Tuesday 30 September 2014

Internal usb flash drive conversion (aka DIY USB DoM)

For a low-cost alternative to a commercially available USB Disk on Module, I made my own out of a regular USB drive and a 0.1" 5x2 pin header (ebay, like 20p each)

Retail: £50 (GBP) + postage  (e.g. [link])
DIY: £4 (GBP)

USB drive that I used: Transcend JetFlash 350 [link]

I did manage to get hold of a "vintage" Windows Vista ReadyBoost(tm) Module (same thing, with a silly name)... but even that was significantly more expensive!

There isn't anything complicated here, but some tips if you're doing this:
  • Get the pinouts the right way around (it's mirrored)
  • Insulate the reverse of the PCB (the header has *two* ports). Kapton tape works well.
  • Solder the the NC pin to something - just to strengthen the connector
  • Melt a bit of plastic into the NC hole on the connector
  • If you use this exact same drive - there's 1 tiny plastic tab you'll need to snap off, and the "connector hole" needs (carefully!) making about 0.5mm wider for it to all fit back together. I opted for widening the casing, and filing the connector top+bottom; for a neater finish.
Here's some pictures:

These are annoying to dismantle without damaging the plastics

The "Vista" module I bought

If you're careful, you can save the USB connector for a future project. I was not:

 Hey, it works too!

 "In use"

The finished mod, and a side-by-side comparison with the one I bought:

P.S. yes, the cap still fits :)

Saturday 13 September 2014

"Zoostorm Desktop PC" - cheapo ebuyer i5-4460

I bought this a few days ago because it was cheap (£326). I couldn't find much about it beforehand, so planned to write stuff here... except they've stopped selling it :( That's probably why it was such a good price. Oh well, this will probably still apply to its replacement.

Here's what's inside it:

The motherboard is a Gigabyte H81M-DS2V
Western Digital "Blue" HDD
Corsair RAM
Akasa HSF
Generic Chinese no-name case and PSU

I was pleased to see it built using mostly branded stuff, and it runs almost silent when idle; and doesn't sound too bad under full load.

So, what's wrong with it? Just these (minor gripes):

The power light will burn your retinas off. Typical of cheap stuff, it's far too bright, and blue. Why are they always blue?! It was "cool" when the Playstation 2 first got released...

And this is what the horrible Gigabyte monstrosity of a bios looks like. Also it was Revision F2 out of the box... and they're up to F5 as of a couple of months ago.

Or you can switch it to "Classic"
(which is just as bad)

And if you want to use this for a diskless PXE client or something, pick something else. It comes with this "feature":

Finally, the SATA HDD came plugged into a 3Gbps socket rather than the 6Gbps one sat right next to it. Would it make a difference? Probably not, but still!