Serial communication with cell phones

Hackaday alum [Will O’Brien] has been doing some cellphone integration work. He recently picked up some Motorola c168i cellphones from eBay. It turns out there is a serial port that uses TTL communication with a standard head-phone jack as an interface. [Will] soldered up a connector and used a USB to FTDI cable to interface with the phone. To his surprise he was able to read off the stored text messages even though they were PIN protected in the phone’s operating system. The messages on these units were trivial but this is another example of the importance of clearing your data before discarding your devices.

GSM Cracked

[Karsten Nohl], with a group of security researchers has broken the A5/1 Stream Cipher behind GSM. Their project web site discusses their work and provides slides(pdf) presented at 26C3. A5/1 has had known vulnerabilities for some time now and is scheduled to be phased out for the newer KASUMI or A5/3 block cipher. This should be an interesting time in the cell phone business.

Thanks to [Tyco] and [MashupMark] for pointing us to this story.

Vodaphone ringtone music commercial

When we first saw Vodaphone’s ringtone commercial where 1000 cell phones perform a section of the William Tell overture, we just assumed it was some slick video editing, not to be taken seriously. Apparently, we were wrong. They actually did this. They actually sent text messages to all the phones in correct timing to play the music.  In the video after the break, you can see some details on how they pulled it off. They had to perform this during non peak usage hours to ensure that all their texts went through. We think this project is pretty impressive. Actually, we still don’t know how they pulled it off, we can’t seem to predict how long a text message will take to reach its destination with any kind of reproducible accuracy.

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DIY cell phone alti-variometer

AltiVarioFront

[Vlad-Andre] used some of his free time to build an alti-variometer. He does some para-gliding near restricted air space and wanted a backup altitude warning that would help keep him below the mandated altitude. His solution uses the SparkFun Weather Board in conjunction with their BlueSMiRF dongle to measure altitude and transmit it via Bluetooth. From there, he wrote a program to grab the transmitted data with his cell phone and display the information. His application also has the ability to set altitude warnings and log changes over time.

Using this system he is able to get altitude data with 3.5 inch accuracy. Because the capture application is written in Java it should be easy enough to make this work on other cell phone models. The project is clean and works well but we estimate the cost of the parts to be between $250-300, making it out of reach for those who don’t have a specific need for these types of measurements. This is especially true for paragliders who have much less expensive options available to them.
[Thanks Carl-Emil]

Nokia: destroying phones for fun and profit

nokia-test-center-ctia-still (Custom)

No matter how grumpy you are in the morning, this video should make you smile. This is one of the jobs many of us dream of. Take a tour around Nokia’s product testing facility with Engadget. Watch in the video as phones are squashed, pinched, smacked, baked, shaken, dialed, slid, opened, and closed repeatedly. Sure, we don’t get to see any of them obliterated, but it sure is fun to see those machines at work. Each one of these tests will be run until the phones eventually come apart or cease to function. Too bad they didn’t show us that part of it.

Hackit: Why we don’t need phone numbers

do_we_need_phone_numbers

We’re starting to think that phone numbers are deprecated; it may be time to integrate how we connect telephones with the new digital millennium. To get a firm grasp on this topic it is important to take a look at the reason we started using phone numbers, why we still use them, and the why’s and how’s of transitioning to a new system.

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PhonePoint Pen

Some grad students at Duke University have been working on a new tool for cell phones equipped with accellerometers. The software called  Phonepoint Pen, allows you to write with your phone in the air. Though we don’t find the applications they mention very practical, we could see this being very nice for application navigation. If you could program a 3 dimentional gesture to load certain apps, that would be nice.