Tag Archives: hacking

iPod hacking with Android and Arduino

A Maker with the handle “Erroneous Data” has posted a detailed Instructables explaining how to hack an old iPod using an Atmel-based Arduino Uno (ATmega328 MCU) and Android. Oh, and yes. There is no need to break out the soldering gun for this project.

“Just leave [your] old iPod plugged into the stereo and your music will start to play when you walk in the door. The Arduino acts as a liaison between the iPod and your Droid,” Erroneous Data explained.

“Since the iPod device is connected directly to your stereo, it eliminates any error that can occur when streaming the music to a separate device.”

Key features include:

  • Auto connect
  • Auto play
  • Auto pause
  • In-call pause
  • Alarm

As HackADay’s Brian Benchoff reports, with the right resistance on a specific pin on the 30-pin dock connector, iPods will send the track name and playlists over a serial connection, all while responding to play, pause, skip and volume commands.

“There hasn’t been much work towards implementing the copious amount of documentation of this iPod accessory mode in small microcontroller projects. [However], with a little bit of work, [he] managed to replicate the usual iPod dock commands with an Arduino,” said Benchoff.

“Using an HC-05 Bluetooth module, it’s possible to get this iPod-connected Arduino to relay data to and from an Android device with a small app. The circuit is simple, the app is free, and if you have an iPod with an old battery or cracked screen, it can still work as a music storage device.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Instructables page here.

ATmega328 powers open source WatchDuino

Watch-a got on your wrist?

The WatchDuino is an open source project that combines inexpensive electronic parts with complex Arduino (C++) code.

Key project components include Atmel’s versatile ATmega328 microcontroller (MCU), a crystal oscillator, LiPo battery and Nokia’s 5110 LCD screen.

“WatchDuino is not only programmable, it’s fully hackable from hardware to software. You can build your own out of [inexpensive] components [available] at a local electronics store,” a WatchDuino rep explained.

“[Plus], you have the full source code of the watch’s operative system at your disposal. The ability to build the whole thing from scratch and being able to hack at every level of it will greatly appeal to electronics hobbyists and Makers.”

Currently, primary WatchDuino features include:


Time and date (analog and digital output)
  • Alarm / countdown (with custom music)
  • Games (Pong & Snake)
  • Rechargeable battery (via USB) and meter
  • Low-battery mode (lasts up to two years with a 240mAh battery)
  • Integrated screen light
  • Compact design
  • Framework-like architecture to easily program custom screens

On the software side, the WatchDuino can be programmed via two methods: hacking the system itself or simply customizing various features and apps.

“Since WatchDuino’s software is open source, you have the full source code at your disposal to make any modifications you like,” the rep added.

The WatchDuino will likely hit Kickstarter at some point in the near future as a fully assembled device. In the meantime, you can check out the project’s official page here.

Hacking the environment with Atmel & Arduino

Did you know new technology is changing the way scientists and researchers collect biodiversity data? To be sure, information that once required taking expensive, bulky and fragile equipment on field trips can now be collected on inexpensive, compact and robust devices.


Image Credit: Ed Baker

Indeed, a recent paper published in the Biodiversity Data Journal describes an environmental data-logger built around an Atmel-powered Arduino platform. 

Author Ed Baker says he hopes the article will help encourage the adoption of new data collection technologies by biodiversity scientists and foster new collaboration with both electronics hobbyists and electronics engineers who have an interest in biodiversity.

“The Arduino platform provides a low-cost and customizable alternative to expensive proprietary data loggers and sensors,” he explained.

“We increasingly rely on citizen scientists to collect the data at the core of our science, in particular the network of biological recorders who provide much of our knowledge on the changing distribution of species. Many of these people are interested in using technology to maximize the value of the data they collect, but don’t have the financial or technological resources to make full use of the opportunities technology provides.”

Projects such as the one described in the Biodiversity Data Journal will will enable wider access to the latest technologies. As Baker notes, biodiversity science has made use of increasingly large datasets in recent years, ranging from the global collection of specimen and observation data in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) to monitoring changes in habitat and vegetation using data from satellites.

“The introduction of easy-to-use micro-controller devices such as the Arduino brought working with digital electronics to a broader audience,” Baker concluded.

“There is great potential for the biodiversity community if we collaborate with knowledgeable ‘hackers’ and ‘Makers’ as citizen engineers in the same way we interact with knowledgeable amateur natural historians as citizen scientists.”

Video: Hacking quadcopters with Arduino

A Maker by the name of Dzl recently reverse engineered the communication protocol of an inexpensive quadcopter to work with an Atmel-powered Arduino board.

According to the HackADayCrew, Dzl kicked off his hack by cracking open the quadcopter’s accompanying control handset to determine which transceiver it used.

“[He] then found the relevant datasheet and worked out all the pin configuration involved in the SPI communication. Flying data is transmitted as 8 byte packets sent every 20 mS, controlling the throttle, yaw, pitch and roll,” wrote HackADay’s John Marsh.

“[Dzl] took the build a step further, writing an Arduino library (direct Dropbox download link) that should catch you up to speed and allow you to skip straight to the fun part: hacking and experimenting.”

Dzl offers additional quadcopter hack details on his blog. More specifically, he used an Atmel-powered Arduino UNO (ATmega328) to eavesdrop on the communication between the handset and ‘copter. The annotated list of the initialization sequence is as follows:

* Quadcopter activated.
* Handset broadcast a unique network address or ID.
* Quadcopter receives broadcast, acknowledges, starts listening to data from specific ID.
* Transmitting flying data packet every 20 mS.

“Multible Quadcopters can be controlled simultaneously by assigning them different addresses,” Dzl confirmed. “The passing of ID is done on one fixed radio channel and flying data is sent on one of about 12 random radio channels. The quadrotors seem to auto scan the radio channels until they find data.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out Dzl’s official project page here.

Arduino making a mark at Maker Faire

I don’t usually make a big deal of my upcoming weekends, but when I get the chance to hang out in a human-size mouse trap, buzz around a giant Hand of Man robot, or get my code on competitively in a variety of hacker races, it’s worth talking up a bit.

Before you wonder whether I’ve managed to contract an unhealthy dose of hallucinogenic corporate cube fever, don’t panic! I’m referring to the upcoming Maker Faire, to be held at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds on the 18/19 of May.


Maker Faire, created by Make magazine back in 2006, stitches together the arts and crafts with engineering and science.


It’s a huge science fair for the general public, where Do-It-Yourselfers are free to roam around unleashed (usually on their segways) wearing propeller beanies and flashy LED pins without anybody judging them. Much.

Tinkerers little and large take center stage at Maker Faire, showing the world their zany contraptions and electrifying experiments, while trading tips and tricks for others who want to follow in their low power footsteps.

And Atmel, I’m proud to say, is all over it.

Why? Because in many ways, Atmel powers the maker movement, with its tech at the heart of so many maker designs. It helps, of course, that Atmel microprocessors are the chips of choice for the Arduino platform, both in their AVR flavor and ARM varieties.


Arduino has democratized hardware in a way that allows anyone – young or old, engineer or not, rich or poor – to scratch their own itch and create anything they can imagine.

As Arduino’s founder, Massimo Banzi, puts it, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to create something great.”

Indeed, with Arduino even finding its way into every single MakerBot 3D printer, creativity now really knows no bounds.

At Maker Faire, Atmel will be right across from our friends and partners at Arduino (Booth #625 and #619 for the location sticklers) and along with a pretty slick booth design made up entirely of cardboard furniture (Chairigami!!), we’ll have quite a bit going on.


For starters, we’ll have some MakerBot demos and an “IoTorium” (which I’m assuming is an emporium of awesome Internet of Things devices).

Speaking of awesome “things”, the folks from PuzzleBox will be pitching up in Atmel’s booth with their brain-controlled helicopters, alongside the cool riders from Faraday Bikes who will be peddling their electric bicycle wares.

We’ll also have some cute hackable Hexbugs crawling around and for those keeping an eye on the time, some smart watches from Secret Labs (shhhh!).


The Maker movement is a passionate one, and Atmel’s pretty passionate about being a part of it. If you can’t make it to Maker Faire, no sweat. You can follow all the goings on via Twitter. Just look for the hashtags @makerfaire, @atmel, @arduino.

Hope to see you there!


Free electricity!!! Really!! It all happened because a poorly secured network was hacked.

Like a plot straight out of a movie, the security system to an energy grid has been compromised, with the controls hijacked by a criminal network.  Unfortunately, there’s money to be made in security breaches! If the Puerto Rico utility company loses $400M from inaccurate meter readings, then some customers are gaining that amount. That’s a lot of motivation for unsavory types to create new attacks or execute attacks found on the Internet.  Check out this paper to learn how this particular attack unfolded and what could’ve been done to prevent it.    Lots of industries are tasked to confront and resolve this encroaching issue of hardware/network security.  Companies like NXP, Infineon, and Atmel are faced with the challenges as the fabric of the network becomes more ubiquitous yet more intersection points where security in hardware are more prevalent in the initial stages of design aspects.  See some salient technologies showing a promising road to resolving some of these challenges.

Open Sauce

By Steve Castellotti

CTO, Puzzlebox

North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood, is famous for the quality and wide variety of its many restaurants. From colorful marquees scattered up and down Columbus to the hushed, more dimly lit grottos hidden down side streets and back alleys, there is no lack of choice for the curious patron.

Imagine then, having chosen from all these options, you sit down and order your favorite dish. When the plate arrives the waiter places next to it a finely embossed card printed on thick stock. A closer examination reveals the complete recipe for your meal, including hand-written notations made by the chef. Tips for preparation and the rationale for selecting certain ingredients over others are cheerfully included.

Flipping the card over reveals a simple message:

“Thank you for dining with us this evening. Please accept this recipe with our regards. You may use it when cooking for friends and family, or just to practice your own culinary skills. You may even open your own restaurant and offer this very same dish. We only ask that you  include this card with each meal served, and include any changes or improvements you make.”

Sharing the “Secret” Sauce

Having been raised in an Italian family myself, I can assure you that there is no more closely guarded secret than the recipe for our pasta gravy (the sauce). But I can’t help but wonder how such an open sharing might affect the landscape of a place such as North Beach. If every chef was obliged to share their techniques and methods, surely each would learn from the other? Customers would benefit from this atmosphere of collaboration in terms of the taste and quality of their dinners.

These many restaurants, packed so tightly together as they are, would still be forced to compete on terms of the dining experience. The service of their wait-staff, the ambience, and cost would count for everything.

For the majority of customers, knowledge of the recipe would simply be a novelty. In most cases they would still seek a professional chef to prepare it for them. But to the aspiring amateur, this information would contribute to their education. A new dish could be added to their repertoire.

An experienced restaurateur could no doubt correct me on any number of points as to why such a scenario would be a poor business model and never could or should be attempted. But just across town, throughout Silicon Valley and indeed across the globe, in the realm of technology, this exact model has been thriving for decades.

Open Source in the Software World

In the software world, developers have been sharing their source code (the recipe for the programs they write) under licenses similar to the one outlined above on a grand scale and to great success. The Internet itself was largely constructed using open platforms and tools. Mobile phones running Google’s Android operating system are now the most popular in the world, with complete source material available online. And in 2012 Red Hat became the first open source company to achieve a billion dollars in revenue, with customers from IBM to Disney and Pixar among their roster.

The benefits are many. Developers can leverage each others’ work for knowledge and time saving. If you want to build a new web site, there’s no need to write the web server or common routines such as user management from scratch. You can take open versions and start from there. Even better, if you have questions or run into trouble, more likely than not someone else has, too, and the answer is only a search away. Most importantly, if the problem you found indicates a flaw in the software (a bug), then a capable coder is empowered to examine the source and fix it himself or herself. And the result can be shared with the entire community.

There are parallels here to several fields. Similar principles form the basis of the scientific method. Without the sharing of procedures and data, independent verification of results would be impossible. And many discoveries result from iterating on proven techniques. A burgeoning do-it-yourself community, a veritable Maker Movement, has grown around magazines like Make and websites such as Instructables.com. New inventions and modifications to popular products are often documented in meticulous detail, permitting even casual hardware hackers to follow along. Electronics kits and prototyping boards from companies like Arduino are based on Atmel microcontrollers  plus open circuit designs, and are often used to power such projects.

Puzzlebox Brain Controlled Helicopter in Flight

Brain-Controlled Helicopter

Recently, our company, Puzzlebox, released the Orbit, a brain-controlled helicopter. The user begins by setting a display panel to the desired level of concentration and/or mental relaxation they wish to achieve.  A mobile device or our custom Pyramid peripheral processes data collected by a NeuroSky EEG headset. When that target is detected in the user’s brainwaves, flight commands are issued to the Orbit using infrared light. One can practice maintaining focus or a clarity of thought using visual and physical feedback.

Puzzlebox Brain-Controlled Helicopter with Atmel AVR

Puzzlebox Brain-Controlled Helicopter with Atmel AVR

Beyond novelty, however, lies the true purpose of the Puzzlebox Orbit. All source code, hardware designs, schematics, and 3D models are published freely online. Step-by-step guides for hacking the software and electronics are included. Methods for decoding infrared signals and extending mechanisms to operate additional toys and devices are shared. Creative modification is encouraged.  The goal is to promote the product as a teaching aid for middle and high school sciences classes and in university-level programming and electrical engineering courses.

Puzzlebox forging Classroom and Early Adoption of Technology for Education

This business model is itself a bit of an experiment, much like the restaurant described above. There is little preventing a competitor from producing a knock-off and leveraging our own recipes to do it. They might even open their doors just across the street from ours. We’ll need to work hard to keep our customers coming back for seconds. But so long as everyone abides by the rules, openly publishing any modifications of improvements made on our recipe, we’re not afraid to share the secrets of our sauce. We only ask that they include the original material with each dish they serve, and include any changes or improvements made along the way. We’re willing to compete on cost and dining experience. In this way we hope to improve the quality and flavor for everyone.

Puzzlebox with Arduino and Atmel AVR

Puzzlebox with Arduino and Atmel AVR

Puzzlebox Software IDE Interface

Openness and The Internet of Things

Today, communities such as Kickstarter and others tapping into the power of openness and crowd-sourcing are fueling a lot of technological innovation.  The next era for enterprise is revolving around The Internet of Things (#IoT), machine-to-machine (#M2M) communications and even the Industrial Internet (#IndustrialInternet).

One strong proponent of innovation and thought, Chris Anderson, is renowned for having his fingerprints and vision on trends as they bloom into movements.  Anderson is committed and energized in this Make-infused world. His latest book, “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution”, eloquently outlines the “right now” moment with makers. “Hardware is the new software”, opening up the brink of the next age of the Internet, where devices and machines become connected. Cloud, agile apps, and embedded design hardware (systems on chips, microcontrollers, or smart devices) are converging and  paving the next generation of integrated products across the fabric of devices.

“The real revolution here is not in the creation of the technology, but the democratization of the technology. It’s when you basically give it to a huge expanded group of people who come up with new applications, and you harness the ideas and the creativity and the energy of everybody. That’s what really makes a revolution.

…What we’re seeing here with the third industrial revolution is the combination of the two [technology and manufacturing]. It’s the computer meets manufacturing, and it’s at everybody’s desktop.”

Excerpt credited from Chris’s Anderson’s “Maker: The New Industrial Revolution”

With that said, we enter the next age, where hardware is the new software.

Programming Arduino Pro Micro

EE Times’ David Peins takes a close look at the Arduino Pro Micro, based on an Atmel AVR ATmega32 microcontroller. His main objective: to use the board to control the robots that he uses in his educational program for 10 to 12 year olds. And his approach: to continue programming the Arduino Pro Micro until the board can do all of the tasks that he can now do with the PIC and BX-24 platforms.

He’ll keep us updated with his progress. But in the meantime, he brings up an interesting question: is writing subroutines really “hacking?”