Archive for the ‘Hacking’ Category

Name that Ware, March 2022

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

The Ware for March 2022 is shown below.

This is arguably only “half” of the ware, and the much less interesting half at that. If folks struggle to guess the entire function, I’ll edit this post to include an image of the other half of the ware, which will probably end up being a dead give-away.

Either way, I’ll eventually update this post to show the whole ware, because it’s a pretty interesting little device.

Edit— Eben Olson got about as close as anyone can get on the ware without showing the other half! So, I’ll reveal it now. I think in practice nobody could guess the exact model number since this this specific unit has been EOL for a while. Pretty fascinating bit of optics, I’ll have to say; there’s a lot of art in this device.

I’m guessing this is the sort of thing I couldn’t buy new in Asia right now without filling out a bunch of export control forms, given the harassment I’ve experienced trying to acquire other advanced test and measurement equipment lately. It’s exactly the type of technology that would be strategic to control in a trade war: it’s essential in the construction of semiconductor fab equipment, plus I wouldn’t be surprised if there was only one or two sources capable of producing a laser scale of this quality, compactness, and clean room-readiness.

Winner, Name that Ware February 2022

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

The Ware for February 2022 was a Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch. SAM correctly guessed it, down to the model number and FCC ID. Great work! Congrats, and email me for your prize!

Name that Ware, February 2022

Monday, February 28th, 2022

The Ware for February 2022 is shown below.

I was cleaning out my desk and decided to give this a crack and see what was inside. There’s a couple things I found notable about the design. First, basically every part on the inside is a catalog part or an OEM variant of one — I’m used to opening up these types of devices and seeing more full custom ASICs, weirdo unsearchable Japanese or Chinese part numbers, or anonymous black globs of glue. It’s kind of neat that catalog parts have caught up to the point where you could build one of these essentially just ordering stuff off of Digi-Key (alternatively, one could lament that it’s sad that “Moore’s Law” (in the broader sense) has slowed to the point where it’s no longer economically viable to spin custom ASICs even for products like this). Second, I really liked the antenna. It’s making good use of all three spatial dimensions, yet the design is clean and simple. It is a little bit odd, though, that no underfill was used to secure any of the chips, but maybe that’s part of the reason why it’s in my scrap pile.

Winner, Name that Ware January 2022

Monday, February 28th, 2022

The Ware for January 2022 was a Cisco Small Business Unified Communications UC540W-FXO-K9 VoIP gateway. Thanks again to jackw01 for contributing this ware! As for the winner, Ryan nailed the model number so he wins the prize (congrats and please email me!), but I have to mention I found GotNoTime’s comment about Cisco’s love affair with SMART memory interesting and informative. Thanks for playing!

Precursor: From Boot to Root

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

I have always wanted a computer that was open enough that it can be inspected for security, and also simple enough that I could analyze it in practice. Precursor is a step towards that goal.

As a test, I made a one hour video that walks through the Precursor tech stack, from hardware to root keys. I feel it’s a nice demo of what evidence-based trust should look like:

The video is a bit of a firehose, so please refer to our wiki for more info, or open an issue to further the discussion.

Erratum #1: I had mistakenly attributed SpinalHDL as a subset of Chisel. SpinalHDL is actually a separately developed HDL by Charles Papon. It was developed contemporaneously with Chisel and inspired by many concepts in it, such as using Scala as the underlying language; but it is not affiliated with Chisel.