Cracking open a 24-port switch so you don’t have to

hp-procurve-ethernet-switch-teardown

[Kenneth Finnegan's] post about this 24-Port HP ProCurve 2824 Ethernet Switch teardown was a delight to read. He’s taking an introduction to networking class at California Polytechnic State University. One of their labs included virtual machines shooting thousands of new MAC addresses at the thing all at once. Despite it’s ability to switch data at a blazing fast rate, it’s ability to deal with that many new hardware identifiers was less than impressive. He wanted to find out why and it just so happened he had one of these in his parts bin at home (which he refers to as if it’s a high-powered RPG character).

The mainboard is divided into three major blocks: the power supply, the switching hardware, and the processor that makes this a manged switch. Although he covers all of these pieces (and the switching stuff is very interesting to learn about) it is the processor section that was causing the aforementioned slowdown. It’s a 266MHz PowerPC chip with a measly 64 MB of RAM. Of course this doesn’t need to be any more powerful since all traffic from previously ‘learned’ MAC addresses gets handled by the switching block and never touches the processor portion.

Don’t miss the end of his post where he discusses how the filtering caps, and semi-isolated ground planes help to tame the beast created from all of this high-speed switching.

GSM to Landline box has a creatively soldered cellphone inside

gsm-to-landline-box-teardown

We don’t blame the manufacturer of this GSM to Landline converter box for not designing the thing from the ground-up. After all, quantities of scale have made dumb-cellphones available for next to nothing. But you have to admit that it’s interesting to see a fully populated cellphone board creatively soldered into a consumer product. It would be commonplace if made in your basement rather than being sold in a store.

[Anton] was using the box to add his analog house phones to the cell network. The signal strength at home is pretty low and this box offers an external antenna for better reception. He cracked open the case expecting to see a GSM modem and was surprised to see the cellphone board. It includes a battery backup, and has been soldered directly to the cables which interface with the main PCB using some SIL connectors. Those solder joints were done by hand directly to the pins of the SIM card slot and as well as all of the other important connection points.

Battery teardown to get at the cells inside

battery-teardown

Most of what people call batteries are actually cells. All of the common disposable alkaline batteries from AAA to D are single cells. The exception is the 9v battery which actually has six smaller cells inside of it. [Tom] took a look inside three different batteries to see what cells they’re hiding. Since he no longer uses the batteries for their intended purposes the individual cells may find a new life inside of one of his upcoming projects.

The six volt lantern battery on the left has four cells inside of it. This is no surprise since each zinc-carbon cell is rated for 1.5V. There’s not much that can be done with the internals since each cell is made of a carbon rod and zinc electrolyte ooze (rather than being sealed in their own packages).

Moving on to the rechargeable PP3 battery in the middle he finds the 8.4V unit is made up of seven 1.2V nickel-metal hydride cells. Many of them were shot, but we’d love to see one of the intact cells powering something small like a bristlebot.

The final component is an old laptop battery. Inside are an octet of Lithium Ion cells. The majority register 0V, but a few have 0.4V left on them. This is not surprising. We’ve seen power tool packs that have a few bad cells spoil the battery. It’s possible to resurrect a battery by combining good cells from two or more dead units.

Tearing down Disney’s Glow with the Show props

disneys-glow-with-the-show-teardown

[Andy’s] boss recently returned from a trip to Disneyland with a set of light-up [Mickey Mouse] ears in tow. He said that during the event, every set of “Glow with the Show” ears in the crowd changed colors in sync with the performance. After he and some co-workers speculated on how this was pulled off, [Andy’s] boss gave him a new assignment – to find out how the darned things work!

[Andy] carefully disassembled the ears, sharing his findings and speculations with us. Inside, he found a small flexible circuit board powered by three AAA batteries. At the center of the device resides a TI MSP430G2553 which is tasked with controlling the RGB LEDs embedded in the ears.

In one ear, he spotted what he believes to be a Vishay TSMP6000 IR receiver. Vishay-branded or not, he verified that it does indeed pick up IR signals using his oscilloscope and a TV remote. In the other ear, he found a pair of small IR diodes, which he speculates are used to repeat the IR timing/sync signal received in the opposite side of the device.

The synchronization methods seem completely different than those found in the Xylobands we covered a while back, so we’re really intrigued to find out more about technology behind them.

Stick around to see a video of the light show in action, and since [Andy] says he’s willing to entertain any thoughts on how Disney makes their magic happen, be sure to sound off in the comments.

[Read more...]

What’s inside a lightning arrestor?

What is inside one of those things? The folks over at Northstreetlabs have set out to answer just that question. You’ve seen these things before, and if you’re uneducated on the subject like myself, you just assumed they were there to stop a possible connection from a power line to the pole/building to which it is attached. Apparently that is part of their purpose. When presented with lightning, however, they turn to conductors allowing the lightning to pass to ground.

You can see their teardown in video form, as well as an explanation of how exactly they work on their site.

iPhone charger teardown shows astounding miniaturization.

There’s no question that Apple has their industrial design down pat; comparing a cell phone charger made by Blackberry or Motorola to the tiny 1-inch-cube Apple charger just underscores this fact. [Ken Shirriff] posted a great teardown of the Apple iPhone charger that goes through the hardware that makes this charger so impressive.

Like most cell phone chargers and power supplies these days, Apple’s charger is a switching power supply giving it a much better efficiency than a simple ‘transformer, rectifier, regulator’ linear power supply. Inside the charger, mains power is converted to DC, chopped up by a control IC, fed into a flyback transformer and converted into AC, and finally changed back into DC, and finally filtered and sent out through a USB port.

The quality of the charger is apparent; there’s really no way this small 1-inch cube could be made any smaller. In fact, if it weren’t for the microscopic 0402 SMD components, it’s doubtful this charger could be made at all.

Comparing the $30 iPhone charger of a cheap (and fake) iPhone charger, the budget charger still uses a flyback transformer but there are serious compromises of the safety and quality. The fake charger doesn’t use a power supply controller IC and replaces the four bridge diodes for a single diode to rectify the AC; a very efficient cost-cutting measure, but it does lead to a noisier power supply.

There’s also the issue of safety; on the Apple charger, there is a (relatively) huge physical separation of  ~340 VDC and your phone. With the off-brand charger, these circuits are separated by less than a millimeter – not very safe, and certainly wouldn’t be UL approved.

It’s worth pointing out that [Ken] compares a similar $7 Samsung charger favorably to the $30 Apple charger. Both are functionally identical, but Apple also has their  marketing down pat, to say the least.

Tip ‘o the hat to [George] for sending this in.

EDIT: In case a 1-inch cube wasn’t impressive enough, check out the euro version of the iPhone/iPad charger. It supplies 1A @ 5V, and isn’t much thicker than the USB port itself. Thanks [Andreas] for bringing this to our attention. If anyone wants to do a teardown of the euro version, send it in on the tip line.

Cruncher: A robotic toy dinosaur dissection

When my children got these interesting and very obnoxious toy dinosaurs last year, I could barely contain my excitement. I knew that one day, they would be on my work bench giving up their secrets. Cruncher is a fairly recent addition to the robotic animal trend that we’ve been seeing the past few years. Imbued with a personality that is a mixture of T-Rex, beagle, and loudmouth jerk, he’s every kids idea of a perfect pet.

[Read more...]

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