FBI tracking device found; disassembled

[ifixit] has apparently grown tired of tearing apart Apple’s latest gizmos, and their latest display of un-engineering has a decidedly more federal flair. You may have heard about Yasir Afifi’s discovery of a FBI-installed tracking device on his car back in October of last year. Apparently, the feds abandoned a similar device with activist Kathy Thomas. Wired magazine managed to get their hands on it, and gave it to ifixit to take apart. There’ve even posted a video.

The hardware itself isn’t that remarkable, it’s essentially a GPS receiver designed before the turn of the century paired with a short range wireless transceiver. The whole device is powered by a set of D-sized lithium-thionyl chloride batteries which should be enough juice to run the whole setup for another few decades–long enough to outlast any reasonable expectations of privacy, with freedom and justice for all.

Fixing the Future

[iFixit] (who we’ve posted about many times before) has launched a passionate manifesto promoting the skills and knowledge of repair as a solution to technological consumerism and waste. They use powerful footage of electronic waste dumps in Ghana to make the point that we must collectively change the way we use and relate to our high technology–take a look after the break.

The manifesto rallies against the practice of withholding repair knowledge such as manuals, error codes and schematics–putting responsibility in the hands of manufacturers–but also makes it clear that it is up to every one of us to inform ourselves and to value functionality over novelty.

Considering the many-faceted resource crisis that we are headed towards, any efforts to push our behavior towards a sustainable and considerate way of life should be considered. As hackers we repair, reuse and rethink technology as part of our craft–but we are also privileged by our enthusiasm for technical challenges. The real battle is to disseminate the kind of knowledge and skills we possess into the general population. This is where the heart of [ifixit]’s message comes into play: the creation of an open, editable online repair manual for every electronic device. If you have something to teach, why not pop over and help expand their database?

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iPhone 4 teardown

iFixit traveled all the way to Japan to bring you this iPhone 4 teardown, only to be shipped the device unexpectedly two days early!

We were surprised that the A4 processor (its naked body displayed for the world this past April) contained within the iPhone 4 had 512MB of ram, compared to the 256MB of the iPad. Other features include the 1420mAh battery (201mAh more than the 3Gs), 5MP rear camera and front VGA camera, and the use of micro-sim.

Frankly, we don’t see ourselves getting the device immediately, but how excited are you for the iPhone 4?

Peering in a the A4, the iPad’s brain

Sure, tearing down devices to see what components are in there is fun. But tearing down the components themselves is even more fun. iFixit sent off their iPad guts to be laid bare after they were done with their iPad teardown. We’ve seen pictures of stripped chips in the past, but the work that Chipworks is doing for iFixit is quite amazing. Get the skinny on just about every part in there from the package markings and the die photos provided in their analysis.

The iPad has already been rooted, but you never know what power can be unlocked if you know what you’re working with. We’re thinking of the 50MHz to 100Mhz oscilloscope hack.

iPad teardown

Its been quite a while since we’ve featured something from iFixit. But when we saw they had torn apart the next greatest Apple product, the iPadreleased today, and how everyone on our team loves it, we thought why not also let our user base enjoy the destruction informative teardown as well.

In both the original and the FCC teardown, we see some awesome features and tricks Apple implemented. Most notably the two separate 3.75V lithium polymer cells, not soldered to the motherboard, allowing users to easily replace the battery if need be. However, in the opposite respect, more components than ever are being epoxied to the board, making the iPad much more rugged.

We’re left wondering, with everyone able to see the beautiful insides, does it change anyone’s mind on getting an iPad? Or would you rather make your own?

Magic Mouse and MacBook teardowns

magicmouse

The folks at iFixit must hold some kind of record for fastest-voided warranty. It’s been less than 48 hours since Apple unleashed a torrent of new computers and peripherals, and they’ve already set upon the new wares like a pack of ravenous, spudger-wielding Velociraptors, photoblogging the splayed entrails for our edutainment.

The refreshed MacBook holds few surprises, resembling a Star Trek teleportation mix-up between the prior 13″ white MacBook and the current 13″ MacBook Pro. It retains a white polycarbonate case much like its predecessor while adopting a subset of the Pro’s components — CPU and GPU, glass trackpad, Mini DisplayPort, and the long-lived but sealed battery. Internally the system is still a maze of different-sized Torx, Phillips and tri-wing screws, but they do report this latest revision to be easier to dismantle for repair.

More novel inside and out is the new Magic Mouse, which early reports suggest may finally redeem Apple’s eleven year train wreck of mice. There’s not much to see on the bottom half — it’s a typical wireless mouse consisting of batteries, laser tracker and a Bluetooth chip. The top is something to behold though, with nearly the entire surface encrusted in capacitive sensors capable of gestural input. It resembles a miniature version of this electrostatic interface we saw in April.

No teardowns of the new iMacs, Mac mini or Time Capsule have taken place yet, but it’s surely just a matter of time. Even Velociraptors need to eat and sleep.

Update: 27″ iMac teardown added. Rawr!

Easter Egg Challenge

Beer

Often, hardware designers include nonfunctional additions into designs to make them feel more personal. Commonly known as easter eggs, these additions can often go unnoticed by the public for years. While taking apart an Atari San Francisco Rush: The Rock sound board, reader [Jason] noticed a hidden message on the PCB (see above). Other more recent hardware easter eggs include the inside of the Zune HD, which has the inscription “For our Princess” to commemorate a development team member who passed away, or the Amiga 1000 which features the signatures of the design team on the inside if the case (Pictures after the break).

What we want from you: We want to see the best HARDWARE easter eggs you have found or seen. Leave us a comment with a video, picture, or article that explains what you found, and possibly the background story behind it. Anyone can google easter eggs, and we all know about the easter eggs all over DVDs, video games, etc, but we prefer the kind you find when you are busy voiding your hardwares warranty.

Edit: good catch, that was the Amiga 1000 not an Atari 1000. Thanks to all the commentors.

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