A tale of (un)bricking a $10k Microsoft Surface unit

We’ve all had that sinking feeling as a piece of hardware stops responding and the nasty thought of “did I just brick this thing?” rockets to the front of our minds. [Florian Echtler] recently experienced this in extremis as his hacking on the University of Munich’s Microsoft Surface 2.0 left it unresponsive. He says this is an 8,000 Euro piece of hardware, which translates to around $10,000! Obviously it was his top priority to get the thing working again.

So what’s the first thing you should do if you get your hands on a piece of hardware like this? Try to run Linux on the thing, of course. And [Florian] managed to make that happen pretty easily (there’s a quick proof-of-concept video after the break). He took a Linux kernel drive written for a different purpose and altered it to interface with the MS Surface. After working out a few error message he packaged it and called to good. Some time later the department called him and asked if his Linux kernel work might have anything to do with the display being dead. Yikes.

He dug into the driver and found that a bug may have caused the firmware on the USB interface chip to be overwritten. The big problem being that they don’t just distribute the image for this chip. So he ended up having to dump what was left from the EEPROM and rebuild the header byte by byte.

[Read more...]

LEGO pick and place

Turn your volume down and take a look at the brick sorting robot in the video above. It’s built using LEGO and powered by four different NXT modules. It sorts differently colored bricks on the intake conveyor and places them on three output conveyors. The build is solid and was [Chris Shepherd's] impetus for starting a blog. We appreciate the pneumatic tricks that he detailed in some of his earlier posts such as a compressor, pressure switch, and air tank system. His advice is “build, build, build” and that’s what you’d have to do to perfect a monster of this size and scope.

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