Posts tagged: modding

Droidock

About two weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and retired my trusty iPhone 3G, and went to the dark bright side, with an Orange San Francisco (also known as the ZTE Blade). At £99 (including a compulsory £10 Orange topup) it can be SIM unlocked for free and flashed to Froyo 2.2 with a variety of ROMs.

But despite a incredible take up by punters everywhere, the lack of handset accessories is frustrating. Until recently we couldn’t even get an OSF specific screen protector, let alone a protective cover. And still we can not buy a desktop charger that fits!

And so, when a colleague was unpacking a toner cartridge and I spotted the polystyrene padding material, I thought, why not bodge one myself?

15 minutes (and a sharp blade) later, and voila!

Ooh Arr-duino

Santa this year was very generous to my son and gifted him with a Maverick Atom XT RTR 1/18 Electric 4WD Truggy but failed to mention that the batteries that came with it could only be left in the charger for 6 hours, no longer. With grave warnings about explosions and fire, I tried to find an egg-timer on a socket kind of solution, but could not find anything that would go beyond 4 hours.

So what is a tinkerer to do? He makes one himself! ;)




A long time ago I bought an Arduino, but never really got any further with it than a blinking RGB led. Now I finally found a purpose for it :) I was going to build an Arduino controlled timer socket!

All I needed now were some kind of relay, some sockets, a few buttons and a way of letting the user my son know what the time was set to and if it was on or not. I ended up with a Ciseco Arduino Relay Shield, two Maplin push-to-make switches, a DFRobot I2C 16×2 LCD and a Maplin project box big enough to fit it all in

First a small word of warning. You are dealing with MAINS voltage, which can be lethal if you fool around. DO NOT EVER! connect the bits to mains power when parts of it are exposed. You’ve been warned

I started off with a small mockup of materials and then got my trusty Dremel clone out and started cutting away at the project case.

First off is the socket in which the battery charger can be plugged. A small template on paper is by far the easiest way to make sure you don’t cut out too much behind the socket

With the socket in place, I created the template for the LCD. I took my time with this, as I didn’t want to cut out too much. A lot of careful sanding ensured that only the black part would be visible, and nothing else. Then with the help of some small bolts and nuts, I created some spacers, enabling the LCD to sit nicely in the cutout. Lots of hotglue completes the mounting

The buttons only required some measuring to make sure they are neatly symetric and do not interfere with the LCD

All that remains is the IEC socket where the power will go into the project box

Now with everything in place, all we need to do is connect the components together with some wire using the below schematic

Warm up the soldering iron and just follow the diagram. As my soldering skills are not that great, I also used a bit of heatshrink here and there to make sure that wires could not short on each other :)

I’m using an old iPhone charger to power the Arduino as it provides a neat 5V/1A, with a small retractable USB lead with a Type A to B converter. A quick test of the wiring to make sure it all works as planned

Now with construction over, it was time to do the Arduino coding. The LCD uses the LiquidCrystal I2C library which takes care of all the hard work interfacing to it. Likewise, the Metro library takes care of the timer. So, it is just a simple case of increasing the clock by an hour every time the red button is pressed, and starting the timer when the green button is pressed. Once the timer is running, any button press will stop the timer and reset the state to the beginning.

// Arduino controlled timer socket
// (CC BY) 2011
// http://awooga.nl
 
// pull in libraries
#include <Wire.h>
#include <LiquidCrystal_I2C.h>
#include <Metro.h>
 
 
// arduino pins constants
#define RELAY 2 // black wire connected to input on shield
#define RED   6 // green wire
#define GREEN 7 // white wire
 
// i2c pin A5 = white wire
// i2c pin A4 = green wire
 
// allow between 1 and 6 hours
#define MINIMUM_TIME 1
#define DEFAULT_TIME 6
#define MAXIMUM_TIME 6
 
 
const unsigned long MILLISECONDS=1;
const unsigned long SECONDS=(1000*MILLISECONDS);
const unsigned long MINUTES=(60*SECONDS);
const unsigned long HOURS=(60*MINUTES);
const unsigned long DAYS=(24*HOURS);
 
const unsigned long UNITS=HOURS;
 
 
// prgram states
#define IDLE         0
#define RED_BUTTON   1
#define GREEN_BUTTON 2
#define MENU         3
#define PAUSE        4
#define STOP_TIMER   5
#define CANCEL_TIMER 6
 
 
// global variables
byte events;
byte countdowntime;
boolean menu_running;
boolean timer_running;
 
boolean debug = false;
 
byte currentRed = LOW;
byte currentGreen = LOW;
byte previousRed = LOW;
byte previousGreen = LOW;
 
// set the LCD address to 0x27 for the 16x2 display
LiquidCrystal_I2C lcd(0x27, 16, 2);
 
// initiate Metro object
Metro relayMetro = Metro(0, true);
 
 
// arduino setup routine
void setup() {
 
  // set the arduino pins
  pinMode(RELAY, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(RED, INPUT);
  pinMode(GREEN, INPUT);  
 
  // initialise the lcd
  lcd.init();
  lcd.backlight();
 
  // activate debugging on the serial port
  if (debug) {
    Serial.begin(9600);
    Serial.println("Lets go!");
  }
 
  // initialise variables
  events = IDLE;
  countdowntime = DEFAULT_TIME;
  menu_running = false;
  timer_running = false;
  digitalWrite(RELAY, LOW);
}
 
 
// arduino loop routine
void loop() {
 
  switch (events) {
 
    case IDLE:
      events = Idling();
      break;
 
    case MENU:
      events = MainMenu();
      break;
 
    case RED_BUTTON:
      events = RedButton();
      break;
 
    case GREEN_BUTTON:
      events = GreenButton();
      break;
 
    case PAUSE:
      events = Pause();
      break;
 
    case STOP_TIMER:
      events = StopTimer();
      break;
 
    case CANCEL_TIMER:
      events = CancelTimer();
      break;
 
    default:
      events = IDLE;
      break;
  }
}
 
 
int MainMenu() {
 
  if (timer_running) {
    return IDLE;
  }
 
  if (menu_running) {
    return IDLE;
  }
 
  if (debug) { Serial.println("MainMenu()"); }
 
  lcd.clear();
  lcd.print("  Red: Set time");
  lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
  lcd.print("Green: Go (");
  lcd.print(countdowntime, DEC);
  if (countdowntime == 1) {
    lcd.print("hr)");
  }
  else {
    lcd.print("hrs)");
  }
 
  menu_running = true;
 
  return IDLE;
}
 
 
int Idling() {
 
  boolean do_red = false;
  boolean do_green = false;
 
  if (timer_running) {
    if (relayMetro.check()) {
      return STOP_TIMER;
    }
  }
 
  currentRed = digitalRead(RED);
  currentGreen = digitalRead(GREEN);
 
  if (currentRed != previousRed) {
    do_red = (currentRed == HIGH);
  }
  previousRed = currentRed;
 
  if (currentGreen != previousGreen) {
    do_green = (currentGreen == HIGH);
  }
  previousGreen = currentGreen;
 
  if ((do_red) && (!do_green)) {
    return RED_BUTTON;
  }
 
  if ((!do_red) && (do_green)) {
    return GREEN_BUTTON;
  }
 
  // all other button combinations are ignored
  return MENU;
}
 
 
int RedButton() {
  if (debug) { Serial.println("RedButton()"); }
 
  if (timer_running) {
    return CANCEL_TIMER;
  }
 
  if (++countdowntime > MAXIMUM_TIME) { countdowntime = MINIMUM_TIME; }
 
  lcd.clear();
  lcd.print("Time set to");
  lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
  lcd.print(countdowntime, DEC);
  if (countdowntime == 1) {
    lcd.print(" hour");
  }
  else {
    lcd.print(" hours");
  }
 
  menu_running = false;
 
  return PAUSE;
}
 
 
int GreenButton() {
  if (debug) { Serial.println("GreenButton()"); }
 
  if (timer_running) {
    return CANCEL_TIMER;
  }
 
  lcd.clear();
  lcd.print("Running timer");
  lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
  lcd.print("for ");
  lcd.print(countdowntime, DEC);
  if (countdowntime == 1) {
    lcd.print(" hour");
  }
  else {
    lcd.print(" hours");
  }
 
  unsigned long t = countdowntime * UNITS;
 
  timer_running = true;
  if (debug) {
    Serial.print("Setting metro for ");
    Serial.print(t);
    Serial.println(" seconds");
  }
  relayMetro.interval(t);
 
  digitalWrite(RELAY, HIGH);
 
  return IDLE;
}
 
 
int StopTimer() {
  if (debug) { Serial.println("StopTimer()"); }
 
  digitalWrite(RELAY, LOW);
 
  lcd.clear();
  lcd.print("Timer finished");
 
  timer_running = false;
  menu_running = false;
  relayMetro.reset();
 
  return PAUSE;
}
 
 
int CancelTimer() {
  if (debug) { Serial.println("CancelTimer()"); }
 
  digitalWrite(RELAY, LOW);
 
  lcd.clear();
  lcd.print("Timer stopped");
 
  timer_running = false;
  menu_running = false;
  relayMetro.reset();
 
  return PAUSE;
}
 
 
int Pause() {
  delay(1000);
  return IDLE;
}

Or just download the .pde file here

Obviously you can go all crazy with options and clocks, but I just wanted something quick and working. Changing the code to do all that is just a matter of opening it up, and uploading the new software.




And just to prove it is all working, here’s a small video demonstration. It doesn’t show the timer ending, you just have to take my word on that :D

Bye Bye Standby double wall switch

I’m a big fan of Bye Bye Standby and am slowly replacing all switches and lights with their products. One thing that is sorely missed though, is a double wall switch. The kind that sits at the bottom of your stairs and controls the lights upstairs and downstairs. Home Easy do one, but that protocol is not compatible. So I combined the best of both worlds and cobbled one together myself :)




Start by stripping all switches down to their bare PCBs. The idea is to use the push button switches inside the Home Easy HE308 switch and connect them to the push button switches from the Bye Bye Standby wall switches and then stuff it all in the wall.

Carefully solder wires to each BBSB switch and then solder them to the HE308. As the PCB of the HE308 connects some of the pins, it wouldn’t work when I tested it. No problem though, it just meant that I had to get my faithful Dremel out and dremel away all PCB lines surrounding the switches.

Make sure you test it once it’s all been connected up, not just when you’re finished putting it back into your wall ;) At this point in time, make sure you have set the address codes to the correct modules.

As the whole package is larger than my backbox, I removed the bottom from a plastic backbox and used a hammer and old screwdriver to chisel away at the wall behind it. Once I had everything inside and made sure that it was still working, I discovered that the edges from the backbox were larger than the switch itself. Doh!

I took everything out again and carefully reduced the edging until it all fitted neatly underneath the switch.






For those who are worried about the batteries, they are no more difficult to replace than a normal BBSB switch. I would replace both at the same time though if you have to :)

The Mul-tea Charger

Who doesn’t have a multitude of devices, phones and other gadgets on their desks? I certainly have, and I finally had enough of all the chargers and wallwarts that each item seems to bring with them. With two iPhones almost constantly being charged, and a Nokia phone thrown in for good measure, I needed to have something flexible enough for those plus any future gadgets. So, I googled a bit, and found the IDAPT I3, and the beautiful, but ridiculously priced The Sanctuary. And then I started to think, how easy would it be to put a mains powered USB hub inside a box and have several USB charger leads coming out of the box, each charging a different device?




And the answer is, very easy :)

I started off with a 4 port powered USB hub, which I had lying in a drawer and plugged my iPhone charger leads into it, expecting them to instantly charge my two iPhones. But to my surpise, nothing happened… so another quick Google later, I came accross a blog entry of Carl Hutzler, which details why they won’t charge. All you have to do is sacrifice the hub and forego it’s PC functionality by cutting the D+/- lines and short them. A quick test shows they now finally charge themselves. Apparently it is better to stick 2x 100K Ohm resistors on the D+/- lines, which I will do at some point, but for now, this will do.

All I now had to do was find a suitable SWMBO friendly container, and as our furniture is all beech, the tea storage container I found for £1.99 at QD stores was perfect. I just needed to gut the compartiments out and put something on top of the plastic lid. At my local crafts store I found a small foam pad for 50p which was nice and soft. Unfortunately I got my measurements all wrong, so I messed up the black pad, but SWMBO came to the rescue by rummaging through my kids crafts drawers by digging up a piece of brown padding.

The final thing to do is then drill some holes at the locations convenient for your devices, and put it all together. Job done!





The Eee PC Digital Picture Frame

I just can’t help myself. It all started way back in 2002 with The Swedish Chef, followed in 2005 by the (still) popular Project Bling: the desire to create the ultimate digital picture frame.

So here it is, the third (and hopefully last) instalment: The Eee PC Digital Picture Frame aka The Eee PF.

I’ve divided it up in four sections, for easy digesting ;) All pictures can be enlarged, and the complete set of pictures can be found in the gallery.

Part 1: Disassembling the Eee PC
Part 2: Mounting the LCD
Part 3: Building the frame
Part 4: Finishing touches




Part 1: Disassembling the Eee PC

It starts off with an Asus Eee PC 701 2G, which is perfectly small, yet cheap enough to destroy in the name of science.

Asus Eee PC 701 2G

Push the three tabs at the top of the keyboard in and lift the keyboard up to reveal the keyboard connector at the bottom of the keyboard. Using a small flat screwdriver, push the two locks open and remove the keyboard completely. Next to the keyboard connector is the touchpad connector which should be disconnected as well.

With the keyboard removed, the bottom half of the case is next. Remove the nine screws as indicated in the pictures. Turn the Eee PC over and remove the six remaining screws. For good measure, also remove the battery by sliding the two latches outwards, and slide the battery out. Flip the Mini over again and open the lid again. Using a plastic wedge (or your finger nails if you have them), pry the case open using some gentle force along the sides. Be patient at this point as the plastic latches inside the case, are fragile and will snap if you exercise too much force.

Now we just need to remove the motherboard. Disconnect the speaker and display connectors. There are two latches holding it in place, located at the bottom edge of the PCB. Lift the motherboard up at the right hand side and then pull it out up and sideways.

Time to separate the LCD from the bezel. Six screws are hidden underneath the plastic covers which are stickied in place. Use a plastic wedge along the side of the bezel but be very careful, it is very fragile. Take your time and be gentle. Just four screws and four sticky metal tape strips to remove before you can lift the LCD clean out.

Voilà, the Eee PC naked! Now we are ready for some serious modding ;)

The Eee PC dissected
 

Part 2: Mounting the LCD

Whatever you do, make sure you buy a frame and mount which have a high WAF since it needs to live in the living room. You don’t want to find yourself building something like this and then SWMBO tossing it in the bin because is clashes with the design ;) Take the mount and measure the dimensions of the LCD and frame and carefully cut it to size. As usual; measure twice, cut once :)

The LCD driver board sits neatly underneath the LCD, but when you mount the display into the frame, it doesn’t fit. Cutting away a bit of the frame allows it to be sunken into it and sit flush with the frame. Some double sided tape holds the mount in place.

On to the motherboard. This needs to be mounted with enough clearance above the LCD so that heat can escape and to do this I made my own spacers using normal motherboard spacers which I had plenty of from my PC building days. The screw holes on the Eee PC are tiny, so cut away at the top of the spacers to make them small enough to fit. Looks rather neat, eh?

The Eee PC mounted
 

Part 3: Building the frame

Before we create the frame, we need to think about an alternative heat sink. Normally, the bottom of the keyboard would dissipate the heat, so after doing some testing, I settled on an Akasa Southbridge cooler and some tiny Maplin heat sinks. Tests showed that the temps remained nicely around the 50ºC mark, which will rise to about 65ºC once the back cover will be on. Well within the limits :)

Using some 4mm Pine Stripwood cut to length, mark out all the ports and crevices that need to be carefully removed from the frame to allow access once everything is closed up again.

Here’s a quick mock up of how it all will fit together once we’ve painted the frame and glued it to the photo frame’s back.

The Eee PC framed

Because the power switch would be covered up when the back is glued on, we need to move the switch’s function to somewhere more convenient. Reading this blog post over at Infinity Squared on an external power switch, I decided to go for the smallest I could find at Maplin. My soldering is definitely not the best, so a bit of heat shrink camouflages most of it ;)

I also wanted to have some sort of visual indication that the frame is on or off (other than the tell-tale display ;)). But how to get the minuscule surface mounted LEDs displayed through the frame? I had seen something previously, where light was transported using a small transparent acrylic tube. And when I was killing some time wandering around my local Tesco, I found my 48p answer… translucent golf markers! Remove the heads, drill a few holes and Bob is a relative.

Almost there. Using some left over black paint, paint all the sides and make sure that once assembled, all the small blemishes are hidden. Well, most of them ;)

Ready for assembly! Some glue, some patience and some skilful balancing of weighty items on top of the corners and all that is left to do is add the back cover.

The Eee PF framed and painted
 

Part 4: Finishing touches

A sheet of hardboard has been cut to be the approximate size and then using patience and lots of sanding made to fit exactly. The space at the bottom of the frame is perfect for the speakers, so using a small drill, create lots of small holes where the sound can penetrate through. It won’t be high fidelity, but it’s good enough for announcements. At the top of the frame, the microphone has been mounted, so we may be able to support voice commands in the future! A quick lick of paint finishes it off.

We’re re-using the stand from the picture frame, but instead of hammering it in the backboard, we have to glue it. I’ve used Araldite, which should create a long lasting strong bond.

And that is it! I’m quite pleased with the result, and even SWMBO commented on how nicely it looks in the living room… result!

The Eee PF finished

As a final note, I haven’t mentioned at all what software the frame is running, so before you bombard me with questions, I better list them here ;)




The OS is a standard Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop, with /usr compressed with squashfs/unionfs so it can fit on the 2GB SSD. After booting, it starts Firefox on my homepage, a PHP/Ajax/MySQL slideshow script which displays the pictures, weather and clock. The mousepointer is hidden using a small utility called Unclutter and the display is automatically switched off at night using sudo vbetool dpms off and switched on again in the morning using sudo vbetool dpms on. It’s still all a bit rough round the edges, but for now it works :)

Current Cost Classic vs CC128

Back in November I bought (well, actually I signed up to a new deal with E.ON which included one) a Current Cost electricity monitor, and hooked it up to my server so I could gather the stats for Cacti. I do this by running a small perl script which looks as follows:

#!/usr/bin/perl
# /usr/local/bin/cc-classic.pl
 
use Device::SerialPort qw( :PARAM :STAT 0.07 );
 
$port = "/dev/currentcost";
 
$ob = Device::SerialPort->new($port)
      or die "Can not open port $port\n";
$ob->baudrate(9600);
$ob->write_settings;
$ob->close;
 
open(SERIAL, "+>$port");
while ($line = <SERIAL>)
{
  if ($line =~ m!<ch1><watts>0*(\d+)</watts></ch1>.*<tmpr>\s*(-*[\d.]+)</tmpr>!)
  {
     $watts = $1;
     $temperature = $2;
     print "watts:$watts temp:$temperature";
     last;
  }
}
close(SERIAL);

This would give me the two values I am interested in; watts and temperature (since it sits in the garage node 0 ;)) in Cacti’s format:

$ /usr/local/bin/cc-classic.pl
watts:761 temp:11.3

But today, I received my new unit, a Current Cost CC128. It’s main benefit is that it supports individual appliance monitors, which makes the output even more useful. So, armed with a draft copy of the CC128 XML output document, I prepared my script to read as follows:

#!/usr/bin/perl
# /usr/local/bin/cc-cc128.pl
 
use Device::SerialPort qw( :PARAM :STAT 0.07 );
 
$port = "/dev/currentcost";
 
$ob = Device::SerialPort->new($port)
      or die "Can not open port $port\n";
$ob->baudrate(57600);
$ob->write_settings;
$ob->close;
 
open(SERIAL, "+>$port");
while ($line = <SERIAL>)
{
  if ($line =~ m!<tmpr>\s*(-*[\d.]+)</tmpr>.*<ch1><watts>0*(\d+)</watts></ch1>!)
  {
     $watts = $2;
     $temperature = $1;
     print "watts:$watts temp:$temperature";
     last;
  }
}
close(SERIAL);

And guess what… that works just fine ;)

For those who read diff:

$ diff /usr/local/bin/cc-classic.pl /usr/local/bin/cc-cc128.pl 
2c2
< # /usr/local/bin/cc-classic.pl
---
> # /usr/local/bin/cc-cc128.pl
10c10
< $ob->baudrate(9600);
---
> $ob->baudrate(57600);
17c17
<   if ($line =~ m!<ch1><watts>0*(\d+)</watts></ch1>.*<tmpr>\s*(-*[\d.]+)</tmpr>!)
---
>   if ($line =~ m!<tmpr>\s*(-*[\d.]+)</tmpr>.*<ch1><watts>0*(\d+)</watts></ch1>!)
19,20c19,20
<      $watts = $1;
<      $temperature = $2;
---
>      $watts = $2;
>      $temperature = $1;

Please note, the above only works with 1 sensor (the main transmitter), so it is likely to change in the future. For now it suits my need.

Modding the Dell Mini 9 – Part 2

I wasn’t planning on revisiting my Mini mods yet, but when someone offered (and I happened to be looking) an upgrade to a 32GB RunCore SSD, I could not pass on the occasion. The only problem was that it rendered my SSD activity light useless as the RunCore does not carry the same signal on the pin that the STEC drive uses.

Thankfully all the hard work figuring out where the negative side of the SSD light had to connect to was done once more by UnaClocker on the MyDellMini forums, so all I had to do was find a quiet Saturday and warm up the soldering iron.

We begin by undoing the work we did on the STEC. Heat up the pin on the SSD and remove the black wire. We will need to connect that to the RunCore drive.

As said, UnaClocker found out that the signal we need is present on a small resistor, which although tiny, isn’t the worst place in the world to solder on. Just fold back the sticker to reveal it. If you enlarge the 2nd picture, you will see which one it is. Use the tiniest amount of solder and attach the black wire to the resistor.

Fold back the sticker, put the SSD back into it’s slot and boot it up. Blue LED goodness once again!





Lies, damned lies, and statistics

I’ve been using a 1 wire network for quite some time now, but when I deleted a directory to much on my server, I lost a lot of the stats that I had gathered. A couple of weeks ago I finally got my behind in gear again and rebuild my network, this time making sure it all gets backed up ;)

One day I’ll write something about how it’s all been done, but for now you’ll have to suffice with some pretty graphs.

Here’s the daily graph for the temperatures in our bedrooms for the past 24 hours:

Daily temperatures Bedrooms

And recently I added a Current Cost meter to my network, which gives me the shocking facts about my electricity usage for the past 24 hours:

Daily electricy usage

The above graphs are updated hourly, and I’ve got other graphs too, extending the period of graphing. You can find them here for the time being.

Update 25.1.2009

And now you’re able to follow the stats on twitter: http://twitter.com/awoogadotnl

Modding the Dell Mini 9

Dell Mini 9

For Christmas this year I received a Dell Mini 9, which is one of the most flexible netbooks around. Searching around on the internet quickly revealed an incredible source of information posted on the forums over at My Dell Mini. As I was looking for a new modding project, the Mini 9 seemed perfect.



First an important message

The information below has all been taken from the My Dell Mini forums, especially the SSD activity LED mod by UnaClocker. I have merely adapted it to suit my own needs. As with all things involving voiding your warranty, I will not (and can not) take any responsibility for any problems that you have trying to do the same. You break it, you pay for it (and if you read on, so do I :))

 

Right, that’s out of the way, let’s get to it! Here’s a quick overview of the things that I have done to my Mini.

Part 1: Disassembling the Mini 9
Part 2: Disassembling an USB hub
Part 3: Disassembling an USB flash drive
Part 4: Putting it all together
 

Part 1: Disassembling the Mini 9

Dell publishes a great online manual which details how to disassemble your precious Mini 9. I used their guide and documented it all on one page. All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them for additional detail.

I used a selection of tools, but one that I would specifically like to recommend is the plastic wedge. This allows you to pry open the case without damaging it. I got mine when I bought a Brodit phone mount, but I’m sure Ebay will have a selection of these too.

Switch the Mini off if you haven’t already, and turn it over. I placed an old tea towel underneath it to prevent scratches to the mirror finish lid. First we need to remove the battery. On either side of the battery is a latch, which when pushed outwards, allows for the battery to be slide out.

The module cover is next. Two Phillips screws hold it in place and then using your nails, or the wedge tool, lift it up. It may require some force as it is held further into place by small plastic tabs.

With the module cover removed, you have access to the memory, SSD, WLAN card, and if you are lucky/ticked the WWAN option, a WWAN card. As you can see, I have already upgraded my memory to a 2GB SODIMM. To remove the memory, gently push away the latches on either side of the memory, until the module is tilted up. Then just pull it out.

The SSD is held down by two screws. Just unscrew them, and slide the SSD out of its socket.

Remove the two antenna wires from the WLAN card by gently (really gently) pulling them out from the sockets and undo the two screws. Just pull the card out and place it to one side.

My Mini doesn’t come with a WWAN card, so that leaves a nice empty space where we will stuff the USB hub and flash drive. More on that in the last part.

To make life as easy as possible, we need to have access to both sides of the mainboard, so the next item that need to be removed is the keyboard. Locate the two screws marked with a K and undo them. Turn the Mini over again (right side up), open the lid, and lift it up slightly to reveal the keyboard connector at the bottom of the keyboard. Using a small flat screwdriver, push the two locks open and remove the keyboard completely.

With the keyboard removed, the palmrest is next. Place the Mini again on it’s lid and remove the nine screws as indicated in the pictures. Two of them are below some rubber studs, which can be lifted out using a flat screwdriver. They have a sticky bit underneath, so they require a bit of an push to get over the initial resistance.

Flip the Mini over and open the lid again. Remove the seven screws. Disconnect the bluetooth, touchpad and power button connectors and then, using the plastic wedge, pry the case open using some gentle force along the sides. Be patient at this point as the plastic latches inside the case, are fragile and will snap if you exercise too much force.

Now we just need to remove the mainboard. There are two screws to undo, followed by a number of connectors. First route the WLAN antenna wires through the hole in the mainboard and disconnect the speaker connector just below it. Then disconnect the microphone, the two power connectors and the display connector.

Lift the mainboard up at the left side and then pull it out sideways.

That’s it! You’ve successfully made your first step on to the void your warranty ladder :D
 

Part 2: Disassembling an USB hub

Following a recommendation on the My Dell Mini forums for a small USB hub, I found the so called “Octopus” hub to be small enough to fit inside the WWAN space, leaving enough space for additional USB devices. I bought one on Ebay from a seller called 2008_topseller for £3.60 and had to wait about 2 weeks before it arrived. Plan your mods in advance ;)

Remove the plastic cover and it reveals the tiny PCB that will fit neatly in the WWAN slot later. Using a soldering iron remove all the existing wiring and (although not shown in these pictures), move the ceramic resonator from the bottom to the top (take note in which direction it needs to be on). Also make a note what wiring is which pin on the PCB. Fortunately the wiring follows the USB standard, which is Red/White/Green/Black.

Once done, put some electrical tape underneath the PCB to make sure that at no point that side is able to short on the mainboard. I also put a piece of double sided foam tape on it so it will remain in place once put inside the Mini.
 

Part 3: Disassembling an USB flashdrive

I bought a 16GB PNY Attache Premium USB Flash drive from Play.com, as it looked in the pictures small enough once all the plastics were removed and at £16.99 it was cheap enough.

But then things started to go wrong for me. Applying a bit too much force on the USB connector whilst trying to heat up the connector legs up, caused the copper pads to be removed completely from the PCB. Doh!

If anyone has an idea what I can do with it now (other than to bin it), use the contact form :)
 

Part 4: Putting it all together

Fire up the soldering iron, the time to kiss that warranty goodbye has come!

In order to add the SSD activity light, we need to tap into pin 52 on the standard STEC SSD. This is where having a spec sheet from the manufacturer comes in handy. Please note that this mod only works on the STEC SSD’s (as supplied standard by Dell), not any other brand. Pin 52 is marked as “-DSAP” with description “In the True IDE Mode, this input/output is the Disk Active/Slave Present signal in the Master/Slave handshake protocol”. To you and me that translates as disk activity :)

The SSD LED will then be located next to the battery surface mounted LED as shown in the picture.

The LED will also require a +3.3V source, which you can find on pad 52 of the WWAN connector.

In order to add the USB hub, we need to use the WWAN connector which carries the required Data+ (pad 38) and Data- (pad 36) signals. For completeness I also added +5V (found in the copper track that runs through the “L”) and ground (using a screw hole) from underneath the WLAN card.

Now comes the scary bit. Scrape, using a tip of a knife, a small area of the PCB coating (that Blue/Green layer you see) to reveal the copper track underneath. Then using a small dab of solder, attach the Red and Black wires. Protect the wires from stress by sticking some electrical insulated tape on top of it. Using an even smaller amount of solder, attach the White and Green wires to the WWAN pads, making sure the pads do not touch each other. If you can’t manage first time around, heat the pads up and remove the wiring again. Then retry it.

Just two more wires to go. As pin 52 on the SSD connector is miniscule, it is better to solder the Black wire onto the SSD directly. Make sure the wire is as flat and small as possible, and then use the tiniest amount of solder to attach it. Double check that you haven’t connected two pins together. The Red wire needs to be attached to the WWAN connector again on pad 52. By now, this should be easy ;)

Before we continue putting the hub and LED in place, fire up the mini (assembling just enough to get it to boot) to make sure it is still working. If it doesn’t, revisit your soldering and double check they are done properly.

Put the USB hub in it’s place and cut the USB wires to measure. Maintain a small amount of extra length, in case you need to move it around later. Solder the wires back to the USB hub in the correct order, and test the Mini again. It works!

Almost there now. Route the remaining Red and Black wires towards the battery LED and cut them to length. Solder a new LED and a resistor to the wires and test it is working. If it isn’t, then swap the legs of the LED around and try again as LEDs only work one way. You have to use a resistor suitable for the LED too. I used a 3000mcd “Tru-Colour” Blue LED with a forward voltage of 3-3.2V and a 100 ohm resistor. It doesn’t matter on which side of the LED the resistor goes, as long as it is there.

Unfortunately, when it came to assembling everything, I discovered that the way I have mounted the LED did not allow the case to be closed properly. I mounted it therefore slightly different, but I forgot to take pictures of it. I’m sure I will open up the case in the future and then I’ll update this page with the new pictures. In the pictures below it shows the LED in action when the SSD is being accessed, when the battery runs low, and when they both light up. Neat!






Finally, take a last look at the mods, before we close the module cover and call it a day ;)

Update 7.2.2009

I’ve upgraded to a 32GB RunCore SSD, so I have done the LED mod again. Have a look at this post for details

Node Zero 33 1/3 – The Final Install

Node Zero… Every respectable technology enthusiast has one, and so do I. It started all the way back in 2001 when I came across The Automated Home website and it’s associated mailing list. I knew nothing about home automation, audio distribution, video sharing, etc but was keen to learn and introduce at home (often with great resistance from SWMBO ;)).

Node Zero 2002So I build my first node zero to accommodate some of my servers in the garage and distributed the network from there into the living room. Due to the fortunate location of the garage being adjacent to the living room it is the ideal place to put stuff without worrying about the illusive WAF :)
You can’t really call the cupboard a node zero though, but if you closed the doors, at least it hid the cat5 wiring from the switch and modem it housed.

Node Zero 2004Flash forward to 2004 and with an ever increasing gadget count it was time to upgrade node zero. My dad is blessed with the carpentry gene and so with my instructions he set off to partition the garage in two parts where I reserved myself a shelf for the 2nd incarnation of my node zero. On the shelf my two TiVo’s and their satellite receivers were placed, followed soon by a Xbox Media Center, a scart switch and a Kat5 transmitter. The result: spaghetti junction all over again :(

So with an increasing demand on convenience and accessibility, I had to make amends. Bring on 2008 where my dad performs yet another masterpiece and creates a purpose build rack for me. The rack houses all my stuff, and with some space left at the bottom I even have room left for more toys! :D

Node Zero 2008

Find some more pictures in the gallery

RecyBling

I am a firm believer in recycling and am of course signed up to my local Freecycle group. Anything to good to throw away ends up there, but for one item I’ll make an exception… Project Bling! I’m still getting loads of visitors on that page, so someone out there can save himself a bit of work by getting the real deal. Just contact me and for the price of shipping it can be yours!

Update 19.5.2008

I’m sorry, but you are too late. The frame has been recycled

Mr Popular

And then to think I never had any friends at school ;)

Seems that some MAKE users have finally found my website, and in the space of three weeks have discovered my old TiVo project (as reported on MAKE: Blog) and the digital picture frame laptop (as reported on MAKE: Blog). Won’t be long before they discover the Xbox IR mod too and break my bandwidth limit for this month :D

Adding infrared to the Xbox

Xbox XIR Easy KitThe original Xbox makes, after a great games console, a fantastic versatile media player with the help of Xbox Media Center, or XBMC. You will need to chip or softmod your Xbox (there are a million guides/opinions on the internet so do some Googling) and a copy of the XBMC application. To fully appreciate XBMC, you also need to buy the DVD playback kit which allows you to control the Xbox using a remote control. The only problem is that Microsoft in its infinite wisdom decided that it doesn’t need the facility to switch the Xbox on remotely. As we are a generation of couch potatoes that is obviously not on!




Various solutions have been invented, but by far the easiest and most elegant one is the XIR Easy Kit, available from www.XIR.us. At $35.65 (£18.68 at today’s rate) it also makes it a bit of a bargain, so there really is no reason to fiddle with anything else.

You can read the pictorial here

The TiVo LCD Project

Flash of the past alert! It was way back in 2003 that I did a small modding project involving my favourite gadget of all time the TiVo and a small character LCD and created a mini How-To for it. I thought I lost the article forever when I accidentally deleted the web pages in one of my (many) server moves. Not so! A certain BobBlueUK knew his way around The Wayback Machine (unlike me) and digged up the original archived copy!

So in all its glory, here it is again :D




Ever wanted to find out what the TiVo is doing? Look no further :) On this page I will describe a way for you to display the program information on a small LCD display. It is only to be taken as a proof of concept, I’ll leave the actual mounting and cosmetics up to someone else.

Components

  1. A warranty voided TiVo
  2. A serial LCD. Mine is a 2×20 LCD pre-fitted with a BPK driver board from Milford Instruments, part number 6-121 @ £30.00
  3. A bit of cable with 3 wires (like cat5)
  4. A 3.5mm stereo jack plug with plastic barrel and strain relief sleeve from Maplin Electronics, part number HF98G @ £0.79
  5. A Futaba Servo Connector from Maplin Electronics, part number GZ94C @ £1.49
  6. 2x 4-Pin 5.08mm (0.2in.) Spacing Polarised Power Connectors (one male, one female) from Maplin Electronics, part numbers JW64U and JW65V @ £0.79 each. These things are better known as molex connectors
  7. A patient SWMBO

TiVo LCD Project

Instructions

The most tricky part of this project is opening up the TiVo, so best invite Stuart Booth over who can do it blindfolded using only his nose to guide him ;-) If he’s not available you will have no choice but to do it yourself, so get a Torx T10 screwdriver and remove the 3 screws at the back of the TiVo. THIS WILL VOID YOUR WARRANTY, but I guess you did that already when you installed the Turbonet card and added a nice big hard disk, right? ;-)

TiVo LCD ProjectWith the TiVo opened, you need to put the 2 molex connectors (item 6) to work by making up a splitter which is put in between the hard disk and the power supply. BE VERY CAREFUL AROUND THE POWER SUPPLY! That thing is lethal as it maintains the charge even after it has been switched off for several hours/days. Anyway, the thing you have to bear in mind is that you need to connect all wires on the molex connectors, and on to the +5V and GND (Ground) add two wires which you need to feed to the outside of the TiVo. I used the same space as where my cat5 cable is going out of the TiVo (the one connected to the Turbonet card), just underneath the fan.

Then it is soldering time… Take the 3.5mm stereo jack and connect a wire to the tip of the connector. That was soldering time :-)

TiVo LCD ProjectNow take all 3 wires (and make sure you have them appropriate coloured, like red for +5V, black for ground and any other colour for the TX (transmit), and connect them to the Servo connector, making sure that you do them in the same order as there are pins on the LCD. My LCD has 3 pins, labelled +5V, GND and Recv (receive), which makes it pretty obvious which wire goes where. Your mileage may vary of course.

Time to test it methinks :-) Close the TiVo and hook it up in your AV setup and power it up again. The LCD display should now be powered, and depending on what model/type you are using it might display something (like garbage or a version number) or in my case, a blank screen with just the backlight on.

Pat yourself on the back, the hard work has been done. Now it is back to the good old computer and open up a telnet and ftp session to the TiVo as you need to install a small .tcl script written by a TiVo community user called Demark. He posted it to this thread and all I had to do was modify it slightly to output the lines correctly. You can find my copy here.

TiVo LCD Project

Install the .tcl file in /var/hack and run it with the ‘&’ to detach it from your shell, otherwise you will reboot your TiVo when you try to interrupt it. To stop the script you simply do a ‘touch /tmp/vfd.stop’ and within a minute the script will stop. Make sure you remove the /tmp/vfd.stop file before you start it again though.




It is quite possible that I’ve skimmed over something which I think is trivial to do, but proves a real nightmare for you, so if you got any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Good luck modding!

Famous

In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutesAndy Warhol

So here are a few of the sites linking to Awooga!!!:

Digg.com (where it all started)
Automated Home UK
eHomeUpgrade
Nordic Hardware (Swedish!)
LiveCD News
TousPourUn (French!)
Paul’s Blog

Project Bling

Ever had the desire to display your digital pictures in a frame without going through the hassle of printing them and re-framing? My inspiration came from the write up on Applefritter and I decided to take the plunge and destroy a hand-me-down IBM Thinkpad 560X in the name of science ;)

Project Bling

Over the space of a couple of days, I disassembled the laptop and carefully assembled only the bare minimum required parts on the back side of a wooden picture frame. I’m quite pleased with the result if I say so myself :)




We start off with an old laptop, and remove all the plastics to get it as thin as possible. Make sure you test the laptop after you finished.

Now it is time to slowly put everything together again inside the pictureframe.

Make sure that you can still access the vital ports on the laptop after it is closed.

Until I’ve sorted out a proper on/off solution this little stick will do just fine ;)

And finally, this is what the finished product looks like.






Have a look in the gallery for some more pictures