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Building a MrkIV "Elite" that Actually Works


Sandworm
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A MrkIV "Elite" that Actually Works

I bought the elite package thinking that the entire rig would work as a standalone, battery-powered, device. I saw images of a box with two antennas and though that two wifi devices were running. But when I assembled the components I ran into serious power-delivery problems. The pineapple's usb port simply did not have the capacity to power the alfa wifi adapter. Anytime I attempted to use the alfa through the pineapple it would loose power and reset. Also, with only one usb port I was unable to connect both the alfa and the included usb drive, limiting its capture abilities. The included power supply was also very very limited, providing only a couple hours of operation at best. I am surely not alone in my disappointment, but these deficiencies are expected with specialized hardware.

Taking things in stride, I decided to "fix" the pineapple to make it work as, imho, it was advertised. My goal was total functionality with absolutely minimal cost. So I tried to use as much of the original hardware as possible.

Problem #1: Shortage of usb ports.
Answer: a USB hub.

Problem #2: Lack of power.
Answer: a powered USB hub.

Problem #3: Included power pack insufficient to power hub+devices.
Answer: Build a better power pack.

Problem #4: Need 5volts to power hub, but cannot get reliable 5v from batteries alone.
Answer: A battery elimination circuit (25$ from local RC-airplane shop).

My first attempt:
Four c-sized batteries for a nominal 6v regulated by the BEC down to 5v. This did not go well. Even without any peripherals, the pineapple didn't want to boot and suffered from low power the few times it did.

6vtest.jpg

Second attempt: (Actually the third, I gave 8-batteries a try but didn't take pics).
A 6-battery arrangement for a nominal 9v. I cut down two 4-battery holders and wired them in series. It's not pretty because I wanted to do this with parts on hand. (If you want pretty get an engineer, I went to law school.) The system works and that's all that matters. Note the two cables from the pineapple, one for power from the hub[/] and one for data to the hub. You do need both.

9vlayout.jpg

I did manage to cram all the parts into the original case. I had to remove the pineapple's cover to make room. Trust me, it took effort but the lid did close.

9vpacked.jpg

Here is a closeup of the USB hub and BEC.

usbbec.jpg

I finally now own what I thought I was purchasing. With massively improved battery capacity (45000mAh) the rig now runs reliably for hours and hours. I'd have to do some tests, but 16+ hours seems probable.

Unsolved Problems:
Despite the fact that I am Canadian and the alfa was bought from hak5 in California, its eeprom is set for "GB". This limits it to 20db instead of the 27db I am allowed in Canada. The problem cannot be fixed via "wi reg set" as it the wifi device simply recalls the CRDA entry for GB. On my linux devices (laptops etc) I bypassed this by editing the CRDA entry for GB, but on the pineapple this is not so easy. Advice?

Possible Improvements:

An external power switch/switches to save opening the case every time.
Find shorter cables to save space and make things pretty.
Build and mount a better battery holder (without tape).
Attach an outlet to connect to an external battery pack.
Better antennas.
A third wifi adapter? 5GHz?
Ubertooth?

External lan/wan ports?

I'll be in San Fransisco for an ABA even just prior to RSA if anyone wants a closer look at this thing.

Edited by Sandworm
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Thanks for the share, I have been thinking about doing some modifications to mine with an internal usb hub and an SD card port as well. I also was going to be working on implementing the ubertooth into the Pineapple and was even thinking about builing a module perhaps, for the Ubertooth to be utilized.

but great job for the mods you did and thanks for sharing, I would be interested in any upgrades you do in the future so please share any updates with us, it always good to see people doing hardware mods instead of only software mods.

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