I was going to open my inaugural column on personal computing by replacing the word “rifle” in the Rifleman's Creed (think Full Metal Jacket[NSFW language]) with “computer.” In doing so, I realized a few things. First, it turns out an artist named 9000 already did that, with his piece Turing Creed. Second, the metaphor only extends so far. And then it gets kinda weird.
This is my computer. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My computer is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it. I must master my life. Without me, my computer is useless. Without my computer, I am useless. I must use my computer true. I must use my computer faster than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must outcomputer him before he outcomputers me.
—9000, “Turing Creed”
This is my computer.
Okay, most of you have computers. Or you like computers. Or you have a friend who faxes you articles from our website to convince you to get a computer, except it doesn't help because it's like a foreign language to you, which your friend doesn't get because he thinks everyone should instinctively know what the heck a hard drive is and why it matters how fast it goes around in a circle. No? Anyway, let's assume you have a computer. And, because you're reading this on Maximumpc.com, we're gonna assume that your computer is not just a tool to you.
There are lots of things you can do with old motherboards, like give them away to family and friends or build dedicated Folding@Home boxes for Team 11108 (that's Maximum PC, folks). But what about those slices of silicon that don't even run anymore? If you're been looking for a project, here it is.
Some unknown modder got the idea to build a replica of Helsinki, Finland using nothing but old printed circuit boards. This ranks as one of the coolest mods we've ever seen and would make an awesome piece of wall art. We only wish there were more information available, like who built it, how many mobos were harmed during construction, and what other projects the silicon city builder might be up to.
Disassembling a $529 smartphone isn't for the faint of heart, so if you're going to try and tackle a project like this, you might as well know what you're up against. That's where DIY repair site iFixit.com comes in. You can think of iFixit as a community repair manual for all things tech, and one of the neater articles outlines how to take apart a Nexus One from start to finish.
Tearing into Google's smartphone you'll find a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, various logic boards, the touchscreen controller, GSM power amplifier, TI integrated Power Management IC, RF transreceiver, Bluetooth chip, LED flash, and all sorts of other tech goodies.
So why exactly would you want to take apart a Nexus One? Curiosity, out-of-warranty repair, and an obsession with taking things apart just for the sake of doing it are three quick reasons that come to mind. If you fall into any of those categories, check out the complete worklog (with pics aplenty) right here.
We love finding uses for old hardware seeing as we go through so much of it. The hard drive clock is a classic. We’ve seen it, and like it, but it’s getting old. However, one intrepid modder at the Hacked Gadgets site has reaffirmed our faith in the concept of the hard drive clock.
Have you heard of XBMC, the open-source, multi-platform media frontend? If not, you soon will as we put the finishing touches on a related how-to guide with plenty of advanced tips and tricks, but in the meantime, check out what resourceful modder Richard Wileman managed to do with his old Xbox.
We're talking about the original Xbox here, the little black box that most of us have long since retired. But rather than toss his up on Ebay or Craigslist, Wileman pretty much redesigned the unit from the ground up, sticking the Xbox's guts into an aluminum chassis and giving it a few other upgrades.
There's a full size 2.5-inch hard drive, a new DVD drive, an IR port, and even a little LCD to help keep tabs on the playlist.
Routers, while essential, aren't particularly sexy. Most of them stick out like a sore thumb, like the Linksys WRT54GL, an old favorite among power users who like to use third party firmware (like Tomato), but might be put off by the ugly blue casing.
That's the dilemma Lego fanatic Luke Anderson found himself in, so what did he do about it? He gutted it and decked out the assembly in Legos, of course!
"My goal was to recreate, as much as possible, the stackable design of the original WRT54GL case while maintaining full functionality of the router (buttons, LEDs, ports). I also wanted to keep some air flowing through the case to avoid overheating the board," Anderson wrote in his worklog.
Anderson spent a couple of days designing his custom case and about $60 in parts, which is roughly $20 more than he paid for the router to begin with. But it's hard to argue with the end result. And the coolest part? He's packaged all of the design documents and images under the Creative Commons license, so if you get the itch (and have the scratch), you can dress up your Linksys router exactly the same way.
If even the concept for a product exists, a modder out there will try and build it. That’s what’s happened with the vaporware Microsoft Courier. A wily user has managed to ditch the keyboard and attach a USB touchscreen display to his Dell Mini 9. The USB powered display is used for typing and writing on, and the original Dell Mini display is used for reading.
Windows 7 makes the whole affair moderately useful with its integrated handwriting and voice recognition. The mod is still unpolished and incomplete though. There’s not really a hinge attaching the two halves at this time. But still, you don’t see Microsoft showing an actual Courier around.
We place such a premium on USB ports because, let's face it, just about every digital gadget plugs into one these days, many of which are capable of recharging themselves through your PC. But instead of keeping track of both a USB cable and a power plug, why not just convert a spare in-wall outlet or two into a USB outlet? In the words of the Guinness brewmasters, "Brilliant!"
All this mod takes is about $10 and a half-hour of your time, with a little bit of courage and a whole lot of safety precautions highly recommended. The relatively simple mod involves taking a pair of cheap USB chargers easily obtainable for a few bucks on eBay and stripping off the extra casing. Mod the faceplate, wire it up, and you're good to go!
You can find more detailed instructions here, and when you're finished, hit up this link to see all of what you can plug into your new outlet, including a USB fridge.
Up to 1 million Xbox modders were pretty pissed to find that they had been banned from Xbox Live following the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the biggest launch in entertainment history. The mass ban was intended to prevent pirated copies of the highly anticipated game from spreading, a notion Microsoft will now have to defend in a class action lawsuit filed against the company.
According to the lawsuit, the timing of Microsoft's widespread ban may have resulted in more Xbox Live subscription sales than if the bans had taken place before the release of Halo 3: ODST and CoDMW2. The lawsuit also claims that some of the bans locked out users who had modded their consoles for reasons other piracy.
If you've ever lost a night's sleep because you couldn't wrap your head around how to build a Real Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS receiver without breaking the bank, then prepare to sleep like a baby. Why? Because researchers Tomoji Takasu and Akio Yasuda of Tokyo University have you covered.
The researchers developed an inexpensive, open source RTK GPS that runs on a beagle board, and better yet, they've posted instructions so you can do the same. And unlike traditional GPS, RTK units measures the shorter wavelengths in the satellite's carrier signal, which ultimately means greater accuracy.
Getting it work right, however, isn't an easy task. That's why Takasu and Yasuda deserve major kudos for printing the detailed instructions, which you can access here.