Teardown: Verizon AC791L Jetpack 4G Mobile Hotspot

The saying “time and tide wait for no man” is usually used as a verbal kick in the pants, a reminder that sometimes an opportunity must be seized quickly before it passes by. But it can also be interpreted as a warning about the perpetual march of time and how it impacts the world around us. In that case, we would do well to add cellular technology to the list of proverbial things that wait for no one. Do you need 5G? No. Do you want it? Probably not. But it’s here, so be a good consumer and dump all your 4G hardware in the name of technical progress.

This line of logic may explain how the Verizon-branded Netgear AC791L 4G “Jetpack” hotspot you see here, despite being in perfect working order, found itself in the trash. The onset of 5G must have been particularly quick for the previous owner, since they didn’t even bother to wipe their configuration information from the device. In the name of journalistic integrity I won’t divulge the previous owner’s identity; but I will say that their endearing choice of WPA2 key, iluvphysics, makes for a nice fit with our publication.

A quick check of eBay shows these devices, and ones like it, are in ample supply. At the time of this writing, there were more than 1,500 auctions matching the search term “Verizon jetpack”, with most of them going for between $20 and $50 USD. We like cheap and easily obtainable gadgets that can be hacked, but is there anything inside one of these hotspots that we can actually use? Let’s find out.

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Oh Deere, Is That Right To Repair Resolution Troubling You?

Over the years a constant in stories covering the right to repair has come from an unexpected direction, the farming community. Their John Deer tractors, a stalwart of North American agriculture, have become difficult to repair due to their parts using DRM restricting their use to authorised Deere agents. We’ve covered farmers using dubious software tools to do the job themselves, we’ve seen more than one legal challenge, and it’s reported that the price of a used Deere has suffered as farmers abandon their allegiance to newer green and yellow machines. Now comes news of a new front in the battle, as a socially responsible investment company has the tractor giant scrambling to block their shareholder motion on the matter.

Deere have not been slow in their fight-back against the threat of right-to-repair legislation and their becoming its unwilling poster-child, with CTO Jahmy Hindman going on record stating that 98% of repairs to Deere machinery can be done by the farmer themself (PDF, page 5) without need for a Deere agent. The question posed by supporters of the shareholder action is that given the substantial risk to investors of attracting a right-to-repair backlash, why would they run such a risk for the only 2% of repairs that remain? We’d be interested to know how Deere arrived at that figure, because given the relatively trivial nature of some of the examples we’ve seen it sounds far-fetched.

It’s beyond a doubt that Deere makes high-quality agricultural machinery that many farmers, including at least one Hackaday scribe, have used to raise a whole heap of crops. The kind of generational brand loyalty they have among their customers simply can’t be bought by clever marketing, it’s been built up over a century and a half. As spectators to its willful unpicking through this misguided use of their repair operation we hope that something like this shareholder move has the desired effect of bringing it to a close. After all, it won’t simply be of benefit to those who wish to repair their tractor, it might just rescue their now-damaged brand before it’s too late.

Curious about previous coverage on this ongoing story? This article from last year will give context.

Header image: Nheyob / CC BY-SA 4.0

DIY Semi Auto Grinder Builds Itself (Sort Of)

[JSK-koubou] is no stranger to making tools to improve their work, and this latest video is yet another in a long list of such builds, just checkout their YT channel to see the many other examples. The tool being highlighted this time is a semi-automatic grinder (Video, embedded below) which could be very handy in many situations.

Many of us struggle a little to get straight cuts with an angle grinder, especially with softer materials, as it is sometimes hard to get a good ‘feel’ of how the cut is proceeding. Once the cut is started, thin blades will tend to ‘track’ in the slot, so if it starts off a little bit, the whole cut will be off. Most annoying. Anything to help keep things straight and square would help a lot, with the extra feature of a motorized drive enabling a constant cut rate, and presumably giving an increase in the cut quality.

Using the part completed rig to cut its own leadscrew

Since operation is hands-off, you could set it up, and leave it to do its thing, whilst you step aside, away from flying sparks, noise and the remote possibility of getting a splintered blade in your face, should the unthinkable happen. All good things.

The detailed build video shows what looks like a pretty solid construction, there are plans available on the accompanying website, but they do request a small donation of ¥1000 (less than $10 USD) to download them. Given the usefulness of the tool, this seems like a small price to pay. We quite liked some sections of the build video, where the tool is used to cut its own components, as it is built-up sequentially. Clever stuff! Another interesting technique to see was the use of a flame-heated (Stanley) knife blade as a drive belt end-jointer. Somewhat tough on the blade, but it’s a consumable item and gets the job done, so that’s good enough for us!

Parts wise, there’s nothing special at all here, with most easily sourced via the usual mechanical suppliers, but we reckon you’d be able to find most of it on eBay as well. We think this is exactly the sort of build that would work well in your local Makerspace, so perhaps give that a thought?

Bored with manually cutting off? Need an overkill solution for a mundane job? How about an Automatic Cut-Off Saw? If you need some defense against the mighty angle grinder, then perhaps Proteus is just the ticket?

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