Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Enabling GPS On The UNDP-1 Gobi 1000 Module

Sorry about the delay, the Holidays and an impending ice storm are slowing me down but here is a step by step tutorial on enabling the GPS on the UNDP-1 Gobi 1000 module. This will be Acer One specific but the steps should be essentially the same for any brand/model that uses the Gobi 1000 module but doesn't have the GPS enabled by the OEM. I didn't write any of the software being used, it's all Freeware that I just managed to tie together into a nice neat 'one click' solution

The heart of the system comes from the creator of the MWconn Connection Manager http://www.mwconn.com and is an 'extra' from their Wiki. The Wiki is in German, you can use a translator like I did http://translate.google.com but you should be able to identify and download the program without translating http://www.mwconn.info/wiki/index.php/Qualcomm The program you want to download is MWqcgps.exe ... Now make a new directory for it, I used C:\maps and gps\enable gps ... Find the QCWWAN.dll file, on the Acer Ones it is in the C:\Program Files\Acer 3G Connection Manager\bin\ directory, other users will find it in the folder for their 3G connection manager. Make a copy and place it in the '\enable gps\' directory where you put MWqcgps.exe

Next we need to create some virtual com ports, go to http://www.eterlogic.com/Downloads.html and download the
Virtual Serial Ports Emulator. This is a very nice, easy to use port emulator that's completely free in the 32 bit version. Install the program and start it up. First we need to create a virtual pair to tie to the output of the MWqcgps program. Click Device -> Create and choose 'Pair' from the dropdown list and click 'Next' .... Here we assign com ports to our virtual pair, since we won't actually be hooking our mapping programs to either we'll give them a high Com number to reserve the lower for Com ports used by various USB devices and created and enumerated on the fly. Port 1 will be COM20 and port 2 will be COM21 ... Hit the Finish button. Now go back to Device -> Create and choose Splitter from the dropdown list and click Next. Here we set our com port numbers again. The first will be the port we tie our mapping software to. I like to use a low Com number so it's compatible with older and Freeware programs so I left mine as COM1. The second is the output from our virtual pair, set it for COM21 and click finish. Now choose File -> Save as and save it as GPS_Port.vspe in the same directory as the others, 'C:\maps and gps\enble gps\' in my case. Now right click the GPS_Port file and create a shortcut. Right click the shortcut and choose Properties. In the target box type < "C:\Program Files\Eterlogic.com\Virtual Serial Ports Emulator\VSPEmulator.exe" -minimize -hide_splash "c:\maps and gps\enable gps\GPS_Port.vspe > Note the quotation marks, they are necessary ... Now in the Start In box type < "C:\Program Files\Eterlogic.com\Virtual Serial Ports Emulator\" > .... Next place this shortcut in the Startup folder of the Start Menu so it will automatically load on boot.

Next open Note Pad and type * CMD /k MWqcgps 1 > \\.\COM20 * (without the astericks) and save it as GPS.bat in the same folder as the other files 'C:\maps and gps\enble gps\' .... Right click on it and create a shortcut, place the shortcut on your desktop, you can also choose an attractive Icon for it. This little batch file enables the GPS on the UNDP-1 Gobi 1000 module and redirects the output to COM20 of the virtual pair we set up earlier. OK there is just one more thing left to do before we are ready to use it. Go to the Control Panel and choose 'System' and select the 'Advanced' tab. At the bottom click on the button that says 'Environment Variables' and in the bottom box highlight the 'Path' variable and click the Edit button. Append the line in the second box with < ;C:\maps and gps\enable gps >

Reboot your computer, make sure the 3G is turned on and click the GPS shortcut you made. This will open a DOS window and is running but since we redirected the GPS output to the virtual port you don't see anything except the command. As long as there is no error message or flashing Command Prompt you are OK. Now hook your mapping program to COM1 (Or whatever you chose) and you should be good to go, most mapping programs have a utility that shows the NMEA data or shows the satelite postion and shows your GPS coordinates. Make sure you are either on the top floor of your house or better yet out in the clear. To stop the program in the DOS window hit Ctrl and 'C' at the same time and close the window. Since we also created a splitter we can hook up to 8 mapping programs at a time and since it's all virtualized they all will use COM1

Next I'll show you how to use another Freeware program that will automatically send the DOS window to the tray where it's out of the way yet accessible so you can turn it off. If you gave your GPS shortcut a pretty icon, it will show up in the tray making for a nice looking professional setup

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The UNDP-1 Gobi 1000 Part III

I'm going to start this entry with a run down of the IC's used in the UNDP-1 Gobi 1000 module. They managed to cram an amazing amount of power and circuitry in a small package, 20 years ago a device with this power (if it could even be done) would probably be bigger than the average netbook or even a notebook. Starting from the antenna inputs (top) down:

Top middle - CXM3519 - antenna switch

The next section below it has 4 IC's

Left - TQS7M5008 - Quad band GSM RF power amp
The next 3 IC's are 'house marked' but they consist of:
850 Mhz CDMA/EV-DO RF power amp
1900 Mhz CDMA/EV-DO RF power amp
WCDMA/HSPA Dual band RF power amp

The two IC's in the bottom section:
Left - MDM1000 - GOBI 1000 baseband processor
Right - M58WR032 - 2Mb x 16 burst flash memory

Now on to the backside

Top left - RTR6500 - CDMA2k/EV-DO Transceiver with GPS

Top Right - RTR6285 - GSM/HSDPA Transceiver with GPS

Bottom Left - USB3316 - Hi-speed USB Transceiver

Bottom Right - PM6653 - Power Management

A couple of things to note that aren't usually mentioned. Receive diversity only works on the 3G bands, 2G bands only use the Main antenna. Also receiver diversity is disabled whenever the GPS is enabled. Since I'm on a 2G Edge (technically 2.75G) network it's not a sacrifice to give the GPS the Aux antenna exclusively but 3G users should take note that they will not get the diversity enhanced performance boost when GPS is enabled. Although no details on operation of the UNDP-1 are available I suspect that because there are 2 transceiver IC's with GPS and you only use one transceiver at a time, the unused transceiver IC provides the GPS. It's also entirely possible that some manufacturers intentionally sacrifice the GPS to keep receive diversity and the internal antennas aren't optimized for the GPS band (1500 Mhz). This also isn't a big deal to me, I plan on disconnecting the internal WWAN antennas and running them to SMA jacks, one for Wireless Internet, the other for GPS. I made a couple of colinear style omni-directional antennas last year and they made a huge difference over the stock internal antennas on my external EDGE wireless modem. The fun part will be finding a place to mount the two jacks, I'm hoping to get enough room by removing the VGA connector which I've never used anyway on any of the other 3 laptops I've owned.

I haven't decided the topic of my next post yet so keep your lines tight and your hooks baited ......

The UNDP-1 Gobi 1000 Part II

I'll start out this post with a list of OEMs/manufacturers that are using UNDP-1 module (Sierra Wireless may be making their own module, it's sold OEM only so there is no information on the Sierra website about it)

  • Acer HS-USB 9212
  • Dell Dell wireless 5600
  • HP UN2400
  • OQO Novatel Expedite Gobi
  • Motion Computer Novatel Expedite Gobi
  • Panasonic Gobi Mobile Broadband
  • Lenovo Gobi 1000 3G
  • Sony HS-USB 9222
  • General Dynamics CRMA-Express
  • Toshiba Sierra Wireless Gobi
  • Novatel Wireless Novatel Expedite Gobi
  • Sierra Wireless Sierra Wireless Gobi

A very important and unique part of this 3G WWAN is that it loads in a configuration program and operating program. There is a lot of confusion in Linux as to which you need to use. Basically there are really only two different programs, one for CDMA and one of GSM. All the rest are one or the other with a little carrier specific information so you don't have to enter it yourself which I'm not sure even works in Linux. So a Linux 3G connection manager would really only need the two generic programs, one for CDMA and one for GSM.
  • 0. Vodafone
  • 1. Verizon
  • 2. AT&T
  • 3. Sprint
  • 4. TMobile
  • 5. UMTS EU generic
  • 6. UMTS NA generic
  • 7. Telefonics
  • 8. TIM
  • 9. Orange
So Qualcomm could load these firmware images in 'real time' the FCC placed a couple of restrictions on Qualcomm. First the images have to have a "2 way BIOS locked" which locks the different UNDP-1 modules to only one computer manufacturer. The second restriction is the FCC wouldn't 'globally' pass the UNDP-1 module, each OEM individually has to send in a sample computer for FCC testing and approval. The FCC doesn't like devices that can be easily modified to work out of band and cause interference, intentionally or unintentionally which is why most RF modems, police scanners, etc. have their frequencies locked in firmware where they can't be tampered with. Theoretically a hacker could disassemble and rewrite the Gobi images and turn the modem into a fast scan jammer, make it transmitt out of band, or create other types of RF interference in and around the various cellphone frequency bands. With the 2 way BIOS lock any unofficial change in the images won't load because they won't pass the encrypted checksum code. Although this is a big pain in the behind for OEMs and especially the Linux Coders, it's really for the best to keep the 3G bands 'clean' and free from bandwidth/reliability robbing interference.

I'll get more into the hardware details of this module in my next post. BTW I have managed to get the GPS in the UDNP-1 module in my Acer One 531h to turn on and have managed to redirect the output to a virtual serial port and port splitter where my GPS mapping programs (Up to 8 at once) can read it. I just need to tie everything together into a neat one click solution.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    The Qualcomm UNDP-1 Gobi 1000 WWAN

    It's hard to even figure out where to begin, there is a lot of ground to cover here and a fair amount of misinformation and misunderstanding about the Qualcomm UNDP-1 (Universal Notebook Data Platform) Gobi 1000 OEM WWAN card. For starters Qualcomm isn't a device manufacturer, they aren't even a chip manufacturer. They are a group of Design Engineers who are very bright and very innovative. They designed the chips for the Gobi 1000 and a lot of their older chipsets but they outsource all of the IC manufacturing. They make Reference Designs for their chips and that is basically what the UNDP-1 Gobi Module is. This has become fairly common lately with the manufacturing done in a lower educated/skilled countries like China with the designs coming out of Japan, Taiwan, the US and Europe. This technique of designing a chip and a reference board has brought a proliferation of cheap USB to serial, Bluetooth and WLAN USB dongles, nearly all of which use the Reference Design lock, stock, and barrel which means their only real cost is the cost of manufacturing. No circuit design and no PCB design is necessary, just a few low skilled people to push buttons and do the few things the robots can't do. Nearly all of the UNDP-1 modules are made by the Taiwanese Foxconn division of Hon Hai Industries. Foxconn is an OEM supplier of computer parts, most notably for Compaq and HP. They made nearly all of Compaq's motherboards and peripherals for over a decade.

    Almost every major OEM computer maunufacturer is using the UNDP-1 module in their laptops, tablet PC's, and netbooks. ALL UNDP-1 Gobi modules have GPS, none of them have the GPS disabled in hardware because they can't. Roughly half of OEM's are taking advantage of the GPS capabilities while the other half aren't. Dell, Lenovo and Panasonic (As well as carrier Sprint) use a 3G connection manager that's licensed from Smith Micro which includes an API that supports the Gobi 1000 GPS. HP and Acer (As well as carrier AT&T) use a 3G connection manager licensed from Birdstep Technology while Asus uses a 3G connection manager licensed from Avanquest, neither of which have an API to support the Gobi 1000 GPS. Acessing the GPS is a two step process. First you need to turn on the GPS which streams the NMEA data to the connection manager which will usually show you when you have acquired satellites, position data, etc. The second step is to enable the NMEA serial port and stream the NMEA filtered data through that port. I have found a couple of program managers (Most OEM ones won't install on anyone else's hardware) that could turn the GPS on but nothing yet for one that turns on the NMEA port. I'll have more to say about the GPS function after I finish making a one-click solution to starting it up and streaming it to a virtual serial port where our GPS mapping programs will be able to connect up to it (Actually we'll be able to use several programs at once with a virtual port splitter)

    Next up we'll take a look at the inside of the UNDP-1 module and explain how it works loading firmware in 'real time' so it can reconfigure itself to different networks and cellular standards as well as listing most of the OEM's that use this module and what they call it

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Misadventures In Linux

    After hearing about and seeing screenshots of Unbuntu's Netbook Remix I really wanted to give it a try. So I made a bootable thumbdrive with UNetbootin ( http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/ ) Set the BIOS in the Acer One to boot from the thumbdrive and proceeded to install. Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) is a very lean edition of Unbuntu with a User Interface that's designed for netbooks. Nice big buttons and windows that always open full screen make it an excellent foundation for a touchpad style of netbook. Another big advantage is abiltiy to easily set up a 'cubed' desktop. About 3 years back I had a Gentoo system for recording with the Beryl cubed desktop and it's a great way to go when you are running multiple applications and want to keep them separate but accessible. The idea is to use one desktop as general purpose, one for GPS mapping only, one for Internet access (Weather maps and river conditions) and one for my fishing database.

    Since my fishing database was developed in Open Office Base porting it over to Linux should be a snap and Internet stuff no problem but my GPS software is all Windows based. I basically use 3 programs, OziExplorer for most things, Dr Depth for making GPS enabled depth and 3D maps and Fugawi Marine ENC for (free) Inland Electronic Navigation Maps for the Upper Mississippi River. Oziexplorer and Dr Depth are known to work in Linux under WINE so prospects are good the Fugawi program will also. This is what I thought would be my only possible Showstopper to going over to a Linux OS

    Unfortunately I was wrong about that .....

    I knew coming in there were some issues with the webcam and microphone, it's nice to have the ability to take photos but not a showstopper. Unfortunately the Qualcomm Gobi 1000 WWAN had an issue under Linux. Since this WWAN card can be configured in real time for two totally different wireless network standards (GSM and CDMA) you need a way to load in the code every time the WWAN is turned on. There is a workaround/hack that loads the firmware on boot which seems to work with Lenovo and Dell netbooks but not the Acer One. The other problem is even on the Lenovos and Dells if you power off the WWAN to conserve battery you have to reboot to get the WWAN back (or reload the kernal modules and firmware loader and restart the network manager) The problem here is Linux needs the ability to load the firmware any and every time the WWAN is powered on or reset. I was really hoping one of the main Linux programmers had played with this card and also had figured out how to enable the GPS. So although I haven't completely given up on Linux but as long as this problem persists it is a showstopper for me and so I'll concentrate full time on adapting XP to have a touch friendly Desktop, programmer launcher app, etc. The only way I could get it to work consistently was to boot into Windows and turn it on and let the firmware load then warm reboot into Linux where it will work until I switch it off but that's not going to be practical at all in Real World use in a boat

    Next up will be a long workup on the Qualcomm UDNP-1 Gobi 1000 WWAN cards that have become so popular with the OEMs lately. I have a lot of information that I haven't found all detailed in one spot like I'm about to do so It'll probably have to be split into 2 or more posts.

    Testing The Netbook

    I got the Acer One the day after Thanksgiving. The first thing I did was give the unit a thorough check to make sure all ports and devices worked properly. Refurbs are usually checked out better than new units from the factory, new units are assumed to be fully working, refurbs are assumed to have problems so they are more thoroughly checked out. Most of these Acer One AO531h refurb units were from AT&T and simply had a bad out of the box webcam but were otherwise fully functional. Then I got all the updates from Acer and ran Windows Update.

    Next thing I did was pull the SIM card from my USB Edge modem and install it in the Acer One, chose the generic GSM profile and filled in the APN of my provider (iWireless, on the T-Mobile network) I took it upstairs where I got a decent signal and it hooked right up for me. Eventually I'll be using an outboard 10 dBi colinear antenna and I expect it will really rock then. ( I'll show everyone some antennas I built along with their dimensions down the road in the coming New Year)

    Once I made sure everything was updated and working I proceeded to cull out all Trial Programs and Bloatware from Acer/Microsoft. I also got rid of any XP default software I wasn't going to need like most of the games, fax, email (An internet account like Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail works better for Mobile in my opinion) Telnet and shut down a few services I knew weren't needed or I felt were risky (like Telnet). I'm sure there will be other Services I'll be able to disable when I go to streamline and tweak XP.

    Next up 'Misadventures in Linux'

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    Project Synopsis

    This is a project to turn a Netbook into a touchscreen chartplotter with Internet access. Some parts of this project will be specific to the Acer One Netbook on the ZG8 frame. Many parts will apply to all brands of netbooks, especially operating system and software enhancements. I choose an AO531h for several reasons. First and foremost it has a built-in modem for cellular internet access out on the water. It also came with the 6 cell battery for longer runtime. This particular was a refurbished unit so I got these extras for the price of a basic unit. The warranty is limited to 90 days instead of year but since I'll be voiding the warranty when I start doing the touchscreen and other hacks that's not a big deal.

    Preliminary plans include enabling the internal GPS built into the modem, adding a touchscreen, turning it into a tablet style, adding Bluetooth and adding SMA jacks for external antennas for the 3G internet access and GPS. Other possible plans are adding an internal BroadCom Mini PCI-e HD Decoder and external USB HDTV tuner. Operating system enhancements will be added to take advantage of the touchscreen, in XP this will includes several apps ported over from XP Tablet PC, Vista, and Win7 Editions. I may also make a Ubantu Linux based OS but that's looking less and less likely for reasons I will get into for a couple of days

    I expect to start out mainly with getting the GPS working and software/OS enhancements so during slow times I may discuss making custom GPS enabled maps for fishing. My fishfinder (Garmin 300C) includes a NMEA depth output which I'll use with the Netbook and I'll show some maps with depths plotted and even some that are 3D representations of bottom structure.

    Until next time, keep your lines tight and your hooks baited ....