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LNA for RTL Based SDR Receivers

SDR is one of the trendy technologies of the moment, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy one of those cheap RTL2832U based DTV receivers, usable out-of the box as a SDR.

The device comes with a fronted (R820T) with a built-in LNA, which is normally powerful enough to fed the receiver when using a short cable, but since I wanted to experiment with an antenna mounted on a relatively long and thin cable, I built a small LNA to be mounted at the far end, near the antenna.


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The LNA is based on the Mini Circuits PSA4-5043+, and the board is designed to be as small as possible to fit in line with the antenna and cable, and to be powered by the receiver itself.

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Power over Ethernet Flashlight

Sometimes you learn about an interesting IC and you build an entire circuit around it for no other good reason… This project is one of those!

The TPS2378 is an IEEE802.3at (Power over Ethernet) Powered Device controller, featuring internal pass MOSFET for loads up to 25.5W, Type 1 (a.k.a. 802.3af) compatibility and auxiliary power source support.

The IC is normally used together with a DC-DC step down regulator to power a network device (the PD) from a PoE compliant switch or injector (the PSE). A proper 802.3at device requires an isolated power supply with some safety characteristics that makes it not trivial to implement, and there are many DC-DC ICs with integrated PoE controller to make it easier, but as I wasn’t really interested in that part I just went for an easier project with just the PoE controller and some ballast… And what better ballast than some high power white LEDs!

This project is a small PoE flashlight, that can be powered by any 802.3af or 802.3at compliant injector or switch. It can be used as a PoE tester, or if you get trapped in a dark datacenter at night!


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Hacking into a Vehicle CAN bus (Toyothack and SocketCAN)

CAN bus is an automation fieldbus commonly used in the automotive industry as the main network bus to allow communications between the many on-board ECUs on modern vehicles.

The Linux kernel has native CAN bus support at network layer since some years, with a lot of drivers for both embedded and USB CAN bus controllers, so it’s now fairly easy to add a CAN bus interface to any Linux laptop and have a playaround with it.

In this post I’ll show how to tap into a modern car local bus, dump a bunch of data and analyze the trace offline to write a decoder from scratch using the SocketCAN APIs and utilities.

This is based on my experiences hacking into my Toyota… Toyothack!


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USB to 100BASE-FX Optical Fiber Network Card

Optical fiber is an intriguing technology, deployed all over the world connecting computer networks with the speed of light (well… almost).

Unfortunately, due to the inherent complexity of fiber network installation and management, optical fiber devices have never found their way in the hands of the user, and are usually deployed only by professionals for things such as backbones, long hauls or really fast interconnections.

Luckily enough, older optical fiber Ethernet components, especially 100MBit ones, are now available as a reasonably low price, so I decided to design a couple of USB to 100BASE-FX network cards just for fun and to learn more about working with optical fibers.

This project contains two complete hardware designs for USB to 100BASE-FX network cards, one with a 1×9 transceiver and one with an SFP slot. Both designs are based on the ASIX AX88772B chip, and fit in a compact Hammond 1551 series box.


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Also, there are some useful links and information about designing with OF transceivers and SFP modules.

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HP Wi-Fi Direct Mouse on Linux

In my last post I took apart an HP Wi-Fi Direct mouse based on the OZMO2000 controller from Ozmo Devices.

OZMO based devices are officially supported on Windows 7 platform only, rendering them completely useless as nobody uses Windows anymore… right? Well, it turns out most of the code to use them in Linux is already in place, just waiting to be enabled!


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Wi-Fi direct support in Linux is quite young and still considered as experimental, so read on if you dare to try!

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Making Time Lapse Video with IP Cameras

What happens when you find yourself with two IP cameras which you don’t really use? You just make some funny stuff with them!

This post shows how to use an Axis IP camera and a netbook to record a timelapse video of a car travel… including a 15 minute timelapse of car trip from Italy to Germany!

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DIY Cheap Internal WiFi Antenna

Some time ago I put my hand on a couple of broken Axis network cameras which were about to be trashed. These cute small devices have an image sensor with a plastic lens, a wired and a WiFi interface to connect to an external network, and many other nasty features.

The cameras had a busted Marvell power supply, which probably broke ahead of time because of the high working temperature, and once replaced with an LD1117 (I know, not the best of choices…) they were as good as new.

The one thing I did not like about these cameras was the cheap WiFi antenna, which is mounted far away from the casing and gives an old bulky feeling to the device.

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This post is a tutorial on how to build an internal WiFi antenna to modify this kind of devices!

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