Mod a Macbook, Keyboard Hack

This mod started after seeing all the cool things eee pc owners had done to their computers. Their designs sort of just sat in the back of my mind for months. I never planed on doing anything to my precious mac, however,  I never really liked how my mx revolution mouse had to have a silly rf transmitter sticking out of it anytime i wanted to use it. So rather than complain, I decided to do something about it.

After a lot of trial and error, I finally found the best way to run a usb hub off of one of the external ports. Not ideal, but the only practical way. I took the inside plastic and contacts from a usb cable, and ran wires though the holes in the inside of the usb port. Luckily they barely fit. I had to run that across the board to the space where my cd rom used to be. At first I tried just using wire wrap for the connections, however the computer would never recognize anything plugged it. I assume that there must be too much interference from the motherboard. To get around that, I used a shielded usb cable and just cut off the ends. With the shielded cable everything works great. If you look really closely, the thickness of the cable puts pressure on the bottom of the keyboard, the result is a slight bulge. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I assumed this would bother me, but I never even notice.

People ask why I didn’t tap into an unused internal usb like the one guy who moded his macbook air, or all the eee pc mods? This project was originally planed to remove the bluetooth (honestly, what good does it do?) and tap into that connector since apple uses a usb interface. Upon probing the actual chip I realized that while apple chose to use a usb bluetooth card, it runs on only 3.3 volts! I assume that it is the same for the trackpad and the isight camera.

The cd rom was removed and put into an external slot loading enclosure listed on the same site as tnkrgrl’s $9 part. It is still being shipped so i have not actually tested this yet. It works great, except for the fact that I cant find a faceplate that fits. With all the room gained from the cd rom being removed, I put in a usb hub and decided to put an sdhc card reader. The only modification needed was to adjust the height so that the card could slide directly through the cdrom slot, and into the reader. Some of you with a sharp eye will notice something like a lego. That is exactly what it is. The lego was put there for 2 reasons, one to prevent people from accidently jaming a cd in to the side, and two, to keep the card reader from wiggling.

The last thing to do was the keyboard. I have always wanted a backlight keyboard just like the mac book pros or the new aluminum macbooks, so I made mine light up. The problem with my keyboard is that there is a solid metal plate on the entire back with perforations below the QWE ASD ZXCV keys. I figured this was good enough for me to find my reference when working on homework or typing at night. I used 2 leds purchased at radio shack. I wanted the brightest I could find. All they had left was 1 2700mcd blue led and a 350mcd led. Surprisingly the 350 is just as effective as the 2700 because it is square shaped. That lets the light travel out in all directions, while the  rounded led focuses all the light onto one point. Had I more time I may have tried to remove the metal plate so that all letters would light up, or somehow put an led between the keyboard and metal plate. To prevent the leds from killing my battery, I put a SPDT (Single Pull, Double Throw) switch poking through the cd slot. Luckily the very tip just barely comes out far enough, that I can switch it with the tip of my finger nail. It worked out much better than I had hoped.

In all this project took about 3 days. I may have spent more time on the keyboard light however, I am a college student and need my computer for class.

Overall I am very happy with the way that this mod ended up. The down side is that there is one less usb port, but since I always had my mouse plugged in, i never could use one anyway. I still have 1 more usb port to add whatever I want. Right now I am thinking adding a custom external extension cable provided I can find a connector that is thin enough to fit through the cd slot. Or possibly a fingerprint scanner or esata to usb converter. One other option I would have liked is to put a ssd drive and use that as my boot drive for windows and mac osx, however they are to expensive for me right now. I also considered making my own ssd drive with a fast compact flash or usb drive, but all the reviews said that making your own ssd isn’t nearly as fast as a real one. I am content with my 7200 rpm 320 gig drive for now.

SPUD


Total cost

usb hub $6 – Campus bookstore

sd card reader $4 – Amazon.com

2 blue leds $5 – Radio Shack

SPDT Switch $3 – Radio Shack

Old camera usb cables – Free

Broken usb hub for connectors – Free

Hot Glue

*Note, I specifically chose the usb port to the back because it runs on its own usb hub, the front usb is on it’s own usb channel. Some hubs and hard drives have trouble running off of the back usb port, but work fine on the front one. In the future I have the better of the 2 if I ever need to plug anything in.

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About spuder
spuder is a "super computer" support engineer by day, and tinkerer / hobbyist by night.

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