data sheet for the microcontroller might also be useful.

[Uri] has appeared many times on these pages, most recently when he added a microscope to his 3D printer.

Saintcon Badge Is An Enigma No More

Through the weekend Twitter has been a-titter with news coming out of Saintcon, the annual security conference in Provo, Utah. Now that the weekend is over we can finally get our hands on full hardware and software sources for the curvy, LED-covered badge we’ve been salivating over and a write up by its creators [compukidmike] and [bashNinja]. Let’s dive in and see what’s waiting!

Design

This year’s badge is designed to represent a single tooth on a single rotor of an Enigma machine. The full function of an Enigma machine is quite complex, but an individual device has three rotors with 26 teeth each (one for each letter) as well as a keypad for input and a character display to show each enciphered letter. For reference, the back of the badge has a handy diagram of a badge’s place in the Enigma system.

Reminiscent of the WWII device which the badge design recalls, each unit includes a full QWERTZ keyboard (with labeled keys!) and RGB “lampboard” for individual character output, but unlike the original there’s also a curved 16 x 64 RGB LED display made from those beguiling little ~1mm x 1mm LEDs. All in, the device includes 1051 LEDs! Combined with the unusually non-rectilinear shape of the badge and the Enigma-style Saintcon logo it makes for an attractive, cohesive look.

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Stack Those Boards For An Extra-Special Backlit LED Effect

By now most of us should be used to backlit LEDs, in which a bare board with no copper or soldermask as an LED mounted on its reverse side to shine through as if with a diffuser. [Wim Van Gool] has created such an LED display with a twist, instead of reverse mounted LEDs his Shitty Add-On for Area3001 hackerspace in Leuven, Belgium has a set of WS2812 addressable LEDs shining upwards through a void in a stack of PCBs to the diffuser. The effect is of something that looks about the size and shape of a Kit-Kat finger with a glowing hackerspace logo on the front, and it breaks away from the SAO norm.

Full details are on the GitHub repository for the project, in which we find both large and small takes on the same idea. It appears that there is no onboard processor and that the WS2812s are driven from the host badge, but that doesn’t take away from the ingenuity of the design.

The through-PCB diffuser seems to be the badge must-have of the moment, we’ve seen quite a few such as the recent Numberwang badge. That’s the exciting thing about badge design though, one always knows that there will be a new twist along in the next crop of badges, to keep everything fresh.

Hackaday Links: October 7, 2018

Ah, crap. We lost a good one, people. [Samm Sheperd] passed away last month. We’ve seen his stuff before, from a plane with a squirrel cage fan, to completely owning a bunch of engineering students by auditing a class. The obit is available as a Google Doc, and there’s a Samm Sheperd Memorial Fund for the Big Lake Youth Camp in Gladstone, Oregon.

FranLab is closing down! Fran is one of the hardware greats, and she’s being evicted. If you’ve got 2000sqft of workshop space in Philly you’d like to spare, you know who to talk to. There will, probably, be a crowdfunding thing going up shortly, and we’ll post a link when it’s up.

The Parallax Propeller is probably one of the most architecturally interesting microcontrollers out there. It’s somewhat famous for being a multi-core chip, and is commonly used in VGA generation, reading keyboards, and other tasks where you need to do multiple real-time operations simultaneously. The Parallax Propeller 2, the next version of this chip, is in the works, and now there’s real silicon. Everything is working as expected, and we might see this out in the wild real soon.

Thought artistic PCBs were just a con thing? Not anymore, I guess. There has been a lot of activity on Tindie with the Shitty Add-Ons with [TwinkleTwinkie] and [Potato Nightmare] releasing a host of very cool badges for your badges. Most of these are Shitty Add-Ons, and there will be an update to the Shitty Add-On spec shortly. It’s going to be backwards-comparable, so don’t worry.

Unnecessary drama!?! In my 3D printing community?!? Yes, it’s true, there was a small tiff over the Midwest RepRap Festival this week. Here’s what went down. You got three guys. John, Sonny, and Steve. Steve owns SeeMeCNC, based in Goshen, Indiana. John worked for SeeMeCNC until this year, and has been the ‘community manager’ for MRRF along with Sonny. Seeing as how the RepRap Festival is the only thing that ever happens in Goshen, Steve wanted to get the ball rolling for next year’s MRRF, so he sent out an email, sending the community into chaos. No, there’s not some gigantic fracture in the 3D printing community, John and Sonny, ‘were just slacking’ (it’s five months out, dudes. plenty of time.), and Steve wanted to get everything rolling. No problem here, just a bunch of unnecessary drama in the 3D printing community. As usual.

Hackaday Video: Safe Area Operation For Components (and Helicopters)

We’re back and this time talking about Safe Operating Area also called Safe Area Operation (SAO) which is short for the combination of things that can conspire to ruin your design. We also talk about helicopters.

Why take all of this time to discuss SAO you might ask, and what is that business about helicopters? Depending on the design there may be quite a bit of tedious math involved and sometimes there is just no avoiding it. Alternatively if you can get a feel for when math is and is not critical (based on design choices), it should be easier to get your next project up and running while still obeying the rules of the road.

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