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Morse Code Beacon via USB Board

For those into home-brew programming projects, its easy to make a microcontroller spit out some Morse code with the post shown below. What makes [pavlin’s] take on this project interesting is that it resides on a tiny USB board with an ARM processor. The design for the board is available with single-sided artwork suitable for production using simple methods like toner transfer.

The STM device has a built-in USB bootloader. It can also act as a serial port, which makes the project very simple and a bit more flexible. The only external parts are a speaker and an opt-oisolator.

The program provides a command line interface over the serial port that you can use to program the message and set other options like speed and the delay between messages.

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Cannot Format a USB GPT Protective Partition

Sometimes you will connect a USB to the PC and get an error message saying the drive has a GPT Protective Partition and you cannot format the drive. Here is the fix to resolve the issue:

First, what is a GPT USB stick? The GUID Partition Table (GPT) is the successor to the Master Boot Record. The MBR was created by IBM back in the early 90s. The problem with MBR is the limitation to partition table sizes which is 2 Terabytes.

Since there are no 2T USB flash drives (at the time of this post), there is no need to use GPT as your partition table.

Removing the GPT Protected Partition can be accomplished through the Windows Diskpart program.

  • Determine the Disk Number for the USB GPT-protected drive. To do this, perform the following:
  1. Right-click on (My) Computer.
  2. Choose Manage.
  3. Select Disk Management (listed under Storage).
  4. Look for the drive that is identified as GPT and note the Disk number (such as Disk 1).
Format USB GPT Protected Partition
  • Now, open a Command Window. From the command prompt, type diskpart and press Enter.
  • The diskpart prompt will open.
  • From the diskpart prompt, type list disk and press Enter. A list of disks will appear in a text format. You will return to the diskpart prompt.
  • From the diskpart prompt, type select disk disknumber (in this example from the screen shot above, you would type select disk 1)and press Enter. A message appears saying that the disk is selected. You will return to the diskpart prompt.
  • From the diskpart prompt, type clean and press Enter. At this point the drive’s partition and signature a removed. You will return to the diskpart prompt.
  • From the diskpart prompt, type exit and press Enter. Type exit once more to close the Command Window.
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How To: Make a USB Read Only

There are two ways to make a USB stick read only. One way is a universal solution and is 100% permanent, the other way is PC specific and a good deterrent. When we say 100% permanent, this means the USB stick is read only (write protected) on all computers, whether it be a Mac, PC, Linux, etc type computer, the USB is read only and the status cannot be changed. The other method flags a USB device to be read only in relationship to the PC it is connected to so that whenever that USB stick is connected to that computer, it makes the USB read only and blocks all write commands to the device.

Most times an IT manager or content owner wants the USB stick to be read only so the files cannot be deleted or formatted off the drive. Another reason for making a USB read only is for the original files to remain the same and blocks the ability for files to be changed or manipulated. Finally, it’s smart to have USBs read only so that virus’ don’t jump onto the drive and possibly spread to other computers.

Let us start with the less permanent way because it’s easier to do and doesn’t require any specific hardware. You will need a Windows7 machine or higher. The Windows7 machine will have DiskPart utility which allows us to perform all sorts of cool things to flash drives, like setting write protection.

  • Connect the USB to your Windows computer.
  • To begin, go to your Windows Start and in the Search Field type “cmd”

This will run your Command prompt.

  • Next, you will want to get to the C root of the Command prompt and if you are signed in as a user you can simply type cd\ this will get you back to the root of the C drive.
  • Type DISKPART
  • Type LIST DISK

Now you will need to find the USB stick connected to your PC. Most likely it’s DISK 1

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Microsoft Foils USB Hack In Latest Windows Update

When a USB stick is connected to a PC the Windows operating system enumerates the device.  In simple terms, this means Windows will check to see what type of device was just connected, a HID device, Mass Storage Devicet etc, it will also check the speed of the device. During the enumeration process some registry entries are made into the Windows registry…this is where a hacker could get into your system and take control.  This is the update Microsoft issues earlier this week to fix the security flaw. Since the vulnerability is triggered during USB enumeration, no user intervention is required. In fact, the vulnerability can be triggered when the workstation is locked or when no user is logged in, making this an unauthenticated elevation of privilege for an attacker with casual physical access to the machine. Other software that enables low-level pass-through of USB device enumeration may open additional avenues of exploitation that do not require direct physical access to the system. So be sure to update your PC with the update notification comes through – it’s in your best interest. Full Microsoft article Continue Reading

Tech Hack: Alesis IO Dock with USB Hub

The Alesis IO Dock is a great product for iPad musicians – this small hack makes it even greater. It overcomes one limitation of the IO Dock: You can’t simply hook it to a USB hub. So I decided to build in an additional hub – which allows me to hook up additional class-compliant interfaces like my M-Audio Axiom master keyboard, and power them via the hub. Yes, it works. No, it hasn’t been thoroughly tested yet. So try at your own risk. Full Tutorial (nice) Continue Reading

DIY: USB Slingshot for Angry Birds

Angry Birds is a great game for the first couple weeks.  New levels, new designs, new challenges.  However, the game gets a little stail for the 30+.  Today, we came across something which might re-kindle the fire for the 30-somethings who got burned out after a couple weeks. How about taking the slingshot in the game and making it real life?  This is exactly what this DIY hacker did. Over at MBed, the DIY tutorial for a USB slingshot gives step by step instructions, source code, design schematics and more for you to successfully remake a USB slingshot. Source:  MBed. Continue Reading

USB Light Back For TV or Monitor

I think we can agree that “USB light back” is not a common tech term among the geeks out there.  What I mean is a LED system powered by USB which provide background lighting to your TV or monitor. USB light back takes your TV one step further by supply complimentary tones and colors to what is currently being displayed on your TV.  Gives you a theater effect. The only way to fully understand, is to watch: A quote from the creator:
The software analyzes the image on your monitor and transfers its data by USB to the Lightpack board. This board lights the surface behind a monitor, TV or laptop by means of RGB LEDs of the corresponding colors. The effect reminds us of the illumination of Phillips Ambilight TVs most of all.
The lightpack is available for all via Google Code download link.  For the more advanced, but an very effective tool to enhance your TV experience. Continue Reading

USB Hack: Control USB Missile Launcher with Microsoft Kinect

Granted I didn’t think of this concept, but looking back, it’s odd this USB hack took as long as it did.  Hacker, Jonas Wagner, was able to rig his Microsoft Kinect to a USB missile launcher.  From what we’ve read, Jonas wanted to control a missile launcher with his Kinect, only problem is that he didn’t have access to missiles.  Next best thing was a USB missile launcher. To give him some feedback about position, the first thing Jonas did was mount a video cam above the USB missile launcher.  Next step was polish up his Python skills and incorporate the libfreenect library for control. Using his hands to position the USB missile launcher, Jonas can rotate the base unit, angle the barrel up or down and fire the launcher – all thorugh his Kinect. Video after the jump of Jonas shooting his brother[?] Continue Reading

USB Hack: USB Traffic Stop Light

Tim from Imagitronics posted a neat little USB hack about taking gadget traffic light and connecting to it via USB. He retrofitted the generic blinking traffic light with a USB module and wrote a simple Mac application to change the status of the red/yellow/green lights. This project was born out of the frustration after being constantly interrupted by people who could not tell that he was already busy. I think it a great idea. What I’d like to see is the traffic light also be used for email notifications.  Say green means you have less then 10 emails, yellow means Continue Reading

USB Mass Storage Mode For Windows Phone 7

It’s standard for mobile phones to sync and connect with your computer with limited or no access to the memory for storage.  As with our Zune hack for making a Mass Storage Device, here is a tip for the Windows Phone 7 as well…

Windows Phon 7 USB hack

The caviet to this tutorial, is that you can only perform the tweak to your computer which you sync the Windows Phone 7 device with. To get started, do the follwoing:
  • Open the registry editor on your PC by typing regedit in your Start menu
  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\USB; search for ZuneDriver
Now you will modify three entries (note, if you have multiple WP7 phones, you have to do it for each one)
  • Change ShowInShell from 0 to 1
  • Change PortableDeviceNameSpaceExcludeFromShell from 1 to 0
  • Change EnableLegacySupport from 0 to 1
Note:  Perform registry entries at your own risk.  It’s best if you back up the Reg before starting. Continue Reading

How To: Run LED Solo From PCless USB Connector

Do you see something odd about this picture?  Maybe the fact an LED is illuminating from a USB connector with no PC in site?  Ya that’s it.  Good job Sherlock.

USB LED

So what we have here is a How To or USB Hack on running an LED from a Super-capacitor.  If you are non-technical, then we basically mean a very short lived battery to run the LED.  A super-capacitor has the ability to store energy for longer periods of time over traditional capacitors – yet still not long enough as with batteries.The concept of this tutorial is to wire a super-capacitor to a USB socket whereby your computer can charge up the capacitor and when disconnected you’ll get about 10 minutes of LED illumination.

USB LED

Granted there isn’t much day-to-day use with this USB hack, but just a fun little project if you have the time. Over on the Instructables website there is an updated USB tutorial which includes Continue Reading

DIY: How To Get Power From USB For Any USB Gadget Project

Here is a 7 minute video on how to wire up any USB port and suck the power right out for that USB gadget you dreamed up at 3am.  For DIY projects, USB hacking is one of the most popular forms of taking something ordinary and making something unique.  So if you’ve never tried a hack or USB tutorial, this is a great building block for yourself.  Enjoy! Source: YouTube. Continue Reading

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