Liquid Damaged MacBook Saved With A Keen Eye

Even among those of us with a penchant for repairing electronics, there are some failures which are generally considered too severe to come back from. A good example is liquid damage in a laptop; with so many components and complex circuits crammed into such a small area, making heads or tails of it once the corrosion sets in can be a real nightmare. Especially in the case of an older laptop, the conventional wisdom is to try and recover your files and then buy a new one.

But as we’ve come to learn, [Jason Gin] is not a man who often finds himself concerned with conventional wisdom. After finding an older MacBook with suspected liquid damage, he decided to see what it would take to restore it to working order. According to a note on the device, the screen was dead, the USB ports were fried, the battery didn’t take a charge, and it wouldn’t boot. No problem then, should be easy.

Upon opening up the circa-2012 laptop, [Jason] found the machine to be riddled with corrosion. We’re not just talking surface gunk either. After giving everything a good cleaning with isopropyl alcohol, the true extent of the damage became clear. Not only had traces on the PCB rotted away, but there were many components that were either damaged or missing altogether. Whatever spilled inside this poor Mac was clearly some nasty stuff.

[Jason] used OpenBoardView to pull up schematics and diagrams of the motherboard, and started the arduous task of visually comparing them to his damaged unit. In some areas, the corrosion was so bad he still had trouble locating the correct traces and pads. But with time and effort, he was able to start probing around and seeing what components had actually given up the ghost.

For the USB ports it ended up being a bad 10-microfarad ceramic capacitor, but for the LCD, he ended up having to replace the entire backlight driver IC. The prospect of working on this tiny BGA-25 device might have been enough for some to throw in the towel, but compared to the hand-soldered magnet wire repairs required elsewhere on the board, [Jason] says the installation of the new LP8550 chip was one of the easier aspects of the whole operation.

The write-up is a great read if you like a good repair success story, and we especially like the way he documented his diagnosis and resulting work on a per-system basis. It makes it much easier to understand just how many individual fires [Jason] had to put out. But if you’re more interested in feats of steady-handed soldering, check out his recent project to add a PCI-E slot to the Atomic Pi.

Mac Plus Becomes A Vector Display

The vintage Macintosh all-in-one computers were a design icon, as well as being highly useful machines in the 80s and 90s. In the decades since, they’ve been used for everything from web servers to aquariums, but that’s not all. [Arcade Jason] decided to grab an old Macintosh Plus and turn it into a vector display.

The hack starts with the opening of a Macintosh, which naturally requires a long screwdriver with the right tip. Setting the stage for things to come, this is achieved by soldering together a couple of existing tools to get the reach he needs. [Jason] then proceeds to install a brightness control for the main electron gun, as well as deflection drivers and a spot killing circuit. Everything is done with the intention of the hack being reversible, as [Jason] didn’t wish to sacrifice a good Macintosh Plus just for the sake of having some fun.

For those unfamiliar with vector cathode-ray displays and the manner in which they are driven, [Arcade Jason] does a great job explaining the basics. A set of magnetic coils is used to alter the trajectory of an electron fired at the screen. If you aim those electrons in ordered lines from left-to-right, top-to-bottom you’ve created a raster display. If you instead guide the electrons to follow the shapes you want to appear on the screen you’ve created a vector display.

We can’t help but feel this would be a hilarious way to troll at a demoscene meetup. We’ve seen [Jason]’s vector work before, too — like this impressive color Asteroids hack.

Apple Just Killed The VESA Mount And We Couldn’t Be Happier

After the immense failure of the 2013-era Apple Pro trash can Mac, Apple has been hard at work at the next generation of workstation desktops. This week, the new Mac Pro has been announced, and the specs are amazing: We finally can buy a professional, desktop Mac with half the storage of an iPhone. The big story isn’t the next generation of cheese-grater Macs, though: the new display, the Pro Display XDR, has killed the venerable VESA mount and we couldn’t be happier.

The VESA mount, or more correctly, the VESA Mounting Interface Standard, was created in 1997 as a mounting standard for flat panel monitors and televisions. Look on the back of your monitor, and you’ll probably find a pattern of M4 threaded inserts laid out on a 75mm or 100mm square. Larger sizes, with respectively larger thread sizes, are used for gigantic wall-mounted televisions. For the last two decades, this has been the standard for mounting monitors to stands. Now this standard faces a challenger thanks to the brave designers at Apple. Continue reading “Apple Just Killed The VESA Mount And We Couldn’t Be Happier”

Macintosh API Comes To Linux, Android

Unlike DOS, early versions of Windows, and most *nixes, the classic Mac operating system is weird. Contained in the ROM are subroutines to draw windows, pop up dialog boxes, and other various tasks purely related to the UI. On other systems, this would be separate from the BIOS, but in your Mac from the 80s, everything is baked into the ROM and hidden deep in the operating system. This has caused many problems for emulation; you can’t emulate an old Mac without a ROM or without a real installation of the operating system. Where BeOS — a cool but entirely forgettable operating system — has an Open Source reimplementation of the programming API, there’s nothing like that for a computer that at one point had a ten percent market share. This is weird, and we’ve all been waiting for someone to come up with an Open Source reimplementation of the Macintosh Toolbox, the API that’s responsible for everything from LoadRunner to Shufflepuck.

Now that day has finally come. The Advanced Mac Substitute is an API-level reimplementation of the classic Mac OS. You can now run classic Mac apps on Linux and Android without using an Apple ROM or Apple system software.

The Advanced Mac Substitute (AMS) is a project from [Josh Juran] to run old (pre-OS 7) Mac software without an Apple ROM. For the last twenty years, Macintosh emulators have required Apple ROMs and/or installation media because the API calls will redirect to the ROM. Unlike other emulation projects, the AMS does not attempt to emulate the hardware, except for the 68k processor. It simply launches directly into an application with the frontend being a generic bitmap terminal. This means there is no OS to speak of, but that also means we finally get flatpak for the classic Mac OS.

AMS is still in the very early phases of development; keyboards don’t work on some systems, and it doesn’t work on the latest versions of MacOS at all. Additionally, there’s no support for System 7 applications. That said, this is an excellent advance in the state of Macintosh emulation. If you’d like an example of how cool this could be, go play some Oregon Trail and tell me how awesome playing Shufflepuck or Glider on a webpage would be.

The Mac That Helped Build The Xbox Rides Again

The original Xbox, released in 2001 by Microsoft, was notable for being built out of largely off-the-shelf PC components. With a custom Pentium III CPU and IDE peripherals, the console was much closer to a contemporary desktop computer than any of the dedicated game consoles which had come before it. Which of course makes perfect sense if you think about it. Microsoft would want to use technology they were intimately acquainted with on their first foray into gaming market, and if there’s anything Microsoft knows better than forced system updates, it’s x86 computers.

But for their follow-up system, the Xbox 360, Microsoft decided to go with a PowerPC processor they co-developed with IBM. Naturally this meant they needed PowerPC development systems to give to developers, which is how Microsoft ended up briefly distributing PowerMac G5’s. [Pierre Dandumont] came into possession of one of these oddball Microsoft-branded Macs, though unfortunately the hard drive had been wiped. But with the help of a leaked drive image and some hardware sleuthing, he’s now got the machine up and running just like it was when Microsoft was sending them to developers between 2003 and 2005.

Since you’re reading this on Hackaday, you might have guessed there was a little more to the story then just downloading an ISO and writing it to the hard drive of a PowerMac G5. There’s apparently some debate in the community about whether or not it’s some form of rudimentary DRM on Microsoft’s part, but in any event, the development kit operating system will only run on a G5 with very specific hardware. So the challenge is not only figuring out what hardware the software is looking for, but finding it and getting it installed over a decade after its prime.

Most of the required hardware, like the Intel 741462-010 network card or 160 GB Seagate ST3160023AS hard drive were easy enough to track down on eBay. But the tricky one was finding a Mac version of the ATi Radeon X800 XT. [Pierre] ended up getting a much more common ATi FireGL X3 and flashing it with the Mac X800 firmware. This is a little easier said than done as depending on which manufacturer made the memory on your specific video card you have to fiddle with the clock speeds to get a usable image, but in the end he found the winning combination and the development kit OS booted up with his hacked graphics card.

So what does all this get you in 2019? [Pierre] admits nothing terribly useful, but it’s still pretty cool. The system lets you run Xbox and Xbox 360 binaries, and even features the old Xbox 360 “blade” style dashboard. He says that he’s only had limited success getting retail games to actually run on the thing, but if your goal was running Xbox 360 games in 2019 there’s certainly better ways to do that anyway. Like, buying an Xbox 360.

We’ve previously talked about the Xbox 360’s rather unusual processor, but around these parts we more often see projects which involve tearing Microsoft’s sophomore console apart than digging into how it actually worked.

Continue reading “The Mac That Helped Build The Xbox Rides Again”

Unobtanium Bezels Finally Modeled For 3D Printing

In 1991, Apple released the Quadra line of computers, named after their utilization of the new Motorola 68040 CPU. The Quadra line initially consisted of two models, the Quadra 700 and the Quadra 900. These two models, and the Quadra 950, released as a slight upgrade to the 900, were the peak of performance. You could conceivably load these machines up with 256 Megabytes of RAM, in an era where hard drives hovered around 80 Megabytes. This much RAM would cost as much as a house. These were powerhouses, the first ProTools workstations, and they ran Jurassic Park. If you wanted peak performance in the early 90s, you got a Quadra.

The Quadra 900 and 950 were tower computers, and there were options for floppy, Zip drives, Bernoulli drives, and a CD-ROM drive. They were introduced a little before the ‘multimedia’ hubub, and right now, the plastic bezel for the CD-ROM option is an absurdly expensive piece of plastic. People have paid $150 for an original CD-ROM bezel. Seems like the perfect application of 3D printing, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what [360alaska] over on the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army forms did. The unobtanium bezel can now be sent off to Shapeways.

This project is a continuation of a thread where various forum members shared their .STLs for random bits of Apple plastic, ranging from rubber feet for PowerBooks to the clip-on ‘programmer’s switch’ for the Macintosh SE. The crowning achievement of this community endeavour is the Quadra 950 CD-ROM bezel. There are a few varieties, ranging from one that fits a standard 5 1/4″ drive, to a nearly exact replica of the official Apple offering for their official drive. All the files are there for the downloadin’.

Printing these bezels will be a bit of a challenge for a filament-based printer, but resin printers are getting cheap and Shapeways is always there for you. Painting to match the brominated patina of old plastic is also a challenge, but the forum members have had some success with off-the-shelf spray paints.

Giving An Old Mac Spotify

The Macintosh SE/30 is the greatest computer ever made, and I’m not saying that just because I’m sitting on a cache of them, slowly selling them to computer collectors around the world. No, the SE/30 is so great because of how powerful it is, and how much it can be expanded. A case in point: here’s an SE/30 that’s a Spotify player. Oh, it does it over WiFi, too.

You might be asking yourself how a computer from 1989 (it’s late enough in the year that we can safely say this computer is thirty years old) can possibly play music over the Internet. While the SE/30 supported an astonishing 128 Megabytes of RAM, it’s still just a bit too slow to play MP3s or any modern audio codec. The 68030 CPU just wasn’t fast enough to play audio, to say nothing of streaming it over a network connection. The trick is that this SE/30 is simply a remote for Spotify Connect. You could theoretically get the Mac to speak, “Alexa, play Despacito” and get the same functionality, but that’s not fun, is it? You need to do it wirelessly.

This is a continuation of one of [ants] earlier hacks that basically put a WiFi to Ethernet bridge inside an SE/30. Tie that together with a Finder extension and you have System 7, with WiFi. That’s a connection to the Internet, but [ants] actual wrote an app to connect to a Spotify playlist, browse tracks, and display album art in beautiful 1-bit color. Writing the app involved dealing with OAuth, which means the MacPlayer isn’t entirely standalone; some of it must be done on a ‘modern’ device. This, along with porting a conversion utility that translates UTF-8 text encoding into something the Mac can understand ties everything together.

With all those pieces, the SE/30 becomes a handsome, functional piece of art. Apple is never going to release a computer like this again, and you’re not going to find a touchbar MacBook being used like this in thirty years time.