There’s no shortage of nicely built tablets out there, but unfortunately many of them are powered by what are by now severely outdated motherboards. Since manufacturers releasing replacement motherboards for their old hardware doesn’t look like its likely to be common practice anytime soon, the community will have to take things into their own hands. This is where [Evan]’s project comes in — designing a Raspberry Pi CM4-powered motherboard for the original iPad. It aims to have support for everything you’d expect: display, touchscreen, audio, WiFi, Bluetooth, and even the dock port. Plus it gives you way more computing power to make use of it all.
The original iPad got a lot of things right, a factor definitely contributing to its success back when it was released. [Evan]’s high-effort retrofit works with the iPad’s plentiful good parts, like its solid shell, tailored lithium-ion battery, eye-friendly LCD, and reliable capacitive touchscreen. You’d have to fit the new motherboard inside the space available after these parts all come together, and [Evan] has shaped his PCBs to do exactly that – with room for CM4, and the numerous ICs he’s added so as to leave no function un-implemented.
This project has been underway for over a year, and currently, there’s fourteen information-dense worklogs telling this retrofit’s story. Reverse-engineering the capacitive touchscreen and the LCD, making breakouts for all the custom connectors, integrating a custom audio codec, debugging device tree problems, unconventional ways to access QFN pins left unconnected on accident, and the extensive power management design journey. [Evan] has a lot to teach for anyone looking to bring their old tablet up to date!
The hardware files are open-source, paving the way for others to reuse parts for their own retrofits, and we absolutely would like to see more rebuilds like this one. This project is part of the Hack it Back round of the 2022 Hackaday Prize, and looks like a perfect fit to us. If you were looking for an excuse to start a similar project, now is the time.
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!
Drawing tablets are a great way to make digital art, and iPads and other tablets are similarly popular in this area. However, they all typically involve using some sort of special stylus for input. [Richard Greene] developed another method, with Light Strokes for the iPad letting one “paint” with real paint brushes instead!
The system uses a Fresnel prism in view of the iPad’s camera. This allows the camera to see only the parts of a paint brush, sponge, or other implement, as they make contact with the surface of the prism itself. This is via the principle known as total internal reflection.
Thus, simply wetting a paintbrush, sponge, or even a finger, allows one to paint quite authentically on the surface of the prism. The corresponding Light Strokes app on the iPad turns this into the pretty pixels of your creation. The app also allows one to experiment with all manner of fancy brush effects, too.
The build requires some finesse, with the lamination of the special Fresnel film onto glass using liquid optically clear adhesive, or LOCA. A series of mirrors are then assembled in an enclosure, allowing the iPad to be mounted with the camera having a good view of the glass painting area.
The project takes advantage of a simple physical effect in order to create a great artistic tool. Alternatively, if you prefer to draw directly, consider whipping up your own screen-based drawing tablet. Video after the break.
At $129 USD, Apple certainly do sell a very expensive “pencil”. Despite the high cost of entry, [Eric] identified several shortcomings and set about solving them himself with a few choice mods.
The first concern is the excessively slippery surface finish, that could lead to the expensive device being dropped and damaged. [Eric] starts by creating a special tool to help handle the pencil during the refinishing process. He highlights how key this is to getting a good final result, without fingerprints or other flaws ruining the finish. With the manipulator ready, the pencil is then given a wipe down with wax and grease remover prior to a dusting of a translucent spray paint. The finish is poor, however, and [Eric] instead elects to try again with a plastic primer first. A series of tinted clear coats are chased with a urethane clear topcoat for a hardy, grippier surface texture.
The final mod concerns the tip. It’s lathed down in a power drill to give a shape more akin to the ballpoint pens [Eric] is used to sketching with. Additionally, the tip is dyed black with a Sharpie marker and a heat gun, to help it contrast better when sketching on a white screen.
These mods may seem trivial to a casual user, but for a designer who draws for a living, usability is key. The striking orange finish is just a bonus. We don’t see too many stylus mods, but with the increased popularity of tablets, we’re sure to see more down the road. If you’ve got one, be sure to drop us a line! Video after the break.
Long ago, before smartphones were ubiquitous and children in restaurants were quieted with awful games on iPads, there was a beautiful moment. A moment in which the end user could purchase, at a bargain price, an x86 computer in a compact, portable shell. In 2007, the netbook was born, and took the world by storm – only to suddenly vanish a few years later. What exactly was it that made netbooks so great, and where did they go?
A Beautiful Combination
The first machine to kick off the craze was the Asus EEE PC 701, inspired by the One Laptop Per Child project. Packing a 700Mhz Celeron processor, a small 7″ LCD screen, and a 4 GB SSD, it was available with Linux or Windows XP installed from the factory. With this model, Asus seemed to find a market that Toshiba never quite hit with their Libretto machines a decade earlier. The advent of the wireless network and an ever-more exciting Internet suddenly made a tiny, toteable laptop attractive, whereas previously it would have just been a painful machine to do work on. The name “netbook” was no accident, highlighting the popular use case — a lightweight, portable machine that’s perfect for web browsing and casual tasks.
But the netbook was more than the sum of its parts. Battery life was in excess of 3 hours, and the CPU was a full-fat x86 processor. This wasn’t a machine that required users to run special cut-down software or compromise on usage. Anything you could run on an average, low-spec PC, you could run on this, too. USB and VGA out were available, along with WiFi, so presentations were easy and getting files on and off was a cinch. It bears remembering, too, that back in the Windows XP days, it was easy to share files across a network without clicking through 7 different permissions tabs and typing in your password 19 times.
We know the classic Mac fans in the audience won’t be happy about this one, but the final results are simply too clean to ignore. With a laser-cut adapter and a little custom wiring, [Travis DeRose] has come up with a repeatable way to modernize a Compact Macintosh (Plus, SE, etc) by swapping out all of its internals for an iPad mini.
He goes over the whole process in the video after the break, while being kind enough to spare our sensitive eyes from having to see the Mac’s enclosure stripped of its original electronics. We’ll just pretend hope that the computer was so damaged that repair simply wasn’t an option.
Anyway, with a hollow Mac in your possession, you can install the adapter that allows the iPad to get bolted in place of the original CRT monitor. You won’t be able to hit the Home button anymore, but otherwise it’s a very nice fit.
Those with some first hand iPad experience might be wondering how you wake the tablet up once the Mac is all buttoned back up. That’s an excellent question, and one that [Travis] wrestled with for awhile. In the end he came up with a very clever solution: he cuts into a charging cable and splices in a normally-closed momentary push button. Pushing the button essentially “unplugs” the iPad for a second, which just so happens to wake it up. It’s an elegant solution that keeps you from having to make any modifications to that expensive piece of Apple hardware.
If there’s one thing we’re not thrilled with, it’s the empty holes left behind where the ports, switches, and floppy drive were removed. As we’ve seen in the past, you can simply cut the ports off of a motherboard and glue them in place to make one of these conversions look a little more convincing. If you’re going to do it, might as well go all the way.
Regardless of how you might feel about Apple and the ecosystem they’ve cultured over the years, you’ve got to give them some credit in the hardware department. Their “Retina” displays are a perfect example; when they brought the 2,048 by 1,536 panel to the iPad 3, the technology instantly became the envy of every tablet owner. But what if you want to use one of these gorgeous screens outside of Apple’s walled garden?
As it turns out, there are a number of options out there to use these screens on other devices, but [Arthur Jordan] wasn’t quite happy with any of them. So he did what any self respecting hacker would do, and built his own adapter for iPad 3 and 4 screens. Not that he did it completely in the dark; his design is based on the open source Adafruit Qualia driver, which in turn was based on research done by [Mike’s Mods]. A perfect example of the open source community at work.
The resulting board allows you to connect the Retina display from the iPad 3 or 4 to any device that features Embedded DisplayPort (eDP). Rather than put a dedicated port on his board, [Arthur] just left bare pads where you can solder up whatever interface method your particular gadget might use. In his case, he wanted to hook it up to an x86 UP Core SBC, so he even came up with a seperate adapter that breaks out that board’s diminutive display connector to something that can be soldered by hand.
So what’s different between the board [Arthur] developed and Adafruit’s Qualia? Primarily its been made smaller by deleting the DisplayPort connectors in favor of those bare pads, but he’s also dumped the backlight control hardware and 3.3V regulator that in his experience hasn’t been necessary with the eDP devices he’s worked with. So if space is a concern in your build, this version might be what you’re after.