Category Archives: License-Exempt

My very first wardriving card!

I got all reminiscy while digging through a box of stuff that was 14 years old. Found the Orinoco Gold Wi-Fi card that was the heart of my first wardriving setup. Smokin’!

In 2002, a few of us at Motorola SPS RF/IF Products (or was it Radio Products?) were fortunate enough to acquire the Lucent Orinoco Gold cards. We experimented with ad-hoc, infrastructure, all at the amazing speeds of 11 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band. Darren, Dave and I had the cards. Long before Moto even had employee Wi-Fi in its buildings.

Here at my main site, there’s some scattered monthly summaries of how Wi-Fi was slowly taking off in Phoenix. I mapped them each month in an effort to convince our management that Wi-Fi was growing extremely fast, and that we needed to address the Wi-Fi chipset space. Sadly, we never got our act together, not as Moto and not as Freescale.

Update on wardriving/walking/cycling setup

The stackup that I did inside the enclosure was fairly crude. The GPS receiver and its attached antenna are at the “top” of the stack, and stuck to the inside uppper surface of the enclosure using double-sticky foam tape. Immediately below that, the dual-band Wi-Fi board is component-side down. I’d removed both the SMA-RP female and the USB male board connectors to reduce height and length. The bottom of the stack is the USB hub, again with USB female sockets removed and component side down as there’s two electrolytic caps that stick up 8 mm or so.

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I’ve used double-sticky foam tape for things like this over the years, and as long as it doesn’t absorb moisture, it’s quite RF-transparent and the antenna has no issues.

The Wi-Fi board has a ground-plane on top and bottom, but I wanted to reduce to a minimum any local fields from the components, so the board goes in component-side down to isolate it (maybe a bit) from the GPS antenna.

The GPS receiver itself is completely encased in a shield, and is slightly larger than the antenna, so there may be some added attenuation of spurious emissions from the Wi-Fi getting into the GPS.

The USB hub, at the very “bottom”, also has a top/bottom ground plane.

The Wi-Fi sniffing performance is as good as my permanent mobile setup, and the GPS gets excellent PDOP (<2.0) when there’s a decent field of view of the sky.

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The apps used to grab the GPS data is 4river’s NMEA Monitor, a fine little program.

Highly Portable Wardriving, Warcycling, and Warwalking Setup Update

Before I left on a trip this past week, I was able to shoehorn all the components (GPS receiver w/integrated antenna, dual-band Wi-Fi module with external antenna input, 4-port USB hub, TTL to serial to USB adapters) into a single plastic case. It’s not yet weatherproof, but at least it’s splash- and rain-resistant.

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The original cable on the USB hub was only a meter, so I grabbed a 2 m cable from the box, whacked off the end, and replaced the shorter cable.

I used double-sticky foam squares to create an electronics sandwich, with the GPS antenna at the “top” of the stack, the Wi-Fi below, and the USB hub at the bottom. The cable passes through a silicone-sealed hole in the case, and I removed the SMA-RP female from the Wi-Fi dongle and replaced it with a short RG178 cable and bulkhead SMA-RP connector that pokes through the top of the case.

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As one can see, the box is a cheap one from Radio Shack or similar, it’s some kind of ABS. The box’s lid, which would usually be on the top, is now the bottom of the assembly. I silicone-glued 3 NdFeB rectangular magnets to the inside of the lid, and put 4 rubber-bumper feet to reduce any potential surface marring. Next, I took the thing out for a drive on a local freeway to see if it’d blow off. It did. I adjusted things a bit by getting rid of the rubber bumper feet, and replacing them with electrical tape on the outside of the lid for more of an anti-skid, compliant surface than the bare plastic alone. The next drive, and subsequent ones this week, proved that the widget is now fairly stable even at “high” highway speeds. I thought about painting it white to reduce heat absorption, but that would make it have higher visibility and I’d prefer to stay low profile.

In taking it for a drive or two around the neighborhood, it matches my mobile setup almost exactly in reception, and takes all of 30 seconds to deploy when getting a rental car.

I’m wondering if I can somehow add a temperature sensor inside and read it via the USB. But that’s not so important.

Winbook TW700 and Warwalking / Wardriving

This is an amazing little gadget. And an amazing bargain if you play your cards right. The Winbook TW700 has been out for a while, and I learned about it only recently through an APRS reflector post from WA8LMF TW700 Review.

It is a simple Windows 8.1 machine, available only at MicroCenter, and there’s no MicroCenters here in Arizona. However, fortunately I have been traveling to Chicagoland on occasion and there are a couple of MicroCenters there.

Searching the MicroCenter website for pricing on the TW700, it ranges from about $44 to $80, depending on whether it’s new, open box/returned, or bare units without the accessories. And stores only have whatever is available in their store, so you might walk in and find that only new units are available, or they might have a number of open boxes, etc. I was very fortunate to get one at a good price, open box, and I didn’t need the few cables and charger that the new ones come with.

Like I said, these are extremely simple Windows 8.1 tablets, and quite tight on expansion. The one that I picked up had a 32 GB microSD card installed, which has turned out to be quite handy. Also, there’s only 16 GB of permanent storage in the machine, so Windows 8.1 takes up about 6 of that, and there’s about 8 GB in a restore partition. So there’s very little extra storage in the inboard “drive”. There’s also only 1 GB of RAM, and that can be tight unless you have low expectations. The Atom processor is plenty fast, and the screen bright and easily readable. The whole thing can run off its internal battery for hours at a time (maybe 4?).

Through WA8LMF’s and others’ web postings, I was able to increase slightly the available storage on the inboard drive even after the zillions of 8.1 updates that ballooned the size of the base Windows configuration. I have about 2 GB of inboard drive storage available now, which is plenty for my applications.

Speaking of applications, the main reason I got this was that I’m into wardriving using Vistumbler and WiFiDB, excellent tools written and supported by Andrew Calcutt and Phil Ferland. For a while, when working or visiting somewhere without my truck and its built-in Vistumbler wardriving setup, I had to make do with a notebook PC and its built-in dual-band Wi-Fi, and my Garmin GPS jacked in to the PC USB port. Was very bulky, and difficult to observe the results in real-time.

The TW700 changed all that. I also got a $10 USB hub (the TW700 has one regular USB port), a GPS receiver board from Sparkfun, and a very inexpensive TPLink dual-band Wi-Fi USB dongle. Borrowing a better dual-band antenna from the junkbox, I now have a pretty competent pedestrian/mobile warwalking/wardriving setup.

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This is an incredible little warwalking setup. I’ve even rode the bicycle around with this in the backpack, and it is really a nice performer. I taped the TPLink dongle / dual-band antenna to the top of the truck, across from my big Cisco dual-band antenna feeding the truck’s wardriving setup, and got essentially the same results while driving the neighborhood. Excellent sensitivity and lots of access points. The TW700 runs smoothly and supplies enough power to run both the GPS and the Wi-Fi dongle, so I didn’t have to bring along an extra battery to run the hub.

I still have to package the TPLink dongle, GPS and the USB hub together in a single package, so that there’s only the USB cable to the TW700.

You can read more about wardriving, Vistumbler, and the WiFiDB at the techidiots forum.

Wi-Fi Stumbling Setup on Truck

I was blogging about this on another forum, and thought I should add this here as well!

I do white-hat wardriving as a hobby, and there are some nice tools out there for both collecting, cataloging and displaying the data collected.

My mobile setup includes the antennas for dual-band Wi-Fi (the big Cisco stick in the foreground)  and the GPS antenna (active, in the black base of the whip antenna at the far left of the photo):

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The Wi-Fi antenna is on a mag-mount as it’s quite stiff and bulky and I’ve had it knocked over a few times by tree branches or parking garage structures, and the mag-mount is kinder to the roof than it would be if the antenna were permanently mounted. The coax running from the Wi-Fi antenna base is the low-loss double-shielded 0.25″ coax, and there’s about 5′ of it to get to the dual-band Wi-Fi dongle in the truck. As well, the GPS receiver is inside the truck and connected by 10-15′ or so of RG178 coax.

The Wi-Fi setup in the truck is shown in the following photo:

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This is an Amped Wireless UA230A dual-band Wi-Fi USB dongle, with a reverse SMA connector, to which is connected the coax from the antenna on the roof. This is a really nice USB Wi-Fi dongle and appears to be quite sensitive and stable. The PC is a run-of-the-mill dual-core Atom with 4GB of RAM and an old-school rotating HD. The OS is Windows 7 Pro.

The software that I use to collect APs is Vistumbler, a really terrific tool that’s super-easy to use. Even more importantly, the developers of this software rock, and are always receptive to critique and suggestions.

Getting the APs captured is one thing – the next and just as important is to be able to add them to a database that makes sure there’s no dupes, that organizes the AP data so that it’s searchable and potentially displayable. This is where WiFiDB.com comes in. Again, same guys as the ones who developed Vistumbler, same great support and enthusiasm.

Finally, being able to display the data in a way that’s manageable for the user is critical, and that’s again a feature of WiFiDB. It provides Google Earth .kmz exports of AP files. Here’s a shot of  urban Phoenix with only my collected APs displayed. Obviously, there’s a lot of APs left on the table here, as there’s many miles of residential and commercial streets left unswept.

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But wait, there’s more! The guys at Vistumbler/WiFiDB have also come up with some other nice visualization tools. This is a single AP with SSID of CoxWiFiFree in Phoenix around Greenway and SR51. The range of the AP is about 0.5 mi from one end to the other, and the signal strength is approximated by the color and the height of the trace above the ground. I had originated this idea some time ago while working on tracing out coverage for a land-mobile-radio (LMR) network here in town and showed it to the guys, and they thought it was pretty cool and ultimately included it in WiFiDB.

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There’s lots of neat stuff out there in the interwebs, and things which can really add to understanding how radio waves propagate and how networks work (or not). I was fortunate to “stumble” across Vistumbler, WiFiDB, and the guys who develop, operate and maintain both.

Happy 4th of July

On this hot yet fine July 4th, I decided to celebrate with a little wardriving and, while I was at it, visit a nice craft brewery or two.

First, I’d noticed that my percentage of the Wi-Fi AP database was at 54.9% (about 380k APs collected since February) could be improved and that the West Valley still has a lot of major arterials which haven’t been touched.

Today I decided to cover the rest of McDowell Rd from SR51 to the end in Verrado, and return via Indian School Rd. I discovered that McDowell actually ends just before Verrado at a (currently) dry wash, and there was no way to cross in the truck. But, nonetheless, I made it out to Verrado, drove through that artificial “America’s midwest (everyones’ home) town”, which reminded me of a Twilight Zone or two. The streets and houses are just like some backlot at Universal, and there’s no one on the streets. I mean no one. Sure, it was 103F out, but there’s plenty of trees and it was shady in spots, and there are 60-some-odd parks advertised there, but there was no one. Creepy. Did I also mention that Verrado is one of those neighborhood/communities that they built far in the middle of nowhere back in the last decade when commuting 30 miles to the city wasn’t considered an issue?

Anyway, you’d figure on the 4th of July, this “everyones’ home town” kind of place would be preparing for all sorts of festivities, with town fairs, barbecues, bunting, banners and flags. Instead, nothing. Even the downtown area was deserted. Wait, was that a tumbleweed blowing down the avenue?

On the way back east on Indian School, I realized that I wasn’t all that far from Peoria Artisan Brewery, and stopped in for a fresh pint. Jos poured up a Paul’s Pale Ale, and it was good. While I was sipping that, some thing in my mind reminded me of the fabled 8-Bit Brewing Company, to which I’d never been. I asked, and apparently it had opened at the beginning of May. Paid Jos for the beer and I was on my way to the world of pixelated animated characters.

After fording the mighty Agua Fria ditch, I turned into a generic industrial park and soon found a group of vehicles clustered in front of a non-descript industrial office suite. 8-Bit Brewery! Inside, Krystina was great, friendly, and very knowledgeable on their beers. Seems that she and her husband Ryan run the place, she manages the tap room, while Ryan cooks up the good stuff in back.

8-Bit is fun! It’s not a cozy tap room, just a high-ceiling’ed front of an otherwise industrial suite. However, to bring some warmth to the place, they have original paintings by a local artist who specializes in 8-bit art. Pretty cool. Famous characters back from the Mario days are immortalized here. And even cooler, they play only 8-bit music. While I didn’t hear any classics while trying a flight, Krystina says that there’s a local musician who takes popular songs and discretizes them, giving them that 1980’s 8-bit charm. She elaborated that he’d done this for a number of bands or artists; none interested me until she said that he’d discretized a Metallica song or two. Now, that I’ve got to hear.

The beers are tasty. I was able to sample all 6 beers currently on tap, and she also treated me to a white cocoa bean (which is one of the ingredients they use to make their White Mage white ale. Getting to try a white cocoa bean was ultra-cool. Like a peanut, except completely different. She also gave me and a number of other beer fans there a taste of the wort for their nice Black Mage stout, which was a fine stout. I’d never had a taste of wort, but it was sugary sweet, complex aroma, maybe a hint of anise, deep brown and cloudy. Got to thinking that it could be good as a glaze for roast pork!

Leaving Mario and Tanookis behind, I returned to my wardriving heading east on Indian School. Not much chance of rain today, but at least I collected another 10,000 or so APs.

Wi-Fi Sniffing

I recently downloaded a copy of Vistumbler to my mobile PC. Vistumbler is the NetStumber of the 2010’s, and provides all and more of the features which NetStumbler so admirably provided in the early 2000’s. Since installing Vistumbler, I have collected more than 117, 000 APs here in the general PHX area, including a trip to and from Tucson in the mix.

The author is Andrew Calicutt of MA, and as an added attraction they also have a DB engine which can process the collected files and generate kmz files to display on Google Earth. Phil Ferland is the other major contributor / author, and together they’ve built a very nice system which allows us White Hat wardrivers to putter around our towns and collect Wi-Fi access points which are crying into the dark.

The link to Vistumbler is

http://www.vistumbler.net/

and the link to the database is

https://live.wifidb.net/wifidb/

So far I’ve been able to break the system a couple of times with all the APs I’ve collected. Without growing pains, you never get anywhere…%^)

Good thing that there’s plenty of breweries within range of the house to allow me to collect more access points!