Sometime last year I stumbled upon this great DIY project for the budding tinkerer. The MintyBoost: a portable AA battery-powered phone charger concealed within an unassuming Altoids tin.

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Drawing upon what I learned with Silvia, I was beginning to think about building my own computer. Didn’t look that hard to build, the real hard part seemed to be finding the right parts for a good price with an upgrade path. I read a few posts over on lifehacker but the price just wasn’t right, not if wanted to use new components. So I put it off until I could either find a good deal, or maybe a decent bare bones kit that met my needs right now and could be upgraded later.

Around this time I had also read a few lifehacker posts on building a hackintosh. They referenced tonymacx86, so I started reading his blog as well. I was always curious about macs. We had a Mac lab in one of my high schools, and since I grew up mainly on PCs, they just seemed odd with their single button mouse and multicolored plastic. Obviously since then Apple has blossomed quite a bit (if only I bought stock). Now macs are in vogue or some sort of personal brand statement. I was always too counter culture to buy in, and as a tinkerer, I hate when companies put measures in place to prevent me from taking a look inside or tell me to leave such things to “professionals”. How insulting. I hate that almost as much as I hate the RadioShack guy suggesting I purchase $50+ HDMI cables. Enter the CustoMac Mini 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

—Silvia (part three)…

December 24, 2011

(image credit: Home Theater Shack)

I stopped by my local Home Depot and bought my first soldering iron. When I was little my uncle had a soldering gun he used for small car related projects. I thought the concept of fusing metal was pretty cool. The pins on the faulty power button connector were so tiny I was afraid of shorting out the board. My early practice attempts at soldering ended in a fruitless, sloppy, unattractive heap on my workbench. Since I was such a novice I needed to learn some basic skills. I found a web tutorial on the proper soldering techniques. By this time I had also learned I could have purchased a better soldering iron and kit from Radio Shack, one of many regrets.

In any case, I had another project in mind that I figured I could hone my skills on Read the rest of this entry »

—Silvia (part one)…

December 21, 2011

My very first computer was a Dell Inspiron 600m laptop which I affectionately named Silvia for somewhat obvious reasons. It had a 30GB hard drive, the then spanking new “Centrino” chipset (a 1.3GHz Pentium M processor combined with an Intel wireless card for power efficiency), and a whopping 384MB of RAM. I was so pleased with my acquisition. It was thin for its time and I really liked its shape. The grey on grey plastic with silver lettering and blue accents. The removable optical drive which could be swapped for other components (I also got a floppy drive). Sure it only had 2 USB ports but who cared? I finally had a computer to call my own. It worked great for less than a year, then the power button started acting up, media keys died, fan clogged eventually causing the hard to drive to overheat… Well, this might have been the end, but it actually posed several challenges for me to overcome and learn from. And with the internet, that Dell service manual, and a screwdriver set from Radio Shack Read the rest of this entry »

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