Computer Hardware

How to add internal wireless charging to an iPhone 7

(August 24, 2018)

Apple does not make an iPhone with internal wireless charging support. Scotty of Strange Parts found a guy in China who developed a kit to add wireless charging capability inside an iPhone 7. It is a slim circuit including Wireless Charging antenna and a connector which slips into an iPhone 7 connector. It requires replacing the back, so there is a port-hole through which wireless charging signals can get into the phone.

The video attached here is a fascinating look at not only getting into an iPhone 7 and making modifications, but the hardware development environment in the Chinese electronics markets. We get to see Scotty taking apart and reassembling an iPhone 7 several times, testing and debugging, and finally getting the thing to work. Plus, we get to see Scotty negotiating with Chinese hardware developers.

The big result is that Scotty is making available kits at http://strangeparts.com/wireless

Apple's unnecessarily complex SSD upgrade process for Mac Mini 2014/2015

(July 13, 2018)

The 2014/2015 Mac Mini is still, in 2018, the "current" Mac Mini model, and its biggest problem is the great difficulty to upgrade the device. While it is impossible to replace the memory it is possible to replace the hard drive, so long as you bought the upgradeable Mac Mini. Namely the version sold with an HDD. The other, with PCIe SSD, does not support upgrading the disk. You can save some money by purchasing the HDD version and upgrading to SSD on your own, however performance is higher with the PCIe version. The videos attached to this post document the overly unnecessarily difficult process for upgrading such Mac Mini's to have an SSD. You have to remove everything just to swap the disk? And you can't change the memory? The Intel NUC is in the same class of machine, and does not require this kind of over-the-top surgery.

The list of parts to build your own iPhone 7

(July 11, 2018)

Scotty of Strange Parts has published several in-depth videos on building an iPhone, and building custom iPhones including adding a headphone jack to an iPhone 7. In this video he walks us through the parts required to build an iPhone from parts. This is not just the logic board, screen, battery, and case, but all the parts, as well as hints on which parts to be extra careful aboutl

Reliable data transmission with an Arduino

(July 5, 2018)

Communicating data is important - your Arduino might be used as a sensor, or to control some hardware, and therefore needs to either send data to another computer, or to receive commands from another computer. The core necessity is sending and receiving data. This video is an in-depth look at how to implement NRZ (Non-Return-To-Zero) data communications using a single pin on the Arduino. Also in the video is a look at connecting a certain LCD panel to an Arduino.

Installing macOS High Sierra on a MacBook Pro or other Mac that is not supported by High Sierra

(April 12, 2018)

Apple has declared certain older Mac computers unsupported by newer versions of macOS. In my case, I attempted to install macOS High Sierra on a mid-2009 MacBook Pro, but the installer failed in a very strange way. I constructed a USB installer using the normal process to make a macOS installer, then rebooted the computer to run the installation, but instead the screen simply went blank and the computer turned itself off. In other words installing macOS High Sierra on this mid-2009 MacBook Pro failed in a strange way. After a couple dozen macOS installs on different computers under my belt, I'd never seen this behavior. After some duckduckgoing the cause was found to be this screen capture - that the computer was not supported by High Sierra - and fortunately there was a relatively simple solution.

Apple's Mac Mini Pro: What it should be

(April 8, 2018)

As a former Mac Mini owner, and a happy Intel NUC owner, I have one suggestion to Apple regarding the Mac Mini. Make it more like the Intel NUC. Apple should be completely embarrassed that Intel has made a better Mac Mini than the Mac Mini. If Intel can do it to perfection, Apple should be able to do it. But with the direction Apple is taking with its hardware design, an updated Mac Mini is going to be even more locked down than that abomination of a Mac Mini Apple released in 2014.

Monitoring SSD drive health

(November 19, 2017)

SSD drives are awesome, they're fast, they consume little power, they're light weight, and so on. But we all worry about whether the drive will unexpectedly die, since a truism going around is that SSD drives will just up-and-quit taking your whole computer with it. It's useful, therefore, to have fore-warning by monitoring the health of your SSD drive. A key is to ensure your drive has the S.M.A.R.T. feature (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology). The next key is getting software that can query S.M.A.R.T. data, presenting it in a way that makes sense to you.

Does a larger SSD drive have longer lifetime expectancy?

(November 19, 2017)

While SSD drives are awesome and give excellent performance, we all have a fear of the "Sudden SSD Death Syndrome" or that sudden "hey why did my computer just die" moment. While spinning-platter drives also wear out and die, the risk of SSD drive failure weighs in the back of our collective mind. A truism going around is that "overprovisioning" your SSD drive will ensure a longer lifespan for the drive.

How to add a headphone jack to iPhone 7

(September 7, 2017)

Apple really screwed up the iPhone design with the iPhone 7 by not putting in a headphone jack. I don't care about their prescriptive ideas about this, we need a headphone jack dammit. This video is from the guy who built his own iPhone from spare parts he bought in Shenzen China. For this video, he'd bought an iPhone 7 in order to record better videos and found himself really wanting a headphone jack. So, he decided to launch into adding such a jack, knowing there are millions of others around the world chafing at Apple's preconcieved notions and wanting a headphone jack on their iPhone 7.

The process took 17 weeks of trial and error. He started with noting there's an empty space where the headphone jack belongs, and that it'd be vaguely possible to add hardware into that space. What took the 17 weeks is designing a custom circuit, on a flexible substrate, learning to solder flexible circuits and work under a microscope, and to learn how to assemble the result without breaking the parts. That last bit was expensive due to the large number of expensive parts he broke. But, he came out the end with success and a vow to release the design files to the public via his website, and a strong plea to Apple to add a dang headphone jack to the iPhone 8.

Build an FM radio using Arduino Nano and a TEA5767 Radio Module

(September 2, 2017)

With a few add-on parts, you can create your own customized FM radio receiver. The attached project uses an Arduino NANO and a TES5767 radio module that can be used either with Raspberry Pi or Arduino. The display is a Nokia 5110 LCD display, but you could use any display of your choosing. The TES5767 uses an I2C interface, making it easy to integrate, and making an I2C display unit a good addition.

Using the Arduino serial console to monitor your Sketch

(July 6, 2017)

The most useful debugging tool many programmers have is the Print statement. They insert Print statements throughout their code, to see if the program got to certain points and if so what was the values. While there are fancy schmancy debugger packages available, the Print statement is extremely useful and simple. An Arduino presents a challenge because the software executes over on that teensy board, there's no computer display, no direct connection, where would the print statement send its output? Turns out the Arduino software stack includes a Serial console that you can view from inside the Arduino IDE. What we'll do in this article is go over a trivial example of reading an analog value to print on the serial console.

Arduino board and accessories buying guide.

(June 17, 2017)

The Arduino marketplace includes a long list of controller boards and add-on accessories. This guide shows some of the best Arduino-compatible products available.

Displaying text on LCD screen from the Arduino UNO

(June 17, 2017)

The Arduino doesn't have an intrinsically native display. Programmers frequently debug their software by printing stuff to a screen, or they need a human-machine-interface to show what's happening, and even a simple text display can be quite handy.

With this article we'll install a particular kind of LCD display, and learn how to drive the LCD display using the LiquidCrystal library. This particular LCD requires wiring up a little circuit that uses a potentiometer to control brightness. While we might yearn for a simple-to-connect-display, we do learn a little electronics along the way. At the end of the day the Arduino is about encouraging us to fire up our soldering iron and making things.

Once you've wired the display, the LiquidCrystal library makes it easy to display text on the screen.

Arduino UNO first step, connect to your laptop, run a simple application

(June 17, 2017)

The Arduino is an extremely popular microcontroller for open source DIY hardware hacking projects. There are many flavors of Arduino, and for this project we'll use an Arduino UNO. All Arduino's have a well-defined GPIO interface supporting "Shield" boards providing customized capabilities. The GPIO pins can be connected to your DIY hardware, or to 3rd party Shields, for which there are many suppliers. That's what makes the Arduino so interesting to regular folk like you and me. There's a whole slew of microcontroller chips and boards targeted to commercial and industrial systems. That's not who we are, we're hacking away in a spare bedroom.

With this article we'll take a first step or two to get an Arduino connected to our computer, get accustomed to the IDE, and upload a couple simple programs. Down at the bottom are a few videos.

In China you can build your own iPhone from spare parts

(Apr 12, 2017) This American entrepreneur goes to Shenzen China frequently. As he observed the scene over several months, it came to mind the electronics shops carry enough spare parts one could assemble their own iPhone. From spare parts, plus specific shop workers with the specialized skills for correct assembly. The big time-saver is to buy a working logic board, rather than soldering components onto an unpopulated logic board. But, with perseverance, and the willingness to traverse chaotic crowded markets, the parts are not only available, but it's possible to find iPhone-compatible backs with designs Apple never thought of. The video takes us on the journey, showing us the insides of not only the Shenzen markets but some snippets of electronics disassembly/recycling operations.

SSD drive lifetime expectancy explained

(March 26, 2017) SSD drives are awesome, they're extremely faster than spinning drives, lower weight, lower power consumption, no noise, and are a direct plug-in replacement for spinning drives. Thanks to technology advances the price is falling rapidly making them more feasible every day. The problem is they're known to suddenly die giving us a fear of losing our data and suddenly having to replace the drive. This video does an excellent job of explaining the reality, and tells us to not panic but instead to make sure to leave lots of free space on the drive.

SSD drive technology, MLC, TLC, SLC

(March 26, 2017) SSD drives are awesome, they're extremely faster than spinning drives, lower weight, lower power consumption, no noise, and are a direct plug-in replacement for spinning drives. Making the best choice between the available SSD's means understanding what MLC, TLC and SLC means. These acronyms cover different types of SSD drive, and tradeoff's between speed, performance, data storage and reliability. The 'C' in each acronym means 'Cell', and each refers to a different architecture.

Installing MacOSX when the installer says: OS X could not be installed on your computer. No packages were eligible for install.

(2016-10-16 15:41)

A key step for upgrading the disk on a MacBook Pro is to install a new operating system on the new drive, and then use Migration Assistant to copy over the old data. Depending on how you went about the work, installing Mac OS X on the new system may give you a message: OS X could not be installed on your computer. No packages were eligible for install.

This is what it looks like in the installer. Upon seeing this I went "HUH?" because the installation was from a thumb drive I'd used many times to install Mac OS X (El Capitan) successfully.

Upgrading or replacing battery pack, SSD and other parts on Acer C720 Chromebook's

(July 21, 2016) How many of us, if the trackpad on our laptop stops working, get frustrated, set the computer aside, and buy a new one? That costs money to replace the computer, more 'stuff' piles up, it disrupts our lives, but somehow it's easier to just replace than figure out how to fix it. Turns out this specific issue, the trackpad puzzlingly not working, could be easily fixed. In my case the battery pack had swollen pushing against the trackpad making it not work correctly. The swollen battery pack itself is very dangerous and I wouldn't have known of it otherwise. Further, the replacement was next to trivial and a lot cheaper and less disruptive than replacing the whole computer.

Steve Wozniak Debunks One of Apple's Biggest Myths

(December 3, 2014) Steve Wozniak takes us on a walk down history lane, retelling how much he loves designing computer hardware, and that he designed the Apple 1 for fun. Then Steve Jobs came along, and turned that hobby into a big business, making several people into multijillionaires. Wozniak says he just wanted to be an engineer at the bottom of the Org Chart, and left Apple in 1987.
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