Running Doom on an Old GPS Receiver

Virtually everyone has a smartphone with them at all times that has multiple GPS navigation apps available, and many cars have GPS built into the infotainment system, as well. That means that the dedicated GPS receivers that were so popular in the 2000s are now essentially worthless, and it’s easy to find one for a few bucks at a thrift store or garage sale. Jason Gin of Rip It Apart picked up a Magellan RoadMate 1412 GPS receiver at garage sale, and that particular model happens to run Window CE. So Gin did what any self-respecting hacker would do, and got it to run Doom.

The video game Doom has been used as a sort of a hacking benchmark for decades now. If you can make some proprietary commercial device run Doom, then you have proof that you have successfully hacked it. Gin had previously accomplished that with a Keysight InfiniiVision DSOX1102G digital oscilloscope, and now he has managed to do it again with the Magellan GPS receiver. That’s not a coincidence, as both devices run Microsoft Windows CE, which was an operating system designed specifically for embedded solutions. None of the Windows CE desktop is normally accessible by the user, however, and that’s why some hacking was required.

Upon plugging the Magellan GPS receiver into a computer, Gin found that it shows up as a standard USB drive containing all of the operating system files in FAT32 format. The factory setup has Windows CE automatically launch the Magellan GPS interface, with no way to exit it. But by simply changing the name of TotalCommander/CE (the Windows CE desktop) to match the expected “Navigator.exe,” Gin was able to get to the desktop — at least part of it.

Because many of the necessary files are missing, the full desktop with the taskbar doesn’t show up. That includes the Explorer shell and command prompt. Fortunately, Gin was able to replace the command prompt with MortScript. That is a scripting engine designed for applications like this, and allowed Gin to launch Doom at startup. There is no way to actually control the game, as the GPS receiver can’t act as a host for USB HID devices. But you can see Doom running through its intro demo.

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Author: Cameron Coward

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