Remember the WOPR from WarGames? The fictional supercomputer that went toe-to-toe with Matthew Broderick and his acoustic coupler was like a love letter to the blinkenlight mainframes of yesteryear, and every hacker of a certain age has secretly yearned for their own scaled down model of it. Well…that’s not what this project is.
The [Unexpected Maker] is as much a WarGames fan as any of us, but he was more interested in recreating the red alphanumeric displays that ticked along as the WOPR was trying to brute force missile launch codes. These displays, complete with their thoroughly 1980s “computer” sound effects, were used to ratchet up the tension by showing how close the supercomputer was to kicking off World War III.
Of course, most us don’t have a missile silo to install his recreated display in. So when it’s not running through one of the randomized launch code decoding sequences, the display doubles as an NTP synchronized clock. With the retro fourteen segment LEDs glowing behind the smoked acrylic front panel, we think the clock itself is pretty slick even without the movie references.
Beyond the aforementioned LEDs, [Unexpected Maker] is using a ESP32 development board of his own design called the TinyPICO. An associated audio “Shield” with an integrated buzzer provides the appropriate bleeps and bloops as the display goes through the motions. Everything is held inside of an understated 3D printed enclosure that would look great on the wall or a desk.
Once you’ve got your launch code busting LED clock going in the corner, and your illuimated DEFCON display mounted on the wall, you’ll be well on the way to completing the WarGames playset we’ve been dreaming of since 1983. The only way to lose is to not play the game! (Or something like that…)
Before we get ahead of ourselves: no, not that DEF CON. Instructables user [ArthurGuy] is a fan of the 1983 movie War Games, and following a recent viewing –hacker senses a-tingling — he set to work building his own real-time display.
Making use of some spare wood, [ArthurGuy] glued and nailed together a 10x10x50cm box for the sign. Having been painted white already at some point, the paint brilliantly acted as a reflector for the lights inside each section. The five DEF CON level panels were cut from 3mm pieces of coloured acrylic with the numbers slapped on after a bit of work from a vinyl cutter.
Deviating from a proper, screen-accurate replica, [ArthurGuy] cheated a little and used WS2812 NeoPixel LED strips — 12 per level — and used a Particle Photon to control them. A quick bit of code polls the MI5 terrorism RSS feed and displays its current level — sadly, it’s currently at DEFCON 2.
Redditor [mulishadan] — a fan of the movie WarGames — has created a singular thermostat in the form of a Defcon alert meter.
Looking to learn some new skills while building, [mulishadan] tried their hand at MIG welding the 16g cold-rolled plate steel into the distinctive shape. A second attempt produced the desired result, adding a 1/4-inch foam core and painting the exterior. Individual LEDs were used at first for lighting, but were replaced with flexible LED strips which provided a more even glow behind the coloured acrylic. A Particle Photon board queries the Weather Underground API via Wi-Fi in five-minute intervals.
Each escalation in the Defcon alert signals an increase of 10 F, starting at Defcon 5 for 69 F and below, up to Defcon 1 for 100+ F. The final build looks like a true-to-life prop with some useful functionality that can be adapted to many different purposes — proof that a relatively simple project can still produce fantastic results for entry-level makers. So why not try making this thermostat scarf as well?
In the late 1800s, a railway engineer named Philbert Maurice d’Ocagne was part of a group of men faced with the task of expanding the French rail system. Before a single rail could be laid, the intended path had to be laid out and the terrain made level. This type of engineering involves a lot of cut and fill calculations, which determine where dirt must be added or removed. The goal of earthwork is to create a gentle grade and to minimize the work needed to create embankments.
In the course of the project, d’Ocagne came up with an elegant, reusable solution to quickly solve these critical calculations. Most impressively, he did it with little more than a pen, some paper, and a straightedge. By developing and using a method which he called nomography, d’Ocagne was able to perform all the necessary calculations that made the gentle curves and slopes of the French railway possible.
Maybe you are an elite hax0r. But probably not. Maybe you feel like you should know more about how systems are compromised, and we’re all about that. You can’t keep the black hats out if you have no idea how they go about breaking in in the first place. That’s why war-gaming sites sprouted up in the first place. We find this one in particular to be delightfully engaging. OverTheWire’s Wargames teach you a little about security while the uninitiated also learn about simple concepts like SSH and, well… Linux!
On-the-job training is the best way to learn, and this is pretty close to it. Instead of providing an artificial avenue of learning the creators of OverTheWire have used the real thing to illustrate poor online security. You don’t “play the game” on an artificial web interface, you do it on legitimate platforms. The very first level (appropriately named Level 0) starts by figuring out how to connect to a system using Secure Shell (aka SSH). From there you’re prompted to use Linux command line tools to figure out where to go next.
Even veteran Linux/Security users should find this offering entertaining. The early stages are both quick and simple to navigate as an experienced admin while providing a welcoming learning platform for those who aren’t quite there yet. Work your way through a few different “servers” and before long your own knowledge will be tested. This isn’t a new platform, mentions of the site in Hackaday comments go back to 2010. But if you haven’t given it a try, Wargames is well worth adding to your weekend entertainment list.