The MessagePad; a thoroughly hacked macbook turned tablet

hacked macbook

Remember the times before the iPad existed? When a tablet PC was actually a full computer in a tablet form factor? Yeah, those days we were all so very optimistic about the future of tablet computing. Don’t think we don’t appreciate the new amazing toys that we’ve got around with the plethora of tablets to choose from, but we still dream of fully functional tablet computers.

[Brian] wrote in to show us his build of a fully featured tablet macbook conversion dubbed the MessagePad. Though we’ve seen a wide selection of home spun tablets before, this one has an impressive list of added features. It boasts both front and rear facing cameras, an SSD drive, a built in Teensy, and a line-in. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the dream of a full blown pc in tablet format, or if your preference would have been a Windows or Linux machine. You’ll surely love the bevy of photos he took along the way as he was hacking and slashing on this thing.

Flea market finds

We sometimes wonder why do don’t see classic electronic equipment at second-hand stores. We had thought it’s because these items tend to get snapped up quickly, but perhaps we’re not shopping in the right places. Here’s a photo set documenting some of the finds from a recent flea market.

The offerings cover a wide range of products and components. There are all kinds of bench tools like oscilloscopes, voltage meters, and bench supplies. But we also see more modern computer parts like cardboard boxes full of motherboards, and heaps of PC power bus wires. You can get five tube sockets for a buck and if you need the tubes they’re just $3-5 a piece. One of the more useful finds is a display case full of shrink tube of every diameter; and one vendor is selling wire by the foot.

License plates and common sense place this Flea Market in the Silicon Valley area. But if you’ve got more concrete info on where this type of event goes down please share it in the comments section.

[via Adafruit]

Shocking use of ice cube trays

Looks like ice-cube trays are once again proving their versatility as this one is serving as the vessel for a home made lead-acid battery. With a collection of uniformly sized non-conductive containers, it makes the perfect base for a set of small cells. This project is the culmination of a Hackerspace class about batteries, and was put together to turn theoretical knowledge into a hands-on lab.

This is a captured image from the low-quality video found after the break. [Carpespasm] describes the setup; the black pieces are lead plates which are bent into a U-shape to straddle two ice-cube compartments. The each end of the plate is dipping into the acid to make the connection. Once assembled the battery was connected to a charger for about two hours. It puts out 8.5V and is tested by powering an LED cube. This works for just a short period and really drives home the lesson that battery concepts are easy to understand, but reliable battery technology is a bit harder to achieve.

[Read more...]

Joinery sure to be useful on your next sheet goods enclosure

It’s hard to be an expert at everything, but this collection of wood joinery techniques will make your next project look like you’ve just finished your degree in mechanical engineering. They’re targeted for use in projects where thin sheets of plywood are CNC cut to make enclosures and parts. [Sean Ragan] mentions that these are not new, but we haven’t come across such a large collection of examples as this.

The joints shown above address a series of different needs. You’re probably already familiar with the joint on the bottom right which makes nice corners for a box, providing a lot of surface area for gluing. But just above that is a simple variation on the idea which includes slots for square nuts. This type of mechanical fastener brings strength while keeping the option to take the joint apart again

To the top left you can see a design that includes a snap lock. As the two pieces are slotted together, the barbs flex until they find their mating openings and hold the pieces firmly together. Below that are some bulbed finger joints which don’t need glue to hold themselves together.

[Sean's] post goes on and on with these designs. He even covers the laser-cut bendable hinges which we are quite fond of.

Mechanical CPU clock is just as confusing as its namesake

[Lior Elazary] designed and built this clock to simulate the function of a CPU. The problem is that if you don’t already have a good grasp of how a CPU works we think this clock will be hopelessly confusing. But lucky for us, we get it, and we love it!

Hour data is shown as a binary number on Register A. This is the center column of red parts and is organized with the MSB on the bottom, the LSB on the top, and left-pointing bits function as digital 1. The clock lacks the complexity necessary for displaying any other time data. But that’s okay, because the sound made by the ball-bearing dropping every minute might drive you a bit loony anyway. [Lior] doesn’t talk about the mechanism that transports that ball bearing, but you can see from the video after the break that a magnet on a circular path picks it up and transports it to the top of the clock where gravity is used to feed the registers. There are two tracks which allow the ball to bypass the A register and enter the B register to the right. This works in conjunction with register C (on the left) to reset the hours when the count is greater than 11.

If you need a kickstart on how these mechanical adders are put together, check out this wooden adder project.

[Read more...]

Playing air traffic controller with software defined radio

Being an air traffic controller is a very cool career path – you get to see planes flying around on computer screens and orchestrate their flight paths like a modern-day magician. [Balint] sent in a DIY aviation mapper so anyone can see the flight paths of all the planes in the air, with the added bonus of not increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke.

[Balint]‘s Aviation Mapper uses software defined radio to overlay RADAR and ACARS messages from aircraft and control towers in an instance of Google Earth running in a web browser. After grabbing all the radio data from a software defined radio, [Balint]‘s server parses everything and chucks it into the Google Earth framework. There’s a ton of info, pictures, and explanations of the inner machinations of the hardware on [Balint]‘s official project page.

Right now, Aviation Mapper only displays planes within 500 km of Sydney airspace, but [Balint] is working on expanding the coverage with the help of other plane spotters. If you’re willing to help [Balint] expand his coverage, be sure to drop him a line.

Of course, [Balint] is the guy who gave us a software radio source block for those cheap USB TV tuner dongles. Just a few days ago we saw these dongles receiving GPS data, so we’re very impressed with what these little boxes can do in the right hands. [Balint] says his Aviation Mapper application will work with any GNU Radio receiver, so it’s entirely possible to copy his work with a handful of TV tuner dongles.

After the break, there’s two videos of [Balint] sitting at the end of the runway near the Sydney airport watching arrivials come in right above his head and on his laptop. It’s very cool, but we’d be interested in an enterprising hacker in the New York City area copy [Balint]‘s work.

[Read more...]

The put-put golf course every Hackerspace must build

Ever played a mini-golf course that includes a vacuum powered tube transport and Wii Nunchuk controlled labyrinth? We’d bet the answer is no on both counts, unless you’re friends with [Tom Scott]. He enlisted his local hacker friends to build a uniquely geeky mini-golf course to help him celebrate a milestone birthday — 10k days on this Earth. Last month we looked in on one of the Portal themed holes, but the finished course is almost unbelievably larger and more amazing.

Our count puts the course at twelve holes. We’re already familiar with the Companion Sphere Incinerator hole, but joining in that theme is a Turret Hole (whith lasers!), and a clever hack that uses hidden balls to simulate a portal jump. The image above shows the Real Turf hole which starts with a put up some living sod into the indoor/outdoor carpet lined labyrinth. The Twin Looper hole will suck a well placed putt through thirty meters of tubing. And of course there’s the Minecraft hole which includes a Creeper and TNT block.

Don’t miss the clip after the break which shows off the course. And if you’d like to hit these links yourself they’ll be making an appearance at the Derby Maker Faire (in the UK) on June 3rd. [Read more...]

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