Amiga hardware info, help and support with a focus (but not limited to) North American NTSC experiences. Open to all.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Sat May 13, 2017 3:52 pm

I've been having a blast on the re-emerging BBS scene on my Commodore 64. And, thanks to the incredibly helpful post by Shot97, I've also been able to get my Amiga 2000 online using a null-modem cable and another PC running TCPSER (for free!). But when I heard about Paul Rickards' work on a low-cost and low-fuss WiFi modem, I got pretty excited about getting one. So I was beyond honored when he reached out to me and asked if I was interested in getting one during its soft-launch. Let's just say I was already done with PayPal by the time it took you to read this post this far.

Paul's WiFi232 Modem is a very small and compact piece of kit. It is a DCE (data circuit-terminating equipment) device that can be plugged into any standard RS-232C DB25 DTE (data terminal equipment) host serial port. This means it can literally be plugged into any Amiga ever made. Beyond that, it is able to be used with multiple retro computing platforms, including Atari, Tandy, Apple (IIe) and Macintosh. Check out his blog for a complete list of computers that the modem has been successfully tested on thus far (and the list is sure to grow).
wifi232-packaged.jpg
The Paul Rickards Wifi232 Modem arrives. Paul is an incredible artist with his computer plotter, too, evidenced by the card that came with the package in the mail.


As of today, here are all of the current features of the WiFi232 Modem:
  • Standard DB25 female RS-232C connector (DCE).
  • Supports 300 to 115200 baud.
  • Emulation of a Hayes modem, using standard (and non-standard) Hayes “AT” commands.
  • Storage of settings and 10 speed dial addresses in flash memory.
  • Accepts inbound connections on customizable TCP port (produces “RING” response).
  • Automatically responds with a customizable busy message when already in a call.
  • Supports Commodore PET “MCTerm” character set translation (requires custom cable, interface).
  • Hardware and software flow control supported (one direction only– retro PC can pause incoming data).
  • Hardware flow control is RTS or DTR selectable with solder jumpers.
  • DTR + DCD and DTR + DSR loopback solder jumpers (RS-232C side only).
  • Over-the-air firmware updates.
  • Telnet negotiation support.
  • Built-in web server, MDNS support, and WiFi access point for easy configuration.
  • Powered by a USB mini jack or solder terminals for your own power source.
  • A PDF manual.

Rickards has written a few firmware updates since he first started shipping modems. Thankfully, you can use the ATUPDATE command in your Terminal program of choice and your connected modem will automatically update itself - no need to download updates from some website and plug into the thing with a more modern machine.

As mentioned above, the WiFi232 is powered via a built-in mini USB jack. Simply plug in a standard USB A to mini-B cable into any USB power jack that is capable of providing 100mA of power at 5v DC. I got a 6-foot long cable and plugged it into one of the many loose Apple iPhone USB power plugs I have floating around the house. This might be one of the only drawbacks one could possibly find with the modem - it's lack of using a computer's built-in power supply. However an alternate way to power the modem is to use the “PWR IN” solder terminals on
the board. For me, I just the USB jack and remind myself to unplug it from power whenever my online session is over. No biggie.
wifi232-miniUSB-b.jpg
Mini-B USB port on the Wifi232 Modem.
wifi232-25pin.jpg
25-pin female port on the WiFi232 modem. This will plug directly into just about any Amiga (except the 1000, I think) without the need for any adapters.
With the computer powered off, you carefully plug the modem into your computer's serial port. At the time of this writing, there is no case/enclosure available for purchase, although a few in the community have told Paul they would design one and put it on Shapeways in the near future. Once it is firmly seated in the serial port, you can plug the USB into your power strip. A blue or red light should turn on on the modem (mine is blue).
wifi232-serialPort.jpg
The serial port on my Amiga 2000. It is a male connector, so I don't need any adapters to work with Paul's modem.
wifi232-pluggedIn.jpg
My serial port was a pretty snug fit, so I had to use the board itself to push the modem firmly into place. This was easy, but I was careful not to push on any of the exposed electronics. A case for the modem will be a no-brainer in the future if one becomes available.
wifi232-houstonWeHaveIgnition.jpg
Houston, we have ignition.

After that, it's time to turn on your computer and launch a terminal program. My personal choice is A-Talk III. I love it for its being so user friendly and intuitive. It is very customizable and easy to modify. The first step once you launch it is to set your baud rate to 1200.
wifi232-changeBaudRate.jpg
Changing the baud rate in A-Talk III is a piece of cake.

Next, you simply follow the step-by-step commands Paul provides in a PDF file he offers you after you buy the modem.
You save your SSID and Password to the modem so the next time you use it, everything is ready to go. After that, you're ready to connect to your favorite BBSes - it's that simple! It took me all of three minutes to set this modem up and get online.

Since all of the boards I currently connect to are PETSCII enhanced, I will need to fire up Color64. A-Talk doesn't play 100% nice with the text on-screen with a 4-color readout.

wifi232-particles.jpg
The limited number of default colors for A-Talk III make some text and characters invisible. This is not a modem issue, it's a terminal software one that is easily fixable.
But luckily I can modify its colors very easily and make it so the majority of text is very easy to consume.
wifi232-atalk3.jpg
I've modded my color set to that the BBSes are much easier to read - at least, those that support ANSI, like ParticlesBBS.

In terms of being dummy proof and user friendly, this modem freaking rocks! The fact that it can work with a variety of retro-computer platforms makes it even that much more valuable. For less than $50 USD, this is one seriously fantastic piece of kit.

I spoke with Paul online to get a handle on how many of these are available.

Rickards:
Honestly I have a day job and this was originally a project to suit my needs first but a few people asked if I was going to make them for sale-- so I did. I have enough for 100 and that's probably it for me.

I can sell many kits at the moment but assembled is where the bottle neck is. It's so time consuming.

The product page is supposed to have a limit to the number it can sell then it will stop taking orders so it's fine.


In case that wasn't clear, this modem a special limited run, and when supplies run out that's probably going to be it.

The pricing is extremely fair: available as a kit for $30 or fully assembled for $45 USD. USPS First Class shipping to USA is $3 tracked (non-insured). USPS First Class International everywhere else for $15 tracked (non-insured).

Rickards:
I don't want to spend the rest of my life over a soldering iron lol

Can't blame him there! So get one while you can, folks. Highly recommended.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Sat May 13, 2017 6:33 pm

It turns out (perhaps I'd forgotten) that A-Talk III defaults to 4-color mode, but it has an 8-color mode, too.

Looks so much better, and is 10x more useable. I may just leave it all these shades of blue. :)
Attachments
atalk3-8color.jpg
A-Talk III's 8-color mode is simply fantastic. I think this might have been inspired by Picasso's 'blue period'. :)
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Sat May 13, 2017 6:47 pm

You've got to save your desired defaults twice in a way. There is the startup palette; in the menu's you can change the colors, but you have to save them in the same menu system in order for it to come back when you launch the next time.

But then there's the phone book color system. If you're using the phone book you also need to alter the colors there and then save them in that menu system. This provides a great way to tweak the colors for all the sites you visit.

Haha, sorry, I still need to dive in and read the whole thing; but when I saw those colors you were using I had to post this first :P I'll be back.
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Murry

by Murry posted Fri Jul 28, 2017 2:09 am

Shot97 wrote:You've got to save your desired defaults twice in a way. There is the startup palette; in the menu's you can change the colors, but you have to save them in the same menu system in order for it to come back when you launch the next time.

But then there's the phone book color system. If you're using the phone book you also need to alter the colors there and then save them in that menu system. This provides a great way to tweak the colors for all the sites you visit.

Haha, sorry, I still need to dive in and read the whole thing; but when I saw those colors you were using I had to post this first :P I'll be back.


It's all a little bit confusing! Thanks for the review as well.
The fat burners for you!
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Zippy Zapp
CA, USA

by Zippy Zapp posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:56 pm

I hope he makes some more as it looks like the promised one from Jim Drew is MIA. I could really use one of these for my Amiga and my DOS PCs. Would be cool.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 6:37 pm

Here's what Jim Drew said about the status of his modem(s) earlier this week here on AmigaLove:
My WiModem-232 has always been "RS-232" based, so it works with anything that has an RS-232 port (Amiga, Atari, Mac, PC, etc.) It was never designed around the Amiga specifically.

I have been in the middle of moving a commercial building and a house for the last 5 weeks. I postponed all of my Commodore projects until the relocation is completed. I did do a quick experiment with making an adapter board for my existing WiModem for the C64. That works on the Amiga, but I did not have much time to test it thoroughly, or test it on other RS-232 devices. I plan to get to that at the first of the month. If it really works (fully), that will be perfect as I would only need an adapter board that has a DB-25 connector (your choice of gender) and a barrel connector for the wall-wart power supply to support any computer with a RS-232 based serial port. If that doesn't actually work with all devices (like my Tandy 102 laptop), then I will go ahead and produce the WiModem-232 that I had finished and ready for production prior to my move. I really would prefer not to produce two different modems, so the WiModem with an adapter board would be a great solution for me.
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JimDrew
LHC, AZ

by JimDrew posted Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:43 pm

I just released info on the WiModem232...

Check it out!
Jim Drew, CBMSTUFF.COM
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lmsilva

by lmsilva posted Fri Nov 17, 2017 4:40 pm

The WiFi232 is a GREAT device and Paul Rickards is such a cool guy! :)
He was extremely helpful in solving some soldering issues I bumped into and also clarifying some commands for me!

I created a prototype service to let you encapsulate a full tcp/ip stack over ppp using the WiFi232, you can find more information on it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-Pql1hpmzE

Later, I created my own wifi modem using a raspberry pi zero w and added some other capabilities like:
- a self contained ppp server
- the ability to connect to telnet BBSes over serial port (just like the RS232)
- but also a full Linux terminal (running on the raspberry pi zero w) and, hence, a full ssh client (as well as other tcp/ip clients like wget, curl, ftp, irc, etc)! :)

You can find details on the whole project here:
http://mygpslostitself.blogspot.com/201 ... modem.html

If someone wants to reproduce it, I've uploaded my raspberry pi zero w image and will gladly provide more information on it.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Fri Nov 17, 2017 9:15 pm

That is VERY cool, lmsilva. Thanks for sharing! Always great to have more options out there.

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