Next Christmas, give them something they’ve already got

December 23, 2009 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

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.

Chumby One Teardown

December 17, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We thought we’d follow through on our open source repair guide announcement by taking apart some open source hardware. We got our hands on a Chumby One and put it under the knife!

Chumby industries has thrown down a gauntlet to other hardware manufacturers by giving hardware hackers a tremendous amount of freedom, and by making the Chumby One quite easy to take apart.

What’s impressive is that they managed to provide unprecedented freedom AND deliver a nicely designed and executed product.

Check out the video slideshow of the teardown!

Teardown highlights:

  • Notable components found inside the Chumby One include:
    • Freescale i.MX233 CPU, running at 454 MHz
    • MMA7455 3-axis accelerometer
    • Hynix 923E 64MB DDR DRAM
    • QN8005B FM Radio chip
    • An inscription that reads “with love, bunnie”
  • The MicroSD socket contains a 2GB Kingston MicroSD firmware card, which can easily be pulled out once the device is opened. Users can load custom firmware and upgrade Chumby One’s storage in a snap.
  • There are plenty of ventilation holes in the top and rear outer cases. Such a Swiss cheese case design allows the Chumby to stay cool without the need for a fan.
  • Volume control commands are sent via a rotary encoder that translates angular degrees of rotation into binary code recognized by the board.
  • The wireless card is attached to a small interconnect board, converting the four-pin connector found on the logic board into the USB connector used by the wireless card. This could potentially mean hacking/upgrading the Chumby to 802.11n in the future, were you able to find a USB Wi-Fi card of similar size.
  • You can also unplug the USB Wi-Fi card and plug in regular ethernet using a USB-to-ethernet dongle.
  • The 2W mono speaker is mounted onto a resonance box which occupies precious interior space, which could be used to stuff more awesome hacking stuff into the Chumby. Alternatively, it could be used as a secret stash for narcotics.
Final Layout

Final Layout

New iFixit 54 bit tool kit!

December 14, 2009 Hardware — Miro

It took months of dealing and development, but it’s finally here — our brand-new 54 bit screwdriver tool kit! Many of our techs have been using this kit daily over the past few months, and have been thrilled with the quality. We’ve custom-designed this kit to include the most useful bits for taking apart and repairing all types of electronic gadgets. The kit includes a magnetized driver with metal shaft, swivel top, and rubberized grip, a 60 mm extension, a 130 mm flexible extension, and 54 bits:

  • Slot sizes 1, 1.3, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4 mm
  • Philips sizes #000, #00, #0, #1 (x2), #2
  • Spanner sizes 2, 2.2, 2.6, 3 mm
  • Torx sizes T3, T4 (x2), T5, T6 (x2), T7, T8, T9, T10, T15, T20
  • Hex sizes 0.7, 0.9, 1.3, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 6 mm
  • Posidrive sizes #0, #1, #2
  • Star sizes 2, 3 mm
  • Square sizes #0, #1, #2
  • Triangle size 3 mm
  • Tri-wing sizes #0, #1
  • Drop size 1 mm

It can be purchased immediately for $19.95, and comes with the usual 6-month warranty and excellent iFixit customer service. Get yours now!

Zen and the Art of Battery Life

November 23, 2009 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

The lithium-ion polymer batteries shipping today are amazing creatures, packing greater energy density than both the nickel-based cells of yore and the first generation Lithium-ion cells. Yet most people are unaware of how to properly manage the life of this new technology. What you do on your laptop is your own business, but following these tips will let you do it longer (that’s what she said!). Most of this info holds true for iPod batteries as well, so you might as well learn the ropes now and reap a lifetime of rewards — at least until scientists come up with new, better, battery technology.

Step 1: Learn The Tech
LiIon cells charge in two stages. Stage one is a fast charge at constant amperage and steadily increasing voltage. When the battery reaches a 70- to 80-percent charge, the second stage begins, gradually decreasing the current applied to the battery while maintaining constant voltage until the battery is fully charged. This second stage is called the trickle, or topping-off charge, and it takes two to three times as long as stage one.

Apples charge stages graph

Apple's visual description of charge stages

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter whether you completely drain and completely charge the battery every cycle, or grab a few minutes of charge time whenever you can (with regard to battery life, at least).  But the latter practice will eventually make your reported battery-charge and remaining-life times inaccurate. To make sure the battery knows how much capacity it has, every once in a while you should completely discharge then fully recharge it. This keeps the electrons flowing through all the cells and calibrates an internal mAh counter.

Charges are cumulative, and you do not have to completely discharge the battery every cycle.

Step 2: Use It or Lose It — or Replace It
If you store your LiIon battery with a full charge, it’ll irreversibly lose about 20 percent of its charge capacity per year. If you aren’t going to use your machine for a while, leave your battery partially charged (40 to 50 percent). Even then, LiIon cells will lose capacity over time, but will do so more slowly at cool (not freezing) temperatures. Think about that when you’re choosing whether to store your old iBook in the basement or the attic.

Apple will sell you a new battery for any of its current laptops for $129, but the company no longer sells batteries for most of its older models. Fortunately for you, iFixit sells batteries for every portable Apple has made in recent memory. If you don’t get a battery from us, know that the main concern with after-market batteries is age: It’s best to buy a recently-manufactured battery and not just a “new” OEM battery that was made five years ago and has never been used.

Step 3: Gauge It
Battery capacity is expressed in milliamp-hours (mAh) or watt-hours (Wh).  The Late 2009 plastic unibody MacBook has a 60 Wh battery, so its claimed 7-hour battery life tells us that the MacBook sips just 8.6 watts. (This battery runs at 10.95 volts. Quick refresher from high-school physics: P = IV, so 60 Wh = I * 10.95 volts. Solving for current (I), we learn that this battery stores 5.48 amp hours, or about 5,500 mAh of juice.)

Your battery consumption can vary depending on how much the computer components are used (hard drive access, burning DVDs, using Wi-Fi), but the battery has a finite amount of capacity that only decreases over time.

On a Mac, you can easily determine your battery’s remaining capacity with third-party utilities such as Battery Health Monitor (shown above) or Coconut Battery, but you can also use Terminal (located within /Applications/Utilities). Type “ioreg -l -w 0 | grep Capacity”. The first item, CurrentCapacity, is your battery’s current capacity in milliamp-hours, whereas DesignCapacity lists the battery’s original capacity. System Profiler (on every Mac in /Applications/Utilities) also shows some information in the ‘Power’ profile.

Step 4: Recycle It

The Lithium inside these batteries isn’t super toxic (unlike most other batteries), but the world’s supply of lithium is finite. It’s gotten a lot more convenient in recent years to recycle batteries. Home Depot and Radio Shack will take back and recycle batteries at most of their stores. To recycle devices with integrated batteries, the fabulous e-stewards program publishes a list of certified e-recyclers that are properly accounting for their waste stream rather than shipping it overseas.

Random bit of trivia: Unused lithium batteries have been rumored to be a common source of lithium for making methamphetamines, but the ionized non-metal form of lithium used in Lithium-Ion batteries doesn’t work for this purpose.

Introducing iMac and Mac mini repair manuals

November 19, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Kyle Wiens

We are proud to announce the release of over two hundred repair guides, covering every Mac mini and most iMacs produced by Apple since 2004. All iMac and Mac mini repair manuals are immediately available for free on iFixit.com.

The repair manuals include in-depth disassembly guides, model identification tips, troubleshooting techniques, and upgrade information. The 241 new repair guides use 1,452 photos to clearly communicate each step of the repair.

iFixit repair guides are well known for world-class photography and clear, concise step-by-step directions. We are also launching an iMac parts store with hard drives, RAM, power supplies, disassembly tools, and more.

Pressed for comment, our CEO Kyle admitted that: “We have been pummeled with requests for iMac parts for years, and I finally couldn’t take it anymore. That’s right, we are now accepting money in exchange for iMac parts.”

iMac

  • The iMac repair manuals cover all 17″ and 20″ machines manufactured since 2004, including both G5 and Intel models!
  • 184 iMac repair guides use over 1,000 photos to illustrate the process of diagnosing and repairing each machine. They cover all aspects of the iMac, including removing the glass panel, upgrading the RAM and hard drive, and replacing the logic board.
  • The iMac parts store includes RAM, hard drive, and optical drive upgrades, as well as replacement parts such as power supplies and glass panels.

Mac mini

  • The Mac mini repair manuals cover all iterations since its inception in 2005. The list includes G4, Intel Core Solo, Core Duo, and Core 2 Duo machines.
  • Our experts have completed a total of 57 Mac mini repair guides. They cover accessing every part inside the Mac mini, including replacing the RAM, swapping out the wireless card, and removing the logic board.
  • Mac mini parts include RAM, hard drives, and optical drives, as well as enclosures allowing the installation of two internal hard drives.

We’re super excited to announce this. Our technicians have been working hard all year to make this happen, and I’d like to thank the entire team for their wonderful work. I hope it’s useful.

Droid Teardown Contest Winner

November 11, 2009 Hardware, Teardowns — Miro

Our war with the Droid is over, and we’ve won! A bounty hunter / iFixit user by the name of Dr. Wreck stepped up to to plate, ripped apart a Droid, and posted his teardown on our site.

The phone was quite a handful to take apart, having a multitude of hidden screws and latches. Interestingly enough, the sliding mechanism consisted of two rails that were imbedded within the screen portion of the device, providing a simple and effective method to slide out the keyboard. Sadly, no aliens or hidden messages to Princess Leia were found inside.

We’ve awarded Dr. Wreck $300 cold hard cash for his valiant effort. One Droid had to be sacrificed for the cause, and we’re glad it wasn’t ours (for once at least).

Wanted: Motorola Droid Internals

November 4, 2009 Hardware — Miro
Wanted: Motorola Droid Teardown

Wanted: Motorola Droid Teardown

We love making teardowns, but we’re preoccupied at the moment with trying to change the world and just don’t have any spare time!  We’re turning our preoccupation to your benefit: we want the public’s help in acquiring a teardown for the Motorola Droid.  We’re giving cold, hard cash to the first person who posts a teardown of the Motorola Droid onto our website. That speedy contestant will get $300!

Contest Rules:

  • Purchase your very own Motorola Droid by any means necessary. We suggest lining up in front of Verizon’s store on the East coast, as they have a three hour advantage over us Western folk (but it was a pleasant 80 degrees today, so take that East!).
  • Create a Droid teardown on our site by snapping excellent photos and writing witty text.
  • Be the first user to post the Droid’s internals. The person with the first “layout” shot wins $300 USD. Example layout shots: iMac 27″, PSP Go, Nikon S1000pj.
  • The contest ends on November 13th at 11:59 PST, a week after Droid’s release.

We’ll update this post to announce the winner once the contest is over. Anybody is welcome to participate, but only one person will win!

Congrats to Dr. Wreck, the first user to post a Droid teardown for our contest! Read the full scoop on Dr. Wreck’s teardown here.

Sony Contest: 19 New Teardowns

October 28, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Our Sony teardown contest is complete, and we’re ready to announce the winners!

Most Creative Sony Teardown: TR-63 Transistor Radio

Most Creative Sony Teardown: TR-63 Transistor Radio

We received 19 different entries for the contest, featuring all sorts of Sony products:

The Sony Playstation 3 teardown was voted Best Overall. Author karasumachitose wins a PS3 Slim for a thorough walkthrough of how to get inside the PS3!

The Sony TR-63 Transistor Radio teardown was voted Most Creative. Author bac wins a PSP Go! This was our favorite teardown. The photos inside this historic piece of technology are absolutely stellar.

Best Overall Sony Teardown: PlayStation 3

Best Overall Sony Teardown: PlayStation 3

The judges were six members of the Wired editorial staff:

The judges labored for hours trying to pick the best teardowns. We thank them kindly for donating their time and for partnering with us for this contest. We loved the variety of teardowns you contributed. A good portion of them included tidbits on repair or reassembly, giving the world a useful resource, in addition to the pretty pictures. Good job to everyone who participated!

Want to create a teardown of your own? Get started!

27″ iMac Wallpaper

October 23, 2009 Hardware — Miro

Our 27" iMac (it's turned on!) with our new wallpaper.

One of our staffers came up with a great idea, an idea so fun that we dropped everything we were doing and started reassembling the 27″ iMac.

He thought it would be awesome to take a picture of the iMac internals and make it into wallpaper. So we did exactly that.

We reassembled the iMac to the point of how it would look like as if you just opened it: no glass, no LCD, and no iSight. We took the wallpaper shot, then fully reassembled it and put our fresh wallpaper on the machine. The results were nothing short of wonderful.

We learned a long time ago that “sharing is caring,” and didn’t want to keep this accomplishment all to ourselves.

So here it  is, in its 2560 x 1440 glory. Enjoy!

27″ iMac Teardown

October 22, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Kyle Wiens
We spared no expense to bring you internal photos of Apple’s latest and greatest. We have in our studio, in pieces, the biggest iMac money can buy:
http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iMac-Intel-27-Inch/1236/1
Lightning-quick teardown slideshow:
XXXX
Highlights:
* The power supply puts out 25.8 amps at 12 volts, for a total output of 310 watts (365W input, 85% efficiency). That’s the biggest power supply we’ve seen in an iMac.
* The GPU and CPU are quite far apart, and they have separate heat sinks leading to opposite sides of the computer. This rather complex feat of thermal engineering allowed Apple to upgrade the iMac to use Intel’s desktop line of processors.
* The lack of Blue-ray support in this iMac is a bag of hurt. Fortunately, this is a drop-in replacement: http://www.panasonic.com/industrial/computer/storage/optical/models/UJ-135A.asp (Of course, until Apple releases software support, you’ll still have to boot into Windows to play movies.)
* There is a Wi-Fi antenna leading into the Apple logo on the rear of the iMac. Aside from the ports, this is the only spot on the rear of the machine that isn’t solid Aluminum. This is quite clever, and while it seems like the obvious place to put it, we’ve never seen Apple do this before.
* This thing is BIG. The desktop processor / GPU need three large fans and two huge heatsinks to dissipate heat.
* The new iMac’s edge-to-edge glass can slide around. After upgrading the RAM in our iMac, we noticed the glass was slightly out of alignment on one side. You can push it back into place by hand.
* There’s no direct line from the external Mini DisplayPort connector to the LCD. The signal will need to go through the logic board, so you’ll need to have your iMac powered on if you want to display from an external video source.
* Our 3.06 GHz E7600 Core 2 Duo processor is a LGA 775 Socket T CPU. There are some Core 2 Quad chips that use the same socket, but we don’t know if they would work. The i5 and i7 quad-cores included in the high-end 27″ iMac use a different socket, LGA 1156 Socket H.
Overall Photo
http://s1.guide-images.ifixit.com/igi/UZQRO2ARtsvgaDkP.huge
No screen
http://s1.guide-images.ifixit.com/igi/TLfSqZEZWnTwKylR.huge
Removing logic board
http://s1.guide-images.ifixit.com/igi/avNjZSRYK3eaWBm4.huge
Logic board w/2 heat sinks
http://s1.guide-images.ifixit.com/igi/ktLKDUFPyGmyPPQJ.huge
As always, I’m available for questions or interviews. You are welcome to use up to three photos in your story, as well as the video embed.
Cheers,
-Kyle Wiens
iFixit CEO
P.S. Check out this user-submitted Sony transistor radio teardown: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Sony-TR-63-Transistor-Radio/1219/1 Retro cool!

We spared no expense to bring you internal photos of Apple’s latest and greatest. We have completely dissected the biggest iMac money can buy. We also made a super-fast YouTube video slideshow, replete with banjo music, for your enjoyment.

Highlights:

  • The power supply puts out 25.8 amps at 12 volts, for a total output of 310 watts (365W input, 85% efficiency). That’s the biggest power supply we’ve seen in an iMac.
  • The GPU and CPU are quite far apart, and they have separate heat sinks leading to opposite sides of the computer. This rather complex feat of thermal engineering allowed Apple to upgrade the iMac to use Intel’s desktop line of processors.
  • The lack of Blu-ray support in this iMac is a bag of hurt. Fortunately, there is a drop-in replacement. (Of course, until Apple releases software support, you’ll still have to boot into Windows to play movies.)
  • There is a Wi-Fi antenna leading into the Apple logo on the rear of the iMac. Aside from the ports, this is the only spot on the rear of the machine that isn’t solid Aluminum. This is quite a clever design, and while it’s an obvious place to put it, we’ve never seen Apple do this before.

  • This thing is BIG. The desktop processor / GPU need three large fans and two huge heatsinks to dissipate heat.
  • The new iMac’s edge-to-edge glass can slide around. After upgrading the RAM in our iMac, we noticed the glass was slightly out of alignment on one side. You can push it back into place by hand.
  • There’s no direct line from the external Mini DisplayPort connector to the LCD. The signal will need to go through the logic board, so you’ll need to have your iMac powered on if you want to display from an external video source.
  • The 3.06 GHz E7600 Core 2 Duo processor is a LGA 775 Socket T CPU. There are some Core 2 Quad chips that use the same socket, but we don’t know if they would work. The i5 and i7 quad-cores included in the high-end 27″ iMac use a different socket, LGA 1156 Socket H.