Laptop’s Aren’t Upgradable? Ha!

[MX372] is a pretty dedicated hardware hacker. Instead of chucking a 10 year old laptop with specs weaker than his latest cellphone — he decided to breath new life into it with a few hardware upgrades, and a switch to Linux of course.

Featuring a 1.1GHz Pentium M processor with a whopping 512mb DDR RAM, a dvd burner, a 40GB HDD, USB 2.0, BlueTooth, 802.11b/g wireless and even a FireWire port, his old Sony Vaio used to command a pretty hefty price tag. In fact, he’s pretty sure he paid $2,100 for it back in ’05. It was called an “ultrabook” before ultrabook actually meant a MacBook-Air sized laptop.

Still running Windows XP, it had gotten slower with age as all good computers do, and since XP is no longer supported, [MX372] thought it was time to switch it over to Linux. He started with Xubuntu 12, but quickly found Lubuntu instead. But, it still wasn’t that great. Continue reading “Laptop’s Aren’t Upgradable? Ha!”

Radio cabinet media center


[Jon] picked up an old Philco radio from a pawn shop for $81. The electronics were shot and the controls had seen better days. So he set to work giving this old beast a makeover, turning it into a beauty of a media player.

The face plate for the controls had seen better days. His solution was to replace it, which gave him more options for mounting a display and controls. A menu system was implemented on the LCD display using a PIC18F4450 microcontroller. The chip also takes care of the three rotary encoders for the user interface and integrates the whole thing with the PC backend.

We’ll be the first to admit that a full PC is overkill in this situation. That being said, this was slow, unused system that is seeing new life. But is it worth the added noise and energy costs? Who knows, we think this leaves a lot of room for future revisions. Perhaps an NAS and wireless controls via iPhone or a similar device?

We’re a bit disappointed that [Jon] didn’t do some work to get better sound out of this. With a great big cabinet like this, the right speakers with a tube amp will produce some sweet sound. Certainly most things would be better than just using a pair of computer speakers. We’ll keep our eye out for an update that adds a tube kit to the project.