MotoLoRa Advisor

Notes of replacing radio board of an old pager with Arduino+LoRa boards.

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These are notes about how Motorola Advisor was modified to receive messages over LoRa. Soldering is messy, and code is an another mess, but feel free to do it better and improve the code.

So, this "project" was something I poked at between spring and autumn of 2021. Can't remember everything, but hopefully this is enough for you to do the same. I'm not experienced in electronics or Arduinos so you might notice that.

Anyway, watched the Hackers movie about a year ago and after that I had to have a Motorola Advisor pager. Bought one on Ebay and once it got from Kazakhstan, though Customs and all, to my hands, I noticed that it was on a marine VHF frequency. Luckily you can pull the radio receiver board out easily and put different one in, but those things are rare around here and/or I'd need a license to send messages... Then I had this MotoLoRa brainfart, which I'm trying to document here.

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x-zip-compressed - 98.36 kB - 02/20/2022 at 12:33



This is the code for Arduino.

ino - 30.30 kB - 12/27/2021 at 15:46


  • Clearing Advisor config password

    Pena Sarajärvi02/20/2022 at 13:19 0 comments

    I'll add these (more or less iffy) instructions to clear your Advisor password. These old pagers may have been provided by a company, which did not want their users to poke them around, so they set a password. Unfortunately these same companies might have ran down their pager networks, retired their engineers, etc. and there's no records or motivation to provide passwords to whoever may ask for it.

    Are password protected Advisors paper weights then? Nope, if you can program an Advisor using Motorola's software, you need just one wire and a small executable to clear its password. Oh, and some luck.

    First of all, make sure you've wired the serial right and Motorola's software can read configuration. Obviously it needs the password, but if it asks for one, you've probably set it right. Reminder: three holes on left side, top one is RX, middle one TX and bottom one is ground. Also: "serial1=directserial realport:com4" in Dosbox config works for me when I use FTD1232 TTL USB adapter thingy.

    Get from this project's files. It was found from a Russian site -- I'm sure the original source will be available as long as the Earth exists, but it probably doesn't hurt to have an another copy available.

    Open the zip and you'll find Russian instructions (there's a good picture of the chip we'll be poking with a wire) and another zip, which includes the executables for Dosbox. There's two kinds of executables: ADV, EXP, PLUS and RSS which remove password prompt, but also ADVD, EXPD, PLUSD and RSSD which clear the whole configuration.

    Now, we have a password protected Advisor so which executable we should run? You might figure that ADV or ADVD would be the right answer, but nope... In the Russian forum someone mentions that there's a typo and for Advisor you want to use RSS or RSSD. Oops, that's fine. :)

    Anyway, get your Advisor ready, run RSS.EXE on Dosbox and it'll ask you to ground pin 8 of U2 chip.

    U2 is the smaller chip under the radio board and its eight pin is the third from top left to right. The picture in is pretty clear:

    Might be a tricky to solder, but holding the wire firmly in place should be enough, because the executable doesn't take long to do its magic. On first try I did solder the Dupont wire to it (by heating the pin, which also heated the tiny pin pad, etc. and it stuck good enough), but held the wire when writing this.

    The executable throws hex values on screen in a few seconds and might finish succesfully... or it gets stuck like this. If it gets stuck, close Dosbox and check pager screen if it has the operator name visible: if it's blank, password might be cleared.

    Try reading the pager configuration using Motorola's software. If it still asks for the password, try running RSS.EXE, ground the pin, etc. again.

    If the executable could do its thing, Motorola's software will read configuration succesfully and it'll show the password and that download password is set to 'no'. Do your configuration, program the pager and you're done.

  • Quick return to the project

    Pena Sarajärvi02/16/2022 at 17:35 0 comments

    Threw in a fresh discount store AAA battery to see how long the Advisor will run. The "POGSAC keepalive" was set to 14 minutes, but turned out that after ~22 hours the pager began to vibrate (weaker than usually) every few seconds. The battery voltage had dropped low enough that when Arduino had sent the null message, it tried to reboot, but Arduino+LoRa module drew too much current, causing pager to reset constantly. Multimeter showed 0.6-0.7 volts in the battery.

    Not sure if the keepalive thing is required due to this obvious sign... I dunno, use it or don't.

    Anyway, 22 hours is good enough for gags, a night out, etc. I bet the most power hungy part is the LoRa module. It does have a sleep mode, but I don't think it'll receive while sleeping. Would it wake up on looooong preamble or something? No idea. Might look into that later when I have time.

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