Archive for the ‘hacker conference’ tag
By day, David Brown is a security consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. But in his spare time, he’s one of a growing number of do-it-yourself electric vehicle creators. In the past couple of years, Brown retrofitted a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle into an electric car, and he talked about his “Voltswagon” project at the Defcon hacker conference on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Electric cars can save you a lot of money when it comes to skipping gas purchases, and they’ve been getting more popular since Tesla launched its first electric car in 2008. But the sticker price of new electric vehicles is a big barrier to adoption still, so hobbyist mechanics like Brown of Friendswood, Texas, are retrofitting their own cars for a relatively small price tag. Brown (pictured below) did it for about $6,000, not counting the cost of his car, tools, and about 100 hours of labor.
The whole point of designing an electric vehicle is to save energy. So it pays to keep that in mind when you’re adding a bunch of new things to an older car. When you are retrofitting a car, you need to install electric vehicle components such as a motor, controller, batteries, a charger, and accessories.
“If you are doing this to save the environment, you probably don’t want to convert a high-performance race car,” he said. “You want to maximize the utility, and figure out how far you need to go and how fast you need to go.”
You have to figure out your budget for the project and your own skills for doing the work. The good thing about building an electric vehicle is that a lot of hobbyists have done it before. Open ReVolt is a community dedicated to openly sharing learnings about electric cars including chargers and motor controllers.
“This is the part that I wished I had known about before I built my electric car,” Brown said.
A lot of the work is pulling out the old internal combustion engine and other parts that you no longer need in an existing car. You can pull the radiator out of the car since you don’t need it any more, making it lighter. If you convert a car from power brakes to manual, you can save on power consumption.
Brown said that the open-source EV Dashboard puts the makers of electric vehicles to shame with visual gauges that measure the state of your electric car in terms of speed and battery power. The dashboard electronics can be displayed on an iPad or Android tablet.
One of the tough problems is getting a vehicle charged in a timely manner. On a 110-volt electrical socket in a home, charging happens at a rate of 8 miles of charge per hour. On a 220-volt electric dryer plug, the rate is 44 miles per hour. A J1776-2009 charger can charge at 76 miles per hour. And a Japanese CHAdeMO charger can charge at 250 miles of charger per hour using 500 volts.
Brown’s car can get a top speed of 70 miles per hour and it goes from zero to 40 miles per hour in two to four seconds. It has 10 12-volt batteries and it gets 250 watt-hours per mile. It has a Curtiss 1221C controller and a D&D Motor Systems electric engine. The range is 16 to 26 miles. That short range is a drawback, for sure, but it is improving over time. And Brown noted that 80 percent of U.S. commutes are under 40 mile, and there is no energy wasted while sitting in traffic. The typical cost is about 2 cents per mile.
For electric vehicle resources, he used vendors including Wilderness EV, KTA Services, Cloud Electric, Sam’s Club, Calib Power, eBay, Lightobject, and Chennic. Other helpful web sites included DIY Electric Car, EVTV Motor Verks, EVDL, V is for Voltage Forums and Ecomodder. You can check out the possibilities for projects with DIY electric cars on EV Album.
Brown said some technologies that just aren’t ready for prime time, especially for hobbyists, are: solar, hydrogen, supercapacitors,
hub motors, and DIY hybrids. Modders have to be aware that the laws for each state are different. It’s sometimes tough to get an electric vehicle certified in a smog test because the regulators don’t believe that the emissions for any car are “zero.”
Brown said that the project cost him a fair amount of money. He paid $1,200 for a motor, $1,000 for a controller $800 for batteries, $600 for a charger, $500 for an adapter/charger, and $800 for miscellaneous.On top of that, you need a lot of tools. (Make sure you put electrical tape around the tools, as you don’t want to accidentally hit the battery and short it out).
If you’re doing it yourself, you want to buy your batteries last. That’s because the technology is changing fast and it may change several times in a six-month to two-year project.
But he added the cost for no longer being the “bitch” of OPEC and Exxon: priceless.
Filed under: green
Do you want legs that let you jump 10 feet high? Or a body that “impresses chicks”? Or a brain that can be electronically pulled back from extreme depression? Computer experts of today think that the day will be coming when human cyborgs will be possible?
Two computer-savvy medical students, who noted they were not doctors, gave the presentation at the Defcon hacker conference on Saturday. Christian “Quaddi” Dameff and Jeff “Replicant” Tully (pictured below right and at bottom) said that the day is not so distant when we will be able to “mod” our organic bodies with inorganic mechanical and electronic materials that enhance our augment our basic abilities. They refer to the coming era of human augmentation as “transhumanism.” The subject, which they illustrated with the above picture of actress Megan Fox of Transformers fame, is a controversial one that brings up questions of ethics of technologists who can make the worlds of sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner, where “replicant” cyborgs imitate humans, come to life.
Human enhancement has had a long history, since study of human prosthetics began in the 1500s. The first artificial heart was surgically inserted into a human in 1982.Gene therapy augmentations began in 1990. The first 3D nano structure was created in 1991. In the 1990s, microprocessor-controlled knees arrived.By 2008, the Olympic Committee had to consider and reject a race entrant who had artificial legs.
Drugs such as Adderal can be used to enhance human concentration and treat conditions such as attention deficit disorder. But the potential for abuse is huge. And if you consider the idea that the “mods” in our bodies will be hackable, it’s important to think about all the
Nanobots are more conceptual, though they have taken baby steps in the lab, Tully said. In the not so different future, doctors will be able to create artificial legs that are more efficient at kinetic energy use and are therefore better than the real thing.But the value of a mod has to outweigh the pain the occurs when putting it in. In 2004, a Verichip ID was approved by the FDA to be put into the human body was a radio frequency identification chip. The RFID chip had to be pulled off the market.
“You’ll be able to jump feet,” Dameff (pictured below, left) said. “Will you want to replace your legs to do that?”
Over time, more “bio-compatible” materials will be created that the body won’t try to reject, Tully said. These things include titanium chromium, nickel and other kinds of metals. Polymers include polyethylene and others. Infections can be very dangerous.
“What we want to avoid is unleashing the immune system on our mod,” Dameff said.
Just putting something in your body is not simple. The body can reject foreign bodies with great efficiency. You have to be able to insert the mod in the right location.
“The harder it is to put in a mod, the harder it is to remove,” Dameff said. “Some mods you’ll never be able to take out.”
Putting electrodes in your ears can improve hearing. Cavities like the middle ear can more easily accommodate foreign bodies like cochlear implants, which restore hearing in deaf people. (The first surgery was done in 1984).A microphone picks up sound, filters it, sends the signal over FM radio to the transmission coil and that is sent to the brain.
Putting mods below the skin is relatively easy. But putting things in the thoracic or abdominal areas are more serious.
Connecting a mod to the brain is “one of the most difficult tasks ahead in human augmentation,” Tully said. Modders also have to figure out how to get electrical power to a mod via batteries.
“On top of that all, we know it’s going to be really expensive,” Dameff said.
A pacemaker or hip replacement costs more than $22,000. Lowering costs through open standards and open source remains mportant. Some of the work on this subject has been explored by Humanity Plus and the Singularity Institute.
[Image credits: cyborg Megan Fox; Dean Takahashi]
Filed under: VentureBeat
The do-it-yourself (DIY), open-source drone movement is turning into a real business that could disrupt the commercial and military drone industry. It’s another case of how exploiting the curiosity of hackers can turn into a commercial opportunity.
That’s the view of Chris Anderson (pictured), the editor of Wired magazine and a drone hobbyist and businessman on the side. He spoke about this DIY trend and his own efforts to lead it in a talk at the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas today.
Anderson said the whole project is “open sourcing the military industrial complex.” Drones have been the domain of the U.S. military, which has created huge awareness about drones such as the Predator and the Reaper by using them against terrorist targets in a variety of countries where troops can’t go. Those drones cost millions of dollars, but the DIY drone business is focused on created ubiquitous drones that cost tens of dollars.
Anderson’s interest started five years ago as he sought ways to get his kids interested in science. He got them to make robots with Lego Mindstorms robot kits, but their interest didn’t last. Then he tried to get them to fly a remote-controlled airplane, which ended up stuck in a tree. The kids lost interest. But the idea of combining the DIY nature of the robot and the airplane sent Anderson “straight down the rabbit hole,” he said. Then he created the first Lego unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone.
His interest in drones led to a web site called DIY Drones, which has blossomed into a community with 30,000 registered members. The site gets 1.4 million page views a month, has 6,000 blog posts, 8,000 discussion threads, and 80,000 comments a year. Anderson has marshaled that community to create open-source software for all sorts of drones. And Anderson co-founded a for-profit company, 3D Robotics, (with a 19-year-old Mexican teen) that creates computing hardware for drones. That hardware itself is built on the Arduino open-source computing platform. The DIY software helps hobbyists create a wide variety of drones, like a drone you can fly with a Wii game console controller.
That hardware can be used to build all sorts of drones, such as “quad copter” drones based on the hardware of the Parrot AR Drone. The Parrot drones are controlled by humans, but the 3D Robotics hardware converts them so they can be completely autonomous, fulfilling the definition of a drone.
3D Robotics sells the drone hardware for $199 or so, enabling the community members to take their software and run it on a hardware platform and thereby field their own flying drones.
“Anything that is remote-controlled, you just put this in there and suddenly you’ve got a drone,” Anderson said.
There are some legal issues around drones and whether they can be flown in commercial airspace, but Anderson said he has a legal opinion from lawyers that the business is legal, since the DIY drones are so far used for non-commercial purposes.
The uses of the drones are creative. You can go surfing and have a drone take off from the beach, fly over you, turn on its camera and then film you from above as you surf.
The drone hardware is priced at about 2.6 times the hardware bill-of-material cost, allowing a 40 percent margin for retailers and a 40-percent margin for the company. But since the software is free, the end product can be quite cost efficient compared to competitors who have to try to keep pace with an all-volunteer software community, Anderson said. That means that Chinese knock-off rivals can copy the hardware, but will have a tough time keeping up with 3D Robotics as it launches new software-driven varieties. Right now, there are 150 different products, including 75 from the community.
“They can’t clone our community,” he said.
The company has two factories and 50 employees now. In addition, 3D Robotics rewards its community contributors with T-shirts, coffee mugs, free travel, free hardware, and — if they contribute enough — equity in the company. All of the drones are under $1,000. Competitors include other open-source DIY communities where the model is similar: charge for hardware, give away the bits.
There’s still a lot to improve before drones become mainstream toys for more consumers, especially those who would never pick up a soldering iron to assemble a product.
“In two years, we have begun disrupting a multimillion-dollar industry with the open-source model,” Anderson said. “We can deliver 90 percent of the performance of military drones at 1 percent of the price.”
Of course, at least so far, the hackers aren’t “weaponizing” the drones.
Filed under: security
Foreign hackers may have broken into the computers of a water treatment plant in Illinois last week and damaged a water pump, according to the Washington Post.
The attack appears to be the first malicious cyber assault against a critical infrastructure computer network in the U.S., according to an expert cited by the newspaper.
The attack was noticed on Nov. 8, when there were problems with the city’s water pump control system. A technician figured out the system had been remotely attacked via a computer in Russia, said Joe Weiss, an industry security expert who obtained a copy of the state’s report on the incident.
The Department of Homeland Security told the Post that a water plant in Springfield, Ill., had been damaged. But they had not yet verified that the failure was caused by a cyber attack.
Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee Labs, told the Post that critical systems in the U.S. are vulnerable to attacks via the internet and few operators of the infrastructure know how to detect them.
It reminds us of a talk by John McNabb, a security expert who spoke at the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas in August. He said that it was exceedingly easy to break into and disrupt water meters. But McNabb’s talk didn’t focus on how easy it might be to attack water treatment facilities.
Filed under: security