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Hardware Hacking Australia Input Devices Apple Build Hardware

iPad Serial-Port Adapter Previewed 88

Posted by timothy
from the visicalc-for-the-current-age dept.
swandives writes "Following on from the iPhone serial port hack, Chris Pollock shows how an iPad will look with a serial port adapter for those who need more screen space. The pictures show a basic prototype, but Pollock expects to have a more attractive alternative up and running in the coming months."
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iPad Serial-Port Adapter Previewed

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  • I personally would have designed it better. Maybe a USB port on the "serial" box so that it's not hanging off my iPad/iPhone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      Yeah, the entire point of having one of these is so you can get in serially to devices located in places where using/holding a laptop may be uncomfortable and/or difficult. If you make the ipad harder to hold than it does defeat the purpose a bit. Though since he seems to have posted the pinouts and whatnot I guess someone else could try taking a whack at making it better.
      • Re:A bit bulky eh? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @01:05AM (#34108814) Homepage Journal

        If you need to reach into a rack or whatnot then a long cable from your laptop should do the trick. For me the advantage of an iphone adapter is that you can reuse a device you will definitely have on you rather than having to carry the laptop everywhere.

        This should work okay on my openmoko. It has a usb host mode and I have a usb-serial cable which I have used with a laptop as a console device.

      • Re:A bit bulky eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by catmistake (814204) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @01:13AM (#34108830) Journal

        Though since he seems to have posted the pinouts and whatnot I guess someone else could try taking a whack at making it better.

        Like a ... wireless BlueTooth to Serial port adapter? [google.com] So all you have, other than iPad, is a little serial port dongle thingy? That'd be my choice: rather than hacking Apple's proprietary data/power connecter (though it had to be done... but now that's out of the way), hack their bluetooth stack [google.com]

        • by hitmark (640295)

          then why not go android and not have to hack at all?
          http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.magicandroidapps.bluetoothterm [appbrain.com]

          • if you can't hack it, there's the camera connection kit and something like this [usbgear.com]... so long as it doesn't need drivers.
            • by Graff (532189)

              Or just do it directly with this [engadget.com].

              As I pointed out elsewhere, this is nothing new. People have been breaking out the serial port data lines in the dock connector for at least 4 or 5 years now.

          • by gilesjuk (604902)

            Maybe because all the Android tablets seem to be 7 inch screens and 10 inches is much more readable and typing is easier. Quite important when you're configuring routers.

            • by hitmark (640295)

              Archos have the 101 on its way, and i think creative recently announced a 10 inch android device using their zii platform. And there could be others that i fail to recall the name of right now.

          • because I already have the ipad.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by antifoidulus (807088)
          Bluetooth is prohibited in a lot of data centers, esp. when you are dealing with something as sensitive as a router.
        • Or a WiFi to serial adaptor: http://www.gridconnect.com/wi232.html#TB_inline?height=600&width=550&inlineId=eyInsets&modal=false [gridconnect.com] Look Steve! No wires!
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by mcrbids (148650)

      I guess I'm having trouble seeing the point.

      We're not talking 11 Mbps USB 2.x. We're not talking about the 1.5 Mbps USB 1.x. We're talking the 19.2 Kbps 16550 UART RS-232 style 1980s era serial port!?!? That you have to get to by invalidating your warranty and putting a 6" "dongle" on the side of your 12" iPad?

      As somebody who spent years dealing data rates, parity, word sizes, and stop bits, armed with a soldering iron and MILES of 4-lead telephone wire routed to the back of a DEC VAX 11/750, this just brin

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Y-Crate (540566)

        I'm holding out for SCSI or an Amiga video slot. I want to track down a dusty Video Toaster 4000 card and do some genlockin'.

        • by keeboo (724305)

          I'm holding out for SCSI or an Amiga video slot. I want to track down a dusty Video Toaster 4000 card and do some genlockin'.

          Amiga video slot for genlocking?
          Uh... Are you aware how promiscuous the relevant signals are to the Amiga chipset (in order to simplify genlock design)?

        • by slick7 (1703596)
          Nothing says "GAY" like a butt-plug sticking out of your ass. eh?
      • by adolf (21054)

        But it's useful!

        You can use it to program an Arduino (no, wait, those generally use USB these days). Or a TI MSP430 Launchpad (er, which actually also talk USB on the $4.30 dev kit).

        I know: You can plug it into a random embedded system and debug it! (except, these days, such random embedded systems that are commercially produced have a Windows GUI or DOS front-end for configuration...)

        Wait: I've got it! You can CONFIGURE A ROUTER WITH IT! Give me a router, some VT100 emulation and a serial connection t

        • Spoken like someone who has never actually worked a tech job in someplace other than an office. Ever been in a data center? A factory? Or worked on a scientific outpost in the middle of nowhere? Worked with gear on the front lines? A laptop is not always very easy to use when you have to squeeze into tight spots. the ipad is much smaller and lighter than most notebooks and can be used while standing up, a huge bonus.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            laptop is not always very easy to use when you have to squeeze into tight spots.

            That's what a tiny netbook like the EEE 701 is for. I can hold it between two fingers, let alone in one hand. And it has a keyboard which is just barely big enough to touch-type on (I used it for six weeks in Panama and had to learn how to type all over again when I came home) yet with my big hands it's just small enough to thumb-type on if I have to.

          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by adolf (21054)

            Spoken like someone who has never actually tried using a laptop while standing. It works fine, though I've found that using longer cables works better if I'm going to be at it for awhile...

            And there's no reason to be insulting, you miserable fuck. Almost all of my work is in the field in the places you describe, though I suppose you could scratch "scientific outpost" and replace it with "on top of a tower."

      • by Junta (36770)

        I'm not much on the iPad aspect, but serial ports in general are still ubiquitous in datacenters. For all the madness of pinout jumbles and baud rates, it's among the most simple circuits an embedded device or facility can have that can output sufficiently rich data for initial configuration and emergency situations. Even when booting linux on a server and you want a text-based console (e.g. for logging), nothing is as robust as a serial connection.

        Now you can propose any number of 'modern' alternatives u

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tlhIngan (30335)

          I'm not much on the iPad aspect, but serial ports in general are still ubiquitous in datacenters. For all the madness of pinout jumbles and baud rates, it's among the most simple circuits an embedded device or facility can have that can output sufficiently rich data for initial configuration and emergency situations. Even when booting linux on a server and you want a text-based console (e.g. for logging), nothing is as robust as a serial connection.

          Now you can propose any number of 'modern' alternatives usi

          • by Junta (36770)

            Thanks for expounding on my point, though I will say that the biggest FUBAR in serial space are myriads of pinouts. Most of the time when you see D-SUB 9 *male* port, it's going to act predictably.

            I have seen female DSUB9 ports with odd pinouts (understandable, bendable breakable pins coming off your expensive boards instead of cheap cables is bad, but the pinouts are remarkably varied). I have seen tip/ring/sleeve, I've seen RJ45, RJ11, completely proprietary connections, and even things like physical mi

    • Re:A bit bulky eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NixieBunny (859050) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @01:25AM (#34108868) Homepage
      It's a prototype. The finished dongle ought to be less than one inch across, if the guy designs it reasonably.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It really needs an HDMI. The resolution is pretty low but at least I could play music through my big screen. I'd really like to see a laptop style port replicator made for an iPad or Touch with supporting software. You can adapt to USB devices but that and mini plug are your only options. The device is multipurpose but the output options are very limited. A proper port replicator seems simple enough and shouldn't threaten the closed nature of the device.

  • Boring (Score:3, Informative)

    by scdeimos (632778) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @01:17AM (#34108842)

    iPods/Phones/Pads have had serial ports for the longest time - why do you think there's such a thing as the iPod Accessory Serial Control protocol?

    What's interesting about this is that an app has been able to steal the serial port from the system for its own purposes, i.e.: a tty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheUser0x58 (733947)

      Its even more boring than that. The jailbreaking developer community has been able to tap into the iPhone's serial port for some time now. I was interfacing with the iPhone over serial in early 2008, before the iPhone SDK was even released, using publicly available information from the jailbreaking community.

      The real "news" here is that someone's found a use for this thats caught the attention of the mainstream online technology press.

    • The real news would be if someone figured how to do this cleanly without requiring a jailbreak.

  • It's a neat feat of reverse engineering but I don't really see the practicality here. I deal with serial on a daily basis and using an iPad would be a nightmare. Typing is OK for short emails, but you really need a physical keyboard for these sort of things. A autocorrected word or mistyped letter can be frustrating to no end.
    • You know you can turn off the autocorrect, right? And that there's a backspace key just like a regular keyboard?

      The iPad might not be the best tool for other reasons (check out the corresponding iPhone adapter linked in TFS), but it's not for the lack of a real keyboard.

      • by drsmithy (35869)

        The iPad might not be the best tool for other reasons (check out the corresponding iPhone adapter linked in TFS), but it's not for the lack of a real keyboard.

        The iPad's onscreen keyboard is painful if you have to type anything that isn't straight alpha characters. Anything involving punctuation, special characters, or lots of numbers - *especially* when they're mixed in with regular alpha characters - is an exercise in frustration. I can't even imagine what would drive someone to prefer an iPad over a

  • someone did something similar using a N810 and a ethernet to usb dongle.

    • by badran (973386)

      I find the N810 much easier to use than an Ipad just because of the great keyboard attached to it. For me this small device replaced a laptop when I am on call. As I can RDP into windows and SSH into Linux from anywhere.

    • Why would they do that? The N810 has a true RS232 Serial port on it's back. Or if that isn't good enough, use a usb to serial adapter you can buy for cheap on ebay. Or a bluetooth serial adapter.

      Although I'm curious, how did they manage to get rs232 out of an usb-ethernet dongle?

      I have to say though, I love my n810, it's perfect for all my needs! It has everything I can think of, and a real Linux OS underneath it (Maemo, Debian based) where you have access to anything you want. It actually replaced my la

  • 3... 2... 1... how long until the company gets a C&D from Apple?

    • by Graff (532189)

      how long until the company gets a C&D from Apple?

      Never, this isn't a hack. Apple publishes the specs for the Dock Connector for exactly this purpose. There are even companies out there which are already producing cables that convert [engadget.com] the Dock Connector to serial and RJ-11 interface. In fact, people were publishing how to do this as early as 2006. [engadget.com]

      Nothing to see here, really. This news is ancient.

  • I wish... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geogob (569250) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @02:25AM (#34108962)

    all those "I don't need that, it's useless... I need that instead" commenter would realize that they are not alone in this world and that other people may have different need.

    I personally don't need it because, as most tech users, I now only have a few, if any, devices with serial interface... but I can see how something like that may be totally useful.
    There are still a lot of people who work with specialized equipment, often having serial port interfaces. Having a serial port interface for iPhone or iPad can become very interesting, as those device can be used very easily while standing hand holding them in the hand. With a laptop other than a tablet PC type laptop, I've always found doing this clumsy.

    • by KiloByte (825081)

      I wonder why do people bother converting a tightly locked down crippled device with no keyboard when they can have a n900 of similar size, fully open OS and a physical keyboard. If you want a screwdriver, trying to sharpen a hammer is a strange route.

      • by cowscows (103644)

        Yeah, If you ignore the fact that the screen is only 3.5" and the entire device is basically the size of a really fat smartphone, yeah, it's a very similar size to an ipad.

        • by KiloByte (825081)

          4", but since the iPad wastes half of its screen for the touch keyboard, it's not that worse off. And if you want a larger screen, an actual laptop will be so much cheaper and so much more powerful.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Well if you are not typing it isn't there.
            For surfing the web and reading email you get the bigger screen.
            And why not a notebook? A not book with as nice of a screen and as long of a battery life is very expensive.
            The N900 in an interesting machine but it doesn't replace the iPad. And notebooks are very nice for some uses but for a lot people an iPad is a better solution.

            It really all depends on how you are going to use it. For watching video, and surfing the web the iPad is a very good solution.
            Plus does t

            • by KiloByte (825081)

              For surfing the web and reading email you get the bigger screen.

              Except we are talking solely about administrating routers and similar boxes here. Ie, work rather than play.

              Plus does the N900 have AngryBirds?

              Uhm, it does.
              Plus, as games are concerned, you jest trying to claim iP{hone,ad} has more. There's just a few GOOD native titles, but try using emulators. I for one spend way too much time playing through DosBox recently -- does your iPad have DOS, NES, SNES, ~10 other consoles, Java, Flash, ...? There's so many orders of magnitudes more games available for those platforms that your claim makes me

              • by LWATCDR (28044)

                Well for administering a router then a netbook beats both the N900 and the iPad.
                The AngryBirds comment was a joke. Wow the Nokia fanboys are the most rabid on the planet. They rival the Amiga users of which I was one.
                Take a deep breath. I don't have an iPad, N900, or a netbook.

                • by KiloByte (825081)

                  Well for administering a router then a netbook beats both the N900 and the iPad.

                  Of course -- if you do lug one. A pocket size device has the advantage of always being with you -- to use a netbook/laptop you'd have to keep it in your car. I do 99.9% of work comfortably sshed in from a stationary computer, which in turns beats netbooks.

                  Wow the Nokia fanboys are the most rabid on the planet.

                  I admit that Nokia's software is abysmal. They went a long way to show how NOT to make a mobile Linux distribution, and how to make user interface crappy. The reason I use a n900 is that I can modify it -- Motorola's comparable hardware is as good or b

                  • by Molt (116343)
                    The iPad's not exactly a pocket sized device either though and whilst it may be thinner than a netbook it's certainly not as luggable, the extra care needed to not shatter that screen would be a serious pain in a lot of environments.
                  • by LWATCDR (28044)

                    Netbooks are so small that if did need to work on routers I would probably carry one with me.
                    Frankly for the serial hack on the iPad/iPhone I can see one great use.
                    The new IPhone has gyros to go along with the GPS and accelerometers. Throw in the camera and Cell interface and it makes one heck of an autopilot :)
                    I am just waiting for the iPhone 5 to come out and then pick up one cheap on ebay and jailbreak it.
                    Use the serial interface to talk to a servo controller board and you have a wifi sniffing war flying

    • by 54mc (897170)
      I wish I had mod points. I was about to stop reading the thread but then a small sliver of sanity spoke up.
    • by Drivintin (917847)
      As someone that had to build a console cable the other day, i would have paid good money for this thing! as i like to say, "Sometimes you have to say F$@# and grab the console cable."
  • All I need now - besides an iPad - is an external U.S. Robotics 2400 baud modem to access all those old school BBSes that are still around. :P
  • While people are decrying the pointlessness of a serial controller on the iPad/iPhone, instead imagine a tiny smd 8 to 1 or 16 to 1 multiplexer feeding this thing digital input from some connected switches.

    Yes. I'm talking about a snap on joypad device. While people here are going to yell and scream about Apple's locked down nature, I'm going to yell about their short sightedness. Apple screwed the pooch with iPhone OS 3. When they announced compatibility with attaching devices to it's dock connector, t

    • by creimer (824291)

      Then again I thought the iPad could benefit greatly from a stylus, just because of it's sheer size and annotating pages with a pen is easier than typing, but, that's just my POV.

      Want to take notes on an iPad? Here's your stylus [cnet.com]

      • I think Steve Jobs was absolutely 100% correct when he said styluses suck as a primary input source.

        However, I think Steve Jobs was wrong in not *offering* a stylus as an addon accessory first party. I know about the pogo stylus, i wish apple had put out a first party solution.

  • That's a lot of leverage hooked up to the iPad's dock connector.

    They really ought to find a way to put a U-turn in there, and have most of the attached hardware sit close behind the iPad, perhaps built into a case.

  • It's like putting a trailer hitch on a Bentley.
  • Do we still have serial ports on nowadays computers ?
    • by Molt (116343)
      On serious servers, yes. There's nothing as reliable and standardised for getting console access on a headless server which has just decided to drop off the network.

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