Building the ultimate ultraportable ... for $300!

Subject: Mobile | February 16, 2012 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: ultraportable, DIY

Check out the latest system build at The Tech Report; a lucky find of a 12" X60 devoid of its hard drive, battery, and power adapter for $87 along with some smart shopping lead to a very powerful ultraportable.  What was left inside was the 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 1GB of DDR2-667 RAM and a lot of empty space.  Another stick of RAM and a power adapter were located in their hoard of equipment so the only peice that had to be purchased was a hard drive and battery.  The battery was easily available for little money and they went all out on the hard drive, picking up a SanDisk Ultra 120GB SSD.  Not a bad build for under $300!

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"In his latest blog post, TR's David Morgan pieces together a 12" ultraportable notebook with ThinkPad build quality, a 120GB SSD, and much better performance than budget netbooks for less than $300. Here's how he did it ..."

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Mobile

Bring that laptop back to life

Subject: General Tech | November 24, 2011 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: DIY, hack

Laptops have a harder life than desktops, not just because they get knocked around while you are on the move, but the plugs see a lot more action as you unplug your peripherals and power to put it in its case and plug them back in when you get to where you are going.  As a result broken USB ports can be common but can be worked around, as can bent network pins but what about the power plug?   Quite a few people have taken their laptop apart to clean the insides or to upgrade the RAM or other hardware but have you done any soldering inside the case or replaced plastic mounting points?  Hack a Day will take you through a simple fix for a broken power plug on a Satellite which will bring your laptop back from the dead.  This particular model is fixable because the power plug is not directly attached to the circuit board, a design which might be more brittle than direct attachment but does mean you can make these types of repairs.

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This might take a little more ingenuity.

"It seems that there’s a whole range of Toshiba Satellite laptop computers that suffer from a power jack design that is prone to breaking. We see some good and some bad in this. The jack is not mounted to the circuit board, so if it gets jammed into the body like the one above it doesn’t hose the electronics. But what has happened here is the plastic brackets inside the case responsible for keeping the jack in place have failed. You won’t be able to plug in the power adapter unless you figure out a way to fix it."

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Source: Hack a Day

VIA Launches ARTiGO A1150 PC Kit

Subject: Systems | November 22, 2011 - 11:53 AM |
Tagged: DIY, VIA, ARTiGO

Packs VIA Eden X2 processor, HD video, HDMI connectivity and 64-bit computing in a palm sized chassis
Taipei, Taiwan, 22 November 2011 - VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator of power efficient x86 processor platforms, today announced the launch of the VIA ARTiGO A1150 a sub-liter dual core DIY PC kit for enthusiasts who want to taste the next generation of ultra-compact desktop computing.

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The new way to measure PC size

The VIA ARTiGO A1150 is one of the smallest full featured DIY PC kits available today, squeezing an impressive range of features that include a 1.0GHz dual core VIA Eden X2 processor, HD video support, HDMI and VGA display connectivity, Gigabit networking, Wi-Fi Support and five USB ports, all into a palm-sized PC chassis. The VIA ARTiGO A1150 is ideal for a variety of applications in the home or office, including home server, media streaming and surveillance applications or great as a regular desktop PC, using only a fraction of the physical real estate.

"VIA redefines dual core low power compact computing, bringing all the features of a regular desktop PC into a form factor that needs to be seen to be believed," said Epan Wu, Head of the VIA Embedded Platform Division, VIA Technologies, Inc. "VIA has a long history in creating leading edge form factor systems, and the VIA ARTiGO A1150 pushes the bounds for ultra-compact desktop computing."

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VIA ARTiGO A1150: Compact Computing Redefined
The mere 5.7" x 3.9" x 2" (14.6 cm x 9.9 cm x 5.2 cm) VIA ARTiGO A1150 is powered by a dual core 1.0GHz VIA Eden X2 processor, offering a high performance native 64-bit computing experience while remaining within a low power thermal envelope. The VIA Eden X2 processor is joined by the VIA VX900H media system processor, a fully integrated all-in-one chipset that brings exceptional multimedia experience to small form factor devices including hardware acceleration for the latest HD video codecs including H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2/4 at screen resolutions of up to 1080p.

Front and back panel I/O includes HDMI and VGA ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, five USB ports including one USB device port, three audio jacks with optional wireless IEEE 802.11 b/g/n and SD card reader modules.

To watch a short introductory video about the VIA ARTiGO A1150, please go to: http://youtu.be/qkQtymQdbgg

The mineral oil in this Aquarium will be hard on the fish but not your components

Subject: Systems | November 10, 2011 - 11:47 AM |
Tagged: puget systems, mineral oil, DIY, Aquarium

If you have an urge for switching your PC 's' cooling to full immersion in mineral oil you could do worse than looking to Puget Systems and their DIY Aquarium kit.  For four years they have been perfecting one of the most unique PC designs on the market, mimicking the look of an aquarium right down to the overhead light and gravel at the bottom.  By ordering a complete system, or picking up the parts from their parts store to build your own, you will end up with a well cooled conversation peice that you should proudly display in a prominent place.  Plus it is still a working PC, even if you will be distracted from the screen by your case.

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In House Manufacturing
We have seen so much demand for our aquarium kits that we have purchased our own laser cutting machine! This allows us to manufacture these kits entirely on our own, which carries a number of advantages.

  • Our costs are lower, which helps lower the price to you.
  • We are in full control of quality.
  • We know what is needed much better that an outsourced machine shop.
  • We can make MUCH more frequent design tweaks and improvements.

Embracing Simplicity
Up to this point, our aquarium kits have been getting bigger and more complicated with each release. The V4 kits take a step back. The size and capacity is the same as our V3 kits, but with the advantage of rapid prototyping though on-site manufacturing, we are able to create a much more finely tuned product. Instead of large bulky bracing, we cut it down to only what is necessary. Instead of dual pumps with complicated interconnects, we run a single more powerful pump. This leads to a dramatic decrease in complication, assembly, and number of parts needed. This results in less points of possible failure, and much lower overall unit price.

Project History
For those interested in the full history of this project, Puget Systems has chronicled our timeline over the last 4 years, sharing our thoughts, testing, benchmarks, and results.

Our full V4 aquarium kits, including tank, motherboard tray, pump, radiator, and all necessary wiring and tubing, are available for immediate purchase on our website. Alternately, for those looking for parts for their own DIY projects, each component of our V4 kit can be purchased separately on our parts store.

Two PSUs are better than one

Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 26, 2011 - 10:57 AM |
Tagged: PSU, enthusiast, dual PSU, DIY

[H]ard|OCP visits the weird world of dual PSU products, which allow the usage of two PSUs in a single system and which are transparent to the end user as they are both controlled as if there was only one.  There are four methods covered; Add2Psu, the Lian Li Secondary Power Supply Starter Kit and both auxiliary and redundant PSUs.  They range in style from the impressive abilities of Add2Psu to string together unlimited amounts of PSU using Molex connectors and Lian Li's PSU crossover cable to FSP's 5.25" Booster X5 450W auxiliary PSU and the Athena Atlas 800 redundant PSU which seems more at home in the server room. If you want more power but don't have a PSU big enough this will show you how to give your existing PSU a helping hand.

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"Putting two powers supplies in your computer has been a recurring subject in our forums for years. While the physical process of making that happen is not exactly rocket science, it still can be daunting for some users. Today we show you a few products that make it easy for anyone to double up on the power should your wattage needs increase."

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CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Mod a dial that goes to 11 onto your AMD graphics card

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2011 - 10:31 AM |
Tagged: DIY, overclocking

One of the favourite features on the high powered graphics cards that Ryan has been reviewing this week is the ability to manually overclock the card while running it.  Instead of having to use the built in software tools of the driver to first modify the speed and then running a test cycle it is possible to raise the frequency manually using controls on the card.  The changes occur on the fly, without the software first testing to ensure stability which necessitates the presence of a reset button to take you back to stock frequencies.  Thanks to Hack a Day you can now see how it is now possible to build your own paddle switch to do the same thing as the high end cards without having to spend the money or reach inside your case.  Check out this project which will give you a paddle that not only upclocks your cards memory and GPU separately, it can also reset you back to default speeds if you go too far.

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"[Fred] likes to squeeze every cycle possible out of his graphics card. But sometimes pushing the clock speed too high causes corruption. He figured out a way to turn a knob to adjust the clock speed while your applications are still running.

The actuator seen above is a Griffin Powermate 3.0. It’s a USB peripheral which is meant to be used for anything you can imagine. [Fred] uses an AutoHotKey script that he wrote to capture the input from the spinner, process that information, then adjust GPU clock speed in the background. Since the clock on his ATi Radeon 5800 can be adjusted using the AMD GPU clock tool, it’s an easy choice for this application. Now better graphics are at the tips of his fingers. See for yourself in the video after the break."

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Source: Hack a Day

Who needs software control when you can roll your own fan controller?

Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 18, 2011 - 05:56 PM |
Tagged: fan controller, pwm, DIY

Even with the fancy drivers now that allow you to set a minimum fan speed you will find that it is almost impossible to completely turn the fan off.  If you desire to do so, it is almost impossible to turn the fan completely off, which is something that is almost impossible with either a software solution or with a PWM controller.  Over at Hack a Day you can find instructions on how to create a breadboard project which translates PWM signal to DC and will allow you much greater control over your fan speed.

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"[hedgehoginventions] wrote in to share a little modification he made to his video card in order to keep it from overheating during strenuous 3D tasks. Having swapped out the stock cooler on his Nvidia 9600GT graphics card, he found that it did not need to utilize the fan while doing mundane things like checking email, but that it still required extra air flow while playing games.

He figured he get the fan to shut off by tweaking the PWM signal, but he found that he could not get the duty cycle under 20% using software, which still caused the fan to run at all times. The circuit he built takes the PWM signal output by the card, cleaning it up before converting it to a corresponding DC voltage. The fan then runs at the same speed it would if driven directly by the PWM signal, though it can now turn off completely when not required."

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CASES & COOLING

Source: Hack a Day

Battle the bane of bulging caps, bring back life to your monitor

Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2011 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: lcd, solder, capacitor, DIY

Over at The Tech Report you will find a handy guide on restoring a monitor with busted caps to working condition, for not much money nor effort. A bit effort is all that you need to track down a dead capacitor on the circuit board, identified by the bulge which will be apparent at the top of the cap.  Once you've found it you just need to desolder it and swap in a new one and your once broken monitor will be working again.  Even better, this procedure can resurrect any peice of equipment you have which is suffering from failed capacitors.  If you've never used a soldering iron to fix something, this would be a great place to start.

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"In his latest blog post, our own David Morgan shows how to bring a monitor back from the dead with a simple capacitor transplant."

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Tech Talk

Got a bunch of old disposable cameras? Why not turn them into a clip for a pulse laser gun?

Subject: General Tech | July 11, 2011 - 11:38 AM |
Tagged: pewpew, laser, DIY

There are a lot of instructions on the net covering the steps to build yourself a laser, from the large scale models at Power Labs which are not portable to smaller scale ones using DVD/Blu-ray lasers which can't be used for much more than driving the family pet insane.  Over at Hack a Day is a detailed project on how to build your own hand held pulse laser which can certainly burn holes through thin metals and other unsuspecting inanimate objects.  This particular build is powered by scrounged capacitors from disposable cameras and as long as you keep an even number and ensure the capacitors are all the same rating you can make it even more powerful.

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"Self-declared Mad Scientist and Instructables user [Trevor Nestor] recently built a pulse laser pistol and decided to share his build process, so that you too can build a ray gun at home. The gun is made up of mostly scavenged components, save for the Neodymium:YAG laser head, which he purchased on eBay for about $100. He does say however, that you can score an SSY-1 laser from an old rangefinder, providing you hang out near a stockpile of decommissioned Abrams tanks."

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Source: Hack a Day

Habley Shows Off Small Atom PC Capable Of Playing Two 1080p HD Streams

Subject: Processors, Systems | June 12, 2011 - 08:57 PM |
Tagged: SFF, Intel, htpc, hd, DIY, atom

Habley has recently shown off a new small, embedded computer dubbed the SOM-6670E6XX. The new computer is the size of a post-it note; however, it sports an Atom E600 processor running at 1.0Gh as well as an integrated GMA600 graphics core. To be more specific, the motherboard in question measures 70mm x 70mm.

The CPU and GPU blend is able to support two displays and pipe two HD video streams to each. Using Media Player Class Home Cinema 1.5, the computer is able to play both a 1080p MPEG4 trailer of the X-Men First Class film and a HD FLV version of SpiderWic simultaneously. While playing both films, the CPU saw around 93% usage and 210 MB of RAM from the Windows Embedded 2009 operating system. Further, while playing an HD FLV film trailer while also watching an HD YouTube clip, the processor was again pegged at 93% usage; however, in this test the RAM usage was much higher, at 422 MB. The test system used, in addition to the SOM-6670, it consisted of a SOMB-073 Carrier board (which provides the various IO including video and audio output, mouse and keyboard input, and SATA ports), 1GB of on-board RAM, and a 5400RPM laptop form factor (2.5”) 120GB hard drive.

Including the two monitors, at 1280x768 (over HDMI) and 1920x1080 (SDVO) respectively, the system drew 18 watts during usage. You can see the test system of the small HD-capable computer in action in the video below. What uses do you have in mind for a micro-sized computer such as this?

Source: MaximumPC