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Mobile Net access for your A4

By Chris Williams. Published: 13th Jan 2004, 22:46:29 | Permalink | Printable

For the real online addicts and A4 fans

The faithful A4 is a hardy, 16 grey scale A5000-in-a-laptop from the mid-Acorn era that still remains to be a popular sell on ebay and at user shows. Despite its ripe old age, the A4 can have ethernet networking and now can be hooked up to the net in a completely wireless fashion.

Dave Higton has managed this week to get 'net access to his A4 via his mobile 'phone and has the pictures to prove it. Using his mobile and a serial port interface, the A4 can send and receive email, do some light web browsing and was demonstrated at this week's Southampton Acorn Users Group meeting.

"The A4 is perfectly standard as far as I know, and must date from 1992 or thereabouts. The mobile phone is a Siemens C35e", Dave told drobe.co.uk in an email this morning. "Software used is Socketeer (an early version because it requires slightly less memory), Messenger Pro, AntiSpam, POPstar, and Browse.

"The data cable I used is a cheap non-original version, which unfortunately doesn't implement any handshake lines, so I modified a serial block driver to fake DCD. Communication between A4 and phone is at 19200 baud, and speed over the GSM network is 9600."

screenshot from the A4photo of A4 with mobile phone
Screenshot of the A4 connecting via the phone and a photo of the mobile kit all wired together

Dave continued to explain, "4 MB of RAM isn't enough to have all the above applications running at the same time, so a bit of care and organisation is needed.

"For e-mail, I have to run Messenger Pro to compose any outgoing mails, then quit it once it has put them in the outgoing queue. Then I can run Socketeer and AntiSpam. Socketeer connects, then AntiSpam sends any outgoing mail and collects any incoming. After going off line, I quit Socketeer and AntiSpam, then run Messenger Pro again, which debatches any incoming e-mail and lets me read it.

"For web browsing, Socketeer and Browse will co-exist quite happily. The first web site I visited was my own, because I know that the front page is short and text only. You will no doubt be pleased to know that the second site I visited was Drobe.

"So, it all works very successfully. Just as you'd expect of RISC OS."

When we asked Dave if he'll release his modified driver, Dave said he'd be happy to if there's a chance others will find it useful. The driver is also "98 percent based on the InternalPC block driver from Hugo Fiennes", so while Dave is mildly concerned about the copyright status of the serial block driver in question, it would appear that it was released into the public domain in 1996.

If anyone has any information on the block driver copyright issue, feel free to share it.


Dave's website or contact Dave for more information on his mobile A4 project

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To be more accurate, AntiSpam sends e-mail by kicking off POPstar. My apologies for appearing to claim credit which rightly belongs to POPstar.

 is a RISC OS Userdavehigton on 14/1/04 7:40AM
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Bah, can't run all the applications at once, try fitting it into 2Mb *remembers his old A4000*, admitidly it was also SLIP across a null-modem link to a linux machine :)

 is a RISC OS UserNoMercy on 14/1/04 8:47AM
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4MB should be plenty to fit in all the applications you should ever need. RISC OS doesn't need virtual memory, remember?

 is a RISC OS Usercbcbcb on 14/1/04 8:52AM
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I had a 4MB A4000, and couldn't run Messenger (and Newsbase) and ArcWeb at the same time. It was a bit annoying.

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 14/1/04 9:14AM
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This raises a point I've been thinking about recently - I read an article in the Observer on Sunday about 'wi-fi' wireless networking being installed in new houses - are our RISC OS machines going to be usable for this? I know we don't have a new native portable planned, and those running VRPC will happily work, but what about our desktop machines?

 is a RISC OS Userrod on 14/1/04 9:19AM
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WiFi shouldn't be a problem if you connect an ethernet socket on the RISC OS box to a wifi adapter. As far as the RO box is concerned, it's running over ethernet - but it can then connect to the wifi network.

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 14/1/04 9:34AM
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If you have a Simtec USB card, STD sell a wireless usb adaptor and RISC OS drivers. If don't have Simtec USB, but do have a network card (eg. Iyonix) you can get a Wireless Access Point / Bridge / Media Converter.


 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 14/1/04 9:36AM
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That sounds very good news, even if in primitive stages at the moment. I'm glad i just ordered a Sintec card about 4 hours ago :)

 is a RISC OS UserTimothy609 on 14/1/04 6:30PM
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