Answers Contest Winners Announced

December 31, 2009 Answers, Site News — Andrew Goldberg

Using a top secret algorithm originally devised to pick recipients of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, we’ve finally selected the lucky winners of our lightly tested Wacom Bamboo Touch and Zune HD!

As a disclaimer to the winners, the mail carrier delivering the package to your door will not be accompanied by a camera crew armed with balloons and a five-foot-wide check.

To have been eligible for the giveaway, users needed at least 100 reputation by the December 24th deadline.

Congratulations to our multi-continental winners!

Zune HD:
spikey2 in Australia  (795)

Wacom Bamboo Touch:
natalia47 in Virginia (103)

Want to win free stuff in the future? Keep your reputation up and answer some questions!

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

Rip. Mix. Repair.

December 15, 2009 Events, Site News — Kyle Wiens

My team has invested thousands of hours in documenting how to repair Apple hardware. Starting in 2004 with our very first set of repair guides for the venerable PowerBook G3 series (God bless the Pismo), we have steadily, inexorably, carefully, taken apart every single Mac we could get our hands on.

We now have manuals for 91 Mac models, 34 iPods, and a couple of iPhones. Together, our media servers currently host 154,556 images (including revision history and thumbnails) and over 1,000 step-by-step guides.

Today, we are giving all that content to the world. Effective immediately, we are licensing all iFixit repair manuals under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. To my knowledge, this is the largest free release of repair documentation ever. We are committing to make our repair manuals available to everyone in the world, forever, for free.

When we told Creative Commons what we were planning, they got really excited. “iFixit manuals provide users the information they need to extend the life of and add value to their hardware without involving the manufacturer. Similarly, it’s great to see iFixit offer users the legal right to add value to iFixit manuals — to share and remix in any medium, notably including translation — by publishing under a Creative Commons license,” said Mike Linksvayer, Vice President of Creative Commons.

Lawrence Lessig, co-founder of Creative Commons and a long-time iFixit user, has also given his blessing. “iFixit is one of the most important community driven technology resources on the net. It is wonderful to now see them build their community by giving back to the community what the community helped build. As iFixit extends beyond the world of Mac, that community will only grow, and strengthen the practical knowledge which repair content provides. I am extraordinarily proud that Creative Commons can help make this innovation possible.

What does this mean?

If you meet the conditions of the license, you can reproduce, modify, and redistribute our repair content to your heart’s content—including photos, text, and PDFs.

Why are we doing this?

Because we must. Because the world cannot continue wantonly manufacturing and consuming devices without a plan for their long-term lifecycle. Because individuals need the ability to take control of their devices and their environmental footprint. And because it’s the right thing to do.

All future content posted to iFixit, either by us or by our users, will be open-licensed.

We will be providing a XML data dump of our repair manuals sometime in the middle of next year. We are in the process of finalizing a new repair manual XML schema (if you want input on the process, please contact us). We hope to host the data archive at the Internet Archive as well as seed it via BitTorrent.


What’s Creative Commons?

The Creative Commons organization was created by a team of legal scholars including Lawrence Lessig, a legal genius (and long-time iFixit user!) who solved the need to provide a gradient for content licensing in situations like ours, where we want our content to be as free as possible.

What if I want to improve your guides?

You are welcome to copy them elsewhere and modify them, but the improvements will reach more people if we pool our efforts. We will be allowing anyone to edit and improve our repair manuals on very soon.

Can I translate your manuals into (Spanish, German, Esperanto, etc.)?
You would not believe how often we get offers to translate our repair manuals. There is a huge pent-up demand for localized repair documentation. We plan to make that happen. Our repair manual framework has built-in internationalization support, but it’s not quite done yet. To be honest, it probably won’t be done until at least the end of 2010. In the meantime, there are three things you can do:

  1. Translate our manuals and post them on your site. You can do this right now, and as long as you comply with the attribution and noncommercial aspects of the license, you’re free to do whatever you like.
  2. Sign up to be a translator. We’ll be pulling people from this list to alpha-test our internationalization platform.
  3. Promote iFixit inside your country / region. The more demand we have for a given language, the sooner we will be able to support it.

Why do you restrict commercial use?

We admit it — we have to pay the bills. Selling parts is how we do that. We have parts competitors that would prefer it if we weren’t around. (In fact, one of those competitors rebranded our manuals, publishing them as their own without attribution.) We want to be able to afford to write new manuals, and the noncommercial requirement allows us to do that.

What’s the licensing for journalists?

The Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license does not have specific support for journalists, but we are very willing to freely license our content to journalists. Reporters are free to use up to three attributed photos per story without contacting us. More generous licensing is readily available by contacting us, and we are almost always willing to grant journalists the same rights as noncommercial users.

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!

iPhone Hacks Giveaway

December 9, 2009 Events, Site News — Kyle Wiens

We contributed a couple chapters to iPhone Hacks, the excellent book by our buddies David, Adam, and Damien. In addition to a ton of  clever ideas for modding, maxing out, and jailbreaking the iPhone, the book also includes print copies of our iPhone and iPod Touch repair manuals. I think that’s pretty cool–we love getting our repair information in print so you can use it without a computer.

We got our hands on seven copies of the book, so we’re going to have a little giveaway! We’ll be giving away one copy of iPhone Hacks every day for the next week.

To enter, follow @ifixit on twitter and tweet ‘iPhone Hacks book giveaway! Enter by following @ifixit and retweeting.“. Easy. You can reenter once per day by retweeting again. We’ll randomly select the winner from each day’s tweets.


We stand on the shoulders of giants

December 4, 2009 Answers — Kyle Wiens

Stack Overflow

We have been working on the technology behind our community repair platform for several years. About a year ago, someone I’ve been following for a long time and respect a great deal launched a revolutionary new site, The evil mad scientist behind it is Jeff Atwood, author of the influential Coding Horror blog. Stack Overflow is a Q&A for programmers with a built-in reputation economy.

The moment I saw it, I knew he had struck gold. We immediately realized that the SO team had created elegant solutions to a lot of problems that we had been struggling with. Since then, we have been working to combine the best elements from what we have been working on with Stack Overflow’s solid, field-tested model. The result of this work is iFixit Answers.

I strongly agree with Jeff’s stated goal of making his corner of the web better. I like to think that’s what iFixit has always been up to– making sure that the repair content here raises the bar for repair manual quality on the web. We are thrilled to back up the Stack Overflow Justice League by making online repair information better.

League of web justice

Visualization of the Stack Overflow league of web justice

Thanks for all the fish

I want to personally thank the entire Stack Overflow team for being so inspirational and helpful. Jeff is a genius at building community and architecting social software. One of the more unique features of Stack Overflow is their badge system, which we have almost exactly copied. Jeff also graciously gave us permission to use some of their badge names. I had actually been planning a badge system from my Boy Scout days, but again, the SO team really nailed their implementation (which was in turn inspired by the Xbox achievement system). So today, I am pleased to introduce the Stack Overflow badge. We haven’t decided exactly how we’ll award this badge yet, but I guarantee it will blow your stack.

Also, if you’re a software developer, you should definitely be listening to the Stack Overflow podcast. Every week, Joel Spolsky and Jeff go off on an hour-long riff on programming topics and social software development.

iFixit Answers is live!

December 3, 2009 Answers, Site News — Kyle Wiens

After a solid month of testing, tons of feedback, hundreds of little tweaks (and a few big ones), we’re making iFixit Answers public! Everyone in the beta has gotten a tremendous amount of help with problems on a wide variety of hardware. Now it’s your turn! Go ask a question.

At the moment I’m writing this, people have asked 255 questions yielding 811 answers. Out of all of those questions, just 5 haven’t gotten answers yet. (I don’t expect them to stay unanswered very long.)

Wow, this is useful!

Here are three of the most popular questions from the beta:

How dangerous is working on a CRT?

The answers to this contain lots of interesting information about the thousands of volts that CRTs build up and the tools that technicians have to use to work with them.

Where can I find a star point screwdriver?

Apple’s latest MacBooks have a screw that looks different than we’re used to. It turns out that it’s actually a new kind of security bit, a ‘Torx Plus 6’ with five points instead of the standard six. Fortunately, a 1.5mm flat head screwdriver works just fine to remove it!

What does my Wii’s blinking light mean?

It turns out this person was worried for no reason! The blinking light on a Wii (rather unintuitively) means that there is a new message waiting on the Wii message board.

First user to hit 1k reputation!

Our first user hit 1,000 rep, and several others are well on their way.

Spreading the Christmas joy

I thought it would be fun to have a little drawing to celebrate the Answers launch. So we’re going to give away some hardware. What are the goodies?

Givaway: Wacom Bamboo Touch & a Zune HD

Givaway: Wacom Bamboo Touch & Zune HD

I have the Zune HD from our teardown (no, we don’t destroy things when we take them apart) and one of those fancy new Wacom Bamboo Touch tablets. They’re both awesome devices. I know, because I’ve personally been testing them out to make sure they worked! (Yes, I love my job.)

We’re going to randomly select two winners from people who have at least 100 reputation on December 24th. What’s your rep? Start helping people with their problems!