People don’t usually go as far as [Wenting Zhang] has – designing a new IDE SSD board for a portable x86 computer made in 2006. That said, it’s been jaw-dropping to witness the astounding amount of reverse-engineering and design effort being handwaved away.
The Benq S6 is a small MID (Miniaturized Internet Device) with an Atom CPU, an x86 machine in all but looks. Its non-standard SSD’s two gigabytes of storage, however, heavily limit the OS choice – Windows XP would hardly fit on there, and while a small Linux distro could manage better, it’s, and we quote, “not as exciting”. A lot of people would stop there and use an external drive, or a stack of adapters necessitating unsightly modifications to the case – [Wenting] went further and broke the “stack of adapters” stereotype into shards with his design journey.
Tracing quite a few complex multi-layer boards into a unified and working schematic is no mean feat, especially with the SSD PCB being a host to two BGA chips, and given the sheer amount of pins in the IDE interface of the laptop’s original drive. Even the requirement for the SSD to be initialized didn’t stop him – a short fight with the manufacturer’s software ensued, but was no match for [Wenting]’s skills. The end result is a drop-in replacement SSD even thinner than the stock one.
This project is well-documented for all of us to learn from! Source code and PCB files are on GitHub, and [Wenting] has covered the journey in three different places at once – on Hackaday.io, in a YouTube video embedded down below, and also on his Twitter in form of regular posts. Now, having seen this happen, we all have one less excuse to take up a project seemingly so complex.
[FESTO] keeps coming up with new tricks that make us both envious and inspired. Take their bionicANTs for example. Watching a group of them cooperate to move objects around looks so real that you’re instantly reminded of the pests crawling across your floor, but looking at them up close they’re a treasure trove of ideas for your next robot project.
The exoskeleton is 3D printed but they then use the outer surface of that exoskeleton as a circuit board for much of the circuitry. The wiring is “painted on” using a 3D MID (Molded Interconnect Device) process. While FESTO didn’t give specifics about their process, a little research shows that 3D MID involves the 3D printed object being made of a special non-conductive metal material, a laser then “drawing” the traces in the material, and then dipping the object in various baths to apply copper, nickel and gold layers. We mortal hackers may not have the equipment for doing this ourselves in our workshops but seeing the beautiful result should be inspiration enough to get creative with our copper tape on the outer surfaces of our 3D printed, CNC’d, or hand-carved parts.
We also like how they took a the mouse sensor from under a regular computer mouse and attached it to the ant’s underside, pointing down for precision dead reckoning. For the legs they used three piezo bending transducers. However, these give a deflection of only 1.5mm in both directions, not enough for walking. They increase this to over 10mm with the addition of a plastic hinge, another idea to keep in mind when building that next tiny robot. And there are more ideas to be taken advantage of in their ants, which you can see being built in the video below.
We’ve been on the prowl for a low-cost Android MID that, you know, works well. We were originally excited by the Eken M001 but early reports about poor battery life, coupled with the fact that it only runs Android 1.6 soured our interest. [Carnivore] didn’t let those things turn him away, instead he modified the M001 to meet his needs. He added a USB hub and flash drive inside as well as a few additional connectors for external devices. He’s also inserted a front-facing camera and improved battery life from a 1600 mAh capacity up to 5200 mAh. This means he can now depend on 7-12 hours of use depending on the power saving features he chooses. This does come at a cost, he had to add room inside the case so he annexed a project box for the back cover. As you can see above, he did a beautiful job of making it look right, but it’s lost that thin-sexiness it once had. See [Carnivore’s] feature walk through after the break.
Ubuntu MID edition has been released for handheld Mobile Internet Devices. It’s targeting devices based on Intel’s A100/110 and the new Centrino Atom platforms. Successors to the UMPC, MIDs are usually small formfactor and have a touchscreen, plus a physical keyboard. UMPC portal has a examples of devices that are currently supported by this release, inluding plamtops like the Kohjinsha SH6. This release is only for x86 devices, so don’t expect it to be ported to the ARM based Nokia N800/810. The user interface is based on the Hildon framework and we’re glad people are attempting to think beyond a standard UI. We hope they plan on punching up the use of the color brown in the final though; it just wouldn’t be an Ubuntu release without it.