Modding the Acer Aspire One – Bluetooth

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.

Continue reading “Modding the Acer Aspire One – Bluetooth”

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MacBook Air SuperDrive for all

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

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

ListenĀ 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 :)

OQO Model 02 HSDPA mod

As you probably know, I’m a fan of the OQO Model 02! But I’m also a fan of HSDPA

Unfortunately, so far the Model 02 is only available with EVDO from either Sprint or Verizon, and despite getting the SERO discount two weeks ago, I was not very excited with the idea of paying another bill beyond my existing T-Mobile and Cingular AT&T accounts. So what’s a girl to do? Well, just mod her Model 02 and replace EVDO with HSPDA, of course :)

And that’s exactly what I’ve done! Take a look at the pictures of my mod and keep your eyes peeled for more information soon…

OQO Model 02 internals

After looking at this picture of the OQO Model 02 internals from the FCC documents, I’ve concluded a couple of things:

1) The Novatel EV620 EVDO mini PCIe card could be replaced with a Novatel EU 870D/860D (or Sierra Wireless MC 8755/8765/8775/8780/8781) HSDPA mini PCIe card with some SIM holder hackery

2) The Toshiba MK6008GAH 60 GB 1.8″ ZIF hard disk drive could be replaced with a Sandisk SSD_UATA_5000_18 64 GB 1.8″ ZIF solid state drive

Hmmm… This could just be my next project! Since I already have HSDPA with Cingular, I’m very motivated to have this working before the end of my trial period with Sprint :)

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