PortaPack: It Is Time

The PortaPack for HackRF One is now available!

Visit the ShareBrained Store to have a look at the features, current state of the firmware, and all the other things you should know before you buy.


Thank you to everybody for your support and patience. Half the reason I wanted to develop the PortaPack is to learn from the experience. And now, I know a *lot* more about how to make hardware in quantity. Next time, I should be more graceful at it, and hopefully faster! :-)

Let the PortaPack hacking begin!

PortaPack Shipping to HackRF Kickstarter Backers This Week!

Update on 2015/07/23:

The PortaPack H1 is now available in the ShareBrained store.

I’m pleased to announce that I will be shipping PortaPacks to HackRF Kickstarter backers this week. Announcement e-mails have already gone to the 50 backers. If you’re one of the backers and haven’t received your e-mail, please leave a comment here and we’ll come up with another way to make contact — I need to make sure I have the right shipping addresses! It will be another week or two before PortaPacks are generally available.

PortaPack H1 in optional aluminum case
PortaPack H1 in optional aluminum case

Getting the PortaPack H1 ready for shipping was a long slog. And as is my way, I took a lot of detours along the way. I incorporated a lightweight operating system (ChibiOS) into the firmware. I built a simple UI framework that would support arrow-key navigation, with touch as an option where appropriate. I developed a sophisticated test jig (based on this) to ensure the units I ship work correctly. I designed a milled aluminum case that I’ll offer as an option. And I finished and tested all the units myself, including doing failure analysis on a bunch of PortaPacks. I learned a great deal, and hope that my next product development cycle will be much easier and faster.

Because of all the manufacturing effort, work on the firmware hasn’t advanced very far. At this point, the PortaPack is mostly useful as a basic narrowband AM/FM receiver. But there’s still a lot of capability to be tapped in the HackRF ARM processors! I’m eager to get back to firmware, and implement more signal analysis and capture functionality, along with some digital modes demodulation and decoding support.

I put together a quick-and-dirty video of the process of assembling PortaPacks. The hardware nerds among you might find it amusing. :-)

NSA Playset: USB at ShmooCon 2015

At ShmooCon 2015, Dominic Spill, Michael Ossmann, and I discussed our progress recreating USB implants and interception devices in the NSA ANT catalog. Dominic demonstrated USBProxy, a USB man-in-the-middle device for USB 2.0. Mike showed his TURNIPSCHOOL prototype, an implant built into a USB cable that allows remote access to a host computer’s USB ports. I showed my progress on a USB 3.0 man-in-the-middle device based on the DARPA CFT-funded Daisho project. Here’s the full video of the talk, courtesy of ShmooCon, archive.org, and… whoever the kind people were who recorded the video of all the talks. Yay!

LED Lighting Project at Ada’s Technical Books, Seattle

In late 2013, Zach Archer and I teamed up to light up the book stacks at the new Ada’s Technical Books store in Seattle, Washington.

The 3,810-ish LEDs are under the control of a single BeagleBone Black and a Cyclone III FPGA. Animations are developed in JavaScript and executed in a Web browser on the BeagleBone, which makes it super-easy to update and tweak.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Talk

Getting caught up… I gave a talk at ToorCon 2013 on my exploration of the Tire Pressure Monitoring System, mandated in the US for cars sold in the US as of 2008. The upshot is that people driving newer cars are transmitting unique identifiers to anyone within 20 meters. Definite privacy concerns there, methinks.

PortaPack Update, October

Update on 2015/07/23:

The PortaPack H1 is now available in the ShareBrained store.

I have all the parts and PCBs for 500 units. I am now waiting on the assembler to start cranking them out. I wish I could give a firmer update at this point, but the assembler has not yet scheduled assembly. Once assembly starts, I’ll post another update and let you know how it’s going. Maybe with pictures, even!

The PortaPack H1 monitoring automotive Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) transmissions
The PortaPack H1 monitoring automotive Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) transmissions

PortaPack Manufacturing Update

Update on 2015/07/23:

The PortaPack H1 is now available in the ShareBrained store.

The PortaPack H1 is progressing. The hardware design is stable — just tiny tweaks at this point. I have purchased and received enough components to build 250 units. There are a few components I’m having trouble sourcing, but have some good leads and am optimistic I’ll have that resolved by early next week. I have several quotes for assembly and have picked my preferred assembler.

So what’s left? There’s the lead time for the remaining components (I’ve been told “4 to 6 weeks”), the lead time for the production PCBs (3 weeks), and assembly (about a week). The remaining components and PCBs are both requirements for assembly. So it could be 5 to 7 weeks before I can ship to Kickstarter backers and my retailers. It’s getting close. All this cat-herding is a lot of work!

PortaPack for HackRF One is Imminent!

Update on 2015/07/23:

The PortaPack H1 is now available in the ShareBrained store.

With the Kickstarter HackRF Ones shipping out soon, I’ve made some progress on the PortaPack add-on. I have a revised prototype, adapted to attach to the HackRF One.

The PortaPack for HackRF One is Operational
The PortaPack for HackRF One is Operational

I’ve added a few features to the Jawbreaker prototype I showed last year. Here’s what new the PortaPack has to offer:

  • 240 x 320 RGB LCD. High update rate permits display of spectrum, time-domain data, and other real-time radio parameters.
  • 9-way navigation control. Outer ring is four-way directional control (moving a cursor/selection). Middle ring is a rotating ring quadrature encoder. Center is a select button.
  • Touch screen. For direct entry of information or scrolling through data.
  • Audio I/O via a 3.5mm mobile phone jack. It accepts iPhone-style headphone/microphone combinations. Sound quality is good due to using a *real* music player style audio codec. Headphone power is considerable (a.k.a. “painful”).
  • Micro SD card slot for storing or playing back data.
  • Lithium coin battery to power HackRF’s internal real-time clock (RTC). Great for logging applications.

Like the HackRF, the PortaPack is more of an open-source development platform than a finished radio tool. But I’m confident the HackRF community will eagerly embrace an entirely portable SDR and develop some awesome applications for the hardware. I will do my part to provide enough code to make the PortaPack do *something* interesting. Right now, I have basic spectrum analysis and AM/FM/WBFM demodulation working.

I’m still working through pricing the cost of acquiring all the parts and getting PCBs and assembly done. My target retail price is less than $100 US.

HackRF Jawbreaker PortaPack Lives!

I got my LCD + audio + controls “shield” for the HackRF Jawbreaker working reasonably well, and wanted to show it off, doing wideband spectrum analysis:

I’m bringing this thing to DEF CON and Black Hat, and would be happy to show it to anybody who’s interested. :-) Just look for me (Jared) in the DEF CON Hardware Hacking Village or Wireless Village. I’ll also be at Black Hat Arsenal with Mike Ossmann, discussing all things HackRF. See you there?

Robotron Autopsy at Open Source Bridge 2013

I gave a talk on Tuesday about reverse-engineering the 1982 arcade game Robotron: 2084. Using the schematics from the original game, we located the major elements of the design, derived the system architecture, and then analyzed individual blocks of circuitry. We discussed the video subsystem — how pixels get to the screen and how the game deals with inverting the video image in a cocktail version of the game.

I’ve posted my PDF slides of the talk to the Open Source Bridge wiki. The slides file is very large (114MB) due to the vast number of schematic images I used. Sorry about that… While you wait for the PDF to download, here’s a few slides to whet your appetite: