The 30th Anniversary Macintosh

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It’s been just over thirty years since the original Macintosh was released, and [hudson] over at NYC Resistor thought it would be a good time to put some old hardware to use. He had found an all-in-one Mac SE “on the side of a road” a while ago (where exactly are these roads, we wonder), and the recent diamond anniversary for the original mac platform convinced him to do some major hardware hacking.

Inspired by a six-year-old project from a NYC Resistor founder aptly named the 24th anniversary Mac, [hudson] decided to replace the old hardware with more powerful components – in this case, a BeagleBone Black. Unlike the earlier build, though, the original CRT would be salvaged; the analog board on the Mac SE has pins for video, hsync, vsync, and power.

To get a picture on the old CRT, [hudson] needed to write a software video card that used the BeagleBone’s PRU. The CRT isn’t exactly “modern” tech, and everything must be clocked at exactly 60.1 Hz lest the CRT emit a terrible buzzing sound.

With a software video card written for the old CRT, the BeagleBone becomes the new brains of this beige box. It runs all the classic Linux GUI apps including XEyes and XScreenSaver, although flying toasters might be out of the question. He also managed to load up the Hackaday retro site with xterm, making this one of the best ways to make an old Mac SE useful.

Finding the Fix for a Dimmed 27″ iMac Screen

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Like many with a 27″ iMac, [Gerry’s] been experiencing some screen brightness issues. According to him, Apple’s been largely ignoring the problem and the community’s outcry, which led to [Kaos2k] poking around inside to hack together a fix. It’s a solution clearly born from trial and error; [Kaos2k’s] initial post on the issue simply recommending “applying pressure” to the panel itself, which would sometimes cause the dim screen to spring back to life.

It turns out that heat (or stress, or something) from the screen causes the solder joints to weaken on the board where a 6-pin connector hooks up, dimming the screen to eye-strain levels. Some Mac users are suing over it, because the problem tends to show up just outside of the warranty window and affects a large number of people. [Kaos2k], however, provided the much needed solution for those looking to get the fix over with: just solder the cable directly to the board. Our tipster, [Gerry], has documented his experiences over at his blog, and was kind enough to make a step-by-step video of the repair, which you can see after the break.

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Hackintosh Mac Pro Replica using a Trash Can

An anonymous German case modder decided to poke fun at the new Mac Pro… by making his own Hackintosh Pro out of a trash can!

For whatever reason the German forum it spawned in is a little bit secretive, but [Dschijn] of tonymacx86.com got permission to share the build on the creator’s behalf — and it is absolutely glorious.

The beautiful exterior is a Authentics Lunar 6L trash can, painted a vibrant pink — complete with a fake Apple logo. Inside is a Gigabyte Mini ITX motherboard, a Haswell i3 processor, a Radeon 7750, an SSD, a HDD, an ATX power supply, and an undisclosed amount of RAM. True to the Mac Pro, it features a central airflow design, with a fancy hand-crafted intake grate on the bottom.

While its technical specs fail to impress, it is remarkably similar in size to the real deal, varying by just under an inch.

[via Ars Technica]

Putting A Mac Plus On The Internet

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[Jeff] has a Mac Plus, an 8 MHz computer with 4 MB of RAM and a 512×342 1-bit screen. It was his first ‘real’ computer, and like those guys that take Model A Fords out for a Sunday drive, [Jeff] decided to put this old box on the Internet.

A Plus has a few options to get on the Internet. The best, but most expensive, is a SCSI to Ethernet computer. For a somewhat slower connections, a PowerPC mac can be used as an Ethernet to Localtalk (the Macintosh serial port networking protocol) bridge. Lacking either of those pieces of hardware, [Jeff] decided to use a Raspberry Pi. The Pi does the heavy lifting, and a handful of serial adapters and voltage converters turns the Pi into something that can talk to the Plus’ serial port.

Even with the MacTCP stack and the MacWeb browser, there are still some things this ancient computer couldn’t do. HTTPS hadn’t been invented until 1994, cookies are just a pain, and CSS is right out. This means modern websites (except, of course, the Hackaday retro edition) simply won’t render properly. To fix this issue, [Jeff]’s friend [Tyler] came up with a Python script using Requests, Beautiful Soup, and Flask to strip out all the Web 2.0 cruft, handle the cookies, and to get rid of SSL.

The end result is a Mac Plus with 4 Megabytes of RAM on the Internet, able to pull up Wikipedia and Hacker News. It isn’t fast by any means – in the video below, it takes about five minutes to pull up the front page of Hacker News – but it is a 27-year-old computer on the Internet.

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A Macbook Air and a Thunderbolt GPU

When Intel and Apple released Thunderbolt, hallelujahs from the Apple choir were heard. Since very little in any of Apple’s hardware lineup is upgradeable, an external video card is the best of all possible world. Unfortunately, Intel doesn’t seem to be taking kindly to the idea of external GPUs. That hasn’t stopped a few creative people like [Larry Gadea] from figuring it out on their own. Right now he’s running a GTX 570 through the Thunderbolt port of his MacBook Air, and displaying everything on the internal LCD. A dream come true.

[Larry] is doing this with a few fairly specialized bits of hardware. The first is a Thunderbolt to ExpressCard/34 adapter, after that an ExpressCard to PCI-E adapter. Couple that with a power supply, GPU, and a whole lot of software configuration, and [Larry] had a real Thunderbolt GPU on his hands.

There are, of course, a few downsides to running a GPU through a Thunderbolt port. The current Thunderbolt spec is equivalent to a PCI-E 4X slot, a quarter of what is needed to get all the horsepower out of high-end GPUs. That being said, it is an elegant-yet-kludgy way for better graphics performance on the MBA,

Demo video below.

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Mac malware uses right to left character exploit

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Check out this jumbled confirmation window. At first glance the message appears to contain a bunch of gibberish, but it can actually be read if you start at the right side and read each character moving left. The text displays like this because it is prefixed by a special Right-to-Left override Unicode character. The technique is being used in malware to obscure the actual extension of the file being launched. Notice that when written backwards your eye can still pick out the string “pdf” which may be enough to trick the uninitiated into approving the launch of the file.

This confirmation screen is launched when clicking on a piece of malware found in the wild a little over a week ago. If you do choose to run it, a decoy PDF file is opened in order not to arouse suspicion. But at the same time the program — which is signed with an Apple Developer ID — is installing itself in the home directory and making a cron job to launch at each boot. Sneaky!

Apple MagSafe protocol hacking

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[Ken Shirriff] was interested in how the Apple MagSafe works. Specifically he wanted to know what controlled the LED on the connector itself so he tore one open to see what is inside. There’s a chip present and he didn’t waste time figuring out how the MagSafe communication protocol works.

The DS2413 chip he found on the MagSafe’s tiny little PCB has just six pins. Two of these control a pair of LEDs, which give the indicator its color range.  Another pin is used for 1-wire communications. When polled the charger will return a 64-bit identification number that includes a variety of information. [Ken] looks into what data is offered from several different models of charger by using the Arduino setup above. But the results are not entirely straight-forward as he discusses in his article. The 1-wire protocol is also used to switch the LEDs. This process is the responsibility of the computer being charged, but [Ken] shows how the colors can be cycled using an Arduino (with a couple of 9-volts as a source instead of a connection to mains).