If it’s stupid and it works, then it’s not stupid. There’s no better evidence of that than [Tobias]’ networking setup.
He recently had to distribute Ethernet through a building, and there are a few ways to do that. You can use regular ‘ol twisted pair, or fiber, but in this case running new cables wasn’t possible. WiFi would be the next obvious choice, the distance was just a bit too far for ‘regular’ WiFi links. Ethernet over power lines was an option, but there are amateur radio operators in the house, and they put out a bunch of interference and noise. The solution was to mis-use existing 75 Ohm satellite TV coax that was just sitting around.
The correct way to do this would be to use a standard DOCSIS modem and become your own cable Internet provider. The equipment to do this is expensive, and if you’re already considering running WiFI over coax, you’re too deep down the rabbit hole to spend real money. Instead, [Tobias] simply made a few u.FL to F-connector adapters from u.FL to SMA, then SMA to F-connector adapters.
There are some problems with this plan. WiFi is 50 Ohms, TV coax cable is 75 Ohms. Only one MIMO channel will be available meaning the maximum theoretical bandwidth will be 433 Mbps. WiFi is also at much higher frequencies than what coax is designed for.
With two WiFi antenna to coax adapters, [Tobias] simply connected the coax directly to a router set up to bridge Ethernet over WiFi. The entire thing worked, although testing showed it was only getting about 60 Mbps of throughput. That’s not bad for something that was cobbled together out of old parts and unused wiring. Is it surprising that this worked? No, not really, but you’ve probably never seen anyone actually do it. Here’s the proof it does work, and if you’re ever in a bind, this is how you make WiFi wired.
Have you tried Altium CircuitMaker? Uh, you probably shouldn’t. [Dave] of EEVBlog fame informs us via a reliable source that CircuitMaker is intentionally crippled by adding a random sleep on high pad-count boards. The hilarious pseudocode suggested on the forum is
if ((time.secs % 3) == 0) delayMicroseconds(padCount * ((rand() % 20) + 1));.Now, this is a rumor, however, I would assume [Dave] has a few back channels to Altium. Also, this assertation is supported by the documentation for CircuitStudio, which says, “While there are no ‘hard limits’ per se, the software has been engineered to make it impractical for use with large designs. To this end, the PCB Editor will start to exibit [sic] performance degradation when editing designs containing 5000 pads”. Chalk this up to another win for Fritzing; Fritzing will not slow down your computer on purpose.
Here’s an open challenge to everyone. As reported by [SexyCyborg], XYZPrinting (makers of the da Vinci printer) are patent trolling. This US patent is being used to take 3D printers off of the Amazon marketplace. Here’s the problem: no one can figure out what this patent is actually claiming. There’s something about multiple nozzles, and it might be about reducing nozzle travel, but I’m getting a ‘snap to bed’ vibe from this thing. Experts in 3D printing have no idea what this patent is claiming. The printer in question is the Ender 3, one of the first (actually the third…) China-based Open Source Hardware certified products, and it’s actually the best selling printer on Amazon at this time. I’m talking with Comgrow (the sellers of the Ender 3 on Amazon), and the entire situation is a mess. Look for an update soon.
Tired: Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech. Wired: But what if that speech is a gun? Wired‘s own Andy Greenberg advances the argument that computer code is not speech, contrary to many court rulings over the past 30 years (see Bernstein v. United States). Here’s the EFF’s amicus brief from the case. Read it. Understand it. Here’s a glowing Stephen Levy piece from 1994 on the export-controlled PGP for reference.
Like integrated circuits and microprocessors? Sure you do. Like drama? Oh boy have we got the thing for you. A week or so ago, ARM launched a website called RISC-V Basics (now unavailable, even from the Internet Archive, but you can try it here). It purports to settle the record on those new chips based on the capital-O Open RISC-V instruction set. In reality, it’s a lot of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. This was an attempt by ARM Holdings to kneecap the upstart RISC-V architecture, but a lot of ARM engineers didn’t like it.
SparkFun’s free day came and went as entertainment for some and an infuriating event for others. They filmed some video in their office during the madness to give us a look at how it went on their end. We find it amusing that Solarbotics, one of their competitors, sent them flowers with a card reading “Rest in Peace SparkFun”.
According to [Nate’s] original post, the concept of free day was inspired by reading [Chris Anderson’s] book “Free: The Future of a Radical Price”. We recently finished reading this wonderful work and we’re making it our next book recommendation. [Chris] is editor-in-chief of Wired and has had a ring-side seat as the digital world rose around us. He takes a historical look at what the price of free really means, defining cost by adding more terms like Gratis and Libre to the mix. If you have a good handle on the companies that have defined the 21st Century business model so far you wont’ be able to put this book down.
Now, we should mention something that is remotely related to hacking since we try to do that sort of thing around here. The SparkFun post also reminds those folks lucky enough to get a $100 credit to chronicle and share their projects. We’d love to see them too so get your projects written up and send us the dirty details.
Following up on their post about the new Defcon 17 badges, Wired recently posted some of the best badge hacks of the con. Among the hacks featured were an LED frequency meter hack, a sound seeking dirigible powered by three badges, and a wireless geiger counter random number generator that sent random numbers back to a laptop equipped with a zigbee card. Probably one of the most impressive hacks mentioned, the hack that won the badge hacking contest, was the LED equipped baseball cap modeled above by [Joe Grand], Defcon’s defacto badge designer.
The hacked badge is connected to the cap by an ethernet cable, where the LEDs pulse on and off in order to defeat facial recognition systems. The cap’s designer told Wired that he initially designed the cap in order to sneak into [Grand]’s room to steal the über badges under his protection. Needless to say, the winner doesn’t have to worry about stealing the badges anymore as he was awarded his own über badge at the award ceremony. While we’re not completely sure who pulled off this awesome hack, we congratulate you and all of the participants of the badge hacking contest on your fantastic hacks.
Update: We’ve confirmed that the badge contest winner was in fact [Zoz Brooks], [Grand]’s co-star on the popular Discovery channel show Prototype This. From all indications, his hack seems to be legitimate and not a clever idea, however we are still looking to confirm this. Also, even though Wired’s article stated that the dirigible was sound seeking, we have confirmed that it is sound avoiding. Thank’s to everyone in the comments for pointing these things out.
Defcon is upon us once again, and that can only mean one thing: new badge designs. Our friends over at Wired posted the picture above along with a description of this year’s new badge. Since our last post, there has been little new information released regarding the components used for the new badge. However, we now know that it utilizes a microphone and a full color LED along with the Freescale mc56f8006, an advanced digital signal processing microcontroller. [Grand], the badge designer, told Wired that while this year’s design is a bit simplified compared to last year’s design, it is not nearly as easy to hack. Just like last year, the functionality of the badge hasn’t been announced yet. We’re hoping for some kind of communicator. Be sure to check out Wired’s article if you want to see the high res pictures.
This month’s Wired magazine has an extensive profile of [Marc Weber Tobias]. He’s a professional lock picker that delights in coming up with new techniques for taking on high security locks. In recent years, he’s run afoul of the US’s premier high security lock manufacturer, Medeco, by publishing Open in Thirty Seconds with [Tobias Bluzmanis]. Medeco still denies that this is even possible. Wired decided to to test the team by purchasing six new cylinders and timing them. Each one was open in under nine minutes. You can see a video of this on Wired’s site.
Last fall we covered a decoding attack against Medeco locks by [Jon King].
Wired Gadget Lab has taken down a video made by [Brian X. Chen] in which he gives a brief overview and demonstration of how to install OSX on an MSI Wind netbook. This apparently didn’t sit well with Apple, who contacted Wired and complained; Wired agreed and removed the video. Frankly, we’re disappointed with Wired’s response. While they were technically posting content which is questionable at best—in the video, Brian mentions that this is illegal and that it would be a good idea to have a retail copy of OSX on hand, but then goes on to point out that you can also download the hacked operating system off The Pirate Bay, Isohunt, etc—the video in and of itself wasn’t illegal, and thus Wired comes off as susceptible to what amounts to bullying by Apple. We’re all about creativity and innovation, and stifling that innovative spirit has never worked well in the long run.
Fortunately, if you’re feeling like you’ve missed out on the video, don’t despair: Gizmodo has posted the video on their website for you to view and enjoy.
[photo: Brian X. Chen]