Steady Hand Repurposes Cheap SSD Modules

For hackers, cheap (and arguably disposable) consumer hardware makes for a ready supply of free or low-cost components. When you can walk into a big box store and pick up a new low-end laptop for $150, how many are going to spend the money to repair or upgrade the one they have now? So the old ones go to the bin, or get sold online for parts. From an ecological standpoint our disposable society is terrible, but at least we get some tech bargains out of the deal.

Case in point, the dirt cheap 32 GB eMMC SSDs [Jason Gin] recently scored. Used by Hewlett Packard on their line of budget laptops, he was able to snap up some of these custom drives for only $12 each. Only problem was, since they were designed for a very specific market and use case, they aren’t exactly the kind of thing you can just slap in your computer’s drive bay. He had to do some reverse engineering to figure out how to talk to them, and then some impressive fine-pitch soldering to get them plugged in, but in the end he got some very handy drives for an exceptionally low price.

[Jason] starts by figuring out the drive’s pinout using the cornerstone of the hacker’s electronic toolkit: the multimeter. By putting one lead on an obvious ground point such as the PCB’s screw holes, you can work through the pins on the connector and make some educated guesses as to what’s what. Ground pins will read as a short, but the meter should read power and data pins as a forward-biased diode. With a rough idea of the pin’s identities and some luck, he was able to figure out that it was basically a standard SATA connection in a different form factor.

To actually hook it up to his computer, he pulled the PCB off of a dead SATA hard drive, cut it down to size, and was able to use fine magnet wire to attach the conductors in the drive’s ribbon cable to the appropriate pads. He sealed everything up with a healthy dose of hot glue to make sure it didn’t pull loose, and then ran some drive diagnostics on his cobbled together SSD to make sure it was behaving properly. [Jason] reports the drive isn’t exactly a speed demon, but given the low cost and decent performance he still thinks it’s worth the work to use them for testing out different operating systems and the like.

[Jason] seems to have something of an obsession with eMMC hacking. Last time we heard from him, he was bringing a cheap Windows tablet back from the dead by replacing its shot eMMC chip.

Ghetto Ribbon Connector

[Marcel] was trying to shoehorn a few new parts into his trusty Nexus 5 phone. If you’ve ever opened one of these little marvels up, you know that there’s not much room under the hood to work with. Pulling out some unnecessary parts (like the headphone jack) buys some space, but then how to wire it all up?

[Marcel] needed a multi-wire connector that’s as thin as possible, but he wasn’t going to go the order-Kapton-flex route. Oh no! He built one himself from masking tape and the strands from a stranded wire. Watch the video how-to if that alone isn’t enough instruction.

Continue reading “Ghetto Ribbon Connector”

Any-size SIL connector kit


Etching and populating a board is childs play compared to finding connectors which link several components. But Hackaday alum [Ian Lesnet] and his crew over at Dangerous Prototypes have come up with a solution that makes us wonder why we haven’t seen this long ago? They’re prepping an any-size ribbon cable kit.

So lets say you do find the type of connector you want. You need to cut the ribbon cable to length, crimp on the connectors, then seat those connectors in the housing. We’ve done this many times, and being cheapskates we use needle-nose pliers instead of buying a proper crimper. This solution does away with that grunt work. The kit will ship several different lengths of ribbon wire with the connectors already placed by machine. This way you peel off the number of connectors you need, select the proper house size and plunk it in place. Also in the kit are several lengths of male, female, and male/female jumper cables you can peel off in the same way.

Now what are we going to do with the rest of the spool of ribbon cable sitting in the workshop?

Hackaday Links: January 2, 2012

The worst computer keyboard, ever

[Gerardus] found an old BBC Master Compact computer for $15. The only problem is the computer didn’t have a keyboard. It’s not a problem if you can make a keyboard out of an old breadboard. It’s not a Model M, but it works.

Emergency ribbon cable repair

[Thomas] works in a hospital. One night, a piece of equipment went down because of a bad ribbon cable. Doctors were yelling at him to get the equipment up and running so out of frustration, he took stapler to the cable. It held up until a replacement arrived. Check out these pics: one and two.

Nobody remembers Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland

Here’s [Alan]’s gigantic Nautilus art car with a huge mechanical iris. Just watch the video and be amazed. We won’t hazard a guess as to how much money went into all that brass and copper, but we can confirm an Arduino controls the iris. Check out the build page.

Light up street art

[Grissini] put up an instructable for a light box that displays [Bansky] street art. We’d go with some RGB leds and a [Keith Haring] motif, but more power to ya.

A theater wind machine

This wind machine was built by [Willaim] for his High School’s choir concert. It’s basically a concrete form tube with plastic lids taped on and a piece of pipe serving as an axle. The machine makes a wind noise with the help of some nylon pants.

Repair a Malfunctioning LCD

When most people encounter dead pixels on an LCD text display, they figure that the display is dead and they decide to scrap it. However when the LCD display on one of [Joe]’s cordless phones started to show dead rows and columns of pixels, [Joe] decided that he could fix it. With only a pencil eraser, a hot air gun, and a screwdriver (for disassembly), [Joe] was able to fix his phone’s screen in just under 10 minutes. His process involves heating the glue holding the LCD’s ribbon cable to the phones PCB with a hot air gun and using a pencil eraser to reattach segments of the ribbon cable to the PCB. If anyone here has a problem similar to [Joe]’s, be sure to check out his detailed how-to complete with step-by-step pictures.