To My Readers



If this is the first time you're visiting my blog, thank you. Whether you're interested or just curious to find out about PCB reverse engineering (PCB-RE), I hope you'll find something useful here.

This blog contains many snippets of the content in my books to provide a more detailed overall sampling for my would-be readers to be better informed before making the purchase. Of course, the book contains more photos and nice illustrations, as evidence from its cover page. Hopefully, this online trailer version will whet your appetite enough to want to get a copy for yourself.

Care to Share?

As the owner of this blog, I'm determined not to clutter the space with ads or irrelevant information to ensure readers have the best reading experience. If you enjoy what I write here, please do me a great favor by recommending the blog, sharing the posts that you think is worth reading via social medias or emails.

Sharing is a good and healthy community spirit, and the very least we can do if we have benefited from the ideas and insights of fellow engineers. It is also an effective means to encourage authors like me to keep blogging and posting useful articles.

Thank you and have a wonderful day!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Internet of Things

Recently picked up writing Chapter 2 - Some déjà vu Stuff, of my trilogy book again, after laying it off because of some pressing matters. There are a number of interesting topics that I cover in this prologue section of the book, one of which is the internet of things (IoT). Here's two sample pages for preview:


The main section of the book will probably contain seven chapters featuring works by various PCB-RE practitioners, followed by another section with additional case studies and essential tools for the trade. I'm not giving myself too much pressure to fix a deadline, but I'd figure when things are more firmed, I will brief the contributors on the guidelines for their chapters to begin work.

Will update my readers again on the progress, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

안녕하세요

If you're wondering, the post title means "Hello!" in the Korean language. After posting my findings on a Korean PCB-RE engineer and reader's blog sometime in early May, I finally received a comment - in fact, two - the same one in each of the two posts:


I am impressed with his level of English expression, considering that many Koreans are not very apt with this international language. Believe me, I've been to South Korea in 2012; it's challenging to converse with the locals there if you do not have a modest amount of Korean vocabulary. That said, I'm sure many are seeing the importance of picking up English, especially after the recent de-nuclearization summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore early June this year.

My third book (trilogy) is still in the works though, and I got the nagging feeling it will take much longer than the sequel to complete. Given the technical nature of such a niche topic, I'm not sure how well it will go with non-English speaking readers. Perhaps this Korean gentleman might consider translating my books for the benefit of his own people, since he has the desire to propagate the PCB-RE technology in his country.

Just a thought for now but who knows, it may become a reality (if he reads this post)...

Friday, July 6, 2018

SkillsFuture

This morning while doing my usual routine walk to begin the day, I stumbled upon two cards lying outside the gate of a secondary school:


On the flip side, two fields of industry are highlighted:


With the SkillsFuture Festival gaining momentum island-wide, the probability of coming across their publicity materials is significantly higher than striking the lottery...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

iRobot

Was at the Lifelong Learning Institute this afternoon for the SkillsFuture Festival 2018, a month-long event organized by SkillsFuture Singapore, aimed at inspiring citizens to develop a passion for learning and pursue skills mastery. There were plenty of activities going on there but what caught my eyes was this particular SG social robot at one of the booths:


Meet Edgar version 2, a robot with the ability to ad-lib, i.e. come up with his own responses to questions posed at him. Its maker, Dr Wong Choon Yue, is a research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Edgar is more than just a robot avatar; with his in-built sensors to detect human facial expressions and gestures, voice recognition and knowledge database, he is able to engage living people for autonomous and intelligent interactions.

What he lacks now is realistic facial feedback but it probably should not be long before he gets one in the next model. That's kind of exciting and scary at the same time!


Monday, June 4, 2018

0x90 - Riding the NOP sled since 1998

There was this guy who bought my first full-colored PCB-RE book and left a book review on his blog, with the name as title above. Here is a small snapshot:


Those interested to read the whole article, please click here.

After reading his review, I wrote him an email expressing my appreciation and informed him that I was in the works of coming out with a sequel that would address his concerns. That got him excited and wrote another post, New Book Cooking. You can read it here.

Recently, I was surprise to receive an email from him out of the blue. Evidently, he had bought my second book PCB-RE: Tools & Techniques, and was totally happy with the topics covered that he decided to write a good review on it.

Well, I'm keeping my fingers crossed... ;)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

ScanCAD Facebook

Just received a Facebook notification this morning that ScanCAD mentioned my name in their page, so decided to check out what's up. Turns out:


In appreciation, I left the following comment:
Thanks to Bill and Jeff for contributing the longest chapter in the book, with useful insights and comparison of different methodologies in PCB-RE.
Hope to catch up with you guys again...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Surprise from the Kingpin

This morning I received a surprise email from Joe Grand (aka Kingpin) giving me a brief update of his encounters at the recent Teardown 2018 event in Portland, Oregon his hometown. He ran into his friend John McMaster and decided to pose for a selfie with my book, PCB-RE: Tools & Techniques which, incidentally they're both contributors too:


Now that's totally awesome!

Joe also gave away copies of the book to Bunnie Huang who has a long history of hacking and reverse engineering products, as well as Sean Cross 'xobs' of Studio Ko-Usagi. And both of them 'happen' to reside in the same island-state as me too!

Things are really heating up in the PCB-RE community, just like the weather in Singapore...

Monday, May 14, 2018

Teardown: Portland 2018

The annual Teardown Convention was held in Portland, Oregon this year and had just ended. It is an event where hackers, hobbyists and designers converged and share their ideas, discoveries and inventions through talks conducted in various rooms equipped with the necessary AV equipment:


Portland, Oregon is the hometown of Joe Grand the kingpin so it's no surprise he graced the event with his presence and presentation. What aroused my interest, however, was a talk given by Jeremy Hong, a cool young dude from Wright State University who runs his own business. In his first talk at the convention, he actually recommended my book PCB-RE: Tools & Techniques to the audience:


How cool can that be? In appreciation, I tweeted him:
Thanks, Jeremy, for recommending my book at your Crowd Supply Teardown talk. I owe you a big one! ;)
to which he replied:
No problem! It’s an excellent book and it really needs to get out there.
Since he's also into PCB reverse engineering, I asked if he's interested to write a chapter for my third book, and I got more than what I bargained for:
Definitely! It is an honor. I think I may have a few people in mind (that may be able to contribute to the book as well...)
Well, looks like there is hope for the trilogy book after all...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Trilogy On Hold...

To update my readers: I've completed chapter one of the third book titled How It All Started. Below is a two-page sample:


However, I will not be putting any more time into this book because of the disappointing response to my invitations. In other words, work on this book is now put on hold indefinitely, until I can find the desired number of contributors to share their PCB-RE experiences.

There are other non-engineering books I had in mind which I've been putting off for quite a while. I think it's about time I focus on them instead.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Korean Extravaganza!

Well, not exactly spectacular but the thought of having my book being listed in a Korean blog as a textbook for the PCB-RE subject is reason enough to dance with joy. Here's the follow-up to my previous post:


Seems that my Korean reader has also bought the sequel book, PCB-RE: Tools & Techniques, and given his review on his blog (translated by Google and paraphrased for readability):
There is a lot of content related to the practical work that can be used as teaching material this time. I have not gone through the book, but it's similar to what I'm currently teaching. It is a fact that information related to this field is rare. I am really grateful to the authors for publishing this book on the PCB-RE subject. We will do our best to promote the practice of this niche skillset in Korea.

The reader is even kind enough to provide a link to my blog, and advised his readers to read the book if ever they buy it. As they'll say in Korea, "Kamsahamnida!" That's 'thank you' if you're wondering...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

100th Post!

This is my 100th post and what better way to celebrate it than a review from a Korean reader of my book, The Art of PCB Reverse Engineering? I stumbled upon his blog by accident and was delighted that someone of a nationality thought to be closely related to the Chinese actually bought the color edition of the book, even though he seems not to have a good grasp of the English language!


Of course, the blog is in Korean but thankfully there's Google translate to give a rough (and rather awkward) translation that is still bearably understandable. If you're curious, click on the picture to go to his website and take a look.

Have fun...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

First Review from the UK

Am happy to find a new review from a reader in UK for my book, PCB-RE: Tools & Techniques:







Fantastic book, with loads of interesting information. From using the right light wavelengths to see through solder mask, to the theory and practical uses of X-Ray to see the inner layers of a PCB; the book has plenty of information at all levels of complexity. 
Highly recommended.

I really appreciate readers who take the time to give their reviews; it's not only a strong endorsement but a great encouragement to spur me to write further and better!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Change of Plan

Readers who're following my blog are aware that I am in the process of writing my third book on the subject of PCB-RE, a sort of trilogy to the two books I've written.


In the process of drafting the chapters outline, I decided that a book that solely focuses on my own PCB-RE experience is not adequate to give an overall feel to the practical aspect of this niche skillset. Therefore, it is in the interest of the readers that I should again invite practicing engineers to share their personal journeys.

I have just sent out invites to five engineers which I feel have the right combination based on the works they had done. I have also notify Marc Hickling of ENA Electronics Inc. of my intention to include a case study from their side of the story as well, and received a positive reply. There is still room for 2-3 more so if there are readers out there interested to showcase their PCB-RE works, don't miss out on this opportunity: drop me a note in this post!

Looking to hear from you soon...

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Goodreads @ Google

While Googling 'PCB reverse engineering', the following ad turned up right beside the search results:


Quite a nice surprise to see my book and name appearing. Hopefully, engineers who are looking for this subject will find something helpful and informative through what I shared, both in the printed pages as well as my online blog!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Trilogy - Foreword & Preface

Was overcome with the urge to write, so I sat down in front of my PC and gave some thought on the Preface for the trilogy. After about two hours...


...and that's only the first half.

As for the Foreword, well... in response to a request from a reader who left a comment on my post Trilogy to PCB-RE dated March 16, I have reserved it for Amir Pasalic, CEO of ENA Electronics Inc. When the third book is firmed, I will write to him. Hopefully, he will be kind enough to pen the words...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Case Studies in Musing...

While organizing the materials for my third book on PCB-RE, I revisited the archives for the second book and found a rare gem. There was one chapter that I had initially intended to include but had to lay aside because two of the contributors were not available. I had done some preparation work on that chapter and it would be a pity if I leave it half-baked. Here's a glimpse of two sample pages:


If the trilogy works out, readers will get to see three other real world examples showcased in brief in one chapter. It is too early to set a date as to when the third book will see the light of day. If interests in the PCB-RE topic picks up (as indicated by the sales of the two books), I might consider setting aside more time to work on it.

For now, I will have to attend to other priorities, though...

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Windows 10 BSOD on Cold Boot

Lately my desktop PC has been plagued with the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death) problem on cold boot up with random reported issues. It would, however, go away upon restart and functions well for the rest of the time.


I suspected that it could be due to the new RAMs that I installed previously not too long ago. After researching online, I was more or less certain that some older motherboards could not reliably handle 8GB of memory or more. To confirm this fact, I removed two 2GB sticks and replaced with two 1GB modules, reducing the RAM to 6GB total. It was spot on! Now the PC boots up normally.

Looks like I'll have to be content with this configuration for now. On a positive note, the two extra 2GB sticks can serve as spares, just in case.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

70 Countries and Counting...

As of today, my blog has hit 6,066 page views with readership spanning 70 countries:


Considering that I started posting just over a year ago, this is quite encouraging. I'm sure, however, that more can be achieved if existing readers and visitors do their part to help spread the word and share the link (visio-for-engineers.blogspot.com) to friends, forums and the engineering communities which they belong. It's a small favor to ask in return for the many hours of efforts put into writing the articles.

To those who have done so or will do so, I convey my heartfelt thanks.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Inside Cover Page (Trilogy)

Had some time off my busy schedules and commitments to take a breather, so decided to work on the inside cover page of the third book:


Reminds me of the 'for Dummies' series books with the same shaded page background for their inner cover pages. Haha, had wanted to do something like that for a long time...

Sunday, April 1, 2018

ENA Electronics Laboratories

Among the readers who bought my books, there are quite a number who work in the PCB-RE industry. One example is Amir Pasalic, the CEO of ENA Electronics Laboratories in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Though his company's main business is in industrial electronics and servo motors, it is interesting to note that PCB repair and reverse engineering are two important services listed.


Readers who want to find out more can go over to the ENA website to better understand the PCB-RE process and other capabilities this company offer. Just click on the graphics above to get teleported to the destination.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

New RAMs, New Life!

The SDRAMs I ordered arrived sooner than expected. They are half the height of my original Kingston and Hynix modules:


Removed the existing two 1GB RAMs and plugged in the new ones into the EP35-DS3 motherboard, then powered up, held my breath and watched the PC booted up... Success! Just to be sure, I double-checked the RAM available:


Yep, it's there: 8GB worth of memory. A 10-year old desktop has been given a new lease of life. Let's hope it will last another 3-5 years...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

5-Star Review from a PCB-RE Engineer

This morning I received a FB message from an engineer in Canada, expressing his appreciation for my sequel book. He was so impressed after reading it, he left a review on Amazon.ca:


I'm a professional reverse engineer by trade and have worked on many reverse engineering projects at ENA Electronics in Hamilton, Canada (a sample work can be found at the ENA Electronics website). Many of the techniques that are mentioned in this book we are already using long before the author put it together based on our own research and findings. BUT Keng Tiong did a remarkable job of pooling people from all over the industry and bringing their publications and research together in one place and putting the valuable content into one book. He took the initiative that many of us wished we could have done and made it happened.
I opened the book yesterday at 6 pm and read it through until midnight, I couldn't get enough of it! Finishing the book left me brimming with even more ideas and concepts that can be possibly put in place in a professional environment to ensure our customers receive the best quality service and support, making sure those legacy products last longer into the future. 
Hats off for the great work! I look forward to your follow-up in the trilogy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Embedding Components in PCB

In recent years there have been discussions and papers on embedding components into printed circuit boards among manufacturers and designers alike. From a PCB designer's point of view, there are advantages to this approach, such as improved signal integrity due to shorter trace runs and smaller lead inductance resulting in reduced EMI. On the flip side, there are also challenges since current EDA tools lack support for this kind of design requirement in terms of component library and routing strategies. Manufacturers likewise face new difficulties implementing this new technology in PCB fabrication, most notably the need for major overhaul in their manufacturing process and equipment.


Doubtless, it will be the end-users or customers who will determine whether this new approach takes off or remain a novel idea on the drawing board. Those looking to protect their designs from hackers and reverse engineers will probably give it some consideration. However, in the long run, it will be the cost of maintenance and repair of these PCBs that will determine the outcome. Still, those of us in the PCB-RE business will need to keep an eye on its development; it may become a reality in the not too distant future, perhaps 3-5 years from now.

Friday, March 23, 2018

GA-EP35-DS3

I'm a DIY person, so it's not surprising that I prefer to setup my own PC by buying the parts and assembling them myself to the configuration that I wanted. Since the 386 era, I had assembled a couple of PCs and when they outgrew my needs, I'd upgrade the CPU, RAM, video card or simply assemble a new PC and give away the old PC to some needy students. My current PC is just over 10 years old now:



The motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3 with an E8400 Intel Core 2 Duo processor and four 1GB DDR2 SDRAMs. The video card is an NVidia GF8600GT with 512MB RAM. The original 250GB hard drive running Windows XP had died and was replaced with a 500GB running Windows 7, followed by a 1TB running Windows 10 since mid last year.

Recently, my old trusty desktop PC started showing signs of aging. Sometimes it let out a long beep followed by a few short beeps as it power up and simply hangs; other times, it run through a series of POST, turns off and repeats the same sequence again. This usually goes away after I adjusted the video card and supported it with an ice-cream stick to keep it level since the motherboard is affixed to the chassis vertically. Yeah, it's a crude fix but hey, it works...

Anyway, two days ago when it booted up, I noticed that the reported RAM was 3GB instead of 4GB and realized that one of the SDRAM module is dead. This was confirmed when I swapped them and the PC just hanged and refuse to boot. In the end, I took out two of the modules and reduce the memory to just 2GB. Now it boots up normally.


I'm not about to throw my old workhorse away just yet since it still functions well. In fact, I decided to give it more muscle and ordered a set of four 2GB DDR2 SDRAM modules from eBay @ $20. It should arrive in two weeks time and hopefully, that will stretch the PC's usefulness another 3-5 years. That's the maximum memory capacity the motherboard can handle anyway.

Ps: I had the foresight to buy a motherboard that uses solid tantalum capacitors instead of the leaky electrolytic type. That ensures better durability and is now proven to be the best value for money decision I've made.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Trilogy to PCB-RE

As the dust settles over the release of PCB-RE: Tools & Techniques, I am thinking of writing the third and final installment to complete the trilogy on the PCB-RE subject. This third volume will discuss a real-world example of my successful attempt at reversing a whole electronic unit comprising three cards: an analog PCB, a digital PCB, and a mixed-signal PCB.

The book cover concept is shown below:


I'm not sure when I will start work on it, as I need to juggle my priorities and commitments. Probably will do some background work of organizing my materials when I find the time. Readers who have bought my two PCB-RE books, please read the back cover and leave your comments on what you'll like to see included in this upcoming book.

And oh, by the way, I'm also deliberating on who to write the Foreword (or whether there should be one anyway). If you know of anyone who is experienced in PCB-RE, kindly recommend. Thanks!