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2 May 2013 23:55
A little hardware project
by Hazard
I had a notebook display lying around for years. The notebook died and i thought to myself: "Hey, keep the LCD and turn it into a monitor!" Easier said (or thought) than done, though. Turns out, the internal connectors of LCD panels aren't standardized.
Each vendor uses different connectors and protocols. The controller is part of the notebook's graphics card and thus on it's mainbord. So if you want to convert video signals (VGA, DVI, whatever) into something the LCD understands you'll need to get or build a fitting controller. Soldering my own controller board and programming a fitting microchip sadly exceeds my expertise on those fields, so that wasn't an option. At that point the LCD usually went back into the storage cabinet, to be re-discovered some time later just to come to the same conclusion again.

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The LCD panel

Recently, however, i became increasingly annoyed with the lack of screen-estate. I do have a 24" monitor with 1920x1200 resolution, but that wasn't enough room anymore. One culprit: Twitter. If you want to get a good overview of what's going on it'll take away a good amount of space. Space i didn't have to keep it always on screen while working. And with my usage of the service increasing, i soon kept switching to Twitter every few minutes to check what's going on. Such a workflow-killer! The second reason: Foster Dad John's Kitten Livecam. Yes, i love Cats. And Kittens even more so. I just couldn't get the kitten livestream off my screen. So there went my productivity.

Time to get a second monitor and get some of my workspace back!

That's where i remembered the LCD panel again. And this time, i was lucky. I discovered a blog of someone who did something like that just recently (don't remember which one, though), and he had the perfect hint: Chinese vendors on ebay offer to piece together the correct controller, connectors and firmware to turn your LCD panel into a working monitor with VGA and DVI connectors (even with HDMI if you want). So off to ebay i went and the search for "lcd controller dvi" did finally yield what i was looking for. I instantly ordered one for affordable 30$. A nice contact and several photos of my lcd connectors later a controller was ready and on it's way to me. Such a great service!

The arrival, however, took some time. It was stuck at the international airport for weeks. Mail tracking didn't yield any useful information, but i guess customs clearance was to blame. Anyway, it arrived eventually.

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Flexible arm, controller and stuff.

A flexible monitor arm got the job of holding the notebook display. It's 100x100mm VESA connector is perfect to screw the diplay backpanel on to. So i drilled those 4 holes into the backpanel, and a bunch more to fasten the controller board from ebay and it's appendages too. I also had to punch a bigger 2x4cm hole into the backpanel to get the controller<->lcd connection done, because the cable was too short to get it out through the bottom. I was also lucky that there's 3mm room between the backpanel and the lcd panel. This allowed me to put the heads of the screws inside the display and let them stick out at the back. The screws had to be long enough to fit 2 nuts and the flexible arm connector onto them. The first bunch of nuts went on the outside of the backpanel to make sure that i don't have to open the display again to get to the screws. Onto that came the flexible arm VESA plate and then nuts again to fasten it all. Same for the screws used to put the controller boards on the backpanel. (Though, i didn't have enough screws of the right size and ended up using tape to fixate some parts. Not a work of art, but yeah, it works.)

And that's basically it! All that remained was connecting the DVI cable and the power adapter and there we go! Finally a second monitor to keep twitter and the kittens within sight without sacrificing workspace! Yay!
Oh, one last thing: I had to reduce the display's resolution from it's native 1440x1050 to 1024x768 pixels. Sad about the screen space, but otherwise the DPI of both screens wouldn't match and the mouse cursor would jump around every time you move between monitors. It drove me CRAZY! But it's still a MASSIVE improvement, even at 1024x768.

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The end result. No, that's a livestreaming Sosowski, not a kitten.

3 Apr 2013 06:42
It's a blog!
by Hazard
It took a lot of dark PHP magic, but i finally have a blog on this website! Yay!

I will use it to talk about stuff that doesn't fit into 140 characters and doesn't really belong into a discussion forum either.