Setting up the 900 Mhz Freakduino board on Kali Linux

The Freakduino LR is an Arduino board with a built-in 900Mhz radio designed for long range (1 mile). The primary components include

  • CPU: ATMEGA328-QFP32
  • Atmel AT86RF212 900
  • TI CC1190 900 Mhz RF Front end

This board belongs in the suite of tools you can use to test systems which utilize the 900 Mhz RF band. The AT86RF212 radio supports offset quadrature phase-shift keying (O-QPSK) with a fixed chip rate of either 400 kchip/s or 1000 kchip/s. I ordered the Freakduino 900 MHZ radio version 2.1a.  There are a few steps missing from the installation/Usage guide (PDF). Here is how I installed the software on my Kali Linux system. In the process, I also had to install Oracle/Sun’s Java, and Apache Ant, and the beta version of the Arduino IDE, without using the various package managers, (i.e. from scratch).

Installing Oracle/Sun’s Java on KALI LINUX

I wanted to use the latest version of the Arduino software, which has support for the ARM chip sets (such as Arduino Due and the upcoming Flutter board). I didn’t actually need it for the Freakduino, but if I can use one version of the Arduino IDE for all of the Arduino boards, that’s preferable. In addition, having the latest is always useful. 🙂 My first attempt had some minor problems. The IDE menu bar listing the menu choices “File Edit Sketch Tools Help” was missing! This was caused by using the openjdk version of Java. Apparently there is an incompatibility with giflib 5.1.  The link has a work-around I did not try. I decided to install Sun/Oracle’s Java. There are a few things that had to be done to get this correctly installed.

Installing Oracle/Sun’s Java JDK on Kali Linux

One way to work around the problem is to remove all versions of java. However, there are some disadvantages to this. Another way is to install alternate versions of java, and switch from one to the other as needed. Download the version of java from the Oracle/Sun Java download page. Then install it into /opt/java

tar xfz jdk-7u65-linux-i586.tar.gz
# Decide where to put Sun's java
sudo mkdir /usr/lib/jvm/java-7-sun-i386
sudo mv jdk1.7.0_65/ /usr/lib/jvm/java-7-sun-i386
sudo chown -R root /usr/lib/jvm/java-7-sun-i386 
# you then want to find the current alternatives
sudo update-alternatives --config java

My results said: There are 2 choices for the alternative java (providing /usr/bin/java).


Selection    Path                                           Priority   Status ————————————————————

*0          /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-openjdk-i386/jre/bin/java   1061      auto mode 1            /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-openjdk-i386/jre/bin/java   1061      manual mode 2            /usr/lib/jvm/java-7-openjdk-i386/jre/bin/java   1051      manual mode


Therefore I wanted to use the next higher number – i.e. 3

sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/java java \
   /usr/lib/jvm/java-7-sun-i386/jdk1.7.0_65/bin/java 3

I typed the update-alternatives command again, and selected version #3. Now when I executed

java -version

I get the right answer!

java version "1.7.0_65"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.7.0_65-b17)
Java HotSpot(TM) Server VM (build 24.65-b04, mixed mode)

We have to repeat this for javac

sudo update-alternatives --config java # find the next free number
# My system had the highest number of 2, so I used 3
sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/javac javac \
   /usr/lib/jvm/java-7-sun-i386/jdk1.7.0_65/bin/javac 3 
sudo update-alternatives --config java # set it to #3

And to test it, I typed

javac -version

And I got as a result:

javac 1.7.0_65

Installing Apache ant on Kali Linux

Now that I have Sun’s Java installed, I wanted to install ant. I didn’t see a package in Kali that had ant, so I downloaded the binary from the ant web site I then did the following to verify and install the ant binary

gpg --import KEYS
gpg --verify apache-ant-1.9.4-bin.tar.gz.asc

I then decided to install ant in the /opt directory

# Unpack and install anttar xvfz apache-ant-1.9.4-bin.tar.gz
sudo mv apache-ant-1.9.4 /opt/ant
sudo chown -R root /opt/ant

To run ant, I needed to modify a new environment variables. You can put these in your shell startup files, or store them in a file, and source them into your shell when you need to run/recompile the Arduino program

# Prepare to run ant

I called this program ./ by the way. And to verify that it was installed properly, type:

 ant -diagnostics

Now that we have Java and ant installed, we can now compile the Arduino code from the git source distribution.

Installing the Arduino 1.5 (Beta) software on Kali Linux

# where do you want to built the arduino source?
cd Src
# get the git repository
git clone git:// # takes a while
cd ./Arduino
# switch over the the beta version
git checkout -t origin/ide-1.5.x 
git pull # just in case
cd build
# You may want to clean the build if you changed anything
ant clean
# and now compile the Arduino code
# to run the code, type
and run

If the Arduino IDE shows up, you are in good shape for the next step!

Installing the Chibi/Freakduino libraries

I followed the Freakduino Installation Guide. I downloaded the v1.04 version (ZIP). Assuming the Arduino source is in ~/Src/Arduino, you can type the following:

cd ~/Src/Arduino/libraries
mkdir Chibi
cd Chibi

When you start up the Arduino IDE, use the following command:

cd ~/Src/Arduino/build
ant run

If successful, you should see in the examples a “Chibi” library.You can select one of them and compile it. But you can’t run it yet because there are a few more things to do. You have to (a) select the proper port,  (b) select the proper board and (c) select the proper bootloader. The port is easy. Go to Tools->Port and select “/dev/ttyUSB0” The board is another issue. The Freakduino board isn’t listed. We have to install the hardware support libraries. Download them using the following steps. This is different from the installation guide.

cd /tmp
cp freakduino freakduino-lr ~/Src/Arduino/hardware/arduino/avr/variants

The issue is that the instalation guide is written for Arduino 1.0, not 1.5. Instead of hardware/arduino/variants the new version supports different types of CPUs, so there is a hardware/arduino/avr/variants and hardware/arduino/sam/variants. Also the installation guide says to backup ~/Src/Arduino/hardware/arduino/avr/boards.txt and replace it with the version they provide. DO NOT DO THIS. A “diff” of the two files gives me more than 900 differences. I manually patched the file, adding their changes, and when I ran the program, I got a few errors, including

    Error while uploading: missing 'upload.tool' configuration parameter


     [exec] Board arduino:avr:freakduino doesn't define a 'build.board' preference. Auto-set to: AVR_FREAKDUINO
     [exec] Board arduino:avr:freakduino-lr doesn't define a 'build.board' preference. Auto-set to: AVR_FREAKDUINO-LR

To prevent these errors, do not follow their advice for the installation. Instead, edit the file ~/Src/Arduino/hardware/arduino/avr/boards.txt and add the following lines manually. In particular, note the last three lines of each group. These are the lines I added to eliminate the two errors above

############################################################## = Freakduino Standard, 5.0V, 8MHz, w/ATMega328P
# Bruce Barnett added these lines

############################################################## = Freakduino Long Range, 5.0V, 8MHz, w/ATMega328P
# Bruce Barnett added these lines

Now start up the Arduino IDE, select the Tools=>Board=>Freakduino Long Range, 5.0V, 8MHz, w/ATMega328P and load the Files=>Example=>Chibi=>chibi_ex01_hello_world1 example. Select verify and upload. You might get the error:

     [exec] Sketch uses 4,084 bytes (14%) of program storage space. Maximum is 28,672 bytes.
     [exec] Global variables use 482 bytes of dynamic memory.
     [exec] avrdude: ser_open(): can't open device "/dev/ttyUSB0": Permission denied
     [exec] ioctl("TIOCMGET"): Inappropriate ioctl for device

This is a permissions problem, which happens the first time you run the software. To fix this, create a file (as superuser) called /etc/udev/rules.d/52-arduino.rules which contains:

SUBSYSTEMS=="usb", KERNEL=="ttyUSB[0-9]*", ATTRS{idVendor}=="0403", ATTRS{idProduct}=="6001", SYMLINK+="sensors/ftdi_%s{serial}"

You may have to add yourself to the dialout group:

sudo adduser `whoami` dialout

Unplug the device, plug it back in, and you should be good to go!

See if you want more info

A sample Freakduino program that transmits on all of the channels

Here is a simple program that just transmits on all of the US channels. I ran “rfcat -s” to watch the spectrum analyzer show me the incoming traffic. You will have to change the baud rate on the serial monitor to match the rate in your program (e.g. 57600). This program prints out the channels, but you can comment out these lines to make it run faster.

I added some sample code to make the program more of a complete program, especially for US users.

#include <chibi.h>
#include <src/chb_drvr.h> // needed for OQPSK_SIN
#include <chibiUsrCfg.h>
#define DEST_ADDR 5 // this will be address of our receiver
byte channel;

void setup() {
    byte b;
// chibiCmdInit(57600);
   Serial.begin(57600);   // Print the starting channel   
// b=chibiGetChannel();     
   chibiSetMode(OQPSK_SIN); // Select the mode for US    
   chibiSetDataRate(0) ; // 250 kb/s    
// chibiSetDataRate(1) ; // 500 kb/s    
// chibiSetDataRate(2) ; // 1000 kb/s      
// chibiSetShortAddr(0xAAAA);    
   channel = 1;    
// chibiSetChannel(15);    
   pinMode(13, OUTPUT); 
void loop() {   
// put your main code here, to run repeatedly:     
// turn on LED   
   digitalWrite(13, HIGH);   
   Serial.println("TX on channel");   
   byte dataBuf[100];   
   strcpy((char *)dataBuf, "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ");   
   chibiTx(0xBBBB, dataBuf, strlen((char *)dataBuf)+1);   
// r = chb_get_rand();   
// Serial.println(r);   
   digitalWrite(13, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW  
// delay(100);              // wait for a second   
   if (channel > 10) {     
      channel = 1;   

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