War-Driving Setup (old suburban, long gone)

Since August 2001 I've had a mobile computer setup in the Suburban so that among other things I could connect to my house when nearby, upload or download MP3s, images and various files. The computer, a Sony Vaio SR-33, runs various software for monitoring WiFi activity and railroad digital communications, controlling a webcam, supporting positioning services and mapping, running amateur radio software to control various transceivers, and communicating with a security system for the truck.

The WiFi setup portion is described in the following diagram. This setup was finally completed in January 2002 and has been running pretty constantly since then.

I use the terrific freeware tool NetworkStumbler (Marius Milner, author) which appears to coexist well with the other software programs running on the computer. An Orinoco Gold WiFi PC Card (excellent sensitivity, external antenna connection built-in) is connected via a Hyperlink Technologies CA-WL2CABLE4A 19" pigtail cable.

Normally, all my antennas are permanently mounted, but the WiFi antenna I use is a fiberglass-bodied, 16" high 8dBi stick (an older version of the Hyperlink Technologies HyperGain HG2409) and parking structures, low branches, and other external things would snap the antenna right off if the mount were permanent. With the Diamond Antenna DPK-4NM-N magnetic mount, a blow to the antenna from a tree branch or the low beams of a parking structure just knocks the mag mount over, and the antenna is saved for more war-driving. The Diamond mag mount has an N-female connector on the mount itself, and 4.5m of relatively low-loss coax (something similar to RG8X) and an N-male on the end of the cable. The cable-end N-connector connects directly to the Hyperlink pigtail. The mag mount install forces the coax to run through the door gasket on the left-side passenger door, which is not ideal, but I've lived with worse things over the life of the truck so far.

Also up on the roof is a permanently mounted bare-board GPS receiver in a weathertight enclosure, and the RS-232 cable from the GPS goes through the roof and down to a junction box, where the GPS serial data is distributed to several devices. One of those devices is an IOGEAR GUC-232A RS-232 to USB converter, which allows the Vaio (which has no RS-232 connections) to utilize the GPS data for various programs.


This picture shows the mobile-mounted Vaio oriented for convenient operation from the driver's position. The mount can be swiveled to allow operation from the passenger's position as well. (Make sure to never operate the computer while driving - always pull over first!) The glowing-yellow display is the TS-741 Kenwood 2m/440/1200MHz amateur radio control head. There are other radios in the truck but they aren't visible from here.

The Diamond Antenna magnetic mount with Hyperlink Technologies 8dBi WiFi antenna is shown over on the left-hand side of the solar panel. The round, grey weathertight box at the bottom center of the image houses the GPS receiver (just a bare board with integrated antenna). The 900MHz antenna in the foreground is for a system that monitors railroad ATCS packet data transmissions.

An Intel WebcamPro webcam is mounted on a neat little vacuum mount at the lower-right corner of the windshield. This webcam takes advantage of any connectivity that the WiFi setup has to deliver mobile images to my subCam webpage. Here's a closeup of the camera and mount.

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Copyright © 2005 Jon Trent Adams
jon (at) jonadams.com