[NTLK] Modern Wifi for Newton ?

Andrei Chichak newton at chichak.ca
Sat Sep 8 01:28:07 EDT 2018

Yeah, I’ve programmed both the 8266 and 32.

There’s going to be a few issues. 

First, the case on the newt is sputtered with metal on the inside. Before you invest a lot of time in this, check to see if you can get any radiation through the case.
The antenna on the various modules is usually a trace and three of the four radiating directions will be attenuated by the metallization. 
The last direction would be through the square cutout in the back of the 2100.

The development environment for these modules is a bit of a bitch. To load code you use the serial port, there isn’t a JTAG debugger, so it’s all crash and burn printf debugging.
But to get the messages, you run a terminal emulator. Then you disconnect from the emulator to free up the port for serial download. Then you start the emulator again. Repeat until you give up.

Yes, you have a WiFi module that can talk into the internal expansion connector (I’ve got a box of >200 of those matching connectors), what is missing is firmware on the radio to make the conversation and an app stack on the Newt that can get a list of SSIDs from the WiFi module, tell the WiFi module which SSID to associate with, then you need to be able to absorb the data being transferred in a meaningful way. ? push it into the ethernet stack? I dunno. 

And on the server side, you’d need something to feed the data to the app on the newt. At that point the radio module needs to act as a transparent link.

Having the control commands in-band with the data is just nasty. I’m currently working with the ESP32 and have set up an SPI side channel for the control conversation (scan for SSIDs, how many SSIDs?, give me the name of SSID n, take this ID and PW, associate with SSID n, connect with IP xx.xx.xx.xx on port yy), and the serial port is used for bidirectional transparent send/receive traffic over the socket that you ask for.

Both of these modules also have a stack that uses AT commands to set up the conversation and transfer data. The AT commands are in-band with the data stream. The AT command set is poorly documented, changes with revs of the firmware from Espressif, and the Newt side app is really complex since it has to deal with the bizarre way that the AT command stuff works.

The Bluetooth side of the ESP32 is simpler, since the Newt side posts characteristics that your phone can query.  If you want to use the ESP32 as a virtual serial port, that might be the best bet. 

On the other hand, 3.3V at 1/2A. Hopefully there is an enable bit on the internal communications port, because these modules will suck the batteries hard.

It’s possible, but it’ll take a bunch of design work to get a clear picture of what you want to achieve and a lot of time on the radio firmware, Newt app, and server side.

Andrei from The Great White North

> On 2018-September-05, at 16:13, j <thej at shaw.ca> wrote:
> Has anyone (electronically inclined) considered using a ESP8266 or ESP32 to build a modern Wifi card for the Newton?
> Both versions could also double as a Flash/SRAM card too !
> Both provide:
> -Ultra Low power operation
> -on board processor(s) with RAM
>   -ESP8266: single L106  @ 80MHz w/ 32KB & 32KB & 80KB & 16 KB RAM onboard (each has different purpose)
>   -ESP32: Dual core LX6  @ 160/240MHz (600 DMIPS) w/520KB RAM)
> -802.11 b/g/n
> -Up to 16MB of QSPI external Flash
> -Up to 4MB of QSPI external SRAM
> -among other things…
> The ESP32 adds many other niceties:
> -Bluetooth 4.2
> -Many Peripheral interfaces
>   -SPI
> -Ethernet MAC
> -Cryptographic hardware acceleration
>   -AES, SHA-2, RSA, elliptical curve, random number generator
> -Flash or SRAM (via QSPI interface)
> -(ESP32-D2WD) has 2MB of flash on board in addition to the QSPI interface for more externally
> -and a lot more….
> The ESP32 is about $10 individually.
> It could also be used as a coprocessor!
> This board could replace several PCMCIA cards and substantially reduce power.
> This would be a really useful add-on for the Newton!
> -Wifi with WEP2
> -Bluetooth
> -Wired Ethernet
> -Flash or SRAM (via QSPI interface)
> -and more in ONE card !!
> What do you think?
> Is there anyone willing to give this a go !?!
> Jason
> ESP8266
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESP8266 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESP8266>
> ESP32
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESP32 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESP32>
> Official site:
> https://www.espressif.com/en/products/hardware/esp32/overview <https://www.espressif.com/en/products/hardware/esp32/overview>
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