Adding a SIM card to the Photon Q 4G LTE

[Charles] is a big fan of phones that have physical keyboards. He thinks they are better suited for writing lengthy emails, but unfortunately his HTC Desire Z was getting old so he had to replace it. [Charles] therefore decided to import the Motorola Photon Q from the USA which exposed one major problem. The Verizon phone uses CDMA so there is nowhere to put a GSM SIM. But a bit of hacking allowed him to add a SIM card slot to it. Even though he’s not the one who originally found this hack (XDA thread here), his write-up is definitely an interesting read. To perform this modification, he needed a hot air reflow station, a soldering iron, a Dremel with the appropriate cutting wheel and several SIM card slot assemblies from the Galaxy S3 (as the first ones usually get burned during the disassembly process).

Obviously the first steps involved opening the phone, which may have taken a while. Using hot air, [Charles] removed the EMI shield covering the SIM card IC . He then extracted the latter using the same technique. Finally, he removed another EMI shield covering the contacts to which the SIM card slot should be connected. A few minutes/hours of delicate soldering and case modding later, [Charles] could use his SIM card on his brand new phone.

Ask Hackaday: Does Project Ara Solve the Phonebloks’ Problems?

motorolaProjectAra

Our tips line is blowing up again, this time directing us to Motorola’s Project Ara: a phone with modular components that plug into a base “endoskeleton.” If you missed the news coverage strewn across the web and you are doing a double-take, that’s because Project Ara is frighteningly similar to the (presumed vaporware) Phonebloks concept from a few weeks ago. Phonebloks was the subject of our last “Ask Hackaday” article, generating hundreds of comments ranging from those defending the concept to those furiously opposed to it.

There’s a conspiracy theory circulating that suggests Motorola released the Phonebloks concept as a viral marketing scheme to generate hype before revealing the official product line. We suspect it’s a bit less conniving. As [jorde] explained on Hacker News, an Israeli startup, Modu, had developed a similar modular cell phone several years ago, and Google bought the patents in May of 2011. A few months later, Google bought something else: Motorola. It seems likely that Project Ara is merely a resurrected and revised Modu, and Motorola conveniently announced it in the wake of Phonebloks’ popularity. Regardless, Motorola has announced that they have partnered with Phonebloks’ creator Dave Hakkens .

So what’s different? Phonebloks was met with cries of “vaporware!” and fervent arguments raising concerns about unavoidable hardware limitations. Motorola claims their goal is:

to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.

Unlike Project Ara, Phonebloks didn’t consider open-source hardware (Wayback Machine link), and Motorola makes an interesting argument here: that advances in 3D printing indicate an evolving “open hardware ecosystem,” and the next era of phone development may rest in the hands of your average hacker or a small startup company. Some speculate that the Ara will be similar to the relationship between a PC and its peripherals: Motorola provides the essential guts while giving you some slots for attaching additional components. Let us know in the comments what you think about Project Ara: is it just more vaporware, or a watered-down but plausible alternative to Phonebloks?  And, perhaps most important: do you, as a hacker, want a phone that supports open hardware and lets you plug in “peripherals?” The Phonebloks website has since changed to reflect the partnership with Motorola, and includes a new video that you can watch below.

Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Does Project Ara Solve the Phonebloks’ Problems?”

Rebuilding a 1940s TV

TV

There’s a lot of cool stuff to be found under piles of trash in an antique store. [dijt] discovered this when he found a tiny 7″ Motorola television from the 1940s under a stack of trinkets from earlier eras. We can understand [dijt]’s impulse buy, and the trials of rebuilding this ancient TV more than qualifies it as a hack.

If you know where to look, there are hundreds of resources available for old televisions, Hi-Fis, and radio equipment from the dawn of the electrical era to the modern day. After consulting with a few forums, [dijt] got his hands on a schematic for his television set and began work on diagnosing what was wrong with it.

It turned out the original ballast tube in this set had long since given up the ghost. Luckily, this is a common problem in old TVs, and after consulting some forums [dijt] had a schematic to replace this ballast tube with some newer caps and resistors.

After constructing the circuit and testing it out, [dijt] mounted it in the old ballast tube to replicate the original look and feel of the 1949 television. Interestingly, this is the second time this TV had been restored; the 1960s-era caps and resistors told [djit] this TV had once went into a television repair shop. Let’s just hope [djit] remembered to glue the schematics to the inside of the chassis this time.

Rooting your AT&T U-verse modem

Unhappy with the performance of his U-verse modem [Jordan] decided to dig in and see if a bit of hacking could improve the situation. Motorola makes this exclusively for AT&T and there are no other modems on the market which can used instead. Luckily he was able to fix almost everything that was causing him grief. This can be done in one of two ways. The first is a hardware hack that gains access to a shell though the UART. The second is a method of rooting the device from its stock web interface.

We think the biggest improvement gained by hacking this router is true bridge mode. The hardware is more than capable of behaving this way but AT&T has disabled the feature with no option for an unmodified device to use it. By enabling it the modem does what a modem is supposed to do: translate between WAN and LAN. This allows routing to be handled by a router (novel idea huh?).

Homebrew 68k extravaganza

Introduced in 1979, the Motorola 68000 CPU was first used in very expensive and very high-end workstations from the likes of Sun and SGI. As the processor matured it became well-known for its use in the original Macintosh, early Amigas, and even the TI-89 graphing calculator and a few video game consoles such as the Sega Genesis and Atari Jaguar.

A few days ago when I posted a homebrew computer build based on the 65816 CPU, I lamented the lack of builds using the venerable Motorola 68k. Hackaday readers were quick to point out the many homebrew computers making use of this classic CPU, and I’m glad to post them here.

First up is an amazing 68008 build featuring an IDE disk interface, a floppy disk interface, 10base-T Ethernet connectivity, a real-time clock, and two SID synthesizer chips. As far as features go, this build takes the cake. Pity I can’t find a writeup.

Here’s a 68000-based computer built around the S-100 bus. Like the first computer to use the S-100 bus, the Altair 8800, this computer is plugged into a backplane that breaks out the data, address, and interrupt lines to every device on the bus.

Of course, no mention of backplane computers would be complete without a Eurocard version. [N8VEM] built a 68000 computer able to be plugged in to a backplane along with an IDE controller card and a display controller.

Finally, in true ‘giant mess of wires’ spirit, [Dajgoro] sent in his 68k single board computer featuring 512 kB of RAM and a 16k ROM. [Dajgoro] also took the time to wire in a PIC microcontroller, allowing him to expand his computer far beyond what vintage components would allow.

The 68k was – and still is – a very powerful CPU that far surpasses the capabilities of the 6502 and Z80 homebrew computers we see from time to time. Short of building a 486 or Pentium-based computer from scratch, building a 68k machine is one of the crowning achievements of hardware hackery, and something we hope to see more of in the future.

Building a custom interface for surplus HF radios

[PRC148] picked up a Motorola Micom radio from eBay. These are US State Department surplus, but apparently the 125 Watt HF units are top-of-the-line at a tenth of the sticker price. The one hangup is that they’re headless; you can’t control them without additional hardware. But the Internets are often kind to the hobbyists, and this is no exception. You can get software to run the radio from a PC thanks to the Micom Yahoo Group. [PRC148] took that software as an example and built his own stand-alone interface. [Cached version of the page]

The head unit is an Arduino driving a four-line LCD display and a rather large array of buttons. The forum thread linked above shows his humble beginnings on a breadboard. During the project [PRC148] learned a lot of skills to end up with what you see above. Hiding behind the reused bezel is a PCB he designed in Eagle CAD and etched himself. It allowed him to cram the tactile switches close enough to work with the button overlay on this keypad.

UPDATE: The traffic from this feature took down the forum hosting the content. They requested that we do not link to them because of this. A cached version without images can be found above thanks to [Termm].

Custom flat cables to suit your needs

[Cosimo Orlando] has a Motorola Xoom tablet. It’s an Android device that works great as a tablet, but can double as a Laptop when you need it to by adding a keyboard. The problem he was having is that the USB On-The-Go cables that he tried were never the right size or orientation. So he scavenged them for parts and built his own flat cable for a custom fit.

The final product pictured here actually uses protoboard to give the body some strength. [Cosimo] first laid out the dimensions on the substrate using a felt-tipped pen. He then took connectors from his mis-sized commercial cables and affixed them to the board with a combination of hot glue and solder. From there, just connect the five data lines and ground with some jumper wire and test for continuity. He finished this off with what he calls ‘adhesive plastic glossy black’ shaped to make a decent looking case. If you have any idea what product was used here, let us know by leaving a comment.