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.

DIY Windows 8 Tablet

[hackitbuildit], from instructables, has brought us a a DIY windows 8 tablet. To make the tablet, an old laptop is used that meets the minimum requirements of windows 8 preview, a touch screen conversion kit, and of course the software itself. The laptop is first prepared by removing the casing around the screen, and if you just go by the pictures it kind of looks like he is ripping it apart! Though if you look at the video screws are being removed.

The screen is flipped around and laid on the keyboard with a couple spacers between them, as many laptops use the keyboard area as heat sinking. The touch screen is installed, and some wood strips are hot-glued to the outside to fill in the gap between the screen and base. With a little paint you’re left with a large, but functional windows 8 tablet to get started developing for.

Dilemmabox brings tactile upvoting

Here’s a fun art installation which you might run into downtown. It’s called the Dilemmabox and lets you pull a rope to up or down vote a question. [Christoffer Lorang Dahl] realized that touchscreens are wiping out a lot of really fun user interfaces of yore. He incorporated the two hanging rope inputs as an homage to doorbell ropes.

The built process works much like a laptop-to-digital photo frame conversion. The first step is to liberate the LCD screen from the laptop body. Both are housed in a wooden box, with a window cut out to show the screen. The mechanically clever part is the rope pulls. They’re both just pressing a key on the keyboard in a roundabout sort of way. [Christoffer] attached a smooth hemispherical piece to two keys. The ropes are connected to wooden levers which are held in place by springs. They rub on the hemispheres just enough when passing by to register a keypress.

The photo above was taken during the Dilemmabox’s brief appearance at a shopping plaza in Oslo.

Network monitoring panel built from the IT Department junk heap

network-monitoring-panel

One of the benefits of working in IT is that there is typically a healthy supply of miscellaneous, half-functioning equipment to mess around with. [Vittore] had an old laptop with a busted LCD sitting around (Google Translation), so he figured he might as well get it to do something useful. With a spare desktop LCD panel and some software tweaking, he built himself a slick network monitoring panel that hangs in his office.

He stripped the laptop down to the bare essentials, and mounted it along with an LCD screen in a plexiglass enclosure. He has Nagios running a server in his office, and with the help of a few plugins, he created a simple web interface that show him the topology of his entire network. The panel itself runs a live version of Debian, which he configured to load up his Nagios web page each time it is started.

While having the ability to view the status of every network-connected device in an instant is great, he didn’t stop there. While browsing around online, he found diagram for a simple USB-based performance monitor that uses a PIC to drive a pair of VU meters. He hooked the meters up to a router monitored by Nagios, so he can watch office’s bandwidth usage in real time.

If you’re interested in seeing how it was built, be sure to check out the Flickr photo set put together by [Vittore’s] co-worker [Matthew].

Fixing that broken laptop power jack

It seems that there’s a whole range of Toshiba Satellite laptop computers that suffer from a power jack design that is prone to breaking. We see some good and some bad in this. The jack is not mounted to the circuit board, so if it gets jammed into the body like the one above it doesn’t hose the electronics. But what has happened here is the plastic brackets inside the case responsible for keeping the jack in place have failed. You won’t be able to plug in the power adapter unless you figure out a way to fix it.

We’d wager the hardest part of this repair is getting the case open. Once inside, just cut away all of the mangled support tabs to make room for the replacement jack. The one used here has a threaded cuff that makes it a snap to mount the new part to the case. Clip off the old jack and solder the wires (mind the polarity!) and you’re in business.

Anyone know why we don’t see more of the magnetic connectors (MagSafe) that the Apple laptops have? Is it a patent issue?

[Thanks Dan]

Simple telepresence hack lets remote user rotate this laptop

[Kris] wanted to make the telecommuting employees at his office feel a little more in control of their virtual presence in the office. He gave them a way to look around without needing to go into full-blown robotics. This laptop stand has a Lazy Susan connected to a servo motor to give the user control of where the computer is pointed.

We’ve certainly seen our share of really complicated surrogate builds like this balancing robot. There have been simpler options too, such as this smartphone-carrying motorized base. But when you get right down to it, the ability to pan the camera is probably good enough for most situations. [Kris'] solution can be built in an afternoon, using simple materials. The box is made out of MDF with a base for the laptop connected by the ball-bearing hardware that supports the weight and makes sure the servo is able spin it freely. It is driven by an Arduino which connects to the computer via USB; making it easy to control remotely. Check out a quick clip of the laptop going round and round after the break.

[Read more...]

Beefing up your laptop’s gaming chops with an external GPU

external_laptop_gpu

If you’re not willing to shell out for a reasonably powerful laptop it seems that there’s not a ton that can be done to boost your gaming performance. That is, unless you have an empty Express card slot and the right chipset.

[Phatboy69] recently put together an external video card for his notebook, with fantastic results. His Vaio Z128GG had an Nvidia GT330M graphics card onboard, which is decent but nothing to write home about. Using an Express card to PCIe adapter, he added an external Nvidia GTX580 to his system, and he couldn’t be more pleased with the results. While the card does take a performance hit when connected to his laptop in this way, he claims that his graphics performance has increased ten-fold, which isn’t too shabby.

There are many variables on which this process is heavily dependent, but with the right amount of tweaking, some great laptop gaming performance can be had. That said, it really does take the portability factor of your notebook down to about zero.

If this is something you might be interested in, be sure to check out this thread over at the Notebook Review Forums – it’s where [Phatboy69] found all the information he needed to get his system up and running properly.

[Thanks, Henry]

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