Hack your phone: turn your volume buttons into GPIO ports

Internet connected cameras are mighty useful, specially in situations requiring some form of remote monitoring. An always-on camera that is available over an internet connection, is cheap, and uses re-purposed  hardware – that’s what the Gonzo project hopes to achieve. To accommodate these requirements, the Exploratory Engineering program team in Telenor Digital are using off-the-shelf phone hardware running on top of a fork of Firefox OS. You hang the Gonzo where you want to monitor a situation, after which it will function for up to one month before needing a recharge, sending data to a designated public URL over the 2G network.

A big downside with using such hardware is that it is not designed for the task at hand, and offers no expansion ports that may be needed for certain functions. In this particular case, the designers needed a couple of output ports to drive some LED’s. The hardware guys got a bit creative,  and re-mapped the volume buttons of the phone into generic GPIO ports. On the software side, they looked at where the button GPIO’s were referenced, and located how they are mapped to a keymap. They then added a device driver that maps the GPIO ports to be generic ports instead. Modding the hardware needed a little bit more hard work, figuring out which traces connected to the two volume buttons, adding series resistors, and then wiring the LED’s in place. The project itself is still a work in progress, and you can read more about it at the Gonzo website.

If you’re like one of us and have a box full of old phones lying around, take a look at some creative suggestions here for some Arduino controlled robots.

Thanks for the tip [pb] !

Breathe New Life Into Payphones with Asterisk

Payphones used to be found on just about every street corner. They were a convenience, now replaced by the ubiquitous mobile phone. These machines were the stomping grounds for many early computer hackers, and as a result hold a place in hacker history. If you’ve ever wanted to re-live the good ol’ days, [hharte’s] project might be for you.

[hharte] has been working to make these old payphones useful again with some custom hardware and software. The project intends to be an interface between a payphone and an Asterisk PBX system. On the hardware side, the controller board is capable of switching various high voltage signals required for coin-line signaling. The controller uses a Teensy microcontroller to detect the hook status as well as to control the relays. The current firmware features are very basic, but functional.

[hharte] also wrote a custom AGI script for Asterisk. This script allows Asterisk to detect the 1700hz and 2200hz tones transmitted when coins are placed into the machine. The script is also in an early stage, but it will prompt for money and then place the call once 25 cents has been deposited. All of the schematics and code can be found on the project’s github page.

[Thanks mies]

Detect Cosmic Rays with Your Smartphone Using CRAYFIS

[Daniel Whiteson and Michael Mulhearn], researchers at the University of California, have come up with a novel method of detecting ultra-high energy cosmic rays (UHECR) using smartphones. UHECR are defined as having energy greater than 1018eV. They are rare and very difficult to detect with current arrays. In order to examine enough air showers to detect UHECR, more surface area is needed. Current arrays, like the Pierre Auger Observatory and AGASA, cannot get much larger without dramatically increasing cost. A similar THP Quarterfinalist project is the construction of a low-cost cosmic ray observatory, where it was mentioned that more detection area is needed in order to obtain enough data to be useful.

[Daniel Whiteson and Michael Mulhearn] and colleagues noted that smartphone cameras with CMOS sensors can detect ionizing radiation, which means they also will pick up muons and high-energy photons from cosmic rays. The ubiquitous presence of smartphones makes their collective detection of air showers and UHECR an intriguing possibility. To make all this happen, [Whiteson and Mulhearn] created a smartphone app called CRAYFIS, short for Cosmic RAYs Found In Smartphones. The app turns an idle smartphone into a cosmic ray detector. When the screen goes to sleep and the camera is face-down, CRAYFIS starts taking data from the camera. If a cosmic ray hits the CMOS sensor, the image data is stored on the smartphone along with the arrival time and the phone’s geolocation. This information is uploaded to a central server via the phone’s WiFi. The user does not have to interact with the app beyond installing it. It’s worth noting that CRAYFIS will only capture when the phone is plugged in, so no worries about dead batteries.

The goal of CRAYFIS is to have a minimum of one million smartphones running the app, with a density of 1000 smartphones per square kilometer. As an incentive, anyone whose smartphone data is used in a future scientific paper will be listed as an author. There are CRAYFIS app versions for Android and iOS platforms according to the site. CRAYFIS is still in beta, so the apps aren’t publicly available. Head over to the site to join up!

[via Science]

Hacking a Pogoplug into a $20 PBX

The Pogoplug Series 4 is a little network attached device that makes your external drives accessible remotely. Under the hood of this device is an ARM processor running at 800 MHz, which is supported by the Linux kernel. If you’re looking to build your own PBX on the cheap, [Ward] runs us through the process. Since the Pogoplug 4 is currently available for about $20, it’s a cheap way to play with telephony.

Step one is to convert the Pogoplug to Debian, which mostly requires following instructions carefully. After the Pogoplug is booting Debian, the Incredible PBX bundle can be installed. We’ve seen this bundle running on a Raspberry Pi in the past. Incredible PBX’s preconfigured setup based on Asterisk and FreePBX gives a ton of functionality out of the box.

With your $20 PBX running, there’s a lot that can be done. Google’s Voice service allows unlimited free calling to the USA and Canada. With Internet connectivity, you get email notifications for voicemails, and can query WolframAlpha by voice.

USB Rotary Phone: A Lync to the Past

usb rotary phone[Ivan] is fed up with all this rampant virtualization. When his company took away his physical desk phone in favor of using MS Lync, he was driven to build a USB rotary phone. His coworkers loved it and one of them asked [Ivan] to build another. The build log focuses on converting his coworker’s vintage brass and copper number that must weigh a ton.

He had to do a bit more work with this one because it had rusted out inside and a few of the contacts were bent. The good news is that the speaker and microphone were in working order and he was able to use them both. After restoring the stock functionality, he added a USB sound card and created a USB keyboard using a PIC32MX440F256H.

The rotary phone’s dial works using two switches, one that’s open and one that’s closed when no one is dialing. Once dialing is detected, the open switch closes and the closed switch clicks according to the dialed digit (ten clicks for 0). [Ivan] also reads the switch hook state and has added debouncing. This gave him some trouble because of the quick response expected by the PC bus, but he made use of interrupts and was allowed to keep his seat.

Please stay on the line. [Ivan]’s videos will be with you shortly.

Continue reading “USB Rotary Phone: A Lync to the Past”

Adding a SIM card to the Photon Q 4G LTE

[Charles] is a big fan of phones that have physical keyboards. He thinks they are better suited for writing lengthy emails, but unfortunately his HTC Desire Z was getting old so he had to replace it. [Charles] therefore decided to import the Motorola Photon Q from the USA which exposed one major problem. The Verizon phone uses CDMA so there is nowhere to put a GSM SIM. But a bit of hacking allowed him to add a SIM card slot to it. Even though he’s not the one who originally found this hack (XDA thread here), his write-up is definitely an interesting read. To perform this modification, he needed a hot air reflow station, a soldering iron, a Dremel with the appropriate cutting wheel and several SIM card slot assemblies from the Galaxy S3 (as the first ones usually get burned during the disassembly process).

Obviously the first steps involved opening the phone, which may have taken a while. Using hot air, [Charles] removed the EMI shield covering the SIM card IC . He then extracted the latter using the same technique. Finally, he removed another EMI shield covering the contacts to which the SIM card slot should be connected. A few minutes/hours of delicate soldering and case modding later, [Charles] could use his SIM card on his brand new phone.

5 Digit Security Code Activated Relay Using Mostly Discrete Circuitry

alarm keypad

Let’s rollback the hobby electronics calendar a few decades with [myvideoisonutube’s] alarm activation control circuit using a matrix style phone keypad. The circuit is quite old using CMOS 4081 with 4 ‘AND’ gates to hardwire the access code. [myvideoisonutube] references [Ron’s] “Enhanced 5-Digit Alarm Keypad” schematic for this build changing the recommend keypad with a more common matrix style keypad found in touch pad phones. These types of matrix keypads wouldn’t work outright for the input so he cut some traces and added hookup wires to transform it into a keypad with common terminals and separately connected keys. We love seeing such hacked donor hardware even when it requires extensive modifications. [Ron’s] source circuit included a simple enough to build tactical button keypad if you can’t find a suitable donor phone.

Learning how to use mostly discrete components instead of a microcontroller would be the core objective to build this circuit outside of needing a key-code access point or other secure 12 V relay activated device. Such a device would be quite secure requiring a 4 digit “on” code and 5 digits for “off”. You couldn’t just pull off the keypad and hotwire or short something to gain access either. The 4 digit on “feature” does knock the security down quite a lot. However, all keys not in the access code are connected to the same point so you could increase your security by using a pad with more keys.

On [Ron’s] site you will find a detailed construction guide including top and bottom view for placement of all the components on veroboard. Join us after the break to watch [myvideoisonutube] demo his version.

Continue reading “5 Digit Security Code Activated Relay Using Mostly Discrete Circuitry”