Hacking a Mac Magsafe Jack into a PC Ultrabook

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Something’s fishy about the above-pictured ultrabook: it’s an Asus Zenbook that [WarriorRocker] hacked to use a MagSafe power connector typically found on Macbooks. Most of us probably consider it standard procedure to poke around inside our desktop’s tower, but it takes some guts to radically alter such a shiny new ultrabook. It seems, however, that the Zenbook’s tiny power plug causes serious frustrations, and [WarriorRocker] was tired of dealing with them.

Using information he found from an article we featured earlier this summer on a MagSafe teardown, [WarriorRocker] hit up the parts drawer for some connectors and got to work. He had to modify the MagSafe’s housing to fit his Zenbook while still holding on to the magnets, but he managed to avoid modifying the ultrabook’s case—the connector is approximately the same size as a USB port. Deciding he could live with just one USB connection, [WarriorRocker] took to the board with a pair of side cutters and neatly carved out space for the MagSafe next to the audio jack. He then soldered it in place and ran wires from the VCC and Ground pins along a the channel where the WiFi antenna is routed, connecting them to the original power jack’s input pins.

[WarriorRocker] regrets that he fell short of his original goal of getting the MagSafe’s protocol working: he instead had to hack on his own adapter. We’re still rather impressed with how well his hack turned out, and it did manage to solve the charging problems. Hit us up in the comments if you can provide some insight into the MagSafe’s otherwise obscure innerworkings.

Laptop Keyboard EL Panel Backlight

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[nullpointr] wanted a backlit keyboard for his Asus Transformer Prime so that it would be a bit easier to use in low-light situations. He considered a few different options and ended up adding electroluminescent panels behind the keys.

Those paying close attention might wonder why we called this a laptop in the title. Well, it’s a tablet with a keyboard dock and that’s a mouthful. This actually really helps to simplify the modifications because the motherboard and other bits are all in the screen portion of the device. EL panels are also a nice choice because you can cut them to size and they still function. With a bit of case work, three panels were made to fit side-by-side.

The part that just isn’t going to make it in the original enclosure is the inverter that drives the panels. It’s the black box to the left. [nullpointr] added a USB-form-factor jack to the side of the case that allows the inverter to be disconnected quite easily. This way the Transformer Prime can still go with him on the road, it just won’t light up unless he also hauls around that add-on.

Way way back we saw someone do this with fiber optics and an LED. Unfortunately that project link seems to be dead so we figure it’s about time someone revisited the concept.

Laptop to all-in-one PC conversion

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You probably have an old laptop shoved into a far, dark corner of your closet, gathering dust as it sits there alone and unwanted. Show it some love like [Oakkar7] and hack it into a desktop all-in-one PC. He had his work cut out for him, though: dead motherboard, busted case, worthless battery. [Oakkar7] starts by taking the case apart and removing the LCD screen. He removes the motherboard to discover two toasted capacitors in need of replacement. A short solder job later and the computer springs to life.

[Oakkar7] needs the LCD to face outwards while sitting against the rest of the laptop. The connecting cable doesn’t reach, so he carefully removes it, and flips it around to get the extra length needed. The final step is to fashion some aluminum support bars that attach to the bottom of the case, which mount onto another aluminum stand holding everything upright. At this point [Oakkar7] has tossed the battery, the keyboard, both the CD and floppy drive (yes it’s that old), and moved the speakers into the battery’s former home. For the finishing touch, a USB hub provides connections for the new keyboard, mouse and a Wifi dongle.

[Oakkar7] shared his project with us after reading [Elad’s] ground control station laptop conversion. Maybe these two projects can convince you to save a neglected laptop.

Light Graffiti with Servos and Python

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Light Graffiti is can be lots of fun if you have a decent amount of artistic ability, and a keen sense of timing. If you don’t have the necessary skills, you can always compensate by using Python-controlled servos to move everything automatically. The Python code can be found here, and makes use of the Python Image Library to process the images into a “drawable” form. A [pyMCU] with firmware capable of simultaneous servo control was used to move the laser fixture around.

One of the more difficult aspects of this experiment was getting the timing correct between each laser pulse. The timing routine involes a bit of geometry, calculating the distance between each using trig. As explained in the article, this may be a bit of overkill.  It still didn’t compare to the trig involved in a previous experiment drawing a circle with this laser-servo fixture.  Be sure to check out the video of this laser-setup in action after the break.  I’ve been quite pleased with the results, and look forward to what can be done with it in the future!

Thanks to [pyMCU] for letting me have a few of these boards to play with!

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12-axis sensor adds auto screen orientation to this older tablet PC

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[Mal’oo] has one of those laptop computers whose screen swivels to turn it into a tablet. But the thing is a few years old and didn’t come with an orientation sensor that changes the screen between landscape and desktop, but also knows which side is up. His solution was to add a 12-axis sensor via the mini PCI express header.

The hardware comes in two pieces. The first is a mini-PCIe card to USB interface. This is handy if you want to add a Bluetooth dongle permanently to your computer. But he’s got other things in mind for it. After hacking the BIOS (which for some reason limits what you can plug into this slot) he moved onto the second part which is a USB 12-axis sensor. This picture shows the wires before they were soldered to the USB card. [Mal’oo] couldn’t just plug it in because the sensor wouldn’t have been oriented correctly in relation to the computer. The final product is quite response, as shown in the clip after the jump. Continue reading “12-axis sensor adds auto screen orientation to this older tablet PC”

Using two chargers with one laptop

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This one’s a riot! [Nico] got a new computer and didn’t want to change the six power supply cords he had strategically placed around his home and at work. So he just added a second charging jack that accepts a different style connector.

First off the laptop is used — but it’s new to him. So cracking it open and soldering in a new jack doesn’t affect the already expired warranty. He had an unlimited supply of Dell laptop chargers available from work. They are rated 19.5V and the charger for this computer is rated 20V so he figured this should be no problem. Instead of just swapping out the old charging port he added a second where the RJ-11 connector (for a telephone modem) was located. Now he doesn’t need to waste money buying more chargers for the new-old machine.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone replace a power jack. But it is the first computer we’ve seen that takes two different chargers.

Use an old laptop as a second desktop display

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When we’re trying to get a relatively complex project to work we often end up with twenty windows open. When this happens we’re usually referencing multiple data sheets, webpages, and trying to write code that the same time. We’ve seen people with two or three monitors to alleviate the situation (often called a battlestation), but the we’re cheap and can’t justify buying more displays just for these occasions. Well [Oscar] may have the solution for us. His old laptop had been sitting in a box unused so he flipped the screen and built a stand to position it as an additional display on his desk.

The hack simply removed the screen for the hinged cover so that it could be flipped around. This turns the laptop into a tablet minus the touchscreen ability but that could always be added in later (we’ve seen it done with netbooks). He tells us that the only issue he ran into during this process was the length of the inverter cable. He simply cut it and spliced in a little bit of extra length.

[Oscar] didn’t write a post about his project, but you can see the build gallery after the break.

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