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Comment Re:Firmware hacks & custom built hardware (Score 1) 258

For some reason, I wrote "custom built hardware" in the headline but forgot to actually write about that other thing I did a couple of years ago:

I had a cheap video projector that could only be controlled using its very flimsy remote control. It had no hardware buttons for menu access and the like. Of course, the remote began acting funnily after some time and replacing the battery wouldn't do anymore. So I took an Arduino, bought an IR receiver diode and an IR LED, plugged them into the Arduino and wrote some code that could read the raw IR codes from the original remote - and send them to my laptop via USB serial. Since the remote was still working if I pressed the buttons REALLY hard, I could read all of the original IR codes. Then I wrote a Processing sketch which loaded up an image of the remote on the laptop. It had button overlays which would send the raw IR codes to the Arduino when pressed, which then would make use of the IR LED to control my projector. It worked perfectly fine until the projector broke, too.

Another thing I built was an Arduino Micro that had three buttons attached to it, which were programmed to send generic multimedia keyboard commands like Rewind, Play/Pause and Forward. With the Arduino IDE and USB descriptors back then it was impossible to send these commands with the off-the-shelf version of Arduino, so I had to download the source, change the USB descriptor and compile my own version. The original plan was to make hardware buttons for mobile phone music playback. I abandoned the project there, but if I continued, the next steps would have been: desolder the extra pins from the Arduino Micro to give it a smaller profile and construct a phone case that would place the hardware controls and Arduino Micro at the bottom of the phone.

Comment Firmware hacks & custom built hardware (Score 1) 258

Apart from a couple of simple firmware hacks, like running Rockbox on all my Sansa players, one of my most elaborate hacks was bringing a 3D model of my actual car into my hardware GPS navi:

I was bored with the arrow symbol on my Becker car navigation system (which is using Windows CE and an embedded version of the navi software iGO), so I played around with its system files - which were readily accessable via USB. I found the 3D model that the thing was using, but it was a proprietary file format ending in .mdl (no, it wasn't any of the usual MDL formats, I checked throroughly). Then I reverse-engineered the file format and wrote a script (in PHP, yeah, I know) that could convert Blender's PLY output to their MDL format. Then I built a 3D model of my own car in Blender, ran it through my exporter and now I have a hardware navi that shows my own car as the road marker.

I've also documented the process and released the script here:

Comment Re:Do not want (Score 2) 192

You're right - whereever data is being used, it's also being abused, but I only wanted to address the part of the discussion that deals with obstructing the system. Disclaimer: I once worked for a car manufacturer and all of the people who developed new tech were doing it with good intentions. But yeah, that doesn't mean anything to people who want to be in control of everything.

Comment Re:Do not want (Score 3, Interesting) 192

I will never use a product that monitors me with a camera.

(Yes I put tape over my laptop's camera, and no I don't own a smart phone.)

Good for you. However, if at some point in the future all new cars will be equipped with these systems, and they're really helping to reduce accidents, a few things might happen to people who actively manipulate the cameras and sensors:

1. Insurances will require you to pay significantly more, because you're now a road risk.
2. Car manufacturers will make their systems more tamper-resistant, so that the car will either refuse to start when the sensors are obstructed or will somehow emit a "tampered" signal to your insurance when obstruction occurs for some time while driving. Continue at point 1.
3. Cops will look at the system as part of a routine check and will fine you.
3a. Worse: cops will actively pull you over when they detect the "tampered" signal that your car is emitting while driving by.

Comment At a cocktail robotics festival (Score 1) 310

I teach 3D graphics, programming and compositing & postproduction at a university of applied sciences. Every year, our students build machines for the annual Roboexotica cocktail robotics festival. I usually accompany the students at the event and fix their machines on the exhibition floor - with soldering irons, lots of tape and a notebook. Since most of the student machines are created in a hurry, their Processing and Arduino code usually has errors. Sometimes I find myself sitting on the floor between alcohol canisters, pumps and wires, debugging stuff while drunk people stumble around. :-)

Comment Student's Project (Score 1) 186

I'm teaching at a university of applied sciences and one of my students is currently creating a website using PHP/HTML5 and WebM/Vorbis media to remember her recently deceased dad, using interviews of relatives and friends, video snippets, photos and stories about his life, all chronologically linked together, categorized and tagged. The site will be password-protected and every friend or relative will receive an account. Apparently the man had a whole lot of friends all around the world, easily justifying this amount of work.

Comment Correlation, implication, causation etc. (Score 5, Interesting) 292

They say they can identify a single person by a typing profile that they've previously generated, but you certainly cannot deduct from a typing profile that any given person is a pedophile! I agree with the author's comment.

[rant]On a side note, TFA has pictures of a murderer and a 17 y/o girl next to each other. I refuse to call someone a "pedophile" who is attracted to 17-year-old girls, because becoming an adult is not a matter of some age number increasing by one digit. 17-year-olds are certainly not KIDS! I'm sick of the misuse of the word "pedophile". What they actually mean is "ephebophile", but since that one is - to some degree - accepted by society, they cannot polarize people enough to enact more stupid laws. [/rant]

Comment Re:It's fuzzy math (Score 1) 311

I totally agree on this: Buy cheap, buy twice.

I've been practicing this for the last couple of years and have spent significantly less money on gadgets and computer stuff than any of my friends. They still wonder how I can afford yet another Xbox 360 game but don't take into account that I don't buy a new mobile phone every 6 months. Related: I also have a phone plan that costs me only 0.04€ per minute without termination fee or, in fact, any other fee, apart from actual calls (@ Austrian provider bob). I have a monthly phone bill of ~10€ in total.

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