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Posts Tagged ‘hack’

Pebble 2 & Time 2 Smartwatches, and Pebble Core for Runners and Hackers Launched on Kickstarter

May 25th, 2016 No comments

Pebble launched one of the first smartwatches in 2012, and is now one of the most famous name for wearables. The company has now launched another crowdfunding campaign for three wearables: Pebble 2 & Time 2 watches, and Pebble Core which can be either be used as a fitness tracker for runner, or by hardware hacker to play with IoT apps.
Pebble_2_Time_2

Pebble 2 and Time 2 can receive notifications from your Android or iOS smartphone, include a built-in HRM for activity tracking, and a microphone for voice record and SMS, and are waterproof of up to 30 meters. To me the two key features of Pebble wearables are always-on displays, and long battery life, and the two new watches have a black & white (Pebble 2) or color (Time 2) always-on display, and up to one week of battery life for Pebble 2, and 10 days for Time 2.

Pebble_CorePebble Core is a completely new device for the company and available in two versions: one for runners, one for hackers. Core is lightweight, 3G, Bluetooth, and WiFi connected clip that can replace your phone while running, or other activities where you don’t really want to take your phone with you. It can stream music from Spotify or play music from the 4GB built-in storage, track your pace, distance and location with GPS, and even send an emergency SMS. A microphone will also allow you to take voice notes. The battery is good enough for 9 hours of GPS tracking or offline music playing, and Bluetooth connectivity make it possible to pair it with your Pebble watch to control music playback and monitor activity tracking.

Core for Hackers has many of the same features with GPS, 3G, WiFI and Bluetooth, and is said to run Android 5.0. The device features two buttons that can be programmed to unlock your car, turn on/off your lights, record voice notes, etc..  Voice recording would require a Bluetooth or wired headset. The Core is normally charged vi USB cable, but it can be optionally charged with a $20 wireless pad.

Pebble Core goes for as low as $69, Pebble 2 for $99 and up, and Time 2 for $179 (All $169 early bird rewards are gone). Shipping is not included and adds $10 to $15, with delivery scheduled for September – October 2016 for the two smartwatches, and January 2017 for the Core.

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AAduino Arduino Compatible Board Fits Neatly into an AA Battery Holder

April 19th, 2016 2 comments

Johan Kanflo has been using Arduino compatible boards based on Tiny328 MCU with an ISM radio module (wireless Arduino clone), but he found that finding a case was not easy, and was quite not ready to to design its own and print it with a 3D printer. So instead he shrank the board to fit into an AA battery case bought on Ebay with two AA batteries taking the remaining slots. That’s the result.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

AAduino board specifications:

  • MCU – Atmel ATMega328p clocked at 8 MHz to save power
  • Radio – RFM69C ISM transceiver module
  • Sensors – Two DS18B20 temperature sensors
  • Misc – Indicator LED
  • Keystone battery terminals rotated 180° to act as positive and negative terminals.
  • Power – 2x AA batteries
Triple AA Battery Case Closed

Triple AA Battery Case Closed

The project is also open source hardware, with all hardware files released under the MIT license on Github, where you’ll also find a demo sketch for the board.

Via Free Electrons Tweet

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Categories: Atmel AVR, Hardware Tags: arduino, battery, hack

Eny EM95 Amlogic S905 TV Box Review

February 26th, 2016 16 comments

CNXSoft has already taken some pictures of Eny EM95 Amlogic S905 TV box, so I’ll take over from here as I received my ENY EM95 today and I was excited. I have not got a new Android device in a while.

First Impressions

I opened it up to find a tiny box that has a display on it. Seems interesting. While booting it says boot and the rest of the time it shows the time in 24 hour format and a few other indicators that I didn’t find particularly useful. In the retail box is the device remote and HDMI cable and power supply. I noticed no micro or mini USB port to flash firmware. I don’t have a type A to type A cable so will need to pick one up. I was working from home today so I was able to open immediately and play with it for a few hours. I have only had the stick form factor up until now other than my NVIDIA SHIELD so it was kind of nice to get a remote….I thought. But I immediately put it to the side and connected my Logitech K400. No keyboard layout files so only basic functions with my keyboards right now. I’ll add later at least it got me by. Definitely need an air mouse or touchpad with Android.

Fired up Kodi 15.2 that was preloaded (not sure at this point if it is standard or some special build) but immediately bombarded with a ton of add-on updates so I went and worked for 30 min on my day job. I went in and added my collection on my NAS drive. It went off without a hitch and played all my files. Ohh and I only have it hooked up to a monitor with a DVI in so only get video (720p). I pulled out a Jabra Link 510 Bluetooth speakerphone and worked as expected.  All my normal 1080p test vids played without a problem.  I even added my videos from my video camera which up until now only my Shield would play stutter free. (On a side note I went back and tested on s805 device and videos from my HD camera play now) Even my Tvheadend recordings played well.  They are uncompressed mpeg2. About 6 gig an hour. I was using wireless delivered from an AP about 2 feet away. I decided to test by connecting to my AP in the living room about 35’ away and it wasn’t able to maintain these higher bitrate movies. I went back and checked my video camera videos as well and wireless wasn’t able to keep up. Regular H.264 streams at 1 gig an hour played fine. Only thing that I couldn’t get working was live TV with Tvheadend on built in Kodi. I will try again later after I clear Kodi back to a clean slate. (I went back and Tvheadend is broke in the built in Kodi.)

One thing I noticed is that it is super aggressive on killing background processes. Just to go from Kodi to settings and change Wi-Fi settings, Kodi would restart.

It is rooted (yay)

Specs

Eny EM95 specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 2.0GHz with quad core Mali-450MP GPU up to 750MHz
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3 (Option: 2GB)
  • Storage – 8GB NAND flash (Option: 16GB) + SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with support for CEC and HDCP 2.2 , AV output
  • Video Codecs – H.264, H.265, HD AVC/VC-1, HD MPEG1/2/4, RM/RMVB, Xvid/DivX 3/4/5/6, RealVideo 8/9/10 up to 4K resolutions
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet (Optional Gigabit Ethernet), Wi-Fi @ 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc- Power LED, LED display on front panel
  • Power Supply –  DC 5V/2A

Updating and Testing

I updated to SD card version that is labeled EM95_20160121.rar. I struggled to update following the instructions provided. When you update by SD card you copy a few files to an SD card. One of them tells recovery what to do. I had to remove this and do it by hand just a few menu options and a few minutes later it was updated.

I ended up making a Type A to Type A cable to flash img firmware. I sacrificed 2 USB cables, cut them and connected the corresponding colors. I did leave the red power disconnected which was fine at first. Later I ended up making a mistake and bricking the device. I disconnected power in the middle of a flash. Ugh…. but after several hours and using different methods with SD cards I took the cable apart and connected the red and I was able to flash again with Amlogic’s img burning tool. The familiar windows notification was a blessing when I heard it. I would call this box unbrickable. Even with a homemade cable I had no problems flashing and had no corruption.

To flash load the img in the burning tool and press start. Connect the USB cable which will power the box on then immediately connect the supplied power adapter.

Video

This thing plays everything that I tried that I had trouble with initially on previous boxes. My testing was done from a NAS drive. Not a very good one it doesn’t give massive throughput. I max out at 17 MB/s to a PC over wire. When trying to super high bitrate movies Wi-Fi wasn’t sufficient. I had to connect at gig speeds to play. After initial buffer Tears of Steel played without a hitch.

I ended up removing the Kodi that came on the box and installing 16.0 from the play store.

Kodi 16.0 MX Player
big_buck_bunny_1080p_H264_AAC_25fps_7200K_short.MP4 ok ok
big_buck_bunny_1080p_MPEG2_MP2_25fps_6600K_short.MPG ok ok
big_buck_bunny_1080p_MPEG4_MP3_25fps_7600K_short.AVI ok ok
big_buck_bunny_1080p_VC1_WMA3_25fps_8600K_short.WMV ok ok
big_buck_bunny_1080p_VP8_VORBIS_25fps_7800K_short.WebM ok Stutters
Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv Doesn’t play

OK but network can’t keep up stutters

jellyfish-120-mbps-4k-uhd-hevc-10bit.mkv almost plays

Almost Perfect. Perfect from external SD

Samsung_UHD_Dubai.ts ok

Locks up after a few seconds

tears_of_steel_4k_H264_24fps.mov ok

Locks up after a few seconds

tears_of_steel_1080p_H264_24fps.mov ok ok
140626_4k_hm130_4s_sao_dbf_qp27.265.mpeg Doesn’t play ok
140803_4k_hm130_4s_sao_dbf_qp27.265.mpeg Doesn’t play ok

**Movies delivered from NAS Drive via Gig network.

Audio pass-through and S/PDIF were difficult for me to test. I had never really played with it so I had to do a lot of research. I had to look up manuals for my TV and receiver and it should work. I had relatively good luck with S/PDIF directly to my receiver. I was able to get DTS working with a tick/thump periodically coming out the speakers while using Kodi. In MX player it works. But I really wanted to connect my TV to my receiver via S/PDIF then plug HDMI from the box so all i have to do is turn on my receiver and don’t have to go into settings.  The only thing that works is 2 channel audio, DTS gives me static out the speakers.  I am OK with prologic but I know a lot of people want DTS.

Peripherals

My Logitech webcam worked as expected, as well as a USB thumb drive, and all my keyboards: K400, RII knockoff, C120 (not pictured below…remote of choice at our house and wife was using it while taking the picture). The USB hard drive has the 10 MB issue. The 10 MB issue is where external hard drives look like they have only 10 MB of free space and you can only read from them. It is present in all s905 boxes. I also tried my Dell touchscreen monitor but it didn’t work. It requires quanta hid drivers to be turned on. I am really surprised they don’t add this to the kernel because it is a popular touchscreen interface.

EM95_Box_Keyboard_Remote

Benchmarks

I have to admit I am not a big benchmark person. They can give you a good idea of how devices perform but prefer a more subjective approach. It boots in about 30 seconds, and I got about 36k on the newest Antutu.

Scenario Size in MB sec MBytes/sec
From NAS to Internal SD over Wi-Fi 1575.246 669 2.354628
From NAS to Internal SD over gig Ethernet 1575.246 191 8.247361
From NAS to External SD over gig Ethernet 1575.246 146 10.78936
From Internal SD to External SD 1575.246 146 10.78936
From External SD to Internal SD 1575.246 191 8.247361

Apps

Results for several apps:

  • Kodi 16.0 OK
  • Netflix Only SD
  • Team Viewer Quick Support with remote viewing OK
  • Asphalt 8 OK
  • Riptide GP 2 OK
  • YouTube 1080 OK
  • Google Play Movies Playback isn’t supported on this device
  • Crackle OK
  • Hulu OK
  • Plex OK

Modding

So there are some what I call issues with the rom…too much bloat…Kodi loads all these add-ons, no navigation bar, or menu bar. KL files missing. KL files are keyboard layout files that map all the buttons on keyboards. All the special functions including play, pause, volume up and down, Home etc . Aggressive background app killer. Most of these are present on these android devices and not just this one. I am accustomed to cleaning them up.

After loading I installed ES File Explorer, Google Now Launcher, System App Remover root and cleaned all the apps that I didn’t want/need. Added my keyboard layout files for my hid devices and after researching deleted /system/etc/allowbackgroundapp.list….I was poking around the file system and after experiencing the hostile background app killer googled the file name….some evil genius on 4pda deleted the file and it did the exact opposite what I thought it would do and now background apps persist….I thought initially I was going to have to add all my apps to this.

I also loathed the lack of a navigation bar and status bar so I took systemui.apk from another rom…modified it and added qemu.hw.mainkeys=1 to build.prop

Now I have a proper android build..Nice and clean

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

Wrap Up and 4K

I am really pleased with the device. It played every 1080p video that I threw at it. Overall the system works and performs well. It gets a little laggy occasionally but only when doing a lot. Chrome is probably the worst. I believe all this can be sorted out in the coming months. For as short a time s905 has been on the market it is doing well. Amlogic is addressing issues quickly and ENY is patching their img. I would really like to try a box with 2 gig of memory to see if that needs to be the new minimum. Now for 4K…..Sure it can play 4K content…..but where do you get it…Netflix…nope not going to happen. Amazon….nope not going to happen. There are a few others but I doubt they will work on these kinds of devices. Only option I found was torrents but who wants to do that. If in the market for an inexpensive box I would suggest this over an s805 any day. Everything is faster and the cost difference is not much. Gig Ethernet and faster NAND are worth the couple extra bucks difference. But if your only purpose is to consume 4K content I would look at another device.

Distributors and resellers can contact Eny for requests or purchasing in quantities via EM95 product page. Individuals can purchase the device on Aliexpress for $52 and up including shipping.

This is my first review ever…I used the box for about a month…if you have any additional things you would like for me to test let me know in the comments below and I will be glad to do it.

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You Can Now Connect ESP8266 Module to Your Color Television (Sort of)

February 8th, 2016 8 comments

You can do lots of things with ESP8266 WiFi modules, but CNLohr did something rather unexpected as he managed to use GPIO3/RX pin to broadcast NTSC signals first in black & white, and now in color, to his television’s channel 3.

ESP8266_Color_TV

On the hardware side, he did have to disconnect the WiFi antenna, and connected a wire antenna to GPIO3/RX pin. He then set I2S to run at 80 Mbps, and pushed data out using DMA buffers, so he could achieved the 61.25 MHz frequency required for NTSC luminance data, and the  color data, 3.579MHz higher up. Once the demo is running, you can alter it on the fly using a web neat interface. This is all explained on channel3’s github repository, as well as one a 15-minute video showing the capabilities and limitations, and explaining how you can play around with the parameters.

Via ESP8266COM’s Tweet.

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Categories: Espressif, Hardware, Video Tags: esp8266, hack, ntsc

How to Use Your Old Laptop Screen with Raspberry Pi or Your Computer

February 5th, 2016 11 comments

After reading an article on Liliputing about using Raspberry Pi Zero with Motorola Lapdock, I decided to look for clones for the device since Motorola Lapdock is now hard to buy at a decent price, if at all, since the product has been discontinued for a while. I did not find anything similar, but instead I came across M.NT68676.2A LCD driver HDMI kit selling for $37.99 on eBay that allows you to re-use your old laptop screen with any development board or computer that comes with HDMI, DVI, or VGA output.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The kit is comprised of a monitor control board (M.NT68676.2A), an “inverter” board which depends on your LCD panel model number, a keypad board, an LVDS cable, and a cable to connect all three boards together.

M.NT68676.2A monitor control board specifications:

  • Chipset –  NT68676 (UFG)
  • Supported Panel – LED/LCD, Single/Dual LVDS (8bit) up to 2048×1152 resolution
  • Video Input
    • “PC-RGB “, i.e. VGA, up to 2048×[email protected] Hz
    • HDMI – 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
  • Audio Input – Earphone Input; 0.2 ~ 2.0 V RMS
  • Audio Output
    • Frequency Response – 100Hz~15KHz @±3dB (1KHz, 0dB reference signal)
    • Max Output Power –  2×1W(8Ω) THD+N<[email protected] (Power Supply: 12V, Audio Input: 0.5V RMS )
  • Power
    • Requirements – 12V DC/12V(built-in)/12V,5V(built in)/12V,5V,5VSB(built in)
    • To Panel – 3.3V/5V/12V
    • Standby Power Consumption < 0.5W(Board Only)
  • Keypad – Power, Menu, Volume +/-, and Adjust/Exit
  • Dimensions – 139 x 58 x 17 mm

You can get a more complete technical description on the spec sheet (PDF), including each connector’s pinout description, and schematics for IR and keypad board.

Sample Project: Source: https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=67312

Sample Project –  Source: Raspberry Pi Forums

The sellers says it “supports most of the LCD panel from 12.1″ to 55″ with a LVDS interface and a resolution lower than 2048X1152, plug&play kit, no need soldering”, but you need to give the LCD Model number, before purchasing the kit, so that they can check they can give you an inverter board that works with your LCD panel. If you scroll down on the eBay page they have a list of known to work panels such as B170PW03 V.9 or LP171WE2-TL01.

Sample Project - Fully Assembled and Powered by USB Power Bank - More Pics

Sample Project – Fully Assembled and Powered by USB Power Bank – More Pics

Beside the kit, you’ll also need you provide your own HDMI or VGA cable, and power adapter. They also have a kit that include a 12V/4A power adapter for $51.19 in total. It’s clearly a little more challenging than simply using the Lapdock, but that’s an option.

Other sellers and sites are also selling kits, for example Aliexpress, simply look for M.NT68676.2A,. If you think you can manage with the control board only, and somehow already have an inverter board that should work, Banggood sells it for $13.33.

You could also watch a review showing one of the kits used as a monitor for an XBOX.

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Zsun Wifi Card Reader Can Now Run OpenWrt

January 25th, 2016 17 comments

Zsun Wifi card reader is a tiny micro SD card reader with WiFi connectivity, and while people managed to access the device serial console a few months ago, the plan was to eventually run OpenWrt since it’s based on the popular Atheros AR9331 WiSoC combined with 64MB RAM and 16MB SPI Flash. It would also be one the smallest OpenWrt capable device with dimensions of 30 x 33 mm.

Zsun_Wi-FI_Card_ReaderA team of Polish managed this feat, and have now posted instructions to install OpenWrt, as well as other documentation, for example a description of the board’s GPIOs.

There are four methods to flash OpenWrt:

  1. Solder on an Ethernet jack and flash from the original uboot (hard but safe)
  2. Reflash the bootloader from the original firmware to one that supports upload over serial (less soldering but fatal if you mess up)
  3. Reflash the firmware from the original firmware using mtd_write (easy but you have to do it right on the first try)
  4. Attach a programmer to the flash chip (impossible to mess up)

I’ll reproduce the method with mtd_write here, as although you may potentially brick your device, it’s the easiest (no hardware hack):

  1. Download OpenWrt for Zsun binary images
  2. Start a TFTP server on your computer. If you use a Linux computer, you can use dnsmasq as follows:
  3. Login to the board, and download the necessary files to zsun’s /tmp directory:

    You may also want to copy /sbin/mtd_write to /tmp, and kill all unnecessary process to be extra safe.
  4. Now you can flash the firmware to “uImage” and “rootfs” partitions:

    Bus error” looks like an error, but in this case it just indicates flashing is complete.
  5. Restart the device, and after a longer than usual very first boot, you should have access to OpenWrt. Have fun 🙂

Zsun_WiFi_Card_Reader_Pin_DescriptionsSo once you’re done, what you can do with the device? Some ideas of the developers include just serving files over WiFi, using it as a WiFi AP/client/repeater, as the brain for an IoT project, mesh networking, PirateBox, mini Tor server, and more.

Zsun WiFi card reader can be purchased for as low as $10.99 on Banggood, and can be found on others shops for $11+ to about $15 such as DealExtreme, GearBest or Aliexpress.

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How to Stream Video from Zidoo X9 / Tronsmart Pavo M9’s HDMI Input

January 6th, 2016 4 comments

Zidoo X9 and Tronsmart Pavo M9 are TV boxes based on Mstar MSO9180D1R processor and featuring an HDMI input port that can be used for record video from an external source. Danman got a Pavo M9, and managed to successfully hack it to stream the HDMI input to the network using VLC and ffmpeg.

Tronsmart Pavos M9 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Tronsmart Pavos M9 Board (Click to Enlarge)

One of his first task was to check out the hardware, and while the board has a different name (HDMI_4K_V1.2 vs MSO9810D1R-TF-V1.2), the board layout appears identical to Zidoo X9 board, so the instructions below should also work on Zidoo’s device.

After doing some tests with VLC server on a Linux computer and running ffmpeg for Android in M9, as well as analyzing the recording app (ZidooRecorder.apk), and finding the app’s source code released by Zidoo (with some NDA protected binaries), he try to adapt the app to stream content instead, and called it ZidoStreamer.

Eventually he managed to stream videos by running VLC on the computer as follows:

starting recording with the recording app using TS container and H.264 codec, and running the following command in the TV box:

It works, but this is not 100% user-friendly, and not optimal as you still need storage to stream data. So works in not completed yet, and his plans are to:

create an app which will be able to start recording without that binary (it should be possible according to some tests I did), set different bitrates/resolutions, omit the recording to file (use just fifo file to avoid flash memory speed bottleneck and limited size – done some successful tests, just need to fix bugs) and allow different output stream types, e.g. rtmp, udp mpegts unicast, tcp mpegts unicast, rtp etc. (this all can be handled by ffmpeg, just needs to be correctly setup).

That’s the plan, and he welcomes others to join/help him. You can find more details on his blog post.

Via HackADay.

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Categories: Android, Linux, Mstar Tags: ffmpeg, hack, hdmi, pvr, tronsmart, vlc, zidoo

Add an SSD to Your Laptop with a $5 Optical Drive Caddy Adapter

October 19th, 2015 3 comments

Performance of computers are often limited by their hard drive performance, and if you’ve ever upgraded from a mechanical hard drive to a SSD, you’ll be fully aware of the massive boost achieved by that upgrade. Many laptops come with a hard drive and a DVD drive, and if you’re not using the DVD drive that much or at all, you could purchase an ultra cheap optical drive caddy adapter to install an SSD into your laptop, or just another 2.5″ hard drive if you need extra storage.

Optical_Drive_Caddy_for_SSD_HDDYou’ll need to insert the SSD into the caddy, and replace the CD/DVD drive by the caddy. I’ve been informed of this trick via a link on eBay taht’s for an optical caddy adapter specifically for Lenovo IdeaPad Z50-70 B50-30, but if you search for “hdd optical caddy” you’ll find several “universal” optical caddy adapter for HDD and SSD with 12.7mm or 9.5mm thickness which cost around $5. These appear to be fairly popular, and can also be found on Amazon US, Aliexpress, and any other shops. Most reviews on Amazon are positive as it fitted and worked, but a few got less lucky as it did not fit into their laptop.

Thanks Onebir!

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Categories: Hardware Tags: hack, laptop, ssd