Tag Archives: wifidb

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.

GE_APs_Example_Urban_Phoenix

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.

GE_CoxWiFiFree_Shea-and-Tatum

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.