All the geeky stuff that gets me hot.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Free WiFi ! ( for now )

Originally uploaded by everdred.
Just last week Madison activated the first node in it's free WiFi network that will hopefully cover the city by 2007. It will initially be free then change to a subscriber based system after the network has been built out a bit. All of this is downtown of course so it is completely useless to me and may never get to my apt. since I'm not technically in Madison. Not really a big deal since I have WiFi at my house already but it would be nice if they had some coverage at the parks near me.

This will be a lot more important to me once I get a cell phone that has WiFi, hopefully not too much longer now.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Oddpost, er, I mean Yahoo Beta Rocks!

I just logged into my Yahoo account and got to try the beta of Yahoo's new email client. It's built by the same guys that wrote Oddpost. It's a huge improvement on the previous version client and I'd say it definitely gives Gmail a run for it's money. I just hope their spam blocking is improved, or should I say implemented. When you clicked the spam button in the old version all it did was put the sender in a block list. Oh yeah, that'll stop'em.

Gotta love the tabs and also it does RSS. It really feels like a normal web client. If you can't get used to Gmail's labels I would definitely give it a try.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Amplifiying an IR signal

Here's a really neat way of amplifiying the puny IR transmitter you find on many devices. You just need a IR diode (the transmitter) and a digital N-channel FET (basically a transistor). You then rig it up to power the IR diode from the battery and you get super IR power. I am seriously thinking about doing this on an old Handspring I have laying around, it's IR is pretty much useless not to mention it points to the side which is annoying.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Adding Internal Bluetooth

I just bought a used Dell CPx laptop. It's not that fast but it gets the job done. I have a Bluetooth cell phone that I wanted to use as a wireless modem when I can't find a Wi-Fi hotspot. The CPx only has one USB port on the back but it shows two of them in the device manager. Inspired by TnkGrl I decided to try and tap the unused USB port and add a Bluetooth module internally. This would eliminate having the annoying dongle on the back of the laptop and also leave the USB port available for other uses.

Since the CPx is a fairly big laptop there is a little bit of room to play around with inside and I decided to try and keep the Bluetooth dongle as stock as I possibly could. TnkGrl had to remove the USB connector on her module for space reasons but I would rather leave it unmodified if possible. I had a USB-PS2 adapter that I wasn't using so I ripped it apart and got the center portion of the USB connector. This together with unsnapping the case of the Bluetooth dongle led to a very thin package although you can see the USB connector effectively doubles its length. If I didn't have as much space to play with removing the connector would mean you could fit this just about anywhere. I found a nice empty spot right under the palmrest and between the battery and CD drive. I had to cut a little notch out so the wires could slip through but its not visible from the outside.

Now that I had a good mounting spot for the Bluetooth module I had to figure out how to hook it up. I followed the traces from the existing USB connector and they seemed to go to an Intel chip that had PCIset written on it. It also had FW82371MB across the top and after a little bit of searching I came across the datasheet for it. It indeed did have two USB port built in. By examining the datasheet I found the USB pins that I needed. The chip has a XY coordinate system for its pins. The pins in red are what I needed to tap into. Actually finding the pins was nice but pretty much useless, there's no way I could get next to the chip to attach any wires, all the connections were hidden. By following the traces from the original USB connector I noticed that they went to the docking station connector first then to the chipset. This makes sense because normally with the USB in the back you have to remove any devices before you can dock the laptop. I know the docking station has two USB port instead of one so I figured they just added the connector on the docking station to the existing USB hub. Why they didn't add two ports on the back of the laptop I'll never know but I wouldn't be surprised if it was simply to help the sales of the docking station.

I took power for the new USB port from the existing port since the chipset has a specific power plane that is used for the USB system. The data pins I got from tapping the docking station connector. The wire I used was from an old PS2 mouse; the mouse cable has four different colored wires the perfect size for what I needed. I ran the wires up over the top of the board but that was probably a bad idea, next time I would run them underneath to keep them out of the way.

With everything connected it was time to test it out. Success!! I had a few issues at first because I didn't have good connections but once I fixed them it worked fine. Here it is all wired up and nestled in its new home. I ended up running some extra wire to the connector then folding it over to get it to sit nicely in the opening. I thought I might have to pad it a bit to stop it from rattling but the extra wire took care of that for me.

I plugged in a USB thumb drive in the back and it still worked fine. Here's the details for the USB hub now showing two devices connected.

The only downside to this hack is that because of the way the docking station works you will only be able to use one of the USB ports on it since one will always be used for the Bluetooth. I don't have a docking station so that doesn't really matter to me. It's much more useful have the second port all the time instead of just with the docking station.

Because I used a standard USB connector I could switch out the Bluetooth with a Wi-Fi adapter if I found that to be more useful (assuming I could cram it inside somewhere).

Friday, December 02, 2005

NanoParty in your Bathroom

What we have here is a set of speakers that you plug your iPod Nano into so you can listen to music, nothing ground breaking. What I thought was interesting though was how they suggested using this in your bathroom, which is exactly what I do with my cell phone. So, $200 for a 2GB Nano and $50 for a set of speakers or $30 for an Audiovox SMT5600 (after 2 year contract) + 2 GB miniSD card @ $170 you can do the same thing AND have a great cell phone that's not much larger than a Nano. Humm, which one would you choose?

Also I'm glad to hear I'm not crazy for listening to my phone while I take a shower.

DD-WRT on my WRT54GS

I just bought a new wireless router and of course I had to get a Linksys WRT54GS that has the open source firmware. I choose to install DD-WRT for now, I really don't have that advanced needs and DD is easily able to handle them. You can do some really crazy stuff with these routers and with the third party firmware can match almost all of the features of the much more expensive Cicso units. Hopefully I will be able to set up my VPN again, it has been down for a long time because I couldn't get it to work through my old router. Having VPN access would be really nice.

Update: I haven't needed to yet but I may add a parabolic antenna like the type found at They require no special hardware and do not require voiding the warranty on the router.