Retrotechtacular: 1983’s answer to information overload

We can’t say we ever really thought that the problem with the early 1980’s was too much information in the hands of the people. But this promotional video for the Sceptre Videotex Terminal claims that it is the solution to the information overload of the time. The entire video is embedded after the break.

You use your TV as a display, connecting the hardware to a phone line and using a keyboard for navigation. Perhaps our favorite bit is when the announcer informs us that the secret behind the system is its “vast sources of information”. These include the Miami Herald, the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, and Consumer Reports. Just remember that at the time you’d need to hit the local library to access all of those resources. Also, searching them wasn’t a possibility.

But wait, this wasn’t just conceived for news. The system — which was backed by Night-Ridder (a huge Newspaper conglomerate) and AT&T — boasted commerce and banking abilities as well as education services. It’s the vision of the Internet which Ma Bell would have preferred to be in place today.

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Poking at the femtocell hardware in an AT&T Microcell

Here’s a picture of the internals of an AT&T Microcell. This hardware extends the cellular network by acting as its own cell tower and connecting to the network via a broadband connection. So if you don’t get service in your home, you can get one of these and hook it up to your cable modem or DSL and poof, you’re cellphone works again. [C1de0x] decided to crack one open and see what secrets it holds.

On the board there are two System-0n-Chips, an FPGA, the radio chip, and a GPS module. There is some tamper detection circuitry which [C1de0x] got around, but he’s saving that info for a future post. In poking and prodding at the hardware he found the UART connections which let him tap into each of the SoCs which dump data as they boot. It’s running a Linux kernel with BusyBox and there are SSH and ROOT accounts which share the same password. About five days of automated cracking and the password was discovered.

But things really start to get interesting when he stumbles upon something he calls the “wizard”. It’s a backdoor which allow full access to the device. Now it looks like the developers must have missed something, because this is just sitting out there on the WAN waiting for someone to monkey with it. Responses are sent to a hard-coded IP address, but a bit of work with the iptables will fix that. Wondering what kind of mischief can be caused by this security flaw? Take a look at the Vodafone femtocell hacking to find out.

Fanboys want to take AT&T down

A post about Operation Chokehold popped up on (fake) Steve Jobs’ blog this morning. It seems some folks are just plain tired of AT&T giving excuses about their network. The straw that broke the camel’s back came when AT&T floated the idea of instituting bandwidth limitations for data accounts. Now, someone hatched the idea of organizing enough users to bring the whole network down by maxing their bandwidth at the same time.

We’re not quite sure what to think about this. Our friend Google told us that there’s plenty of press already out there regarding Operation Chokehold so it’s not beyond comprehension that this could have an effect on the network. On the other hand, AT&T already knows about it and we’d wager they’re working on a plan to mitigate any outages that might occur.

As for the effectiveness of the message?  We’d have more sympathy for AT&T if they didn’t have exclusivity contracts for their smart phones (most notably the iPhone). And if you’re selling an “Unlimited Plan” it should be just that. What do you think?

[Thanks Bobbers]

[Headlock photo]

iPhone 3.0 tethering is easy

Did you upgrade your iPhone to 3.0 yet? 9 to 5 Mac has posted a very good reason to upgrade: enabling tethering is almost stupidly simple. Just run a simple command and then go through a restore procedure. All thats left is to sit back and enjoy your other new features you could find on a four year old Nokia.

[Related: ultrasn0w announced]

[via @waxpancake]

iPhone 3G unlock video

musclenerd

To appease people waiting for the iPhone 3G unlock, iphone-dev team member [MuscleNerd] did a live video demo this afternoon. The video shows him removing the AT&T SIM and putting in a T-Mobile SIM. After the switch, the phone shows no connectivity. He then runs “yellosn0w” in an SSH session with the phone. The phone then unlocks without needing to be rebooted and the signal bars appear. The final test shows the phone receiving a call.

The target for this release is New Year’s Eve and it doesn’t support the most recent baseband. Well be attending the 25C3 talk hosted by [MuscleNerd] and other team members. The VNC screen you see in the video is thanks to [saurik]’s Veency.