Hacking [Steve Jobs]: A retrospective



Provided you haven’t been toiling away in a secret lair somewhere (we’re looking at you [Jack]), odds are you may have seen the news that [Steve Jobs] stepped down as CEO of Apple this past Wednesday.

This earth-shattering news even eclipsed that of the East Coast Megaquakeapocalypse. It sent the blogosphere into a tizzy, sparking a whirlwind of news posts and retrospectives on his career. It’s been impossible to ignore the coverage (we’ve tried), and since we see everyone else writing about it, we feel the need to be at least somewhat up on our current events as well.

At the end of the day though, we don’t care how many patents [Steve] owns, how many failed products he has dreamed up over the years, or that he and [Woz] used to wear matching thongs to the beach in the 80s*.

Nope, we just care about the hacks. So here’s a trip down memory lane highlighting the Apple-related hacks we’ve seen so far in 2011, which will forever be known as the year [Steve Jobs] gave up the reigns at Apple (again).

*Bald-faced lie

XBMC on iOS Devices

Overhauling an old Apple keyboard

Mac Pro serial terminal

Taking secret photos of Apple Store patrons

Apple ][ USB keyboard conversion

Apple ][ Weather Display Parts 1, 2, 3

Don’t buy an IPAD, Make one!

When [Liu] decided he wanted one of the new iPads, rather than fork out the cash he decided to build his own tablet Mac. His creation functions just as you would expect any tablet PC with some nice extra features such as running on Windows XP for any of you Microsoft lovers. [Lui’s] tablet apparently only cost him about $300USD, about half the price of the real thing. The two part video shows the entire construction in fast forward including a demonstration of the final working product. It looks like the tablet is built using spare tablet/laptop components and the case is constructed from sheet aluminum before being painted and labelled with apple stickers. The final product is a bit thicker than the real thing but looks great in the laptop style case [Lui] has whipped up. Kudos to the guy for saving a few bucks and making something great in the process, the video after the break is definitely worth a watch. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of thing, actually we’ve seen a few.

Continue reading “Don’t buy an IPAD, Make one!”

Playing DVDs on an iPad

[Harrison Jackson] figured out how to add DVD playback to an iPad. It doesn’t require a jailbreak, or any hardware modifications to your prized tablet. The work is done with some server-side processing and played back through the browser.

The popular open-source multimedia player VLC has the ability to encode from the command line during playback. [Harry’s] option flag mastery of the program allows him to convert a DVD to a 320×240 format that is iPad friendly. But this alone doesn’t get the video any closer to being on the iDevice. You’ll need to be running a webserver that can stream video. This example is on OSX, but since he’s using an Apache server it should be simple to reproduce on any Unix variant. Once you’ve enabled m3u8 files in the Apache mime-types, the iPad browser can be pointed to the file address VLC is kicking out and you’ll be watching a movie in no time.

We’ve wondered about replacing our home theater front-end with an ATV 2 running XBMC but the thought of having no optical drive in the living room requires some contemplation. If this becomes a feasible option (that isn’t downscaled from DVD quality) it will be a no-brainer to make that jump.

Don’t miss the demo video after the break. Full instruction are in the comment section of that clip.

Continue reading “Playing DVDs on an iPad”

Excuse me iPad, may I cut in?

[LostSpawn] loves his clamshell keyboard for the iPad, but he had one major beef with the design. When the tablet is installed in the landscape orientation there’s no way to plug in a dock connector for charging or other uses. He pulled out the cutting tools and altered the case to meet his needs.

The case is a Rocketfish iCapsule which provides a Bluetooth keyboard when you need to do a lot of typing. The hard shell does a great job of protecting the iPad, but who wants to pull it out to charge it? The thing that we can’t believe is that there’s a slot milled in the other side of the bezel so that you can plug in headphones. How did they overlook the dock connector?

To add it himself, [LostSpawn] started by drilling a dotted line along the portion that he wanted to remove. He finished shedding material with a Dremel and then set about sanding it flat. To make sure it didn’t look too much like a hack he used Bondo to build up the working edge and then sanded and painted for a factory finish. Now he can plug in the cable or an SD card adapter like the one seen to the right of the keyboard.

Experimental music iPad dock

You can buy nice audio breakout equipment for your iPod if you don’t mind breaking the bank. This is partly because the demand is not incredibly high so commercial breakout hardware doesn’t benefit from volume discounts. But it’s also because Apple charges licensing fees for third-party accessories (often referred to as the “Apple Tax”). [Reed Ghazala] decided to side-step the whole situation by building his own accessory which he calls the iPad Audio Desk.

It all starts with a breakout board. The PodBreakout Mini provides an easy to solder interface for the iPad, and ensures that the repetitive act of plugging and unplugging the connection doesn’t break a solder connection. From there [Reed’s] enclosure finishing skills take over. The shape and curve of the aluminum sheet give the look befitting an expensive tablet device. Along the back you can see the jacks for line-in, line-out, video, mic/guitar, and headphones that make the dock useful. It wouldn’t be hard to make one… but it might be hard to make one look this great. See for yourself after the break.

Continue reading “Experimental music iPad dock”

Breathing new life into a broken iPod


[Craig] had a busted 2nd Gen iPod Nano that was well out of warranty. The play/pause button no longer worked, leaving him unable to play or pause music, nor power off the device. He didn’t want to scrap the iPod, so he figured out a way to add an external play/pause button instead.

He ordered an iPod dock connector from SparkFun and found that it had just enough space inside for the electronic components he would be adding. He consulted some online references for pinout information, then got busy cramming an ATiny13 and a pushbutton into the dock connector.

To minimize the drain on the iPod’s battery, he puts the ATiny into sleep mode when it is not being used. When the button is pressed, it wakes up the microcontroller and sends the proper signal to the iPod. Based on his estimations, it would take nearly 250 years for the ATiny to drain the iPod’s battery completely, so he’s pretty comfortable leaving the dongle attached at all times.

If you have an iPod with similar issues, he has made his source code available so you can save yours from the trash heap as well.

Cellphone charger has a USB port forced upon it

We still can’t figure out why a standard charging scheme hasn’t been developed for handheld devices (other than greed). Certainly we understand that many devices have different electrical needs as far as voltage and current are concerned, but we still long for the ability to use one charger for many different doodads. [Rupin] is trying to narrow down the number of dedicated chargers he uses by adding a USB charging port to his Nokia cellphone charger. Since the USB standard calls for regulated 5V a hack like this can often be done just by patching into the power output coming off of the voltage regulator in the plug housing of the device. [Rupin’s] charger had 5V printed on the case, but when he probed the output he found well over 8 volts. He added a 7805 linear regulator to get the stable output he needed, then cut a hole in the case to house the connector.

Since [Rupin] wants to use this as an iPod charger he couldn’t just let the two data lines float. Apple uses a specific charger verification scheme which requires some voltage dividers to get the device to start charging.