This is a Hack.

MacBook Pro Power Adapter

This is a Hack. This is a Hacked thing. This thing was Hacked.

Hacking is an art form that uses something in a way in which it was not originally intended. This highly creative activity can be highly technical, simply clever, or both. Hackers bask in the glory of building it instead of buying it, repairing it rather than trashing it, and raiding their junk bins for new projects every time they can steal a few moments away. [1]

I decided to clean my MacBook Pro power adapter cable, which was good because it was filthy, but bad because in the process of (gently) wiping it, I somehow destroyed it. I didn’t realize until I was at work a few hours and noticed it wasn’t charging my computer.

I was down to 30% battery which would not last the day, and no one else at work has the same power adapter (Damn you, Apple!) I contemplated running to the Apple Store during lunch to get a new one, but instead decided that since it didn’t work, I had nothing to lose, so I cracked it open.

Oh wait, before I cracked it open I verified that no power was getting to the connector. I grabbed a multimeter first, got nothing, and then cracked it open. (Luckily the MagSafe Wikipedia page has some useful info.)

Cracking things open is sometimes the most dangerous part of hacking. I occasionally stab my own hand with a screwdriver. (It didn’t happen this time.) With the power adapter opened I saw two wires (black and white) leading to the thin round cable.

I checked the voltage on the black and white wires and got about 6 volts, which is way under what it should be according to the MagSafe info… but I figured that was due to there being no load, and that was correct, as verified by a note at the bottom of the MagSafe Wikipedia page.

I ended up chopping about 6 inches off the thin round cable and stripped the ends, then slid on some heat shrink, soldered things together, shrunk the heat shrink, and it all worked fine again. I had my power adapter back.

I fixed a broken thing rather that buying a new thing. I also managed to fix it in much less time that it would have taken to get a replacement. #HACK

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see this as some amazing feat that will be celebrated by hackers everywhere, but it’s just one more reminder that if something is broken, you may have nothing to lose by trying to fix it. I mean, you could make it more broken but if it doesn’t work to begin with, there’s a chance you can revive it and get on with your day.

Keep on Hacking!


Fixin’ It

Fixed Outlet

When the wife left the house yesterday she asked me to fix the outlet cover in the bedroom as it was loose and plugging things in was proving difficult. She said that she would have done it but was afraid of getting electrocuted.

I was about to tighten up the plate, but I noticed that the entire outlet was loose. No problem! I just removed the cover and tightened up the screws… Problem! The outlet box was too far into the wall, and my first attempt at pulling it out resulted in a nice jolt and the box not moving. (She didn’t warn me not to electrocute myself, but maybe she should have.) My guess is that whoever put the outlet in didn’t do it right, and just figured that putting things in loose and calling it a day was easier that fixing it and doing it right the first time.

Plastic Spacers

I thought about using some washers, but I would have actually had to find some washers, and they would have needed to be the right size, and I would have needed to have enough of them… and if you’ve seen my workshop, you’d know this is not an easy task.

I could have 3D printed some spacers! But like my last repair involving plastic, it would have been overkill for this task and would have taken way to much time.

So my solution involved taking some plastic anchors and snipping them to the right length. I have enough anchors that I could repair a dozen outlets in the house and still have a bunch left over. (Let’s hope I don’t have to do that, by the way.)


Upcycle Plastic Repair

A year ago I saw a post on the Sector67 site that talked about upcycling the plastic from laundry jugs. After seeing the post I thought about how many of these jugs we end up tossing in the recycling bin, and if there were any ways I could make good use of them.

Laundry Jug
Empty Laundry Jug

Here’s a typical laundry jug, and as you can see I cut out a nice (mostly) flat piece from the side.

Cutting the plastic with an X-ACTO blade

I wanted to cut a small piece into a rectangle to match a missing piece from a window blind, and using an X-ACTO knife and steel ruler are the perfect choice for such things.

(Somehow we’ve lost/misplaced these window blind parts, or they weren’t here when we moved in. I thought briefly about 3D printing a replacement, but cutting a piece from plastic I’ve already got seemed like a better option.)

New vs. Original

My replacement is not an exact match, but I’ve cut it a bit taller to provide some friction so it will stay in place. For the simple purpose it will serve, it should do just fine.

Holder in Place
Original and New

Here’s the original piece, and my replacement piece. Both are holding the blinds into the bracket reasonably well.

I’ll often just cut out the flat sides of laundry jugs and keep them in a stack and then recycle the rest of the jug. They’re handy to have around when you need one.

We’ve talked about building an injection molding machine at Milwaukee Makerspace (Mold-o-rama anyone?) so if that happens, I may have a few more uses for these plastic jugs.


Hacking Space


Back when I was a kid (which I’ll just say was 30+ years ago) I was fascinated by space travel, I mean real space travel, the kind NASA was doing. The Space Shuttle program launched Enterprise when I was in grade school, and I remember doing a school project on it, and I even wrote a letter to NASA offering to be the first kid on a shuttle flight.

So while I’ve been ignoring space travel for many years, with the final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, I was interested in what the future would hold. Over on Google+ I asked about the privatization of space exploration, and got some good info. My thinking was that perhaps the time is right for commercialization of such things. (Yeah, I’m seriously not up on the subject, but it’s interesting enough to look into.)

Mashable actually had a recent post: How the Private Space Race Has Taken Off which is a good summary of the current situation.

On top of all that, I remembered reading about what Ariel Waldman was up to a while back, and this interview with her talking about Spacehack is worth a read. (There’s another interview in Soho House Magazine, which is much harder to read.) looks pretty cool. It’s a way for anyone to get involved in space exploration. Of course, “space exploration” is not the same as “space flight” but hey, with any luck the “flight” part may still become a reality while I’m alive.

Meanwhile, I’m still watching Star Trek, Firefly, and Doctor Who, and taking notes…


Today’s the Day!


Today’s the Day!

Get out there and make something besides HTTP requests and log files…