Do you sometimes feel that your custom mechanical keyboard is not quite loud enough to proclaim your superior hacking powers? Or do you need a more forceful way shout in all caps at someone who is wrong on the internet? For all this and more, [Jesse Li] has got you covered, with a set of bash scripts that allows you to type by slamming your laptop closed repeatedly, using Morse code.
The scripts are quite simple, and work receiving the lid open/close events from ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface), recording the open and close timestamp and converting the timing to dots and dashes. After slamming to the required rhythm, you keep the lid open to see the character appear.
Why would want this? Well, you can now type the letter E by closing your laptop, instead of locking it. Maybe use it to send an emergency message while you’re being held by terrorists in a B-grade action movie. Otherwise, we think this is just an entertaining little hack that’s probably the product of quarantine induced boredom.
Morse code, otherwise known as CW, is still in surprisingly widespread use by ham radio operators, because it’s good at getting messages across intercontinental distances when signal conditions are bad and CW-only ham radio gear is cheap and easy to build yourself. We’ve also covered the Koch Method of learning CW, so don’t be afraid to dabble a bit during the quarantine.
Many of us will have broken a laptop at one point or another, destroying the screen or smashing the case. It can be frustrating, as there’s a perfectly usable computer in there, trapped inside a broken husk of a body. [Matthew] saw this not as a problem, but an opportunity – and built a beautiful all-in-one desktop PC. (Video, embedded below.)
With a badly damaged Thinkpad laptop to hand, an ASUS monitor was sourced with a thin body and flat back, perfect for mounting hardware. An MDF base was created, on to which the laptop motherboard was mounted. A USB hub and audio amplifier were then added, along with a USB power isolator and soundcard to avoid problems with groundloops from the onboard headphone output. Speakers were Harman Kardon units salvaged from an old television, providing great quality sound for the build.
There’s plenty of great ideas in the video, from using epoxy for a strong permanent assembly, to a nifty hack to make the power button work. It has us contemplating a build for our own broken laptops in the junkpile. We’ve seen other creative all-in-one builds too, like this one inside a printer.
Well-seasoned readers will no doubt remember GRiD laptops, the once and always tacti-cool computers that dominated the military market for decades. GRiDs were the first laptops to go to space, and they were coveted for their sleek (for the time) good looks and reputation as indestructible machines.
The GRiDs went through many iterations, and even though their military roots make them nearly unobtanium, [Simon] scored a GRiD laptop and set about restoring it. His theme was the 1986 movie Aliens, which featured a few GRiD Compass computers as props. [Simon]’s 1550SX came a little later than the Compass 2, but documents with the machine reveal it was a Royal Air Force machine that had been deemed unserviceable for reasons unknown.
[Simon] carefully tore it down – pay close attention to the video below and you’ll hear the telltale plink of the magnesium case parts rather than the dull thud of plastic; they don’t make them like that anymore – and cleaned it up. He replaced the original display with a PiMoroni 10″ retro game display to keep the original 4:3 aspect ratio. A Raspberry Pi 4 went inside, along with a Teensy to take care of adapting the GRiD keyboard to USB and lighting up some front-panel LEDs. A second Teeny allows the original IsoPoint mouse to be used, which is a real gem. With the addition of appropriate graphics, the machine looks like it would be at home on a Colonial Marines dropship.
We love the retro feel of [Simon]’s build, and the movie nostalgia. We’re just glad he didn’t include a LiPo battery, which might not get along with the magnesium case. Game over, man!
In our community it is common for ancient laptops to be used way beyond their usual service life, held together by stickers and lovingly upgraded to their maximum capabilities. We hope it’s unusual for such a venerable machine to be stolen, but it seems that grab-and-run thefts are very much a thing for owners of much shinier hardware. [Michael Altfield] has a solution to this problem, in the form of a kill cord that when broken by the crook making off with the loot, triggers a set of scripts that can wipe the device or otherwise make it useless.
Hardware-wise it’s simple enough, a USB magnetic breakaway adapter and a USB extension cable to a drive clipped to the laptop owner’s belt. On the software side it’s as straightforward as a udev rule to launch the disaster script of your choice. Perhaps you could link it to something like a glitter bomb and fart spray. But we can’t help worrying that it might be too easy to get up and accidentally detach yourself from the laptop, making it deploy whatever anti-theft measure you’d installed in error. If this goes some way to reducing theft though, it has to be worth a second look.
How better to work on Open Source projects than to use a Libre computing device? But that’s a hard goal to accomplish. If you’re using a desktop computer, Libre software is easily achievable, though keeping your entire software stack free of closed source binary blobs might require a little extra work. But if you want a laptop, your options are few indeed. Lucky for us, there may be another device in the mix soon, because [Lukas Hartmann] has just about finalized the MNT Reform.
Since we started eagerly watching the Reform a couple years ago the hardware world has kept turning, and the Reform has improved accordingly. The i.MX6 series CPU is looking a little peaky now that it’s approaching end of life, and the device has switched to a considerably more capable – but no less free – i.MX8M paired with 4 GB of DDR4 on a SODIMM-shaped System-On-Module. This particular SOM is notable because the manufacturer freely provides the module schematics, making it easy to upgrade or replace in the future. The screen has been bumped up to a 12.5″ 1080p panel and steps have been taken to make sure it can be driven without blobs in the graphics pipeline.
If you’re worried that the chassis of the laptop may have been left to wither while the goodies inside got all the attention, there’s no reason for concern. Both have seen substantial improvement. The keyboard now uses the Kailh Choc ultra low profile mechanical switches for great feel in a small package, while the body itself is milled out of aluminum in five pieces. It’s printable as well, if you want to go that route. All in all, the Reform represents a heroic amount of work and we’re extremely impressed with how far the design has come.
Of course if any of the above piqued your interest full electrical, mechanical and software sources (spread across a few repos) are available for your perusal; follow the links in the blog post for pointers to follow. We’re thrilled to see how production ready the Reform is looking and can’t wait to hear user reports as they make their way into to the wild!
Spilling a drink on a laptop is a terrifying experience. If you’re lucky you’ll ruin just a keyboard, and if not, your entire machine could go up in smoke. Assuming you’ve just suffered the latter, you can still be out of luck, as many laptops come with fancy integrated keyboards that are not designed to be removable. It’s not always the case however, as this ingenious hack from [InsideMyLaptop] bears out.
The hack begins with removing the top case assembly from a HP Pavilion laptop. The keyboard is riveted into the top plate assembly, along with the trackpad, which would normally necessitate their replacement as a total unit. However, if properly armed with a soldering iron, these plastic rivets can be melted to allow the backing plate and keyboard to be removed. A replacement part can then be sourced, and the remaining rivet stubs can be remelted to hold the new part in place.
It’s a simple hack, but one that goes to show one shouldn’t always take “No User Servicable Parts Inside” as an answer. We’ve seen other useful work from [InsideMyLaptop] before – like this power jack repair way back in 2011.
Some people love fan noise, using it to help get to sleep or just create some ambience in a room. Others hate it, like [Dimitris], and will take severe measures to eliminate it where possible. When his Razer Blade laptop was incessantly whirring away, it was time to get to work.
The Razer laptop uses a controller that outputs a variable duty cycle signal to control fan speed. Unfortunately, the fans never fully switch off, even when the laptop is cold, leading to frustrating excessive noise. [Dimitris] implemented an ATtiny85 to intercept this signal, giving him full control over the fans. Two modes are implemented, one which keeps the fans off when the duty cycle is at its minimum, and the other that attempts to keep the fans at a minimum speed wherever possible.