Lazy so-and-so again…

Or, Modbooks, Samsung slates, and Starions

Hello all,

I’ve been a bit lazy again – Real Life (TM) has intervened. First up, the wrap up of the expedition, needless to say, we had much more working stuff this year…! The repeater system on the hill, which was connected both by PMR and wifi to “Base” worked great, however, our “Remote Base” system that was to run on CB channel 27 needed some heavy work, and we weren’t able to get it running in time for the expedition.

I worked as main operator on CB for the two days, with another operator taking the bulk of the PMR work on a laptop! IAXRpt was used here, right hand Ctrl key is PTT. I used a standard Simoco SRM9000, and of course, I had my portable, a SRP9100.

Things had changed from last year, much to my delight – tea and coffee making facilities were no longer in the HQ area, we had our own “boss” on the ground, rather than taking orders from the “big boss” who would be out and about at any time problem solving. Overall, I am happy with the facilities, the equipment, and the weekend this year. As I was told “No lost or broken bodies, we did good…!”

As it was the 25th anniversary of the event, it was a special one, and I was glad to be invited along again. As it goes, my invitation stands for next year!

Court – we have our final appearance in Parramatta in early November. Three and a half weeks away I said to my mother this morning. I can’t wait for it to be over. Its a two day appearance too, there is that much evidence to be tendered. Oui.

Grace – finally got her to agree to come over to Australia, so I’m organising to get her over here for my 30th birthday in January. This is on track at the moment, and I don’t see why that should change.

My open cabling course – will start on the 15th of this month. I should go well, I’ve pretty much done it all, I think the word “attendance” was invented for me.

Andrews wedding – bring it on! My best wishes to both Andrew and Ruth.

And while this is a pipe dream at the moment, I may, if I get the money I wish to from the court case, have the chance to buy a fully modded 1983 Starion, which has had the internal combustion engine removed, and an electric motor (I found out from a Sydney bus used during the Olympics!) placed in it instead. This is my ultimate dream of coure, apart from getting Grace over here, and thats where Modbooks and Samsung slates come in.

For the Starion, I know the motor controller has an ethernet port on it for diagnostics and reprogramming. No, for those who fret, you can’t reprogram and reboot the controller while the car is in motion. Thank heavens! However, you can (once pulled over) reprogram the performance characteristics on the fly. Find shes a bit sluggish going up a hill? No problem! Break out a laptop – or a slate! – and mod those settings!

Initially, I was looking at the Modbook Pro. The worlds first, and only, Macintosh slate, she certainly is a sexy piece of kit. However, it falls down in a number of areas: no keyboard, no touchscreen (pen only) and lacklustre performance specs for the price. Whereas a Samsung slate (for Windows 8, I’ll be installing Hackintosh on it with my mods man, Jason) is alot cheaper, has a detachable keyboard, and the screen can accept fingers as an input device as well as the “S-Pen.”

Even if I don’t actually get the Starion (although if that were the case, I’d be very disappointed – modded for me!) I could use the system I’m designing – a StarSeer Lite! – to provide diagnostics for a variety of cars, as eventually, when I get a petrol powered car as well (since you can’t use an electric car in the wet much), I want to be able to examine what in the hell is going on. For dumb dumb me, mechanically, of course.

In fact, I have about as much mechanical skill as the average goldfish. Lucky Grace knows her way around under a bonnet!

So it is all happening! I’m all over the place, everything has to be done one at a time, in the correct order, or it can’t happen at all. But I’m sure I can do it!

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So I start with a picture today. This is the RaspPi mounted in the VESA mounting kit to the rear of the LCD TV I scored. Although its more a cable mess than a real photo, imagine, if you will, that theres an RPi in there… somewhere…

I’ve soldered up some more, longer, jumpers for the battery pack. Checked ’em out, work good. I’ll have 288W/hr of electricity to play with now. I’ve calculated the draw of the gear to be about 110W and the three solar panels will put in about 120W – neatly offsetting my draw. As always, these are “optimistic” figures, YMMV.

I’ve also looked into combiners and circulators for RF – I’ve decided that a combiner poses too much risk in terms of the power coming back to the Rx part of the USRP. 5W worth of RF would blow the Rx section to hell and back. Thats in an expensive radio, by the way. So a circulator it is!

However, for non-contiguous signals, like combining 800/ 900MHz and 2.4GHz into one antenna, a combiner would work fine. I can get dualband cellular/ wifi antennae, complete with NMO mount. Cool stuff. Unity gain and all that, but it should get me out of trouble.

Now for the expedition: I honestly don’t think my BTS will be ready for this year. I still have a truckload more stuff to get, like most of the RF gear. Added to that is the fact I have to travel “light,” due to my making part of the trip by train. And yes, we’re not out there to troubleshoot a GSM system, we’re out there to run a PMR radio network (this time).

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Working, s-l-o-w-l-y, but working…

Nothing like the Lords of Acid to top off a good hardware smoke testing session. I’ve smoke tested both the USRP and the ClockTamer, confirming the USRP is getting a 52MHz signal, by the looks of things, and that the ClockTamer is getting a GPS lock, by the looks of things. In any case, no smoke came out, so I’m ahead of the game.

The RF card hasn’t been ordered yet, I’m just waiting on my next project: to get my Open Cabling Licence (we used to call this the “Austel licence”). However, the ClockTamer and the GSM amp turned up in the mail, everything has been smoke tested on my 23A power supply. Considering the batteries will supply 24A/hr, if I don’t blow anything up, I should be able to power the whole lot from the SLAs.

The picture gives you an idea of what I’m working with – all kinds of geekery abound. As always, cables are the bane of my existence, but this little rig will be a GSM base station… soon…

As for building the ClockTamer GUI on “Wheezy” on the RPi, I needed to do a few things that weren’t documented. First I needed to run “sudo apt-get install python-serial” to install the serial libraries to actually talk to the ClockTamer. Then I needed to modify the “” file from “from Numeric import *” to “from numpy import *” – this allowed me to use a newer library included with Wheezy. Or at least it shut up whining about dependancies.

Then when I had started the GUI, all I could see was the picture of the ClockTamer. Alt + Space, select Move, press Space again, then the arrow key in whichever direction you wish to go. This allowed me to see, initially, the GPS wasn’t in sync, but the clock output was a rock solid 52MHz. Rebooting the USRP and the ClockTamer then brought the GPS in sync. This is important, because the window I have the GPS antenna in doesn’t have a good view of the sky.

Tomorrow, when Dave comes over, I hope to have a bracket made up for the ClockTamer. This will probably be made from the side of an old computer case. I’ll also be drilling the new holes for the VESA mount plates for the RPis… stay tuned…

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Racking – rebooted

I went on a little journey. Needless to say, I had to do it, thats life. But I’m back, and I’m still as insane (and inane) as ever…! And this time, I have half a GSM BTS…

I finally got my USRP – modded, of course – back from Tom (thanks mate!) in Sydney. I used this as the impetuous to get a Clocktamer, a CPU card based on the same quad core processor as the Samsung Galaxy SIII, and a GSM amplifier. Yet to get the RF card, but I’m working on it.

In the mail today were my batteries and a cigarette lighter to 2Amp USB charger adapter. This’ll be used to power my RaspberryPi while I’m out on deployment. Additional to that (in the mail) is two VESA mounting plates for RaspPi, one for the LCD monitor, and one for the little widescreen LCD TV I picked up recently.

So the next couple of weeks will be fun filled as more and more parcels turn up.

I’ve also finally gotten an iO1000 modem from the US, for the iDEN project. Thats coming along, v-e-r-y slowly, but I reckon GSM is much more important at the moment. Speaking of GSM being much more important, two things: charging all my obsolete phones (although the OpenMoko is being difficult), and getting a SureSignal from the UK!

Yes, the old hack attack is still hard at work…


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Yes, those are fat DSes


Got my DS hacking gear back. Ignore 4MFOR catalog underneath.

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Revenge of the No Name Brand

Yup, I’m bored again. So what does my mind come up with? Skillful misrepresentations of advertising campaigns, and other assorted oddities. Like the “Abbot Proof Fence.” That was a bloody good play on words.

Meanwhile, in the annex to World Domination HQ, things trundle along like the usually do – slowly. I buzzed out a cable last night, that was fun – “Was that the red wire, or the black wire?!” – but I got it done, and drew up a little diagram with scribble all over it. Essentially, I’m taking SCART to levels it has never been before – running the electronics of my model train layout.

The shopping list still looks rather… full, I guess you could say. With the decision to revive the old “Communicator” project, and finding most of the parts are indeed still available – actually, I should check if they are still available. Just cause a web site says they are, I’ve learned not to trust peoples inventory systems, half the parts may not be for sale anymore.

I’m also going to gear up for the DSP control project I want to get underway. Parts, parts, parts. Argh, hooking them together and getting them all talking is the biggest challenge at the moment. Refer “Making Things Talk” 2nd edition. I also want “Making Things See.” Hmmm.

Not much to report, except that the DS is still sitting out on the workbench, after pulling it out of storage…

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A design revisit

For some reason yesterday, I pulled out my Nintendo DS, and remembered a few things about it. First up, it was the hackers platform of choice back in the day, before Arduinos and BeagleBoards took over the open source scene. And the second thing is, I wanted to make my own mobile phone using it.

Unfortunately, real life intervened, and the project got shelved. Eventually, I gave away most of the components, but getting that DS out lit the fire inside again – but this time, as a connected PDA.

I’m planning on getting some modules, specifically GSM, iDEN and Iridium SBD, as well as some other odds and sods. I might even hook up Zigbee, or a panStamp…! But how do I connect these things to the DS? Read on.

Its called an XPort. No, not the LAN adapter, this is a different one. And its available at Its an FPGA the interfaces with Slot2 on the DS on one side, and digital I/Os on the other. It should be possible to make some serial ports and connect the modules to those serial ports.

Next up, we need a cheat cartridge. This’ll allow us to run unsigned code. There are alot of home brew applications out there for DS, including the operating system Inferno, and a SIP VoIP app.

The original design called for Inferno as the OS, and a connected palmtop computer to be made. This design I’m planning will have connectivity all over the world, be it be GSM, iDEN or satellite.

Now all I got to do is order all the parts…!

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