Laptop touchpad as a standalone peripheral

[Viktor] is working on salvaging parts from a dead laptop. In his eyes the biggest gem to be had is the touchpad, so he set out to see if he could make the touchpad a standalone device. You might be envisioning the many hells of interfacing this with a microcontroller and writing firmware to measure and translate the input to HID compatible commands. The good news is it’s quite a bit simpler than that, with just one gotcha.

He looked around to see what he could find about the chip that drives the touchpad. He couldn’t locate an exact match, but a datasheet from a similar family of controllers make him think that there should be a PS/2 data and clock output from the chip. After probing the test points on the board he found them, as well as the voltage and ground rails. Above you can see he soldered an old mouse cable to the board and it works when plugged in.

But we did mention the gotcha. There doesn’t seem to be any support for the right and left buttons. Those were housed on a flexible PCB which attached to the white connector seen above. That PCB also connected to the computer so we don’t know if they will work with this hack or not.

DIY film projector fits in the palm of your hand

DSLRs aside, the price of digital cameras these days can make it easy to consider just tossing your old one out when it breaks. [Leonidas Tolias] had another idea, and with a few broken cameras he had on hand he constructed a slick little pocket-sized projector.

The project started out as a pair of lenses from busted cameras and an Altoids tin in which he mounted them. The larger lens from a video camera was installed on the exterior of the tin, while the smaller of the two was mounted inside. Bits from disposable cameras were used to create a set of film reels, which he supports with some hand cut scrap aluminum. He made some test photo slides by printing some images on transparency paper, which he can cycle through using a film advancement rig he built out of string and a couple of gears.

While you won’t be using this projector for your next boring PowerPoint presentation, it does work pretty well as you can see in pictures on [Leonidas’] site.

[Thanks, Taylor]

Toilet paper printer made from scrap parts


Some of our favorite hacks are those made with scrap materials, so we were delighted to see a contest being held by the German technology magazine c’t which focuses on using salvaged components. “Mach flott den Schrott” is the name of the competition, which loosely translates to “Make fast the scrap”.

German builder [Mario Lukas’] entry into the contest (Google Translation) is definitely unique, and certainly fits within the theme. He built a toilet paper printer that uses a bunch of recycled components to write anything he desires on a roll of the soft white stuff. His blog walks through the build details, including a bill of materials for all of the scrap bits he used to put it together. Several CD-ROM drives, printers, and even inline skates donated some components to the printer, while an Arduino controls the entire printing process.

Though [Mario] is using RSS and Twitter feeds as a data source for his toilet-side scribe, we imagine it will only be a matter of time before advertising companies seize upon this sort of technology to create personalized advertisements geared towards a decidedly captive audience.

Continue reading to see a quick video of his toilet paper printer in action.

[via Make]

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Polarized art fixture made from a busted laptop screen

[Pedro] had a busted laptop LCD screen on his hands, but rather than throw it out, he brainstormed what he could possibly do with what would typically be considered a worthless item. He decided to make a simple art installation using the scrapped part, so he gathered a few other supplies and got to work.

The first thing he did was pull the LCD screen from the laptop, separating the front panel from the backlight panel. He drained the liquid crystal fluid from the display, and set it inside a picture frame in place of the glass. He added spacers around the edge of the frame so that the backlight could be mounted several inches behind the LCD panel.

[Pedro] then found a few polystyrene and polycarbonate plastic items from around the house, and placed them inside the frame. As you can see in the picture above, the polarizing filter built into the LCD screen makes for some pretty cool effects.

While you could debate for hours over exactly what is art, there’s no denying that his PolFrame looks cool and is a great way to save electronics from the scrap heap. We just want to know what he did with the LC fluid he drained from the screen!

PCB parts salvaging made easy

Take a moment to think about how many old or damaged computer motherboards you have tossed away over the years. Sure we try to repurpose everything we can, but reclaiming electronic components from complex devices can be overly time consuming if you don’t have the proper means of doing so.

Ideally, if we were to try removing components from a motherboard, an old stove or an unused toaster oven would be great. If you didn’t have either item at your disposal, you could always attack the board with a soldering iron and some braid – but who has the time for that?

[Giorgos Lazaridis] over at PCBHeaven put together a quick video demonstrating his favorite technique for salvaging components after a motherboard has outlived its usefulness. Using a 2000W heat gun, a few hand tools, and couple of metal pans, he had the entire board stripped bare in about 30 minutes time. He talks about some of the best parts he has discovered while salvaging and points out a few hard-to-find items that can be easily obtained by tearing down a motherboard.

Sure his process might not be as easy as inverting a PCB in an oven, but his method is cheap, portable, and takes up very little space.

Keep reading to see [Giorgos’] video demonstration and don’t forget to check out some of the other cool stuff he has done in the past, such as his temperature-controlled soldering station, this acrylic bender, or this bench top function generator.

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Think Geeks wants you to have broken stuff

Think Geek has a growing pile of returns and damaged product that they’re trying to get rid of. The purveyors of technological oddities, like any other large retailer, sometimes have stuff that doesn’t work right, or has been damaged somewhere between factory and consumer. The broken bits find their way back to the distribution center and now they’re stuck with the task of doing something with it.

They can’t sell it, and we’re happy to say they don’t want to throw it out. So they’re considering giving it away to worth-while causes like Hackerspaces and schools. Looks like no real details have been hammered out as of yet. But if you belong to a Hackerspace or other group that can find a use for this stuff, click-through the link above and sign up to let them know you’re interested. The goldmine of reusable stuff is located in Columbus, Ohio and pick-ups might be available. Otherwise they’re going to need to find a way to cover the cost to ship boxes to those interested.

Don’t forget to document your projects and let us know what you use this stuff for.

[Thanks RenderMan]

PCB drill press on a budget

An accurate drill press is an essential tool for making your own through-hole printed circuit boards at home. Reader [Josh Ashby] offers up a solid design using scrap bin materials.

A major issue with PCB drilling is that even the slightest horizontal play will snap the delicate carbide drill bit. Hobbyist-grade tools such as Dremel’s drill press attachment are usually too sloppy for this task, while a more precise instrument might set you back a couple hundred bucks.

[Josh’s] design uses a nylon “sled” moving vertically in an aluminum u-channel track. Most of these materials were salvaged or were acquired inexpensively from a local hardware store, and assembled in less than a day. Surprisingly, this low-tech approach has proven sufficiently smooth that he’s yet to break a bit while drilling. And the entire setup, including the knockoff Harbor Freight rotary tool, cost less than the wobbly name-brand accessory alone.