WidgetMesh Coordinator/Gateway Device

The WidgetMesh network development for the Widgets is now underway, the last couple of days I’ve been learning how everything fits together in OS, as far as drivers go and how they communicate with the upper stacks, lots of looking through existing code. I now have a reasonable idea of how things should work and how I need to write my driver.

That said the biggest problem with the WidgetMesh is going to be on chip resources, especially with the ATMega168 and maybe even the ATMmega328P, I’m not looking at running an IP stack on the mesh (well at least not yet), but the / device needs to keep track of the nodes in the network. It’s role is to manage node associations, link forming and routing within the mesh, so this will require more ram than most of the nodes will have, especially in larger networks. It’s also the gateway to the world for the data collected.

I’ve been scratching my head as to what I’m going to use. I was leaning towards an ARM7 hooked up to a RFM12 or WidgetBoard, something along the lines of a make controller as I have a couple at home from past tinkering, or one of these ARM9 devices running , the MMnet1001, from Propox, Both these have onboard Ethernet and plenty of resources for what I want. But it turns out that I had a solution at home already, in the form of an Airlive NAS device, WMU-6000FS. The Airlive NAS comes with Ethernet, WIFI and x2 USB ports, also PATA or SATA hard drive, all this runs from a 12V supply, so I could also run this from a SLA battery.

WidgetMesh GatewayWidgetMesh Gateway

The Airlive WMU-6000FS is a not so great NAS device that I evaluated for work project involving offsite replication. The project was eventually shelved.

The great thing is that it runs , after a bit of research found that I can re-flash the current device easily with a distribution from http://mgb111.pradnik.net/ will allow me to make changes to the system, whereas the current flavour is embedded and is Read only, all changes are lost at boot, however no documentation anywhere regarding serial ports, or in fact if one exists onboard.

I proceeded to re-flash the board with FW C009-M2 Advanced firmware, this gave me console access, once in I checked that Linux is detecting a Serial Port.

-bash-3.2# dmesg | grep ttyS0
Kernel command line: rw console=ttyS0,38400
ttyS00 at 0x03f8 (irq = 4) is a 16550A

A UART is being detected and is used by the system as a console.


Here are the memory and CPU as reported by dmesg, so plenty of resource for what I want.

Initializing CPU#0
Calibrating delay loop... 44.33 BogoMIPS
Memory: 29984k/32768k available (1418k kernel code, 2396k reserved, 337k data, 56k init, 0k highmem)
Checking if this processor honours the WP bit even in supervisor mode... Ok.
Dentry cache hash table entries: 4096 (order: 3, 32768 bytes)
Inode cache hash table entries: 2048 (order: 2, 16384 bytes)
Mount cache hash table entries: 512 (order: 0, 4096 bytes)
Buffer cache hash table entries: 1024 (order: 0, 4096 bytes)
Page-cache hash table entries: 8192 (order: 3, 32768 bytes)
CPU:     After generic, caps: 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
CPU:             Common caps: 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
CPU: Cyrix Cx486SLC

This can only mean one thing. Time for surgery!



Disassembly is very easy, two screws at the rear allow the extruded aluminium case to slide off , at least it’s solid. Inside is a 1TB drive that I had swapped out with the original some time ago, so If all goes to plan then I’ll have plenty of storage available for the Wireless Sensor Network.


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I love it when designers of hardware have fore thought to design in for future expansion, adding a second antenna is going to be simple enough, just drill out the rear cover to suit, actually the cover already as the markings on the inside for this.


WidgetMesh Gateway

Also another Spare antenna mounting hole, perfect for a reset button.

WidgetMesh Gateway



Search for the Serial Port

Prime serial port candidate CN2 (10 pin socket centre of shot) , The processor (top left) is an RDC 3210, a 486 equivalent. The datasheets (no longer available from RDC website, but found via Google) tells me that the CPU has a single onboard UART that the pin outs coincide with the rough location of the CN2 header, either it CN2 or part of the larger connecter, but I doubt it.


Continuity tests of CN2 confirm that this in indeed the serial port, some further checking and voltage measurements confirm everything I need is there. Whoot!

1 RI
2 3.3V
5 Serial In (Rx-I)
8 Serial Out (Tx-O)
10 GND



WidgetMesh Gateway



Adding the WidgetBoard

I moved the Wi-Fi antenna SMA across to the spare and added in an SMA pigtail to suit a 915Mhz GSM antenna that I use for my WidgetBoards.


WidgetMesh Gateway

Next wire in the Serial port to an external header


WidgetMesh Gateway

WidgetBoard trying out it’s new home with SMA pigtail connected. Actually this is the first of my Widgetboards to use the Atmega 328P processor.


WidgetMesh Gateway

I used the third spare antenna connecter on the right for an external reset button for the WidgetBoard, may not be required, but hey, if the DTR reset does not work at least I can force the issue.


WidgetMesh Gateway

All wired up and safe and sound in a simple card surround to stop any shorts from happening.


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All boxed up to see how it all all goes together, 2.4Ghz and 915Mhz antennas side by side and reset bottom right.


WidgetMesh Gateway



Next Step

The next step is to get minicom and do some further testing, along with getting a version of avrdude working from the Linux console, this will allow me re-flash the WidgetBoard locally if the need arises.

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