DIY $6 serial cable for vintage Apple QuickTake cameras

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Knowing he was a guy who liked electronics and taking things apart, one of [Erik]‘s friends sent him a vintage Apple QuickTake 100/150 digital camera as a bit of a joke. [Erik] enjoyed the gift, but since his friend hadn’t sent the necessary serial cable he really couldn’t do that much with it. He searched online only to discover the cable is very difficult to find these days, and thus very expensive. So, being the handy guy he is, he built his own.

Starting with an Apple MiniDin8 Male cable, he cut off one end and attached the wiring to a RJ45 connector. That got plugged into a modular adapter with a DB9 Female Plug end and wired up. The procedure required no soldering, and cost less than $6. Awesome.

Unfortunately the lack of serial cable isn’t the only problem he faced. QuickTake isn’t compatible with newer Apple computers that use Intel. You have to either have a much older Mac, or use a Windows XP emulator. If that wasn’t bad enough, the cameras only want to save photos in QuickTake file format. Luckily, [Erik] documents how he overcome all these issues in his post.

[Thanks Erik]

Comparing USB to Ethernet converters: Apple vs. Knock-off

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[Angus Gratton] recently cracked open a pair of USB to Ethernet converters to see what’s inside. One was an Apple branded device, the other a no-name from eBay. The former rings in at $30, with the latter just $4. This type of comparison is one of our favorites. It’s especially interesting with Apple products as they are known for solid hardware choices and the knock-offs are equally infamous for shoddy imitations.

From the outside both devices look about the same. The internal differences start right away with a whole-board metal shield on the Apple dongle and none on the off-brand. But the hardware inside is actually quite similar. There’s an RJ-45 jack on the left, followed by the Ethernet isolation chip next to it. From there we start to see differences. The off-brand had a blank chip where Apple’s ASIX AX88772ALF USB to Ethernet bridge controller is located. There is also a difference with the clock; Apple is using two crystals with the other using just one.

[via Reddit]

USB Apple ][ disk emulator

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One of the most commonly frustrating things about having an old Apple ][ lying around in your basement or attic is the lack of software. While at one time in the late 80s you may have had your own copy of Oregon Trail, that disk is either lost or non-functional, and it’s pretty hard to get new disk images onto 5 1/4″ disks.

To solve this problem for himself, [Eric] came up with an Apple disk emulator. A project like this has been done many, many times over the last few decades, but [Eric] put his own twist on it: he doesn’t use a microcontroller. Instead, he used a simple USB FTDI device to talk to the Apple disk drive.

The FTDI device in question is a UM232H chip that takes a USB connection and turns it into an SPI bus. Of course the Apple ][ disk doesn’t speak SPI, so [Eric] needed to do a little logic conversion with a 74LS251 multiplexer and a 74LS161 counter.

In the video after the break, you can see [Eric] loading Apple disk images on a IIc from his new Intel Mac. It’s a neat build, but it’s not done yet: [Eric] plans on adding a microcontroller with an SD card, allowing just about every Apple ][ game every made to fit in your pocket. Yes, [Eric]‘s project is quite similar to the A][ pocket serial host we saw just a bit ago, but this will hopefully have a lower component count.

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Adding AirPlay to a shelf system

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AirPlay is a great system. It allows you to send whatever media is playing from one device to another. Sure, we wish it were a bit more open (Apple is certainly not known for that) but there are several option for creating your own AirPlay receivers. After coming across a project that does just that, [Matt Shirley] decided to turn his shelf system into an AirPlay receiver.

The path to his goal depends on the Raspberry Pi’s ability to receive AirPlay audio using the Shairport package (we just looked in on another player that does this last week). He uses an Edirol UA-5 USB audio interface as an amplifier for his record player. He wasn’t using the USB port for it and knew that it would be simple to connect the RPi USB as a host for the device.

Wanting to keep the look of the system as clean as possible he popped the lid off of the amp. There is just enough room to fit the small RPi board inside. He hacked (literally, look at the pictures) an opening for the USB ports into the side of the metal enclosure. A short patch cable connects from one port to the USB jack on the back of the amplifier. The white cable leaving the side of the case provides power to the Rasperry Pi. The surgery was a success and now he can listen to his tunes with a tap of his finger.

Adding charging back to old apple accessories

From time-to-time we’ve been frustrated by the lack of backwards compatibility for Apple accessories. We have a great Monster FM transmitter that used the screen of the original iPod to select a channel. That was a feature we just loved which it never worked with any future hardware. We may not be able to get that back, but perhaps this hack can help us implement the ability to charge newer Apple devices using older accessories.

Seen above is the mounting dock from the iPod Hi-Fi speakers released back in 2006. Apparently the sound out of this set of speakers is just great, but you won’t be able to charge your modern device while it’s playing music. That is unless you’re not afraid to solder on a few simple components and roll in a switching regulator which can source at least one Amp of current. As we’ve seen in the past, Apple uses a couple of voltage dividers to identify modern chargers. These are installed on the D+ and D- lines of the USB connector and are pretty easy to recreate if you know the voltage levels the device is looking for. In this case a 39K, two 51k, and one 75k surface mount resistors are free-formed right next to the connector on the Hi-Fi’s dock PCB. The regulator on the right supplies the juice for charging. It’ll charge modern devices now, and even work with the iPhone five if you use a simple dock connector adapter.

Raspberry Pi foundation looks at counterfeit Apple power supplies

The Raspberry Pi foundation is in a somewhat unique position. They always test the units that get returned to them in hopes that they can improve the design. They often request that the power supply also be sent back with the RPi unit, as we know the board will not work well if the PSU can’t source enough current. And so they’ve been able to get a look at several counterfeit iPhone chargers. This is not one of the recommended ways to power the RPi, but their ability to collect failed hardware means that they have identified three different fakes on the market.

Seen here is a genuine Apple product on the left. The others are fake, with the easiest way of spotting them being the shiny chrome plug connectors. The genuine part has a matte finish on the connectors. There is also a difference in the chamfering, and even a variation on the orientation of the USB port on some of them. Unfortunately we don’t get a look inside, which is what we really wanted. But you can see in the video after the break that weighing the adapter will also give it away as a fake, showing that the components within probably vary quite a bit. This reminds us of some other fake PSUs that have been exposed.

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Making a nostalgic Apple mouse wireless

If you’ve got an old mouse sitting around that has that perfect retro look why not start using it again? We’d bet there’s just enough room in there to turn the input device wireless.

The hack does away with everything but the case. The guts from a brand new wireless laser mouse are used as replacements. For the most part this is a simple process of making room for the new board and laying it in place. It involves cutting off a few plastic case nubs, enlarging the hole on the bottom so that the laser has a clear line of sight to the desktop, and hot gluing the thing in place. The button cover had a bit of plastic glued in place so that it lines up correctly with the replacement mouse’s switch.

The only thing that didn’t work out well is the battery situation. The AA cell that the mouse needs was too big for the retrofit so it was swapped with an AAA. These have a lower capacity which means more frequent replacement.

[via Make]