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What (non-PC) Hardware Do You Hack? 696

Lis writes "Mike Langberg at the Merc News interviewed Scott Fullam - Scott wrote the book 'Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks' which includes things like a video periscope for your car, an Internet toaster, Cubicle Intrusion Detection Systems, and talking Furbys. (Instructions for the toaster and coffeemaker are up on the O'Reilly site.) Almost any kind of consumer electronic equipment can be modified to do things it wasn't intended to do. Ok, you'll probably void your warranty in the process, but you could end up with something even better than the original. Or not. But it's just gotta be interesting. So what have you hacked, and into what?"
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What (non-PC) Hardware Do You Hack?

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  • by bc90021 ( 43730 ) * <> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:52PM (#8378318) Homepage
    ...with all the people I've helped move lately, I've become somewhat of an expert on taking apart and putting together beds, desks, entertainment centers, large tables, small tables, etc...
    • by pangian ( 703684 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:02PM (#8378480)
      I don't know that following the IKEA directions counts as hacking.

      Now if you used all of the leftover pieces that for some reason you didn't "need" in the rebuild to create pulley system that saved you some trips upstairs (or an IKEAbot to do the work for you)... now *that* would be hacking.
    • Darth Vader Toy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by monta ( 14926 ) <<monta.junk> <at> <>> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @09:02PM (#8380675)
      I hacked my son's Darth Vader Toy to spin clockwise when I received and e-mail and counter-clockwise when my machine was attacked (port scanned). I used a floppy drive stepper motor and mouted it in an old CDROM case ip heral-2.jpg

      -Monta at
  • The gf? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gr33nNight ( 679837 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:54PM (#8378341)
    Does 'hacking' into my girlfriend count?
    • Re:The gf? (Score:5, Funny)

      by irhtfp ( 581712 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:57PM (#8378381)
      Yes, yes. We all know you've built a girl robot for the prom. Haven't we all? But it's not really hacking if you built it yourself. Now can we stay on topic?
    • Re:The gf? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:57PM (#8378393) Homepage
      *cough* She wasn't that secure in the first place.
    • Re:The gf? (Score:3, Funny)

      by w3weasel ( 656289 )
      DUDE, include some hints... I wanna hack my gf so as to disable the "bitch and moan" mode

      • Here are some ideas and suggestions for those who want to hack the U.S. woman culture. The first thing you should know is that hacking your own culture can be scary. It's definitely an E-Ticket ride, for those who want to tackle something seriously complex.

        Bitching is part of the American woman culture. It cannot be disabled. For a better experience, try a different nationality. In the U.S., the word "bitch" means both "complain" and "woman". Did you know that there are no other English-speaking countries in which this is so?

        This is a bit extreme, but a good exaggeration might be that if you have only known women of the U.S. culture, you have never really known a woman at all. Women in the U.S. commonly: 1) are infantile, 2) live in a fantasy world in which the rules of life don't apply to them, 3) are self-destructive, 4) want control, 5) believe that men are reponsible for all of their problems, 5) are irresponsible to an amazing degree, and 6) use anger and hostility to try to intimidate and get their way.

        Want examples? Read the women's magazines on any newstand in the United States. Watch some of the episodes of the Oprah Winfrey show, in which men are seen as the objects of fantasy, or as inherently evil enemies.

        If there are any readers who want to give an instant negative reaction to this, please think carefully first. I've traveled to 33 countries and talked with hundreds of women extensively from other countries about their lives. I'm serious about understanding the problems. Ask yourself, are you? Do you really care about what happens in your country?

        When I lived in England, it was common to see English and European movies in which there would be a comedy episode in which an American woman did something selfish and out of touch.

        That said, the American woman culture can be successfully hacked. It's a limited kind of success, like living in a cesspool and saying that you like the brown things that float past better than the black ones.

        First, don't take American women seriously. That gives them responsibility and they don't like that.

        Second, don't depend on them. They may want sex with you today for no good reason, and not want to talk to you tomorrow, also for no good reason. A Russian woman said, "It may take me only one minute to fall in love, but I have to be in love to want sex. American women sleep with anyone." I've heard that from people of several nationalities.

        Third, don't blame everything that happens in your relationships with U.S. women on yourself. If you did something bad, accept that. But recognize that a common way for a U.S. woman to get control is to try to get you believe that you are an inferior kind of being.

        Fourth, spend considerable time understanding the U.S. woman culture. It is, in many ways, not what it pretends to be. For example, women in the U.S. often project confidence, when they don't feel confident at all.

        Fifth, stay with what is logical. Logic has little importance for many U.S. women, even those who are successful in the U.S. computer industry. If you stray away from what is logical, you may soon be as confused as her.

        Sixth, treat women right even if they treat you badly. Everyone needs more experience in learning how to be good to themselves and others. I'm not religious, but it happens that Jesus Christ was right: Don't answer violence with more violence; don't answer bad behavior with more bad behavior. Like it said in the movie, "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", "Be excellent to each other." Being excellent to women does NOT mean spending money on them. You should each contribute equally to your relationship. If she doesn't want to do that, she doesn't want a real relationship.

        The U.S. is suffering a social breakdown. The breakdown is caused in part by the largely hidden breakdown of the U.S. woman culture. When a man cannot find a suitable woman friend, when a man and a woman cannot make a stable relationship, wh
        • by rark ( 15224 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @07:41AM (#8384556)
          I have mod points, and I very nearly modded this flamebait.

          But I've realized (after careful reading of this post and some perusal of your website) that this isn't flamebait or a troll, in the usual senses of the words, and that you seem in some ways to be a very thoughtful individual, if rather misguided about some issues.

          So I'll rebut your arguments instead.

          "Bitching", defined as complaining, is hardly a pursuit limited to women (american or not). I've worked in male-dominated (not purposely, just because it fell out that way) offices that held 'bitch sessions' that were called exactly that.

          The use of 'bitch' to denote all women is a misogynist term, and almost certainly did not originate with women. The more or less male analog to this is 'bastard', yet not all men (american or not) are illegitimate.

          > This is a bit extreme, but a good exaggeration
          > might be that if you have only known women of
          > the U.S. culture, you have never really known a
          > woman at all.

          Just for the record, my mother is Japanese, as is her mother. So I grew up with women who were not socialized predominately in the U.S. While I have not been able to leave the U.S. as an adult, I have certainly dealt with women who did not grow up here. So this argument does not apply to me.

          > Women in the U.S. commonly: 1) are infantile,
          > 2) live in a fantasy world in which the rules
          > of life don't apply to them, 3) are self-
          > destructive, 4) want control, 5) believe that
          > men are reponsible for all of their problems,
          > 5) are irresponsible to an amazing degree, and
          > 6) use anger and hostility to try to intimidate
          > and get their way.

          Oprah Winfrey and Women's magazines in general are not indicative of 'women's culture' any more than esquire, playboy and sports illustrated are indicative of 'men's culture'. They are corporate entities created to make money. Nothing more, nothing less.

          So, unless you would like to try to claim that men are 1. infantile, 2. live in a fantasy world in which the rules of life don't apply to them, 3. are self-destructive, 4. want control, 5. believe that women are reponsible for all of their problems, 6. are irresponsible to an amazing degree, and 7. use anger, hostility, violence and a larger body size to try to intimidate and get their way. I'd suggest you either reconsider your sources or reconsider your hypothesis

          Incidently, all of these things are true for individual examples, regardless of gender. None of these things are true for the entire gender.

          I fail to see a problem with some of these things ('want control' -- I want control over my life, and I fail to see why it's wrong for a woman to do so) and some of these problems (irresponsibility, blaming others unreasonably, intimidation) are problems in American culture, period, and are not particularly gender linked, though the way they manifest may be, i.e. statistically, women will be more likely to use emotional manipulation, like crying, where men will be more likely to use physical intimidation. But this is still statistical, and any individual may use either or neither, regardless of gender.

          Also, these traits bear startling resemblance to the psychological profiles of a healthy woman (as in, this is what a psychologically healthy woman is like -- a woman who acts as an adult, is responsible, likes men [and therefore sex], etc is neurotic and requires treatment) from the first half of the twentieth century. If you are not aware of this you may want to do more research here. A fair chunk of women's problems in this country stem from psychological and psychiatric practices.

          And yes, I really do care about what happens in my country. Which is one of the reasons I hate seeing energy wasted on misguided attacks and other strategies.

          I fail to see how the satiric practices of any country accurately reflect the reality of any other country reliably enough to draw good conclusions about that cou
    • Re:The gf? (Score:5, Funny)

      by StarfishOne ( 756076 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:54PM (#8379206)
      Please, let's skip the jokes about 'port sniffing' here... /. is about stuff that matters after all ;)
    • Re:The gf? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:16PM (#8382078)
      (Not my writing, but it answers your question)

      Dear Tech Support:

      Last year I upgraded from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0. I soon noticed that the new program began unexpected child processing that took up a lot of space and valuable resources. No mention of this was included with the product information.

      In addition, Wife 1.0 installed itself into all other programs and now launches during system initialization, where it monitors all other system activity.

      Applications such as Poker Night 10.3, Football 5.0, Hunting and Fishing 7.5, and Racing 3.6 no longer run, crashing the system whenever selected.

      I can't seem to keep Wife 1.0 in the background while attempting to run my favorite applications. I'm thinking about going back to Girlfriend 7.0, but the uninstall doesn't work on Wife1.0.

      Please help !!!!!!

      Thanks, A Troubled User.

      Dear Troubled User:

      This is a very common problem that men complain about. It is due to a primary misconception.

      Many people upgrade from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0, thinking that it is merely a Utilities and Entertainment program. Wife 1.0 is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its Creator to run EVERYTHING !!!!

      It is also impossible to delete Wife 1.0 and to return to Girlfriend 7.0. Hidden operating systems files cause Girlfriend 7.0 to emulate Wife 1.0, so nothing is gained. It is impossible to uninstall, delete, or purge the program files from the system once installed.

      You cannot go back to Girlfriend 7.0 because Wife 1.0 is designed to not allow this. Some have tried Girlfriend 8.0 or Wife 2.0 but end up with more problems than in the original system. Look in your Wife 1.0 manual under "Warnings--Alimony/Child Support."

      I recommend that you keep Wife 1.0 and work on improving the situation. I suggest installing the
      background application "Yes Dear" to alleviate software augmentation.

      Having installed Wife 1.0 myself, I also suggest that you read the entire section regarding 'General Partnership Faults' (GPFs). You must assume joint responsibility for any faults and problems that occur, regardless of their cause. You will also find that GPFs are cyclical.

      The best course of action is to enter the command

      C:\APOLOGIZE. Avoid excessive use of C:\YESDEAR
      because ultimately you will have to give the APOLOGIZE command before the system will return to normal anyway.

      Remember the system will run smoothly as long as you share the blame for all GPFs. Wife 1.0 is a great program, but it tends to be very high maintenance.

      Wife 1.0 comes with several support programs, such as Clean and Sweep 3.0, Cook It 1.5 (which replaces Burn It 1.0), and Do Bills 4.2. You must, however, be very careful how you use these programs.

      Improper use will cause the system to launch the program Nag Nag 9.5. Once this happens, the only way to improve the performance of Wife 1.0 is to purchase additional software. I recommend Flowers 2.1 and Diamonds 5.0 should this happen.

      WARNING!!!!! DO NOT, under any circumstances, install Secretary With Short Skirt 3.3. This application is not supported by Wife 1.0 and will cause irreversible damage to the operating system.

      Best of luck,
      Tech Support
      Have a Great Day!
  • by MoeMoe ( 659154 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:54PM (#8378344)
    I screwed around with a dialpad and set it up so when the right PIN is punched in, it turns on my computer. (I saw someone do it once with a garage door opener too)...
  • Aibo (Score:5, Funny)

    by PseudoThink ( 576121 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:54PM (#8378345)
    I hacked my Sony Aibo into its component parts. Worthless f'n robot.
  • Furby's (Score:5, Funny)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:54PM (#8378348) Journal
    I performed surgery on my Furby and created a secret stealing super agent. Muhahahaha...
  • Rapid prototyping (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geek42 ( 592158 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:55PM (#8378355)
    3 old dot matrix printers and a dremel become a 3D rapid prototyping machine that can carve a 3D relief into styrofoam (or anything else, if you've got the patience to let it run that slowly...)
  • by BigZaphod ( 12942 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:55PM (#8378358) Homepage
    I once painstakingly hacked a rotating fiber-optic Christmas tree and removed the parts that made it rotate. Does that count?
    • Re:Tree hacking.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by irhtfp ( 581712 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:05PM (#8378511)
      Speaking of tree hacking...

      We built a fireplace and I wanted something cool for the kids so I took one of the kid-high rocks and drilled a hole in it then epoxied in a brass "peep hole". I put a geode behind the rock and ran some fiber optic cable to it then mortared the whole thing up.

      The other ends of the fiber optic cables went to a hidden box which contains the guts of one of these fiber optic Xmas trees (including the spinning color wheel).

      Push a secret rock near the peep hole rock and the whole thing turns on - cool crystally color changing happiness. The kids love it. Now on the other side of the fireplace I installed a "peep show" but that's a different story...

    • by tgeller ( 10260 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:35PM (#8378894) Homepage
      Man, I wish you were *my* dad.
  • Cars! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Matey-O ( 518004 ) * <> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:56PM (#8378364) Homepage Journal
    I know a distressingly large amount of trivial about what USED to be my 1989 Corvette. Just about the only stock part left is the distributor _shaft_.
    • Re:Cars! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by flewp ( 458359 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:13PM (#8378621)
      I'd actually be interested in what people think about working with cars in terms of hacking. Do you consider it hacking if you're modifying your car to improve performance, for entertainment (ie, stereo stuff, DVD, etc) or reliability?

      Would it be hacking if you just took off the shelf (either stock or aftermarket) and installed them? Or would you have to kind of cobble together something that's rarely normally done for it to be hacking?
    • Re:Cars! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by robbleece ( 756203 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:31PM (#8378836) Homepage
      I think my Mini would count as a "hack" - See Picture []
    • Re:Cars! (Score:5, Funny)

      by ticklish2day ( 575989 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @10:10PM (#8381301)
      You know those demented motorists who drive at 40mph in the fast lane on the interstate? I was looking for a way to get back at those pseudo-maniacs. I found a cute LED display (BetaBrite []) in Sams. Picked one up, googled a bit and found the protocol. Put together a Java program to interface with the LED sign through RS-232. Placed it at the rear window/windshield, plugged it into my cigarette lighter socket and connected it to my laptop. Stored a few choice messages into the sign's memory.
      Now, depending on the situation, I display the appropriate message on the sign. It's fun to see the looks on people's faces! Good to know that if you are a geek, you don't have to take road-abuse.
  • phones (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 2MuchC0ffeeMan ( 201987 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:56PM (#8378379) Homepage
    phone's are my personal favorite, they are easy to do and you don't get shocked too hard... the light up ones and the caller id's are the best to do, changing leds and such. speaking of changing leds, someone will mention the dreamcast or ps2 LED mod []

    but phones are simple, and don't hold a big charge... although, there's nothing like a good 9 volt zap in the morning to wake you up.
    • Re:phones (Score:5, Funny)

      by operagost ( 62405 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:00PM (#8378445) Homepage Journal
      phone's are my personal favorite, they are easy to do and you don't get shocked too hard
      That's my primary criterion before beginning a hacking project - will the electric shock cause permanent injury or death?
      • Re:phones (Score:5, Funny)

        by youngerpants ( 255314 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:47PM (#8379114)
        Slightly OT

        I once bought an original Pole Position II arcade off ebay (about 120). After a few months the screen went a bit screwy, so i found a newsgroup concerning acade repair.

        The people on the group were really helpful and were talking me through fixing the problem... however I kept the arcade plugged in so I could see the results. FZZZZZZPT! I get knocked about 5 foot, manage to crawl to my laptop and type very slowly "brb, ambulance"

        my gf was first shocked, then scared, then calling me "pathetic"

    • Re:phones (Score:3, Interesting)

      by enrayged ( 67136 )
      I once had an '82 Camaro RS (ok still do but its on blocks) that originally came with a very weak v6 engine. I "accidently" blew the motor... so my dad and me hacked a 350 that came out of a 72 Camaro (nice 4 bolt main... still have that too) into the car. Was fun finding motor mounts, re-wiring, but the coolest part was mating the little 5 speed to it... took some fancy footwork finding the right bellhousing, which finally came off of a camaro, but of course it didnt have the bracket for the hydrolic clu
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:57PM (#8378383)
    nitrous-oxide powered nose hair clippers and leave it at that (and way over there against the wall if you know what's good for you).

    Is it staring at me?

  • by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:57PM (#8378402)
    its non-technical, but i think it counts for a hack.

    When i was in high school there was a particular big dumb jock that would pick on me. It was a catholic high school. So I stole some official letterhead paper from the guidance counselor's office and an official envelope with the school info on it.

    I proceeded to type up an expulsion letter on the letterhead paper, saying he had been caught masturbating on campus, and as a good catholic school we could not allow that. I made it sound much more official. Had my friend forge the dean's signature, and that if they (his parents) had any questions about it, feel free to call (phone number included).

    Then I mailed it.

    he never found out it was me that did that, and he did still pick on me... but i'd say I got even.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:17PM (#8378676)
      Well I have a situation with a particular arsehole at work who actually complained to higher management about me using *his* coffee up, so I take revenge when ever I feel like it.

      I hack into his Windows machine and kill the WinLogon process. Then I jump up and go make coffee - looking all innocent! It takes 5-10 seconds before the machine just reboots. He's reinstalled Windows 4 times so far and changed most of his hardware. I let it go for a week or two between reboots to give him the impression that a rebuild actually helps things.

      I try and time these events with his lunchtime game playing or when he's lecturing a junior on how good his software is. (During his good programming lectures I selectively kill OLE processes, causing his app to fail with access violations.)

      Pathetic I know, but boy it cracks us all up.
      • Another good Windows hack -- delete/rename the HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows NT/CurrentVersion/WinLogon/Userinit registry value.

        This allows the user to log in, but he'll be logged off immediately since userinit.exe is the program responsible for launching the Windows Explorer desktop. The only way to repair it is with a boot disk or by editing the afflicted machine's registry remotely.
      • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:39PM (#8378961) Journal
        It's FUN working in an office full of old time "techies" and "programmers" who don't know shit about a modern PC..

        My old standby is "NET SEND * ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!" or a "WILDCAT IS ON TEH SPOKE" or a "CRAMAK GONNA FIX IT!" or other such geek in-joke nonsense.

        Noone knows where the messages came from (I change my computers ident to something like "CPU-CORE" to make it look official).

        The best use of it was when a kid who worked here for about a month was fired, I changed my PC's name to his login ID, and started NET SENDing messages like "FIRE ME, WILL YA? YOU'll BE SORRY MOTHERFUCKERS!!!"..

        They pulled plugs out of the T1 demarq spot, unplugged all the modem lines, disabled the WiFi module we use to test our mobile apps, but the messages persisted!

        I could hardly keep a straight face as people were bursting into my office, panic stricken, saying "He's in our computers!! He's going to delete all our files! How's he getting in! How do we stop him?"
        • by RaymondRuptime ( 596393 ) <> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @07:25PM (#8379553) Homepage
          Conversely, it can be fun to work in an office of old-time Win weasels, who know nothing about Unix, but manage to have much cooler workstations than I do. A simple amusement is to wait until they have someone in their office (or on the phone) to whom they are loudly bragging about their technical prowess, and then telnet in and run some nice .au like a toilet flushing.

          BTW, our Sun systems have the installed by default in /usr/demo. I always thought this was very considerate of them, but I do wonder what the intended use for it was...
    • In a similar vein, I had an Indian friend who, even though he was a literary genius, had difficulty with the more mundane features of life such as paper work. The kids in the college dorm forged an email from the university's Dean of Students saying that, unfortunately, his student visa had been revoked because he had not completed the forms properly and to report to the consulate as soon as possible to avoid being deported.

      He screamed very loudly.
  • by IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:58PM (#8378413)
    I had some cobwebs up in the corner of the tall "cathedral" ceiling of my apartment. I zip-tied my Swiffer to a mop handle, making an extra-long Swiffer.

    If you don't think this is a good hack, you have no imagination.
  • Routers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:58PM (#8378415)
    Many routers (wired and wireless) are free or dirt cheap after mail in rebate. I've attempted to hack cheap belkin and US Robotics routers I've picked up - attempting to pick apart the firmware. The only thing is, once you flash it, if you made one mistake the device is as good as ruined. On the belkin router, I made the kernel out to be a Nucleus Plus kernel with strings with "Aurora" in them scattered throughout. I found a large hunk of gzipped data in the file, but I couldn't find any structures deeper than that. Does anyone know about the structures of this type of firmware, and know how I could take it apart, to at the very least see how it works?
  • by zhrike ( 448699 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:58PM (#8378423)
    Running solar ignitors to a couple of bottle rockets mounted to the grill of an old Buick Regal, connected to a switch panel in the front?

    Ok, maybe not, but it was fun to have bottle rocket launchers in the front of the car.

    Once in a while, they actually went where you wanted them to (the rockets, not the car).
  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:59PM (#8378426) Homepage
    Almost any kind of consumer electronic equipment can be modified to do things it wasn't intended to do.

    *eyes electric massagers*

    You don't saaaay....
  • by gertsenl ( 719370 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:59PM (#8378431)
    It's easy, with just a standard quad-NAND integrated circuit, to make your alarm clock wall mounted.

    1) Hold clock up by power cord, against wall
    2) Position IC over power cord
    3) Apply hammer to IC, driving pins 1-16 into wall.
    4) Connect ground, Vcc, and inputs as desired.

  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) * on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:01PM (#8378468) Homepage Journal
    Home ownership: the ultimate hackers dream.
  • How about... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Slick_Snake ( 693760 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:02PM (#8378476) Journal
    building a Apple Lisa (more or less) from the ground up for a class with nothing but the 68000 reference material, the chips, and wire.
    • Re:How about... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by freshmkr ( 132808 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:47PM (#8379111) Homepage
      building a Apple Lisa (more or less) from the ground up for a class with nothing but the 68000 reference material, the chips, and wire.

      I find that unlikely. Among other quirks, the Apple Lisa has a home-grown MMU, developed in house by engineers who empirically determined what 68000 instructions could be restarted after a page fault, and how. The 68000 was not designed for virtual memory, you see, so the Apple folks had to experiment and create their own software and hardware to make it happen.

      I would be surprised if anyone put that much that effort into a class. If you built a 68k computer with a bitmap display, then you have something there, but it's not a Lisa. Don't think that just because the Lisa came out before the first Mac that it's a more primitive system--in fact it's quite the opposite.

      Please substantiate your claim!

  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:04PM (#8378491) Homepage
    If you're looking anywhere other than out your windows or at your dashboard while you're driving, there are issues.

    And it's nice to know that my dreams of Internet toast have been fulfilled.

    Anyone with a little skill/determination (yeah, that's a slash, not an "and") can hack anything; I think a more interesting article would be about maverick hacks that actually turned out to be useful. Like, say someone turned a toaster into a door-to-door salesman irradiation device. That would be amazingly useful.
  • by nineoneone ( 748675 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:04PM (#8378492)
    I hacked several functioning consumer electronic devices into fully-working doorstops?

  • by phasm42 ( 588479 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:04PM (#8378499)
    I once dremeled a PCB from an old power supply into several pieces, then resoldered and glued it back together so that it still worked, and tried to sell it on eBay as modern art. Unfortunately, no one bit. An interesting hack I've seen is something I think a lot of electronics slashdotters out there should note: Cheap oscilloscope using your sound card. The software is available on the web, just get your signals into at +/- 1 or 2V range, and you have a dual channel low frequency scope that plugs into any sound card. Check the voltage range of line-out to get an idea of what's acceptable. I started making an adapter to provide a high impedance input and scaling the signal down, but got distracted and haven't revisited the project in a while.
  • EFI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by activesynapsis ( 706402 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:05PM (#8378509)
    Reprogramming the fuel injection computer on my car. When you change pretty much anything on the engine (cam, intake, etc...) in order to make it run to full potential, you really need to change the fuel tables.

    Plus on 80/90's GM EFI cars, there's a cruise fuel saving routine that's not enabled from the factory. 29 MPG highway from a 350 CI V8 baybee.

  • by robslimo ( 587196 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:05PM (#8378515) Homepage Journal
    My first big hack was tearing into my radio shack scanning receiver and interfacing the serially programmed PLL tuner IC to the parallel printer port of a PC. Gave my cheapo 8 channel scanner an infinite channel memory and other features.

    I've also interfaced a "radio controlled clock" to a PC to automagically set the exact time.

    Turned an old CD-ROM drive into a hand-powered LED toy [] for my son.

    Latest interesting project was to convert a box fan motor into a permanent magnet for use in a wind generator... that hasn't worked out too well so far. []
  • Music Gear (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Moeses ( 19324 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:07PM (#8378548)
    Recently I've been studying up on electronics and modifying the electrical components to my basses. If you're a geek and into music this can be a lot of fun. It has the added bonus of helping you as a musician really understand every single part of your signal chain.

    There are several reasons why this is cool. The components of a passive pickup system are real simple, allowing you to get started easily. As you build up your base of knowledge you can get involved in much more complex projects, like modifying amplifiers, building your own stomp boxes, etc.

    Another reason this is a cool field is that you can approach it from different angles. If you're good with calculus you can design and calculate the frequency response of your filters before you build them and know exactly what you're doing. You can design a whole effect if you want and model it in circuit modelling software. In fact, with some programs I believe you can do that and use a wav file for input to get an idea of how the circuit will sound, although I haven't tried that myself.

    If you're a physical experimenter kind of a person you can take existing circuits and see, for example, how a tone knob sounds different when the pot is connected to different values of capacitors. Plus, if your favorite part is building, not designing then there is a huge amount of free schematics for things on the web, kits you can order, etc.

    It's loads of fun (pun intended?) and you can really individualize your sound (for better or for worse).

  • Grill (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Schnee ( 743890 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:07PM (#8378550)
    A Weber Grill, old hair dryer (metal barrel), and various compression fittings hack nicely into a turbo-grill. Just attach the dryer to one of the bottom ash-emptying holes (and turn it (the dryer) on, 'natch). Turns out Alton Brown also did this. He is the ultimate kitchen hacker.
  • a camera (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:09PM (#8378570)
    not quite an electronics hack, and not quite a full modification... more like a hacked add-on accessory...

    When the Hasselblad Xpan (makes 24mm x 60 mm panoramic frames on 35mm film) was first marketed, I drooled over the ads, but didnt have the budget for it.

    But I did have a medium format Rolleicord TLR (which makes 60mm x 60mm frames on 120 film), and I knew that a 35mm film adapter existed for it, so I shopped around used camera store until I found one that had kits.

    Now the full kit prevents you from not using the 35mm mask (to make 24mm x 36mm frames).

    Luckily, the store manager had an incomplete kit, which I got at a substantial discount from a complete (collectible priced) kit.

    So I used the two parts that serve to hold the 35mm film canister, and used some medical duct tape wound on either end of a 120 film spool to narrow the space for the 35mm film and voila!

    Cheap "real panoramic" 35mm photos.

    The only downside is that I have to rewind the film in a changebag or in a darkroom.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:10PM (#8378579)
    Back in college, I used to love synthetic programming [] in an HP-41C. When it was first discovered, one had to use various evil processes (yanking a memory modules, corrupting a magnetic card). The result was programming instructions that HP never intended. With synthetic programming, one could access hidden memory locations, display strange characters, and emit unusual sounds (just be careful with "STO c"). I spent way to much time exploring all of the tricks and documenting what did what.

    My favorite little synthetic program made the machine tick ominously like a Geiger counter.

    Thanks for bringing back fond memories from 20 years ago.
  • by erick99 ( 743982 ) * <> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:10PM (#8378586)
    My boys are 10 and 13 now, but back when they were more like four and five, family and friends thought it was fun to buy them toys that created noise volumes that made a landing 747 seem quiet in comparison. I took the toys apart and would find the right value resistor that would top off the speaker volume at some level that was at least just under a dull roar. Not the most ingenious of hacks, but very effective.

    Happy Trails!


  • by FatalTourist ( 633757 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:11PM (#8378594) Homepage
    Anything that makes noise can be used for musical purposes. Tiny kiddie keyboards, Speak n Spells, etc. Always fun to take apart, add audio outputs, extra knobs, buttons etc.

    See Reed Ghazala [], father of circuit bending.

  • by promethean_spark ( 696560 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:11PM (#8378609)
    I put the thermistor on a programmable home thermostat on the end of a cable to allow for remote programmable temperature control of reptile cages and aquariums. Half the price of commercial solutions, with more features and higher reliability.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:13PM (#8378622)
    Jesus, the amount of things you can do with a hacked Xbox are insane.

    You can turn it into a baby Linux box - Thank God Linux doesn't need much hardware to run well.

    You can turn it into a media center - Home brew applications allow for a/v playback of any codec you can think of. Now it even supports HD.

    You can turn it into a portable Xbox (Instead of lugging around your games, just put 'em on a HDD)

    You can turn it into a homebrew gaming system, with support for stuff like Stepmania (DDR simulator)

    You can turn it into an arcade with emulation support for any gaming system that isn't current generation (sans maybe the Sega Saturn).

    Well, you get the point. $200 Xbox + $50 mod chip + $100 HDD = $5,000 worth of entertainment equipment
  • by lone_marauder ( 642787 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:15PM (#8378650)
    It was my first electric motor. I was about 9 years old and had extracted my first electric motor from some doomed toy, and figured out how to attach wires manually to the brush leads and a battery and make it run. Unfortunately, as with most things I played around with at that age, I didn't know much about cause and effect.

    I believe the motor was originally driven by two 1.5 V AA batteries, and I was using a 9V. (Hey, it's easier to connect!) My plan was to use it as a climbing winch, enabling Snake Eyes (tm) to sneak up on the evil Destro(tm)'s clifftop lair. I tied one end of a 3 foot piece of sewing thread to the motor shaft, and the other to Snake Eyes' left hand. I wedged the motor under a book and connected the battery to winch him to the top!

    Little did Snake Eyes know what kind of evil Destro had in store for him. Little also did I know - it happened so fast that I am still fuzzy on some details. At some point, Snake Eyes stopped standing on the ground at the base of my dresser and entered into a state where he was spinning at insane velocities about the motor, attached by a tangled 6 inch piece of thread. I have no memory of a transition between these two states.

    The moral of the story - if an evil overlord leaves an electric motor conveniently located for you to winch your way up the cliff face to his mountain fortress, don't use it!
  • by rongage ( 237813 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:16PM (#8378663)
    The best hack I did personally, was to recode the eprom on a Tranz-330 Credit Card terminal. Was able to get the terminal to constantly display the following lines:
    Answers: $1.00
    Answers w/thought: $2.00
    Correct Answers: $4.00
    Dumb Answers still free
    Visa/MC Accepted...

    Sold it on ebay a few months later for like $80.00.
  • by EdinBear ( 602993 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:18PM (#8378681)
    A friend of mine (who can hack BGP - respect!) had to do military service back in Italy - so he devoured the Rule Book.

    Within weeks he had his unit all wearing beards.

    He arrested a senior member of the army who came back to the base too late after a night out.

    And the best bit: In the army one's transport to and from home each weekend is paid for. He lives the other side of Europe from Italy, so they offered to fly him. But no - the rules state that it had to be by train (which takes what, a day? a day and a half?) so he ended up spending just a couple of days a week in Italy...

    They sent him home soon afterwards. Nicely. Permanently.

    Give this guy a system (of whatever kind) and he'll do scary scary things...

  • squirt gun (Score:5, Funny)

    by doofus1 ( 466720 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:21PM (#8378720)
    When I was in college, my friend and I mounted the nozzle from a squirt gun into the grill of his honda civic. We attached that to the windshield wiper supply line and installed a valve under the dash to swithc from windshield wiper mode to soak unsuspecting pedestrian mode. Not very difficult, but man was that good for days of stupid fun.
  • Morning simulator (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:25PM (#8378767) Homepage Journal
    Ever notice how it's so difficult sometimes to wake up when it's dark outside? It seems that I'm at higher risk for getting up late when it's overcast or stormy outside. It seems that the light level triggers how awake you are. If I have to wake up early, I'll usually leave a light on in the room; it helps a lot. But it's not the best solution, and I'd love to smooth out the roughly torn edge between sleep and consciousness when the buzzer screams at you.

    I'm building a clock that includes a wall socket. You plug a lamp into the socket, and half an hour before your set wakeup time, the lamp begins glowing. It increases brightness gradually over a half hour so that by the time you need to wake up, you already are. It's not really a new idea, but it's fun. It uses a realtime clock chip, a microcontroller, and a triac for power control. Maybe not so much hacking...I guess it does "hack" a desk lamp into a wakeup alarm notification device.

    Most of my other hacks are computer related; for example hacking a Sandisk 6-in-1 memory card reader to work with ALL CompactFlash cards, instead of only the new ones, with a single wire. I hacked a Nintendo R.O.B. into an internet-controlled pan/tilt webcam mount [] in an hour or two. Also ran a small server in college which used fetchmail to check for new messages, and would flash one LED over my desk and one in the door's peephole, so I knew I had mail just by looking down the hall from a friend's room. Lots of random stuff like that. My most recent major project was a small CNC machine, the computer, power supply, and driver electronics housed inside the case of an old Yokogawa data analyzer.
  • Good hacking tool: (Score:5, Informative)

    by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:30PM (#8378816) Journal
    PIC processors can be insanely useful for this sort of thing and very cheap (most around $10) and easy to get, and once you've got the basics down (which can seem a bit daunting at first) they are very easy to learn and program to do pretty much whatever you want. The playstation mod chips are cheap miniture 8-pin PICs usually - just to give you an idea of what they can do, and some of the more advanced models have RS232 (i think) builtin so you can directly interface it with your PC. Add to that some cheap easy to use wireless modules (they just take a power supply and you stick the on/off binary signal in and thats all you need, takes 2 minutes) you can do some nifty remote controlled things. Basically anything from just switching something on and off or blinking some leds (which can be programmed in minutes) to full fledged computing can be done with these babys. They have loads of extras too - analog-digital converters, eeprom memory, high-current switching and more.

    Remote key-loggers anyone? ;)

    The PIC makers []
    More stuff []
  • R/C cars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RainbowSix ( 105550 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:31PM (#8378835) Homepage
    When I was in middle school I came across an old cheapo 9.6v R/C truck. I took the wires off of the motor and wired it to a homebuilt relay that I made out of a small motor and some aluminum foil (motor comes on, foil on the arm spins and makes contact to more foil, completing the circut. Reverse to stop). Through the relay I connected 2 more 9.6v batteries directly to the motor.

    Holy shit that thing was fast. It didn't last very long, was not wired to go backwards, and couldn't turn without flipping over, and took 3 battery packs, but it was fast!
  • Foreign hardware (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:34PM (#8378870) Journal
    I was gifted an Mp3 player that came from China. Unfortunately, it also came with Chinese instructions (though the unit had English on the display and buttons) and a 200-240V adaptor (5V 600mA output).

    This was a fairly sensitive unit, so I wanted to be careful about the voltage. A decent step-up transformer for 110-220V is around $70 here. It's also not as easy as one things to find a decent priced 5V/600mA adaptor (most are about 300mA, and not all that "stable").

    I eventually came to the bright conclusion that computer power leads have a 5V connector, so I made an adaptor for the front of my PC. I then removed the original 200V adaptor and simply connected the power lead to a plug that fits in the PC. Viola, my MP3 player now charges nicely and plays tunes while I'm on the go.
  • by MBraynard ( 653724 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:37PM (#8378907) Journal
    Bear with me here, this is legitemate and not a joke.

    After hours, the desk attendant is replaced by a rent-a-cop. These rent-a-cops, to make things convinient for themselves, are in the practice of comandering one of the elevators so that it only moves when they put their key in.

    Similarly, the cleaning people, when moving from floor to floor, leave their wheeled carts on the elevator and disable the movement of the elevator to save them the trouble of waiting on an elevator and moving their carts out of the elevator.

    This has, at times, annoyed me. So I figured out that if I enter the elevator and [b]hold down[/b] the floor button, the elevator door will close and I will move to my floor.

    This mischief of mine is mostly directed at the rent-a-cops because when I enter the building it is easist for me to just grab their elevator and ride it up, leaving them thinking that they didn't set it right.

    However, the bigger impact is on the cleaning people, for when I take their elevator, I'm also taking their wheeled carts, and it must be a pain in the butt to try get back that elevator (one of three). I mean, they push a return elevator button, and it's 1:3 chance that it will be the right one.... every time! Because of this, I'm much less likely to hax0rz their elevator.

  • silly putty timers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by greywire ( 78262 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:42PM (#8379021) Homepage
    I used silly putty to create "timers" for instance to turn off a light switch. By dragging a wire through a blob of silly putty, using gravity or a rubber band, you can trigger lots of things. Silly putty by its nature makes for a relatively constant rate of travel and you can pretty accurately time things.
  • Answering machine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:51PM (#8379165)
    I hacked a cheap Radio Shack answering machine that used standard cassette tapes to never rewind the outgoing message tape. I could then put multiple outgoing messages on the tape that would play a different message to each caller. Gave my friends some variety and me an easy way to tell how many calls where received while I was out.

    Until the night when I got someone who just kept redialing the phone to hear all the outgoing messages. (Back in the day when telemarketers did their own dialing, would note interesting answering machines, and then call them up again outside work hours and share them with friends.)
  • by Chagatai ( 524580 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @07:00PM (#8379272) Homepage
    I saw a comedian the other day on Comedy Central who made fun of the good ol' Speak & Spell. He could almost duplicate the voice from that wonderful learning tool and said things demonically like, "A, B, C, D, E, F, G... I will eat your family." Very funny skit, but it also reminded me of a "hack" I did to my Speak & Spell when I was 6 or so that awakened the true demon of the dictionary.

    I had one of the original Speak & Spells with the raised-button letters (unlike the later models that were completely flat). On all Speak & Spells there is a "Code" mode where up to 8 letters can by typed and transposed into a code that only people with other Speak & Spells could decipher (ROT13, or something else very weak). One day I grew bored with this mode and leaned on all of the buttons at once. This caused the multi-directional character LEDs to all light up like 8 little boxes. I then started pressing the apostrophe key. Each box would turn into an apostrophe. Boop... Boop... Boop... Boop... Boop... Boop... Boop...

    As I pressed the apostrophe key one more time to erase the last malformed chaacter, I awakened the demon within the Speak & Spell. All of a sudden the Speak & Spell went into the "Say It" mode where it would teach particular words. Normally, it would show a word like "OCEAN" and the speaker would state, "Say it... OCEAN." But in this crazy mode I had put it into, the speaker would shout incoherently. "Say it...HUGAXCKHUAAAHRETA!!!" It would keep on doing this, screaming incoherently until the enter key was pressed, at which time it would pick a random word and shout it out. "MOTHER!"

    It definitely made my parents laugh, and the same Speak & Spell works to this day with the same bug. Keep in mind that the Voyager space probe also had less memory than a Speak & Spell, too...

  • by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @07:33PM (#8379658) Journal
    About 20 years ago I 'hacked' a car LED clock module by wiring some ribbon cable to the relevant parts of the PCB and mounting the unit with a 12V transformer+PSU, programming switches and a 10A mains relay in a small case - the end result was a unit into which I could plug my coffee percolator and have it 'brew-up' at the pre-set time in the morning! Because it also had a 59min count down timer, I could also set the coffee brewing at other times knowing that the timer wouldn't let the percolator boil dry!

    My most recent hack was to make up a short lead that runs from a universal (90-250v) multi-voltage 2A DC power supply. On the 'output' side of the lead is a 12V car 'cigar lighter' socket into which I can plug a Belkin 12V 'car' to 5V USB socket adaptor - now with the relevant leads I can charge my phone or PDA or use anything else that normally takes power from a USB port - this means I only have to take one power unit with me on holiday or on business rather than one PSU for phone, another for PDA, another for digital camera, NiMh battery charger etc.
  • Microwave Oven (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ray Radlein ( 711289 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @07:34PM (#8379663) Homepage
    When I was growing up, we had a microwave oven in our kitchen whose clock could be set by punching in the time on the number keypad, and hitting the "Clock Set" button. Pretty standard, realy.

    So one night, with more free time than is strictly healthy, my friend Steve Roche and I were sitting around microwaving things, when one of us decided to set the time on the clock to "6:66", just to see what would happen.

    Fortunately for us, the programmers of the firmware didn't include any validation code, because it let us set the time to 6:66. We sat there for a minute, debating what would happen next. Would it change to 7:07? 6:67? 6:07? 6:67 it was. What would happen, then, after 6:69? Again we debated -- would it go to 6:70? By that time we sort of assumed it would.

    Well, it fooled us but good -- after 6:69, it invented a new number . The display read "6:6^", or something like that. We watched with fascination as it made up five more brand new digits, before changing to 6:70.

    Damned if it wasn't using hexadecimal.

    Then we microwaved some wormy flour, which stunk up the house in some awful, indescribable way, and ended the microwave experiments for the evening.
  • by fatron ( 645513 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @07:57PM (#8379984)
    Back when I was in high school, I had a friend who always left his old 1970's Mercury Capri parked at his place of work unlocked with the keys in it. He had just installed a new stereo, but didn't complete the job, so there were all sorts of loose wires hanging from under his dash board. One day when I drove past his place of work, I saw his car there and remembered I had an old ahoooooogah horn sitting in my trunk. I decide to stop by and see what kind of evil things I could do to him. I worked for about 20 minutes sticking the horn under the drivers seat, grounding it to a seat bolt, and connecting the positive lead to a switched terminal on his fuse box. When he got out of work that night and started his car, things got pretty amusing. At first he couldn't figure out what was going on, then once he realized what was happening, he started banging around on the horn to shut it off. He finally managed to get the horn to shut off by knocking the ground wire loose, unfortunately, since power was still running to it, it went off everytime he hit a bump. He drove about 5 miles home with that horn going off under his seat, needless to say, he didn't think it was nearly as funny as I did.
  • Opel Display (Score:4, Informative)

    by Visser ( 468077 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @03:03AM (#8383657) Homepage
    Hello, I hacked the Opel display. Normally it shows the RDS information of the carradio. Now it shows the revolutions per minute of the engine. I used a PIC processor to measure the rpm and talk to the display. []

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.