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A Perverse Notion- Restomods

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clonardo Page Icon Posted 2013-10-27 12:56 PM
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So I've been thinking about the vices and virtues of the old hardware that we love- namely, the Jornada 720/8 and the MobilePro 900. As I see it, this breaks out as follows:

Pros:

  • Form factor

  • Keyboard

  • Battery Life

  • Build Quality

  • Instant On

  • Relative Uniqueness (not an iDevice)



Cons:

  • Ancient software

  • Ancient CPU, RAM, and storage specs (all with various workarounds, sure)

  • Abysmal screens



Given the proliferation of cheap single-board computers, why not try a restomod of sorts? By which I mean, keep the good stuff, and gut the rest.

Cheap single-board computers have exploded in popularity, to the point where there are now several mature options. There is a near-complete Windows Embedded BSP for the Raspberry Pi that someone has recently released, and I believe that the BeagleBone already has BSPs out there. Or you could just run Android, whatever. In the case of the MobilePro, you could actually pretty easily turn it into an x86 machine (think about that form factor with a touchscreen in Windows 8) with a cheap Pico-ITX motherboard, or a VIA Mobile-ITX motherboard if you could get your hands on one at a reasonable price (by my math, the Mobile-ITX board would actually even fit in the Jornada).

Fitting this stuff in the Mobilepro would likely be trivial, especially since you would now have integrated wireless and would need to take out the PCMCIA chassis anyway (which takes up a fair bit of footprint). Room for additional battery cells, perhaps?

Now, the screen. The default options are terrible. In the case of the MobilePro, a bit of research (leading me to a b2b site called Panelook) shows that there's really no good option in that precise form factor. However, Sharp has a marginally-larger 8.8" LCD module available with 1280x480 resolution- http://www.panelook.com/LQ088K9LA02_SHARP_8.8_LCM_overview_17151.html . From what I can tell, this should fit the casing of the 900 with slight modification. Additionally, sharp does make a digitizer in this precise form factor, though I've yet to determine whether it's available individually, or would need to be separated from the module it normally ships with (apparently used in a BMW X5's nav system- that module is only 640x240). For a Jornada, this is a pretty close fit http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/TCG062HVLDA-G20/TCG062HVLDA-G20-ND/4142024 , but is about 4mm narrower than the original- you could probably get away with using the original digitizer, but would need to mask off a bit of dead space.

So.. any thoughts?
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2013-10-27 4:41 PM
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Geez, your post sounds like me talking to myself...as far as turning it into an x86 machine, the Fujitsu P1120 was just about that...nearly the same size within an inch or so...yet a true touchscreen laptop with better resolution.

Or..the Sony Picturebooks come to mind also as x86 machines.

I'd love a high-res tft screen in my 900...it would rock.
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LX Kiddie Page Icon Posted 2013-10-27 6:04 PM
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As cool as that sounds, how prohibitive is cost?
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clonardo Page Icon Posted 2013-10-27 6:49 PM
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I had a Sony Picturebook with the Transmeta Crusoe back in the day. Interesting/weird machine- but from what I recall, it was definitely clunkier than an H/PC.

As for cost, well, if you went the Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone route, you'd be in for $40-50 for the SBC, plus $100-200 for an LCD- so certainly not an insane amount of money, depending on your zany project allocation.

I'm pretty handy with a Dremel and soldering iron. Once things quiet down at work, I'll be giving this a shot, and obviously posting pics.
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2013-10-28 2:00 AM
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I have the same Picturebook, I believe, and yeah, WinMe or W2K is a glacial experience. But I replaced the hd w/ a compact flash card and run Puppy Linux 4.32

It does well and the printing guru over at Puppy Linux developed HP print drivers for that OS for current HP printers. I can actually network print, directly to a HP 3520. Pretty cool for a machine that came out 5+ years before the market even heard of wireless printing.

As for the Picturebook batteries, new non-OEM are available, standard and extended, and users can get boatloads of hours out of either.

Jake
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2013-10-28 1:44 PM
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Cost is one thing...getting the LCD to work would be another...both just pipe dreams I'm afraid...
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2013-10-28 7:55 PM
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Unfortunately Rich is right. You cannot drop a 1280x480 panel on a device with a 3.5MB frame buffer. You'll have to increase the VRAM to 15MB minimum and that assumes you don't want pre-rendering or will use shared RAM for off screen rendering. You will then likely need to change most of the power matrix and then have to rewrite the video controller logic so that it can enact power management on the vastly more modern display.

The update time for the GPU would likely be an issue, so replace or overclock that to avoid one side of the screen from showing half of the screen from 1 second ago.

If we are replacing the VRAM and GPU, then may as well do the entire motherboard, CPU and RAM (SOC).


.... and that's assuming the panel can be modded to fit in the first place!
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LX Kiddie Page Icon Posted 2013-10-28 11:23 PM
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Of we fit a pico itx or mobile itx in, I don't see how an lcd would be that much of an issue.
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2013-10-29 11:27 AM
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It is an issue however...for instance, the exciter board for the lcd...what is the voltage input requirement. Once you know that, then does your handheld provide it? Is there even an exciter board available for it, or does it require custom manufacturing. That is a major issue just to get the thing to turn on and light up. Then there is the issue of sending a signal to it.

Long ago I researched using a monochrome LCD in a 770 just to see how well it would work outdoors. I used a MP700 screen and it took a bunch of jurry rigging to get it to work. When I was done...it sucked. And that is reverse engineering...color to b&w.

Theoretically, anything can be accomplished. Functionally...that's another issue. But hey, you're feeling froggy...jump on it.
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2013-10-29 2:42 PM
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What was the issue with the mono conversion?
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2013-10-29 4:28 PM
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It wasn't a transreflective lcd, so while it was mono, it didn't work that great in the sunlight...washed out badly..
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Awia34 Page Icon Posted 2013-12-01 7:33 PM
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this is also something i have thought about , something like http://hardkernel.com/main/products/prdt_info.php?g_code=G135341370... would make a pretty good mainboard however cooling would be a big issue (but then you can disable 3 cores and underclock the remaining one) , if you could find a way to power it and a proper size screen
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clonardo Page Icon Posted 2015-09-22 10:38 PM
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Hey all. Been a while, but I've (theoretically) got something.

This project fell by the wayside, but I occasionally come back to it in my mind and mean to eventually get on with it. Here are my latest thoughts (should I ever have time to follow through on them...)

A few months back, I got as far as reverse engineering the MobilePro keyboard with an Arduino. This was pretty trivial, and would allow re-use of the keyboard on any device with USB (the 32u4 chips have great USB HID emulation).

The Raspberry Pi 2 is now available, and it's quite powerful. It can run Linux, or a stripped-down version of Windows 10. A number of people have used the Pi in low-profile applications by modifying the USB ports, which would be necessary here. It seems like a logical place to start for a new mainboard, and could probably be made to interface directly with the keyboard (otherwise, there are some very tiny Arduinos that could serve that purpose). Or, if you wanted x86/x64, there's always the Minnowboard Max.

This isn't the right part (you'd need to build a 2-cell version, which is very doable with a number of cheap, commercially-available ICs), but a circuit like this is what's needed to make the battery usable.

As for the screen- well, you certainly could configure a small, cheap FPGA to drive it (a few people I've seen on Hackaday have done this with similar parallel LCDs), but the one that's in there is garbage, and should probably be replaced. Rather than being constrained to the shape that's in there, pretty much any cheap touchscreen LCD that will physically fit within the footprint could be used (plenty of HDMI options out there thanks to the popularity of the Pi), with a new front LCD bezel easily 3D printed to make it look "right." I've definitely designed and 3D printed more complicated objects, but the ~10" width of the MobilePro 900 means that I'd probably need to prototype it in 2 pieces on my own, and then have the final one done elsewhere (I can only do up to 8x8x8" on my printer).

With this approach, there would probably be a good deal of room left over in the bottom part of the case- the PCMCIA slots would have to go. That's likely a good spot for a de-lidded SSD (the 2.5" form factor that most SSDs ship in is broadly unnecessary, and the cards inside often take up less than half of the drive's footprint), if one were to go with the Minnowboard.

Thoughts?
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Karpour Page Icon Posted 2015-09-23 9:18 AM
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I thought about that too a bit, it's definitely possible but a ridiculous amount of work.
Making an adapter for the keyboard is absolutely possible, shouldn't be terribly hard reverse engineering that.
Stripping down a raspi to fit in there, also no problem. There's even the ODROID board which has even much smaller dimensions.

What's the problem though.. the screen. Reverse engineering that is quite a load of work, though with the right tools and knowledge - well possible. You need an FPGA that converts either HDMI or LVDS to the right signal.
Fitting a new LCD with higher resolution into the Jornada? I highly doubt any supplier just so happens to make a decent LCD with this odd aspect ratio. You'd have more luck finding one fitting into a Jornada 820.
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mikey pizano Page Icon Posted 2015-09-29 3:44 AM
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I was thinking more along the lines of something production made, but for me, the "dream device" would be a highly modified Sig3. The first thing i would do is some form of Tegra CPU (think they are still on K1 right?), 4GB RAM (overkill because why not), least 32GB storage, with a full SD slot and USB port, biggest screen that could fit, probably 7" with as high resolution as possible, running on Android, with a BACKLIT keyboard.
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