Noisefloor Firmware

A couple of weeks ago, I started working on another of my infinite small projects.

This time, I needed a tool that could show me what was going on with another piece of firmware I was working on that was transmitting data regularly in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz frequency band.

The problem is this: I have multiple transmitters using the same frequency to send data to a single receiver. When the data rate starts to creep upward and the interval between transmissions decreases, you start getting serious resource contention.

It’s a classic multi-user situation, which is solved in other wired and wireless standards using things like Carrier Sense Multiple Access / Collision Detection (CSMA/CD). (In Ethernet or Wi-Fi, example.)

I don’t have access to the specialized off-the-shelf tooling needed to monitor the radio spectrum (it’s pretty expensive). So I decided to build my own, very limited, very specific tool.

That tool is Noisefloor, a small tool to help me visualize and debug a Time Division Multiple Access multiplex scheme by sampling the TDMA timeslot and plotting out when the various nodes are transmitting.

It runs on Nordic Semiconductor nRF5 Series chips using a single firmware executable.

Specifically: the nRF51422, nRF52832, and nRF52840.

That’s right, there’s a single binary file to load, compiled to the ARM v6-M specification, that runs on the off-the-shelf nRF51-DK, nRF52-DK, and nRF52840 Dongle development boards.

Part of the fun of developing this firmware was figuring out how to do write-once, run-anywhere code that dynamically adapts to the underlying microcontroller.

Anyways, thus far, I’ve pushed three posts out on the topic, and am documenting it as I go, including Requirements and Architecture specs. The code is almost feature-complete, and I’ll be slowly writing that up, too.

For more info, please check out the project. Any feedback or questions would be welcome.

Stripping GPS Geotags from EXIF Data

Pretty straightfoward.

✔ ~/bin
$ git clone https://github.com/exiftool/exiftool
 Cloning into 'exiftool'…
 remote: Enumerating objects: 727, done.
 remote: Counting objects: 100% (727/727), done.
 remote: Compressing objects: 100% (551/551), done.
 remote: Total 12272 (delta 443), reused 301 (delta 170), pack-reused 11545
 Receiving objects: 100% (12272/12272), 15.40 MiB | 12.58 MiB/s, done.
 Resolving deltas: 100% (10445/10445), done.

For instance, when checking some images I can see that there’s a ton of EXIF information in there, including the precise location where the image was taken:

✔ ~/blog
$ exiftool ./2019/11/IMG_20191111_2029432-825x510.jpg
 ExifTool Version Number         : 11.76
 [...]
 GPS Version ID                  : 2.2.0.0
 GPS Latitude Ref                : North
 GPS Longitude Ref               : East
 GPS Altitude Ref                : Above Sea Level
 GPS Time Stamp                  : 19:29:43
 GPS Dilution Of Precision       : 16.132
 GPS Img Direction Ref           : Magnetic North
 GPS Img Direction               : 178
 GPS Processing Method           : fused
 GPS Date Stamp                  : 2019:11:11
 [...]
 GPS Altitude                    : AA.A m Above Sea Level
 GPS Date/Time                   : 2019:11:11 19:29:43Z
 GPS Latitude                    : DD deg MM' SS.SS" N
 GPS Longitude                   : DD deg MM' SS.SS" E

Sanitize that.

✔ ~/blog
exiftool -gps:all= -r -overwrite_original -P -ext jpg .

This will remove the GPS data for all JPEG files in a folder and all subfolders.