Schöne neue Welt

Der HiFi-Bereich ist so etwas von tot.

Das hat man zwar schon vor einigen Jahren bemerkt, ich habe es aber erst heute richtig verstanden, als ich für die Reparatur eines sehr schönen Infinity Primus 200 Lautsprechers (des Kollegen @sauerstoff) dringend eine neue Hochton-Kalotte organisieren wollte.

Infinity Primus 200

Nach einer gefühlt halben Stunde Wartezeit in meiner Love/Hate-Filiale Conrad Elektronik in Frankfurt hieß es dann nur noch “Haben wir aktuell nix da, muss bestellt werden”. Schublade auf, und tatsächlich: alles leer.

Immerhin konnte mir ein weiterer Laden um die Ecke genannt werden, der aber auch nur auf Bestellung Ersatzteile ordert. Macht wirtschaftlich sicherlich Sinn, rechtfertigt dann wohl auch evtl. höhere Reparaturkosten, ist aber ein Grauen für jeden Bastler. Immerhin reden wir hier von einem 16 EUR Universal-Bauteil, dass bis vor kurzem zu jedem gut ausgestatteten HiFi-Laden gehörte. Es ist ja auch kein Abspielgerät, dass durch neue Modelle verdrängt wurde, sondern ein Bauteil für Lautsprecher, die man immer noch braucht.

An dieser Stelle könnte jetzt ein ganz wunderbarer Rant über die immer mehr erkennbare Obsoloszenz der uns umgebenden Konsumgüter stehen – allein, es bringt ja nix.

Die Nachfrage regelt dann doch das Angebot und das neue Gerät kann oft mehr als das Vorgängermodell. Eine Reparatur defekter Geräte lohnt sich oft nicht, die Reparierbarkeit wird bei modernen Geräten bauartbedingt immer mehr erschwert und so ist es nicht verwunderlich, dass sich auch das Konsumverhalten entsprechend ändert.

Und doch gibt es seit einigen Jahren diesen Trend hin zu DIY/DIWO (Do It Youself/Do It With Others), der auch schon vorletztes Jahr bei der DIY-Ausstellung in Frankfurt als Mitmach-Revolution gefeiert wurde. Dies steht ganz im Gegensatz zu einer Bastelkultur, die vor allem aus einer Mangelwirtschaft entstanden ist (vgl. DDR, AfriGadget et al). Es bleibt daher abzuwarten, wie sich dieser Trend der letzen Jahre auch auf die Verfügbarkeit von Ersatzteilen auswirken wird*.

Hackzentrale
Getrieben von dieser Ausgangssituation haben wir uns gestern Abend im Co-Working-Space/Hub “Die Zentrale” in Frankfurt getroffen und die Hackzentrale gegründet.

Wir – das sind interessierte Bastler im Frankfurter Raum, denen der (sehr empfehlenswerte) Hackerspace Frankfurt zu nerdig/speziell ist und die gerne gemeinsam Dinge reparieren wollen. Eine Art Repaircafé, wie es aus anderen Städten schon bekannt ist, aber ohne diesen ganzen Schwung an Verpflichtungen, die ein solches Modell mit sich bringen würde.

Aus meiner Sicht als Freizeit-Bastler kann das eine sehr schöne Veranstaltung werden, die zugleich auch das Konzept des Co-Working Spaces der Zentrale hervorhebt: gemeinsam arbeiten, voneinander lernen und sich gegenseitig inspirieren. Und natürlich soll es nicht nur um die Reparatur defekter Geräte gehen, sondern auch um kreatives Basteln und das Herumspielen mit neuen Gadgets.

Bei der re:publica13 Anfang Mai habe ich von den Freunden bei AfriLabs das Modell der “Community Currency” vorgestellt bekommen. Das ist eine Art geldwerten Beweises für Nachbarschaftshilfe – allerdings in einer angepassten Form. Die Umsetzung so eines Vergütungsmodells ist aber immer etwas problematisch – beim iHub in Kenia hatte man das anfangs auch versucht, dann aber schnell aufgegeben (= wer mehr für die Community macht, bekommt mehr Nutzungszeit des Coworking Spaces gutgeschrieben). Bloggerkollege Finn war übrigens auch dabei und hat uns kurz etwas zum Tauschring Bockenheim erzählt, der schon seit über 10 Jahren erfolgreich funktioniert.

Frankfurt braucht eigentlich ganz dringend ein eigenes FabLab, aber solange verrückte Mieten der Rentabilität einen Strich durch die Rechnung machen, müssen die FabLab Dienstleistungen eben dezentral angeboten werden. Der Marcus Link von Manupool bietet daher bereits 3D Drucker Workshops an, bei denen die Teilnehmer einen 3D Drucker als Bausatz aufbauen können.

“Ich kann mir 3D-Objekte von dieser Website herunterladen und hier real an dem 3D Drucker ausdrucken”, begeistert sich einer der beiden Gründer der Zentrale über den 3D-Drucker. Mal eben aus einem PLA-Kunststoff ein abstraktes Gebilde ausdrucken können, das man vorher am Computer geöffnet hat, ist schon ein sehr wunderbares Gefühl, das sehr viele Möglichkeiten bietet. Wie sehr hätte ich mir das in den 1990er Jahren gewünscht, als wir in Kenia die elektrische Schreibmaschine für ein halbes Jahr zur Seite stellen mussten, weil ein kleines Kunststoff-Zahnrad gebrochen war. Heutzutage wäre das kein Problem mehr.

Eben genau diese Kerbe der vielen Möglichkeiten wollen wir mit der neu geschaffenen Hackzentrale vertiefen. Ersatz-Hochtöner wird es wohl nur noch auf Bestellung geben, aber vielleicht werden wir uns diese in einigen Jahren auch schon selber drucken können.

Der nächste Termin für die Hackzentrale im CoWorking Space Die Zentrale in Frankfurt-Bornheim steht noch aus, wird dann aber sehr wahrscheinlich online unter http://www.hackzentrale.de zu finden sein. Die Teilnahme ist kostenlos, es wird aber auf Mitarbeit wert gelegt. An dieser Stelle auch ein großes Dankeschön an die beiden Gründer der Zentrale – Jenny Krutzinna und Lukas Koerdt – für die Initiative und Bereitstellung der Räumlichkeiten!

Den gesuchten Hochtöner habe ich jetzt übrigens bei eBay bestellt.

[* Ersatzteile: das Sortiment hat sich geändert. Ähnlich wie beim Lego verschmelzen Hard- und Software immer mehr. Elektronikanbieter wie Conrad oder Pollin werben immer mehr mit Bausätzen wie dem Arduino oder dem Raspberry Pi. Weniger Ersatzteile, mehr modulare Bauteile, die zu einem System gehören und miteinander kombiniert werden können. Ich betrachte das noch etwas skeptisch, weil mir dadurch systembedingt zu viele Vorgaben gemacht werden, aber auf der anderen Seite müssen wir genau diese Kombination aus Hard- und Software noch mehr fördern und müssen es auch mehr als Entwicklerplattformen verstehen, die eine andere Ausgangsbasis darstellen und natürlich jederzeit erweitert werden können.]

Hey Apple, this is your chance!

You may have followed today’s news via iFixit or Mashable that the new Apple Mac Book Pro with the Retina Display will contain almost no repairable parts. Much like the iPads, I believe, even though there are still spare parts available for those.

I am always blown away by the amount of engineering found in Apple products, especially compared to the “modular” competitors (i.e. Dell, Lenovo and HP) whose spare parts are still available on eBay & Co. long after their laptops are out of production. Parts fail, displays break, rubberised touchpad buttons wear off, hinges and keyboards wear out and so on.

the opened new MacBookPro Retina, image via iFixit.com

Not so the new MBP Retina (pictured above) which seems to have no repairable parts at all. In case of a hardware fault, most customers are supposed to return it to Apple. My DIY-heart of course yells at this (“I will fix it anyways!”), but I also understand that this step is part of their marketing and quality management.

The battery? Well, as far as I understand there are two main reasons why it would need to be replaced: heat and constant overcharging. And as far as I am informed, this overcharging is prevented by a circuit otherwise only found with previous ThinkPads from IBM/Lenovo. So it seems like there is no reason to have the battery replaced during the first 2-3 years of use.

Ok, and then? What happens after 2-3 years of use when the next generation of MacBooks is waiting on the shelves? That’s the time when most gadgets are turned in for repairs, I think. Repairs that are expensive because they often won’t be covered by a manufacturers warranty.

Here’s the idea

Given that Apple already introduced this “no maintenance required – if broken, we’ll fix it for you”-concept in the past but only nailed it with the almost non-repairable iPad, Apple customers are assumed to be mainly users – instead of tinkerers*. So, obviously, many customers are already used to this concept and would have no problems exchanging their beloved machines for a new one (except for extra costs where applicable).

Now, instead of selling the hardware, the idea would be to only lease out the hardware to customers for a given time frame of 2-3 yrs and then have them return it to Apple.

The benefits

  • Apple could start using better / more expensive materials because all hardware is returned to the manufacturer, remains in a technical loop
  • A recycling is possible = less material costs, less dependency on rare earth metals from China & Co
  • Apple benefits from real world scenarios, has complete control over usage (I know they like that), design teams can pick up on this for further improvements
  • Customers won’t have to cough up USD 1000-3000 at once but pay monthly installments instead (by default!)
  • Apple has the financial resources to take this “risk”
  • Customers get a new machine every 2-3 yrs, consistent market
  • User data is more attractive than hardware: care for home folder, everything backed up in the Cloud
  • Software is the bigger market than hardware (I think): make them stick to an OS and then provide them with apps (see the iPhone – works like a charm on iOS!)
  • Customers won’t have to worry about the hardware as it will be replaced

Heck, if Apple doesn’t do that, someone else should do it. Not the leasing as such but this whole model of ownership – because, after all, with Apple’s latest design we are just users, not tinkerers anymore. Just as we stopped buying complete music albums and go for single mp3 tracks instead, this concept of “ownership” is totally different to the one we had in the past. Maybe not for you or me, but for those a few years younger than us.

I believe that Apple has the right approach and I would like to encourage them going a step further with this Cradle-to-Cradle-inspired proposal. It’s all about having a sound business and still doing good.

*tinkerers: most Apple users I know bought their Apple products because they don’t want to mess with the system or any components. So while they may just be into that DIY-stuff as I am, their Apple products often remain as they are. Not because they couldn’t, but because they don’t want to.

(this Mashable post on G+ inspired me to this blog post)

Best of Kiambogo Tapes

I recently shared this wonderful link to an Instructable hack via Facebook, aptly titled “Cassette Tape Business Card Holder” – which prompted another German-Kenyan friend of mine to share her beloved Kamaru (.KE), Florence Wangari (.KE) and Amity Meria (.BF) tapes with me – so that I would turn them into cool business card holders.

Prior to the introduction of mp3 in the early 1990s, I considered my tape/cassette collection large. But most of these were just copies and/or recordings from the radio (that’s what we did back in the days). So I lacked cool covers. Lea, the friend with the cool tapes, obviously doesn’t like Florence Wangari’s Gospel and knew she’d be in for a cool mod:

“Start with a cool tape, like these.  And no, don’t be horrified that this “museum piece” Apple data tape is being destroyed–no one ever saw it when it sat in a drawer!”

..writes the creator of this instructable. And there’s one more thing I’d like to add: the best covers for this mod are those made out of softer plastic. I am not really sure about the materials used on these cassettes, but I guess it’s PE for the softer and PP for the (cheaper) transparent ones. Anyways, if you’re planing to do this, try what works best for you. And make sure your business card will fit! My current one is from Moo.com and doesn’t fit as good as the white one of my Indian flat mate:

The tapes are well preserved, btw! @Lea: you’ll find them included in the envelope :-)

Just where would I be without my Leatherman?

N.B.: the ruler on the backside = reason why I love moo.com. You won’t keep the business card of some regular dude in your pocket. But when it comes with a cm/in ruler, a simple piece of paper may have some added value.

“Kikuyu Folks Songs” – how epic is that?

Adults only!

Motorola DEFY docking station (DIY)

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project
The Motorola DEFY ships with a simple (bulky) charger & a micro-USB cable.

Docking stations for mobile devices may not be on everyone’s agenda, but since I am working from home most of the time and also use a docking station for my HP laptop, I prefer these convenient solutions to have the phone (or any other mobile device) charged when I need it. Besides, I’ve also used such docking stations for my previous phones, so I made sure I’d get mine for this new phone.

The problem: there’s no docking station available for the Motorola DEFY, even though it has been on the market since November 2010 and has since then sold quite well.

There’s an offer on eBay for such a third party docking station from China, set to be available from March 2011 onwards – or later, because the same was also said in Decemeber and January and the release date has been postponed more than once.

Another issue is that the micro USB port is covered by a little flap, so you’ll always have to move it to the side while accessing the USB port. It may be against this background that third party manufacturers haven’t come up with a docking station for the DEFY as of yet.

The solution: build your own by modifying one made for the Motorola Milestone. Such Milestone docking stations like the one below currently sell for 10,90 EUR via eBay.DE (incl shipping), which is ok.

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

Now, the beauty with these phones is that they flip the screen when you insert them into such a docking station – and display a special screen with access to basic functions like alarm, gallery, media, etc..
In fact, it has two screens – one for desktop docking stations and one for car mounts. You can manually activate the car mount display (huge buttons with access to the navigation system, telephone, music, etc. – very nice, see previous post with bikertech.de image) via a link on the home screen, but I am still to find the link on the menu for this desktop docking screen.

With this docking station, the screen automatically rotates and shows the docking screen. How’s that done? SIMPLE! The phone responds to a magnet which I’ve mounted inside the docking station. In fact, this docking station also came with a small magnet for the Moto Milestone, but it never worked, so I used one of those neodyanamic magnets from last week’s MAKE: LED Throwies DIY project during our local Frankfurt Ignite event wich does the job quite well. You insert the phone et voilà, the screen rotates. Perfect!

Here’s what I did:

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

Removed the covers on the screws.

Motorola DEFY docking station DIY « Kikuyumoja

The position of the micro-USB port on the Motorola Milestone obviously differs from the one on the DEFY :-(

Let’s open it up and see what’s inside:

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

The micro-USB plug is screwed to the plastic frame – good! Let’s remove it….

Motorola DEFY docking station DIY « Kikuyumoja2

The old magnet from the Milestone docking unfortunately didn’t work for the DEFY…

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

Ok, now this is what you do when you don’t have a Dremel ;-)

(using your soldering iron – very jua kali, but hey, it worked….)

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

So I “drilled” a new hole for the USB plug…

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

…and fixed everything with hot glue (nasty stuff).

Motorola DEFY docking station DIY « Kikuyumoja3

Can you see the magnet in the middle?

Ok, let’s put the bottom cover back on and turn it around:

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

It may not look that nice…..

JKE Motorola DEFY docking station project

..but the final result it good, works fine & makes me happy! :-)

This DIY project is based on an idea I picked up on a German Android forum, which also has a pic of where the magnetic sensor is located inside the Motorola DEFY. Btw, the 2 screens for the docking station (a) this view (as above) and b) the car mount view) only depend on the polarity of the magnet. Flip it over and the other screen will load. Obviously, this isn’t possible with my construction because I’ve glued the magnet to the plastic frame. But you get the idea and may want to use it on your own DIY car mount….

And yes, this docking station will certainly never be as elegant as the slim one for the iPhone, but it fits the phone and does what its supposed to do. Also, there’s something about Motorola I will never understand. The hardware and build quality they offer is terrific! But anything beyond that like adopting the open Android approach (i.e. open bootloaders) or cooperating with third party accessory dealers – nada. Motorola, to me, is like a headmaster of a conservative school that prefers adults (business customers) only. Very strange…

the LED phone hack

The following post is dedicated to Samuel & Juliana – both connoisseurs of mobile phones that come with an integrated flashlight (such as the Nokia 1208).

An integrated LED flashlight? What’s the big deal?

Well, if you happen to live in a country with frequent power failures and favour all-in-one devices, an integrated flashlight comes in handy for those moments when it’s too windy or otherwise inappropriate to use a lighter as a source of light. Dedicated LED-based flashlights are nice and proven – I have mine on the keychain – got it free from Globetrotter.de some years ago.

SANY1846

Sure, you could even use the brigtly illuminated screen on your phone to satisfy any quick needs for a source of light, but it just isn’t the same comfort and also isn’t right on one single spot. There btw is a fancy app for the iPhone which provides a blank white screen to substitute a flash (says @mzeecedric). Quite a ROFL-factor but more like a gimmick. Other recent Nokias with S60 and LED-flash for photography can be modified on the hardware side, e.g. cutting a wire on the printed circuit flex cable. Those “flash lights” weren’t made for constant illumination needs, hence it’s highly recommended not to do that.

I’d been thinking about a DIY alternative for a phone that could be realized by any average phone fundi out there and consequently didn’t want to come up with any SMD-type solution that would probably do a much better job, but instead come up with a simple hack that – most importantly – may be reversed to preserve any warranty on the phone.

The actual need for this project arose late last night after Samuel’s tweet on how he misses the flashlight. Besides, I had urgent work to finish so I needed an external incentive to push me through the evening until I could eventually put my hands on this “hack”.

The players:

SANY1852

an older Nokia 6230 I rescued from eBay some time ago (my 6230i walked away in a Were-sense…). Here you can already see the thin back cover which can be replaced anytime and is thus perfectly made for hacks.

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an old LED with batteries from a dead lighter

So let’s start with….

1. the cheap solution :-)

phonemod1

A quick ‘n’ dirty solution that will just do the job.

Not very sustainable though. Which gets us to…

2. the slightly better option

Many Nokia phones come with an exchangable cover, so it’s obvious to make use of the plastic cover which can be exchanged any time. And since there isn’t much space for a bigger battery, we’ll also use the phone’s own battery. After all, it’s based on LithiumIon technology which means relatively high energy density.

The LED is in blue colour, but basically any stronger LED will do the job. Your fundi may be able to resuce one from the usual e-waste found in popular places. I am also not using any resistor or any other passive & active parts to keep it really simple. All we need to do is to sacrifice the back cover for this hack (coz the LED has to go somewhere) and get a direct connection to the battery.

So I’d asked myself:

  1. Where do I put the LED?
  2. Will I need a switch to activate it?
  3. How will I manage to connect it to the battery, given the narrow space in between the cover and the battery?

To worsen the situation even more, I currently do not have access to my usual tools, but then again, that’s the challenge after all – trying to find a decent solution under limited conditions. All I currently have are scissors, my Leatherman Wave, a (really!) cheap voltmeter and a monsterous 30W soldering iron. My Gadgetimoja-toolbox is somewhere else on this planet…

Trying to find a short piece of relatively thin wire turned out to be the hardest part – I have lots of that stuff at home – but where is it when you need it??

So I did what everyone does in such situations: improvise – and take it from somewhere else. In other words: look for another electronical device and see if you can “borrow” some 10cm of wire from that.

SANY1860

Pole sana, dear electrical thermometer. It’s friggin cold outside anyways so at least I’ve provided you with a few indoor minutes. And thx for the cable!

Improvising also means that you do things by trial & error and try to avoid any hardware modifications by simulating the scenario in your head. Will this work? Where will I put the LED? Can it still fit? And what about that damn switch??

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It works!

I’d made good experience with “drilling” decent holes into plastic (mis)using a cheap soldering iron in the past, so I just continued “drilling” a hole (don’t try this at home, kids) using this method. Just make sure you actually clean the iron afterwards and while it’s still hot.

SANY1865SANY1867

SANY1868 SANY1871

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As you can see from the pictures above, the cables are just loosely joined with the wonderful battery dock on the phone so that you can remove them any time. The LED is rather big but “somehow” fits onto the edge of the back cover. Also, the cable is still too thick and the back cover will not close the way it is supposed to (also because my phone….ahem…let’s say: had already survived a few other “operations” in the past + remember I’d previously aquired it in an awful condition from eBay).

A “switch” is also missing but this was just version 0.1 to show it’s doable to pimp an ordinary phone into a flashlight phone. It’s a jua kali hack for prototyping, I’d say.

Do you have any ideas for a switch? How would you design it? Maybe integrate it on the side? And is it locally available (= keep it cheap and simple)?

SANY1873

The activated LED with the back cover just put on top.

I will try to organise two more back covers so that I can play around and see what else is possible. Ideally, I’d like to see someone else from Nairobi pick this up (if not already done – sijui if this already exists in Nbo these days?) and modify it into a commercial add-on for wanainchii. After all, phones with flashlights just rock and should imho be on any phone out there. This solution here won’t jeopardize the gadget itself – and such a plastic back cover is cheap, especially this one (with a Vodafone branding, yuck!).