Review: Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks (book)
Price: $30 (list); $21 (Amazon)
Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks is a guide to several interesting, if not entirely practical, electronics projects for the casual to advanced tinkerer. As the title proclaims, it’s written primarily for geeks—that is, people with experience in the field of electronics or electrical engineering—but novices will find it an entertaining and informative read as well.
Layout and Organization
The 331-page book, measuring 7" by 9", is divided into 15 chapters and five appendices, which are organized into three sections. The table of contents and comprehensive index are available online.
Observations and Opinions
Part I, “Basic Hacks, Tools, and Techniques,” includes a cogent overview of basic electronics. While students of the field will find the overview redundant, anyone not working with electronics as a career will find it a useful refresher or introduction to the subject. The six chapters in this section include such classic hacks as the MacQuarium and the Pringles-Can WiFi antenna, along with the more-mundane concepts of a portable laptop power supply and water-cooling your PC. The chapter on hacking a Furby to speak other phrases is very entertaining, and the MacQuarium chapter is by far the most-detailed and best instructional manual for building a MacQuarium that this reviewer (builder of two MacQuaria himself) has ever seen. If you want to build a MacQuarium, find a copy of this book.
Part II, “Advanced Hacks, Tools, and Techniques,” includes the remaining nine chapters and a thorough primer on identifying electronic parts such as resistors, capacitors, transistors, and ICs. The author then launches into very well-detailed explanations of such intriguing projects as the building-sized Pong game, a “Cubicle Intrusion Detection System” (developed by the author when he worked at Apple), the Internet-Enabled Toaster and Coffee Maker, a home arcade machine, and your very own spook-style “remote object tracker” (think Enemy of the State, but not small enough to fit inside a shoe heel).
Part III includes the five appendices: a brief guide to electronic schematic software; an excellent, if brief, overview of electronic communication; recommendations for microcontroller boards; a thorough outline of power sources (batteries, AC, etc.); and a short list of other sources that the amateur hardware hacker may find useful.
This is not a book lacking in detail. Each project is very thoroughly documented, far in excess of what most of us in the hardware hacking field are used to. This makes the book particularly attractive as an introduction to the art of the hack, but in no way does it take away from the book’s utility to an advanced hacker. It has often been said that the motivation behind a hacker is laziness: why do for yourself what a machine could do for you? In keeping with that tradition, a true hacker will enjoy the fact that Scott Fullam has taken the trouble to document and explain these hacks to such a thorough extent, obviating the need to spend hours on Google tracking down all the obscure “pieces” of a hack.
- Enjoyable and useful regardless of experience.
- No Volume 2 (yet).
This is an entertaining and informative read, and an eminently useful reference manual for anyone interested in accomplishing any of the included projects.