Magic Trackpad Teardown

July 29, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We’ve noticed an interesting trend after having dismantled so many Apple products: “thin and pretty” does not translate well to “user serviceable.” The Magic Trackpad is no exception to this trend, having few parts that can be replaced without potentially destroying the whole device.

There were no magical unicorns inside, but we did uncover a plethora of components within the Trackpad’s very thin profile. Even though repairing the components might be infeasible, we’re still impressed by everything Apple’s engineers managed to stuff into the Trackpad.

We also created a Vimeo video slideshow for an alternate teardown viewing experience!

Teardown highlights:

  • This is one of the few Apple products where the battery is user serviceable.
  • The battery screw has square threads! While square threads have the highest mechanical efficiency of all lead screws, their difficulty of manufacturing makes them prohibitive for most applications. Kudos, Apple, for sweating the details.
  • After a good amount of quasi-non-destructive prying, the inner spacer can be removed from the trackpad. This spacer prevents the highly unlikely event of squeezing the lower panel against the logic board hard enough to damage it.
  • The ribbon cables are ridiculously thin and are stuck to the underside of the touch pad. If you plan on servicing your Trackpad, proceed with caution.
  • After using a heat gun to warm up the adhesive, the touch pad can be carefully pried off the aluminum chassis. This step is not for the faint of heart. A copious amount of heat, guitar picks, and plastic opening tools were required to make the touch pad budge.
  • The Magic Trackpad has a unique way of triggering the mouse button. As you press down on the top surface of the pad, the two rubber feet near its front edge push on a plate attached to the chassis. The plate squeezes the electronic mouse button switch, producing the characteristic “click.”
  • At the heart of the Magic Trackpad’s logic board lies a Broadcom BCM2042 for Bluetooth connectivity — the same chip used by the Magic Mouse.
  • We also found a Broadcom BCM5974 touch screen controller chip that provides multi-touch functionality. This is the same chip you’ll find in the iPhone, iPod Touch, and MacBook Air.

Disconnecting the touch pad ribbon cable

Final layout

Novelty Tool: Noosy Micro SIM Cutter

July 22, 2010 Hardware, Tools — Andrew

Do you hate scissors? And do you feel the need to buy an application-specific tool for every task? Well you’re in luck, because Noosy’s Micro SIM cutter is there to satiate your primal urge for tool hoarding. Insert a full size SIM card, squeeze the cutter, and bam! Micro SIM without the need for scissors. 

Why would you want this? We don’t really know. (We don’t plan on selling it unless you convince us to.)

Announcing a new member of the iFixit family, Make: Projects

July 20, 2010 Site News — Kyle

I don’t like to keep secrets. I’d much rather talk about the process of building iFixit as we go, explaining our rationale and motivations. We work most effectively by interacting with you and taking advantage of community feedback: we really do value your perspective and advice.

So I am thrilled to finally be able to tell you about a top-secret project we’ve been working on for a while: Today, in conjunction with Make Magazine, we are launching Make: Projects.

John Park with his PIR Sensor Arduino Alarm

Make is a DIY publisher started by the best technology book publisher on the planet, O’Reilly. Their mission is simple: to teach people how to make awesome stuff. I absolutely love everything about them. Their community comes out en masse at Maker Faire every year. Their staff are some of the smartest, friendliest, most in-the-loop people in the publishing industry. And they write the coolest, best-documented, and most practical project instructions out there. We are fortunate to be collaborating with them.

The new site runs on the same software platform that we do, making it easy for anyone to publish step-by-step guides that show you how to make things.

Here’s the best way to think about this:

Simple enough! Of course, those are both monumental goals. Make is already off to a good start, though—they’ve already got over a hundred projects online, and more are going up every day.

Modding toy Tonka trucks

The idea for this project came about a year ago when I was talking with Dale Dougherty (co-founder of O’Reilly and founder of Make) about the need for a common procedural manual file format. Dale has even more experience with documentation than I do, having written the book on sed and awk, two absolutely critical UNIX utilities we use for manipulating text. Our “Aha!” moment occured when we realized that iFixit’s repair guides have almost exactly the same underlying structure as Make’s project tutorials. The problem they have is that magazine layouts don’t convert very well to the web.

Make has the same problem most publishers do: their content is stuck in Indesign, and Adobe has traditionally done a very poor job of enabling semantic markup and compatibility with external workflows. That may not matter to you, but it’s the reason they have never really posted their full project library online (their digital edition provides online viewing, but it’s Flash-based and not very web-friendly).

We’ve actually been blown away by how easy it has been to map their projects into our rigid, semantic, step-by-step guide framework. You can see the results for yourself: their projects look absolutely phenomenal online.

We are absolutely thrilled to take the same collaborative software that we use to enable people to work together on service manuals and provide it to the burgeoning DIY maker movement. This will be an invaluable tool for hackerspaces and groups like DIY Bio to build a knowledge base.

What’s in a manual?

Our procedural manuals have:

  • Title
  • Time required
  • Difficulty
  • Tools
  • Parts + Materials
  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Step-by-step instructions. Each step has:
    • Up to three photos
    • Up to ten bullets
  • Conclusion

Now that two of the largest publishers of DIY instructions are using the same format, there are some exciting possibilities for enabling the community! I’ll be writing more about this soon.

What goes where?

There are some interesting grey areas where the sites may blend, and it will be up to the communities to decide what content belongs where.

What belongs on iFixit:

Instructions to make things last longer. Repairs, upgrades, hacks to existing things that make them work longer, maintenance techniques.

What does not belong on iFixit:

Anything that does not help make things work longer. Examples: mods and hacks that add ancillary functionality.

What belongs on Make:

Instructions to make things. Examples: ways to make innovative crafts, mods like Maquariums, new kite designs, Arduino hacks, and DIY manufacturing techniques.

What does not belong on Make:

Repairs, maintenance, tips for making things last longer. Duplicate builds of existing projects.

Sometimes repair requires manufacturing, like this capacitor discharge tool, thus creating a grey area. (BP’s repair of the oil well is certainly the most prominent example of this, but I doubt they’ll be teaching us how to do what they did.) We’ll work with the combined communities on to further clarify the community policy on what belongs where. This is real-world information architecture, and I’m looking forward to helping coordinate this.

What changes were made for Make?

Those of you already familiar with iFixit may wonder what we had to change to make the platform work for Make. In addition to the obvious facelift, we made two primary changes:

  1. We renamed ‘Device’ to ‘Topic’. So where on iFixit guides are organized by device (like installing a battery or an LCD in a specific iPod), on Make guides will be organized by topic (like Rocketry or Soft Circuits).
  2. You can add Make guides to up to two topics. This makes sense for projects like Arduino Blinking Bike Patch that should be visible by browsing to either Soft Circuits or Arduino.

How do we organize everything?

iFixit is organized by device. The instructions to install an iPod battery are nested this way: Media Player -> iPod -> iPod Nano -> iPod Nano 4th generation.

Make: Projects is organized by topic. To learn how to make a solar-powered LED bracelet, you’d browse through Craft -> Jewelry -> Solar Joule Bracelet.

Now go teach people to make something!

The internet is still quite poor at connecting the digital world with the physical. Make: Projects is a big step forward in our efforts to make the internet better by teaching people how to do real things.

Oil Leak Could Transform Repairmen into Superheroes

July 15, 2010 Repair Stories, Site News — Kyle

For the first time in our nation’s history, our hopes and dreams and economic fate rest, not on a warrior or a politician or an astronaut, but on a team of repairmen.

Todd Schilla (left) and Ryan Gressett (right) co-pilot a remotely operated vehicle lowering a top hat onto the oil well in the gulf of Mexico. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley.

The effort to seal the ruptured oil well in the Gulf is the grandest and highest-profile repair job since the Apollo 13 duct-tape fix. It is requiring a vast effort, leveraging all the ships and equipment and manpower that the most powerful companies and nations on earth can bring to bear.

It would be thrilling if the consequences of failure were not so dire.

Whatever the ultimate solution is, the men and women who finally do fix the ruptured well should be regarded as national heroes.

Continue reading our full editorial on Wired.com.

Is Apple silently fixing the iPhone 4 antenna issue?

July 13, 2010 Hardware — Kyle

Reports started surfacing today that Apple may have quietly revised the iPhone 4 to add a nonconductive coating to the metal band on the sides of the phone. This would fix the sudden signal drop from electrically bridging the antennas by touching the band in the bottom-left corner with your hand.

We got an independent report of a similarly updated phone from a member of our community, so we decided to investigate. We exchanged one of our units (that had been experiencing unrelated problems with its Bluetooth connection) to see if Apple has changed the manufacturing process since their initial production run.

The serial number on the unit tells you the manufacture date; our original phone was manufactured in mid-June (week 25). The replacement unit we got was made in early-July (week 27), apparently too soon for a manufacturing change.

The serial number also identifies which factory it was made in. (We don’t have a mapping of numbers to physical factories, but we can tell if two phones came from the same plant.) Apple has always done this, and we’ve occasionally had fun comparing Macs to see if they were birthed in the same place. A fun aside: I once had a Mac made in Apple’s Elk Grove, California factory. This information may be useful if Apple is rolling the production change out to their factories one at a time.

The iPhone 4 serial number is easy to decode! It’s in this format:

aabccdddeef
aa = Factory and Machine ID
b = Year
cc = Production Week
ddd = Unique Identifier
ee = Colour
f = size

Our serial numbers:
85025xxxA4S (16GB unit we took apart)
86025xxxA4T (32GB test unit)
86027xxxA4T (32GB replacement)

Apple has so many iPhones out in the field that it’s very hard to get a feel for what’s going on. They may have just switched to their new process at one of their factories, or they may be rolling it out slowly, or this may be an internet myth. The only way to find out is to check a number of units that have just shipped from the factory.

We need your help! If you got an iPhone in the last few days, check the serial number. If the production week is bigger than 27, try checking the impedance of the metal frame with a multimeter. If you hold the leads about an inch apart, the resistance should be less than one ohm. If it’s substantially higher, you may have a unit with the new coating. (Accuracy of multimeters varies dramatically, but we’d expect a nonconductive coating to have a very high impedance.)

How to measure the resistance of the iPhone 4's metal edge. Our phone reads 0.6 ohms, or eseentially no resistance.