Next Christmas, give them something they’ve already got

December 23, 2009 Hardware, Site News — Kyle

The world is awash in gadget lust. But do you really need a brand-new shiny-curvy-not-bigger-but-better iPod nano when you’ve already got three sitting in a drawer? Next Christmas (or birthday), make something old new again and give the only gift that’s actually environmentally friendly: something you’ve already got.

We've all got a drawer like this. What's in yours?

No, seriously. Instead of buying someone a gift, dig through your closets and desk drawers and pull out those old gadgets. With a little ingenuity and some elbow grease, you can give them something that means a lot more than some sterile shrink wrap.

Christmas wasn’t always an elaborate festival of consumerism. People who lived through the Great Depression frequently recall joyous family bonding times during holidays where they couldn’t afford presents. Rose Guerra, a woman who lived through the Depression, poignantly summarized her memories: “Things don’t make you happy.”

I’ve put together three simple ideas for making your old stuff great again. None of them cost much, but they all require effort on your part.

iPod: Juice that battery

It’s easy to find a new use for an MP3 player even if you’ve got a new, shiny iPod. But the problem with most drawer-bound older iPods is the long-since worn out battery— so replace it with a new one for $15 and it’ll be good as new! Keep the extra iPod in the locker at the gym or give it to your kid. Or pair it with some computer speakers and use it as a kitchen music system.

Laptop: Digital picture frame

Laying out the internals of a Pismo sans case

I bet I have the only digital picture frame in town with a 300 MHz G3 processor and a built-in lithium-ion battery. We built this picture frame from a G3 Pismo that was long-since past its prime. Construction was surprisingly straightforward— we bought a deep picture frame from Michael’s and a lexan panel from Home Depot. Once we removed the laptop from its plastic casing, we just had to glue the LCD to the picture frame and bolt the logic board down to the lexan. Keeping the battery was a no-brainer: it’s wonderful to be able to reroute the power cable without shutting the computer down, or completely removing the power cable when company comes over to confuse them with my wirelessly powered picture frame.

The trickiest part was figuring out where to put the power adapter (we ended up leaving it external). I even threw in an Airport card so we can add more photos without taking it off the wall.

I’ll write up some instructions on doing this sometime, but it’s not very hard.

The fully assembled Pismo-powered, wi-fi enabled digital picture frame

iPhone: Say no to crack!

I’m shocked how often I run across people who have cracked their iPhones. Cracked glass is the most common problem that happens to iPhones, and it’s one of the easiest to fix. We sell a kit with replacement glass, screwdriver, and replacement adhesive for $59.95 (it’s a different part for the 3G vs 3GS, so make sure you get the right one).

With an hour or two of work, you can re-gift someone their own iPhone! This repair is amazingly popular, and I hear a new success story just about every day from someone who fixed their phone themselves. (If you have an original, 2G iPhone you’re out of luck. Apple made it impossible to replace the glass independently of the display.)

What creative things have you done with your old gadgets? Let us know in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. Great idea, I definitely want to see a how to on the pismoframe.

    I have two broken original iPhones, one with a broken screen and one with a broken speaker. How involved would it be to combine these two into one good one?

    Comment by Errol — December 24, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  2. not very. it might be a little confusing on the inside… but once you can identify what you want, it’ll be simpler… though it’s often difficult to re-assemble unless you have steady hands and tiny fingers… (hint hint tweezers)

    Comment by Anon — December 25, 2009 @ 8:05 am


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