Things to do with your laptop batteries when they’re dead

18650_things_to_do_with_dead_laptop_batteries

[Roy] over at GeekDad had a dead laptop battery on his hands, and decided he would disassemble it to see what useful things he could do with the cells inside. He mentions in his article that even though your laptop might be convinced that its battery is toast, more often than not just one or two cells are damaged. This may not be news to all of our readers, but is worth pointing out to those who might not be aware.

With the bad cells separated from the good, [Roy] thought up a couple of different uses for his newly acquired batteries. His initial idea was to power an LED flashlight that was made to run on the 18650 cells he recovered from his laptop – not a stretch of the imagination, but definitely useful. The second use he came up with was to pair two of the cells together in order to simultaneously power an Arduino and some small Lego motors.

[Roy] lays out all of the standard caveats you would expect regarding the care and feeding of the lithium cells, and even suggests rebuilding the laptop battery as an option for the more skilled members of his audience.

Now we understand that dismantling and re-using old laptop cells is not necessarily groundbreaking, but it’s definitely something that’s worth a bit of discussion. [Roy] admits that his two ideas fall far short of the “18650 Things” his article title suggests, so how about adding a few of your own?

If you have stripped down some laptop batteries to salvage the cells, let us know what you did with them in the comments – we would be interested in hearing about it.

Polarized art fixture made from a busted laptop screen

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[Pedro] had a busted laptop LCD screen on his hands, but rather than throw it out, he brainstormed what he could possibly do with what would typically be considered a worthless item. He decided to make a simple art installation using the scrapped part, so he gathered a few other supplies and got to work.

The first thing he did was pull the LCD screen from the laptop, separating the front panel from the backlight panel. He drained the liquid crystal fluid from the display, and set it inside a picture frame in place of the glass. He added spacers around the edge of the frame so that the backlight could be mounted several inches behind the LCD panel.

[Pedro] then found a few polystyrene and polycarbonate plastic items from around the house, and placed them inside the frame. As you can see in the picture above, the polarizing filter built into the LCD screen makes for some pretty cool effects.

While you could debate for hours over exactly what is art, there’s no denying that his PolFrame looks cool and is a great way to save electronics from the scrap heap. We just want to know what he did with the LC fluid he drained from the screen!

Installing Linux on old PC’s Part 2

In part one I showed you that you could install a linux distro on a new computer and transplant it into a 386 computer in a short amount of time and with little effort. Now it is time to move on to bigger and beefier machines like 486’s, Pentiums and better.

I am going to break this quick tutorial down into sections based on installed RAM. While this won’t be a “how to” for all old PCs in the world I hope to at least send you in the right direction. I will mention a few distributions mainly for the super low ram machines. Its not my intent to start a distrubution war, and I have not personally sat down with every single one to make a educated assessment. However, you’re more than welcome to chime in.

Join us after the break and see what options you have for that old “boat anchor” sitting in the closet!

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Installing Linux on a 386 laptop

The “cheap” and “easy” way in about an hour! A question that pop’s up from time to time is “I somehow ended up with an archaic old laptop / computer, can it run Linux?” Well of course it can, but that totally depends! On what? Well machine CPU, CPU speed, hard disk space, RAM and most importantly what you are expecting it to do.

Okay, why a Intel 386? Well number one I own a 386, but more importantly its the absolute bottom Intel CPU you can run Linux on. While it wont be able to do much, it will give you a basic system to kick around and “get to know” the insides of Linux without a million things installed and the worry of breaking it.

Unfortunately a 386 requires some special moves as the actual chip was dropped from almost all distributions long ago. All of the modern distributions I have looked at require at least a 486 CPU. This tutorial will be strictly for installing a basic bare bones Linux on a 386. Have a 486? Pentium? Faster? Never fear I will be covering that in a part II later this week.

Linux on a 386 in about an hour? Madness you might think, it probably takes Linux longer to boot on a 386 (and in some cases you are correct)! Want to know the trick? Simple, cheat!

Join me after the break for the parts and steps needed to get you started.

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Compaq Portable III rises again for a noble cause

[Autuin] found a Compaq Portable III destined for the scrap bin at Free Geek Vancouver. Upon seeing it he realized that it could still fight;  fight against the tyranny of hipsters and their shiny Macbook Pros at his  local coffee shop. Unfortunately, being a 286, the computer couldn’t do much. He could take the usual route; which is to remove all the internals, and use the vast amount of space to fit a more modern computer inside. However, he decided to go a different path and save the internals, leaving it in original working order. The computer didn’t have enough power to browse the web, but it had just enough room to fit a small single-board computer inside; to which he could connect through serial. He hasn’t taken it down to the coffee shop yet, but we’re hoping for a few horrified hipsters and a full mission report when he does.

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Converting a laptop computer into a desktop machine

[Michael Chen] found himself in possession of a thoroughly broken laptop. The hinges connecting the screen to the body of the computer were shot, and the battery was non-functional. After a bit of thinking he decided that it wouldn’t take much to resurrect the hardware by turning it into a desktop machine.

At the core of this hack is the hardware that you must keep for the computer to function. That is, the LCD screen, the motherboard, hard drive, and the AC/DC brick that powers it. [Michael] ditched everything else; the case, keyboard, trackpad, webcam, etc. Next he started building his own enclsure out of acrylic. First he sandwiched the LCD screen between a full sheet of acrylic and a bezel that was one inch wide on each side. Next, another full sheet was used to mount the motherboard and hard drive. You can see how the three sheets are connected by nuts and bolts in the image above. It looks like the only other alteration he made was to relocate the power button to a more convenient spot.

Once a USB keyboard and mouse are added he’s back up and running. We’ve got our eye on an old XP laptop that might end up seeing this conversion to become a dedicated shop computer. We just need to build in some more dust protection.

Laptop touchpad-based LED lighting control

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[Dave] needed some extra light above his desk/workbench area and decided to wire up some RGB LED light strips to brighten the place up a bit. He wasn’t content with using a standard switch to toggle them on and off, and after some brainstorming, he decided to build a capacitive touch circuit using a pair of copper tubes mounted in a project box. Just as he was putting the finishing touches on his switch, he saw a project online where a Synaptics touchpad was used in conjunction with an Arduino for lighting control. The copper tube switch was pitched, and he got busy working with his Arduino.

When connected to an Arduino, the touchpads can be used in two modes – relative and absolute. Relative mode is familiar to most people because it is used to guide the mouse cursor around on a laptop’s screen. Absolute mode however, relays coordinate information back to the Arduino, allowing the user to map specific areas of the pad to specific functions. [Dave] enabled his touchpad to use absolute mode, and mapped a handful of different functions on the Arduino. He can now fade his lights on and off or light the room on a timer, as well as use a sliding function to tweak the LEDs’ brightness.

It’s a neat, yet simple hack and a great way to repurpose old laptop touchpads.

Continue reading for a quick demo video he put together, and swing by his site if you want to take a look at the source code he used to get this working.

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