Monthly Archives: December 2016

Hacking the Kingston Mobile Elite Wireless (MLW221)

The Back Story

One day while browsing my local BestBuy store, I came across a Kingston Mobile Elite Wireless unit. It was on clearance for around $10, which was a steal compared to its original price tag of $49.99. I just happened to be in need of an SD Card Reader, and seeing as how it had one and was only $10, I bought it. It wasn’t until nearly 2 years later that I would realize the true value of my purchase that day.

I had just picked up a couple of the New Nintendo 3DS handhelds (non-xl) on Black Friday and was looking to keep one for myself. Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was to mod it so I could use it for emulation. One of the steps required was to block communication between the N3DS and  the update server (69.25.139.140).

Since my router was provided by my ISP it’s rather limited in its features. It was suggested to use the OpenWRT project on other hardware and to my surprise, the Kingston Mobile Elite Wireless was on the list!  I couldn’t believe it, this glorified SD Card Reader was capable of running OpenWRT. I was starting to wish I tracked down more of the things.

The Specs

Featuring the Ralink MT7620N ver:2 eco:3 @ 580MHz, along with 16 MB Spansion S25FL129P1 Flash Memory, and 64 MB SK Hynix H5PS5162GFR of DDR2 RAM, this was no normal SD Card Reader. It even features an 1810mAh (6.878Wh) Li-ion rechargeable battery which is capable of either powering the unit or an attached USB device.

The system has no visible Ethernet connection but does feature a connection directly on the logic board (T- T+ R- R+) as well as a Serial connection (GRD TX RX VCC).

The Requirements

– Kingston Mobile Elite Wireless unit model# MLW221 (*Firmware 1.1.5.2)
– SD Card or USB Storage Device (Formatted to Fat32)
– Internet Access (DUH!)
– Soldering Iron (Optional)
– Ethernet Cable (Optional)
– Serial Cable (Optional)

The Disclaimer

WARNING; PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Tampering with your device will void any warranty and could potentially brick your device. I assume no responsibility for any loss or hardship (be it loss of property, equipment, bodily injury, life, money, time or other) incurred directly or indirectly by using this site, guide or any of its contents (such as images/links/data etc).

The Hack

Step 1
Verify the currently installed Firmware is version 1.1.5.2.

Press and hold the Power Button on the MLW221 for about 4 seconds.
Using a laptop, tablet or other device connect to the Mobile Elite Wi-Fi Hotspot.

You can use the App or simply follow the directions below.
The default IP address of the MLW221 is 192.168.200.254 Type the IP address into your web browser and press Enter. You should now see a login page.

By default, there is no password set on the device. If needed, you can use a pin in the hole next to the power button to press the reset button on the MLW221 if a password was set and forgotten.

The firmware version should now be displayed on your screen.
If your firmware is below 1.1.5.2 you’ll need to update before continuing.
If it’s on a higher firmware, I really can’t comment as I haven’t tested this on beyond 1.1.5.2.

Step 2
Updating the Firmware to 1.1.5.2

If you’re on firmware 1.1.5.2 already follow the steps below but make sure to download the OpenWRT firmware and not the update. Else do the update to 1.1.5.2 then install the OpenWRT firmware.

Update Procedure: http://www.kingston.com/us/support/technical/downloads?product=mlw221&filename=mlwfw_v1

– Please make sure the MobileLite Wireless reader is fully charged before proceeding. If the device’s battery LED is a solid green, it’s fully charged. If the LED is amber (orange/red), please charge the MobileLite Wireless reader until the LED is solid green.

– The device (SD/USB) being used to update the MobileLite Wireless reader must be formatted with the file system FAT32.

How to Format and other how to videos, please visit the link below: http://www.kingston.com/us/support/technical/howtodt

Warning: Remove any device (USB/SD) not being used to update the firmware on the MobileLite Wireless reader. Kingston is not responsible for any data loss that may occur if a device is left in the reader during the update process. DO NOT power off the reader during the update process. DO NOT remove the SD/USB from the MLW during the update process. Doing so will damage the reader.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our free technical support for assistance. Technical Support: (877) 546-4786.

1. Insert your card or USB to the computer.

2. Click on the Download Firmware Update link below to begin the download.

3. If prompted for a ‘Save’ location, navigate to the device chosen in step 1.

4. This is an important step; please make sure the BIN file is saved/extracted to the root of the device (USB/SD) and NOT to a folder. If you don’t see it right away when you go into the USB drive or card, it’s not on the root. Simply find it in the USB drive or card and cut and paste it to the root.

5. Once the file is saved to the USB or card, please “Safely Remove’ the USB or card from the computer. In a Mac, drag the mounted device to the Trash. In Windows, use the Safe to Remove Hardware” option in the taskbar (bottom right corner in most cases).

6. With the MobileLite turned off, insert the USB/Card into it.

7. Power on the MobileLite device by holding the ‘Power On’ button for more than 3 seconds.

8. The MobileLite Wireless will initially turn on and broadcast a wireless signal. After a few seconds, it will reboot and the blue ‘bridged’ LED will begin to flash.

9. The update process will start automatically and should take approximately 2 minutes to complete.

10. Once the process is completed the blue ‘bridged’ LED will stop flashing and the blue wireless LED will come back on.

11. Once the blue wireless LED is on and the blue ‘bridged’ LED has stopped flashing, please reset your MobileLite wireless reader. To reset, use a paper clip to hold down the reset button for 12 seconds. The reset button is to the right of the power button.

To make sure the firmware update was successful please connect your device to the MobileLite Wireless reader and open the MobileLite’s app settings to see the updated firmware version or login at 192.168.200.254 default firmware or OpenWRT192.168.1.1

Download 1.1.5.2 Firmware Update

Download OpenWRT Firmware

Step 3
Login and setup OpenWRT.

You’ll want to change your SSID and setup security right away. I won’t go into details because there’s already a lot of this online and it’s not that hard to figure out.

Step 4
Optional

You can cut an ethernet cable and wire it directly to the logic board using the pinout below. Again, self-explanatory.

Pin 1 = Tx+
Pin 2 = Tx-
Pin 3 = Rx+
Pin 6 = Rx-

Next to the Ethernet connections you’ll also find connections for Serial. Do not connect to Vcc.
mlw221-serial

You can use a Serial to USB adapter, and most Arduino’s should also work. Again, I’m not going to get deeper into this as it’s optional.

That’s all folks!
Be sure to check out the resources below for more information.

The Resources

Manual
http://media.kingston.com/support/downloads/Kingston_MLW_Beta_Guide.pdf

Manufacturer Website
http://www.kingston.com/us/support/technical/downloads?product=mlw221&filename=mlwfw_v1

Wiki Containing useful images and information
http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/kingston/mlw221

OpenWRT Forum Post on Kingston Mobilelite MLW221
https://forum.openwrt.org/viewtopic.php?id=48401