Designing A USB-C Upgrade PCB For The MX Ergo Mouse

As the world of electronic gadgetry made the switch from micro USB to USB-C as the charging port of choice, many of us kept both of the required cables handy. But it’s fair to say that these days a micro USB port has become a pretty rare sight, and the once ubiquitous cable can be a bit elusive in the event that you encounter an older device that requires it.

[Solderking] has a high-end Logitech cordless mouse with just this problem, and so he replaced its micro USB socket with a USB-C port. That makes the task sound deceptively simple, because in fact he had to reverse engineer one of the device’s PCBs in its entirety, making a new board with the same outline and components, but sporting the new connector.

Instead of attempting to replicate the complex shape with geometry he started with a scan of the board and had Fusion 360 trace its outline before 3D printing a version of it to check fit in the Logitech case. Then it was a case of tracing the circuit, designing the replacement, and hand transferring the parts from board to board.

The result is a USB-C chargeable mouse, and while all the design files don’t appear to be online, it’s possible to download the Gerbers from a PCBWay page. On top of that there’s a YouTube video of the process which we’ve placed below the break.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen somebody spin up a new board to add USB-C to an older device — this drop-in replacement for Sony’s DualShock 4 comes to mind. If you’ve got enough free space inside your particular gadget, you might be able to pull of a USB-C conversion with nothing more exotic than a hacked up Adafruit breakout board.

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A digital caliper connected to a tablet computer

Custom Interface Adds USB And Wi-Fi To Digital Calipers

Although old-school machinists typically prefer the mechanical vernier scale on their trusty calipers, many users nowadays buy calipers with a digital readout. These models often come with additional features like differential measurements, or a “hold” function for those situations where you have to maneuver the instrument somewhere deep inside a machine. Another useful feature is a data link that lets you log your measurements on a computer directly instead of manually entering all the values.

The VINCA-branded caliper that [Liba2k] bought has such a data link feature, which requires a USB adapter that’s sold separately. There is a micro-USB connector on the tool itself, but instead of implementing a USB interface, this is used to carry a proprietary serial protocol — a design decision that ought to be classified as a felony if you ask us. Rather than buying the official USB adapter, [Liba2k] decoded the protocol and built his own interface called VINCA Reader that can connect through either USB or Wi-Fi.

The serial format turned out to be a simple serial bus that clocks out 24 bits at a time. In order to adapt its 1.2 V signal level to the 3.3 V used by an ESP32, [Liba2k] designed a simple level shifter circuit using a handful of discrete components. The ESP can communicate with the computer through its Wi-Fi interface, for which [Liba2k] wrote a spreadsheet-like application; alternatively, an ordinary USB cable can be connected to emulate a keyboard for use with any other software.

With its added Wi-Fi feature, the VINCA Reader is actually more complete than the official USB adapter, and will probably be cheaper as well. The serial interface appears to be common to all caliper manufacturers, although many went for a more sensible connector than micro-USB. An automated readout system is particularly handy if you have to make thousands of similar measurements.

PlayStation 4 Controller Gets A USB-C Upgrade

Micro USB was once the connector of choice for applications where USB-A was too big, but now USB-C has come to dominate all. It’s becoming standard across the board for many peripherals, and [Ian] recently decided that he wanted to upgrade his PS4 controller to the newer standard. Hacking ensued.

The hack consists of a small breakout board that enables a USB-C connector to be fitted into the PS4 controller in place of the original micro USB port. [Ian] explains what needs to be done to complete the mod, which first involves disassembling the controller carefully to avoid damage. The original microUSB breakout board can then be removed, and fitted with one of a selection of replacement boards available on Github to suit various revisions of PS4 controller. A little filing is then required to allow the new connector to fit in the controller case, and [Ian] notes that using an 0.8mm thick PCB is key to enabling the new breakout board to fit inside the shell.

It’s a neat hack that makes charging PS4 controllers way easier in the modern environment without having to keep legacy micro USB cables around. We’ve actually seen similar hacks done to iPhones, too, among other hardware. Video after the break.

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Soldering iron tip heating up a piece of wire wrapped around the metal parts of a MicroUSB socket, with melted solder heating up all the important parts.

Desoldering Without Hot Air: Piece Of Wire Edition

Quite a few hackers nowadays share their tips and tricks on Twitter – it’s easy to do so, and provided either an existing audience or a bit of effort to get one, you’ll get at least a few notifications telling you that people appreciated what you had to share. Today, we’re covering two desoldering hacks highlighted there that will be useful some day, exactly when you need them. Both of them use a piece of wire and, in a way, extend the reach of your soldering iron’s tip. Copper wire would work better because of superior thermal conductivity, but other types of solid core wire will work in a pinch.

First hack is brought to us by [Erin Rose] – desoldering a microUSB socket. You need to heat up the entire shield and the pins at the same time, which the wire acts as a thermal gateway for. As long as there are melted solder bridges from sections of the wire to all the copper-to-part connection points, it should be easy to pump enough heat into the solder joints for all of them to eventually melt and give in at once.

Second hack is brought to us by [arturo182]. A piece of thick wire acts, again, as a heat conductor to desolder a 0.5mm pitch TQFP-100 package IC. You have to bend the wire into a correct shape, so that it’s as close to the pins of the TQFP as possible. In this situation, the wire performs two functions: first, transferring the heat from the iron’s tip to different points along the wire, then, as a barrier that helps solder not escape too far away from the pins. Copious amounts of flux likely desired for this one!

Hopefully, this comes handy if you ever need to replace an all-SMD part ASAP but don’t have a hot air gun or a hotplate handy. After getting this concept down to an art, we are sure you won’t limit yourself to TQFP parts and MicroUSB sockets. We’ve talked about desoldering practices before as part of our newsletter, and using lots of melted solder for part removal is not a foreign concept to us, either.

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Phone to phone charger thief

Phone-To-Phone Power Thievery

Once again, [Rulof]’s putting his considerable hacking abilities to good use, his good use that is. By modding a few simple parts he’s put together something that he can carry around on his keychain that’ll allow him to steal power from his friend’s phones to charge his own phone.

He starts by cutting away the motor from an iPhone fan to isolate the Micro USB connector. He then removes the charging circuit board from a cheap Chinese USB power bank, and solders wires from the Micro USB connector to one side of the board. Lastly, he cuts away the Lightning connector from a Lightning-to-USB cable and solders that connector to the other side of the circuit board. For longevity and cosmetics, he puts it all in a small wood block and connects a key ring. The result is a small, neat looking box with a Micro USB connector on one side and a Lightning connector on the other. You can see him make it, and then use it to steal power from his friends in the video after the break.

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Raspberry Pi Hacking, Commando Style


If you’re lacking useful equipment for your Raspberry Pi hacking adventure, such as an HDMI monitor or power supply, this handy write-up will show you how to continue your hacking. All you’ll need is a laptop, the Raspberry Pi itself, an SD card, and an Ethernet and micro-USB cable. As noted in the article, it’s not really recommended to power the ‘Pi off of USB only, so this could potentially be a source of problems.

This hack begins by installing Linux on an SD card per this setup page, then using a Virtual Network Computing [VNC] setup to work with your Raspberry Pi. There are a few steps in between being able to do this, like setting up network sharing, and sleuthing out the IP address of the new processor, but everything is explained in detail for Mac and Linux. Windows users will have to do a bit of “sleuthing” of their own, but if you have some more information on this process, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!