For a bottom of the barrel website like our retro edition, there’s little reason to have a fast Internet connection. Even the fastest hands in the land can barely type faster than 300 baud. The problem with low-speed connections is the overhead involved, as [Pierre] discovered when he dug out an acoustic modem from the ’80s and loaded up our retro site.
While this isn’t the first modem ever made – that’s 1960s tech – but it does operate at the same speed – 300 bits per second, or slower than you reading this sentence. [Pierre] stuck a desk phone into the modem’s cups, plugged it in to a phone line simulator, and connected to a Raspberry Pi equipped with another modem. From there, it was pretty easy to set up a terminal at 300 baud.
A serial connection isn’t a connection to the Internet, however, and at 300 baud, PPP is nearly impossible. The overhead of encapsulating packets is just that high. SLIP is a much better choice to send IP packets over a slow serial connection, but [Pierre]’s mac doesn’t include the proper tools.
[Pierre] ended up using the serial connection between his Mac and Raspi with Zterm. From there, Lynx and Bob’s your uncle.
There’s an unsurprisingly long video of [Pierre] loading up the retro site below, as well an unsurprisingly long video of speedtest.net running at 56k.
Continue reading “Hackaday Retro Edition: Hackadaying At 300 Baud”
Unhappy with the performance of his U-verse modem [Jordan] decided to dig in and see if a bit of hacking could improve the situation. Motorola makes this exclusively for AT&T and there are no other modems on the market which can used instead. Luckily he was able to fix almost everything that was causing him grief. This can be done in one of two ways. The first is a hardware hack that gains access to a shell though the UART. The second is a method of rooting the device from its stock web interface.
We think the biggest improvement gained by hacking this router is true bridge mode. The hardware is more than capable of behaving this way but AT&T has disabled the feature with no option for an unmodified device to use it. By enabling it the modem does what a modem is supposed to do: translate between WAN and LAN. This allows routing to be handled by a router (novel idea huh?).
By now, most of us have seen have seen one of those GSM to wi-fi hotspot bridges. They’re interesting devices, and being able to carry a small wireless router with you at all times is very handy. Surprisingly, we haven’t seen many builds featuring these portable wireless hotspots, something probably due to the effort in breaking out a serial connection on these devices. The people at Open Electronics decided to build their own small serial-enabled cell phone modem, a boon to someone wanting a serial connection to any place with a cell tower.
The Open Electronics GSM/GPRS/GPS modem includes a header for an FTDI USB serial chip and a GSM module. Plug one into your computer and after a few short commands into a terminal, you’ve got a serial connection to nearly anywhere in the world.
The cost of the setup is a little high – around 80€ or $100 USD – and you probably should buy more than one so you can also receive data. While it is more expensive than the XBee wireless boards we see often, this GSM modem isn’t limited to the 300 foot range of the XBee. We’ll probably see this in a high altitude balloon before too long.
[Drug123] made the most out of this inconspicuous gray box on the gable end of his father’s home. It serves up a 3G Internet connection that was otherwise unavailable..
The project idea was sparked by the absence of wired or fiber optic broadband in the community where his dad lives. He knew some neighbors were using 3G connections, but he couldn’t get it to work inside the house. So he set about developing an external installation that would both communicate with the cellular network, and provide a WiFi connect to it. Hardware for that is relatively expensive; a USB 3G modem and a WiFi router with a USB port.
The box itself is made of plastic, but even without the Faraday cage effect that would have been formed by using a metal housing, the 3G modem’s internal antenna just doesn’t do the job. You can see that [Drug123’s] solution was an external antenna which is mounted at the peak of the roofline. Inside the box there’s an exhaust fan to cool things off when they get too hot, as well as some power resistors which provide a heat source on the coldest nights. The low-cost build certainly fits the bill, and it’s not too hard on the eyes either.
Here’s the scenario: you’re going to be traveling somewhere and you’ll be charged roaming fees if you use your cellphone. But there is free WiFi available in this place. You can save yourself money by leaving your SIM card at home and using a GSM-to-Skype bridge to take calls on your phone via WiFi.
[Trax] is using a USB GSM modem to take cellphone calls on a PC. He leaves his sim card in this modem so that it can make and receive calls and text messages through your normal telephone number. For some reason, the USB connection only provides control of this modem and doesn’t pass bi-directional audio. To make this happen, he built an audio interface cable using two transformers and a few passive components to connect the modem to the computer’s audio card.
On the software side of things, an application written in Delphi 7 manages the modem, the audio stream, and the Skype application. When a call is incoming it sets up a Skype connection with your handset via the Internet, passing along the caller ID data in the process. If you choose to answer the Skype session the application will pick up the GSM call and you’ll be connected. It works the same way when placing an outgoing call.
This seems easier to manage than a rig that physically pushes a cellphone’s buttons via the Internet.
Hack-a-Day forum member [Necromant] was recently working on a router when he made a terrible mistake. He connected the wrong power brick to the router, causing a 2.5v over-voltage. The router itself was just fine, as it contained a good stepdown converter, but the HSDPA modem connected to the router’s USB port was not so lucky. It seems that the USB host is powered directly from the router’s power supply without any conversion – this meant his modem got a nice 7.5v zap when he used the wrong plug.
He assumed the modem was dead, so he figured there was no harm in disassembling it. He examined the modem’s circuit board and found that when plugged in, the onboard stepdown converter supplied 0 volts to the rest of the PCB. He couldn’t find any documentation for the converter online, so he employed a little bit of
trial and error clever investigation to determine what sort of voltage the stepdown provided before being cooked.
After a bit of testing with his home-built low dropout regulator, he determined that the damaged stepdown provided 3.3v to the rest of the modem (that’s a 4.2v over-voltage for those of you who are keeping track). He added a linear voltage regulator to the board in place of the old stepdown, which worked for about 15 seconds before overheating.
In the end, he decided to add a pretty hefty 3.3v stepdown converter to the modem, throwing aesthetics to the curb. The result is one ugly, but quite functional HSDPA modem.
If your boss is like [Michael Scott] you probably find yourself in constant need of plausible reasons for your action or inaction. Now you won’t have to waste away the workday coming up with those ideas yourself because this little box will always provide you with an excuse. It’s actually a 14.4 Kbps modem, which brings back memories of the early ISP days when you’ve find banks of these in the corner to service incoming calls. [Alex] altered the circuit board to map out an ICSP port for the PIC 16F690 that controls the system. Just use your key to unlock the Emergency Excuse Generator and press the button to spit out a doozy. The 8,000 word memory on the microprocessor stores all of the excuses which can be combined a number of different ways based on how the rules files is built. This rule file is by far the most interesting part of the build and worth looking over.
We think this would be a nice addition to the other office electronics you built.
[via Dangerous Prototypes]