La Fonera flashing

La Fonera

In my repeater post, I mentioned that I had a La Fonera I was planning on flashing next. Fon routers can be tricky; they phone home to determine if there’s new firmware to be installed and then upgrade automatically. If you’re not careful, it’ll patch all of its security holes before you get a chance to hack it.

I had two La Foneras on hand. One was new-in-box and, from my memory, quite a few years old. The other I snagged from the donor gear table at Crash Space last week. I figured if I was putting in the effort to flash one I might as well do two (and then return it new and improved). I followed DD-WRT’s flashing guide and ran into a few different hurdles along the way.

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DD-WRT wireless repeater

WRT rides again

The Linksys WRT54G has always been one of my favorite hacking targets. It’s a wireless 802.11b/g router that originally ran Linux as its OS. Later in life this was switched to non-open VxWorks. Linksys continued to produce a Linux compatible version of the router called the WRT54GL. I believe the one pictured above was originally a Fon purchased during the transition. When I first started playing with the WRT, it was to steal internet in a new apartment while I waited for my actual connection to be installed. I was using it in client bridge mode which means it would connect via WiFi to the remote access point and serve the connection to anything on the wired ports (one of which was another WRT).

I recently dug the router out because a friend is in a similar situation. I installed the latest version of DD-WRT and discovered that it has learned a new trick. In addition to ‘client’ and ‘client bridge’ mode bridge means the connection isn’t NAT’d DD-WRT now has ‘repeater’ and ‘repeater bridge’ mode. The router will attach to the access point of your choice and then rebroadcast the signal as the SSID of your choosing. You do this by setting up a virtual wireless interface. I followed these instructions for setting up a universal wireless repeater. The only problem I ran into was connecting to my Airport Extreme which uses WPA2… and AES (not TKIP) by default. It has been very hard to verify that fact though. Once I figured that out, it worked just as expected. I haven’t tested it outside of my apartment yet. Next up is putting DD-WRT on a new-in-box La Fonera; it’s slightly more involved than uploading new firmware to a web interface. I’ve done it before, but it’s just no fun.



Solder night

The last few Tuesdays a few people from Hacker Drinkup have been coming by my apartment to work on projects. The first Tuesday, Scott and Wil assembled some Freeduino SBs. The Freeduino is HVW Technologies’ Arduino compatible development board. I first came across it at Maker Faire a couple years ago and purchased one for Hack a Day to review. It’s got some nice features, but my current favorite Arduino clone is the Seeeduino.

The next week, Scott brought over a couple power line communication devices. The Netgear XE104 is 4-port switch and the XE102 has a single port. The PLC devices connect to each other over your home’s wiring to create a network. By the very nature of home wiring, this network behaves like a layer 2 hub. It’s unswitched allowing you to sniff all traffic on the network. Circuit breakers don’t necessarily filter the signal either which means anyone else in the building will be able to join your network. The HomePlug AV spec supports encryption, but all devices come from factory with the same key for interoperability. I first learned about PLC hacking at CCC where the FAIFA suite was introduced. It will help you configure Intellon based devices (the XE104 has an Intellon 5500 chip).


Vocoder piano – more details

I first saw this video via Twitter and wanted to know more. Hack a Day had posted about it the same day, but didn’t have any additional information. I asked my friend Fabienne to take a look since I don’t speak German. She was able to dig up some more details.

Peter Ablinger composed the piece “Deus, cantando” (God, singing) for the World Venice Forum 2009. There isn’t much detail on the installation, but the composer used this automatic piano for an earlier piece. The “display-window piece” used the piano to reproduce street sounds captured outside of a display window. The piano was designed by Winfried Ritsch (who does DSP research) and constructed with the help of Peter Pessas. The software was developed by IEM Graz, Thomas Musil. From the video id appears to be Pd. It samples the waveform and then reconstructs it using the piano.

Astera has transcribed the video and provided a translated version: Continue reading


Good times

Properly stickered

Things have been going pretty well:

I ended up eating with three different friends of mine over the course of the weekend. I don’t see any of them nearly enough; it was good to catch up.

Hack a Day’s owner, Mahalo, launched their new Mahalo Answers product. It’s similar to other answer services, but allows you to offer real money tips and embed content. I’ve really enjoyed participating in the service. I’m actually #1 for tips received… and most of those were legitimate. I hung out Sunday night at the office to catch the launch.

My Android Dev Phone 1 arrived Monday morning. I lost my precious N95 a week earlier during SantaCon LA. This phone was announced the following day. Scott also loaned me a first-gen iPhone to play with.

The joints on my Sony MDR-V500DJ headphones have given out. I was considering purchasing some high-quality in-ear headphones and after reading Ryan Block’s review of the new ones from Apple, I decided that was the way to go. They are in very short supply though. I ended up calling the Apple store every morning for three days in a row to see if they had any in-stock. The headphones showed up Tuesday morning so I picked them up as a final errand before heading to the airport. I also picked up my power converters from the Tosche Station Mahalo office. The most important piece of electronics and the only one I overlooked.

I found $40.

Hardware, Portfolio

Sound and light machine

Brain machine
I was a bit heart broken because my HMD dreams didn’t work out, but I thought of something else to do with my goggles: build a sound and light machine. I already had an extra MiniPOV3 kit so it wasn’t too much trouble to put together. I’ve got photos from the assembly on Flickr. I decided to take a modular approach. The two wire pairs were salvaged from an old computer a while ago. They worked out really well since the connectors on one end of the wires easily hold the LEDs without soldering.

Still wondering what it does? It does some sort of electro-hippie entrainment crap that forces your brain into certain brain wave states. I guess you can use it for relaxation, meditation, etc. All I know is you put the goggles on and your brain starts showing you light patterns that aren’t actually there. It’s a neat trick.


HMD internals

Wild planet HMD guts
A couple months ago a post circulated about how you could get a cheap head mounted display (HMD) from Wild Planet’s Spycar toy. It was an RC car with a video transmitter. Replacement headsets for the toy could be purchased for $25 and that would get you a 300×225 monochrome display. It has a stereo minijack for a composite video signal and power. Bre gave me one of these and a pair of welding goggles. I tried to stuff the HMD inside the goggles, but it didn’t work out… Nevertheless, i did learn exactly how tiny this gear is. Continue reading