Cell phone towers are something we miss when we’re out of range, but imagine how we’d miss them if they had been destroyed by disastrous weather. In such emergencies it is more important than ever to call loved ones, and tell them we’re safe. [Matthew May] and [Brendan Harlow] aimed to make their own secure and open-source cellular network antenna for those occasions. It currently supports calling between connected phones, text messaging, and if the base station has a hard-wired internet connection, users can get online.
This was a senior project for a security class, and it seems that the bulk of their work was in following the best practices set by the Center for Internet Security. They adopted a model intended for the Debian 8 operating system which wasn’t a perfect fit. According to Motherboard their work scored an A+, and we agree with the professors on this one.
Last year, the same SDR board, the bladeRF, was featured in a GSM tower hack with a more sinister edge, and of course Hackaday is rife with SDR projects.
Thank you [Alfredo Garza] for the tip.
There’s nothing better than making a giant version of one of your hacks. That is, other than making it giant and interactive. That’s just what [Est] has done with his interactive VU meter that lights up the party.
The giant VU meter boasts a series of IR detectors that change the colors and modes of the meter based on where the user places their hands. The sensors measure how much light is reflected back to them, which essentially function as a cheap range finder. The normal operation of the meter and the new interactivity is controlled by a PIC16F883 and all of the parts were built using a home-made CNC router. There are two addressable RGB LEDs for each level and in the base there are four 3 W RGB LEDS. At 25 levels, this is an impressive amount of light.
[Est]’s smaller version of the VU meter has been featured here before, if you’re looking to enhance your music-listening or party-going experiences with something a little less intimidating. We’ve also seen VU meters built directly into the speakers and also into prom dresses.
The need for clear and reliable communication has driven technology forward for centuries. The longer communication’s reach, the smaller the world becomes. When it comes to cell phones, seamless network coverage and low power draw are the ideals that continually spawn R&D and the eventual deployment of new equipment.
Almost all of us carry a cell phone these days. It takes a lot of infrastructure to support them, whether or not we use them as phones. The most recognizable part of that infrastructure is the communications tower. But what do you know about them?
Continue reading “A Field Guide to the North American Communications Tower”
Remember the early days of cellphones and carphones when they were super-bulky and all the rage? Those early handsets used analog technology for communications in a protocol called Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS). As more customers flocked to wireless providers, networks were transitioned over to digital phones in order to save bandwidth. Some places still support AMPS but it has rapidly gone the way of the Dodo. But a few years back [Mark Atherton] got his hands on some old hardware, including a bag-phone and some test equipment, and set out to build a base station that can control AMPS handsets. In short, he’s creating his own analog cellphone tower. There’s a wealth of information on his page. The writeup comes out as a mix of protocol and electronic resources he scavenged across the net, as well as a work log serving as a testament to his successes and failures. He did his experiments in New Zealand, so if you’re thinking of undertaking this make sure to research your local radio regulations first.
We’re told that this rocket is sugar powered. It’s quite a bit bigger than the homemade sugar motors we saw last week and it makes for quite a show. [Thanks Estqwerty]
Wooden PC construction
The finished look of this wooden PC case seems very familiar to us but we’re not sure we’ve seen pictures of the build process(updated link, sorry [Jeff]) before. There’s something extremely satisfying about how well its creator works with a file. [Thanks Anders]
Working on top
We never realized that this job existed, but if you repair communication towers it’s a heck of a climb to work. The video of a two-man crew climbing a 1600 foot tower is one of the most interesting we’ve seen this year. [via Blogging Protagonist]
Lego typing machine
[Dougal’s] typing machine types his name… over and over again. An interesting little piece of mechanical engineering, we’d have to think for a while to decide the best use for this little guy. [Thanks Chris]
Typing on a different type of keyboard
Here’s another typing machine but this time it’s not a keyboard and not purely mechanical. Pictured is one of the performers in an old equipment ensemble performing with whining stepper motors, speech synthesis, an other antiquated noise-makers. [Thanks Mike]