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January 27, 2004

"Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks": Indulge Your Inner Mad Scientist

Sebastopol, CA--Put a hacker in a room with a Furby for a weekend and you'll hear a conversation that's fairly one-sided. Toss in an 802.11b network card, a soldering iron, wire cutters, a logic probe, and a few other carefully selected tools and materials and you'll have potential. Add a copy of Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks (O'Reilly, US $29.95) by Scott Fullam and by the end of the weekend that Furby will be saying things you never imagined.

From How to Hack a Toaster to building Cubicle Intrusion Detection Systems, Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks offers an array of inventive, customized electronics projects for the geek who can't help looking at a gadget and wondering how it might be "upgraded." An inveterate hardware hacker since the age of ten when he unpacked his first Radio Shack 100-in-1 Electronics Set, author Scott Fullam hopes that his book will get others as excited about hardware hacking as he is. "I love to take things apart to see what makes them work. I also love to re-purpose equipment for my own use," he says.

To the hardware hacker's eye, almost any kind of consumer electronic equipment can be modified to do things it was never intended to do. True, you might void your warranty in the process, but you could end up with something even better than the original, or, at the very least, create an interesting conversation piece.

"So many of the electronic gadgets and equipment we have now becomes obsolete within months," says Fullam. "Hacking together something new from these so-called obsolete items breathes new life into things that might have been discarded." The process is educational, too, asserts Fullam: "People know less and less about how everyday electronic appliances and equipment work. By hacking some of these items, the reader can gain a better feel for how things work."

"Hardware hackers help restore the balance of power in the consumer hardware space by showing how to liberate, extend, repair, and better control the electronic technologies in your life," notes Andrew "bunnie" Huang, author of the popular book Hacking the Xbox. According to Huang, Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks helps to lower the barrier of entry to hardware hacking. "A title deserving of the O'Reilly name, this book has something for everyone, from novice to expert."

Beginning with basic hacks, tools, and techniques for those who may not have a background in electronics, Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks covers the tools of the hardware hacking trade and basic soldering techniques. Clear step-by-step instructions allow even those with no formal electronics- or hardware-engineering skills to hack real hardware in fun and clever ways. Hacks are rated on a scale of difficulty, cost, and duration. Projects range from those that are truly useful to some things you may have never thought to do, but which are really cool, such as:

  • Building your own arcade game
  • Making radio-controlled cars play laser tag
  • Building an automobile periscope
  • Creating a remote object tracker
  • Hacking an 802.11b antenna
  • Building a building-size display
  • Maybe you're an electronics hobbyist who likes to learn by doing. Maybe you hack software and want to see how the other half lives. Or, perhaps you've never hacked at all, but you'd like to get started quickly with some projects that do something interesting from the start. If you're any of these, then Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks will indulge your inner mad scientist. Using the projects in this book as a jumping off point for other new and clever hacks, it won't be long before you're looking around, asking, "What can I improve next?"

    Additional Resources:

    Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks
    Scott Fullam
    ISBN 0-596-00314-5, 331 pages, $29.95 US, $43.95 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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