Paul King chronic tinkererer

Solving a fun Hackaday puzzle

Tonight I visited Hackaday to find they had a new landing page. Here's a quick walk-through of how I solved it.

The Puzzle

What self-respecting geek could look at this and not feel their spidey sense tingle?!

GPS Coordinates

The first bunch of numbers looked like GPS coordinates, probably because they were.

Firing them into Google Maps gave a bunch of astronomy related locations:

This last one was a little puzzling, until I tried street-view:

Ah-ha, it's LOFAR!

What's next?

Hex Strings

When I see anything that looks like hex, the first thing I normally try is converting it to ASCII.

49 27 6d 20 66 6c 6f 61 74 69 6e 67 20 69 6e 20 61
20 6d 6f 73 74 20 70 65 63 75 6c 69 61 72 20 77 61
79

became:

I'm floating in a most peculiar way

You may recognise this as a lyric to David Bowie's Space Oddity.

I was sensing a theme here... onwards!

Binary Grid Pattern

This felt like an image from the start.

I pasted it into a text editor and zoomed out a bunch of times, the result looked a lot like a QR code. But how to decode it?

Turns out there's a simple image format called Netpbm that stores bitmap images using text.

You just need to add a simple header then save it out as .PBM:

P1
25 25
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 0
...

This gave a QR code, but it still wouldn't decode.

Ahhhh, they'd inverted the colours.

I inverted it using the Gimp, but you could just as easily swap the 0s and 1s in the PBM file.

Finally it could be decoded using a QR decoder, and yielded a hyperlink...

... that asked me to comment on how I'd found it.

Problem solving is its own reward, right? :D

Thoughts

I loved that the puzzle element was unannounced and relied on the curiosity of the reader.

Having a comments area on the secret page was a great touch, it was fun reading how others had approached the same problem.

Kudos, hackaday!