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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another puzzle...

Things have been a little slow this week. The GPS modules are still at the antenna house for antenna tuning and the expected date of arrival of the test results is scheduled for September 8th. As it looks now, things are going to be delayed a bit because of this :(

On the upside of this, I have had some time to relax a bit (definitely needed) and play around some more with the 2.0 Toolchain. I managed to compile a GUI app for the iPhone with the 2.0 Toolchain. I can tell you, it is quite a time-sink not having a Mac OS X platform with the proper tools to write iPhone apps. I am seriously considering getting an Intel Mac to do all the software development. Anyone out there have a spare one sitting around... :-o

Anyway, as we will pretty much be waiting this week for the test results, I decided to give you another puzzle to kill some time.... what could it be that is in the photo?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Confirmed: serial port working on firmware 2.0.1

Link for iPhone and iTouch users here

Last week I sent four GPS modules to the GPS vendor to do some final testing and antenna tuning. So while waiting till we hear back from them, I have had some free time to spend on software.

The first thing I have done is made myself familiar with the WinPwn tool out there and it seems to work pretty well. I have used it to:
  • Upgrade a 1.1.3 iPhone to 1.1.4
  • Upgrade a 1.0.2 iPhone to 2.0.1
  • Pwn a 1.1.4 iPod Touch, staying at 1.1.4
It's a little tricky as the process of things you need to do to upgrade to 1.1.4 and to 2.0.1 is different. Also, for upgrading to 1.1.4, you don't need to put your iPhone/iPod into DFU mode when restoring your custom firmware. It actually has to be regular restore mode; you will end up with an error if you try to use DFU mode. For upgrading to 2.0.1, DFU mode has to be used however when restoring the custom firmware. For upgrading to 2.0/2.0.1, I have found the manual here quite useful.

I have also used the command line version of QuickWpn and this seems to work as well (it is for jailbbreaking only). This tool is good to use on an iPod Touch as it is very fast and doesn't require a custom firmware (you can't unlock your iPhone with it though, only jailbreak).

So after I installed 2.0.1, it was time to install the 2.0 Toolchain on my desktop running cygwin. Saurik has put out a very good manual for doing this. But be aware, it is not a simple procedure. You have to understand what you are doing and even then it might take you a couple of tries to get everything right. For the required iPhone/iPod filesystem, it is best to get this from the iPhone/iPod itself (make a tar-ball as this keeps the symbolic links). All the Mac OS X 10.5 SDK stuff comes from the MacOSX10.5.pkg file in the iPhone OS 2.0 SDK dmg here, and you will need a bunch of other Apple sources that come from the Mac OS X 10.5.3 Darwin sources here. You can also do some more reading on The iPhone Wiki for Toolchain 2.0.

I will probably write up the procedure up on a Wiki sometime later as I took notes of everything I did. It took me three days to complete the process and I have learned quite a lot from it.

Another option is to install the 2.0 Toolchain directly on your iPhone. This can be done from the 2.0 Toolchain BigBoss entry on Cydia (this also installs the 'make' utility). Also make sure to read the instructions there. These same instructions apply to the desktop Toolchain as well, except you will have to adapt the path names to your local environment.

Also, once your application is on the iPhone/iPod Touch, it needs to be code-signed, otherwise it won't run. Don't try to first run your compiled application before code-signing it. If you do, code-signing won't work either. You can find more information on code-signing here.

I thus ported my GPS command line utility that I used on 1.1.x before to 2.0.1 and tried it out on the 2.0.1 firmware. The video shows the result: there are no issues with accessing the NMEA data that the GPS module sends to the iPhone.

So this confirms that the GPS module will work on the new 2.0/2.0.1 firmware.

Just beware that there is no 2.0/2.0.1 version of the previously discussed GPS software packages (xGPS, RoadMap) currently available, but hopefully these will be available soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A little side-tracking: iControlPad

The developers over at have started production of the iControlPad module for the iPhone. This module will bring real game controls to your iPhone (see the rendered photo above).

Note that the current version only works on the iPhone and not the iPod Touch. This is because the physical structure of the module was designed for the iPhone. Maybe they will come out with a version for the iPod Touch at a later date.

I have ordered a couple of modules to do some testing and game playing with the modules.

I would like to find out how much interest there is for the iControlPad module from you. If there is enough interest, Orange Gadgets will become a U.S. distributor for the iControlPad, possibly with discounted pricing (MSRP is $34.99). If you are in the U.S., you will also be able to save on shipping as the modules would normally ship from the U.K. manufacturer.

So leave your feedback here on the blog or, if you already know that you want an iControlPad, sign up for a module on the Orange Gadgets website. The website has been slightly updated and another database has been added to track interest in this product.

Please sign up before the start of next week if you would like to be sure to get a unit from their first production run.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Put to the test!

A brief update for today:

The four CNC machined housings arrived this week and all of them make a nice fit as you can see in the photo (I masked off the LED opening with some tape to simulate the lens effect as those lenses were to small to be CNC'ed). I have been in touch with the housing manufacturer this week as well to iron out the last details of the drawings. They will start cutting steel upcoming week! Once that is done, I will visit them to take a look at the molds before we get our first parts.

I built three additional GPS modules this week as well and the new upload tool for A-GPS data from the manufacturer seems to work a lot better now. After having uploaded the latest A-GPS data to each of the modules, I have performed open/clear sky testing with the modules and am very happy with the results! Typical time-to-first-fix (TTFF) with A-GPS enabled is ~10sec average on a cold start. Average signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR) is ~42dB (note that both the TTFF and SNR numbers are open/clear sky numbers and can vary in practice depending on surroundings and GPS satellite strength). Performance is thus very good for such a small unit! After the antenna tuning process, we might gain a little more on the SNR, but we will wait for those results first before concluding anything.

I also had to place a special purchase order (PO) for the high brightness/low current bi-color LEDs this week as they only had 200 in stock (delivery is scheduled for September 15, 2008). As I thought the green/orange color combination was a little too ordinary, I have chosen a blue/red LED which looks really cool. The blue LED will be on as power-on indicator and the red LED will flash when searching for satellites (it will be off after a GPS lock is found). So while searching for satellites, the combined blue/red LED will flash purple. Power consumption of the LED will be a little less than 1mA when the module is tracking. The rest of the module consumes ~36mA while tracking for a total of 37mA for tracking.

Power consumption, size and performance have all been traded off against each other, but it looks like the final results are pretty good in my humble opinion!

The estimated-time-of-arrival (ETA) for the modules is still set for the end of September. Let's hope there will be no further delays; thanks everyone for hanging in there!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What's (been) happening?

It has been a little while and as you can imagine things have been busy and very hectic. Here is an update on the various items:
  1. Last Monday, the last revision of the PCB came back. Although I placed it as a rush order, it was late; it was supposed to have arrived the Thursday before. In the meantime I have built a new GPS module with it and tested its performance, which is up to spec now. This new module is shown in the photo (inside of the new housing prototype).

  2. The biggest milestone that got done this week is the new two-piece housing design. This has pretty much kept me busy full-time since last week:
    • New 3D CAD files (no logos) were completed and a new FDM prototype was made to verify that everything fits inside of it. I painted the prototype black, put the latest board inside and hooked the USB cable up. The result can be seen in the photo.
    • The next thing in line was sending out the new 3D housing designs to get real prototype housings CNC machined out of solid ABS plastic (no FDM). These are needed to do proper antenna tuning of the board and the housing for optimum GPS performance. These housings are expected back upcoming week.
    • Next I had to finalize the drawings for production and place the logos on them. This did not go without hick-ups and quite some time was waisted trying to get the 3D software to accept the graphics files. But eventually I managed to get everything imported.
    • I am currently detailing the lens a little more to make sure that the LED light comes out properly and has a wide viewing angle. The final CAD files are due first thing Monday morning.
    • A purchase order (PO) was placed for the injection mold making and a delivery of 1000 housings. The housings are to be completed by September 9, 2008.

  3. I also received new GPS modules with updated firmware for this new PCB design. I had problems uploading A-GPS data to them. I thought it was a firmware issue, but after talking to the GPS vendor it turns out that the A-GPS upload tool that they provided had some problems, so they provided me with an updated version which performs better but still seems a little buggy. After we get a final OK from the vendor on the module configuration and firmware, we can place a PO as well (I hope this can happen this week).

  4. Regarding contract manufacturers, I have converged on a candidate for PCB manufacturing and assembly with competitive pricing. I might have to make a few minor adjustments to the bill of materials, but after that we can get the ball running.

It looks like the Orange Gadgets website has been running pretty smoothly. As of now, 177 people have signed up so far for a total of 208 modules. Feel free to do some additional advertising among your family and friends as well as online.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Link for iPhone and iTouch users here

To top the week off with some more exciting news, what you see above is a live demo of the xGPS software that xWaves is working on. Note that all credit for this awesome application goes to them!

This software does not require a live internet connection!

Here is how to get this running:
  1. I configured one of my modules at a baudrate of 19200. That is the baudrate the xGPS program currently runs at. Hopefully they will add in an option to custom set the baudrate the program uses for the serial port in the next version. So you will need to have a GPS module with the correct baudrate settings, otherwise it won't work. Plug your GPS module into the dock.

  2. Go to the on your iPhone or iPod touch and add in under the sources. Refresh the sources and then go to the Install menu and scroll down to Xwaves and install xGPS (the version I am running is 1.0p1). Quit Installer.

  3. Start up the xGPS software and hit Maps. You'll end up somewhere in France. Zoom out with the small magnifier glass and move the map to your local area, then zoom back in again with the large magnifier glass.

  4. Now drag with two fingers a red box for the map area that you want to download and hit the Download button. This will take a while depending on how large the map is. Make sure auto-lock on your iPhone/iPod touch is set to never and that you have enough battery left. I suggest downloading a small map area the first time (< 20mb). Cancel to go back to the main screen. The map is located in /private/var/root/Library/xGPS_map.db.

  5. Then hit Enable GPS and voila, your GPS should be working! A pin will drop on your current location.

  6. Take your phone, get into your car and have fun!
As this is still a very early version of the software, it is a little bit buggy when it comes to zooming in and out (double tap with one finger is zoom-in, double tap with two fingers is zoom-out). Also, the voice navigation is not working yet, although I did get it to display the purple-line directions on the map occasionally and the program spoke the first navigation direction out loud.

It looks like things are coming along very well in having a complete GPS navigation solution available.

So make sure up to sign up for one of the iGPS360 modules. The first production run will start very soon and will be a quantity of 1000 units. Make sure you are among the first 1000 to sign up!