The Acer Aspire One is a netbook that often ships with a Linux OS preinstalled. This is great for fans of open source as market share is calculated based on units shipped, not what users install after they buy the hardware. Unfortunately there is a pretty major flaw that can cause a “failed to initialize HAL” error as seen above. [Michael Crummy] came up with a set of steps you can use to recover from this error.
So what is this error? HAL stands for Hardware Abstraction Layer and it’s what allows one user interface to communicate with many different types of hardware. If you’re the proud owner of an Aspire One and are struck with this error you will suddenly find that you can no longer use the USB ports, card readers, wired or wireless network connectors, or the sound card. So you can’t connect to the Internet, and you can’t get any files on or off of the device using the currently installed operating system. For an OS that [Neal Stephenson] once described as “like the M1 tanks of the U.S. Army, made of space-age materials and jammed with sophisticated technology” this is a very big problem.
We know what you’re thinking… boot into a live session on a thumb drive and get what you need from the hard disk. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but you shouldn’t ever be forced to clean install Linux to fix a problem. So check out [Michael’s] method and make sure you turn off the Acer live update server which was mostly likely the cause of the problem in the first place.
External antennas on netbooks are notorious, from EEE PCs to the Panasonic CF-R1, but this is the first on an Acer Aspire One we’ve seen. [xRazorwirex] sent in his external antenna hack for the 802.11n capable D150, with the intention of increasing performance, but he says he can’t attest to any change. Unfortunately the lock slot had to be removed, but a small price to pay for a big increase in connectivity. The process seems simple enough, and could probably be done within a half an hour. Now that there is an external link why not build a Cantenna, hop in the car, and HeatMap the neighborhood!
[tnkgrl] is back with part three of her Acer Aspire One hacking. This time she’s adding in 3G. You may look at the picture the above and think, “Cake. She just plugged the card in”. No, the Acer doesn’t ship with the mini-PCIe slot or the SIM card holder. First you have to solder a right angle mini-PCIe connector to the board pads and bridge two others to provide power. The SIM holder was another problem. She wasn’t able to find a pin compatible one. The one she installed is mounted to a riser so she could change the wiring order (let her know if you can find the correct part). This mod definitely requires some good soldering skills and she warns that even she managed to destroy a SIM in the process.
The Dell Mini 9 is another netbook that doesn’t have the appropriate connectors soldered on board, but JKK has a work-around. You need a 3G modem that has the SIM card on board. You plug it into the WiFi slot after taping over a few pins and then use a USB WiFi card instead.
As promised, [tnkgrl] has published part two of Acer Aspire One upgrade. In part one she added Bluetooth and more RAM. This time around she focuses on the storage. The subnotebook comes from the factory with an 8GB SSD. The flash based storage readily unplugs from a small ZIF connector. [tnkgrl] replaced it with a 60GB PATA Samsung drive salvaged from an iPod. It’s a 1.8inch disk and is only 5mm thick, so it can be tucked under the motherboard. Knowing its previous use, it should prove fairly resilient. You can view a video of the swap and more photos on Flickr.
Up next is part three, where she’ll add 3G support.
[tnkgrl], a regular around here, is at it again. This time she has modded an Acer Aspire One subnotebook to have internal Bluetooth. She’s released part 1 of a multi part tutorial on beefing up the Aspire One. In this part, she covers disassembly, adding more RAM, and adding the Bluetooth hardware. She suggests that you look at her Bluetooth install on an Asus 701 to find more information as the process is nearly identical.
Part 2 of the tutorial is going to cover upgrading the SSD to a 1.8″ PATA hard drive and putting it back together.
Most Hackaday readers will be a pretty dab hand with a soldering iron. We can assemble surface-mount boards, SOICs and TSSOPs are a doddle, 0402s we take in our stride, and we laugh in the face of 0201s. But a Twitter thread from [Greg Davill] will probably leave all but the most hardcore proponents of the art floundering, as he hand-wires a tiny FPGA in a BGA package to the back of a miniature dot-matrix LED display module.
As far as we can see the module must once have had its own microcontroller which has been removed. We’d guess it was under an epoxy blob but can’t be sure, meanwhile its pads are left exposed. The Lattice LP1k49 fits neatly into the space, but a web of tiny wires are required to connect it to those pads. First, [Greg] populates the pads with a set of “tombstoned” tiny (we’re guessing 0R) resistors, then wires them to the pads with 30μm wire. He describes a moment of confusion as he attempts to tin a stray hair, which burns rather than accepting the solder.
The result is a working display with a new brain, which surprises even him. We’ve seen more than one BGA wiring over the years, but rarely anything at this scale.
In 2008, the then German interior minister, [Wolfgang Schäuble] had his fingerprint reproduced by members of the German Chaos Computer Club, or CCC, and published on a piece of plastic film distributed with their magazine. [Schäuble] was a keen proponent of mass gathering of biometric information by the state, and his widely circulated fingerprint lifted from a water glass served as an effective demonstration against the supposed infallibility of biometric information.
It was reported at the time that the plastic [Schäuble] fingerprint could fool the commercial scanners of the day, including those used by the German passport agency, and the episode caused significant embarrassment to the politician. The idea of “spoofing” a fingerprint would completely undermine the plans for biometric data collection that were a significant policy feature for several European governments of the day.
It is interesting then to read a paper from Michigan State University, “RaspiReader: An Open Source Fingerprint Reader Facilitating Spoof Detection” (PDF downloadable from the linked page) by [Joshua J. Engelsma], [Kai Cao], and [Anil K. Jain] investigates the mechanism of an optical fingerprint reader and presents a design using the ever-popular Raspberry Pi that attempts to detect and defeat attempts at spoofing. For the uninitiated is serves as a fascinating primer on FTIR (Frustrated Total Internal Reflection) photography of fingerprints, and describes their technique combining it with a conventional image to detect spoofing. Best of all, the whole thing is open-source, meaning that you too can try building one yourself.