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Hardware Hacking Open Source Hardware

Stephen Fry and DVD Jon Back USB Sniffer Project 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the mainstream-hacking dept.
An anonymous reader writes "bushing and pytey of the iPhone DevTeam and Team Twiizers have created a Kickstarter project to fund the build of an open-source/open-hardware high-speed USB protocol analyzer. The board features a high-speed USB 2.0 sniffer that will help with the reverse engineering of proprietary USB hardware. The project has gained the backing of two high-profile individuals: Jon Lech Johansen (DVD Jon), and actor and comedian Stephen Fry."
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Stephen Fry and DVD Jon Back USB Sniffer Project

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  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Friday November 26, 2010 @11:32AM (#34350246) Homepage

    Stephen Fry also did a video for the GNU project's 25th birthday:

    http://www.gnu.org/fry/ [gnu.org] "Freedom Fry"

  • Looks like Stephen's Twitter page is down.
  • Actually, when I think about it, Douglas Adams did write a "Death to Dongly Things", sometime in the last decade.

    I sure hope Stephen Fry can write up a funny thing to stir up support, even among those of us who don't care enough.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Amorymeltzer (1213818)

      "Write" is a strong word. How about "published posthumously as part of a larger collection of writings?"

      • "Write" is a strong word. How about "published posthumously as part of a larger collection of writings?"

        Are you saying that Adams published his own work posthumously? Neat trick. He did, of course, write it, and it was first published as a column for MacWorld magazine. The posthumous collection of works came after ... *cue eerie music*

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by RockDoctor (15477)

          "Write" is a strong word. How about "published posthumously as part of a larger collection of writings?"

          Are you saying that Adams published his own work posthumously? Neat trick.

          Of course he did. He's only spent the last decade dead for tax reasons.

          (You set 'em up ; I'll knock 'em in!)

          • "Write" is a strong word. How about "published posthumously as part of a larger collection of writings?"

            Are you saying that Adams published his own work posthumously? Neat trick.

            Of course he did. He's only spent the last decade dead for tax reasons.

            (You set 'em up ; I'll knock 'em in!)

            +1 Nicely Played

      • That was a strong comment. How about published humorously in as “Dongly Things, A Pox on the Panoply of Plugs,” in US version of MacWorld magazine in September 1996 (p. 140) and republished in his post-humous book, The Salmon of Doubt.

        How the hell is "write" a strong word? When and however it was published, he wrote it.

    • Stephen Fry and Douglas Adams were great friends and one of them was the second to own an Apple Mac in the UK ....

      Both were/are very knowledgeable about most techie things, especially Apple related (they are biased towards all things Apple...)

  • by smoothnorman (1670542) on Friday November 26, 2010 @12:12PM (#34350550)
    That's a great idea, but at this point shouldn't it be a USB-3.0 device?
    • by Kazymyr (190114)

      Nope. Not unless you come across a device that is USB-3 compatibleonly. As in, no backwards compatibility with USB 2.0 and 1.1. Then you would need a USB 3.0 analyzer.

      That is very unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

  • Why hardware? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bcmm (768152) on Friday November 26, 2010 @01:10PM (#34350944)
    Why does this need to be implemented in hardware?

    I presume the main purpose of this is analyzing the communication between a USB device and its proprietary Windows driver. Wouldn't it be easier to modify virtualization software to do this? Qemu can already connect a real USB device to a virtual machine (see its "-usbdevice host:" option).
    • Re:Why hardware? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by marcansoft (727665) <hector@@@marcansoft...com> on Friday November 26, 2010 @01:44PM (#34351204) Homepage

      Two main reasons: Embedded device peripherals, and USB device development. Sometimes you don't have access to the OS running on the host to set up a sniffer (game consoles, some smartphones, and similar). And sometimes you need to debug a USB device that you're developing, and software USB sniffers don't provide the kind of detail needed to do that effectively (some errors are only evident when you watch the stuff on the wire, not the high-level requests).

      Also, software sniffers are imperfect. I've had issues with them. A physical hardware device is completely transparent and can work without either side noticing anything. Sure, you can make do with a software sniffer sometimes, but that doesn't mean there's no point to a hardware version.

      And since this is open, it can be repurposed for other uses. For example, you could use only the device port, and turn it into a kind of usb device-to-device bridge that lets your computer impersonate a USB device. That is currently not possible except on embedded systems with USB device controllers, and those have limitations. You could also use it as a pretty good logic analyzer, given proper firmware.

    • by Xest (935314)

      Because then it's hardware and software independent.

      Want to know how that proprietary controller communicates with that proprietary console? simple. A windows driver wont always exist.

  • Pardon my ignorance, but why can't this sort of thing be done entirely in software? On consoles this wouldn't be possible, but for Windows can't you create a virtual USB driver which is a proxy to hardware USB device? It seems folks have been doing this sort of thing with Ethernet for a long time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dave420 (699308)
      You just answered your own question. This will work on *anything* that has a USB port. Anything.
    • Let's say you're working on trying to reverse engineer the Xbox 360 controller protocol...

      Yes, it has two modes. "Works on windows" and "works on xbox". Getting it to give up it's secrets to work on, "Works on Xbox" mode has been a pain in the ass.

  • I pledged $50, it's my most sincere hope that projects like this get off the ground. The students/hackers/tinkerers that are super into this kind of stuff could use all the tools they can get, I'm just a newbie when it comes to this stuff, but I can certainly respect it. Anyway, here's hoping that they hit 200% pledges, they're already at 115%!
  • Of all the tech efforts for Fry to get behind a USB protocol analyzer is one of the least likely in my opinion, but it is a good and needed effort. Kudos to Fry for picking it.
  • Having worked with several commercial USB protocol analyzers over the years I have yet to see one was anything more than an FPGA connected to an off the shelf USB PHY chip. As much as I like cute dog videos these guys need to post proper requirements and design specifications if they seriously want funding from me.
    • by bushing (20804)

      Having worked with several commercial USB protocol analyzers over the years I have yet to see one was anything more than an FPGA connected to an off the shelf USB PHY chip. As much as I like cute dog videos these guys need to post proper requirements and design specifications if they seriously want funding from me.

      Click through the links to the actual Kickstarter project description. We did some handwaving to keep it accessible for J. Random (Software) Hacker, but I think we gave enough details to answer your questions.

      (tl;dr: yes, you're right, and that's more or less what we're doing. Haven't decided on which PHY to use, looking at some SMSC and NXP parts.)

      OpenVizsla will be a completely open design of a device that can capture USB 1.1/2.0 (high-speed, full-speed and low-speed) traffic passively between a target U

  • Or did that header with "Fry" and "Sniffer Project" make you immediately think of the smell-o-scope from futurama?

"Look! There! Evil!.. pure and simple, total evil from the Eighth Dimension!" -- Buckaroo Banzai

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