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Old 02-08-2007, 07:49 PM   #1
Descalzo
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Best Notebook Mod EVER

OK. A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me a Titanium Powerbook. You know, the one with the cool glowing Apple(TM) logo on the lid. I always thought those were like the coolest thing ever, except that if I'm gonna have a glowing neon sign on my lap, it's gonna be MY glowing neon sign. I decided to put a different logo on it, if possible.

Luckily, when the computer was given to me, it was already disassembled. The LCD cover was completely separated, the LCD was still glued to the bezel, and LCD/bezel assembly was attached to the main part of the computer by the wires. There are 2 sets of wires that go into the LCD part of the TiBook: the backlight on one side, and the data and sleep LED cables on the other side. The data cables were in rough shape, and needed to be replaced (no wonder it was free).

Here's the back of the PowerBook:

As you can see, there are a few things limiting what I can do with this: the little silver dot, just below and to the left of the data cable connection, the data cable itself, and of course the borders of the LCD. The borders didn't worry me at all, and the data cable wasn't too worrisome (I only had to move the piece of tape), but that little silver dot could be in the way.

So the first thing I had to do was come up with a cool picture to put on the back instead of the Apple(TM). Here's my first idea:
I really REALLY liked that one. Just imagine it black with a white oval around it.

I liked that, but talked to my boss (he was an art major) and he suggested I might prefer something with a little more balance. We tried Yoda, but it wasn't a recognizeable enough outline for what I wanted, at least not without totally redrawing something from scratch. So here's what we settled on:

(This photo doesn't really do it justice. The glowing makes the edges blur. It looked a lot better in real life).

I asked my wife about that one and she told me to do the dishes or something, so I took it back to work and saw what people thought. We thought about it and agreed that it was still unbalanced somehow. We ended up putting a border around it:

(Again, the edges blur, making it seem worse than it really is).

We worked a while getting it centered properly, and then we had to make sure it didn't cause problems with the data cable and the little silver dot (what is that thing, anyway?). My wife even agreed that it looked cool and suggested I fold some laundry and stop bothering her.

I tried it several times and made absolutely sure it would work, then I handed the titanium LCD cover with the design traced on it to my friend John, who works with me in Scouts, and who has more tools than my dad, my father-in-law, and my old college buddy Ryan put together. He said it would be no trouble. He used a Dremel tool with silicon-carbide cutting disks and did a fine job. The scratches he left behind were less noticeable than the scratches that were already there.

Now we finally had it all done, and it was time to put in the window. We tried a ton of stuff. First we tried the obvious answer: plexiglas. Now John has a torch-thingy that heats up to about a finity Farenheit, and he uses it to shape plexiglas to form around stuff he does (You should see his stone work. Amazing. If he had a website, I'd link to it). It didn't work. Maybe the plastic was too thick, but we couldn't get it to form snugly to the corners of the hole in the titanium lid. I tried heating it all in the oven. We used bricks to weight it all down and press the plastic, so when it all heated up, the plastic would flow and the pressure would make it do what I wanted it to. But that didn't work because I couldn't get it hot enough, it stunk, and once it looked like it would work, it became clear that the titanium and the plastic have different rates of expansion and also different rates of cooling off (there's a scientific word, I'm sure, for 'rate of cooling off,' but I don't know what it is).

I finally decided to form my own from liquid. I tried epoxy glue, but there are problems working with that. To get the quantity I wanted cost more than I wanted to spend (yes, $20 was too much for this sort of thing), and it dried yellow, not clear. So I spent less than $10 on some Amazing Goop at the Home Depot. It was cheaper and 2 tubes was just the right amount. I built a little reservoir around the window hole with masking tape, and covered the outside surface of the LCD cover with packing tape as a bottom for my reservoir. I stretched it tight so there wouldn't be any wrinkles in the finished product.

Now the moment of truth: I poured in the Goop. I squoze (squeezed?) in both tubes, and had to do it slowly and carefully because of bubbles. Then I had to put it in the garage for like ever. That stuff dries so you can handle it in about 24 hours, but it still isn't totally cured for another day or so (actually it was several days before it got totally dry and stiff), and it still smells a little to this very moment.

Now there were some problems with the Amazing Goop. It did something to the packing tape, so that it wrinkled the tape. Also, bubbles formed in it immediately (I don't know that they spontaneously appeared, but it sounds better to blame it on chemistry than to say I wasn't careful enough). I thought this would be a problem, but it actually came out looking kind of like a stained-glass window texture. The bubbles turned out to be quite evenle spaced, and the wrinkles were just right, too. I lucked out.

So now to reassemble the whole shebang. I replaced the broken data cable (which is a pain, by the way). Then I put it all together. I put the hinges on, carefully positioned the LCD cover (it was a weird fit, because it had been disassembled in kind of a rough way), and started clamping it all back together. I put some cheapo clamps on around the edge of the LCD all the way around the top and sides, then I used a C-clamp for the bottom left corner, where the titanium was most deformed.

Here's a picture of the finished product on the table. As you can see, it is held together with scotch tape and duct tape!


Here's a shot of the finished product in the dark. I'm not entirely satisfied with the lightsabers, but I can't think of anything better right now. I'm open to suggestions.



I'm also open to suggestions for an alternative to imageshack.

This was my test fit, in preparation to gluing it all together. Like a moron, I clamped the C-clamp to the INSIDE edge of the bezel instead of the outside edge. This cracked the LCD itself, making the bottom inch or so of the screen unusable. Dang! The crack eventually spread all the way across the screen diagonally. *sniff*


So there's the best mod ever, ending in sad tragedy!

If anyone takes pity on me and wants to help me bring it back from the dead, you can always donate to my paypal account: peter(at)skouson.net.

If I were to try this again, I would like to find a way to make a better plastic window, so let me know if you think of something better than Amazing Goop.

If you have any questions for me, just ask. I'm very proud of this and will happily tell you everything you need to know if you want to do something like this on your own. I can hardly wait until my wife lets me do it to her laptop! But that'll probably have to wait until after all the laundry is folded.

EDIT 2/10/07: Spelling errors, added photos, email address
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Last edited by Descalzo : 02-10-2007 at 12:23 PM.
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Old 02-09-2007, 12:32 PM   #2
djembe
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Awww... after all that the screen cracked? That stinks! But it sounds like a really cool mod, and your final demo pic looked great!
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