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Idea: Serial WiFi Stick

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Karpour Page Icon Posted 2015-04-09 9:09 AM
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So I had this idea.. If anyone else is also into microcontroller development, I'd love their opinion on this!


If you never heard of them, ESP8266 modules are all the rage right now. They're stamp-sized modules containing a microcontroller and an AES-capable WiFi chip. For about 5$. It's ridiculous.
I have a few here but didn't get to develop much with them yet, but I had the following idea:

Connect the module to the serial port of a Handheld with an RS232 level shifter and implement a firmware on the microcontroller that emulates a Hayes-compatible modem.
Actually, someone already did exactly that for an Arduino with an Ethernet shield: https://hayesduino.codeplex.com/

With some tinkering and 3d-printing a nice package, the whole thing could be the size of a USB-WiFi stick

Edited by Karpour 2015-04-09 9:12 AM
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2015-04-09 2:14 PM
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I'm dense...is this to allow a hard-wired Ethernet connection? Or is this to allow a wired modem connection? Or is this for some wireless type of thing?
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Karpour Page Icon Posted 2015-04-09 8:54 PM
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This thing is a complete WiFi module, it contains an EEPROM and a microcontroller with WiFi capabilities and an antenna, TCP stack already implemented.
Basically a whole WiFi-enabled embedded system
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2015-04-09 9:17 PM
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If it handles the routing as well then great, but with a 115.2kbps limit it will be a bit on the painful side.
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Karpour Page Icon Posted 2015-04-09 10:04 PM
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Of course there's a downside, but the upside would be that connecting to WPA2 networks would be possible.

Sadly none of the network cards I have here can handle WPA with AES, so I can't connect to my home network with them
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2015-04-10 1:35 AM
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Yeah, I'm in the same boat with my wifi cards. Be nice if one could jerry-rig this thing into the pcmcia slot of an H/PC...

Jake
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2015-04-10 3:47 PM
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It is so much simpler to just add an access point to your home wireless network that is only WEP encrypted... If it is set to disable broadcasting, then unless someone knows the address, no one really knows it is even there.
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2015-04-10 7:22 PM
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If you could connect it to a serial line used by a Fast-Ir port, technically you could get between 115.2K and 16Mbps out of it ~ 4.3Mbps jumps to mind on IR transfer speeds using FIR. I assume that FIR is just a UART bolt-on? Anyone know for sure?

You can also get PC Card serial interfaces


I wonder how complicated the conversion would be to do as part of the pinout of Karpour's chip. That would get something between 2 and 5 MB/s I *think*. I think that technically ISA was capable of about 8MB/s in the same guise of I'm capable of 200 words per minute...
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2015-04-10 7:37 PM
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Rich, can you explain that slowly to someone who's not as bright as you, someone like me

For instance, I have comcast internet and I rent the modem/router from comcast. I also have a netgear router. Do you mean to simply run the netgear out of the comcast router with an ethernet cable? Then the netgear would put out a wep signal, friendly to H/PCs?

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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2015-04-11 8:44 AM
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Hemeans get a second AP on a different channel that uses WEP instead of WPA. He also suggests stopping it from broadcasting the SSID. I would add to that to use MAC filtering as any script kiddie in your area will be able to hack it in 60 seconds without WEP, may be 5 minutes with WEP+MAC filtering
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Karpour Page Icon Posted 2015-04-11 2:22 PM
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Even WEP won't help for Windows CE 1.0 though. I saw some guy who claimed he got a Prism WiFi card working on a 320ox once, but I'll just assume he used a CE 2.0 ROM upgrade

Btw, not broadcasting an SSID doesn't keep anyone who wants to find stackable WiFis from finding it! I simply don't want to have any kind of network with WEP and rely on security by obscurity

Edited by Karpour 2015-04-11 2:23 PM
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2015-04-11 8:33 PM
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Everyone is correct. I guess the point is that security keys keep honest people honest. C:Amie is correct...MAC filtering is another step in signal security. Someone who is determined, such as Karpour suggests, will find a means regardless.

My old Netgear router used to have an area in the configuration that let you actually list the wireless devices by name in addition to the normal WEP encryption.

Jake, you have it correct. You could plug in your Netgear router and use that wireless signal in lieu of the Comcast wireless signal...and have it use different or actually no security. My father-in-law actually lives in a garage apartment behind my brother-in-law's house. The wifi signal is weak to my BIL's router/modem, so I installed a powerline wireless extender since he is on the same electrical circuit. It plugs into an Ethernet port on my BIL's modem and into a wall outlet. In the garage apartment, my FIL has the wireless half of the system. It is just a small box that plugs into a wall outlet that sends a separate wifi signal...and since it indoors and closer, he doesn't have signal problems any longer.

Another option would simply be to switch the unprotected wifi device on and off as you need it, or to dampen the signal to a low level (remove or shield the antenna) so that it could not be picked up beyond the interior of the house.

Actually I laugh at my brother-in-law, cause he has all the WPA2 security on his wifi signal...but his house is located in the center of a 6 acre parcel of land and his nearest neighbor is more than a 1/4 mile away. Why have security at all...I mean he really has no need.

In my apartment, I actually ran an Ethernet cable through the wall to my smartTV for the better speed over a wifi connection. If I were to build another home, I would have Ethernet ports throughout the house I think in case I wanted to be hardwired.

That why I love my Socket LP/E card...works with all the native NDIS drivers, even on the older HPCs.
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CE Geek Page Icon Posted 2015-04-11 11:58 PM
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Karpour - 2015-04-11 6:22 AM

Even WEP won't help for Windows CE 1.0 though. I saw some guy who claimed he got a Prism WiFi card working on a 320ox once, but I'll just assume he used a CE 2.0 ROM upgrade


Uh, I'd say that's a safe bet, since CE 1 doesn't support WiFi.
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2015-04-12 9:38 AM
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Actually CE1 doesn't have a fully implemented TCP/IP stack, so what it doesn't support is NDIS i.e. a driver model for network adapters. Apart from that it could support anything WEP needed if it was coded in C++ 5.
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2015-04-12 3:53 PM
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Thank you everybody for your helpful instructions. If I ran an ethernet-cable-connected netgear out of my comcast router, and a hacker figured out my netgear broadcast/wep code, would s/he be able to get past the comcast/wp2 setup? Or does it stop at the netgear?

Given how hinky my internet is already, I don't think I want to go down the road of starting and stopping the netgear just to use an h/pc.

Thanks again,
Jake
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