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Here is a quick writeup of the protocol for the iKettle taken from my Google+ post earlier this month. This protocol allows you to write your own software to control your iKettle or get notifications from it, so you can integrate it into your desktop or existing home automation system.

The iKettle is advertised as the first wifi kettle, available in UK since February 2014. I bought mine on pre-order back in October 2013. When you first turn on the kettle it acts as a wifi hotspot and they supply an app for Android and iPhone that reconfigures the kettle to then connect to your local wifi hotspot instead. The app then communicates with the kettle on your local network enabling you to turn it on, set some temperature options, and get notification when it has boiled.

Once connected to your local network the device responds to ping requests and listens on two tcp ports, 23 and 2000. The wifi connectivity is enabled by a third party serial to wifi interface board and it responds similar to a HLK-WIFI-M03. Port 23 is used to configure the wifi board itself (to tell it what network to connect to and so on). Port 2000 is passed through to the processor in the iKettle to handle the main interface to the kettle.

Port 2000, main kettle interface

The iKettle wifi interface listens on tcp port 2000; all devices that connect to port 2000 share the same interface and therefore receive the same messages. The specification for the wifi serial board state that the device can only handle a few connections to this port at a time. The iKettle app also uses this port to do the initial discovery of the kettle on your network.


Sending the string "HELLOKETTLE\n" to port 2000 will return with "HELLOAPP\n". You can use this to check you are talking to a kettle (and if the kettle has moved addresses due to dhcp you could scan the entire local network looking for devices that respond in this way. You might receive other HELLOAPP commands at later points as other apps on the network connect to the kettle.

Initial Status

Once connected you need to figure out if the kettle is currently doing anything as you will have missed any previous status messages. To do this you send the string "get sys status\n". The kettle will respond with the string "sys status key=\n" or "sys status key=X\n" where X is a single character. bitfields in character X tell you what buttons are currently active:

Bit 6Bit 5Bit 4Bit 3Bit 2Bit 1

So, for example if you receive "sys status key=!" then buttons "100C" and "On" are currently active (and the kettle is therefore turned on and heating up to 100C).

Status messages

As the state of the kettle changes, either by someone pushing the physical button on the unit, using an app, or sending the command directly you will get async status messages. Note that although the status messages start with "0x" they are not really hex. Here are all the messages you could see:

sys status 0x100100C selected
sys status 0x9595C selected
sys status 0x8080C selected
sys status 0x10065C selected
sys status 0x11Warm selected
sys status 0x10Warm has ended
sys status 0x5Turned on
sys status 0x0Turned off
sys status 0x8005Warm length is 5 minutes
sys status 0x8010Warm length is 10 minutes
sys status 0x8020Warm length is 20 minutes
sys status 0x3Reached temperature
sys status 0x2Problem (boiled dry?)
sys status 0x1Kettle was removed (whilst on)

You can receive multiple status messages given one action, for example if you turn the kettle on you should get a "sys status 0x5" and a "sys status 0x100" showing the "on" and "100C" buttons are selected. When the kettle boils and turns off you'd get a "sys status 0x3" to notify you it boiled, followed by a "sys status 0x0" to indicate all the buttons are now off.

Sending an action

To send an action to the kettle you send one or more action messages corresponding to the physical keys on the unit. After sending an action you'll get status messages to confirm them.

set sys output 0x80Select 100C button
set sys output 0x2Select 95C button
set sys output 0x4000Select 80C button
set sys output 0x200Select 65C button
set sys output 0x8Select Warm button
set sys output 0x8005Warm option is 5 mins
set sys output 0x8010Warm option is 10 mins
set sys output 0x8020Warm option is 20 mins
set sys output 0x4Select On button
set sys output 0x0Turn off

Port 23, wifi interface

The user manual for this document is available online, so no need to repeat the document here. The iKettle uses the device with the default password of "000000" and disables the web interface.

If you're interested in looking at the web interface you can enable it by connecting to port 23 using telnet or nc, entering the password, then issuing the commands "AT+WEBS=1\n" then "AT+PMTF\n" then "AT+Z\n" and then you can open up a webserver on port 80 of the kettle and change or review the settings. I would not recommend you mess around with this interface, you could easily break the iKettle in a way that you can't easily fix. The interface gives you the option of uploading new firmware, but if you do this you could get into a state where the kettle processor can't correctly configure the interface and you're left with a broken kettle. Also the firmware is just for the wifi serial interface, not for the kettle control (the port 2000 stuff above), so there probably isn't much point.

Missing functions

The kettle processor knows the temperature but it doesn't expose that in any status message. I did try brute forcing the port 2000 interface using combinations of words in the dictionary, but I found no hidden features (and the folks behind the kettle confirmed there is no temperature read out). This is a shame since you could combine the temperature reading with time and figure out how full the kettle is whilst it is heating up. Hopefully they'll address this in a future revision.

Security Implications

The iKettle is designed to be contacted only through the local network - you don't want to be port forwarding to it through your firewall for example because the wifi serial interface is easily crashed by too many connections or bad packets. If you have access to a local network on which there is an iKettle you can certainly cause mischief by boiling the kettle, resetting it to factory settings, and probably even bricking it forever. However the cleverly designed segmentation between the kettle control and wifi interface means it's pretty unlikely you can do something more serious like overiding safety (i.e. keeping the kettle element on until something physically breaks).

When I moved to a new house in 2001 I designed and installed my own home-brew home automation system in it to control things like the heating, lighting, alarm system, and more. The messaging system I picked was to use standard XMPP (Jabber) because most platforms have existing open source XMPP libraries so writing clients is easy. The back-end is just a load of XMPP bots written in Perl. Around the house I had a number of Fujitsu Point 1600 tablets running an interface I designed and wrote using Perl/Tk. The tablets are great, but they're starting to show their age with limited resolution of 800x600 and CPU speed making full-screen video not really possible.

So last year I obtained an Archos 101 10.1" android tablet with the plan being to replace the existing tablets with android powered ones. It was a good excuse to dust off the old skills and learn programming apps for Android. Converting the app was straightforward and tooks a couple of weekends, troubles with the tablet took quite a bit more work.

Finding a way to mount the Archos tablet on a wall proved tricky, the back of the device isn't perfectly flat and it has an annoying desk stand in the middle. I ended up using a PadTab for mounting, but having to custom modify it to handle not being in the centre of the device, and add thick sticky strips (normally used to dampen fans). The build quality of these tablets is pretty poor.


The display panel on the tablet isn't very good either and has limited viewing angles from three sides, so in order to be able to see the screen when mounted to the wall I had to turn it upside down. Android can happily handle a rotated display, the only downside is that the Archos logo is the wrong way up (a bit of black tape covers it up now).

I left the Archos mounted on the wall and running for a week, permanently attached to its charger. At the end of the week I noticed it wasn't sitting straight on the wall, and in fact the internal batteries had both swelled up and burst out of the case. I read online a few other stories from folks who had bought Archos tablets which had failed in the same way, I guess they're really not designed to be left on charge permanently (that's really bad design Archos, this could have easily caught fire!)

I figured I didn't really need to have batteries installed, the tablet is going to be permanently powered on anyway, and it would be safer to leave the house knowing there was no risk of exploding batteries. So I took the tablet apart and removed them. Without batteries the Archos starts its power up cycle, displays a logo, then gets to a certain part of the boot process and powers down. I guess it does a check on the state of the batteries and it fails. This presented a real problem and I gave up trying to use the tablet. Over the Christmas holidays I heard that you could flash an alternative OS, CyanogenMod, and that actually booted and ran just fine without batteries, but it wasn't stable and featured enough for running the Home Automation app I'd written.

So I decided to try to debug the Archos OS, so connected it to USB to get debug messages, and interestingly it powered up perfectly first time. Removing the USB connection caused it to lock up a few seconds later. Strange behaviour! I tried just connecting power to the USB port, and that worked too. So if you want to run your Archos 101 android tablet without internal batteries you can, but you need to splice your power cable and feed 5v to both the power socket and the USB socket.

So now I had a working tablet again I changed the power adaptor so it mounted neatly against the wall:


Here are a couple of pics of it in use:



We keep all our friends and family contacts in a single text file in vCard format. We sync this file to our phones (mobile and house DECT phones) and home automation system (for caller ID and phone book). I also print out a copy to take when travelling. Except I rarely print out an update as I've failed to find any useful program to pretty print the contacts. Previously I used a quick hack script in perl to convert the vcard entries to HTML, but it wasn't clever enough to handle page breaks and needed manual setting all the margins and page sizes correctly. I like to print it to fit in my paper planner, a Compact size Franklin Covey planner system.

I've been using Scribus for a few months, mostly for our wedding invites and stationary, and spotted that Scribus had a Python API. So a few hours later and out has popped a Python script you can use to pretty print a vCard vcf file, handling page breaks, images, and large margins to skip the hole punches.

Here is an extract from a sample vCard file:

ADR;TYPE=work:;;10 Downing Street;London;SW1A 2AA
TEL;TYPE=fax:+44 2079 250918
NICKNAME:Prime Minister
FN:Gordon Brown

You'll need a few things:

  1. a sample vCard file or your own one
  2. script (version 1.0)
  3. A recent version of Scribus. 1.3.5 works, but earlier ones will not.
  4. You'll also need the python vobject library installed if you haven't already got it

Use the "Script" "Execute Script" option, find and select and hopefully you'll end up with something like this:

You can then save it as a pdf or print it direct.

The script is a bit of a hack and has hard-coded page sizes, fonts, margins, vcard sections used, and so on. But I figure it might save someone a couple of hours and only needs a bit of modification to suit. It would be fairly easy to extend the script to use the Scribus API to let folks select the vcard file, page sizes, fonts, and things. Bonus points if you fix it to figure out the final sizes of the images and right align them. This is my second ever python program so no sniggering at the code!

A few years ago I automated the treadmill in our guest room as a way of motivating Tracy and I to keep fit. The treadmill sent us emails when we used it, and the touch panels around the house showed how much we'd used it in the last week and month. This worked really well for some time; until the point we realised if we both agreed to stop using it on the same day then there would be no competition, no winner, no loser, and neither us would feel bad.

Last winter the Red Hat video team came to my house to record some footage for both internal and external use. On one of the internal videos they look at my home automation system, point the camera at a wall tablet, and figure out that I'd not used my treadmill in over two years. So there were really two options (1) remove the year from the display so it would never look like we were slacking for more than a year, or (2) find a way to get motivated again.

Recently we both started using Twitter, so it seemed like a natural progression to hook the treadmill to twitter and have it publicly embarrass us for slacking off.

So the treadmill now has it's own twitter page.

We called it 'twedmill' ('tweadmill' perhaps is more correct, but just sounds like a factory that weaves twead jackets). Here is how it works:

twedmill the 1wire twittering treadmill The treadmill itself is pretty standard; it's from Trimline and has a fancy computer. When I looked inside and saw a PIC I was tempted to interface direct to the computer, but didn't really have the time to get around to that. Although the treadmill does things like have a variable incline and measurement of heart rate, all I really care about it making sure we were using it, for how long, and how far we got.

twedmill the 1wire twittering treadmill Under a cover in the base are the PWM controllers, motors, and the belt drive to the treadmill deck. The treadmill itself measures the belt speed by having a single magnet on the wheel and a small sensor next to it, one revolution giving one pulse. So to keep things simple I just hot-glued a spare reed switch I had around so the same magnet would trigger it. The reed switch happily copes with the treadmill even on top speed, so no real need for anything more fancy.

I didn't have anything that could accurately measure the diameter of the roller, so by counting pulses at various speeds and comparing to the onboard display it worked out at 8122 pulses/revolutions per (uk) mile (so that's about 198mm of travel per pulse, making the diameter of the roller about 63mm).

twedmill the 1wire twittering treadmill twedmill the 1wire twittering treadmill I use a 1-wire network in the house to measure temperatures, watch the doorbell, and control the central heating system, so I wanted to use the same system to deal with the treadmill. So the reed switch connects to a DS2423 counter (Unfortunately it seems the DS2423 is discontinued now). The DS2423 was only available in a surface-mount package, so I found some converters on ebay to save having to design a PCB just for three components. The DS2423 connects into a 1-wire hub in node0, then to a 1-wire USB adapter on our main server, currently running Fedora 10.

The software used in based on the source code from 'digitemp' as it includes code in cnt1d.c to read the counter values. Every ten seconds the jabber treadmill bot switches to the right network segment on the 1-wire hub then polls the counter of the DS2423 to see if the treadmill has moved. Once the treadmill has stopped moving for a while the software stores the total distance travelled and time in a database, sends an email, and uses the perl Net::Twitter module to post a mesage to twitter. (It can also draw a graph showing speed over time, but that turned out to be not very interesting)

For the future I'd quite like to hook directly into the treadmill computer, perhaps giving two way control of the treadmill programs, as well as recording the incline and heart rate. Another idea has been to use the current treadmill speed to decide which music video to play next based on bpm (the tv is connected to an old XBOX running XMBC so could easilly be remotely controlled to switch videos). Or perhaps link it to google streets for a virtual jog through some random town. Finally, you currently have to select who is using the treadmill before (or very quickly after) using it using the touch panels in the house; which seems like a good excuse to play with some RFID in our shoes, perhaps also using that to select a playlist of music videos per person.

ZoneMinder is an amazing Linux video camera security and surveillance application I use as part of my home automation system. ZoneMinder prior to version 1.23.3 contains unescaped PHP exec() calls which can allow an authorised remote user the ability to run arbitrary code as the Apache httpd user (CVE-2008-1381)

CVSS v2 Base Score 6.5 (AV:N/AC:L/Au:S/C:P/I:P/A:P)

This is really a moderate severity flaw because you need a remote attacker who has the ability to start/stop/control ZoneMinder, and you really should protect your ZoneMinder installation so you don't allow arbitrary people to control your security system. (Although I think at least one distributor package of ZoneMinder doesn't protect it by default, and you can find a few unprotected ZoneMinder consoles using a web search).

I discovered this because when we went on holiday early in April I forgot to turn down the heating in the house. Our heating system is controlled by computer and you can change the settings locally by talking to a Jabber heating bot (Figure 1). But remotely over the internet it's pretty locked down and the only thing we can access is the installation of ZoneMinder. So without remote shell access, and with an hour to spare at Heathrow waiting for the connecting flight to Phoenix, I figured the easiest way to correct the temperature was to find a security flaw in ZoneMinder and exploit it. The fallback plan was to explain to our house-minder how to change it locally, but that didn't seem as much fun.

So I downloaded ZoneMinder and took a look at the source. ZoneMinder is a mixture of C and PHP, and a few years ago I found a buffer overflow in one of the C CGI scripts, but as I use Red Hat Enterprise Linux exploiting any new buffer overflow with my ZoneMinder compiled as PIE definately wouldn't be feasible with just an hours work. My PHP and Apache were up to date too. So I focussed on the PHP scripts.

A quick grep of the PHP scripts packaged with ZoneMinder found a few cases where the arguments passed to PHP exec() were not escaped. One of them was really straightforward to exploit, and with a carefully crafted URL (and if you have authorization to a ZoneMinder installation) you can run arbitrary shell code as the Apache httpd user. So with the help of an inserted semicolon and one reverse shell I had the ability to remotely turn down the heating, and was happy.

I notified the ZoneMinder author and the various vendors shortly after and updates were released today (a patch is also available)

Figure 1: Local heating control

Last month I read a blog entry from hadess via Fedora Planet about hardware to let you run homebrew applications on Nintendo DS. There is a ton of homebrew applications available, but as of yet no jabber client.

My home automation system is all based around XMPP, with a standard Jabber server to which all the home automation systems connect to share messages. I wrote it like this so that it would be easy to just take some existing Jabber client for a platform and be able to come up with a nice looking front end with minimal effort.

I found Iksemel, a portable C XML parser and protocol library that looked perfect, and it only took a couple of hours to have it ported on the NDS, and a couple more hours to get it working with PAlib for wifi. It's not a generic Jabber chat client, but it wouldn't take too much work to make it into one (although I didn't bother with encryption support so you won't be able to use it with Google talk servers for example). Anyway, the code might save someone a few hours, so I've made the source available.

I've included a copy of Iksemel, so if you want to build this yourself all you need is a working development environment: devkitpro and PAlib. This still needs some work, I need to integrate a library to handle displaying images from the network (when the phone rings it can pop up the callers picture or a streaming picture from one of the cameras when the doorbell is pushed)


The biggest problem with my home-grown Home Automation system was that I'm not a graphic designer. My displays all looked a little clunky, like they'd come out of the 1980s. Guests only ever see the user interface displayed on the tablets around the house, so I took some time over the Easter holiday to make the user interface look a bit nicer.

The user interface is written in Perl/Tk and was designed to be snappy even on the original Point 510 (100Mhz) tablets. I'd already replaced these tablets around the house with Point 1600 tablets (most picked up on ebay for about 50-100 pounds each) with the main advantage that the Point 1600 can run at 800x600 in full-colour rather than the 256 colours of the 510 in the same resolution.

I first looked around the web to see if there were any existing Perl/Tk projects that had exciting graphic design I could base on, but I didn't find anything very useful. In the end I decided to make the UI look like a web site design proposed by a colleague at Red Hat for some internal site that didn't get used.

Screenshots from the new design


The Heating interface lets you look at graphs of past readings for any sensor or change the target temperature of the house.


Actually we only have a couple of X10 lights in the house, and we really only ever control the living room lights.


This is just screen-scraped from the BBC website and updated every hour.


We use this screen to look at the security cameras as well as some other Glasgow web cameras. The interface allows multipart-jpeg streaming (compatible with ZoneMinder).


This actually displays a number of events such as the status of the house alarm, capturing when the doorbell is pressed, as well as popping up details of who calls us.

Screenshots of the original design

Old heating interface for comparison. See my original software page to see how the other screens looked.


I was previously using the Tk/TabBar module from Jarl to provide the nice tab bars, and a bit of hacking gave the simplified tabbar (with the advantage that the bar will still nicely wrap over two rows if needed)

The rest of it was just messing around with frames and alignment and creating the curved edges. I used the gimp to get a curve I was happy with, then coverted it from a GIF to xpm with reduced colours. The xpm was then coded into the application and simplified so that the program can generate the right curves for any font size.

The Perl/Tk I used to create the headings is available here and running that program displays the following:

My home automation tablets use Perl/Tk as their user interface which makes coding and prototyping really quick and easy and works on both Linux and Windows platforms. I use ZoneMinder for looking after the security cameras around the house and had set up the tablets to be able to display a static image from any camera on demand. But what I really wanted to do was to let the tablets display a streaming image from the cameras.

ZoneMinder is able to stream to browsers by making use of the Netscape server push functionality. In response to a HTTP request, ZoneMinder will send out a multipart replace header, then the current captured frame as a jpeg image, followed by a boundary string, followed by the next frame, and so on until you close the connection. It's perhaps not as efficient as streaming via mpeg or some other streaming format, but it's simple and lets you stream images to browsers without requiring plugins.

So I wrote the quick Perl/Tk program below to test streaming from ZoneMinder. It does make some horrible assumptions about the format of the response, so if you want to use this with anything other than ZoneMinder you'll need to edit it a bit. It also assumes that your network is quite good between the client and ZoneMinder; the GUI will become unresponsive if the network read blocks.

My first attempt ran out of memory after an hour -- I traced the memory leak to Tk::Photo and it seems that you have to use the undocumented 'delete' method on a Tk::Photo object otherwise you get a large memory leak. The final version below seems to work okay though.

# Test program to decode the multipart-replace stream that
# ZoneMinder sends.  It's a hack for this stream only though
# and could be easily improved.  For example we ignore the
# Content-Length.
# Mark J Cox,, February 2006

use Tk;
use Tk::X11Font;
use Tk::JPEG;
use LWP::UserAgent;
use MIME::Base64;
use IO::Socket;

my $host = "";
my $url = "/cgi-bin/zms?mode=jpeg&monitor=1&scale=50&maxfps=2";

my $stop = 0;
my $mw = MainWindow->new(title=>"test"); 
my $photo = $mw->Label()->pack();
$mw->Button(-text=>"Start",-command => sub { getdata(); })->pack();
$mw->Button(-text=>"Stop",-command => sub { $stop=1; })->pack();

sub getdata {
    return unless ($stop == 0);
    my $sock = IO::Socket::INET->new(PeerAddr=>$host,Proto=>'tcp',PeerPort=>80,)
    return unless defined $sock;
    print $sock "GET $url HTTP/1.0\r\nHost: $host\r\n\r\n";
    my $status = <$sock>;
    die unless ($status =~ m|HTTP/\S+\s+200|);

    my ($grab,$jpeg,$data,$image,$thisbuf,$lastimage);
    while (my $nread = sysread($sock, $thisbuf, 4096)) {
        $grab .= $thisbuf;
        if ( $grab =~ s/(.*?)\n--ZoneMinderFrame\r\n//s ) {

            $jpeg .= $1;
            $jpeg =~ s/--ZoneMinderFrame\r\n//; # Heh, what a
            $jpeg =~ s/Content-Length: \d+\r\n//; # Nasty little
            $jpeg =~ s/Content-Type: \S+\r\n\r\n//; # Hack

            $data = encode_base64($jpeg);
            undef $jpeg;
            eval {
                $image = $mw->Photo(-format=>"jpeg",-data=>$data);
            undef $data;
            eval {
            $lastimage->delete if ($lastimage); #essential as Photo leaks!
            $lastimage = $image;
        $jpeg .= $1 if ($grab =~ s/(.*)(?=\n)//s);
        last if $stop;
    $stop = 0;
Russell Handorf used threads to support more than one camera at a time (although I would probably do this in a loop or with select instead of threads)

I use a Dallas 1-wire network for temperature sensing and control around the house. Ideally you run a single cable from the PC interface and attach sensors along the wire, but I didn't think of that before the house was wired. So instead I use a star network using the existing cat5 networking to each room, with a one-wire hub from AAG handling switching between the different spokes of the hub.

At the Home Automation server is a USB to 1-wire interface unit. This interface connects directly to the one-wire hub. 6 outputs from the hub go to various places around the house.

Output C6 has a ds18s20 temperature sensor plugged straight into it, this provides the temperature of the home automation cupboard.

Output C5 goes to the lounge, which has a single ds18s20 temperature sensor plugged straight into it, this provides the temperature of the lounge which is used as the master control for the heating system.

Output C2 goes to the master bedroom, again with a single ds18s20 temperature sensor.

Output C1 goes to the garage, where a temperature sensor is connected and poked out of the vent to get the outdoor temperature, and on the same wire is a 1-wire switch used to control the heating system.

The final output C4 goes to a hacked wireless doorbell. A one-wire switch detects when the doorbell is activated. The one-wire hub provides a 5v supply and so we use this to power the doorbell to save on batteries.

The home automation sensor polls each device in turn to get a reading. For short events (like a doorbell push) it monitors a latched register which shows if the state of the input has changed since the last time the device was polled. I'll write more about the software side of this and give my source code in a later article.

More photos of 1-wire:

see all at

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Hi! I'm Mark Cox. This blog gives my thoughts and opinions on my security work, open source, fedora, home automation, and other topics.