Hardware Hacking — knocking some sense into a ThinkPad

It never ceases to amaze me how creative people can get with a mundane piece of technology. In recent weeks a number of hacks built atop the ThinkPad “accelerometer”, the technology that Lenovo builds into its notebooks to protect the harddisk from a catastrophic crash in the event of a fall — known as Active Protection — are nothing short of amazing. A utility that was designed to sense a dramatic motion and park the harddrive arm so it won’t bang into the platters can now be modified to fly through maps, change songs, and draw pictures.
some curious coders have built apps that will allow you to skip to the next MP3 track by rapping on the screen, “fly” through Google Maps and Google Earth by tilting the machine, and switch from one screen to another by knocking on the box.

I want to figure out the Google Earth hack. I know Lenovo has a game where one can “steer” a penguin down a ski slope. The first time I tried it I felt like an utter idiot trying to drive the bird using the arrow keys or the W-A-S-D combo. Finally I picked the machine up, tilted it, and for five minutes looked the biggest loser in business class somewhere over the Atlantic.

Now, take that utility and morph it into “knock code.” Here are some pointers:

  1. Google Maps controls
  2. Smackpad
  3. Etch-a-Sketch
  4. Light Saber

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Hardware Hacking — knocking some sense into a ThinkPad”

  1. I’d hardly call a Thinkpad” _mundane_….

    Not like you could build one without an entire civilization.

    Accelerometers and other environmental sensors are _way_ under-utilized in laptops.

    Your laptop ought to be able to tell you your velocity, direction of movement, impact forces on itself, temperatures and trends both of internal components and the external environment, elevation, 1st, 2nd and third order derivatives of any of these, strength type and locations of environmental electromagnetic, electrostatic and rf-gamma radiation strengths an variations, audio including multiple active filtering types….

    And they should be tough enough for the real world–if I drop my machine into the puddle of salty slush getting out of the way of a bus in Winnepeg, when I retrieve it, it should be able to be wiped off, and tell me the weight of the bus it’s direction of movement, velocity, the impact information from hitting the road, the salinity and temperature of the slush….

    A machine which can’t stand heat, cold, wet, impacts onto concrete from 10′ in the air, sliding off a cartop at 20mph without dying, isn’t a “real world” machine.

    Most of this can be accomplished by doing away with rigid case machines with assembled parts, and replacing it with circuits printed on flexible substrate then embedded into a silicone gel-type material, now that TFT/LED screens are feasible, there really is no need for rigid machines.