Great Scott Gadgets

open source hardware for innovative people

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PortaPack H1 at DEF CON 23


Jared Boone of ShareBrained Technology gave demonstrations of his new PortaPack H1 at the DEF CON 23 Demo Lab. I joined him at his table to help talk with people about the add-on for HackRF One.

Jared Boone at DEF CON Demo Labs

PortaPack H1 turns HackRF One into a portable SDR platform. With an LCD, navigation control, and audio input and output, the device can be used as a handheld spectrum analyzer and can implement a wide variety of useful radio functions. A microSD slot on the PortaPack can be used for waveform or firmware storage, and a coin cell keeps the real-time clock and a small amount of configuration RAM going while the device is turned off.

PortaPack H1

Of course, the hardware designs and firmware for PortaPack H1 are published under an open source license. Jared has done an amazing job of implementing SDR functions for PortaPack that run entirely on HackRF One's ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller.

To use PortaPack H1, you'll need a HackRF One, and you'll probably want a USB battery pack to make it a fully portable solution. Another popular add-on is the beautiful milled Aluminum enclosure for PortaPack. Jared provides a ShareBrained Technology guitar pick with every PortaPack H1. It is the perfect tool for opening your HackRF One's injection molded plastic enclosure prior to PortaPack installation.

There was a wonderful moment at the Demo Lab when Jared tuned his PortaPack to a frequency being used by Ang Cui at a nearby table. Jared's PortaPack was plugged in to a small speaker, so we could all listen to the AM radio transmission originating from a printer at Ang's table. The printer was physically unmodified but was running malicious software that transmitted radio signals with a funtenna! For more information about Ang's implementation, visit funtenna.org.

My First Look at rad1o Badge


Over the next several days, thousands of hackers will gather at the Chaos Communication Camp in Germany. An electronic badge for the event is being prepared, and it is based on my design for HackRF One!

At DEF CON over the weekend, I was fortunate to be able to meet up with Ray, one of the members of the Munich CCC group responsible for the rad1o badge. Ray was wearing one of the prototype units, so I was able to take a close look.

rad1o prototype at DEF CON 23

The design is a variation of HackRF One. It includes a small LCD and an audio interface, so it is a bit like having a HackRF One plus a PortaPack H1 on a single board. A slim, rechargeable LiPo battery is mounted on the back. The visual design of the PCB looks like a traditional AM/FM radio receiver complete with an antenna (which is not the actual RF antenna) and a dial (which is not really a dial).

There are some design modifications, especially in the RF section, that seemed strange to me at first. The reason for many of these changes is that the rad1o team was able to get certain chip vendors to agree to sponsor the badge by donating parts. By redesigning around donated components they were able to reduce the cost to a small fraction of the cost of manufacturing HackRF One, making it possible to build the rad1o badge for several thousand campers.

The firmware for rad1o is derived from HackRF One firmware but is in a separate repository. Because of the LCD and other differences between the two hardware designs, they are not firmware-compatible. When using rad1o as a USB peripheral, it is fully supported by existing software that supports HackRF One. Future rad1o firmware will use a USB product ID of 0xCC15 assigned from the Openmoko pool, but the shipping firmware will borrow HackRF One's product ID. This will ensure that any existing software for HackRF One will work with rad1o during camp. The new product ID (0xCC15) is already supported in libhackrf release 2015.07.2, so it should be easy for people to update to it in the near future.

If you are new to Software Defined Radio and are looking forward to using the badge as a way to get started with SDR, I recommend starting with my video series. You might want to download the videos before leaving for camp. Also take a look at Getting Started with HackRF and GNU Radio and the recommended software for rad1o. If you plan to do firmware or hardware hacking, be sure to clone the rad1o repositories. For examples of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) on the LPC43xx, I suggest studying Jared Boone's firmware for PortaPack H1. Also check out the video of Jared's Software-Defined Radio Signal Processing with a $5 Microcontroller at BSidesLV 2015.

As an open source hardware developer, it is extremely satisfying to see folks start with my design and do something amazing like the rad1o badge. I'm excited to be attending camp for my first time ever, and I can't wait to see the projects people will come up with!

Wassenaar Comments


Today I submitted the following comment on the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Proposed Rule: Wassenaar Arrangement Plenary Agreements Implementation; Intrusion and Surveillance Items.

Thank you for inviting comments on the Wassenaar Arrangement Plenary Agreements Implementation for Intrusion and Surveillance Items. As a member of the information security community, I am concerned about the effects of the proposed implementation on my industry.

I'll keep this brief by voicing support for the comments made by other prominent members of the community: Google, Katie Moussouris, Robert Graham, and Sergey Bratus et al.

My greatest concern is clarity of the proposed rule. If you must provide an answer to a frequently asked question about what a rule means, it may be because the rule was not written clearly. I was particularly troubled by the publication of the FAQ regarding the proposed rule, partly because it indicated a lack of clarity in the rule but also because the answers didn't seem much clearer. Had the answers been clear, I would still be concerned that the text of the rule would not be interpreted in the future in the same manner as your present interpretation. The text matters, and it is overbroad and unclear even to well informed members of the information security community.

Unfortunately, computer security is an unsolved problem. The people who are working to improve the state of the art of computer security are diverse members of a global community of researchers. The proposed rule directly prevents the sharing of information among those researchers, and it will have a negative impact on the security of computing systems and software for the entire world.

Software is a form of information, and control of the flow of information is very different from control of the transport of physical goods. I urge you to remove software from the scope of the Wassenaar Arrangement at the annual meeting of Wassenaar Arrangement members in December 2015.

Black Hat Student Pass


If you are a full-time university student and would like a free ticket to this summer's Black Hat Briefings, send an email to freestuff@greatscottgadgets.com today. We have two tickets to give away, and we would like to give them to students who share our interests. You must meet Black Hat's criteria, and you will be responsible for your own travel and lodging.

We'll be busy at Black Hat USA this year. I'm teaching two sessions of my Software Defined Radio class, and I will be giving a talk at the Briefings about the NSA Playset. Additionally, Taylor and I will show off a new project called YARD Stick One at the Black Hat Arsenal.

HackRF One at 1 MHz


We've decided to advertise the fact that HackRF One operates all the way down to 1 MHz, not just to 10 MHz. This isn't a change to the hardware design; it is simply an acknowledgment that the hardware has always worked at such low frequencies and that we support operation down to 1 MHz.

transmit power plot

In fact, HackRF One can even function below 1 MHz, but the performance drops considerably as the frequency decreases. The curve is reasonably flat down to about 1 MHz, so we consider that to be the lower limit for most uses.

Now that we've seen consistent low frequency performance across multiple manufacturing runs, we're comfortable changing the official specification: HackRF One operates from 1 MHz to 6 GHz. Try attaching a long wire antenna to listen to shortwave radio!

Although HackRF One has reasonable performance down to 1 MHz, it performs better at higher frequencies. To get the best possible performance down to 1 MHz and lower, I recommend using an external upconverter/downconverter such as the excellent Ham It Up, open source hardware designed by Opendous.

Open House Invitation


For the first time ever, Dominic, Taylor, and I will all be in the same place at the same time in June. We decided we should celebrate, and you are invited!

Please join us at our recently expanded lab in Evergreen, Colorado on 11 June 2015 from 17:00 to 19:00. You can see the lab, talk to us about our projects, check out our latest prototypes, and even learn to solder!

RSVP to info@greatscottgadgets.com by 4 June 2015 so we don't run out of refreshments.

Great Scott Gadgets
27902 Meadow Drive, Suite 150
Evergreen, Colorado 80439
(the Canyon Courier building)

Free Stuff, February 2015


Great Scott Gadgets is pleased to announce the recipients of our inaugural Free Stuff give-away. This being our first give-away, we got a little overexcited and ended up giving away 5 HackRF One units to people who made requests in February! We were excited to see so much interest in our Free Stuff program, and after much deliberation we were able to narrow the field down to these 5 entrants. Congratulations, and we can't wait to see what you do with your HackRF Ones!

Alex Page wrote to us representing the Interlock hackerspace in Rochester, New York, which has recently begun hosting SDR meetups. They have been encouraging those new to SDR as well as seasoned veterans, and they have made a space where they can all interact. We are awarding Interlock a HackRF One unit to encourage this sharing of knowledge. Thanks Alex, and keep up the good work.

JinGen Lim is a promising student and developer from Singapore. When HackRF One was released he used it as an inspiration to build his own open source device called CCManager. We awarded JinGen a HackRF One unit to see what he can come up with next. Thanks for making your ideas open source JinGen!

Rajesh Kannan is a licensed amateur radio operator and enthusiast as well as a rather successful amateur meteorologist. Rajesh has plans to use his HackRF One to help develop an HRPT satellite receiver with a group of students in India. Thanks Rajesh for igniting the RF spark in the next generation!

Taavi Laadung is a graduate student at the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. He is working on a nanosatellite project and plans to use the HackRF One that we give him to help build a ground station. Thanks Taavi for including the HackRF One in your research.

Chris Johns is a student at Spokane Community College in Spokane, Washington, and with the help of a few other members of their technology club Chris plans to use his HackRF One to start an amateur digital TV station. It's an interesting proposition, and we thank you for trying it out, Chris. Good luck!

Thanks to everyone that sent us a request. If you didn’t send us a request, why not? It never hurts to ask. We look forward to seeing what you come up with next!

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