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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I would like to wish all my blog-readers, customers, friends and family a very Happy Holiday Season and all the best for the upcoming New Year.

I took the above picture in Bloomingdale's Courtyard at the Fashion Island shopping mall in Newport Beach, California. The tree is a massive 115-foot-tall white fir Christmas tree. It weighs approximately 30,00 pounds. The tree is decorated with over 23,000 lights, bows and ornaments. After the Holidays, the tree will be recycled as it is every year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 500th module shipped today!

It's been a long time since the last post, so it's time for an update.

I have mainly been busy handling orders and shipping packages out as well as answering customer's emails. As mentioned before, in Holland we say "De klant is koning" or "The customer is king" :-)

I am happy to announce that today we shipped the 500th module!

Of course I hope that word about the module will keep on spreading now that there are 500 of them floating around all over the world.

It seems Italy and Israel are very popular countries for the module and I even shipped one to Lithuania and Luxembourg. Also, I had one customer from mainland China, despite the fact this blog is blocked in China because of the human rights content in the right column.

Also, with the upcoming Holiday Season, I will be taking a break from shipping orders. All orders placed on or before December 22nd will still be shipped out before Christmas. The online store will stay open during the Christmas break but I won't be shipping till the first week of the New Year. I will still be checking my email but my response might not be as fast as usual. If you really need an immediate response, you can put "EXTREMELY URGENT" in the subject line :-)

So if you are still thinking about what to buy that friend for Christmas, if he has an iPhone or an iPod Touch, the iGPS360 module would make a great gift!

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has sent me their positive feedback regarding the module, customer service or who just dropped me an encouragement. Thanks. If you have the time, consider writing a few lines in the review section of the online store (submitted reviews can be read here). I am sure it will be useful for new customers.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The backlog has cleared!

We are happy to announce that we have cleared the backlog for paid orders. What you see in the photo are the shipping records of the first four weeks of shipping. We have shipped 352 orders now (close to 400 modules).

Today, I have taken a day off from shipping packages... a nice break. Not really a day off though, as I had to meet with the PCB board manufacturer to streamline the future production process a little better so as to free up some of my time. All remaining PCB boards of the first production run have been assembled and are ready to be tested and put into their housings.

For all of the units that have been shipped so far, I have personally put the PCB board inside of the module's housing. For the remaining units, I am transferring this task to the PCB manufacturer who is going to do this so-called full "box-build". They will first be assembling a test-run of 20 modules and if approved after inspection, they will have the green light to do the full "box-build" for all remaining GPS modules of the first production run. In that way I will have some more time available to do other things.

Testing and quality control of all "box-build" modules will still be performed by myself for the remainder of the first productions run. These tasks will eventually also be transferred to the manufacturer for subsequent production runs. So tell your iPhone/iPod friends that you know a good Christmas gift :-)

Talking about the Holiday Season, the end of coming week will be Thanksgiving here in the US (aka Turkey Day) and I have decided to take two days of rest on Thursday and Friday (so if I don't immediately respond to your emails or questions, you know why :-)

And lastly, I am still trying to get in touch with a few customers who have not responded to my emails. If your order or customer number is below, please contact us as soon as possible at to resolve issues with the shipping address and to avoid further delay:

  1. Order id: 413, Customer id: 305
  2. Order id: 865, Customer id: 609

For all technical support for the module, please email

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

I have finally had some time to write up the answers to a few frequently asked questions (FAQ) on how to get up and running as quickly as possible with your new iGPS360 module.

The FAQ is posted on the main Orange Gadgets website and you can access the FAQ by clicking on "FAQ" in the top menu bar or by clicking here.

Another question that has come up repeatedly is the security certificate warning that appears in certain cases up when you try to access the Orange Gadgets Online Store. Regarding the certificate error, you can "add an exception" or click "accept" or something similar with respect to the certificate security notice. The certificate is from who is our web-provider so it is perfectly fine to add the exception (your security is not compromised). Besides that, payment for your order is processed on PayPal's website (not Orange Gadgets) so ordering is very safe. We are currently in the process of getting our own certificate such that the warning will disappear in the near future.

Regarding filling paid orders, here is the latest update.

We have currently shipped 277 orders (over 300 modules). We have completely processed and shipped all orders placed up through 10/30/2008 with the exception of the orders listed at the end of this post and 5 orders placed on 10/30/2008 that still need to be shipped.

Upcoming week will be our fourth week of shipping and we expect to have fully cleared the backlog by the end of this week. Thanks for being patience and sticking with us through these busy past weeks.

I also wanted to make Italian customers aware of the fact that the Italian post office seems to be randomly charging customers additional fees. Some Italian customers have reported a 15 dollar fee, two customers reported a 20 Euro fee and one customer a 22 Euro fee.

The category the GPS module is classified under is HS tariff number 852691 which is duty free (at least here in the US), but since it is a international tariff number code I would expect it to be duty free in every country that uses HS tariff codes.

I suggest that Italian customers inform themselves of the customs regulations for Italy and in particular with respect to the above HS tariff number and border fees. You should be able to find this information online or by calling your local customs office. The fees the Italian post office is charging are excessive. In case the additional fees are legal, note that according to the Terms of Service of Orange Gadgets website, the customer is responsible for paying any import duties and taxes on his order.

Lastly, we are trying to get in touch with a few customers who have not responded to our emails. If your order or customer number is below, please contact us as soon as possible at to resolve issues with the shipping address/method and to avoid further delay:

  1. Order id: 413, Customer id: 305
  2. Order id: 626, Customer id: 438

For all technical support for the the module, please email

Monday, November 10, 2008

Diligently making progress...

This is the latest update on clearing the backlog for placed and paid orders. We are happy to announce that we are swiftly catching up on the backlog.

As of today, we have shipped 195 orders (over 200 modules have been shipped).

We have completely processed all orders that were placed on:

  • Orders for 10/16/2008: all orders shipped.
  • Orders for 10/17/2008: all orders shipped.
  • Orders for 10/18/2008: all orders shipped.
If you have placed an order on any of the above dates and not received a shipping notice by email (check your spam-box as well), please contact us as soon as possible (please include your Order id and Customer id).

The following orders are in the process of being handled next and we expect them to be shipped by the end of this week (so please keep an eye on your mailbox in case we have questions on your order):
  • Orders for 10/19/2008: 15 orders still to be filled.
  • Orders for 10/20/2008: 17 orders still to be filled.
  • Orders for 10/21/2008: 7 orders still to be filled.
  • Orders for 10/22/2008: 9 orders still to be filled.
  • Orders for 10/23/2008: 9 orders still to be filled.
  • Orders for 10/24/2008: 5 orders still to be filled.
  • Orders for 10/25/2008: 5 orders still to be filled.
We expect to have filled ALL paid orders up till 11/09/2008 by the end of next week.

If you placed an order, please make sure to also check your spam-box/bulk mailbox as sometimes our emails (sent from end up there for no good reason. It is best if you can white-list any emails you get from the above address.

We are also still trying to get in touch with a few customers who have not responded to our emails. If your order or customer number is below, please contact us as soon as possible at to resolve issues with the shipping address/method and to avoid further delay:
  1. Order id: 395, Customer id: 294

For all technical support for the the module, please email

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

First 120 modules have shipped

This is a brief update to let you know we are working hard on clearing the backlog on all placed orders.

As of Tuesday November 5, 2008, we have shipped ~120 modules (a total of 114 orders) out of the 320 modules that have been paid for.

Based on the number of modules shipped since last week, we can say that on average we are able to handle/ship about 20 modules per day. As such it will take another 2-3 weeks till we catch up on all orders that have been placed till now. For more specific details, please read on:

All people that had signed up on the pre-order list before the online store opened (it opened on October 16, 2008) and who have paid for their order before our first ship date (which was October 27, 2008) have had their order processed and shipped.

We have completely processed all orders that were placed on October 16, 2008.

  • Orders for 10/16/2008: 12 orders placed, 12 orders shipped.

The following orders are our next priority:
  • Orders for 10/17/2008: 50 orders placed, 31 orders shipped, 19 orders still to be filled.

  • Orders for 10/18/2008: 67 orders placed, 20 orders shipped, 2 orders canceled, 45 orders still to be filled.

  • Orders for 10/19/2008: 51 orders placed, 21 orders shipped, 1 order canceled, 29 orders still to be filled.

  • Orders for 10/20/2008: 31 orders placed, 12 orders shipped, 1 order canceled, 18 orders still to be filled.

  • Orders for 10/21/2008: 19 orders placed, 12 orders shipped, 7 orders still to be filled.

To fill all orders that were placed on the above dates, will take a little over a week.

If you placed an order on October 16, 2008 and have not received a notice that your order has shipped, please email us at

For all other orders, please remain patient. Once we finish the next couple of dates, we will make another entry on the blog to keep you updated.

Also, if you have run out of patience and would like a refund, please contact us directly at It is quickest to resolve this directly with us as we can refund your money the same day instead of going through PayPal.

We are also trying to get in touch with a few customers who have not responded to our emails (make sure to white-list the domain). If your order or customer number is below, please contact us as soon as possible at to resolve some issues with shipping:
  1. Order id: 395, Customer id: 294
  2. Order id: 245, Customer id: 191

For all technical support for the the module, please email

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We are shipping!

We have officially started shipping the iGPS360 module on Monday, October 27, 2008!

It has been a long weekend with little sleep. Today is the second day of shipping and I just returned from the post office. It is time for a little work-break so I decided to write an update for the blog.

Over the weekend, we have been full-time busy with organizing orders and arranging them in the proper sequence, finding the quickest way to process orders, making labels, printing invoices, printing customs forms, packing, sealing, printing postage, etc. It looks like we are getting the hang of it now :-) although the first packages took a rather long time to prepare.

I certainly have to thank my wife for doing most of the database stuff, cross-referencing orders with the pre-order list and generating order processing list over the weekend.

Some other things have come up along the way as well.

According to the post office, Italy and Canada are high risk countries for lost/stolen packages and as such we strongly advise you to use Express Mail International (EMI) insured shipping, which has tracking and insurance (we note that Orange Gadgets is not responsible if your package gets lost or is stolen after we hand it to the post office, see the Terms of Service on the website under Shipping Liability Limitations). If you have already placed your order without insurance, don't worry; before we ship any module to an address in Italy or Canada, we will contact you with the option to upgrade your shipping to EMI. Also, for new orders, shipping rates to Canada and Italy have been updated in the online store.

I hereby sincerely thank all of you customers who have placed an order for the module and for being and remaining patient while we are handling orders. There are currently about 250 orders that we need to catch up on. We have handled up to database entry number 106 now. I hope to have a better estimate at how fast we can handle/process/ship orders by the weekend.

Also, a new version of xGPS that officially supports the iGPS360
module at a baudrate of 115200 (5Hz refresh rate) is expected to be
released within the next week or two. For the latest software updates, please visit Xwaves blog. In their latest post, they have released a nice desktop map download tool to go with the xGPS software.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shipping update

Things have been extremely busy since last Thursday. I have been swamped with orders, email inquiries, housing supplier and getting modules prepared for testing and shipping.

In advance, I would like to thank everyone for their continued patience. Please remain patient in the week(s) to come. I am working as hard as I can, and that is pretty much non-stop, except for eating and sleeping and the other necessary living habits :-)

I have not been able to meet the 10/22/2008 shipment date.

Here is why: I have been in touch every single day to get updates from the housing supplier. Unfortunately, nothing goes perfect the first time, and so with the housing. The quality of the housings and lenses were not up to par and things had to be redone. They actually had to do 5 sample runs for the black housing and three sample runs for the lenses. Hence the delay. Unfortunate, but this is out of my control. I hope you understand.

So now for the good news: I have talked with the housing manufacturer today and they told me all parts have been finished and quality checked and will be shipped today for Friday delivery. At last!

What you see in the above photo are the first 32 modules inside of their final housings (these are housing from the 5th sample set which were approved). These modules are waiting for their lenses. Every module is individually serialized and the little removable sticker you see on the top of the module is its serial number.

Considering tomorrow's news delivery date for the housings, I have set new shipping date for Monday 10/27/2008. At least the 32 modules above will ship on Monday and whatever else I get finished over the weekend.

Now, a repeat of some things, as I get emails about this every day:

  1. Orders will be handled according to your database entry number (assuming your order is PAID for). This is to be fair to everyone who signed up and to make sure that the people who signed up first, will get their units first. If you have pre-ordered but not paid, we will skip over your entry. Your database entry will only become active after you have paid for your module.

  2. The current expected ship date for the first iGPS360 modules is 10/27/2008 (there has been additional delay with the housing as explained above).

  3. Keep in mind that not all 1000 modules of the first production run will be ready by that date as they come out of production bit by bit. We expect having all 1000 modules back and shipped before the end of November. So we value your patience after you have placed your order.

  4. We will send you a confirmation email once your order is packed and ready to ship.

Some important notes that you should follow with respect to the online store. If you don't follow the instructions (like providing your database entry number and returning to the store after you paid with PayPal), it means much more work for me to fix up your order and order status and your order could get delayed:
  • Make sure to enter your database entry number during checkout of your order. If you omit to do so, your shipment maybe delayed. There is a comment box for this.

  • The online store has detailed product descriptions, so please take the time to read them as they might answer questions that you have. For remaining questions, please email

  • Performance of the website will depend on the amount of traffic, so if things are a little slow while accessing the online store, please be patient for pages to complete loading.

  • Please report any website related problems you encounter to

  • For questions with respect to the details of your placed order, please email

  • Please verify your order details online by logging into your account and viewing your order history.
    If you see anything that is incorrect, immediately send an email to and provide your full order details, like name, shipping and billing address, order id and customer id.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Online store is up and running!

After some more delay, the online store is finally up and running.

You can now place your order for the iGPS360 module (and some other goodies) by clicking here or by accesing the Orange Gadgets website and clicking on ORDER in the top menu bar.

When you place your order, make sure to mention your database entry number in the comments box for your order during the checkout procedure.

If you have lost your database entry number, no worries, I will be sending out notifications to all of the emails in the database later today/tomorrow with your database entry number in it.

If you don't have a database entry number, you can get one by signing up here

Orders are going to be handled according your database entry number (assuming your order is paid for). This is to be fair to everyone and to make sure that the people who signed up first, will get their units first.

The current expected ship date for the module is 10/22/2008 (which is still subject to change depending on the arrivals of the housings). Keep in mind that not all 1000 modules will be ready by that date as they come out of production bit by bit. So please be patient after you place your order. We will send you a confirmation email once your order is packed and ready to ship.

With respect to the new online store a few notes:

  • Please report any website related problems you encounter to

  • For questions with respect to the details of your placed order, please email

  • Performance of the website will depend on the amount of traffic, so if things are a little slow while accessing the online store, please be patient for pages to complete loading.

  • The online store has detailed product descriptions, so please take the time to read them as they might answer questions that you have. For remaining questions, please email

As the online store has kept me pretty much busy non-stop for the last couple of days, I still have quite a few emails from people to answer. So if you haven't heard back from me, thanks for understanding and being patient. I hope to get back to my email as soon as I get done with the database notification emails.

As you can imagine, today is a big milestone for myself and Orange Gadgets and I would like to thank everyone for their continued support of the blog and the product.

Thanks, PmgR

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Software partnership

Orange Gadgets and xWaves have formed a partnership for distributing and developing software and hardware for a GPS solution for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Orange Gadgets will focus on hardware development and volume production of the iGPS360 module and will develop software utilities specific to the GPS functionality of the iGPS360 module. This software will be bundled with Xwaves' xGPS navigation software.

Xwaves will focus on development of the xGPS navigation software and implement full support for the iGPS360 module. Xwaves will also become a European distributor for the iGPS360 module.

With our combined efforts we hope to bring you the best GPS application and utilities for your iPhone and iPod Touch.

Note that Orange Gadgets will be handling the first production run orders for all people that have signed up on the pre-order list. The online store will go live later today so keep an eye on your mailbox and the blog.

Based on feedback from the housing supplier, the expected ship date as of now for the first modules will be 10/22/2008. Depending on what your database entry number is, your unit could ship at a later date.

Brief update (midnight 10/15/08): I am still working on properly securing the online store so it will be a little longer. I will post a new post once everything is ready to go. Thank you for your patience.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Still counting...

We are still counting down...

Another week of hard work has passed and of course as usual there is the good news and the less good news. Let's get the less good news over first.

Last week I received a third sample set of the housing, expecting that this would be the last sample set before running the real production housings. Unfortunately, the housing was still not exactly as expected and more touch-up work needed to be done. The manufacturer promised to get new samples to me by past Thursday, but this did not happen. He told me on Friday noon that the mold was ready for sampling again, so I hope to get the fourth sample set on Monday. I will be on the phone with him first thing Monday morning for a status report. This will impact the ETA of October 15.

Now for the good news. On all other fronts things have been progressing very well!

I have received the first production sample boards back and all are fully functional! Production of the remaining boards is currently in full flow.

Regarding the online shopping cart, integration with the PayPal website took much more time than expected, but this morning I finally made a breakthrough and from the testing I have done so far, it looks like the shopping cart is now properly being transferred to PayPal.

Everyone who signed up on the pre-order list should be receiving an email later this week with an order-link to the online store. If you haven't signed up yet, now is the time to do it!

This week I have also been working on automated testing of the modules (every module is quality controlled before it is shipped). I have been working on hardware related to the testing as well as software. The photo above shows a test-board for simultaneous testing of 8 modules (if module through-put is not fast enough the test capacity of the board can be expanded). Besides electrical testing and visual inspection already done at the board fabrication and assembly house, complete functionality of the GPS module will be tested as well. This includes USB and dock connector interconnect functionality, back-up battery check, visual LED inspection, GPS check (TTFF and SNR) and A-GPS functionality.

In the meantime, let's keep our fingers crossed for the next sample set of the housing!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


It's been a while and you probably have been wondering what is going on. Well, here is the latest update:

  • PCB panels/boards
    Last week I received the first PCB panel with 100 boards on it (see photo above). As some small changes were made compared to the previous revision, I wanted to make sure that the panels are fully functional before committing them to production. I separated two boards from the 100pcs panel and built a module with one of the GPS engines that I still had available. Everything turned out to be working great.

  • GPS engines
    The GPS engines also arrived last week and in order to make sure everything is OK with them as well, I assembled the second PCB board (from above) with the new production GPS engine. And guess what, everything is working as it is supposed to work.

  • Antennas
    The antennas shipped a bit earlier as expected and arrived just today. I will do an inspection of them and then they will be delivered to production.

  • Housing
    Last Friday, I also got the second set of samples of the housing. The logos are nicely touched up now and have a smoother finish than the rest of the housing, so they look really nice. Some other small things were not taken care of properly however and the mold will need another round of touch-ups. I am currently waiting for this new set of samples (expected tomorrow) before I can give the final approval to run production quantities.

  • Online store/shopping cart
    I have almost completed the online shopping cart, but still have some issues with properly integrating PayPal into the checkout procedure. I hope to fix those in the upcoming few days. Once that is done, the shopping cart will go online. For all of you who are curious, I will keep you guessing at what other items will be in the store besides the GPS module...

  • Shipping and handling
    I have also been getting ready to prepare for shipping of the modules to you. It's amazing how much overhead is involved in all this, from searching for envelops, labels, postage equipment, printing supplies to actually ordering all of them, both for domestic US shipping and international shipping. I hope I have got everything covered now.

The first fully assembled production parts are expected to become available next week. After that, each module will be fully tested before it is shipped out. The estimated date for shipping of the first modules will be around October 15.

As soon as modules come out of production and are tested, they will be shipped subsequently. Note that testing and shipping is going to take up most of my time starting next week, thus please understand that there can be some lag between the time you place your order and the time the module is actually shipped (as tested modules become available bit by bit from production). Once your order ships, you will receive a confirmation email.

Paid orders will be handled in sequence of how they are stored in the database. As of today, there will be enough units available in this first production run for everyone who has currently signed up on the pre-order list.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Housing mold and first production parts

On Wednesday I went to inspect the first production parts of the housing. I got a chance to take a few pictures of the production mold (see photo above). It's quite interesting to see how injection molded parts are made. The top and bottom of the picture show the housing bottom and top imprints on one side of the mold and the center circle is the feeding tube for the ABS plastic.

The manufacturer made about 25 sample parts for me to inspect and it looks like the housings came out very well. A few minor touch-ups on the mold itself are needed to perfect things a bit, but overall the parts already look very good (see picture below; you can click on it to zoom in a bit; due to the lighting condition of the photo, the zoom-in looks a little grainy). The eventual parts will be a matt over-all finish with a shiny imprint of the logos, just like the back of your iPhone.

I took five iGPS360 module boards with me to make sure all of them would fit the housings. Guess what.... all of them fit in perfectly so luckily no changes are required for PCB placement. I guess the time on housing design was well spent!

What else has been going on?

I have been working on getting the online shopping cart ready so you will be able to place your order pretty soon. You will be able to make payment through PayPal either with a PayPal account, or if you don't have a PayPal account, the PayPal site will give you the option to directly pay with your credit/debit card.

Regarding the iGPS360 module itself, the GPS engines are shipping next week and the tuned antennas the week thereafter. The PCB boards are expected back September 23 after which I will do verification testing before committing them to the reflow process which is scheduled for September 25. The assembled boards are expected back on October 8 so no change in ETA :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Production schedule update

It's been a little while and things have been busy streamlining the production effort. It was quite an experience to see how much continuous interaction is required with suppliers and vendors to keep things going at a steady pace and to get them to meet deadlines.

Here is an update on the status of various items:

  • Housing:
    The mold making is in full progress. The first production samples are due in the week of September 15 (next week).

  • USB cable
    The first 100pcs are expected on September 10 (tomorrow) and the remaining ones by October 10.

  • Bi-color LED
    Estimated time of arrival for the LED is September 15 (next week).

  • GPS engine
    The GPS engine will be delivered early in the week of September 22.

  • Antenna
    The antenna tuning process has been completed and we are now waiting for a committed ship date for the production units. A test report is expected back within the next few days.

  • PCB boards
    Yesterday, a purchase order was placed for the production PCB boards and board assembly. The PCB panels are due back by September 23.

  • PCB board assembly
    The start of assembly of the PCB boards is scheduled for September 25.

  • Estimated arrival of the first GPS modules
    We are expecting the first assembled GPS modules back on October 8.

In the meantime, I wanted to see how much interest there is for one or more additional USB cables from your site. Every module will ship with one micro USB cable included, but for myself I have found it handy to have a few cables around: one for the car, one that is attached to the computer and one that is plugged into the Apple AC charger. These USB cables are 6ft long and thus a lot more convenient than the short Apple sync cables which are barely 4ft.

As the lead-time on these cables is fairly long (9-11 weeks), I would like to see how many people are interested in one or more additional USB cables and possibly get things started off early. Each additional cable will cost $4.50. If there is a lot of interest, I can get the price down to $4.00.

Note: we are talking about a micro-USB cable here (not a regular mini-USB). One side of the cable is a standard USB-A plug for the charger/computer, the other side a micro USB-B plug for the module.

I have placed another poll in the left column where you can voice your opinion. Also feel free to post additional comments.

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!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sign me up!

Allright! It has taken quite some time (I mentioned that some things were running in the background), but this new website is finally up and running!

I am hereby introducing you to:


The logo in my earlier post is indeed an Orange. Why (an) Orange? Good question... why (an) Apple? Consider it a re-FRESH-ment, something different and FRESH from all the things out there. It also represents the color orange, a color which has left a trace of the history in my own life: it is the color of the dutch Royal House, most dutch sporters play in orange, the Orange is orange, and Orange Gadgets is located in Orange County...

With respect to the logo for the GPS module, I'll let the module speak for itself: "i (I) GPS 360 degrees or all-(a)round". The 360 degrees signifies that the gadgets we will bring to market can find application all-around.

So much for the logos. I hope you like them!

Regarding the website, I have incorporated a sign-up form on the site where you can sign up for the GPS module. Please only sign up if you are serious about buying one or more GPS modules. All data is logged into a database and will be used to determine future production quantities and to contact you once the modules are available for sale.

Since I have only done limited testing on the site so far with only a few different browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer and iPhone Safari), please provide me with feedback on any broken links or other things that might not be functional.


Saturday, July 26, 2008


Time to tease a little... What could this be?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Micro USB cable samples have arrived!

I have received three samples of the USB-A to micro USB-B cable. The cables are 6ft long which should be plenty to hook up to your module from wherever you want. I have already tested all three cables with my modules and they are performing fine, including syncing of the iPhone from iTunes.

I will give you a brief progress update so you know where we are at:

  • Housing: A housing manufacturer has been found. I have visited him twice and toured the facility and liked what I saw. They have also been very helpful in getting the housing prototypes done. I will be updating the housing design next and after that get a revised quote. Mold making will take 3-4 weeks ARO and then the first parts will be delivered one week after mold approval.

  • PCB board assembly: I have received about half of the quotes that I requested. The remaining ones are expected by the end of this week. Typical lead time for 1000 units is about 4 weeks (this includes PCB fabrication and assembly).

  • PCB board re-spin:Just today I sent out another PCB prototype board design that will address the somewhat lower performance on the last set of prototypes. This board is expected back mid next week. By the end of next week, I should have build another three prototypes with these new boards and have tested them for performance.

  • USB cables: USB cable samples have been received and tested. An order will be placed tomorrow. Lead time is 6-8 weeks.

  • Other: Some other things are running in the background in parallel... I'll keep you guessing at what that may be for now...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In memory of

the many Falun Gong practitioners who have suffered or been killed at the hands of the Chinese communist party's persecution and the many that have disappeared or have been imprisoned innocently (the above picture was taken during a commemorative candle vigil on July 18 in Washington, D.C. A photo gallery of the event can be found here)

Today, exactly nine years ago, on July 20, 1999, China's former president Jiang Zemin started a brutal persecution campaign against the practice of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) with his policy of extinction: "Ruin their reputation, exhaust their financial resources and destroy them physically."

Today, nine years later, even though the people in power within the communist party have changed, the persecution has not ended and innocent people are still being killed.

Falun Gong teaches truthfulness, compassion and forbearance (in Chinese: zhēn, shàn, rěn). The combination of these words as well as the terms Falun Gong and Falun Dafa are forbidden in China and any website that uses these words is automatically blocked.

As such, I have found out that this blog is also not accessible for people on the mainland of China...

More information on this tragedy of persecution can be found at

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Good and the Bad...

The photos show two rough prototype housings made on a fused deposition modeling machine (FDM). As the resolution of these machines is about 5-10mils (127-254um), the surface of the housing is not very smooth, but it is good enough to do form fitting of the board and dock connector. Also, the housings look white as the machine uses this color plastic to do the FDM. The ultimate housing will be black.

The next photo show you how the module will look on both the iPhone and iPod touch.

Now for the good news:

  • All the clearances for board to housing were designed correctly and the boards fit nicely within the housing.

  • I have also received the A-GPS modules in the meantime and built a new module with it and put it to the test. The way it works is as follows: you first download 7 or 14-day valid data to the module (this can be done through software), then use the module as normal. I have put this module to the test and compared it with a module without A-GPS. For the A-GPS module, the time-to-first-fix (TTFF) in open sky after a cold start was reduced from 43sec to 29sec (average over 5 measurements) with times as short as 16sec.

  • A large volume of dock connectors for the modules have arrived!

  • NDAs have been put in place with quite a few PCB contract manufactures and quotes are expected back soon.

Now for the bad news:
  • It turns out, there is no way to get the plastic lens into the LED opening of the housing and have it sit straight and tight. So it's a good thing to have built these prototypes to do form-fitting before getting a housing injection molded for real. We will have to come up with something to solve the lens problem: the housing will be split in two half so that the lens can be inserted from the inside and the wall can be thickened locally for a straight and tight fit.

  • Recent testing has revealed that the latest prototypes lack a little in performance compared to the earlier prototypes. A re-spin of the board can remedy this and will bring you the best performance possible (note that one board design is currently still in the pipeline and is expected back later this week for more performance testing). This will delay things a little, but not too much (about a week).

As you can see, this project is keeping me busy full-time, but all aspects of the project are progressing very well in parallel.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Software compatibility with RoadMap

Link for iPhone and iTouch users here.

Before we discuss the video, let me first mention that we hit 2000 votes yesterday!

This is again great news and I will update you on the manufacturing progress in a separate post (I have been very busy taking care of all the logistics behind the scenes and acquiring quotes for the manufacturing now that NDAs have been signed).

The video above shows a demonstration of the open source software RoadMap. This open source software was ported to the iPhone by Morten Bek. Of course it is a work in progress and not everything is perfect yet and neither are all features ported, but at least it shows the concept and future potential: 3D real time location mapping (with local maps on your iPhone/iTouch; no need to connect to the internet) and hopefully in the (near) future full voice-assisted navigation support.

I was very impressed by what Morten has accomplished so far!

It seems there are two branches of the RoadMap software. The one that Morten is working on and the one that Ehud Shabtai is working on. The second branch is a little further ahead maybe in terms of features, see this video, but unfortunately the language and Wiki for that branch is in Hebrew and it only comes with the map of Israel. Hopefully the two branches will be able to join efforts and converge into one great iPhone/iTouch application.

For Morten's branch, I downloaded all the maps for California from here and I can now locate myself on my iPhone without the need for the or internet connection.

The video shows the main aspects of the RoadMap application:
  • Arrow icon at left top: this switches between a fixed map view or a rotating map view. In the last case, your driving direction is always pointed upward and the map will rotate along with you.

  • Satellite icon: its color varies, green for GPS lock and red for no GPS signal. Pressing the icon will move the center of the map to your current GPS location.

  • Satellite screen: provides a view of the signal to noise ratio (SNR) for each satellite, longitude, latitude, elevation, speed, etc. This screen is accessible through the left button on the menu bar in the bottom (hard to see in the video)

  • 2D/3D icon: pressing this icon will switch between a 2D view of the map and a more navigation like 3D view of the map (see end of video)

  • Zoom in/out icons: pressing these buttons will change the scale of the map accordingly.

  • There are some more buttons in the bottom bar, but not all of them are working. With one of them, you can email your currently logged GPS route to your friends.

Unfortunately, my video recording ended abruptly as the camera ran out of memory, so the 3D view of the map (which I think is really neat) is not that long. But I hope you get an idea of what it looks like.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


That time has come again..... Apple's 2.0 firmware upgrade will be out shortly, so I would like to issue a warning....

To make it clear to everyone, if you intend on using the GPS module on your iPhone or iTouch, make sure NOT TO UPGRADE your iPhone and iTouch firmware for the time being. The same goes for iTunes. Leave it alone till it is confirmed that it is safe to upgrade.

In order to communicate with the GPS module, a jailbroken iPhone or iTouch is required. Upgrading to Apple's official 2.0 firmware will put your iPhone/iTouch back into a sealed environment again until the iPhone Dev Teams comes up with another jailbreak.

So if you would like to keep your options open, play it safe. Leave your current firmware alone and wait till the unlock development teams give you the green light.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Simplified housing design

This week has been a very busy week. What you see above is a simplified housing design for which it will be cheaper to make an injection mold than for the first design. This is important as we are talking about relatively small number of volumes for injection molding (a couple of thousand) and the mold-making cost will need to be kept as low as possible so as not to drive up the price of the module. An alternative to traditional injection molding is rapid injection molding. I will need to look at both options to find out which one gives the cheapest price per unit.

For this latest housing design, the USB connector has been moved to the bottom side of the module. I have updated the PCB layout accordingly. The size of the housing is 26mm x 22.2mm x 9mm.

I have started working pretty much full-time on this project since July 1st. I have drafted up a project schedule for getting the module into production. Quite a few things need to be synchronized in terms of time-line. Here is what currently has been accomplished or is still in the works:

  • NDA's have been put in place with various contract manufacturers (CM) for both the PCB assembly and the housing.
  • The PCB has been designed and is waiting for feedback from the CM in order to determine manufacturability (1-2 weeks; we will be going into the second week). The PCB design might have to be tweaked after we get feedback from the CM. This process is called design for manufacturability (DFM).
  • After the DFM is completed, a few final prototypes need to be built and sent to the CM (2 weeks).
  • A few prototype housings also need to be built/machined and sent to the CM (3-4 weeks).
  • GPS antennas need to be built (1 week setup + 3 week lead-time).
  • GPS chip needs to be manufactured (4 weeks).
  • Bill of materials (BOM) needs to be sourced. Some parts have a lead-time (up to 3 weeks).
  • Housings need to be produced by injection molding at CM (no time-line available yet from the CM for this).
  • After all this is completed, usually an engineering pilot build is done for design verification and after that a production pilot build.
  • Test procedures need to be implemented and test fixtures designed and put in place (4 weeks). This includes both testing of the PCB as well as a final test of the performance of each GPS module.
As you can see, quite a lot of things need to be managed and synchronized. But in order to bring you the best working GPS product out there for your iPhone and iTouch, no corners can be cut.

I will keep you posted as things progress :).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

First design of the housing

Top view:
Bottom view:

I have completed a first draft design of the housing. Here are a few comment on the housing:
  1. Take a close look at the Apple design of your dock connector. I have managed to take that connector apart without destroying it. It's a pretty sleek design, consisting only of two parts: a sleeve that goes around the connector and a cap that slides over the connector and inside of the sleeve. I have made the housing for the GPS module in a similar rounded/flat shape as the Apple sleeve. Apple's sleeve is 26.1mm x 9mm x 5.6mm (width x length x thickness). The GPS module housing is 25.4mm x 22.2mm x 8mm. So it is a little thicker as the dock connector and about 2.5 times as long.

  2. You can see the micro USB connector on the left side of the module (top view).This plug can either accept micro USB-A or micro USB-B cables. I have found a trust-worthy supplier for the micro USB-B cable and the cable will be included with the GPS module to make life easy :).

  3. On the top view you see a small green light. This is the LED indicator that displays the status of the GPS module: flashing orange means the module is searching for a satellite lock. Once a lock is found, the indicator will light steady green. My plan is to make this indicator aperture similar to Apple's MagSafe power adapter that is used on the MacBook.
In the meantime, I am playing with some more ideas to make the housing design even simpler...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Board and chipset update

This is a brief note to give you an update on the board assembly that I started last week.

It turned out that the problem of the GPS chip not sending data was not in the GPS chip itself but caused by my own mistake (:-o). I was trying to get the module together quickly to test the new board, and in the hurry, I didn't solder one of the components onto the board, which left part of the GPS chip disconnected. After a very helpful phone conversation with the chip vendor, we traced the problem down in 5 minutes.

I guess sometimes it is indeed good to take a brief break from everything and let things come to peace; after I soldered the missing component onto the board, everything worked flawlessly :)

And I have another update for you: the next chip-sets that I ordered will be A-GPS enabled!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


As a few questions were posted earlier regarding A-GPS (assisted GPS). I will try to outline the differences between regular GPS and A-GPS.

A GPS module is dependent on the GPS satellite signals to find a fix. The weaker this signal, the longer it will take to get a fix. If too weak, no fix will be found at all.

  • When a GPS module is first turned on, it will usually have no satellite position data (ephemeris). This is what is called a cold start of the module (assuming the module does have a valid almanac stored). It is then necessary to place the module in open sky to have it acquire satellite data. This can take anywhere from a minute to several minutes, sometimes even longer, depending on the satellite signal strength, surroundings and the sensitivity of the GPS module. This sensitivity of the GPS module typically ranges from -140dBm to -146dBm for a cold start (the more negative the number, the more sensitive the module is).
  • Once a GPS lock has been obtained, the GPS module will store this recent satellite data (ephemeris, almanac and time) in its memory and the module is said to be in tracking mode. When in tracking mode, the sensitivity increases as the module now has satellite data available. Typical tracking sensitivities are from -155dBm to -160dBm.
  • If power is cycled off on the GPS module, then fairly immediately back on, the ephemeris data is still "fresh" (but the time might not be), and a GPS lock will be very quick since the GPS module does not have to collect new ephemeris data. This is called a warm start and the time to fix is typically less than half a minute.
  • If the GPS module also still has an accurate time, the fix will be even faster (usually on the order of a second) and this is called a hot start.
In general, if ephemeris data is not available or outdated, obtaining a GPS lock can take some time. This is where A-GPS can help.

An A-GPS receiver can help getting ephemeris, almanac and time data from an assistance server. The assisting data can either be downloaded every time the GPS module is turned on (e.g. through the GSM network or WiFi) or in advance (e.g. once every 14 days at home from the internet). In the first case, ephemeris data, almanac and time are downloaded. In the latter case, differential almanac correction data is downloaded.

In order to be able to use A-GPS, we need three things:
  1. A chip that is A-GPS compatible, i.e. the chipset allows for download of assisting data to the GPS module,
  2. An assistance server from where the assisting data can be downloaded. Assistance servers are usually provided by GPS chipset manufacturers and need to be mirrored for client usage. (Apple is probably mirroring Broadcom's servers for use on the 3G iPhone).
  3. A way to upload the A-GPS data to the GPS chipset. This can usually be done through a software download daemon which both acquires the data from the assistance server and sends it to the GPS chip at certain time intervals.
So A-GPS can make your GPS module find a faster lock, typically increasing the cold start sensitivity to about the level of a hot start.

It needs to be mentioned however that if a satellite signal is simply too weak (e.g. <-160dBm in parking structures or big concrete buildings), you won't see any improvement at all in the performance of your GPS module, even if you have an A-GPS enabled chipset as the GPS receiver won't be able to receive any signal even though you tell it were the satellites are.

Regarding the GPS chipset that I am using, the chipset can be enabled for A-GPS use and assistant data could be downloaded to the module through the serial port if the data can be obtained from an assistance server.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Return of the Boards (part 3)

As you can see in the photo, the two boards that were sent out a while back have returned!

Also, before we discuss the boards, we hit 1500 votes this week as well (and that despite all the distracting iPhone 3G buzz) !

Regarding the boards, I started assembling one board last Thursday night but ran into problems testing the board. It took me two nights to debug the problem. The boards seem to be oke; the GPS chip I am using is the same as the one on the prototype II boards and it functions there without problems. I suspect the problem is in the GPS chip itself: although all output voltages seem oke, no data is transmitted. I had a spare unit which I tested off the board and this one has the same problem. I will have to contact the manufacturer to see what the problem is and to get functional replacement units.

Well, I guess things can't always go smoothly. I am sure we will recover quickly from this after I get new functional chips. I'll keep you updated once I find out more from the manufacturer. This shows that you always need to double check your suppliers, especially when you are using their latest technology. It also shows that it is a must that every single unit that gets shipped is quality controlled. In fact, I will guarantee that every GPS module that I will ship, will have been inspected and is 100% functional. Or as we say in dutch "De klant is Koning" (literally translated as "The customer is King" :).

In the meantime I have also been working on housing related things this week: I have pretty much completed the 3D modeling of the most important parts on the board (which will be needed to make sure that the housing doesn't interfere anywhere on the inside with the board/components). Also, I have already outlined the housing itself. Detailing of the inside will be next.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

iPhone 3G buzz....

After having read some of the discussions on the previous post, I think it might be good to speak some sobering words and try to see things in perspective.

  • The new iPhone is extremely cheap, even cheaper than an 8GB iTouch..... BUT you will have to sign a two year contract with AT&T (see here) for most likely a minimum of $39.99 a month.... or sign and then break the contract and pay the termination fees (probably around $200). So that puts the price tag right back at $399. My guess is that AT&T is subsidizing Apple those $200 for every phone sold.
  • AT&T is still the exclusive U.S. carrier...
  • Rumors are going around that you won't be able to buy an iPhone without signing a contract, either in the Apple Store or the AT&T store (see here)
  • Regarding the iPhone 3G itself, how many of the current iPhone users would actually upgrade to the new model? Most likely those users who are already with AT&T and who are willing to spend the additional $199. I would guess that for most of the hacked phone users (who don't wan't to be with AT&T to start with), dishing out $199 + cancellation fee would be a little over the top.
  • Steve mentioned that around 6 million of the original iPhones were sold. It was estimated that around 750,000-1 million phones were hacked at the end of Jan. 2008 (see here) and maybe it is even up to 20-25% now. How many of these phone users would want a plug-in GPS module? Even at less than 1%, it would be worth to make the effort.
  • Note that even today after the announcement, iPhone users have been voting that they still would like a GPS module.
  • Lastly, don't forget the iTouch users. The iTouch doesn't have GPS (at least for the time being), so who will take care of them?
So to make the story short, I will keep on doing what I have been: working hard to come out with a GPS module for iPhone and iTouch users at an acceptable price and as soon as possible.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Compatible? YES!

Link for iPhone and iTouch users here.

Just recently, a GPS plug-in for the was released by xWaves. The video above shows how my GPS module also works with that software.

The source code for the software was released as well and can be found here and checked out with regular svn. All credit for this software goes to the people at xWaves.

Below is some more information on how the software works:
  • The software currently talks to the GPS module directly through the serial port. The standard baudrate is 19200 which I had to adjust to match my module. It will be best if the software is updated in the future to automatically check what baudrate the GPS module is running at. Another option is to add in functionality to work with a gps daemon.

  • The xGPS program is a daemon that runs in the background and is started through a plist file in the Launchdaemons directory. This deamon talks to the and the serial port and tells the to update its location with the data obtained from the serial port.

  • The software currently needs to connect to the internet to update the map as it calls the Google website to update its location. It would be nice if someone figures out how to circumvent this and have the update its location directly from its database without having to connect to the internet. In that way you could upload your own maps to your iPhone/iTouch and use those while on the road.

Then finally one comment on the video. I stated: "...the GPS module is charged through the USB..." What I actually meant to state is that the iPhone is charged through the USB. If you look closely, you can see the charging sign in the video.

Then lastly, before signing off for tonight, I also wanted to let you know that I am currently working hard on the housing design and getting manufacturing for the boards set up.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


I had a busy week. I have frozen the board design and sent out two PCB designs on Friday.

Both boards have the same functionality, but one of them is pushed to the smallest limit in terms of size (15.2mm x 23.4mm, see the left side of the photo). It will have to be seen if this board can be manufactured and assembled automatically with components. In case not, I have the second PCB design which is a little bigger (17.7mm x 23.4mm, see the right side of the photo) and which should not have any problems for fully automatic manufacturing and assembly.

I will be spending the next couple of weeks on the mechanical design of the package. This package will be based on the larger board. The two PCBs have been laid out in a smart way such that both will fit in the same larger package.

If it turns out that the smaller board can be assembled automatically (or if hand assembly of one or two components is not a problem), then the mechanical package can be shrunk in size by just changing one single dimension of the package! That's why it took a little while to come up with the current frozen board design.

You can also see that I have redesigned the website slightly and re-arranged some things: posts in the center, polls and the blog archive in the left side bar, and my human rights related links in the right side bar.

Upon request, I have also added a donation button on the left top for anyone who wants to donate. In addition, I have added some Adsense ad-links throughout the page. I have noticed that they are quite on the topic of the blog and they will also bring in a little bit of revenue when people click on them.

I am glad I was able to get this final board design out the door before the end of May :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I/O connectors

Since quite a few people were concerned about the USB connector, I am writing a short summary of the I/O connectors that I have looked into (see the photo)

  • 30 pin Apple dock connector (left bottom): best solution, but due to its large footprint it gives a rather large board when combined with a patch antenna. The prototype II board combined this connector with a chip antenna while providing a small board size, but the performance of the chip antenna turned out not to be as good as a patch antenna.

  • 10 pin I/O connector (left top): next best thing considering it has 10 pins and allows routing of other signals besides the 4 and 5 pin USB connectors. However, there are no standard cables around that can plug into this connector and they would have to be custom molded.

  • 4 pin mini USB (second column from left): this is the connector I used on the prototype I boards. It has the smallest footprint among the mini USB series connectors.

  • 5 pin mini USB connectors (third column): this connector is the most commonly used on the mobile equipment of the recent past. It comes in different form factors (see photo from top to bottom): midway mount, bottom mount, top mount. It has a larger form factor then the 4 pin USB.

  • 5 pin micro USB-B connectors (most right column):this connector is the new standard for current and future mobile equipment and has quite a lot smaller footprint than the mini USB connectors. It comes in multiple form factors, two of which are shown in the photo: midway mount, top mount.

Regarding the mini USB cables, these are readily available these days from various places: 4 and 5 pin mini USB at Amazon, various USB connectors at Pricewatch, or just Google for mini USB.

The micro USB cables are a little more recent, but you can also get them from Amazon for $2, or from Walmart for $5.

So I don't really think it matters too much from an availability/cost standpoint what connector we choose. I might even make the cable available with the module. More important are other factors like footprint and height on the PCB.

As such, I have set the top-mount micro USB connector as the device of record (DOR) as it has the smallest footprint and lowest profile.

In the meantime, I will keep an eye out for any other low-profile multi-pin connectors that are around.

Feel free to post any more comments you have on the subject.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

More votes, more prototypes, more testing....

We hit 1000 votes today! This confirms that there is definitely enough interest in the module to keep on going full speed ahead :)

This week I have been busy building more prototypes. I had already built three with the old board and I have built another three this week. Prototyping goes a little faster now that I have the SMT rework station.

I have assembled two of the prototype II boards with a chip antenna (see the bottom two modules in the photo) and one of the old prototype I boards with a thinner patch antenna (see the right module in the middle row in the photo).

I have done some more field testing (that is inside, outside and in my car while on the road) and it does seem that the patch antennas work better than the chip antenna. The chip antennas also are very sensitive to board layout. I had to trim some of the copper on the board before I finally got these two chip antenna boards to work.

So I have decided that it is best to go with a patch antenna solution to guarantee performance. As such, there will be no room for a full dock connector but instead there will be a micro-USB connector which has a slimmer footprint than the mini-USB connectors and which is the new standard for mobile devices.

I also have an update regarding the LED indicator light. The prototype II boards have a bi-color blue/red LED. The blue LED is the power-on indicator and the red LED will flash until a GPS lock is found (combined with the blue it gives a pink/purple colored flash).

This week I will be working on the layout of the final board design for the patch antenna prototypes and I hope to have the board design frozen before the end of May.