66% or better

Transit pass controls this home security system

[Folkert van Heusden] installed a bunch of cameras in and around his home. Ostensibly this is for watching the kitties from work, but we’re sure the more accepted purpose is for security. He and his wife don’t really want the cameras rolling when they’re at home. So he added a system by the front door with uses a transit pass to turn on and off the security cameras.

The pass is an RFID tag which gets them on the subways, trains, and buses around the Netherlands. To use it with this system he needed an RFID reader. The one he chose is a USB device which enumerates as an HID keyboard. When it detects a valid card it outputs the tag id as a string of characters. [Folkert's] setup uses an eeePC with a broken keyboard to connect to the reader. A perl script monitors the feed from the reader, and verifies each code as it is received. After authentication the script will enable or disable the networked cameras and update the LED readout accordingly. To keep everything hidden he put it in the closet, using a hole (from a doorknob?) as a wire pass-through.

Swapping out Eee PC BGA chip for 1.6 GHz upgrade

Personally we find this Ball-Grid Array chip-swap rather horrifying. But if you want to beef up the processor on your 701 Eee PC this is what you’ll need to go through. Not only did [Red Fathom] upgrade to a 1.6 GHz chip, but he managed to get the computer to boot up with the new hardware in place.

BGAs are notoriously hard to solder. This hack pulls it off using just a hot air gun. [Red Fathom] heats the board from the underside until the solder melts and he can pluck off the old chip. He then uses a solder braid and iron to remove extra solder from the footprint. After a little cleanup with a cotton swab and some flux he plops in an Intel Pentium M LV 778. It doesn’t look like he added any solder after the cleaning process. Perhaps he’s relying on the small amount left on the tinned pads of the board?

After the break you can see the soldering process and a video of the new processor booting Xandros.

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Recovering a corrupted EEE PC BIOS

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[Jeremy] had an ASUS EEE PC 1000HE netbook on his hands which had succumbed to a corrupted BIOS. In most situations, people replace a motherboard when the BIOS is damaged beyond repair, but considering the price of motherboards, especially those built for portable devices, he simply refused to go that route.

Instead, he took it apart and did a little investigation to find out what SPI flash chip ASUS used in the netbook. With that information in hand, he put together an SPI flash programmer using a breadboard and a DLP-USB1232H USB to UART module. He couldn’t program the flash chip in-circuit, so he had to desolder it and deadbugged it onto his programmer. Using a few Linux-based flashing tools, he was able to reprogram the chip with a functioning BIOS in short order, saving him from a costly motherboard replacement.

While some motherboard manufacturers have built in secondary BIOS chips to prevent the need for this sort of recovery, it’s nice to know that the process is relatively straightforward, provided you have some basic soldering and Linux skills.

This also isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone recover an EEE PC from the brink – if you’re looking for an Arduino-based alternative, be sure to check this out.

Unbricking with the help of Arduino

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This bricked Eee PC came to [Janzo] for about $50. Everything was fine with it, except for the failed bios update that rendered it useless to the last owner. [Janzo] set to work with an Arduino on a quest to repair the bios. He looked up the datasheet for the EEPROM that stores the bios and did some delicate soldering to gain access to the power and data pins on the device. A bit of trial and error and he was able to read the registers. Some comparisons between the output file and the official Eee PC bios file in a HEX editor confirmed that the first 80 bytes were fine but after that something went wrong. After coding a quick Python script [Janzo] reflashed the chip and had the computer up and running again.

We’ve seen Eee PC bios recovery before. This is a very simple method because it makes use of the simplicity we find in the Arduino. Nice job.

Eee PC bios resurrection

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Hot on the heels of our post about reading passwords from EEPROM, [n0th1n6] tipped us off about a similar hack used to resurrect an Eee PC from a bad bios flash. After discovering that a factory repair for a dead bios costs about $200, [CutenaCute_7] took on the challenge herself. She disassembled the computer and desoldered the bios chip from the board. After writing a program to flash the chip using C#, she temporarily soldered jumpers to make sure the flash worked. Looks like this is a zero cost hack, plus the time savings from not having to ship her computer somewhere. Bravo.

Eee PC NAS

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Hack a Day reader [The_Glu] shared with us a project of his. He used an Eee PC 701 he had lying around with a broken LCD, along with three 1TB SATA drives to create a custom NAS server for his house. The server features a number of other interesting components, including USB2SATA converters to connect the hard drives, as well as a 2 line LCD to display RAID information and server status. The entire  project is wrapped up in a custom made Plexiglas enclosure with case fans to keep the whole thing cool. While this may not be the first Eee PC NAS, or the fastest, this is a wonderful way to repurpose a broken netbook. We also love the idea of netbooks being used more and more in projects like these as the first generation reaches its end of usefulness age. More pictures after the break.

Thanks [The_Glu]

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Hackit: Are you running OSX on your netbook?

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AppleDifferent decided to run some benchmarks on their MSI Wind hackintosh to see how it stacked up to real Apple hardware. It comes in under the MacBook Air in most cases and they conclude that it performs about as well as a four year old G4. Being so small and inexpensive, you can’t really expect much better. As a counterpoint, Obsessable posted a video demoing just how slow a first generation Eee PC can be (embedded below). Boing Boing Gadgets is maintaining an OSX netbook compatibility chart. It shows that the MSI Wind is probably the best case for OSX usability. If we were buying today, we’d probably pick up a Dell Mini 9 even though it requires an SSD upgrade before it will sleep properly.

Are any of you running OSX as the primary OS on your netbooks? What has your experience been?

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