Apple has for a very long time been a company that ploughs its own furrow when it comes to peripherals, with expensive proprietary hardware being the order of the day over successive generations of its products. One of its current line of proprietary interfaces is the Lightning connector, best thought of as an Apple-only take on the same ideas that the rest of the world knows as USB-C. There are a whole host of white dangly peripherals that can be hung from your iDevice’s Lightning port, including a pair of display adaptors that allow them to drive an HDMI or VGA monitor. [Lisa Braun] has subjected one that had failed to a teardown, and her analysis gives some insight into the way Apple creates its peripherals.
Where you might expect these to contain mostly the equivalent of a graphics card, in fact they have a fully-fledged SoC of their own that runs its own OS with the same Darwin kernel as its host. Unexpectedly this is not held upon the adapter itself, instead it is shipped with iOS and loaded dynamically. Thus the file containing it can be retrieved from iOS and unpacked, leading to some interesting analysis. In a fascinating twist for those of us unused to Lightning’s internals, it’s revealed that the device can be driven from a USB port with the appropriate cobbled-together adapter, allowing a full-size MacOS device to interrogate it. This many not be news to readers with a long memory though, we’ve told you in the past about reverse engineering the Lightning connector.
[Mike Harrison] produces so much quality content that sometimes excellent material slips through the editorial cracks. This time we noticed that one such lost gem was [Mike]’s reverse engineering of the 6th generation iPod Nano display from 2013, as caught when the also prolific [Greg Davill] used one on a recent board. Despite the march of progress in mobile device displays, small screens which are easy to connect to hobbyist style devices are still typically fairly low quality. It’s easy to find fancier displays as salvage but interfacing with them electrically can be brutal, never mind the reverse engineering required to figure out what signal goes where. Suffice to say you probably won’t find a manufacturer data sheet, and it won’t conveniently speak SPI or I2C.
After a few generations of strange form factor exploration Apple has all but abandoned the stand-alone portable media player market; witness the sole surviving member of that once mighty species, the woefully outdated iPod Touch. Luckily thanks to vibrant sales, replacement parts for the little square sixth generation Nano are still inexpensive and easily available. If only there was a convenient interface this would be a great source of comparatively very high quality displays. Enter [Mike].
This particular display speaks a protocol called DSI over a low voltage differential MIPI interface, which is a common combination which is still used to drive big, rich, modern displays. The specifications are somewhat available…if you’re an employee of a company who is a member of the working group that standardizes them — there are membership discounts for companies with yearly revenue below $250 million, and dues are thousands of dollars a quarter.
Fortunately for us, after some experiments [Mike] figured out enough of the command set and signaling to generate easily reproduced schematics and references for the data packets, checksums, etc. The project page has a smattering of information, but the circuit includes some unusual provisions to adjust signal levels and other goodies so try watching the videos for a great explanation of what’s going on and why. At the time [Mike] was using an FPGA to drive the display and that’s certainly only gotten cheaper and easier, but we suspect that his suggestion about using a fast micro and clever tricks would work well too.
It turns out we made incidental mention of this display when covering [Mike]’s tiny thermal imager but it hasn’t turned up much since them. As always, thanks for the accidental tip [Greg]! We’re waiting to see the final result of your experiments with this.
The iSore would have definitely made some of us the coolest kids on the yard in Jr. High (or at the engineering office) in the 00’s. At first glance we assumed it would be one of those fancy single board computers packaged with a big hard drive masquerading as an iPod. We were surprised to discover that [jimbone] was performing a classic iPod hack.
The ipod’s back is pried off and discarded. A ZIF to SATA adapter connects it to a significantly larger hard drive. The basic battery is replaced with an 8Ah pack. The USB ports are broken out. For the case there are a few options. There’s a 3D printed case, a wooden case, and even one that looks like a Lovecraftian horror.
[jimbone] claims 100 hours of playtime on a single charge. He hasn’t claimed bulking up a bit from carrying it around, but we can make our guesses.
We love a good multitool. There’s something seductive about knowing that if, for some reason, you need to saw down a tree on a moment’s notice, you have a tiny saw in your pocket. We also like electronic versions of the multitool: gadgets that serve a lot of purposes as you develop and debug hardware. One of the most polished-looking ones we’ve seen is [Phillip Schuster’s] Little Helper.
The open source gadget looks like an iPod (if an iPod had header pins sticking out of it). It has basic analog I/O capability, can generate PWM pulses, sniff I2C traffic, and do lots of other features. It is open source, so you can always add more capabilities if you need them.
The software for KeyMouSerial copies keystroke and mouse information and sends this out via a serial port on his laptop (using a USB to serial adapter). From there the information is translated by an Arduino into HID commands which are sent via USB to the target computer, in this case a Raspberry Pi. It’s a pretty elegant solution to carrying a bulky keyboard and mouse along just for a Raspberry Pi, or for any computer that might not have access to a network and SSH.
[Peter] has also been working on using his iPod as a serial-to-USB converter, so if you’re a Rockbox developer and want to help out then drop him a line. All of the software is available (for Windows, Mac, or Linux) including the Arduino sketch if you want to try this software out for yourself. And, if you don’t want to turn a computer into a keyboard and want to go the other direction and turn a keyboard into a computer, that is also an option.
Portable Media Players are great for listening to music on the go. At home though, using headphones may not be the most convenient or comfortable option. [decpower] didn’t have a stereo to connect his iPod to. Since he didn’t want to shell out a bunch of money to buy one, he decided to build his own iPod dock and powered speaker combo.
The case is made out of plywood: many, many layers of plywood. Each layer of plywood was cut out using a laser cutter. Unlike most speaker cabinets that have a distinct boxy enclosure, this unit is mostly solid with cutouts in each layer only where voids were designed to be. [decpower] tried to replicate the Bose Wave Radio internal sound passages. Up top a dock slot complete with a 30-pin connector makes connecting an iPod super simple.
Unfortunately, [decpower] doesn’t say what he’s using for an amplifier or where his speakers came from. He does indicate that there is an internal battery for powering the setup and it appears there is a volume knob out back. Regardless, the final project looks pretty good and [decpower] deserves some kudos for the unique construction method.
Headphones have become ubiquitous these days. Thanks to the iPod and the smartphone, it’s become commonplace to see someone wearing a pair of earbud style headphones. Earbuds aren’t always comfortable though. On some people they are too loose. On others, the fit is so tight that they cause pain.To that end, we’ve found a few great solutions for this problem.
[cptnpiccard] has documented his custom molded Sugru earbuds in an Imgur gallery. He’s molded a pair of standard earbuds into a cast of his ear. He uses them both for hearing protection and tunes while skydiving. Sugru’s FAQ states that while the cured material is safe for skin contact (and in ear use) some people are sensitive to the uncured material.
While discussing his project on Reddit, a few users chimed in and mentioned they’ve made custom molded earbuds using Radians custom earplug kits. The Radians material hardens up in only 10 minutes, which beats waiting an hour for Sugru.
The absolute top of the food chain has to be building your own triple driver in ear monitors, which is exactly what [marozie] has done. Professional custom molded monitors can cost over $1000, which puts them in the realm of professional musicians and audiophiles. [marozie] discovered that mouser stocks quite a few transducers from Knowles. These tiny speakers don’t come cheap, though; you can spend upwards of $70 just for a single driver.
[marozie] took a cast of his ear using an earmold impression kit. He used this cast to create a mold. From there it was a matter of pouring resin over his carefully constructed driver circuits and audio tubes. The resulting monitors look and sound incredible.
It goes without saying that making custom in ear monitors involves putting chemicals into you ears. The custom earmold kits come with tiny dams to keep the mold material from going in too far and causing damage. This is one of those few places where we recommend following the instructions. Click past the break to see a demo video of the ear molding process.