Tag Archives: News

FTDI Screws Up, Backs Down

via Hackaday » » hardware


A few days ago we learned chip maker FTDI was doing some rather shady things with a new driver released on Windows Update. The new driver worked perfectly for real FTDI chips, but for counterfeit chips – and there are a lot of them – the USB PID was set to 0, rendering them inoperable with any computer. Now, a few days later, we know exactly what happened, and FTDI is backing down; the driver has been removed from Windows Update, and an updated driver will be released next week. A PC won’t be able to communicate with a counterfeit chip with the new driver, but at least it won’t soft-brick the chip.

Microsoft has since released a statement and rolled back two versions of the FTDI driver to prevent counterfeit chips from being bricked. The affected versions of the FTDI driver are 2.11.0 and 2.12.0, released on August 26, 2014. The latest version of the driver that does not have this chip bricking functionality is, released on January 27th. If you’re affected by the latest driver, rolling back the driver through the Device Manager to will prevent counterfeit chips from being bricked. You might want to find a copy of the 2.10.0 driver; this will likely be the last version of the FTDI driver to work with counterfeit chips.

Thanks to the efforts of [marcan] over on the EEVblog forums, we know exactly how the earlier FTDI driver worked to brick counterfeit devices:


[marcan] disassembled the FTDI driver and found the source of the brick and some clever coding. The coding exploits  differences found in the silicon of counterfeit chips compared to the legit ones. In the small snippet of code decompiled by [marcan], the FTDI driver does nothing for legit chips, but writes 0 and value to make the EEPROM checksum match to counterfeit chips. It’s an extremely clever bit of code, but also clear evidence FTDI is intentionally bricking counterfeit devices.

A new FTDI driver, presumably one that will tell you a chip is fake without bricking it, will be released next week. While not an ideal outcome for everyone, at least the problem of drivers intentionally bricking devices is behind us.

Filed under: hardware, news

Watch That Windows Update: FTDI Drivers Are Killing Fake Chips

via Hackaday » » hardware


The FTDI FT232 chip is found in thousands of electronic baubles, from Arduinos to test equipment, and more than a few bits of consumer electronics. It’s a simple chip, converting USB to a serial port, but very useful and probably one of the most cloned pieces of silicon on Earth. Thanks to a recent Windows update, all those fake FTDI chips are at risk of being bricked. This isn’t a case where fake FTDI chips won’t work if plugged into a machine running the newest FTDI driver; the latest driver bricks the fake chips, rendering them inoperable with any computer.

Reports of problems with FTDI chips surfaced early this month, with an explanation of the behavior showing up in an EEVblog forum thread. The new driver for these chips from FTDI, delivered through a recent Windows update, reprograms the USB PID to 0, something Windows, Linux, and OS X don’t like. This renders the chip inaccessible from any OS, effectively bricking any device that happens to have one of these fake FTDI serial chips.

Because the FTDI USB to UART chip is so incredibly common,  the market is flooded with clones and counterfeits. it’s very hard to tell the difference between the real and fake versions by looking at the package, but a look at the silicon reveals vast differences. The new driver for the FT232 exploits these differences, reprogramming it so it won’t work with existing drivers. It’s a bold strategy to cut down on silicon counterfeiters on the part of FTDI. A reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip.

The workaround for this driver update is to download the FT232 config tool from the FTDI website on a WinXP or Linux box, change the PID of the fake chip, and never using the new driver on a modern Windows system. There will surely be an automated tool to fix these chips automatically, but until then, take a good look at what Windows Update is installing – it’s very hard to tell if your devices have a fake FTDI chip by just looking at them.

Filed under: hardware, news

CNBC visit Pi Towers

via Raspberry Pi

At the start of September, a film crew from CNBC came to visit Cambridge. They spent some time with us at Pi Towers, and came to the Cambridge Jam the next day to talk to some of the kids there who use the Raspberry Pi. They produced two short videos, both full of footage from the Jam and our office – see how many familiar faces you can spot!

New product launch! Introducing Raspberry Pi Model B+

via Raspberry Pi

Meet your new favourite piece of hardware.

In the two years since we launched the current Raspberry Pi Model B, we’ve often talked about our intention to do one more hardware revision to incorporate the numerous small improvements people have been asking for. This isn’t a “Raspberry Pi 2″, but rather the final evolution of the original Raspberry Pi. Today, I’m very pleased to be able to announce the immediate availability, at $35 – it’s still the same price, of what we’re calling the Raspberry Pi Model B+.

You're a handsome devil; what's your name?

You’re a handsome devil. What’s your name? (Click to enlarge!)

The Model B+ uses the same BCM2835 application processor as the Model B. It runs the same software, and still has 512MB RAM; but James and the team have made the following key improvements:

  • More GPIO. The GPIO header has grown to 40 pins, while retaining the same pinout for the first 26 pins as the Model B.
  • More USB. We now have 4 USB 2.0 ports, compared to 2 on the Model B, and better hotplug and overcurrent behaviour.
  • Micro SD. The old friction-fit SD card socket has been replaced with a much nicer push-push micro SD version.
  • Lower power consumption. By replacing linear regulators with switching ones we’ve reduced power consumption by between 0.5W and 1W.
  • Better audio. The audio circuit incorporates a dedicated low-noise power supply.
  • Neater form factor. We’ve aligned the USB connectors with the board edge, moved composite video onto the 3.5mm jack, and added four squarely-placed mounting holes.

If you’re interested in precise measurements, or want to find out what the new GPIO does, check out the diagrams below.

Raspberry Pi B+ mechanical specs

Mechanical specs: you’ll want to look at these if you’re building cases or other housing. Click to enlarge.

Model B+ GPIO diagram

GPIO diagram – there’s a lot more to play with now! Click to enlarge.

We think you’re going to love Model B+, but to ensure continuity of supply for our industrial customers we’ll be keeping Model B in production for as long as there’s demand for it.

The B+ is available from this morning from many of the regular Raspberry Pi stockists. If you want to go direct to our two main manufacturing partners, you’ll find it at Farnell/element14/Newark here, and at RS/Allied Components here.

A few of our friends got their hands on a Model B+ on Friday, and have been playing with it over the weekend. Here’s what they had to say:


Developed on Hackaday: We Have Pixels!

via Hack a Day» hardware

It has been a while since we kept you informed about the current state of the Mooltipass project. Well, several days ago we finally received the PCBs we got produced at Seeedstudio. Keep in mind that this first version (shown in the picture above) is only meant to check that the chosen components can suit our needs while our mechanical contributors work on their designs. Moreover, we may add empty footprints for our readers that may want to hack the device.

After a few hours of soldering and a few days of coding, we finally got a basic firmware running. The OLED screen is easily readable and has an amazing contrast (the picture doesn’t do it justice). So far we checked all basic functionalities of the on-board components and it’ll still take a few days/weeks to be certain that we can settle with them. We are therefore starting to ship a few platforms to the firmware developers that want to work on the core functions of the Mooltipass. So if you’re an experienced C developer and have some spare time, you may get onboard by contacting me at mathieu[at]hackaday[dot]com or by joining the Mooltipass Google Group.

In a few days we will publish the designs that our mechanical guys came up with and we’ll ask you to let us know which ones are your favorites. Depending on how things will go, we may produce PCBs for several of them to select our final design based on user experience and ease of use. We look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments section below!

Filed under: Featured, Hackaday Columns, hardware, news

Welcome Dave!

via Raspberry Pi

Carrie Anne wasn’t our only new starter on Monday: we’ve also welcomed Dave Honess to the team. Dave will be familiar to many of you as Davespice from our forums, where he’s one of our moderators; he’s also been helping me moderate the comments on this blog for a year or so now, and he’s a mod on the Freenode #raspberrypi IRC channel. Dave writes for The MagPi (as Davespice), and he’s behind the porting and uploading of lots of the retro games you’ll see at the Pi Store. Here he is in situ at Pi Towers.

Dave’s an archaeologist by training, as well as a software developer; he’s also been working with the Pi as a private tutor, and he’s a STEM Ambassador. He’s joining us to work on a mixture of project management (fortunately for Dave, that’s much more exciting than it sounds), creating educational resources, outreach, and polishing the educational software stack. We’re extremely glad to have him, and we’re running out of desks.

Dave says:

Back in 2011 one of my old work colleagues brought in an old Spectrum BASIC book, and we had a discussion about how great that era of programming was.  We then flipped to the back, found Frogger, and tried to type it into an emulator; we were rusty.  Not long after that I found the first blog post about the Raspberry Pi at the BBC by Rory Cellan Jones.  I remember thinking it was going to be massive back then, and signed up to the website soon after. I’m glad to say I was right – it has been massive – and I am very happy and excited to have landed a job here. I am going to be working on creating educational materials for the Raspberry Pi and helping with various outreach projects the foundation is working on.

A few of you will know me from IRC and the forums, but for those of you who don’t, you can have a quick glance at my original Introduce Yourself post from when I joined the community here.

Dave is very unfortunate, because he’s ended up sitting next to me. We commiserate about the seating plan and congratulate you on your new job, Dave – welcome on board!

Developed on Hackaday: First Version of the Hardware

via Hack a Day» hardware


The Hackaday writers and readers are currently working hand-in-hand on an offline password keeper, the mooltipass (click to see the project description). 

Next in our Developed on Hackaday series, we present the first version of our schematics. There’s already been a lot of discussions going on in our dedicated Google group, mainly about the project’s basic functionality. Because our firmware developers wanted to get to work, we decided to send the first version of our hardware into production a few days ago. Before going through the schematics, let’s review the required list of the mooltipass’s core components:

  • an easily-readable screen
  • a read-protected smart-card
  • large flash memory to store the encrypted passwords
  • an Arduino-compatible microcontroller with USB connectivity

We’ve been drowning in component suggestions from motivated hobbyists, so we figured we’d make the mooltipass v1 as simple as possible and then move from there. Given this device is developed on Hackaday, we also wanted future users to modify it, building completely new projects based around these main components. Keep reading for our schematics…

For the core of the platform, we opted for the ATmega32U4 from Atmel. It is the same microcontroller used in the Arduino Leonardo, allowing us to use the numerous libraries that have been developed for it. In the final schematics, we’ll add an expansion connector so users may connect additional peripherals (we may switch to a 4 layers PCB at this point). The microcontroller’s USB lines are protected from ESD by the IP4234CZ6 from NXP.

For encrypted passwords storage, we found the cheap 1Mbit AT45DB011D FLASH which also has 2/4/16Mbits pin compatible versions. If our beta testers find that 1Mbit is not enough, upgrading the mooltipass would be easy. A few readers may already know it, but when picking a flash memory, special attention should be paid to the minimum amount of data that can be erased in the chip. If the flash doesn’t have an internal buffer (like the one we selected does), the microcontroller must read a complete chunk of data, modify the relevant part and resend the modified chunk to the memory. Given the ATmega32U4 only has 2.5KBytes of RAM, this may have been problematic.

Finding a smart-card that could provide the desired security functions wasn’t the problem, but finding a supplier that could send us relatively low quantities (<1M) was. We did, however, find the quite old AT88SC102 from Atmel, a 1024bits read/write protected EEPROM. It can be sourced for less than a dollar and our security assessor didn’t object to this choice. It also uses an odd bus for communications (SPI-like with an open drain data line), which is why we used the N-Mosfet Q2.

A hot-topic in the Google group was the display choice. Although opinions were varied, we agreed on the core constraint that the chosen display should be at least 2.8″ and read easily under bright light. High resolution and RGB wasn’t necessarily required, so as a first try we’ve opted for the OLED display shown in the picture above (image taken from YouTube). After several weeks of looking for viable alternative OLED screens without any success, we’re currently considering making another mooltipass version with an IPS LCD. Moreover, the current unusual 3.12″ diagonal means we’ll need to have a custom-made resistive touch panel: the quotes we received for the capacitive ones were too expensive.

These components choices made the voltages electronics fairly simple. The whole solution is powered by the ~5V coming from the USB, and the ~3.3V required by both the flash and the display is provided by the ATmega32U4 internal LDO regulator (~55mA @ 3.0 to 3.6V). The +12V also needed by the display is generated by a $1 regulated charge pump DC-DC converter. If we had to use a conventional step-up, the component count (and cost) would be much higher. Notice that we put a P-MOSFET in series with the latter as the output voltage when the DC-DC is not working is not 0V but VCC (here +5V). We also used another P-MOSFET to switch the power supply going to the smart card.

We used two resistor networks R6&R7 (easier to solder) as voltage dividers to transform our 5V signals to 3.3V. Fortunately, the ATmega32U4 can receive LVTTL signals, so we don’t need level shifters to get the data coming from the 3.3v-powered flash memory.

That wraps up the mooltipass schematics overview. If you have any suggestions, you can contact the team in our dedicated Google group. Of course we’d love to hear general comments, please share them below.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, hardware, news

Developed on Hackaday: Setting Up the Project’s Infrastructure

via Hack a Day» hardware


We’re pretty sure that most of our readers already know it by now, but we’ll tell you anyway: the Hackaday community (writers and readers) is currently developing an offline password keeper. In the first post of our first DoH series, we introduced the project and called for contributors. In the comments section, we received very interesting feedback as well as many feature suggestions that we detailed in our second write-up. Finally, we organized a poll that allowed everyone to vote on the project’s name.

The results came in: the project’s name will be mooltipass. We originally had thought of ‘multipass’ but [asheets] informed us that Apple and Canon had both applied for this trademark. [Omegacs] then suggested ‘mooltipass’ as an alternative, which we loved even more. A few days ago we set up a google group which is already very active.

An often under-estimated side of a community driven project is its infrastructure and management. (How) can you manage dozens of motivated individuals from all over the globe to work on a common project? How can you keep the community informed of its latest developments?

As the Hackaday community is very comfortable with online tools, we chose:

  • github to disseminate the mooltipass resources to the public, and for firmware/software development as well
  • dropbox to share quickly-changing mechanical design files
  • trello to discuss specific topics and relate our current progress
  • google groups for general discussion

Github was the obvious choice given that it is one of the most used online repositories out there. It allows contributors to keep track of the file changes and ensures they have the latest version of the mooltipass project. Given the mechanical development process is quite different from developing firmware, contributors in charge of the case design opted for Dropbox. Here is an overview of the Trello board we setup:

Trello was suggested by [Zach] (thanks!). It is free, very easy to understand and convenient for project management (from what we can see at the moment). We took the habit of having our development related discussions in a dedicated mailing list, then move the specific points to Trello.

Unfortunately the firmware guys have still to wait for the first prototypes to arrive to start coding. Next week on Hackaday we’ll detail the first version of the hardware, currently being reviewed in our google group. Depending on the feedback we get, the v2 may be very different. It’s still not too late if you want to get involved in the project (if you aren’t a firmware developer!), so you can contact us at mathieu[at]hackaday[dot]com.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, hardware, news

Developed on Hackaday: First Feedback From Users

via Hack a Day» hardware


Holy cr*p guys… we were amazed by the quantity of positive feedback that was left in the comments section of our last article. We have been featured by Slashdot ! We got plenty of project name suggestions, therefore we organized a poll located at the end of this post to let you decide which one is best. I also received many emails from people eager to start contributing to this offline password keeper project. If you missed the call and want to get involved, it’s still not too late. You can get in touch with me @ mathieu[at]hackaday[dot]com. So far, we have many beta testers, several software developers, one security assessor and a few firmware developers. Next step is to create a mailing list and a Hackaday forum category once the project’s name has been chosen.

Obviously, the very first post of our “Developed On Hackaday” series was to gauge your initial reactions to this ‘new’ project. Notice here the double quotes, as when someone has a new idea there usually are only two possibilities that may explain why it doesn’t exist in the market yet: either it is completely stupid or people are already working on it. In our case, it seems we are in the second category as many readers mentioned they wanted to work/were working/had worked on a similar product. As we’re selfish, we offered them to contribute to this new device.

To ensure that all of our readers are on the same page as to how the device will work we embedded a simple block diagram after the break, as well as a list of all new functionalities that we want to implement given the feedback we received. So keep reading to see what the future holds, as well as to vote on this new project’s name…

As we don’t really need an ARM processor for this project, the only microcontroller we can use while keeping direct Arduino compatibility is the ATmega32U4 from Atmel. We haven’t chosen which IDE we’ll develop on (if we actually use one). The device will be recognized as a USB keyboard (USB HID class), therefore no drivers should be required on Windows/Linux/Mac/Android/any system you have. A few of our friends actually told us that Tablet PCs and recent phones can enumerate HID devices via their USB OTG port. We may use the great LUFA library from [Dean Camera] or the Teensy code from [Paul Stoffregen] for USB communications. The next post of our ‘Developed On Hackaday’ series will be about the chosen hardware so we welcome any suggestion from our dear readers in the comments section below.

As a few readers were worried that it’d still be possible to lose stored passwords with the proposed setup, we’d like to emphasize the fact that the device will be able to clone your smart card (containing your AES key and main email password for example). Obviously, it’ll only do so once the initial smart card is unlocked and will copy the same PIN code to the new card. Note that the cloned card is supposed to be kept in a safe place. We’ll also offer the possibility to export the encrypted passwords stored in the device internal memory (not shown in the diagram).

We previously mentioned that a browser extension will send the currently visited website to the device, so the user can approve the sending of his credentials by tapping the touchscreen. One very relevant point has been raised by [tekkieneet]: the fact that one user may always click ‘yes’ without checking that the website visited is the same one shown on the OLED screen. [Tekkieneet] would prefer making the user browse through all the saved websites’ credentials without using any plug-in on the OS side. In our opinion, that reduces user friendliness… what do you think? Could we come up with a way to force the user to check the displayed URL?

[Happyjam64] also suggested that we should force the users to switch passwords every few months. Would this become cumbersome for novice users? Should we allow the users to select what type of security they want? We’re obviously talking about trade-offs here.

Here is another question for our readers: how long should we unlock the smart card for once the user has entered his pin code? A short period may render the device annoying to use daily, and a long one compromises the security of the system. The Hackaday writers’ educated guess would be to force users to lock their computer when they’re away by removing the smartcard. The device would detect that the card is not here anymore and therefore perform a keystroke to lock the computer (what’s windows + L for linux and mac?). We’d just have to teach our acquaintances to lock their computer when they’re not in front of it (that seems reasonable, right?).

We look forward to reading your opinions of these key points, and we’ll see you soon in the next episode of our Developed On Hackaday series (thanks [Ren]). In the meantime, don’t forget to vote for your favorite project name!

Filed under: hardware, news

Announcing Adafruit’s Bluefruit

via Hack a Day» hardware


You always meet the most interesting people wandering around Maker Faire, but by far the most interesting was Hackaday’s founder, [Phil Torrone] and bubblegum-haired compatriot [Limor] from Adafruit. They were out in full force checking out the sights and gave us the scoop on a new piece of hardware they’re releasing called Bluefruit.

Bluefruit is a very tiny and very cheap Bluetooth module breakout board that allows anyone to take 12 digital inputs and turn them into a Bluetooth HID device. If you’re planning a portable battery-powered arcade controller, just plug in a Bluefruit, set up your keypresses in your software, and rock out.

On board the Blufruit are an FTDI programming connector, 12 input pins, a few power pins, a custom FCC and CE certified CSR Bluetooth module, and that’s about it. If you’re looking for a simple GPIO to Bluetooth adapter without an overwrought Arduino setup, this is the best solution we’ve seen by far. Adafruit is also rocking their own custom firmware for the device, so this will be extremely hacker-friendly.

The price will be $20 and should be available in the Adafruit store in a bit. If you’re looking for an easy way to put a Bluetooth HID controller in your next project, this is the one.

Pictures of the Bluefruit and Adafruit crew below.

Click to view slideshow.
Filed under: hardware, news

Meet the 2013 LayerOne conference badge

via Hack a Day» hardware


The LayerOne security conference is fast approaching and [charliex] is doing his best to put the finishing touches on this year’s conference badge.

Around the perimeter of the badge is 48 LEDs driven by two LED drivers. This allows for some crazy hardware hacking to create anything from a TV-B-GONE to a bulbdial clock. There’s also a few extra switches and sensors that can be hacked to do some interesting things, but where this badge really shines is the addition of an OLED display, allowing it to transform into an XMEGA Xprotolab, a small oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, and frequency generator. Yes, this badge can be hacked, but it’s also a tool for hacking.

There’s an impressive amount of work that went into this badge, a feat even more impressive given the fact that the LayerOne conference is this weekend and the PCBs for these badges won’t arrive until tomorrow. We’ll be the first to say we’re masters of procrastination, but [charliex] really cut it close here.

Filed under: hardware, news

Cornell University ECE 4760 Lecture Videos Online!

via Nuts and Volts

34 available lectures to watch online now for free. Cornell University - ECE 4760 - Designing with Microcontrollers (Spring 2012). ECE 4760 deals with microcontrollers as components in electronic design and embedded control. This course consists of 34 video lectures given by Bruce Land, who is a staff member in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University. This course focuses on Atmel's microcontrollers and development hardware. Watch the course introduction video now:


Design Contest US 2013

via Nuts and Volts

Digilent Inc are proud to announce the 9th annual US regional Digilent Design Contest.  Digilent invites students throughout Europe to put their design skills to the test using Digilent FPGA and MCU development tools. The final judging will be held on May 11th 2013 at Baltimore, MD. The design contest is co-sponsored with Xilinx, ARM and the Morgan State University.

Arduino Goes ARM

via Nuts and Volts

The whole world seems to be going in ARMs direction. The latest version of Windows 8 will run on ARM processors and now the open source Arduino platform has a new member - the ARM-based Arduino Due announced at the Maker Faire in New York. Read more to watch the one-hour presentation clip with Massimo Banzi & Alf-Egil Bogen talking about the Arduino at Maker Faire New York.

Texas Instruments unveils the Stellaris® LaunchPad

via Nuts and Volts

Expanding its innovative LaunchPad portfolio to the ARM ecosystem, Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) today announced a new low-price, easy-to-use Stellaris® LM4F120 LaunchPad evaluation kit. The tool allows professional engineers, hobbyists and university students to begin exploring ARM Cortex-M4F microcontrollers and TI's Stellaris family of microcontrollers for under $5 USD!

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player