[NTLK] Internal WiFi Project

Matthias Melcher mm at matthiasm.com
Thu Apr 7 19:39:21 EDT 2016

> On Apr 7, 2016, at 11:42 PM, Jake Bordens wrote:
>> But back to the original post: there is no pressure without counterpressure. So while Qualcomm and Wireach try to gag us with a $80 module, the Chinese market has produced a WLan module ESP8266 that contains all the same encryption plus a fast RISC CPU and 512k of firmware Flash for $3 (yes, three) with no export restrictions whatsoever.
> This is a great idea.  Really the hard part is getting a PPPD server running on the ESP8266 for use with NIE...

Is that really necessary? NIE PCMCIA drivers just forward raw 802.11 network packets back and forth. I have no in-depth knowledge of the ESP firmware yet, but I thought I saw an interface for just that, raw inet packages.

    search for wifi_send_pkt_freedom

Everything else should be in NIE. And writing a driver is relatively simple, I have done it for Einstein.

> Based on what I've seen of the ESP8266, I don't see why it couldn't be done, but its not available out of the box, as far as I know. The PPPD was what drove me to wth WiReach, if that could be found on other hardware, all the better.

Makes sense.

> It does have pretty high current requirements (~400mA peak) so I think you'll still need the switching regulator.

Yes, in peaks even more. I hope that the connection quality corresponds to the power used ;-)

> The ESP8266 has a very small footprint.   I could think of a few other things to squeeze on a board like this :)

And the ESP has lots of freely programmable pins. It even includes an SD-Card library. So the obvious thing that I found was adding a microSD permanently inside the MP. The ESP would connect to Serial 3 and pretend to be an internal modem. Instead of giving a telephone number in the dial code, the user would give a command sequence, and the ESP would pretend to be that kind of connection.

Let's assume the user has a virgin MessagePad and no serial cable to load a driver. He would launch "Dock" on the Newton and connect via Modem to the "telephone" number "LOAD:NIE" ("Will Dial" field). ESP would the pretend to be a Classic Mac on a modem line and send the NIE packages to Dock, which in turn installs NIE (and possibly much much more).

This would solve the hen-and-egg problem for good. And with today's size of SD cards, we could add the complete Unna archive right into the MessagePad case.

Instead of dedicated logic chips, I wand to try a CPLD programmable logic (great chance to learn how they work). That way, we can hook all signals from the Newton connector to any pin on the ESP module and create even more exotic implementation, for example the ESP pretending to be a keyboard, or even generating sound via the Newton speaker.


 - Matthias

More information about the NewtonTalk mailing list