Friday, May 27, 2011

Windows 7 Touch Optimization Blog is Up

My new blog on Windows 7 Touch Optimization is finished. Check out the video and step-by-step guide here:

Windows 7 Touch Optimization

From Windows 7 Touch Optimizations

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Steps to Make a Carbon Fiber DIY Tablet

Tons of people have asked for step-by-step instructions on how to make a tablet like this. While I am not going to do an in-depth video showing the process from start to finish (that would take FOREVER) I will give you a general overview of how it was done. And then I can answer any specific questions you may have.

1) Build the carbon fiber outer casing - I am not going to go into detail on how to use carbon fiber because I am definitely not an expert. I can tell you that I bought some cheap CF and epoxy off eBay and then watched some YouTube tutorials on how to use CF. Then I made two molds, one for the top and one for the bottom of the tablet. For this I used 2 plastic breadboards I found at the grocery store and then cut, routed and sanded them to the shape of the tablet. Then it was the laborious task of laying the CF, letting it set and then cutting and sanding it. This process was the hardest part of the project. Make sure to cutout an area for where you will want your external USB ports, etc. to be exposed.

2) Dismantle the donor laptop - I used an MSI X320 because it was really thin, had the specs I needed and could be found cheap on eBay. Be careful when taking it apart not to break anything and be sure to label everything you disconnect so you know where it goes when you put it back together. Once it was fully disassembled I hooked everything back up to make sure it was still working. Do this before you even think about putting it in the CF casing because now is a good time to troubleshoot in case you forget how it goes together.

3) Add additional internal parts - Now is the time to plug in the USB hub, touchscreen, accelerometer, etc. I used a USB hub so that I could keep 2 of the external USB ports open for when the tablet was put together. The x320 comes with 2 sets of external of them I left as external, the other I plugged the hub into. This is where the touchscreen, accelerometer, etc. will be plugged into on the inside of the CF casing. Then I installed drivers for all these, so at the end of this process you have a fully working tablet minus the casing.

4) Bond touchscreen and CF casing - For this I used some quick drying super adhesive epoxy. This part of the process is why I used a 15" touchscreen even though my LCD was only 13.4". The touchscreen was the exact same size as the outer casing, so when I laid it in the casing I could epoxy the touchscreen to the casing.

5) Bond LCD to touchscreen - Using the same epoxy as step 4 I bonded the LCD to the back of the touchscreen. Make sure you clean both the LCD and the back of the touchscreen before you do this since you will no longer be able to get between them. It was a little difficult to line up the LCD with the cutout in the casing, but once I had it perfect I taped the LCD in place while I epoxied it.

6) Install a power switch - I used a power switch from a MacBook Pro because it was the correct shape and size, was easy to connect to the CF casing and had two wires coming off it. The first step is to solder the two wires from the power switch to terminals on the x320's power switch. To do this you need to do some experimenting. The way a power switch works is that it completes a circuit...that's all it does. When you push the power button on any laptop, the force of your button press connects two terminals together to form a complete circuit and the laptop sees this as a signal to start-up. By doing some experimenting with the button area on the motherboard and a small piece of aluminum foil, I figured out which two terminals needed to be connected to complete the circuit. I then soldered on of the wires from the MacBook button to each one of these. So now when I push the MacBook button it completes the circuit and starts the tablet. Once that is done I drilled a hole in the back of the CF casing where the new power button would show through. Then drill a hole in the back casing where you want the power button to show through.

7) Assemble the tablet - Now you are ready to put this thing together. To hold the internal components in place I used double sided tape. I covered the entire inside of the back cover with double sided tape that was about 1-2mm thick. Once that was done I laid in the motherboard - with that battery connected to it, the USB Hub, the external USB connectors and all the wires. The nice thing about double sided tape is that it will securely hold the components, but if something happens you can remove it without too much work. And don't worry about it not being strong enough. There is no way any of the internals are going to move around. Once everything was in place I glued the power button on the inside of the back cover where the hole I drilled for it in step 6 was.

8) Secure the two halves of the tablet together - At this point you have a completed tablet in two half is the screen and touch screen the other half is the computer components. I am going to leave it up to you to figure out how you want to secure them together. My method worked alright, but I'm sure you can come up with something better. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm Back!!!!

Sorry for the long delay in responding. I have been very busy with my real job and also working on some other cool projects. In the next couple weeks I will be doing a write-up on Windows 7 tablet SOFTWARE. As any of you who have used a Win 7 tablet know, there is a lot of room for improvement in the touch capabilities of Windows. I have done a bunch of work and came up with some cool stuff that will make the touch user experience WAY better. It takes a bit of work to write this all up, so give me some time and I promise you will like what you see. I am also open to any new questions you have on the carbon fiber tablet I made a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Answers to Questions

1) Guide - I am not going to make a step by step guide on how to make something like this. That would take way too long to do because this was a very involved and time consuming project. But I am happy to answer specific questions you have.

2) Pictures - Yes, I will take pictures of the inside so you can see how it all came together. I think that alone will answer most of the questions about how I built this.

3) USB WiFi/Bluetooth - I had to use USB WiFi and Bluetooth adapters because the native adapters are meant to be used with a keyboard. For those of you with a laptop you probably know that there is a hotkey (Fn button plus one of the F buttons) or physical button to turn WiFi/Bluetooth on and off. So when you ditch the keyboard or your case you lose the ability to turn WiFi/Bluetooth on and off. That means that if for some reason your WiFi gets turned off, like if you reinstall Windows, then it is stuck off. Using USB WiFi/Bluetooth allowed my to bypass this issue as I can now turn them on and off without a keyboard. And no, the virtual keyboard cannot be used for the hotkey.

4) Webcam - There is no webcam because I did not have a use for one. In retrospect it would have been relatively easy to put one in, I just never thought about it since I would have no use for it.

5) 15" Touch Screen - I used a 15" touch screen (even though the LCD is 13.4") because it was the only screen I could find that was truly 16:9 and was at least 13.4" in diameter. Most of the widescreen touch screens are 16:10, not 16:9. It does not hurt to have the touch screen larger than the LCD.

6) Mutli-Touch (Capacitive vs Resistive) - I searched for well over a month for a capacitive (multi-touch) screen that was 16:9 and was at least 13.4" in diameter and was not able to find one. That is the only reason that I used a resistive screen. The capacitive screens are more expensive, but I probably would have paid the extra money. That being said, resistive does have the benefit of being able to use a stylus where you usually can't do that with capacitive. Also, with Windows 7 you wouldn't have been able to tell much of a difference with multi-touch as it's uses are very limited. They still need to work on making Windows fully touch capable like a phone OS.

7) Power Button - On the back of the case there is a recessed Macbook Pro power button used to turn it on/off and put it to sleep. At the end of the YouTube video you should be able to see it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Parts List

Many of you want to know about the parts I used to build this. Here they are with prices (not including shipping). The total build price is $652. This doesn't include the new battery pack I am building which cost about $65 and should double the battery life.

1. Motherboard and screen from MSI X320 - $333

2. Resistive Touch Screen - $65

3. Intel 40GB SSD - $97

4. Port USB Hub - $8

5. Accelerometer (ActionXL Wired Controller) - $20

6. USB Wireless Adapter - $30

7. USB Bluetooth Adapter - $15

8. Carbon Fiber Kit - $89

Wow! Thanks for the great response!

My email has been going nuts with people wanting to know more about this project. In the next couple of days I am going to be posting answers to all of your questions along with pictures of the inside of the tablet and a complete parts list for everything that went into making this. Thanks to all of you for the great feedback I have been getting.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Carbon Tablet Demo

Check out the YouTube video here:

Carbon Tablet Demo

I had to sit at a weird angle for filming so I had a couple issues with the touchscreen, but it was only becuase of my odd positioning. The touch responsiveness is acutally pretty good, not iPad good, but good enough for me .