Displaying an accurate status in Slack (or whatever other employer-provided collaboration program you may be forced to run) is crucial in 2020. If you need to make a sandwich or take the dog out real quick, but you don’t update your status to show yourself as away, you might come back to a string of increasingly concerned or frustrated messages with lots of annoying question marks and the occasional interrobang.
Isolated as we are by national lockdowns and statewide stay-at-home orders, many coworkers are more connected than ever before through oddly-named productivity/chat programs such as Slack. But those notifications flying in from the sidebar all the time are are oh-so-annoying and anti-productive. Ignoring requests for your attention will only make them multiply. So how do you make the notifications bearable?
An ESP32 inside the kitty looks at incoming messages and watches for [Mr. Tom]’s user ID, prioritizing messages where he has been mentioned directly. This kitty is smart, too. As soon as the message is dealt with, the data pin goes low again, and the cat can take a nap for a while.
This project wasn’t built just as a convenience for the office, either. It makes extensive use of AWS SNS, the simple notification system from Amazon Web Services because they wanted to learn to use this technology specifically. Besides the notification system, the device itself is based on a NodeMCU/ESP8266, communicating over WiFi, and is a simple push-button design which coffee drinkers push when a fresh pot is made, and then push again when the coffee is empty.
While relatively straightforward, this project is a good one to look at if you’ve been interested in AWS at all, especially the simple notification system. It’s a pretty versatile tool, and all of the code used in the project is available on the project page for your reading pleasure. If you’re more interested in the coffee aspect of this project, we have a special coffee maker for you too.
Slack is either an online collaboration tool, or a religion, depending on who you talk to. Naturally, it’s accessible across all manner of modern platforms, from Windows and MacOS to smartphones. However, some prefer to go further back. At a recent company hackathon, [Yeo Kheng Meng] decided to create a Slack client for Windows 3.1.
Programming for an older OS, in this case, Windows For Workgroups 3.11, requires setting up a viable development environment. Visual C++ 1.52 was pressed into service in this case, being the last version capable of targeting Windows 3.11. The development environment is run on a Windows 2000 virtual machine running on a Mac laptop. This was chosen for its ability to run 16-bit apps, and its Samba compatibility with both Windows 3.11 and Windows 10 and modern Macs.
There were several challenges to face along the way. Old school Windows simply isn’t capable of dealing with HTTPS, necessitating a proxy to handle the exchange of packets with Slack servers. Additionally, memory management was a hassle due to the limits of the 16-bit architecture. Thankfully, an old programming manual from the era was of great help in this regard.
At the end of the hackathon, a usable Slack client was up and running, complete with garish colors from the early Windows era. There’s a few key features missing, such as the ability to resolve user IDs, but overall, the concept works. We’ve seen [Yeo]’s work with this vintage OS before too. Video after the break.
GitHub is an incredibly powerful tool for sharing source code, and its value to the modern hacker can’t be overstated. But there’s at least one downside to effortlessly sharing your source: it’s now much easier for the whole world to find out when you screw up. Back in the day, if you accidentally left a username or password in a tarball hosted on your site, you could pull it down before anyone noticed. But push something like that up to GitHub, and you’ve got a problem on your hands.
For an example, look no farther than this tool that crawls GitHub for Slack webhooks written by [Michele Gruppioni]. Exploiting the fact that Slack webhook links have a predictable format, the tool searches repositories to find code that erroneously includes the authentication token. With the token in hand, an attacker now has the ability to send unsolicited messages into that channel.
But [Michele] restrained himself and didn’t Rickroll the over 6,500 Slack channels he had access to after searching GitHub with his tool. Instead, he sent them all a friendly message explaining their webhook tokens were available on GitHub, and gave them a link to where they could get more information about his project.
Most of the people who contacted him after the fact appreciated that he sent a gentle warning and not something unsavory. Still, we’d recommend caution to anyone looking to expose a vulnerability in this manner. While [Michele] had honorable intentions, it’s certainly not unheard of for an embarrassed administrator to blame the messenger.
When used properly, webhooks can be a very handy way of pushing data into your chat platform of choice. We’ve previously looked at a practical example of a weather station that pushes current conditions into a Discord channel. Just try not to accidentally commit your authentication token to the world’s largest database of open source projects, or you might receive more than you bargained for.
The wildfires in California are now officially the largest the state has ever seen. Over 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes, hundreds are missing, and the cost in property damage will surely be measured in the billions of dollars when all is said and done. With a disaster of this scale just the immediate effects are difficult to conceptualize, to say nothing of the collateral damage.
While not suggesting their situation is comparable to those who’ve lost their homes or families, Electric Imp CEO [Hugo Fiennes] has recently made a post on their blog calling attention to the air quality issues they’re seeing at their offices in Los Altos. To quantify the problem so that employees with respiratory issues would know the conditions before they came into work, they quickly hacked together a method for displaying particulate counts in their Slack server.
The key to the system is one of the laser particle sensors that we’re starting to see more of thanks to a fairly recent price drop on the technology. A small fan pulls air to be tested into the device, where a very sensitive optical sensor detects the light reflected by particles as they pass through the laser beam. The device reports not only how many particles are passing through it, but how large they are. The version of the sensor [Hugo] links to in his blog post includes an adapter board to make it easier to connect to your favorite microcontroller, but we’ve previously seen DIY builds which accomplish the same goal.
[Hugo] then goes on to provide firmware for the Electric Imp board that reads the current particulate counts from the sensor and creates a simple web page that can be viewed from anywhere in the world to see real-time conditions at the office. From there, this data can be plugged into a Slack webhook which will provide an instantaneous air quality reading anytime a user types “air” into the channel.
We love seeing hardware and software from bygone eras getting a new lease on life through modern hacks, as longtime readers can surely attest to. Why leave this stuff to rot in a closet somewhere when it can be pushed into service today? Granted it might not always be the most efficient way to accomplish a task in the 21st century, but at least you’ll net some precious Internet Points for originality.
As a perfect example, take a look at this project which lets you read Slack messages through a Super Nintendo game. If your first thought was that such a thing would involve an unreasonable amount of effort and hoop jumping…then you would be correct. [Bertrand Fan] really had to think outside the box to make this one happen, and even admits a bit of imagination is required on the part of the end-user to use it. But it’s undeniably an original approach, so we hereby bestow the customary Internet Points unto him.
So how does this work, and where do the satellites come in? The key is in a fairly obscure Japanese SNES peripheral called the Satellaview, one of Nintendo’s early attempts at creating an online content delivery system for their consoles. Games designed with Satellaview support would be able to pull down new content from regular satellite broadcasts, not too bad for 1995. This means that if you have the hardware, and happen to own a satellite, you can push your own content into an unmodified SNES. No problem, right?
Alright, [Bertrand] didn’t really use a Satellaview modem plugged into an actual SNES. Plus we’re fairly sure he doesn’t have his own satellite network to broadcast Slack messages with anyway. But it turns out some SNES emulators have support for a virtual Satellaview modem, and there’s even software out there that will let you create new content “downloads” for the system’s included game: BS-X: The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen. All he had to do was connect the dots.
[Bertrand] started by stripping the user interface out of SatellaWave, an open source tool for creating Satellaview content, so that it only need to be provided with an XML file of the content to be “downloaded” by the virtual satellite modem. Using the Slack API, he then came up with way to pull the last 10 messages from a server and push them into his modified version of SatellaWave. Each time somebody posts a new message his software kicks in to produce a new satellite download which automatically gets picked up by the SNES emulator and pops up in the game.