Hacker Builds New Single Board Computer Out Of Old Single Board Computer

[Ncrmnt] had a busted tablet PC with an Allwinner A23 SoC inside. He combined two of our favorite past-times, Linux hacking and 3D printing, to make a rather sweet little single-board-computer out of it, giving the tablet a second life.

Step one was to make sure that the thing works. Normally, you’d hook up a wired serial terminal and start hacking. [Ncrmnt] took it one step further and wired in a HC-05 Bluetooth serial module, so he can pull up the debug terminal wirelessly. The rest of the hackery was just crafting a bootable SD card and poking around in the Android system that was still resident in the flash memory of the system.

Once the board was proven workable, [Ncrmnt] designed and printed a sweet custom case using Solvespace, a constraint-based 3D CAD modeler that was new to us until recently. The case (after three prints) was a perfect fit for the irregularly shaped system board, a 3.7 V LiIon battery, and a speaker. He then added some nice mounting tabs. All in all, this is a nice-looking and functional mini-computer made out of stuff that was destined for the trash. It’s fast, it’s open-source, and it’s powerful. Best of all, it’s not in the dumpster.

There are pictures and more details on his blog, as well as [Ncrmnt]’s TV-stick to computer conversion that we’ve covered before.

11 thoughts on “Hacker Builds New Single Board Computer Out Of Old Single Board Computer

    1. Though it got me thinking, and I’ve got an old 386 laptop that has a roomy shell, this one non-functional, but you could get enough battery in it to run it full bore for a week. One of the tabs the actual LCD isn’t broke but the digitiser touchscreen matrix is fubar. So could remount the screen on a ribbon extension. WOuld have to “waste” a cheap arduino on KBC duties, but then you could say that that was the fate of 8051s wasted on keyboards. So that is #1

      #2 another dead 386, smaller form factor, SBC from half dead android box, but with lovely lot of ports, HDMI USB SDcard internal SATA, composite video… now this be theoretically super easy, because just disassemble headrest car LCD screen, take composite out from android box, hook to that, rebuild into laptop case (it has similar size screen) Then if lazy use small USB keyboard internally wired, or the nano as KBC thing again.

      #3 486 laptop with color screen, functional…. inch thick notebook size, but been in there, a lot of that is empty space, they needed height for some components, so tablet number 2, with completely screwed screen, take the board out, mount it inside working 486, a parasite if you like LOL. Find old Xserver that will run on 486, or just use dos terminal program. Call it after that dude on Total Recall. Need some thinking how you connect the two, internal SLIP even if you can push it to 230k would be lame for graphics even if compressed protocol. Could possibly get 802.11b working under dos, with PC card, but I think that would max out CPU. Might have to do some 16 bit parallel hookup and figure out how to use it… something like fake ATA faking SCSI and using SCSI networking driver. (That probably hasn’t been supported since kernel 1.5.1 or something LOL) … Now it would be nice if you could dig Ethernet out of tablet SBC or SOC, but can;t expect much better than 10Mbit from the 486.

      #4, 5, 6 … Now, 3D printering your case is nice if you can, but look around. I’ve got an ample supply of computer junk, so I’m seeing external drive cases, cases from old network equipment, like that old “broadband router”, even some household crap like old alarm system or doorbell boxes might be nice for wall mount…. and if you want a real stealth unit, hollow out a book.

      1. Just realised for #1 there, the whole tablet can probably fit in the rather thick lid of that machine leaving about a 3/4 inch by letter/A4 sized space to fill.. wonder how many fast and tiny SBCs you could cram in that and have laptop supercomputer cluster LOL.

      2. Awww yeahhhh. I just remembered another machine. I don’t know if I still have it, last seen before last move. It was a “first generation” 386 laptop, and by that I mean definitely not notebook, LAPTOP. It’s about the size of 2 large pizza boxes stacked, flip out handle. It had orange scale display, plasma?. It had lead acid battery, which was dead. It had a 3/4 height 3.5 inch HDD that was some weird interface, it wasn’t MFM, or was and didn’t have standard connectors. Most 3.5 drives you’ve seen are half height, so this was taller by half. Anyway, not sure if this one is more collectible than molestable, but I got frustrated with it. The boot sectors of the HDD were fried, and it took 2 or 3 boots before recognizing a DOS partition on it. HDD seems unreplaceable. The installed RAM was only 1MB so doing more than DOSing around a problem. Did not seem to have provision for upgrade, but this was maybe a late 80s beast, so DOS was it. Also it had an annoying BZZZT every few minutes to tell you the batt was flat/not charging, and was in general a glitchybitch, rebooting for no apparent reason.

        Anyway… very nice keyboard on it, and it has a TON of space inside, think you could get 60mm fans in the back. Point being, that you could have a tablet head/master in the lid and 20 quad core ARMs inside it.

        1. Did you check the type # of the drive vs heads cylinders sectors in the bios? If it’s HP IBM or Compaq you may need bios boot disks. Fun to play on if you get it running. Try finding an evergreen CPU for it it’s a chip with on socket bus overclocking. Also I believe the drives were ide. Or SCSI. Could also be ice with floppy power plug. All were common.

  1. I don’t think you get much computer, but my TomTom One GPS, my two tv sets, my Blu-ray player, and I think my DVD recorder all use Linux. I may have forgotten something. But they are all a source of limited Linux computers.

    I want the GPS, so I won’t scrap it, but it even has a small touchscreen.


    1. I was [sort of] pleasantly surprised to find an old satnav I got for a 99p in a junk shop ran windows ce. That thing was quite amusing to play with. It’s odd finding an xp like start menu hiding behind the map software. The software supported much more hardware than the device it resided in could provide.
      Still I got a custom boot screen and swapped out to stock map software for something a little more fun. Added a full screen clock, some games and a few other mods. Not a clue which junk box I left it in.

      1. I’ve got one something like that, determined it had CE on anyway, didn’t play with it much, it had lost it’s maps somehow and web searching at the time didn’t find a way to stick open street map on it or something, and I’ve got handhelds to amuse myself with so it’s kind of in the part donor pile now.

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