Go Wireless with This DIY Laser Ethernet Link

Most of us have Ethernet in our homes today. The real backbones of the Internet though, use no wires at all. Optical fibers carry pulses of light across the land, under the sea, and if you’re lucky, right to your door. [Sven Brauch] decided to create an optical link. He didn’t have any fiber handy, but air will carry laser pulses over short distances quite nicely. The idea of this project is to directly convert ethernet signals to light pulses. For simplicity’s sake, [Sven] limited the bandwidth to one channel, full-duplex, at 10 Megabits per second (Mbps).

The transmit side of the circuit is rather simple. An op-amp circuit acts as a constant current source, biasing the laser diode. The transmit signal from an Ethernet cable is then added in as modulation. This ensures the laser glows brightly for a 1 bit but never shuts completely off for a 0 bit.

The receive side of the circuit starts with a photodiode. The diode is biased up around 35 V, and a transimpedance amplifier (a current to voltage converter) is used to determine if the diode is seeing a 1 or a 0 from the laser. A bit more signal conditioning ensures the output will be a proper differential Ethernet signal.

[Sven] built two identical boards – each with a transmitter and receiver. He tested the circuit by pointing it at a mirror. His Linux box immediately established a link and was reported that there was a duplicate IP address on the network. This was exactly what [Sven] expected. The computer was confused by its own reflection – but the laser and photodiode circuits were working.

Finally, [Sven] connected his PC and a Raspberry Pi to the two circuits. After carefully aligning the lasers on a wooden board, the two machines established a link. Success! (But be aware that a longer distances, more sophisticated alignment mechanisms may be in order.)

Want to know more about fiber and networking? Check out this article about wiring up an older city. You can also use an optical link to control your CNC.

Enabling Ethernet On The ESP32

The ESP32 is the latest and greatest wonderchip from Espressif. It’s a 32-bit, dual-core chip with WiFi, Bluetooth, and tons of peripherals such as CAN and Ethernet. For most of these peripherals, Espressif already has a few bits of example code, but [Frank Sautter] didn’t like the Ethernet implementation. The ‘stock’ code calls for a TLK110 Ethernet PHY, but that’s an expensive chip when bought in quantity one. A better chip would be the LAN8720, so [Frank] built a board to enable Ethernet on the ESP32 with this chip.

The ESP32 only needs a few components to wire it into an Ethernet network. Just a few resistors, capacitors, and an RJ45 jack will take care of most of the work, but because he’s taking the Ethernet ‘shield’ route, he needs to add his own Ethernet PHY. The Waveshare LAN8720 is the chip for this, but there’s an issue with the pin configuration of the ESP32. GPIO0 on the ESP32 has two functions — the first is pulling it low during startup for serial programming, and the second is the clock input for the EMAC function block. Some bit of circuitry must be devised to allow for both conditions to enable Ethernet on the ESP32.

[Frank]’s solution is to add a few pull-up and pull-down resistors to a breakout board, and use an unused GPIO pin to switch GPIO0 high during startup, but allows a crystal to grab it a bit later. It’s a hack, certainly, but it does allow for some much cheaper chips to be used to give the ESP32 Ethernet.

Cheap Modules Upgrade Home Security System

[gw0udm] had an ancient monitored alarm system fitted to their home, and decided it was time to upgrade to something a little more modern. They chose a system from Texecom, but when it came time to hook it up to their computer, they were alarmed at the costs – £40 for what amounted to a USB-to-Serial cable! There were other overpriced modules too. But [gw0udm] wanted to upgrade, so it was time to hack the system.

The first step was grabbing a £4 USB-to-Serial board and wiring it up – a simple job for the skilled hacker.  As we always say – everything speaks serial. [gw0udm] then set their sights higher – they wanted the Ethernet interface but weren’t about to cough up the coin. After some research, it was determined that a Raspberry Pi could be used with a utility called ser2net with the existing serial interface to do pretty much the same job. It was a simple matter of figuring out the parity and messaging format to get things up and running.

From there, the project moves on to tackling the creation of a GSM module for monitoring in the absence of a local network, and on flashing the firmware of the system itself. It’s great to see a project continually grow and expand the functionality of a product over time.

We see a lot of security systems here at Hackaday – high prices and proprietary hardware tend to inspire the hacker spirit. Check out this reverse engineering of an obsolete 1980s system, resplendent with Eurostile font.

Wired Networking For The ESP8266

The ever popular ESP8266 is popping up in more and more projects. There are CNC controllers, blinkey WiFi lighting, and downright bizarre WiFi to Ethernet bridges. [Cicero] has thrown his hat into the ring with one of these Ethernet-enabled ESP8266 builds, and right now everything works, it’s simple to put together, and cheap to build.

Astute readers will notice we’ve seen something like this before. A few months ago, [cnlohr] discovered the Ethernet controller in the ESP8266. This was, by every account, the hard way of doing things. [cnlohr] was driving the Ethernet directly through the ESP’s I2S bus. [Cicero]’s project does not. It uses the cheap ENC28J60 SPI to Ethernet adapter to put the ESP on a wired network. Is one solution better than the other? That’s arguable. Is one solution much simpler than the other? Yes, [Cicero]’s work allows anyone to add Ethernet to the ESP8266 with a few resistors and a module that costs $3 from the usual online shops.

With the Ethernet stack taken from [Ulrich Radig], the SPI driver from [MetalPhreak], and an ESP8266-based web server from [Sprite_tm], [Cicero] managed to serve up web pages through both the wired and wireless connections.

Although this build is not as technically amazeballs as [cnlohr]’s work with driving Ethernet directly from the ESP, it is very easy to implement, opening up the doors to a few of the more interesting capabilities of a wired ESP. With the Ethernet unlocked, there’s a free WiFi interface to wardrive, snoop around in promiscuous mode, inject packets, bridge a bunch of ESPs in mesh mode to another network, and other network shenanigans. The ENC28J60 modules have probably already found their way into a few parts bins and junk boxes already, making [Cicero]’s work the quick start guide to wired networking on the ESP.

Thanks [PuceBaboon] for sending this one in.

Ethernet Controller Discovered in the ESP8266

The venerable ESP8266 has rocked the Internet of Things world. Originally little more than a curious $3 WiFi-to-serial bridge, bit by bit, the true power of the ESP has become known, fully programmable, with a treasure trove of peripherals it seemed that the list of things the ESP couldn’t do was short. On that list, at least until today was Ethernet.

No, despite the misleading title, the ESP does not have a MAC and/or PHY, but what it does have is an incredible 80 MHz DMA-able shift register which can be used to communicate 10BASE-T Ethernet using a new project, espthernet. Join me after the break for video proof, and a deep dive into how this is possible.

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Zedboard Multiport Ethernet

The Zedboard uses Xilinx’s Zynq, which is a combination ARM CPU and FPGA. [Jeff Johnson] recently posted an excellent two-part tutorial covering using a Zedboard with multiple Ethernet ports. The lwIP (light-weight Internet Protocol) stack takes care of the software end.

Vivado is Xilinx’s software for configuring the Zynq (among other chips), and the tutorial shows you how to use it. The Ethernet PHY is an FPGA Mezzanine Card (FMC) with four ports that is commercially available. The project uses VHDL, but there is no VHDL coding involved, just the use of canned components.

The real issue when using an FPGA and a CPU is the interface between the processor and the FPGA circuitry. In this case, the ARM standard AXI bus does this task, and the Ethernet component properly interfaces to that bus. The IP application in the second part of the post is an echo server.

We’ve seen the Zynq used in flying machines and also in a music synthesizer. Although this project doesn’t use any Verilog or VHDL that you create, it is still a great example of configuring using Vivado and using common components in a design.

FPGA to Ethernet Direct

When [iliasam] needed an Ethernet connection, he decided to see how much of the network interface he could put in the FPGA logic. Turns out that for 10 Base-T, he managed to get quite a bit inside the FPGA. His original post is in Russian, but automatic translation makes a passable attempt at converting to English.

This is a classic trade off all FPGA designers face: how much external logic do you use for a particular design. For example, do you add memory to the PCB, or use FPGA resources as memory? Each has its advantages and disadvantages (that’s why it is a trade off). However, if you are trying to keep things cheap, slashing external circuitry is often the way to go.

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