Inside the Asus 901 (Eee)

August 18, 2008

Since I have an Asus 901 (Eee) on loan for a couple more days, I’ve cracked it open. Here are is some pictures pr0n :)

There are several boards inside, a 1 GB DDR2 SoDimm, a 4 GB mini PCIe SSD, an 8 GB mini PCIe SSD (16 GB on the linux version), a mini PCIe WiFi card, and a Bluetooh module.

Like the Acer Aspire One, there’s also a 40-pin ZIF connector (unused here) compatible with most 1.8″ PATA hard drives, and there’s a missing mini PCIe connector and SIM holder on the motherboard for 3G.

I went ahead and temporarily connected 1.8″ PATA hard drive to the ZIF connector. The thin (5 mm) hard drive fits in a dedicated opening in the bottom casing of the Eee, but requires the removal of the 8 GB mini PCIe SSD. This worked fine, but the 4 GB mini PCIe SSD became the IDE slave device.

Next I connected the 8 GB SSD from my Acer Aspire One to the ZIF connector, and kept the 8 GB mini PCIe SSD in place. Once again, the 4 GB mini PCIe SSD became the IDE slave device, but the existing 8 GB mini PCEi SSD was disabled…

I hope this info is useful to some people out there!

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Modding the Acer Aspire One – hard drive

August 16, 2008

Welcome to part 2 of a multi-part post on moddng the Acer Aspire One!

In part 1, I showed how to take the Aspire One apart, how to upgrade the RAM, and how to add internal Bluetooth. Today I demonstrate how to replace the SSD with a 1.8″ PATA hard drive and how to reassemble the Aspire One…

Here’s another video and additional pictures that cover the process. Of course, I’m not responsible if you damage anything.

The Aspire One SSD features the same ZIF connector found on 1.8″ PATA hard drives, which are small, light, efficient, affordable, plentiful, and somewhat shock resistant – all this while providing more storage and better performance than this particular SSD. Blame the iPod :)

Apparently, there’s just enough space for a thin (5 mm) 1.8″ PATA hard drive under the Aspire One’s motherboard. I happened to have such a hard drive floating around, a 60 GB Samsung HS06THB. It’s a plug-and-play mod – just disconnect the ribbon cable from the SSD and connect it to the hard drive.

I used double-sided adhesive foam squares to secure it to the motherboard. This adds some padding and provides protection for the hard drive, but makes for an even tighter fit. Check out the pictures.

In part 3, I’ll be adding internal 3G to the Aspire One. Stay tuned :)

Update: As mentioned in various people’s comments on various other posts that have linked to my mod, thick (8 mm) 1.8″ PATA hard drives also fit!

Also, if you are having problems connecting the existing ribbon cable to the 1.8″ PATA hard drive, try another ribbon cable with a different thickness. If the 1.8″ PATA hard drive is not recognized once connected, try flipping it over (it’s unlikely to be damaged if improperly connected)…


Modding the Acer Aspire One – Bluetooth

August 14, 2008

Welcome to part 1 of a multi-part post on moddng the Acer Aspire One!

In this part, I demonstrate how to take the Aspire One apart, how to upgrade the RAM, and how to add internal USB Bluetooth…

Here’s a video and some pictures that cover the take apart and RAM upgrade process. Of course, I’m not responsible if you damage anything.

The internal USB Bluetooth mod is pretty much identical to the one I performed on my Asus 701 (Eee). It works without interfering with the built-in wireless or disabling any of the available USB ports. Use this post for reference.

Basically, I connected a micro USB Bluetooth module (Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR) to a 5V trace (off in standby), a nearby ground trace, and the USB signals (pins 36 & 38) available on the mini PCIe card slot occupied by the WiFi card. The Bluetooth module was stripped, wrapped in Kapton tape and installed under the palm rest.

In part 2, I’m going to show how to replace the SSD with a 1.8″ PATA hard drive and how to reassemble the Aspire One.

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MacBook Air SuperDrive for all

June 24, 2008

So like me, you have a MacBook Air SuperDrive… It’s affordable, it’s functional, it’s sexy. If only it was usable with other Macs and PCs!

Well rejoice :) I have successfully hacked my MBA SuperDrive to work with other Macs and PCs. All you need is a $9 part (shipping extra) and a bit of soldering and you too can do this mod.

First, take a look at pictures of this mod and a video where I connect my hacked SuperDrive to my Mac mini and my HP Mini-Note running Windows XP.

Now here’s a bit of background. The MBA SuperDrive is designed to work only with the Apple MacBook Air. How is that possible?

Some people have speculated that perhaps the MBA SuperDrive draws more than 500 mA and that the MacBook Air provides more than 500 mA via its USB port. This is not the problem. My attempt at connecting the SuperDrive to several PCs and Macs while injecting additional current using a special cable was unsuccessful…

What about drivers? I (and others) have scoured the MacBook Air system folder for additional and modified .kext files (kernel extensions) by comparing them with the ones available on other Macs – nothing.

Other people have suggested that perhaps the optical drive within the MBA SuperDrive uses special firmware. This is not the problem either. After taking apart the SuperDrive and mounting the optical drive directly into a PCs removable bay, it was recognized just fine.

This leaves the IDE to USB bridge. It’s a small circuit board that allows an IDE device like the optical drive within the MBA SuperDrive to work as a USB device. It uses firmware too – and Apple appears to have designed custom firmware for it!

There appears to be some sort of handshake happening between the MacBook Air and the IDE to USB bridge within the MBA SuperDrive. I looked into re-flashing the controller (which is a standard part) with generic firmware, but after several hours I was getting nowhere.

The alternative was of course to replace the IDE to USB bridge with another one, which is exactly what I ended up doing. The trick was to find a small enough circuit board. I was about to give up on this mod when I stumbled upon the aforementioned $9 part on a series of tubes.

The part is small enough to fit within the MBA SuperDrive, but requires removal of the daughter-board (containing a power connector, a USB connector, and several capacitors), as well as the non-ideal relocation of the 12 MHz crystal.

And the rest is history – you can figure it out from the pictures :)


Vulcan Flipstart HSDPA mod

June 6, 2008

Recently, a member of handtops.com (where I’m a moderator) lent me his Vulcan FlipStart and Fujitsu LifeBook U810 for me play with!

Last year I published an HSDPA mod for the OQO Model 02. Today I bring you an HSDPA mod for the Vulcan FlipStart :)

This time, instead of taking pictures, I decided to stream live video:
Part 1 covers disassembling the FlipStart and replacing EVDO with HSDPA
Part 2 covers reassembling the FlipStart and testing the result

I used the mini-PCIe card from my Sierra Wireless AirCard 875U together with the Sierra Wireless 3G Watcher.

Other than my connection (apparently) getting throttled by AT&T, everything ended up working pretty well…

I’d like to publicly thank the intrepid member of handtops.com who lent me both devices!


Windows drivers for Apple USB Ethernet adapter

February 10, 2008

Listen up, all you Boot Camp’in MacBook Air users… Can’t find Windows drivers for the Apple USB Ethernet adapter? Want to use use the adapter on another Windows machine? Are you crazy?

Fear not! I’ve hacked together some Windows drivers for the Apple USB Ethernet adapter. Simply download, unzip and when Windows asks for drivers, point it in the right direction.

Enjoy :)


Modding the Asus 701 (Eee) – Bluetooth

November 28, 2007

Last week I researched how to subvert the Asus 701 (Eee)!

Last year I documented adding internal USB Bluetooth to another sub-notebook…

Now I’ve combined the two – I’ve added internal USB Bluetooth to my Eee without interfering with the built-in wireless, using the empty mini PCIe card slot, or disabling any of the available USB ports :)

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