Winner, Name that Ware May 2012

June 23rd, 2012

The Ware for May 2012 was a BGA re-balling tool. I picked this one up in Hua Qian Bei for about 80 RMB (~US$12), including stencils, balls, and other accessories. The lady who sold it to me was even nice enough to give me a little training on reballing.

I first encountered this tool being used in a factory to re-ball GDDR5 memory. The factory produced a line of graphics cards, and the memory was being stripped from graphics cards where the GPU failed test and were deemed un-salvageable. Before seeing this, I was under the impression that reballing was an involved process, but with this jig the operator could strip and reball a chip in under a few minutes, which translates to a labor cost of a couple dozen cents. This also explains how so many cheap SoCs end up for sale in the gray market — most of them are extracted from used phones, reballed, and re-packaged into tape and reel and sold as new. Given that a legitimate, brand new reel of these chips has a fair market value equivalent to an entry-level automobile, it’s now easy for me to understand the profit motive behind such efforts.

zyp got the answer very quickly, and is the prize winner, but I’m also giving a second honorary prize to sanjay, for the most entertaining explanation of what BGA reballing is:

BGA is the Ball Gilders Association.

As the name implies, it is a trade association of Ball Gilders. If you have never heard of them before, it is because they cater to a very exclusive clientele comprising some of the most discerning billionaires on this planet (millionaires need not apply).

Gilded Balls are the ultimate bling for a young man in his prime, and guaranteed to make an impact on the exclusive young ladies in your life.

However, the downside is that sometimes a gentleman will awaken after a night of revelry, and find his balls have been stolen.

This is where the reballer comes in. We have an exclusive range of prosthetic balls made of Gutta Percha, which we will install (at no additional cost) for any of our esteemed clients who have been unfortunate enough to have their ball stolen by one of the despicable 99% we happen to (unfortunately) have to share this planet with.

That’s just hilarious. Congrats, email me for your prize.

Leaked In

June 7th, 2012

As many readers already know, Linked In had a password database leak. Since Linked In’s implementation of password hashing didn’t use salt, a variety of methods including rainbow tables and brute force can be used to guess the passwords. There’s even a handy website called that computes the password hash and checks to see if the resulting scrambled password is within the leaked set.

I thought it’d be fun to try to guess some passwords just based on intuition alone, using LeakedIn to check the guesses. Here’s some of the more entertaining passwords that are in the database: ‘obama2012’, ‘Obama2012’, ‘paladin’, ‘linkedinsucks’, ‘fuckyou’, ‘godsaveus’, ‘ihatemyjob’, ‘ihatejews’ (tsk tsk), ‘manson’, ‘starbucks’, ‘qwer1234’, ‘qwerty’, ‘aoeusnth’ (hello fellow dvorak user!), ‘bigtits’ (really?), ‘colbert’, ‘c0lbert’, ‘bieber’, ‘ilovejustin’, ’50cent’, ‘john316’, ‘john3:16’, ‘John3:16’, ‘1cor13’, ‘psalm23’, ‘exodus20’, ‘isiah40’, ‘Matthew6:33’, ‘hebrews11’ (bible verses are quite popular passwords!).

Interestingly, there is no ‘romney2012’ or any variant thereof.

Name that Ware May 2012

May 29th, 2012

The Ware for May 2012 is shown below.

I scored one of these in the markets of Shenzhen a couple months ago, after watching technicians at a factory use them with great effect. I’m curious as to how many readers have seen or used one of these.

Winner, Name that Ware April 2012

May 29th, 2012

The ware for April 2012 was 424C Key Telephone Unit, made by Western Electric around 1979. Its purpose in life was to provide an intercome path, with dial-selective signaling, in the 1A2 Key Telephone System. Here’s the explanation of how it worked, courtesy Bruce Lane:

The way it worked: A user would select the appropriate button on their phone for the intercom circuit, and go off-hook. They would then dial one or two digits, representing the number of the desired destination within their system (the card provided up to 19 available codes). The card provides talk battery, counts the dial pulses, and then fires off a one-second or so (it’s adjustable — note the presence of the pot behind the big transformer) burst of either 18 volts AC (for a buzzer) or 100 volts AC at 20-30Hz (for a ringer). The person at the other end picks up, and Vy-ola! You’re connected and chatting.

The intercom’s talk path was not private. Anyone else in the system, upon seeing the intercom line in use, could pick up and chime in on the call. The only thing selective about this unit was the signaling. Western Electric made efforts to improve on this in later years, with the addition of multiple intercom paths in the ‘ComKey’ series of hybrid (part electromechanical, part electronic) Key Telephone Systems, but this was right around the time PBX’s and electronic systems were really taking off. This rendered further development on such things moot.

Russ Dill was very close on guessing the ware first, and Yuubi found a closer match shortly afterwards — tough call on who should win, but I liked that Russ’ link included schematics, so I’ll declare Russ Dill the winner! congrats, email me for your prize!

Interview with MAKE: The End of chumby, New Adventures

May 1st, 2012

Last week, the Internet discovered the end of chumby as you have known it. My exit from the company five months ago was deliberately discreet. It was a good run, but it was also time for me to move on. Upon hearing the news, my good friend Phil Torrone reached out to do an interview, and I was happy to oblige. The interview encapsulates some of my experiences that may be applicable to others excited to get into the hardware business. Here’s some of the questions that I answer for Phil:

  • Can you talk about making a device from start to finish, from idea to factory to retail shelves?
  • What were the challenges with retail sales?
  • Did you get any patents? How do they work within the world of open-source?
  • Do you have any advice for a maker who is considering taking VC funding? Anything different if they’re doing open-source hardware?
  • What are your thoughts on Kickstarter for funding?
  • When you advise companies what do you most often suggest to the founders?
  • If you could do it over, how would you change the hardware of the Chumby? The software? The way Chumby was made?
  • Now that you’ve been part of a full cycle of a VC funded company that makes hardware, what suggestions do you have for company structure, from the people to the location, to the overall organization?
  • What’s next for bunnie, what are most excited about to do next?

    If you’re interested, have a read at the jump!