GPS without GPS

Open Electronics just released a neat little board that can place you on a map without using GPS.

The board works on the basic principles of a cellphone network – the ‘cell’ network is a series of towers that are placed more or less equidistant to each other. Save for the most desolate parts of the country, a cell tower usually communicates with a phone one or two miles away. Usually, several cell towers can be seen, so the position of a cellphone can be pinpointed to within 200-350 feet. Translating cell towers to latitude and longitude is easily done by querying a Google database that was created for the mobile version of Google Maps.

The board itself is a PIC18 microcontroller and a SIM900 GSM module. The firmware available at Open Electronics is pretty impressive – all communication to the board is handled through SMS and the phone can report it’s location to 8 other phones.

It’s pretty impressive to think the same technology that caught [Kevin Mitnick] is now available to the masses. We’re wondering what Hack a Day readers would use this for, so if you have an idea leave a comment.

Cellphone battery mouse modification

Ever wanted to increase the battery performance in your wireless mouse? [Davetech] shows you the way with this guide for converting a mouse from AA to lithium batteries. We were delighted by his hack-tacular approach that seems to have a nice little work-around at each step in the process. He grinds down the plastic battery housing that is molded into the original mouse body, then uses an old Compact Flash card connector as a set of spring terminals for a Nokia cellphone battery. This battery has more capacity and recharges faster than non-Lithium AA cells. But unfortunately the spring terminals didn’t quite reach the recessed batter contact. No problem, he just builds up solder on the battery to bridge the gap.

[Davetech] manages to fit the entire battery inside the mouse and the pointing-device still works. Your mileage may vary by model (both battery and mouse). It is necessary to take the battery out of the mouse for recharging, but since this only happen about every couple of weeks thanks to the extended capacity it’s not too much of a hassle. Perhaps someone could carry this to the next level by adding a USB port and the necessary charging circuitry?

Cellphone crowd-pleasers

When you start to think about the cellphone waste our society produces it can be quite daunting. How many cell phones have you had in recent years? Now multiply that by five billion cellphone subscribers. [Anthony Goh] and [Neil Mendoza] found something to do with a very minuscule portion of those left-overs; building interactive birds out of the old parts. You’ll have to check out their accomplishments in the video after the break as the image above doesn’t do them justice. Interactivity for the exhibit is provided by an Arduino, which communicates with one working phone via a serial connection. The phone can still make and receive calls, and controls parts from other, less functional cellphones. They can call each other, or receive calls from the audience.

Yes, there is art in garbage. But there’s also a lot of hacks waiting to happen. Take a look at the Nokia cellphone LCD feature and then start scavenging.

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Extra extra: Now legal to jailbreak iPhone

For those living under a rock, the latest ‘greatest’ news to hit hacking front page is the the Copyright Office granting Six Exemptions Regarding the Circumvention of Access-Control Technologies. Of the six the one of the two regarding iPhones is as follows,

“(2) Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset.”

Which (along with section 3) really just means that you can unlock and crack cellphones and companies can no longer fine you $2,500. Not that many ever have but the threat was there. Apple however, can and still will void your warranty if you jailbreak.

The 4 other areas not involving phones are the ability to circumvent DVDs for portions of video, video games in order to better the security of said game, computer programs that require dongles but dongles are no longer available, and literary works that prevent read-aloud or rendering to a specialized format.

One tidbit I keep hearing about in these exemptions is the ability to now break DRM on music, as much as I wish this were true, I can’t seem to find any sources on it, sorry pirates.

Regardless, now that the world is one step closer to an open framework, whats changed? For me, I’ve been jailbroken for years so sadly nothing. If you agree with the ruling, disagree, or just want to tell about your now legal jailbreaking joys, please leave a comment.

Additional Sources: FOXNews and CNNMoney thanks to [Voyagerfan99], [Ryan Knight], and [Steve S.] respectively.

[Image credit:]

Cellphone hack-off

Today we received two very interesting hacks utilizing old cellphones within a matter of minutes of each other – Of course, this means war!

In the left corner we have the Mobile Mobile, a 50 cell phone collection dangling high above our heads by [James]. Loyal readers will remember his last match, a physical realization of the Spinning Wheel of Death. But today, Mobile Mobile tries to keep his title with the use of Twitter and live video.

In the right corner we have competition and newcomer  [Timo] and his Cellphone Symphony. With a combined amount of 150 cell phones including sim cards, he is going to be one tough cookie. It’s all down to this folks.

Both utilize MIDI to try and lift spirits this holiday season by playing music and sounds. Servers and custom software are of course both necessities… but who will be the winner? Check out after the break!
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BlackBerry Storm 2 teardown


Photos of the BlackBerry Storm 2, both inside and out, have been leaked. Engadget provides us with the specifics, going into detail about the four large piezoelectric pressure sensors that sit underneath the screen. It looks as though the screen will still function as a button, just without the physical movement of the previous model that received mixed reviews. For a better explanation of the technology behind the phone’s innovative screen, here’s a video describing it in more detail and a writeup over at the CrackBerry forums.

Ruggedize your not-so-rugged portables


Popular Mechanics has a detailed how-to on diy ruggedization of common portable electronics such as laptops, cameras, and cellphones. There is video of a laptop surviving an eight foot fall due to the tennis balls, pipe insulation, and weather stripping they’ve added. Its not just shock resistant, they’ve used a two-part compound marketed for making custom molded earplugs to make the laptop water resistant.