Next-level screen mod

Discussion in 'Modding and Customization' started by gnubeard, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. gnubeard

    gnubeard

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    I'd like to get some feedback from those who have already taken down their AAO. I'm a proud new owner. I've got MacOSX and Fedora 10 dual booting and fully configured. Now I'm sizing up what hardware mods I want to do, which I'll do all in one batch because if it works, I'll be too busy showing it off after that..

    So, all the usual stuff is in order: 1.5G of RAM, BT, swap out the Atheros card for a Dell or Apple product for Leopard happiness. Etc.

    What I'm _really_ interested in doing though is tossing out the keyboard, the touch pad, and taking my dremel to the bezel in order to fit a _second_ LCD (leaving the stock one in place) with a touch screen .. turning my AAO into something like an oversized Nintendo DS. I hope I can tap the external VGA output for the video signal and leave the connector in place for hooking up to an external monitor as well. The plastics will probably be the toughest part to get right.. I'll probably wait until I can get a second bezel for the AAO and shave it up to fit with the keyboard side of the clamshell. This way, if it all goes pear-shaped, I can pop the keyboard back in and still have an intact keyboard bezel to go with it.

    There are plenty of downsides to this proposed hack .. first, I won't have a keyboard during POST. And I lose the special FN keys entirely. This could be a disaster if Acer never gets their BIOS right. Losing the ability to easily unbrick would be terrible. Otherwise, I'm not really concerned with the FN keys. Losing the keyboard during the pre-boot stage is more of a problem - it seems that this will force me to choose 1 OS: Mac or Linux, because I won't be able to choose anything in my bootloader. None of this really changes my enthusiasm for this hack, though.

    The real sticking points that I see are:

    A) Will the AAO even POST without the builtin keyboard? If not, can its presence be faked?
    B) Is there enough depth under the keyboard to have a realistic shot at this thing?
    C) Juice. A second screen is really going to suck on my battery. I'll probably add on an after-market 9-cell (saw 'em on Ebay - nice) for this.

    Additional questions are: should I put a touch screen layer over the "normal" screen too? AFAIK, there is no way for MacOSX to differentiate between pointers for each screen. With Linux in a non-Xinerama mode, I could have independent displays and mouse cursors, which might be interesting. There are a lot of software questions to answer too.. can the internal panel's display be rotated (I think viewing such a machine like a book would be most natural, but would require rotation).

    .. and while I'm thinking of it.. anyone have experience with a USB accelerometer? }:->

    gnubeard
     
    gnubeard, Dec 15, 2008
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  2. gnubeard

    theCollector

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    couple of issues i see are A) what are you going to use as a driver for the second screen? Internal USB? if so, you're gonna need space for controller etc.

    B) you're battery life is going to be severely reduced.

    i really, REALLY like this concept. It's a great plan.on the keyboard, i suggest leaving the connector intact so that if you run into a bios issue you can simply reconnect the stock keyboard and take care of business. With the second lcd, i think you said touchscreen? would you use a software keyboard so you could still "type"? if so, i hope you're not a speedy typer as the touch screens aren't multitouch. Perhaps an external bluetooth keyboard? like the sexy apple ones?

    anyways, other then that, i'd LOVE to see this mod happen. it has lots of potential!

    keep up the hackin'!
     
    theCollector, Dec 15, 2008
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  3. gnubeard

    adrianaitken

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    main problem is getting a screen !!! Most will have propriority interfaces. Even if you get a standalone VGA monitor (7" or whatever), when you open it up it'll be mess and probably too thick to fit. Not to mention all the electronics needed to run it. And power? Most likely you'll need a good 12v feed.
     
    adrianaitken, Dec 15, 2008
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  4. gnubeard

    gnubeard

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    I'll use USB for the mouse portion of the touch-screen. I don't need USB for video - I'll use the VGA signals on-board. Under MacOSX, an external monitor hooked up to the VGA port acts as a separate display - aka "dual-head mode" - which is exactly what I want.

    Obviously, turning more electrons into more photons is going to hit the battery harder. Thats what they make 9-cells for. I'm OK with that.

    The electronics should be a cake-walk. I'm more worried about everything fitting together properly.
     
    gnubeard, Dec 16, 2008
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  5. gnubeard

    MrNiceguy

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    Just a thought: As elaborate as this mod is, I have a suggestion that will probably add a minimal amount of work for a lot of benefit. Mount an external connector with pins running to the internal keyboard connector. That way you can hook up your keyboard if required. You don't even need to find a connector identical to the one on the motherboard - just one with the same number of pins. You'll likely want to solder a longer cable on the keyboard anyway.
     
    MrNiceguy, Dec 18, 2008
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  6. gnubeard

    gnubeard

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    Thats not a bad solution to the problem, but unfortunately, it doesn't look like that will really be possible. The strip type cabling that the keyboard uses is very fragile. I don't know how well I could work with it, but you're right -- this is worth investigating, at least because it would make life much easier.

    Right now, I'm trying to select my panel and vendor. I'm basically torn between:

    a) Trying to do this thing on the cheap, and just getting any old off-the-shelf 7" VGA touch screen monitor and pulling it apart. If fitting it in the AAO doesn't work out, I'm stuck with it. Then I change gears and epoxy a thin acrylic shell around the LCD to use it as an accessory by setting it on top of the keyboard. I probably wouldn't end up carrying it much, though and so I basically lost my money.

    b) Buying from an established parts vendor. They'll work with me to try to identify a panel which WILL fit and be much more helpful about exchanges or credits if it doesn't work out. But I'll pay more.

    The other issue that I'm looking at more and more is software. The virtual keyboards that I've found all look terrible. They are just toys - not something you could seriously use as a user interface. I'd need a keyboard with a smart macro system - at least something that can load different macro sets based on the window title selected for input. I'd probably want a history mechanism too. I'd want the keyboard display itself to be composited over the screen - there is no sense blowing my new screen real estate on a boring keyboard image. Plus all the usual sundries.

    This issue of software is what is making me think that I'll just go with option A above, because the first thing I really need to do is build this software that makes typing on a screen as convenient as possible.
     
    gnubeard, Dec 20, 2008
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  7. gnubeard

    PhyrePhox

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  8. gnubeard

    gnubeard

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    I did see this. Looks like a pretty good piece of work. It is what got me thinking about this current project, actually. The size of the AAO screen is JUST big enough to not be completely annoying to me. Taking up that one little screen with a software keyboard would be painful.. but since you're really losing the keyboard with the panel hack anyhow, it got me thinking..

    Also, I decided that I'm just going to pick up a small off-the-shelf VGA touchscreen and pull it apart. But first, I'm going to just rig it as an external monitor and try and get the software sorted. Another possible issue is the touchscreen interface as a mouse. Obviously, it will work for the screen being touched (if calibrated right) - but now how does one go about clicking on widgets on the built-in display? I had been imagining that I could just slide around on the touch screen like a touch pad for mousing, but it occurs to me now that this isn't necessarily the case. Another part of my software keyboard may need to reserve some screen space as well to emulate a touch pad. Or perhaps I'll do the touchscreen hack to the built in display as well.

    So I have to just get a touchscreen and start playing with MacOSX and Fedora and see if I can get some usable interface together first. Once I'm convinced that I can at least limp along with the touchscreen as a keyboard replacement, then I'll start pulling apart my AAO to hack it in.

    In fact, I'll probably buy a new AAO entirely to work on for this - because I use the one I have now for work everyday.
     
    gnubeard, Dec 21, 2008
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  9. gnubeard

    PhyrePhox

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    I haven't seen the touchscreen systems for these small-screen devices, but others I have used usually have drivers that will emulate mouse functions. In other words, you shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.
    Usually there's a "tap to select, double-tap to open" function built in to the driver, and maybe a modifier key to alternate-select.
     
    PhyrePhox, Dec 21, 2008
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  10. gnubeard

    rash.m2k

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    I am by no means an expert but the virtual keyboard you want is probably similar to the Nokia N800 virtual keyboard. This littlle internet tablet runs Linux so I'm sure you would probably rip this bit of code off it and use it to power the virtual keyboard.
     
    rash.m2k, Dec 26, 2008
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  11. gnubeard

    gnubeard

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    I don't have vast experience with using touchscreens, but the few I have used and seen work like this:

    I touch the middle of the screen - the mouse-cursor "warps" there from wherever it is - and as I move my finger around, the mouse tracks my touch in absolute coordinates. I touch the top of the screen, the mouse is there but I have no way to move the mouse beyond that border- dig? As opposed to a touchpad interface, where my touch is tracked in relative coordinates: I am free to pick up my finger, touch anywhere else on the pad and pick up the cursor where I left off - movement is relative to where the cursor was last time.

    Or are you guys saying that some touchscreen surfaces can be made to work as touchpads? That MIGHT be helpful - BUT ..

    I need my touchscreen to be absolute anyhow - I need to be able to type on my screen. While the virtual keyboard is up, anyhow, I need to just be able to tap the screen at the key locations and have them punch. I'm pretty sure this will require using a traditional touch-screen interface and I won't be able to move my mouse off the edge of the screen, directly.
    However, my virtual keyboard program could have a small area which it treats as a touchpad and it could control the mouse cursor and handle moving it to other displays. In effect, I'll have to make a software keyboard and software touchpad for a touchscreen device.

    This may be recreating the wheel, but it is also like forging your own set of custom rims :) Honestly, a touchscreen as a keyboard is going to be quirky enough even with customized software's help. Using a bunch of kludged together half-solutions isn't going to make me like USING this customized Aspire. Using my own full screen software keyboard w/ trackpad composited over a PDF I'm referencing while using some other app on the main display should at least bring a smile to my face.

    To more pressing matters w/ this hack, though: I've been noticing odd behavior w/ my AAO hooked up to LCD TV's w/ VGA.
    Anyone else notice this? It has happened on two different displays - every so often the display seems to get out of sync with the VGA signal from the Aspire (under OSX). The modes listed by OSX are weird too, stuff with refresh rates like 61Hz. So I hooked the VGA out to a test circuit I have that extracts horizontal and vertical refresh signals and dumped 'em to my frequency counter. Sure enough, the vertical refresh signals are a little off on my AAO and periodically they are a little jumpy. I'm not sure if this is _MY_ AAO, or incompatible OSX drivers (mirroring makes BOTH displays screwy).
     
    gnubeard, Dec 27, 2008
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  12. gnubeard

    PhyrePhox

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    I do know that Vista Ultimate (other versions may as well) has "Tablet PC" software installed by default, which includes an on-screen keyboard. And of course, there's the Origami Experience for Vista.
    I know from painful firsthand experience that Vista requires more resources than XP, but it seems that Vista has options for touchscreen devices beyond what XP offers.
     
    PhyrePhox, Dec 27, 2008
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  13. gnubeard

    AcerAlec

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    What I'm _really_ interested in doing though is tossing out the keyboard, the touch pad, and taking my dremel to the bezel in order to fit a _second_ LCD (leaving the stock one in place) with a touch screen .. turning my AAO into something like an oversized Nintendo DS. I hope I can tap the external VGA output for the video signal and leave the connector in place for hooking up to an external monitor as well. The plastics will probably be the toughest part to get right.. I'll probably wait until I can get a second bezel for the AAO and shave it up to fit with the keyboard side of the clamshell. This way, if it all goes pear-shaped, I can pop the keyboard back in and still have an intact keyboard bezel to go with it.

    its a bit ott in my opinion lol
     
    AcerAlec, Jan 2, 2009
    #13
  14. gnubeard

    jackluo923

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    Regarding to the mouse issue, you could always use a bluetooth/usb mouse. JK

    You can always buy those type of touch screen which accept both the pen and finger. You can use the finger mode as keyboard and the pen mode as the mouse. You can also integrated a nintindo DS pen into the AAO. LOL
     
    jackluo923, Jan 9, 2009
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