A Cute Sentry Scans Your Net For Scullduggery

As long as we get to make our own network security tools, why not make them look cute? Netgotchi may not be much more than an ESP8266 running network scans and offering up a honeypot service, but it smiles while sits on your desk and we think that’s swell.

Taking inspiration from a recent series of red-team devices that make hacking adorable, most obviously pwnagotchi (and arguably Flipper), Netgotchi lives on the light side of the Force. Right now, it enumerates the devices on your network and can alert you when anything sketchy joins in. We can totally imagine customizing this to include other network security or health checks, and extending the available facial expressions accordingly.

You might not always be thinking about your network, and if you’re like us, that’s probably just fine. But we love standalone displays that show one thing in an easily digestable manner, and this fits the bill, with a smile.

Downloading Satellite Imagery With A Wi-Fi Antenna

Over the past century or so we’ve come up with some clever ways of manipulating photons to do all kinds of interesting things. From lighting to televisions and computer screens to communication, including radio and fiber-optics, there’s a lot that can be done with these wave-particles and a lot of overlap in their uses as well. That’s why you can take something like a fairly standard Wi-Fi antenna meant for fairly short-range communication and use it for some other interesting tasks like downloading satellite data.

Weather satellites specifically use about the same frequency range as Wi-Fi, but need a bit of help to span the enormous distance. Normally Wi-Fi only has a range in the tens of meters, but attaching a parabolic dish to an antenna can increase the range by several orders of magnitude. The dish [dereksgc] found is meant for long-range Wi-Fi networking but got these parabolic reflectors specifically to track satellites and download the information they send back to earth. Weather satellites are generally the target here, and although the photons here are slightly less energy at 1.7 GHz, this is close enough to the 2.4 GHz antenna design for Wi-Fi to be perfectly workable and presumably will work even better in the S-band at around 2.2 GHz.

For this to work, [dereksgc] isn’t even using a dedicated tracking system to aim the dish at the satellites automatically; just holding it by hand is enough to get a readable signal from the satellite, especially if the satellite is in a geostationary orbit. You’ll likely have better results with something a little more precise and automated, but for a quick and easy solution a surprisingly small amount of gear is actually needed for satellite communication.
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Garage Door Automation With No Extra Hardware

Home automation projects have been popular as long as microcontrollers have been available to the general public. Building computers to handle minutiae so we don’t have to is one of life’s great joys. Among the more popular is adding some sort of system to a garage door. Besides adding Internet-connected remote control to the action of opening and closing, it’s also helpful to have an indicator of the garage door state for peace-of-mind. Most add some sensors and other hardware to accomplish this task but this project doesn’t use any extra sensors or wiring at all.

In fact, the only thing added to the garage door for this build besides some wiring is the microcontroller itself. After getting the cover of the opener off, which took some effort, a Shelly Uni was added and powered by the 12V supply from the opener itself. The garage door opener, perhaps unsurprisingly, has its own way of detecting when the door is fully open or closed, so some additional wire was added to these sensors to let the microcontroller know the current state. Shelly Uni platforms have a WiFi module included as well, so nothing else was needed for this to function as a complete garage door automation platform.

[Stephen] uses Home Assistant as the basis for his home automation, and he includes all of the code for getting this platform up and running there. It wouldn’t be too hard to get it running on other openers or even on other microcontroller platforms; the real key to this build is to recognize that sometimes it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel with extra sensors, limit switches, or even power supplies when it’s possible to find those already in the hardware you’re modifying. This isn’t always possible, though, especially with more modern devices that might already be Internet-connected but probably don’t have great security.

It’s Never Been Easier To Build A WiFi-Controlled RC Car

Today, wireless-enabled microcontrollers are everywhere and can be had for just a few bucks. You can use them to build all kinds of connected projects more cheaply than ever before. [ROBO HUB] demonstrates this well with an incredibly simple WiFi-controlled RC car build.

The build is based around an NodeMCU ESP8266 microcontroller, paired with an L293D motor driver. This lets the microcontroller drive brushed DC motors for differential drive. Power is courtesy of three 18650 lithium-ion batteries. These parts are assembled into a 3D-printed car of sorts with four wheels. The drivetrain is rather odd, with gear motors installed on the two front wheels, and simple brushed DC motors installed on the two rear wheels. The motors on each side are paired together so the vehicle has tank-style steering.

Meanwhile, the ESP8266 is programmed so it can be controlled via a smartphone app. The touchscreen controls are not as elegant as toy RC cars of years past, but it’s pretty good for a cheap DIY build.

It’s a fairly simple project and one that any high-school student could follow along to learn something. Projects like these can be a great way to learn about everything from mechanics to electronics and even basic programming. It may not be complicated, but that makes it a great learning tool. We see a ton of projects like this on the regular, and every time they’re built, somebody is picking up some new skills.

We’ve been talking about WiFi-controlled RC cars for a long time. Way back when it was nowhere near this easy. Video after the break. Continue reading “It’s Never Been Easier To Build A WiFi-Controlled RC Car”

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Hackaday Links: March 17, 2024

A friend of ours once described computers as “high-speed idiots.” It was true in the 80s, and it appears that even with the recent explosion in AI, all computers have managed to do is become faster. Proof of that can be found in a story about using ASCII art to trick a chatbot into giving away the store. As anyone who has played with ChatGPT or its moral equivalent for more than five minutes has learned, there are certain boundary conditions that the LLM’s creators lawyers have put in place to prevent discussion surrounding sensitive topics. Ask a chatbot to deliver specific instructions on building a nuclear bomb, for instance, and you’ll be rebuffed. Same with asking for help counterfeiting currency, and wisely so. But, by minimally obfuscating your question by rendering the word “COUNTERFEIT” in ASCII art and asking the chatbot to first decode the word, you can slip the verboten word into a how-to question and get pretty explicit instructions. Yes, you have to give painfully detailed instructions on parsing the ASCII art characters, but that’s a small price to pay for forbidden knowledge that you could easily find out yourself by other means.

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Android-Powered Rigol Scopes Go Wireless

The Rigol DHO800 and DHO900 series use Android underneath, and as you might expect, this makes them easier to hack. A case in point: [VoltLog] demonstrates that you can add WiFi to the scope using a cheap USB WiFi adapter. This might seem like a no-brainer on the surface, but because the software doesn’t know about WiFi, there are a few minor hoops to jump through.

The first issue is that you need a WiFi adapter the built-in OS already knows how to handle. The community has identified at least one RTL chipset that works and it happens to be in the TP-Link TL-WN725N. These are old 2.4 GHz only units, so they are widely available for $10 or less.

But even with the correct hardware, the scope doesn’t have any menus to configure the WiFi interface. To solve that, you need to temporarily use a USB hub and a USB keyboard. Once you have everything plugged in, you can use the Super + N keyboard shortcut to open up the Android notification bar, which is normally hidden. Once you’ve setup the network connection, you won’t need the keyboard anymore.

Or maybe not — it turns out the keyboard does allow you to change a few other things. For example, [VoltLog] used it to increase the screen brightness more than the default maximum setting.

The only other issue appears to be that the scope shows it is disconnected even when connected to WiFi. That doesn’t seem to impact operation, though. Of course, you could use a WiFi to Ethernet bridge or even an old router, but now you have a cable, a box, and another power cord to deal with. This solution is neat and clean. You bet we’ve already ordered a TP-Link adapter!

WiFi scopes are nothing new. We suspect Rigol didn’t want to worry about interference and regulatory acceptance, but who knows? Besides, it is fun to add WiFi to wired devices.

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A dark brown bench suspended between two white and grey rectangular pillars. They are capped in the same brown HDPE material. Aluminum uprights go to a curved solar panel roof that looks somewhat similar to a paragliding chute. The bench is inside a clean-looking workshop with two large toolboxes against a plywood half wall.

Public Power, WiFi, And Shelter

In the US, we’re starting to see some pushback against hostile architecture, and in this vein, [benhobby] built a swanky public power and Wi-Fi access point.

This beautiful piece of infrastructure has 400 watts of solar plugged into 1.2 kWh of battery storage, and can dispense those electrons through any of its 120 VAC, USB-C, or USB-A plugs. The uprights are 3″ aluminum tubing attached to a base consisting of cinder blocks and HDPE panels. Power receptacles are housed in 3D printed enclosures with laser cut acrylic fronts. Three outdoor lights illuminate the stop at night, triggered by a photosensor.

The electronics and battery for the system, including the networking hardware, are in a weatherproof box on each side that can be quickly disconnected allowing field swaps of the hardware. Troubleshooting can then take place back at a workshop. One of the units has already been deployed and has been well-received. [benhobby] reports “There’s one in the wild right now, and it gets plenty of visitors but no permanent tenants.”

Want to see some more interesting hacks for public infrastructure? Check out this self-cooling bus stop, this bus bloom filter, or this public transit display.