Are you still lapping your heatsinks?

Subject: Cases and Cooling | November 4, 2013 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: lapping, heatsink, DIY

Back in the ancient past of aircooling, when heatsinks did not weigh a kilogram and 120mm fans were a novelty item and not the standard many enthusiasts practiced the art of lapping.  With a water tray and automotive grade sandpaper of increasingly fine grit you could not only flatten the base of the heatsink, something that was all too necessary for some models, you could also acheive a mirror finish which helped your heat paste spread evenly.  Today you do not hear much talk of lapping either heatsinks nor the integrated heatspreader on CPUs and SPCR decided to test if it remains a good practice.  Check out the difference a proper lapping job still makes, though keep in mind lapping the IHS on your CPU will void the warranty and could weaken its structure.

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Not what you want to see!

"Lapping the CPU in a heatsink test platform is probably a controversial move that's bound to provoke reactions. Funny thing is, it was done a year ago, and photos of the CPU showing the copper top exposed by the lapping have been featured in many of our reviews. Yet, not a single comment. This article goes through the problems, investigations and explorations that led us to lap our Core i7-965 Extreme test CPU, and analyzes the results and implications."

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CASES & COOLING

Learn about infrared communications and maybe have a bit of fun too

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2013 - 09:21 AM |
Tagged: reverse engineering, IR sensor, hack, DIY, arduino

You can buy the USB Infrared Toy v2 from Dangerous Prototypes and get right to turning cheaply made IR devices off and on but you would miss out on a chance to build one yourself.  If you follow the links from Slashdot you will get a quick tutorial on how to determine the oscillation frequency of a broadcaster by looking at the components of the circuit and how to use an Arduino UNO to create your own.  If you are already familiar with this type of project consider teaching someone who needs their fear of electronic devices reduced through understanding how these magic boxes work.

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"Cheap home alarms, door opening systems and wireless mains switches can be bypassed with low-cost and home-made devices that can replicate their infrared signals. Fixed-code radio frequency systems could be attacked using a $20 'toy', or using basic DIY componentry."

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Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Make a DIY USB audio DAC in a day

Subject: General Tech | August 28, 2013 - 10:06 AM |
Tagged: usb audio, ti, DIY, burr-brown

Perfect for a beginner electronics project or just a way for someone with experience to quickly put together a working audio DAC this project that Hack a Day linked to will give you seriously decent sound.  While the components are all labelled Texas Instruments they are in fact from Burr-Brown as TI purchased the maker of high end DACs a long time ago.  The PCM1794A is a 132dB SNR 24-bit 192kHz DAC which outperforms the DAC found in many stereos and the OPA4134 OpAmp is nothing to sneer at either.  Unless you can etch your own boards you will have to order one and wait a bit before putting this project together but it sounds like it will be work it

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"The on-board +3.3V and -5V voltages are generated by inductor-less power supplies. As [Jan-Erik] mentions in his write-up, the ‘high-end’ was put between single quotes because the PCB is single sided and uses through hole passive components. The board was designed using Kicad, etched by himself and put in a machined enclosure. All the production files can be downloaded from his website so you may produce it within a day."

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Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Beat SAD with a new system build

Subject: Systems | February 13, 2013 - 11:49 AM |
Tagged: DIY, econobox, sweet spot, double stuff

The Tech Report has updated their System Guide for February and added in a new SFF build as well as instructional videos on building a PC for those just joining the enthusiast crowd.  The four price points that they aim for are $600, $1,000, $1,500, and $3,000 and range from an EconoBox for basic usage up to the Double Stuff workstation and of course the new Mighty Mite system.  Head on over to see what they've assembled and feel free to contrast it with our own Hardware Leaderboard.

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"In the latest edition of the TR System Guide, we've tweaked our usual builds to incorporate newer components and price changes, making our recommended systems better than ever. We've also included a small-form-factor gaming build priced just under $1,000."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

If you aren't whitening your case, it is yellowing ...

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 31, 2013 - 10:29 AM |
Tagged: Retr0bright, DIY, ultraviolet, crest

Back in the ancient days of computing before cases came in all colours of the rainbow, we made due with a standard creamy white colour, which over time became a shade of yellow usually associated with Bingo halls or greasy spoon diners.  While white or cream coloured cases have gone out of style, there are still systems which are housed in nasty yellow stained plastic cases and Hardware Secrets can tell you how to whiten them to the colour TV commercials would have you believe your teeth should be.  The trick is called Retr0bright and uses both a hydrogen peroxide bath and UV lighting to restore cases to a more appealing white.  The process isn't perfect, make sure you read their caveats before beginning your project.

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"Plastic parts of older computers become yellow or brown over time, so you end up with a computer that looks yellow or brown instead of white or gray. In this tutorial, we will show you how to restore old plastic parts to their original color by using a homemade peroxide-based solution called Retr0bright."

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CASES & COOLING

Buzz bugging you buddy? Hack your speakers and get rid of it for good

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2012 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: audio, corsair, corsair sp2200, DIY, hack

Some people you know might refer to your favourite music as noise, but you know better; what is worse than that is when you can hear noise in your music.  The annoying intermittent buzz/crackle coming out of your speakers is something a lot of us have experienced and it has a wide variety of sources, from bad cables to electronic noise effecting the signal sent from your onboard audio to defects in your speakers ... and many more reasons.  At Hack a Day is a good solution to rid yourself of noise that is caused by the speakers, this guide is specifically aimed at the Corsair SP2200s but could be applied to a wide range of speakers.  Follow along with this step by step process to use the headset amp as a pre-amp and clean up your music.

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"[Michael Chen] liked the sound he was getting out of these Corsair SP2200 computer speakers, with one big exception. They were giving off some unpleasant crackling sounds. He figured this might be as easy as replacing a faulty potentiometer, but soon found out the fix was going to be more complicated than that. All said and done he ended up reworking the design of the speakers’ amplifier board."

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Audio Corner

Source: Hack a Day

A little DIY hard drive unbricking

Subject: Storage | July 30, 2012 - 10:31 AM |
Tagged: Seagate, repair, DIY, bricked

While this trick will not work on all bricked HDDs, if you have a Seagate 7200.11 HDD that is failing because it is convinced it is always in a busy state then you should check out this story on Hack a Day.  While the initial step of detaching the circuit board and blocking some connections with piece of cardstock can be handled with easy, it will take some expertise to use an Arduino or serial-TTL converter to issue commands to the HDD controller.  It is a good thing that there is a tutorial to walk you through the steps to unbrick your HDD, besides in the worst case scenario your HDD will still be a brick so it is worth a shot.

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"Hard drive firmware is about the last place you want to find a bug. But that turned out to be the problem with the Seagate HDD which he was using in a RAID array. It stopped working completely, and he later found out the firmware has a bug that makes the drive think it’s permanently in a busy state. There’s a firmware upgrade available, but you have to apply it before the problem shows its face, otherwise you’re out of luck. Some searching led him to a hardware fix for the problem."

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Storage

Source: Hack a Day

Spend Memorial Day speccing out a new system

Subject: Systems | May 28, 2012 - 11:28 AM |
Tagged: DIY, econobox, sweet spot, double stuff

The Tech Report have updated their Systems Guide just in time for the holiday in the US, so you should have plenty of time to peruse their recommendations today.  From an i3-2120 powered Econobox priced just under $600 to over $1500 Editor's Choice system with a GTX670, i5-3570K and Samsung 830 SSD there is a system for just about everyone.  Read straight through to the end for suggestions for monitors, keyboards and more.

You can contrast their picks with our own Hardware Leaderboard here.

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"We've freshened up our system guide with new-and-improved builds featuring Ivy Bridge CPUs, 28-nm graphics processors, and cheaper-than-ever solid-state drives. Come and see what we've put together."

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Systems

 

De-bezel your monitor, void your warranty and run the risk of killing your LCD ... but no bezels!

Subject: Displays | May 11, 2012 - 10:18 AM |
Tagged: DIY, Alienware OptX AW2310, mod

When EyeFinity and NVIDIA Surround first hit the market we were promised LCDs specifically designed to have tiny bezels so that your multiple monitor gaming experience would be enhanced.  These monitors are still few and far between and even if you track one down their scarcity guarantees a high price.  That is probably what prompted Tweaktown to pick up scraper and hacksaw and carve up their Alienware displays' bezels.  This is of course something to be done with the full knowledge that you may well destroy your monitor but if you want gaming like in the picture below you might have to risk it.

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"A step-by-step guide on how to de-bezel an Alienware AW2310 monitor and how they look in a three screen portrait setup."

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Displays

 

Source: Tweaktown

He's dead Jim ... or at least that's what my Tricorder says

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2012 - 10:13 AM |
Tagged: tricorder, DIY

The plans for the Tricorder Mk II have been released by The Tricorder Project and just who in their right mind would not want to build one for themselves ... or their kids.  The device uses an Atmel AT91RM9200 processor, 32MB SDRAM and a pair of touchscreen OLEDs powered by an Epson S6E63D6 and runs Debian Linux. 

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The sensor suite onboard can monitor a variety of atmospheric, electromagnetic, temperature and spatial values.  Toss your old IR thermometer away, the Tricorder will give you that measurement and distance as well.  You might as well dump the GPS as well since the Tricorder has you covered.  You will need a bit of skill in assembling electronics and soldering to finish the project, along with roughly $500 but the instructions are very detailed and in the end ... you get a working Tricorder!

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"The Science Tricorder Mark 2 prototype sensor board contains ten different sensing modalities, organized into three main categories: atmospheric sensors, electromagnetic sensors, and spatial sensors. Many of the sensors are similar to those used in the Science Tricorder Mark 1, where the differences are centrally in upgrading sensors to higher-resolution versions where possible. The prototype sensor board also includes an imaging sensor, in the form of a cell phone camera, that is untested. Sensor boards for the Mark 2 are designed to be self-contained, include separate microcontrollers for low-level sensor communication, and as such are more easily upgraded."

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Tech Talk