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 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 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!


IF you knew what most digital cameras back in 1999 looked like – and how much they would cost back then – you’ll quickly understand that it’s rather astonishing to have these digital images from my beloved TexasInstruments AVIGO10 PDA I’ve just unearthed from a sub-sub-sub-directory on my harddisk.


It’s a rather childish mod/hack that I had done on this outdated PDA way back in 1999 and of which I was reminded just a few minutes ago while googling for a link to this weekend’s AfrikaCamp in Vienna.

Mzeecedric of and I will attend this event and I’ll also try to cover it on my blog if everything works out as planned. I am not expecting too much though, just an open meeting and exchange with interested and active folks in Europe (or let’s say Austria and Germany) who also have some sort of Mal d’Afrique on their agenda or anything else related to this matter.

Coming back to the mod: while googling for the link, I stumbled upon Robert Lender’s website – a fellow blogger who had contacted me way back in 1999 on this hack and had integrated it on his page dedicated to this PDA. I guess I may even have his e-mail somewhere. Ok, now that’s 10 years ago, and if you ask yourself what you did in 1999, you’ll probably say that you’d been online via CompuServe or AOL and probably also hosted your site on Ethan Zuckerman’s Tripod site. Yup. 1999. Long time ago.

This post is dedicated to Robert and it will be especially interesting to see a face behind this contact whose name has been around for such a long time.

The original page on has been offline for quite some time now, but I just copied everything into a PDF.


I btw still have this PDA at home. Compared to my friends who owned stupid Palm PDAs, the Avigo10 was a bit cheaper and not as popular as a Palm Pilot PDA, hence less software being available for this product. It also lacked the marketing backup from TI who quickly dropped this product from their product line for unknown reasons. Kinda sad, especially since this PDA came with a serial connector and could be hooked up to a modem which turned it into a great telnet device among other cool hacks.

Actually, it’s kinda worrying to see that even now in 2009, most mobile devices still lack such basic services (telnet, ssh, etc.) and charge you extra for a comfort we already had in 1999. As for the issue of power consumption, I think that we’ll also need to have a revolution on the energy side: something where we will not only see more efficient and energy-saving devices with smaller CPUs, but instead also devices that generate the energy the moment you need it and thus reduce our needs for stronger batteries.

@T.H.User: FFM, 1999, Nordi, MediaMarkt! Erinnerst Du Dich noch? Das Gerät hatten wir damals zusammen gekauft! :-)

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 some years ago.


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:


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.


an old LED with batteries from a dead lighter

So let’s start with….

1. the cheap solution :-)


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.


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??


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.


SANY1868 SANY1871


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)?


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!).