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Update: The (Former $250) NOW $120 DOS Tablet PC

Hp_usb_disk In May 2007, we published a project on Instructables that showed how to assemble a potentially useful tablet PC. Why was this project only a potential success? We couldn’t get the Fujitsu Stylistic 1000 to boot. All of that has changed and now we can boot the Tablet PC in DOS, Windows 95, and DSL Linux. The secret element that made this doorstop into a viable Tablet PC was a Windows tool called HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool V. 2.1.8. At the link, a Texan named Nox will supply all of the needed know-how for using this utility, as well as downloads for both HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool and a collection of boot files. Now don’t get too excited, these dated tablet PCs only worked really well when they were booted into DOS. So we converted ours into a dedicated DOS game machine. Skip the stylus and use an old salvaged PS/2 keyboard. Also, drop the battery and pick up a power supply. These two mods to our original project will shave about $135 off the project’s price tag. Not bad for around $120.—Dave Prochnow

Can’t We All Just Get Along

Wapple_viewport [Note: This tip is being (re)printed for those readers who will be receiving a new shiny PC this season. If you’ve known about this tip “since way back in 2003, dude,” then take a pill and move on.]

If you’re having trouble getting your Windows Vista flavor PC to connect to your wireless Apple Airport network, then your problem might be an incorrect equivalent network password. While Apple Mac’s can use the password that is assigned to the Airport router, other computers (including gizmos like Sony PSP) must use the hex-based equivalent network password. These two articles should help you sort out your errant password entries and get you Wi-Fied:

Hacking Your Eee PC

Eeepc4g4 If you were nice all year long and your stocking is filled with an ASUS Eee PC on Christmas morning, then you are in luck. The “elves” over at EeeUser.com have been filling their server space with lots of hardware hacks, software mods, and user tips for this lithe Linux laptop. Case in point, two terrific posts:

That's right. With a little work, you can quadruple your EeePC's flash storage, add bluetooth, or turn it into that ultraportable Mac Apple has yet to develop (even though Leopard is probably a little poky on the Eee, reports are coming in that OS X 10.4 is quite usable). Watch How 2.0 for an in-depth guide to even more EeePC hacks coming soon. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: ASUSTek Computer, Inc.)

Stocking Stuffer Suggestion: Line-Sensing Robot Car Kit


Locating DIY bargains this holiday season is proving to be a real challenge. Yeah, remember those low-cost sub-$300 Compaq Presario notebook computers that were “conveniently” sold out at Circuit City upon your 5 a.m. arrival? I hear ya. Well, All Electronics might have the salve to ease that pain.

The LC-7 robot line-sensing car kit is a fun way to experiment with optical sensors wrapped up in a conventional vehicle chassis. Although you are unable to choose your chassis (e.g., street, rescue, Mars, or jungle) and the erasable marker board inside the box might be torn, at $7.50 each, this could become the robot toy of the season. Why? Well, just mount the enclosed marker on the nose of your car and let it draw its own line to follow. Be sure to explain to your Mom that all of those black lines around the house were done in the name of scientific experimentation. She’ll understand. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: All Electronics)

Update: Project Building Tips

Bldg101 There has been a lot of interest in our online projects. Thank you; but along with this increased attention there have been several recurring questions/problems with our instructions. In an attempt to remedy this situation, here are a couple of tips for helping you successfully build our projects:

1. Never attempt to build a project that you don’t understand. While we feel that the instructions, parts lists, and discussions are adequate for understanding/building the project, they are not meant to be thorough nor comprehensive enough for an absolute beginner to follow. The steps are merely a general guideline to help you get started building the project—not an exhaustive tutorial.
2. Locate, download, and read the datasheets for all components cited in a project. Case in point, if you need to know the pin assignments for a part, read the datasheet.

Update: For example, in the Dingtones project, the two capacitors mentioned in the parts list are coupled to the voltage regulator for power stabilization. This connection is illustrated in most 78Mxx datasheets (e.g., National Semiconductor). Also, please note, that in this project, we substituted a 0.47mF capacitor for the 0.33mF one illustrated in most 78Mxx datasheets.

3. Test all connections with a multimeter during all phases of project building.

4. Most projects look easy to build. But each one can have its own set of hidden “gotchas.” Know your limitations, study the parts list, and think the project through before you begin. If something doesn’t “feel” right, then don’t build the project.

5. Manufacturers are making their products harder and harder to “open up.” If you don’t feel comfortable breaking, ruining, or voiding the warranty of your brand new gizmo, then don’t build that project.

—The How2.0 Blog Staff

Cure for the Failed Credit Card Swipe: It’s in the Bag

Card_swipe If you’ve ever stood at a checkout line and frantically swiped your credit (debit) card again and again, only to see error messages, try this little trick:

Slip your bashful card inside a plastic shopping bag (typically hanging right next to the card swipe reader). Smooth out all wrinkles and ensure that the bag is tight and taut on the magnetic stripe side of the card. Now swipe your card/bag combo through the card reader. Success! The plastic bag adds just enough thickness to your card for a persnickety card reader to accept. —Dave Prochnow

Pumpkin Pumping Time


Back in the halcyon days of electronics publishing (aka the mid-1970s), the venerable Forrest M. Mims III printed a complex circuit in one of his notebooks that is an ideal pumpkin stuffer. The “back and forth flasher” circuit was based on the powerful combination of a 74154 4-line to 16-line decoder IC and a 74193 4-bit up-down counter IC. When properly built and installed inside a pumpkin, the results can be, as described by Mims, “visually appealing.” If you’d like to try your hand at building this circuit, but can’t find a vintage Mims notebook, Tony van Roon has reprinted this circuit online. And any intrepid experimenters who have photos of this circuit, please post your pics links in our comments section.

(Image: Amazon.com)

Page Me When It's All Over


Are you looking for a little vibrating pager motor to use in that special Halloween project, but don’t want to spend the typical buck per motor price? Well, a special clearance sale at The Electronic Goldmine features a Belkin Universal VIBRA Clip (G15260) cell phone adapter at the nice price of $0.79 each. Just open the case and remove the pager motor—complete with soldered leads. Plus you get an “AAA” battery and a stylish cell phone belt clip—all for less than a buck.

(Image: The Electronic Goldmine)

pPCBs (Paper Printed Circuit Board)


Peter Blasser has a very unique Web site where you can download and print paper “circuit boards.” These circuits are for building music-making projects--sans the more “conventional” copper-clad board substratum. Just print the circuit board, layout the components, and wire the traces. How about adding some conductive paint and starting a revolution in circuit building? Try this “wire glue” (The Electronic Goldmine #G16133; $3.95) for making your pPCB connections. This combination could be an interesting method for introducing kids to electronics without the need of purchasing a classroom’s worth of soldering irons. If you try pPCB + Wire Glue, please post your results in our comments section. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: Peter Blasser)

Alive; Frozen Dead


Our good friends at lifehacker spotted this suspicious tip for reviving a dead laptop battery over at Metacafe. According to the posted video, freezing the battery can help to rejuvenate it.

PopSci's Mr. Wizard-in-residence Theodore Gray weighs in:

I think it's pretty unlikely this has much effect one way or the other, and of course "dead" comes in different flavors.

I have a battery right now that was practically new and suddenly it's totally and completely dead, like it blew a fuse or something.  A freezer isn't going to make any difference for that problem.

But if it's just not holding its charge as long as it used to, as all such batteries eventually do after a year or so, then there is at least the theoretical possibility that freezing it might have an effect.

As fas as what I've read on battery technologies, though, I've never seen the freezing recommendation mentioned as a possible method for increasing the life of different battery systems."

Anyone had any luck with this personally? Let us know in the comments —Dave Prochnow

Revive A Dead Laptop Battery

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