New iFixit T-Shirts!

April 29, 2009 Events — Miro

Fix Macs Yourself!

With Maker Faire around the corner, we decided to offer a new t-shirt to the masses. The shirt encourages you to fix Macs yourself with a variety of tools, although we’d prefer you to limit yourself to the screwdriver when doing actual repairs. We’re selling them for $9.95 plus whatever it costs to get the shirt to you. However, the first ten people that send us an email will get an all-expenses-paid trip to their mail box to pick up their free t-shirt! (The shirt is free for everyone in the U.S.; however, anyone outside the U.S. needs to cover the shipping price difference.) This is our small thank-you for reading the blog and being super-awesome by extending the life of your Mac. Note: We’ve now given away all the stirts, thanks for your interest.

Have a cool iFixit t-shirt design in mind? Want to let the world know how much you like repairing Macs? Post a comment and let us know!

iPhone Cake!

April 28, 2009 Events — Miro

Recently two of our team members had birthdays just days apart from one another. We’re not sure how this happened, since last year their birthdays were about four months apart. However, we go by the honor system around here, so who are we to argue? (This has been Dave’s third birthday this year, so we think we know who the culprit is.)

Both Dave and Chris are avid iPhone users, and a staff member’s wife decided to do something super-special for this rare occasion. To fully honor their birthdays, she made a cake that looked like an iPhone! It was a sight to behold, and the highlight of the party. No detail was spared: she expertly drew a frosting battery indicator, Home button, clock, and a green chat box. The only grossly incorrect part of the cake was the number of signal bars. iPhone users were lucky to get a bar, let alone the four bars drawn on the cake, in the particular location where the party was held. But that’s ok, the cake was drawn correctly at its originating location (although some of the staffers felt that the bars should have been erased once the cake arrived to the party). Oh well, perhaps next year — or in a couple of months, when Dave decides it’s his birthday again.

We’re hoping Apple does not own a patent on iPhone cakes. Apple, please don’t sue us, we don’t sell iPhone cakes.

Care to share your Apple-related cake stories? Know for a fact that Apple owns a patent on iPhone cakes? Leave a comment and tell us so we can pull this photo!

iPhone 3G Front Panel Replacement

April 24, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Miro

Go to our iPhone 3G Front Panel Repair Guide to get complete step-by-step instructions for replacing your broken glass!

Imagine this scenario: You’re late for a meeting. To make matters worse, you find that your bike tires are extremely low. As you’re hastily pumping up the tires, The Boss calls your iPhone 3G. He usually doesn’t call your personal line, but this time it’s personal — his butt’s on the line, since you’re bringing his presentation to the meeting. You’re juggling many things in your mind, including the virtual beating you’re going to receive for being late, all the while not realizing that the sweat on your hands is making the iPhone quite slippery. Everything changes in one split-second flash: the iPhone 3G shoots out of your well-oiled hand and has an intimate chat with Mr. Concrete. The result? A cracked iPhone 3G screen, not to mention an even-more-furious boss due to your inability to pick up the phone. While iFixit can’t get you a new job in the bicycle sales industry, we can show you how to fix your iPhone 3G’s cracked screen.

The first thing to know to is what part you need to replace. On the original iPhone display, the glass, touchscreen digitizer, and LCD display were inseparably glued together. Fortunately, Apple changed their design and the iPhone 3G front panel glass is not glued to the LCD behind it. This is great news, because most of the time when you break the glass the LCD itself is fine. The front panel is available online at iFixit for $70, a bit cheaper than the LCD itself.

Opening the iPhone 3G is definitely simpler than the first generation iPhone. The original required a wide array of tools (including a dental pick) to remove the back panel. Apple’s designers decided to be nicer with the 3G, but weird tools like suction cups are still needed to make the opening procedure easier. Removing two Phillips screws and a small pull with the suction cup open the iPhone 3G. Don’t pull too hard, however– several cables still hold the two sides in place.

Disconnecting the display assembly from the rest of the iPhone 3G is as easy as 1-2-3 — literally. Apple was nice enough to number the black ribbon cables “1,” “2″, and “3,” allowing for a no-brainer disconnecting procedure. However, people attempting this at home should be careful to not break any connectors while trying to remove them.

Just like anyone can be linked to Kevin Bacon via six degrees of separation, six screws prevent the display from being separated from the front panel. The screws are very small in size and have #00 Phillips heads. An injudicious flick of the wrist will misplace them forever, so one should take care to keep them in a safe place. Scotch tape is your friend. We like to tape each set of screws down to a sheet of paper and write down where they came from.

To separate the display from the glass, you have to carefully insert a metal spudger between the two metal rails along the edge of the display assembly. A word of caution, however: metal spudgers are the double-edged swords of the iPod and iPhone repair worlds. They are incredibly useful due to their hard metal edge, especially for tight crevices where plastic tools are too soft to be used. However, the hierarchy of hardness dictates that “like scratches like,” meaning that everything softer than the metal spudger will be easily scratched. Unfortunately the list includes pretty much every surface of the iPhone 3G. A metal spudger can also bridge electrical connections, potentially shorting the iPhone 3G’s logic board if you’re not careful.

Glue prevents the removal of the plastic touch screen from the rest of the front panel. The glue loosens when heated, and consequently a heat gun comes in very handy for this procedure. However, too much heat gun action can warp the front panel, as well as leave nasty burns on your hands (nobody likes playing hot-potato with an iPhone 3G front panel).  Hair dryers are preferable if they provide enough heat — a safer (and more readily available) alternative.

Getting everything apart is hard enough, but it’s only half the task. The new touch panel now needs to be adhered to the front panel. iFixit includes a set of cut-to-shape 3M double-sided tape strips with every iPhone 3G front panel purchase. Alternatively, the home user can also use double-sided tape — it’s trickier than the pre-cut pieces, but can be done.

Repairing the iPhone 3G’s screen is a difficult, yet rewarding undertaking. A quick lapse in judgment can certainly provide a couple of good stories for next day at the office — stories such as why you have a melted iPhone front panel attached to your right hand, for example. Although the difficulty is relatively high, the cost of replacing the entire iPhone (as opposed to just the front panel) is even higher. A little patience along with good tools, parts, iFixit’s disassembly guide, and a couple of hours will enable anyone to fix their iPhone 3G display for $70.

Repair Story: 320 GB Drive Troubles

April 18, 2009 Repair Stories — Miro

Agent Smith explicitly stated in The Matrix that we are “only human.” As I’ve found out recently, this generalization also extends to us here at iFixit, and is the basis for this story. Let us all gather ’round the campfire and tell the horror of a semi-successful 320 GB hard drive installation into a PowerBook G4 15″ Aluminum 1.5 GHz laptop.

Yesterday was yet another pleasant California day — the type of day that makes you wish you were outside, painting and listening to Enya. My day started with a trouble-free entrance into the office, my wife’s trustworthy PowerBook G4 in one hand and a brand-new 320 GB drive in the other. I came inside full of hope that I will hook up the 320 GB bad boy with an external USB enclosure, set up a “Restore” cloning session with the existing internal 80 GB drive (Disk Utility is your friend!), and pretend to work for the next couple of hours while the 75 Gigs were transferred over. This completely failed, as did my next strategy– although in retrospect I found that some of the FAIL factors were not entirely my fault.

First problem of the day: When I hooked up the 320 GB drive via a USB to SATA adapter, instead of whirring happily the drive made a CLICKclick, CLICKclick, CLICKclick noise. Uh oh — the brand-new drive is bad, I thought. I hooked up the same enclosure/drive to my MacBook Pro and it worked fine. This was an interesting discovery but it still did not solve my problem of cloning the drive. I proceeded to test back and forth between computers, but the same problem kept happening with the G4. No matter what I did, the PowerBook would not recognize the external USB drive. I hooked up various other PATA drives to the enclosure, but with the same end result.

Eventually I decided the USB ports on the G4 were wonky (this assumption was confirmed over the course of the day). I proceeded to take apart the G4 using our nifty hard-drive replacement guide, and hooked up both drives to my Intel-based (more on the significance of that later) MacBook Pro via one FireWire and one USB enclosure. I formatted the 320 GB drive and did an 80-to-320 clone over the course of three hours, of course while pretending to work. Everything was copied and… It didn’t work.

I put the 320 GB drive directly into the G4, but the computer absolutely would not recognize it. I tried the external FireWire or USB just for the heck of it, but the CLICKclick CLICKclick came back to haunt me. I hooked up another 160 GB drive internally to see if there’s a drive-size limitation, which would have been quite interesting given that the PowerBook G4 Aluminums should have an ATA-6 interface. By booting from a Mac OS X DVD, I was able to confirm that the 160 GB drive was present, although no OS was installed on it. I tried the same with the 320 GB drive, and it was also being recognized! So I tried installing Mac OS X, and saw that the partition was not correctly set on it. By default the Intel-based MacBook Pro set the drive partition to its native Intel-only “GUID Partition Scheme,” which prevents a PowerPC-based laptop to boot using the drive. So I set the 320 GB drive to the PowerPC-native “Apple Partition Scheme,” and of course Mac OS X installed with no problems. Finally, after a day of troubleshooting, the G4 booted successfully with the 320 GB drive!

Had the G4 properly recognized the 320 GB drive via USB, and subsequently performed a clone from its internal 80 GB drive, none of this would have happened. We still don’t know why the laptop has goofy USB/FireWire ports, but I attribute it to the entropy of old age. The same laptop also had one of its RAM slots fail, and the SuperDrive went wonky years ago. Even so, I upgraded the RAM by putting a 1 GB module and tossed in an 8X SuperDrive for good measure. I figured after all this work my significant other can at least have a usable machine, given that it has decent processor, video card, and a great non-glossy display.

Moral of the story: Make sure that the partition you set coincides with your laptop’s processor type. GUID Partition Scheme is for Intels, Apple Partition Scheme is for Power-PCs. Now if we can only make that into an nursery rhyme…

Got a suggestion? Maybe you’ve written a repair-themed nursery rhyme? Drop a comment and let us know!

New 15″ PowerBook G4 1.67 GHz Hi-Res Guide

April 16, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides — Miro

We recently published an all-new guide for the PowerBook G4 Aluminum 15″ 1.67 GHz laptop. This machine features a higher resolution screen than any previous 15″ PowerBook, with a 1440×960 pixel display, and can be identified by the model number of A1138 printed on the lower case.

Although very similar to earlier PowerBook G4 15″ Aluminum machines from the outside, the Hi-Res version did have some distinct differences that warranted an all-new guide. Here are some highlights:

  • The DC & sound board is much easier to access in the Hi-Res model. Removing the display and logic board is no longer necessary, making replacing the DC & sound board a far simpler task.
  • We’re not sure why Apple did this, but this particular computer is very picky with its optical drives — most other SuperDrives across the range of Apple computers will not function properly in this model. If you install a SuperDrive that is set as a master, you’ll find that your PowerBook won’t boot. Drive differences aside, the SuperDrive removal procedure is similar to earlier guides, but does have a few minor changes.
  • Speakers are a different shape and have to be removed in a different manner. As may be apparent by now, Apple likes to mix things up a bit. We don’t know if the speakers sound any better, but their different shape results in slightly different removal instructions.
  • Screws are in different locations. Apple has also changed the locations for the screws, complicating the process for people who tried using previous models’ guides. Our new guide eliminates the need to worry about forgetting the last screw and having to throw away the logic board.

Please browse the guide and let us know what you think. We’re always open to suggestions on how to improve our guides!

Dell Adamo First Look

April 10, 2009 Teardowns — Miro

iFixit partnered with TechRepublic to show off the fine inner details of Dell’s all-new Adamo. Dell has clearly positioned the Adamo as a competitor to the MacBook Air. Does it have a chance? Dell’s industrial design team is certainly giving Apple a run for their money. First Look Highlights:

  • Dell created a clever locking system that snaps the bottom plate of the computer into place. This allows them to completely avoid screws on the bottom of the computer, giving the Adamo a cleaner look than the MacBook Air. However, the Adamo does have larger gaps between the bottom plate and the computer frame, slightly exposing the internals.
  • Dell labels a lot more parts than Apple does. This definitely makes our job easier, even though it’s not quite as photogenic.
  • The 11.1 V battery is rated at 40 Watt hours, an improvement over the MacBook Air’s 7.2 V, 37 Watt hour battery. The Adamo’s advertised operating time is 5 hours, outliving Apple’s claims for the MacBook Air by 30 minutes.
  • According to the manual, the battery weighs in at 489 grams. That’s 27% of the Adamo’s weight. In comparison, the MacBook Air’s battery weighs in at 287 grams, only 21% of the Air’s total weight.
  • The Adamo is not a ‘value’ computer. Apple has demonstrated that people are willing to pay Steve Jobs more for their luxury products, but are people willing to grant Michael Dell that same premium?
  • The standard SSD (although you’re paying for it) is a nice touch compared to the Air.
  • Dell managed to eschew the standard Windows and Intel stickers for elegant integrated logos on the bottom plate. This is a first in the PC marketplace, and we’re told it took quite a bit of convincing on Dell’s part.
  • The hinge on the Adamo feels solid, but time will tell how well the hinge design will hold up. Hinge problems have plagued a number of MacBook Air owners.
  • The Adamo is not nearly as light as the MacBook Air, but a quick glance at our photos shows the reason. Adamo packs in a lot more technology than the Air into a thinner package.
  • An amusing aside: Dell’s manual says the Adamo has 803.11n wireless. Is Dell employing technical writers from the future? What else can they teach us?

View Adamo First Look

Nintendo DSi First Look

April 7, 2009 Teardowns — Miro

We bought a brand-new Nintendo DSi as soon as it went on sale and immediately took it apart! The look and feel of the device is incrementally improved over its predecessor and we found some  interesting things inside.

Highlights:

  • The DSi’s new matte black skin feels rougher than the DS Lite. The roughness allows for better grip of the system and should be far more scratch-resistant.
  • The overall size and shape are quite similar to the DS Lite. It’s 3 mm thinner but 4 mm longer and 1 mm wider.
  • Battery capacity is substantially less than the DS Lite. The DSi uses an 840 mAh battery compared to the DS Lite’s 1000 mAh battery.
  • The Game Boy Advance port is no more. In its place is a new SD slot and the ability to download DSiWare through Nintendo’s online download library.
  • The DSi now includes two integrated cameras. Unfortunately, each one only boasts VGA resolution (0.3 megapixels). This is certainly a bit underwhelming considering most mainstream phones have cameras of at least 1.3 megapixels.
  • An experienced hand can completely disassemble the DSi in less than ten minutes using standard tools. This is the first Nintendo system we’ve taken apart that does not require a tri-wing screwdriver. This should make repairing and tinkering with the DSi substantially easier. The DSi is definitely not as complex as an iPhone!
  • Nintendo is using Samsung MoviNAND integrated 256 MB Flash memory and MMC controller. The custom ARM CPU + GPU is stamped with the revision code ‘TWL.”
  • Our DSi’s components all had manufacture dates around September 2008, indicating that Nintendo has been stockpiling these devices for quite a while prior to the big North American release.

Calling All Tinkerers

April 2, 2009 Events, Site News — Kyle
Maker Faire 2009

Maker Faire is the world's largest DIY festival

iFixit is hosting the brand-new repair section of Maker Faire 2009! We’re going to show the masses how to fix all sorts of things, and we need your help.

The theme of the repair section is going to be “Fix the World.” We’re looking for volunteers to share their repair knowledge. We want to show the world that with the right information, materials, and a little time, you can repair just about anything. Are you an expert in automobile repair? Do you know how to fix a wide variety of washer and dryer problems? Is your gift building bicycles from scratch? Then iFixit wants YOU!

The repair section will feature areas for appliances, computers, automobiles, motorcycles, consumer electronics, bicycles, and other cool stuff we’re working on. If you have experience fixing things and would like free admission to Maker Faire, admission to the invite-only “Maker to Maker” event on Friday, and some other cool perks, please sign up as an iFixit volunteer!

We’re going to schedule volunteers in shifts so you won’t have to help out all weekend. You will definitely have time to see the rest of the Faire! You will be helping people with their problems, showing off cool ways of diagnosing and repairing failed devices, and generally having a good time. The more people we are able to help, the richer the experience will be for everyone.

To volunteer, send an email to MakerFaire@iFixit.com and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Contact info (phone number, address)
  • Area of expertise (cars, computers, etc.)
  • Any specific interests or cool things you’ve fixed
  • Availability for either May 30th, May 31st, or both

Deadlines:

  • Volunteer registration opened on April 2, 2009. Space is limited, so please send us an email as soon as possible.
  • Volunteer registration closes on May 15th, 2009.

All volunteers should receive an email confirming their volunteer status within a week. Volunteers will be assigned one or more shifts depending on their preferences and availability.

We will be updating our Maker Faire 2009 section with the latest news — check periodically for additional information.  Please email us with any questions, and let us know as soon as possible if you can contribute to this wonderful event!