Get a free Microsoft SDK / Intel Galileo board

Microsoft are having an interesting promotion at the Windows on Devices web page.

They are asking you to sign up and provide details such as the languages you work on and any other hobby boards you may have worked on previously (Raspberry Pi, Beagle Board etc.). Fill in the details and MS will get back to you with another email asking you to provide your shipping address.

I haven’t received mine yet but I found a picture of what the kit could possibly look like –

Intel Galileo Kit

Intel Galileo Kit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Head on over to https://www.windowsondevices.com/ to get one for yourself 🙂

Force your Google Nexus 7 to receive an OTA update

I bought a Google Nexus 7 tablet recently and it is fantastic. Since it is a ‘Nexus’ branded tablet, it also means that it receives regular updates much earlier than other tablets. However, I noticed that everytime Google released an OTA (over the air) udpate, I would not get the update immediately.

Recently, it was all over the internet that Google had released version 4.1.2 of their Jelly Bean operating system. However, my tablet was still at version 4.1.1. I tried the usual trick, going to Settings -> About -> System Updates -> Check Now but it kept saying my tablet was the latest version. This was obviously not the case. After searching around I finally found the solution to get a firmware update at the same time as others –

1. Goto Settings -> Applications

2. Select the “All” tab on top of the screen

3. Find ‘Google Framework Services’. Select it.

4. Click the ‘Force Stop’ button. Don’t worry, it wont cause any problems (atleast mine didn’t :P)

5. Click ‘Clear Data’

6. Go back to Settings-> System Updates -> Check Now. You should see the date in the 1960’s. Ignore this for now. 

7. You should see the update once you click Check All!

If the above does not work try repeating Steps 3-6 a few times. Some people have reported success after trying the above steps a few times. Don’t give up! Enjoy your spanking new version of Jelly Bean 😉

BossKee – Hide any window instantly with a shortcut

BossKee is a utility which I coded in a single day to help hide any Window from prying eyes. There are numerous times when you are reading something private (like an email, nsfw joke) or viewing photos and suddenly out of the blue realise someone behind your shoulder is peeping at your computer screen. Usual reaction is to fumble trying to find the minimize button (atleast mine is!)

BossKee User Interface

This application lets you target a specific Window from a list of open Windows. BossKee then runs in the background silently monitoring the Window you selected. The minute you press the shortcut (Ctrl + Space), it hides the selected Window instantly. To bring the Window back, simply press the shortcut combination (Ctrl + Space) once again. Go on, fire up that browser or application you were working on, without having to watch your back.

“BossKee – I have your back!”

Click here to download BossKey v0.1 (Tested on Windows 7 and Windows XP)

Custom firmware for your devices

I got the idea to write this after reading an article on the maximumpc site. Instead of simply linking to the site and copy pasting what they have written, I thought I would write my own article about the topic, although I admit its based on their article. If you are wondering what the word firmware means, fret not, I will try and cover some basics here.

Firmware
Firmware are fixed, small programs that are used to control hardware like MP3 players, digital cameras, routers etc. The interface you see on your MP3 player to select songs, or the settings you adjust in your digital camera are all happening because of firmware.

Why does the question of hacking firmware come into the picture?
Simple – Manaufacturers protecting their own interests. This is the number one reason why factory firmware is limited. If basic digicams start coming with DSLR features like complete manual control, exposure control etc. manufacturers would lose a chunk of the DSLR market. Not the best example but you’re probably getting what I am trying to say.

Who hacks firmware and how is it done?
You can breathe easy, you need not do the modification yourself. There are a group of people who are consumers like you and I and want most from the devices they paid their hard earned money for. The normal routine is to obtain an official firmware update, reverse engineer and understand it and then add features that are possible. I am a programmer myself and know the kind of effort that goes into such activities, which is why I have nothing but respect for these individuals

What are the devices that can be hacked with custom firmware?
MP3 Players –. Custom firmware for MP3 players has existed for a while now. Features vary from better shuffle to album art support etc. Note that not all MP3 players can be flashed with custom firmware. Below is a list of efforts I am aware of –

1. iPod Linux – http://ipodlinuxinstl.sourceforge.net/
This is an effort to get linux running on your Apple iPod. Check out the site above for details like which models are supported.
2. Rockbox – http://www.rockbox.org/
Rockbox is an open source firmware for mp3 players, written from scratch. It runs on a wide range of players like Sandisk, Apple, Cowon, iRiver etc.

Game consoles – Gaming consoles like the XBOX, XBOX360, Sony PS2, Sony PSP can be hacked for running homebrew software, and supporting features which are otherwise locked.

1. XBOX Media Center – http://xbmc.org/
This is hands down the best media center software I have used. It started out as a dashboard replacement for the original Microsoft XBOX and has grown into a fine application which can now run on Windows, Linux and even the MAC! Highly recommended by me.
2. PSP Custom Firmware – http://www.dark-alex.org/
Once you load custom firmware on your PSP, you truly unleash its potential. You can run a variety of software like MP3 Players, Video Players, Games and applications like RSS Readers etc. on your PSP. Although used popularly for running game backups, the custom firmware truly has many applications that outweigh its misuse.

BIOS – Thats right, you can load your motherboard with custom BIOS firmware which could speed up boot times or add new features.
1. OpenBIOS – http://www.openfirmware.info/Welcome_to_OpenBIOS
2. Coreboot – http://www.coreboot.org/Welcome_to_coreboot

Routers – Now you can get sophisticated features like Bandwidth Management, FTP, HTTP servers etc. out of that cheap router you bought. No need to spend extra money for features which should have been present in the first place.
1. Tomato – http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato
Tomato is a small, lean and simple replacement firmware for Linksys’ WRT54G/GL/GS, Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54 and other Broadcom-based routers. It features a new easy to use GUI, a new bandwidth usage monitor, more advanced QOS and access restrictions, enables new wireless features such as WDS and wireless client modes, raises the limits on maximum connections for P2P, allows you to run your custom scripts or telnet/ssh in and do all sorts of things like re-program the SES/AOSS button, adds wireless site survey to see your wifi neighbors, and more.
2. OpenWRT – http://openwrt.org/
OpenWrt is described as a Linux distribution for embedded devices.

Digital Cameras – Those petite Canon powershot digital cameras are not so petite when it comes to features once they are flashed with custom firmware. Full manual control and exposure becomes possible once these babies are loaded with custom firmware.

1. CHDK – http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK
One of the best alternative firmware for Canon Powershot cameras, CHDK boasts an impressive feature set and supports a variety of models. The community is active and new firmware versions are released all the time.

2. Magic Lantern – http://magiclantern.wikia.com/wiki/Magic_Lantern_Firmware_Wiki

Magic Lantern is an open platform for developing enhancements to the amazing Canon 5D Mark II full frame digital SLR.

Digital media players – These enhance the feature set of digital media players.

1. WDLXTV – WDLXTV is a souped up unofficial firmware for the Western Digital WDTV. It is based off of the 1.02.10 firmware, but with many extra features.

Other devices – These are other devices whose firmware can be hacked to add additional features or improve speed etc.

1. NSLU2 – http://www.nslu2-linux.org/
Change your NSLU2 into a tiny Linux computer. After that, the sky is the limit. This is a great way to download using torrents without leaving your main PC switched on all the time. The applications are endless.
2. iPhone Jailbreak – http://lifehacker.com/398906/jailbreak-iphone-20-with-pwnagetool

Please let me know in comments if I have left something out. Also note that in a lot of countries installing custom firmware is considered illegal, so make sure you don’t break the law 🙂 Happy hacking!

Add “Open with Notepad” to the Context Menu for All Files

Open with notepad

 Notepad has been an evergreen application since the Windows98 days. It opens all sorts of files and is used by people the world over to open, edit and create all sorts of files. A problem or annoyance rather is when one has to go through a right click -> open with -> select notepad from the options. A quick little hack is to add a “open with notepad” option to the right click context menu of every file with some registry hacking. This is one hack that will save time and make your life a little easier. Brought to you by site http://www.howtogeek.com. Follow the link below for detailed steps –

How to geek – Open with notepad context menu

Open ports for your Airtel connection (Port-mapping)

Airtel-LogoThis write up will explain to you how to speed up your Airtel Broadband connection / solve other problems regarding connection failures due to closed ports.

Although I use Airtel and a Beetel 220 BX modem as my basis for this write up, the same rules can be applied to others as well. So lets get started. First thing make sure your DSL modem is on. Fire up your browser. Type http://192.168.1.1 as the address with the following Username/Password –

Username : admin

Password : password

Note : These are case sensitive. Make sure all are typed in lowercase.

Click on Advanced Setup -> NAT in the page that loads. If you do not see these options try entering http://192.168.1.1/main.html as the address. Some routers/modems deliberately try to prevent users from accessing these options. On the NAT virtual servers page click the add button. Now add the port number that you wish to open up. You can even open up a range of ports using the add button. You should see something similar to the screenshot below. Click it to view full image

Beeter 220 BX Screen Shot
This technique can be used for any operating system / modem / service provider. It may vary slightly but the essential principle remains the same.

XBOX controller power push button mod

XBOX LogoThe XBOX doesn’t have a way to power on/off itself without actually having to leave your seat, walking to the console and then pressing the power button. While this is ok for a while, it does get annoying after a while. This mod will show how to add a small push button to the controller that can be later used to remotely turn on/off the console. On a side note, I will try and be more regular with updating the blog. I have not been update the blog in recent times due to time constraints. Also hence forth I will be producing tutorials/articles as PDF files as this seems to be the preferred way for storing articles for later retrieval. Click the following link to download the file.

Download the tutorial in PDF format (~213 Kb)