Stompbox – Howto #2 – Getting The Hardware

General Hardware Requirements

You'll need some form of EVDO card with an external antenna jack, an 802.11b card with the Prism 2/2.5/3 chipset, and a small computer with interfaces for both. The Soekris 4521 fits this need nicely without a lot of money. It's configured with two PCMCIA slots and one miniPCI slot.


Your best choice for EVDO service will vary depending on location and budget. I'm using Verizon's Broadband Access for $80/mo which drops back to 1xRTT when I'm out of the broadband areas. I originally had the Audiovox PC5470 (no antenna jack) but switched it out with an older PC5220 that I snagged off eBay for $20. CAUTION: watch out for the auctions that sell the card cheap with a contract unless that's what you want. There are "better" cards than the 5220 and they should all work, but make sure it's got an external antenna jack. Google around to make sure the card and service work with Linux before spending the money and comitting to a contact. Verizon makes it easy to switch cards online, no need to talk to anyone.

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Stompbox – Howto #1 – Before You Start

This is the start of my Stompbox Network howto. I have 6 parts planned so far, but may add a couple more later when I add GPS and a Webcam to my stompbox.

Why A Stompbox

The first thing to ask is if you really need one of these, and I suppose the second is can you really afford one. Odds are that you don't really NEED mobile internet everywhere you go, but for those of us who do and anyone with money for toys, then this can be a cool project. This is not a cheap $50 Linksys router hack. It is built on a solid industrial grade platform and the cost reflects that. My total cost to date is around $400, excluding the initial cost of the EVDO and cellular antennas. The monthly cost for Verizon EVDO is $80 and you'll most likely need to sign a two year contract to get a new card for cheap. If you have a voice plan with Verizon you may be able to get the monthly cost down to $60, check the forums for details.

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Stompbox – It’s an Access Point now.

118435211_5a283d41ef.jpgI received the Senao Net2511 MP WiFi card in the mail yesterday and the stompbox booted right up into AP mode. The card's got a 200mW transmitter and should belt out the signal quite well, even with the antennas I stole from my WRT-54G. One of these days I'll take the laptop out in the field and see how far it reaches.

I also re-installed the Stompbox image and reconfiguring it just to back out a few mistakes I'd made. Just for reference, if you happen to use the Stompbox image, do NOT "apt-get update" or you'll get an upgraded glib6 with your next install which chews up almost all of the space remaining on the CF card and causes library issues with some of the stripped down packages, most notably dpkg.

It's a good idea to backup the image frequently to make restoring easy. I used "dd if=/dev/sda of=stomp.img bs=8192 count=15648" to make the backup. The count is important as devices don't always have an EOF to mark when to quit and dd isn't smart enough to see the seek errors.

OpenVPN is now installed using a back ported package to woody although I don't think it's very happy with the config I copied from my old router. Right now it connects fine but dies of a SIGUSR1 every 30 seconds. I can't see how anything local is giving the sig, so I'm assuming it's something internal to the openvpn process. (USR1 is the signal used to ask the daemon to reconnect.) The server logs don't seem to indicate any problems so I'm pretty sure it's the client.

Stompbox – Pictures

stompboxI've got some pictures up on Flickr now.

The scripts are coming along and it now tells my webserver every time it reconnects.  I managed to screw it all up once, but it only took half an hour to get the disk image back to where I was.  Many thanks to the backups.

The miniPCI WIFI card is on the way and I've started looking for a PCMCIA to USB adapter.  They are cheap enough on ebay and in surplus bins but I'm looking for one that isn't too big.

I may eventually try to wedge a laptop drive under the pcmcia cards and power it with one of the small ide to usb adapters.  If anyone has any experience with them please comment with a quick review.

I'm in the process of converting all the computers in the house to wireless so that silly Cat5 will soom be gone 🙂

Stompbox – Voyage – Software

Voyage - Software | Voyage Linux

Weighing the options for another distro to use on the stompbox.  Alternately I may consider Pebble x Voyager which adds the Voyager packages to an existing Pebble Linux.

Voyage Linux is a Debian sarge-based distro (voyage) built from scratch. It is best run on a x86-based embedded platform such as Soekris 45xx/48xx and WRAP boards. It can also run on low-end x86 PC platforms. Typical installation requires 64MB disk space, although larger storage allows more packages to be installed. Voyage Linux is so small that it is best suitable for running a full-feature firewall, wireless access point, VoIP gateway and network storage device.

Stompbox – Cheap U.FL to RP-TNC Pigtails

48_1_b.JPGFound a cheap source of U.FL to RP-TNC Bulkhead connectors. I'll use this to attach a couple rubber ducky antennas to the stompbox once I get the Senao minipci wifi card. Total price is $25 shipped for two of them. I'll update this post when I receive them and can comment on the quality and shipping time.

Search for "bkhd".

[update March 22, 2006]

I got the pigtails in the mail today and they look great.  They fit the keyed hole in the Soekris case nicely.  Now I just need the minipci wifi card.

I ended up drilling a hole for the EVDO pigtail to pass through with a grommet.  I'll post about it tomorrow night after I get the pics on Flickr.

Stompbox Network – Soekris Net 4521 3G Hotspot

net4521_top.jpgMy Soekris Net 4521 got here Tuesday and I've now had a few days to play with it. I'm quite impressed with quality of the board and it's perfomance. I've got it booting the Stompbox version of Pebble Linux off a 128MB CF card.

It's equipped with two pc-card slots and one mini-PCI slot. The cpu is an AMD 486 at 133Mhz and it's loaded with 64MB of RAM. The whole thing runs off of 12-54V DC so it can be powered quite nicely in the car or with most any wall wart you have laying around. One of the PC-Card slots is taken up with my EVDO card (cellular broadband internet). I hope to put a USB adapter in the 2nd slot and put a wifi adapter in the mini-PCI.

I had some issues getting dnscache to listen on port 53 so I tossed it out and installed dnsmasq. I've got it routing the local net to the internet over EVDO and just need to find a mini-PCI wifi card with a Prism2 chipset to make it replace my WIFI Access Point.

I'll post a proper howto sometime in the near future and give some updates on how it performs when we're camping this weekend.

Link Right 2 » Top Secret Gas Pill

Link Right 2 » Top Secret Gas Pill

If any of you gas pill believers really wants to convince me that this works send me a month supply and I’ll post the results here. I drive a 2000 Olds minivan. My commute is 60 miles round trip and we average one trip a month of ~500 miles. Including nights out, church, visits to friends and shopping we drive about 2200 miles a month and will fill up about 6 or 7 times.

I'm posting a challenge over on lr2 for any of the gas pill believers out there to prove to me that this stuff works.

Jadon Lavik, BarlowGirl, and Rebecca St. James in Concert.

Deb and I attended a good concert last night. RSJ_tour_poster.jpg

The opening act, Jadon Lavik, was my favorite. BarlowGirl was good, but a little too loud for the venue. They had some issues dealing with the echo, especially on their faster songs. Rebecca St. James played a good mix of her music and had a great positive message.

I've already preordered Jadon's new album and grabbed a copy of his premier album at the same time. Here are a couple links if you're interested.

Jadon Lavik - Life on the Inside

Jadon Lavik - Moving on Faith