It’s been a frequent criticism of Apple, that their products are difficult to repair. They’ve hit back with a self-repair program for iPhones, and should you wish to take advantage of it they will hire you a tool kit. Not the iFixit box you might expect, instead they give you two hefty suitcases that contain 36 Kg of tools and equipment. Yes, you can repair an iPhone, but they ensure that it’s not for the faint-hearted.
In the kit is an impressive array of everything you might need for your iDevice, including the proper heat plate and press for the job. None of that messing about with a hot air gun for your $49 rental cost and $1200 if you don’t return the tools, but it remains an impossibly difficult and expensive process for all but the most dedicated of Apple fanboy technicians.
The sense from the Verge article is that Apple have had their arm twisted to the extent that they must provide a repair option, but they’ve gone to extravagant lengths to make it something nobody in their right mind would pursue. There’s an attraction in the idea of playing with a fully-equipped Apple repair kit for a few days, but maybe it’s not worth the cost.
Back in the 90s, the console wars were in full swing. Nintendo vs Sega was an epic showdown at first, but when Nintendo seemed sure to clench the victory Sony came out of nowhere with the PlayStation. While these were the most popular consoles at the time, there were a few others around that are largely forgotten by history even if they were revolutionary in some ways. An example is the Pippin, a console made by Apple, which until now has been unable to run any software not signed by Apple.
The Pippin was Apple’s only foray into gaming consoles, but it did much more than that and included a primitive social networking system as well as the ability to run Apple’s Macintosh operating system. The idea was to be a full media center of sorts, and the software that it would run would be loaded from the CD-ROM at each boot. [Blitter] has finally cracked this computer, allowing it to run custom software, by creating an authentication file which is placed on the CD to tell the Pippin that it is “approved” by Apple.
The build log goes into incredible detail on the way these machines operated, and if you have a Pippin still sitting around it might be time to grab it out of the box and start customizing it in the way you probably always wanted to. For those interested in other obscure Apple products, take a look at this build which brings modern WiFi to the Apple Newton, their early PDA.
Most of us either own or have used a laptop at some point. For traveling, as a student, or even for browsing Hackaday on the couch in front of the TV, they are pretty much indispensable. They do tend to have a sharp performance reduction compared to a desktop though thanks to the thermal and battery limitations of a portable form factor. [Scott Yu-Jan] wanted to solve that in his own life by building a custom Mac laptop with none of these downsides.
Noticing that a modern iPad Mini has exactly the same width of his Mac Mini, [Scott] set about combining the two devices into a single unit that he could assemble when traveling. A 3D printed case with a traditional laptop clamshell design takes care of physically combining these two devices, and a USB-C cable between the two takes care of combining them in software thanks to Apple’s Duet program. While this has better performance than a Macbook Pro it might actually have some perks, since Apple continues to refuse to make a laptop with a touchscreen.
There are some downsides, of course. The price is higher than a comparable Macbook Pro for the iPad and Mac together, plus it doesn’t include a keyboard or mouse. It also has no battery, so it needs to be plugged in. In the follow-up video linked below, though, [Scott] notes that for him this still made sense as he uses the Mac and iPad individually already, and only works remotely at places that have power outlets readily available. For the average person, though, we might recommend something different if you really need an esoteric laptop-like machine.
Thanks to [Varun] for originally sending in this tip!
[Marcio Teixeira] needed to recap an old Apple Macintosh motherboard, and came across a simple hack to use common paper staples as a temporary heat shield (video, embedded below) during hot air rework. The problem with hot air rework is minimizing collateral damage; you’re wielding air at a temperature hot enough to melt solder, and it can be take quite a lot of experience to figure out how best to protect the more delicate parts from being damaged. Larger items take longer to heat due to their thermal mass but smaller parts can be very quickly damaged from excess heat, whilst trying to remove a nearby target.
The sharp edges of plastic connectors are particularly prone, and good protection is paramount. Sticky tapes made from polyimide (Kapton), PET, as well as metallic options (aluminium tape is useful) are often used to temporarily mask off areas in danger of getting such collateral overheat. But they can cause other problems. Kapton tape, whilst great at withstanding the heat, tends to distort and buckle up a little when under the blast of the rework pencil. Not to mention that some brands of tape leave a nasty sticky transfer residue all over the board when exposed to heat, which needs additional cleanup.
Maybe a box or two of staples might be worth adding to one’s bag of tricks, after all more options is always good. If you’re less interesting in hacking with a hot air work station and much more in hacking a hot air rework station, here you go, and whilst we’re on reworking duff computers, here’s what happens when a Hackaday writer tries his hand at fixing his son’s Xbox.
Remotely accessing your computer’s desktop, files and network from anywhere has enabled remote working (i.e. ‘work from home’) for the last several decades. Modern PCs have more than enough computational grunt for Virtual Network Computing (VNC), but where does that leave our retro computing community? [Marcio Teixeira] has it covered with MiniVNC, a brand-new remote desktop server for (very) vintage Macintosh computers.
Now before you say anything, it’s true that ChromiVNC has existed for some time, and is a pretty decent remote desktop server for old Macs. However MiniVNC has several significant advantages, most notably, MiniVNC is fully compatible with MacTCP. Apple’s very first TCP/IP networking stack landed on the Macintosh platform with System 6. As such, MiniVNC can serve up a remote desktop on some of the oldest Mac computers, including the Macintosh Plus.
It’s hard to overstate just how cool that is – the iconic Macintosh Plus was released in 1986, runs at a pedestrian 8MHz and supports a maximum of 4MB memory. While much of MiniVNC was written in C++, portions of the software (including TRLE encoding) had to be handwritten in 68K assembly language to ensure decent performance. The entire focus of MiniVNC was on performance and flexibility, with accuracy coming in second, which seems like the right decision. The odd screen artifact and missed update seems to be reasonable trade-off to get this running somewhat smoothly on a Motorola 68000 processor.
In our recent piece marking the 10th anniversary of the Raspberry Pi, we praised their all-in-one Raspberry Pi 400 computer for having so far succeeded in attracting no competing products. It seems that assessment might be premature, because it emerges that Apple have filed a patent application for “A computer in an input device” that looks very much like the Pi 400. In fact we’d go further than that, it looks very much like any of a number of classic home computers from back in the day, to the extent that we’re left wondering what exactly Apple think is novel enough to patent.
Reading the patent it appears to be a transparent catch-all for all-in-one computers, with the possible exception of “A singular input/output port“, meaning that the only port on the device would be a single USB-C port that could take power, communicate with peripherals, and drive the display. Either way, this seems an extremely weak claim of novelty, if only because we think that a few of the more recent Android phones with keyboards might constitute prior art.
We’re sure that Apple’s lawyers will have their arguments at the ready, but we can’t help wondering whether they’ve fallen for the old joke about Apple fanboys claiming the company invented something when in fact they’ve finally adopted it years after the competition.
Thinking back to the glory days of 8-bit computers for a moment, we’re curious which was the first to sport a form factor little larger than its keyboard. Apple’s own Apple ][ wouldn’t count because the bulk of the machine is behind the keyboard, but for example machines such as Commodore’s VIC-20 or Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum could be said to be all-in-one keyboard computers. Can anyone provide an all-in-one model that predates those two?
You’ve probably heard of the infamous rule 34, but we’d like to propose a new rule — call it rule 35: Anything that can be used for nefarious purposes will be, even if you can’t think of how at the moment. Case in point: apparently there has been an uptick in people using AirTags to do bad things. People have used them to stalk people or to tag cars so they can be found later and stolen. According to [Fabian Bräunlein], Apple’s responses to this don’t consider cases where clones or modified AirTags are in play. To prove the point, he built a clone that bypasses the current protection features and used it to track a willing experimental subject for 5 days with no notifications.
According to the post, Apple says that AirTags have serial numbers and beep when they have not been around their host Apple device for a certain period. [Fabian] points out that clone tags don’t have serial numbers and may also not have speakers. There is apparently a thriving market, too, for genuine tags that have been modified to remove their speakers. [Fabian’s] clone uses an ESP32 with no speaker and no serial number.
The other protection, according to Apple, is that if they note an AirTag moving with you over some period of time without the owner, you get a notification. In other words, if your iPhone sees your own tag repeatedly, that’s fine. It also doesn’t mind seeing someone else’s tags if they are near you. But if your phone sees a tag many times and the owner isn’t around, you get a notification. That way, you can help identify random tags, but you’ll know if someone is trying to track you. [Fabian] gets around that by cycling between 2,000 pre-loaded public keys so that the tracked person’s device doesn’t realize that it is seeing the same tag over and over. Even Apple’s Android app that scans for trackers is vulnerable to this strategy.
Even for folks who aren’t particularly privacy minded, it’s pretty clear a worldwide network of mass-market devices that allow almost anyone to be tracked is a problem. But what’s the solution? Even the better strategies employed by AirGuard won’t catch everything, as [Fabian] explains.