Nintendo’s VirtualBoy – the odd console-inside-a-pair-of-goggles and arguable ancestor of Nintendo’s 3DS – was a marvelous piece of technology for its time. In a small tabletop unit, you were able to play true 3D video games at an impressive 384 x 224 pixel resolution. Of course the VirtualBoy was a complete failure, but that doesn’t mean hardware tinkerers are leaving this wonderful system to video game collectors. [furrtek] has been playing around with his VirtualBoy and managed to add VGA out.
As a 3D system with two displays, any sort of video out was rightfully ignored by the VirtualBoy system designers. Still, [furrtek] wanted some sort of video out on his system, so he began poking around with a small FPGA board to generate some VGA signals.
The two displays inside the VirtualBoy aren’t your normal LCD display – as seen in this iFixit teardown. they’re really two linear LED arrays that generate a single line of 244 pixels, with mirrors scanning the line in the in the Y axis. These LED arrays are controlled by the VirtualBoy CPU through a series of shift registers, and by carefully tapping the lines of each LED array, [furrtek] was able to copy all the image data into the RAM of an FPGA.
After stuffing an XESS XULA-200 FPGA board inside the case of his VirtualBoy, [furrtek] wired up a few resistors for a DAC and installed a VGA out port on the underside of his console. Everything worked the first time he powered it up, and he began playing his VirtualBoy on his big screen TV.
Because [furrtek] is only reading one of the VirtualBoy’s displays, all the 3D data – and the main feature of the VirtualBoy – is lost when it’s displayed on a TV. 3D TVs do exist, though, and we’d love to see an improved version of this that captures data from both of the VirtualBoy displays.
You can see [furrtek]’s video of his mod in action below.
Continue reading “Giving the VirtualBoy a VGA out”
Our Oculus Rift finally arrived in the mail. I’ll spare you my thoughts on the item itself other than to say it is amazing. There are tons of videos to choose from that show people’s thoughts and reactions, and Ifixit has their usual detailed teardown as well.
The mod I decided to tackle first was the horizontal peripheral vision lights. The shape of the Oculus means that it feels like you are wearing a skii mask, or diving mask. There are big black borders at the far edges of the sides. It would seem that a simple mod would be to add some RGB LEDs and run a simple ambilight clone.
I downloaded the Adalight code and plugged in an RGB LED strip I had sitting around. The rift has some mesh areas at the 4 corners to allow air to move around in there. I took advantage of this so I didn’t even have to cut into the rift… yet. I simply strapped the strip to the rift with the proper LEDs shining through the holes.
The result was decent. Since the LEDs are further back in your peripheral vision than the edge of the screen, it looks like maybe a little light from the surroundings is just “leaking” into the headset. It gives the impression of seeing things that are far beyond the edge of the screen. A better installation, allowing lights all the way up the left and right sides instead of just the corners might yield even better results.
With the release of the Wii U last weekend we knew it wouldn’t be long before we saw those glorious gut shots on the Internet. The folks at iFixit have torn down a Wii U, and the insides look somewhat promising for a potential hack to take control of the Wii U Game Pad.
The components in the Wii U console aren’t terribly surprising; a few wireless controllers, HDMI adapters, Flash memory chips, and the IBM Power CPU make up most of the interesting components. The insides of the GamePad, though, look pretty interesting. It appears the Wii U GamePad is powered by an ARM Cortex microcontroller built by STMicroelectronics, but the part numbers for the major ICs on the GamePad board are impervious to Googling.
Of course there’s still the question of how video is transmitted wirelessly from the Wii U console to the GamePad. iFixit found a Broadcom BCM4319XKUBG Wireless module that operates on normal WiFi frequencies. This module has been used in a few other pieces of video gear, most notably the Boxee Box, so there is some possibility of intercepting the video signal transmitted to the GamePad and figuring out the protocol.
The long and short of iFixit’s teardown, at least from the hacker perspective, is that all the interesting parts use hardware similar to what you’d find on any other eminently hackable device. Here’s to hoping we get an open Wii U GamePad before the year is out.
[Rupert’s] friend cracked the screen on his beloved Dell Streak 5 phone and handed it off to see if [Rupert] could repair it. He says that the glass replacement was a relatively straightforward affair – a process he documented in thorough detail worthy of iFixit.
He did come across a few interesting tidbits along the way, including an Atmel Mega168P hanging out on the broken screen’s digitizer board, which now resides in his parts bin. The most intriguing thing [Rupert] discovered however was that the phone’s on-board memory chip wasn’t soldered in as he would have expected. Instead, he found a standard microSD slot with a 2GB card in tow. He didn’t happen to have a larger card on hand, but after researching a bit he did find out that swapping the card is a relatively simple process.
If you happen to have one of these phones sitting around, or come across a damaged unit at any point, it definitely seems worth it to resurrect it and change the factory card out for something along the lines of a 32GB model. We certainly wouldn’t complain if we had a rooted 32GB Streak kicking around!
[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.
[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?
Continue reading “Fixing the Future”
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?