Hacking the Book8088 for Better Accuracy
The Book8088 is trying hard to basically be compatible with the original IBM PC, containing some of the same or equivalent chips. It’s natural to want to put it through its paces, and one of the best tests for IBM PC compatibility has to be the 8088MPH demo. If 8088MPH will run we must be operating pretty darn close to the original.
Now, as it turns out, most of the demo does run, albeit in RGBI mode which loses out on all the cool composite artifact color effects. But most notably the famous Kefrens Bars effect does not display - the screen just goes blank. What’s going wrong on the Book8088 vs a real IBM PC 5150?
Mind Grenade Fifty Years On
In 1969, Harry amazed everybody with a little electronic gadget he’d built which, using the primitive digital integrated circuits of the time, generated random music, played it through a speaker, and flashed lights on its front panel. It was precisely what people expected computers to do, based upon portrayals in the movies and on television, and yet it could be held in your hand and was, internally, very simple. He explained how it worked, and I immediately knew I had to have one. Digital electronics was in a great state of flux at the time, with each manufacturer launching their own line of integrated circuits, most incompatible with one another, so there was no point in slavishly reproducing Harry’s design. Starting from the concept, I designed my own gadget from scratch, using Signetics Utilogic diode-transistor small scale integration integrated circuits which were popular at the time but shortly thereafter made obsolete by 7400 series transistor-transistor logic (TTL). The architecture was identical to Harry’s device, but I opted for more with-it and less power-hungry light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for the display instead of the incandescent bulbs he used. I built the electronics assembly on a sheet of perforated board using wire-wrap fabrication (some people look down their noses at wire-wrap today, but it was good enough for the Apollo Guidance Computer and almost every mainframe backplane of the 1960s, and my wire-wrapped electronics works perfectly fifty years later.)
CAN Injection: keyless car theft
This is a detective story about how a car was stolen - and how it uncovered an epidemic of high-tech car theft.
Now that people know how a relay attack works generally possible to defeat it: car owners keep their keys in a metal box (blocking the radio message from the car) and some car makers now supply keys that go to sleep if motionless for a few minutes (and so won’t receive the radio message from the car). Faced with this defeat but being unwilling to give up a lucrative activity, thieves moved to a new way around the security: by-passing the entire smart key system. They do this with a new attack: CAN Injection.
NaN Gates and Flip FLOPS
A new kind of computer architecture that’s more elegant than 1s and 0s, being based directly on Mathematics.
Harder Drive: Hard drives we didn't want or need
DDC OLED - The smallest and worst HDMI display
DDC, display data channel, is a protocol for reading information about what resolutions and so on a monitor supports. It was later extended to DDC/CI, that lets you set brightness and other parameters, but fundamentally, the original idea was to stick a cheap i2c eeprom on each device with some basic info on it. (Technically, the original idea was even simpler than that, but let’s not get into that.)
It began in the VGA days, but has become so entrenched that even modern hardware with HDMI or DisplayPort supports it. That’s right, in an HDMI cable, nestled amongst the high-speed differential pairs, there’s an exceedingly slow i2c bus.
Tiny OLED dot-matrix displays often have an i2c controller, so I had the idea to try and plug one directly into an HDMI port.
Modern Retro Computer Terminals
The goal for this project is to design, 3D-print and assemble the enclosures for several small desktop computers.
Booting from a vinyl record
So this nutty little experiment connects a PC, or an IBM PC to be exact, directly onto a record player through an amplifier. There is a small ROM boot loader that operates the built-in “cassette interface” of the PC (that was hardly ever used), invoked by the BIOS if all the other boot options fail, i.e. floppy disk and the hard drive. The turntable spins an analog recording of a small bootable read-only RAM drive, which is 64K in size. This contains a FreeDOS kernel, modified by me to cram it into the memory constraint, a micro variant of COMMAND.COM and a patched version of INTERLNK, that allows file transfer through a printer cable, modified to be runnable on FreeDOS. The bootloader reads the disk image from the audio recording through the cassette modem, loads it to memory and boots the system on it. Simple huh?
Rainbow – an attempt to display colour on a B&W monitor
The aim of this project was to display a colour image on a black and white monitor, by overlaying an acetate bayer filter over the monitor and mosaicing a colour image.
Classic ThinkPad Thermal Paste Change
Those who know me know that I am a bit fan of the oldschool Lenovo ThinkPad laptops with real 7-row keyboards. I own several *20 models from 2011 including W520, T420s and X220 ones. They still rock when it comes to ‘laptop computing’ and they are dirt cheap on any auction platform. They only got one flaw … that thermal compound on CPU (and sometimes GPU) gets older a lot faster then these laptops.
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Tiny transformer inside: Decapping an isolated power transfer chip
I saw an ad for a tiny chip that provides 5 volts of isolated power: You feed 5 volts in one side, and get 5 volts out the other side. What makes this remarkable is that the two sides can have up to 5000 volts between them. This chip contains a DC-DC converter and a tiny isolation transformer so there’s no direct electrical connection from one side to the other. I was amazed that they could fit all this into a package smaller than your fingernail, so I decided to take a look inside.
TEMPEST@Home - Finding Radio Frequency Side Channels
As the test procedures in the TEMPEST standards are rudely made unavailable to us as they are considered “classified” we have to do the next best thing and make up our own. This article aims to make barely acceptable analogies about how radios work and show that you really don’t need that much in terms of know-how and equipment to find and take advantage of leaky radio signals. Towards the end, we will apply what we have learned to find a signal that can exfiltrate data out of a radio-less and air-gapped desktop workstation through a wall and 50ft away.
Hacking together a USB-C charger for a cheap Chromebook
Only one thing won’t charge with USB-C, my awfully cheap ($190 for 4GB of RAM) Samsung Chromebook 3, a machine I use when I want the extra security of the Chrome OS platform. Instead, this laptop charges from an old-school 12V barrel connector, forcing me to carry around an extra brick.
What we need is called a “USB-C PD trigger”, a little board that negotiates a specific PD voltage with a charger. There are a few variants, including ones with a button to select the voltage, but the most common one is a tiny board with a female USB-C connector called ZYPDS.
The universe's biggest gear reduction
Today at 14:52 I will be exactly 1 billion seconds old. To celebrate I build this machine that visualizes the number googol. That’s a 1 with a hundred zeros. A number that’s bigger than the atoms in the known universe. This machine has a gear reduction of 1 to 10 a hundred times. In order to get the last gear to turn once you’ll need to spin the first one a google amount around. Or better said you’ll need more energy than the entire known universe has to do that. That boggles my mind.
Meet the ZedRipper – a 16-core, 83 MHz Z80 powerhouse as portable as it is impractical. The ZedRipper is my latest attempt to build a fun ‘project’ machine, with a couple of goals in mind:
As part two (see previous attempt) of my ongoing series in ‘computational necromancy,’ I’ve spent the last year and a half or so constructing my own 1/10-scale, binary-compatible, cycle-accurate Cray-1. This project falls purely into the “because I can!” category – I was poking around the internet one day looking for a Cray emulator and came up dry, so I decided to do something about it. Luckily, the Cray-1 hardware reference manual turned out to be useful enough that implementing most of this was pretty straightforward. The Cray-1 is one of those iconic machines that just makes you say “Now that‘s a super computer!” Sure, your iPhone is 10X faster, and it’s completely useless to own one, but admit it . . you really want one, don’t you?
Turning a MacBook into a Touchscreen Using the Webcam
Our idea was to retrofit a small mirror in front of a MacBook’s built-in webcam, so that the webcam would be looking down at the computer screen at a sharp angle. The camera would be able to see fingers hovering over or touching the screen, and we’d be able to translate the video feed into touch events using computer vision.
Extracting BitLocker keys from a TPM
By default, Microsoft BitLocker protected OS drives can be accessed by sniffing the LPC bus, retrieving the volume master key when it’s returned by the TPM, and using the retrieved VMK to decrypt the protected drive. This post will look at extracting the clear-text key from a TPM chip by sniffing the LPC bus, either with a logic analyzer or a cheap FPGA board. This post demonstrates the attack against an HP laptop logic board using a TPM1.2 chip and a Surface Pro 3 using a TPM2.0 chip. From bus wiring through to volume decryption. Source code included.
Building a 10BASE5 “Thick Ethernet” network
Fast forward to 2012, and 10BASE5 is now truly a vintage technology. Anyone studying something I.T. related likely will at some point have been told about this stuff, because it’s very important in the history of computing. This was the first standardised, commercially used form of Ethernet, and today, almost the entire Internet is Ethernet, but heck, who’s ever actually seen a working 10BASE5 setup? Not me, that’s for sure, nor or anyone I’ve ever met.
So… can I build a working setup in 2012? Read on…
For someone like me who hadn’t encountered it before, no amount of looking at pictures could prepare for how big this stuff is. Short of high power transmission cables, it’s the largest coaxial cable I’ve ever seen. It is also very heavy, rigid and the bend radius is absurdly large.