My OUYA has finally arrived and I have had some fun tinkering with it, but we will not be talking about OUYA today. In this article, we will continue enumerating other cool embedded devices that can be used for home automation, physical security locks, retro gaming consoles, penetration testing, honeypots, web application firewalls, web servers, IRC (internet relay chat) server, VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) toola, proxy servera, and many more possibilities. The sky is the limit for the embedded devices that we will be introducing for this write-up!

BeagleBone Black


BeagleBone Black is a $45.00 USD ARM-powered development platform board for developers and hobbyists that allows you to boot on Linux or Android. After booting your preferred Linux distribution, you can start developing and tinkering with this hardware right away.

Some people call this embedded device a combination of Arduino and Raspberry Pi because it boots with Linux just like Raspberry Pi but also has Arduino-like capabilities, since it features two programmable real time units (PRU) that run in parallel with the ARM processor.

BeagleBone Black is an upgrade of the original BeagleBone; both are from Texas Instruments. This board has a pre-installed operating system which is the Angström Linux operating system. How good is this board? Check out the specs:

Processor

  • - AM335x 1GHz ARM® Cortex-A8
  • - 512MB DDR3 RAM
  • - 2GB 8-bit eMMC on-board flash storage
  • - 3D graphics accelerator
  • - NEON floating-point accelerator
  • - 2x PRU 32-bit microcontrollers

Connectivity

  • - USB client for power and communications
  • - USB host
  • - Ethernet
  • - Micro HDMI
  • - 2x 46 pin headers

Some Known Software Compatibilities

  • - Ångström Linux
  • - Android
  • - Ubuntu
  • - Cloud9 IDE on Node.js with BoneScript library

A cool penetration testing named “The Deck” has also been released for BeagleBone boards such as BeagleBoard-xM,
BeagleBone and BeagleBone Black. The Deck is a penetration testing and forensics distribution based on Ubuntu; it’s like Backtrack 5 R3 being ported to the ARM platform because of the similarity of tools pre-installed on the said distro.

Another gaming console project that runs on the BeagleBone Black hardware that I have been following is the BeagleBone GamingCape, which transforms your BeagleBone into a full-fledged hand-held gaming console capable of playing all the classics such as NES, Gameboy, Sega GameGear, and even Doom. Just drop in four AAA batteries and you’ll be playing your favorite games discretely at work in no time.

Project Features:

  • - 320×240 16Bit Color TFT LCD
  • - Analog joystick + 2 thumb buttons
  • - 3D gyro, 3D accelerometer, 3D magnetometer
  • - Headphone out + mic in
  • - Supports NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), GameBoy, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, Doom

If you want to search for more projects that utilize the BeagleBone hardware, just refer to this link: http://beagleboard.org/project/.

Parallax Boe-Bot Robot Kit


(image courtesy of parallax.com)

The Parallax Boe-Bot Robot Kit allows you to build your own robot using a BASIC Stamp 2 microcontroller brain without programming and electronic experience. Here is what’s inside the kit:

  • - Board of Education development board with a BASIC Stamp 2 microcontroller
  • - Durable brushed-aluminum chassis with mounting holes for servos and accessories
  • - Parallax continuous rotation servos for the drive wheels
  • - Sensors including whisker-switches, phototransistors, and infrared emitter/receiver pairs
  • - LEDs and a piezospeaker for audio and visual feedback
  • - All the resistors, capacitors, and jumper wires needed to build the circuits
  • - All the screws, nuts, and other hardware needed to build the Boe-Bot
  • - Parallax #1 Phillips/flathead screwdriver
  • - USB A to mini-B cable to connect the Boe-Bot to your Windows computer for programming

A robot carrying a video recorder that can be used for spying? Or how about a war-driving robot? The choice is yours!

More information about this kit can be found here: http://www.parallax.com/Store/Robots/AllRobots/tabid/128/ProductID/296/List/0/Default.aspx?SortField=ProductName,ProductName.

Uzebox


(image courtesy of belogic.com)

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Uzebox is an ATMega game console that is a retro-minimalist 8-bit open source game console. It is based on ATmega644, an AVR 8-bit general purpose microcontroller made by Atmel. The system runs overclocked at ~28.6 Mhz (8 times the NTSC color burst frequency).
Here are the specs for Uzebox:

  • - CPU: ATmega644 microcontroller
  • - Total RAM: 4K
  • - Program Memory: 64K
  • - Speed: 28.61818 Mhz (Overclocked)
  • - Colors: 256 simultaneous colors arranged in a 3:3:2 color space (Red: 3 bits, Green: 3 bits, Blue: 2 bits)
  • - Resolution: Up to 360×224 pixels (tiles-only and tiles-and-sprites modes)
  • - Sprites: Up to 32 simultaneous sprites on screen at any time
  • - Video output: NTSC Composite and S-Video (works without changes on most PAL/SECAM TVs)
  • - Sound: 4 channels wavetable, 8-bit mono, mixed at ~15Khz and output via PWM
  • - Inputs: Two NES/SNES compatible joypad inputs
  • - Options: MIDI-in interface and s-video output

The Uzebox hardware and software is open source and you can write your own game code using C with the use of fully open source tools on any platform. For more information about this retro-minimalist gaming console, check out this page: http://belogic.com/uzebox/index.asp.

Parallella


(images courtesy of adapteva.com)

Parallella is a $99.00 USD parallel processing board for Linux made by Adapteva. It’s the size of a credit card, similar to that of a Raspberry Pi and a BeagleBone Black. It comes with Xilinx Zynq®-7000 all programmable SoC (XC7Z010) with a dual core ARM A9 CPU, Epiphany multicore accelerator (16 or 64 cores), 1 GB (DDR3 SDRAM) of RAM, 2 USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card slot, an HDMI connection, two general-purpose expansion connectors, 128 Mb Quad-SPI flash, and a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port. There are optional upgrades for this board, including four 60-pin backside high-speed expansion connectors (“PEC”) for GPIO, external power, Epiphany links, and a Zynq SoC upgrade to XC7Z020.

According to its Kickstarter page, “the 64-core version of the Parallella computer would deliver over 90 GFLOPS of performance and would have the horsepower comparable to a theoretical 45 GHz CPU [64 CPU cores * 700MHz] on a board the size of a credit card while consuming only 5 watts under typical workloads. For certain applications, this would provide more raw performance than a high-end server costing thousands of dollars and consuming 400W.” Sweet, right? I just can’t wait to get my hands dirty with this board!

Parallella comes with Ubuntu as its operating system, free open source Epiphany development tools that include a C compiler, multicore debugger, Eclipse IDE, OpenCL SDK/compiler, and run-time libraries.

More free pre-built Linux kernels and Epiphany software development tools can be downloaded from ftp.parallella.org and, if you are rooting for open source software repositories, then check out github.com/parallella and github.com/adapteva.

Adapteva’s shop has also a Parallella Cluster Kit which costs $575.00 USD and is set to release this coming October.

(image courtesy of adapteva.com)

The cluster kit includes four Parallella-16 boards (XC7Z010 version with backside expansion connectors “PEC”), four Pre-loaded 16GB SD Cards (Ubuntu 12.04), four board-to-board flexible Epiphany link connector cables (up to 10 Gb/s total bandwidth per cable), 20 metal standoff legs, and a 110-240V Power adapter. Looks as if this cluster kit is good for cracking!

Chumby Hacking Board


(image courtesy of adafruit.com)

The Chumby Hacker Board is a development board that runs on Linux (pre-installed) and is based on the same hardware as the famous Chumby One. According to Adafruit’s description, “This board is the v1.0 release, slightly updated from the beta. This version does not have ‘Arduino’ headers on the back anymore, since they were not terribly useful. Instead, the 0.1″ header breakout has been expanded to include more useful pins. This makes the CHB slimmer but just as useful. The SD card has been doubled in size.”

Here are the specifications and some cool facts for this board:

  • - Freescale iMX.233 processor running at 454 MHZ
  • - 64 MB onboard RAM
  • - Comes with 1 GB uSD card with 100 MB Linux installation all ready to go
  • - Dimensions are 3.9″ (100 mm) x 2.4″ (60 mm) x 0.375″ (10 mm)
  • - 3.3V I/O pins can talk to most sensors, motor drivers, etc. No struggling with 1.8V levels.
  • - Low power, fanless CPU draws only 200 mA at 5V
  • - Built-in lithium ion or polymer battery charger and 5V boost converter for portable projects
  • - Three USB ports!
  • - 1.9W mono speaker amplifier into 4ohm (0.1″ JST onboard connector)
  • - Microphone input (0.05″ JST onboard connector)
  • - LCD controller with 2mm output port
  • - 3.5mm A/V output jack with stereo audio and NTSC/PAL composite video
  • - GPIO outputs on 0.1″ header spacing, serial port, ADC’s, PWM, GPIO, 4th USB port, all running at 3.3v logic
  • - Quadrature encoder connections onboard
  • - Five-way joystick on-board
  • - MMA7455 3-axis +-2G to +-8G accelerometer on-board
  • - 3.3V TTL serial port for easy shell access
  • - Full GCC toolchain
  • - Schematics, Gerbers, and original layout files are at the Wiki

As a side note, if you want to tinker with this board, you may want to practice with microcontrollers first, such as Arduino or AVR. to unleash the power of this hacking board. Anyway, this board is for sale from Adafruit: http://www.adafruit.com/products/278#Description.

STM32VLDISCOVERY


(image courtesy of st.com)

STMicroelectronic’s Discovery is a 32-bit low-cost ARM processor that is similar to that of Texas Instrument’s Launchpad. Here are some key features for this board:

  • - STM32F100RB microcontroller, 128 KB flash, 8 KB RAM in 64-pin LQFP
  • - On-board ST-Link with selection mode switch to use the kit as a stand-alone ST-Link (with SWD connector)
  • - Designed to be powered by mini USB interface or an external supply of 5 V or 3.3 V
  • - Can supply target application with 5 V and 3 V
  • - Two user LEDs (green and blue)
  • - One user push button
  • -Extension header for all QFP64 I/Os for quick connection to prototyping board or easy probing
  • -A large number of free ready-to-run application firmware examples are available at www.st.com/stm32-discovery to support quick evaluation and development using the LEDs, button and extension header for connection to other boards or devices.
  • - Has a few locked-down IDEs to select and choose

STMicroelectronic’s Discovery is a good starter board in order to familiarize yourself and gain some good experience with the ARM architecture.

Official Link: http://www.st.com/stm32-discovery

Conclusion

As I said in my introduction, these cool embedded devices can be used for retro gaming consoles, penetration testing, honeypots, web application firewalls, development, etc., and it now boils down to a hacker like you to choose wisely which development board to use. Each development board has its own advantages and disadvantages. Happy Hacking!

References:

http://bear24rw.blogspot.com/2013/07/beaglebone-gamingcape.html

http://beagleboard.org/Products/BeagleBone%20Black

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/154100-beaglebone-black-raspberry-pi-and-arduino-on-a-single-board-for-just-45

http://ppolstra.blogspot.com/2012/09/introducing-deck-complete-pentesting.html

http://www.parallax.com/Store/Robots/AllRobots/tabid/128/ProductID/296/List/0/Default.aspx?SortField=ProductName,ProductName