Laptop to Digital Picture Frame: PowerBook 3400c

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Introduction: Problem Solving // 7/26/2004

This endeavour started off with me purchasing a PowerBook 3400c on eBay for about 80 USD. The auction said its double-click functionality and keyboard were not working. This didn't sound like a huge deal, so I figured that I would take advantage of the resulting lower price. As it turns out, the internal backup battery had been leaking battery innards onto the logic board, causing the shift key to be permanently held down (meaning that you couldn't double-click anything). I imagine this explains why the keyboard didn't function either.

Now this maybe wouldn't be such a big deal except that the shift key being held down means the computer boots with extensions off. After fooling around with trying to disable the shift key or remap it, I finally stumbled upon Keys Off, which lets you disable the shift key at startup for security reasons. I also decided to upgrade the system all the way to 9.2.1 (using OS9Helper) because they say 9.2.1 responds quicker than 9.1. Don't try to install 9.2.2 however, because it will crash on startup (learned that the hard way).

After all this, I got to disassembling the computer as much as I could. That is, removing all the plastic cover parts, the keyboard, the dead backup battery, and the trackpad (see the picture at the right.

More Pieces to the Puzzle // 7/27/2004

Last night I went out to Aaron Brothers to get a picture frame. It turns out that they were having that one cent frame sale so I got two frames for the price of one! I bought one shadow box frame like MacWorld said to, and one normal wooden frame. I think I like the wooden frame better, but the shadow box might prove easier to build into because it's deeper.

This morning I went to Fry's Electronics and bought a set of Torx screwdrivers, because up until now I had been using a flathead, which wouldn't cut it anymore when I got to the display screws. With the new screwdrivers I dismantled the display (the service manual proved invaluable, so I recommend trying to find it on the website referenced on the resources page).

As of now, I am just awaiting the arrival of my Cisco wireless card (purchased for 15.50 USD on eBay) so I can begin testing remote access. I will be setting up VNC (because it's Free) with os9vnc from Redstone Software. On my OS X computer I'm planning to use Chicken of the VNC as a client. I tried this out by connecting to my iBook. It seemed to work, so hopefully the 3400 will have the processing power to handle it.

Gone Wireless // 7/28/2004

My Cisco wireless card came in the mail yesterday, so I plugged it in and it works! (I had pre-installed the drivers) I got VNC working and set-up the slide show program that I programmed to start up and play the show automatically when the computer starts up. I also dropped the VNC server into the startup items folder.

Then I completely disassembled everything, just to see if I could do it. I could, and while I had everything out of the case, I took out the CPU stiffener, which is what they call the greyish plastic thing that lines the inside of the bottom case. I then removed the inverter board from it's mount on the back of the screen because I don't think I'll be needing that mount.

Then I put everything back together and - miracle of miracles - it still worked. So, the current plan is to cut the bottom case down to only the necessary area, and then to mount that to the back of the screen (hopefully the bottom of the case will provide some insulation between the computer and the screen. The next order of business is to go to Aaron Brothers and get a matte cut with a 9 1/2" x 7 1/8" hole cut in it (which I have determined is the size of the screen).

Finish Line // 8/1/2004

Now that all the parts were gathered and all the software issues were dealt with, assembly of the final product could begin. First, I cut a border for the screen out of some foam board that Aaron Brothers gave me (see picture at left).

After that was worked out, I laid all the parts out on my table and figured out the best orientation for the logic board. I determined that the inverter board could also fit in the box we were building (me and my Dad), and that the hard drive could be mounted on the side, rather than on top, of the logic board. This meant that the box only needed to be 1 1/2" deep. So, we went to Home Depot for some 1 x 2 pine and some hinges (so the box can open up for easy access). Then, we built the box (see picture at right).

Now, mounting the parts. I decided to preserve the bottom case assembly because it was grounded and had little pads for the chips on the logic board. However, the whole assembly wasn't needed so a dremel saw was employed to cut out only the needed rectangle. The same was done to the hard drive case, and soon everything was mounted in the box and bolted down. The inverter board mount was also preserved and bolted in. You can see in the picture at left that ample space was left for the power cable.

Then, the wireless card was inserted, the display cables were connected to the inverter and logic boards and the frame could be placed on top of the box. I plugged it in and - miracle of miracles - it powered up and started showing pictures! (The picture on the left makes the picture look much darker than it is, it's actually quite bright).

The Finished Product // 8/13/2004

The frame has been up and running in my room for almost two weeks now and its status has now been updated to finished. Here are some more shots of the final product.

Pictures of the inner workings of the frame from two different angles. Note the sophisticated latch system not seen on most other frames of this kind.

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