No doubt about it; Everex’s gBook computer is a hacker’s dream PC. While we weren't too fond of the company's entry into the ultra-portable market, the gBook sings a different tune: On top of being a fairly well-equipped, full-size VIA-based budget laptop, the gBook also sports some impressive “hidden” features when the hood is lifted and the tires kicked. And while they may not be immediately apparent, in the hands of a seasoned tinkerer the gBook's extras can allow for some inspired modding.
Among these appealing extras are an internal unused USB port (a great internal 5V power source), an unused bay for holding an additional internal speaker, another large unused bay (presumably reserved for an internal modem) and on top of that, easy internal access to all ports and connections.
But, best of all, the gBook has a list price of $399.99, and Newegg.com has been known to sell the gBook for $349.99. So what we have here is a full-size laptop, affordable to all, and easily hacked.
So what are we going to do with it?
Well, for starters, let’s add some more SDRAM to this beast. Then we’ll yank out the optical disc drive (and potentially the hard drive as well) and replace them with a more versatile Compact Flash (CF) boot device installed inside the now vacant optical drive bay. The CF boot device of choice is none other than a spare CF reader/writer of the same type you would generally use to offload images from your digital camera. We’re going install this reader/writer inside the optical disc drive bay and use it to boot our gNote using a variety of different operating systems.
What will this project give you? First of all, you can sample the speed/silence benefits derived from using a solid-state boot device. Granted, this CF disk hack is not a true solid-state drive (SSD). But you will eliminate the noise, heat, and power consumption nuisances typically associated with using an optical drive, and with CF cards commonly available online in sizes up to an amazing 32GB ($169, newegg.com), you may want to also ditch the gBook's puny 60GB HD for even more power and noise savings.
Secondly, in addition to some great boot flexibility (just swap CF cards for unlimited boot options), there is also a significant increase in battery life. From approximately 55 minutes worth of life with the stock gBook to nearly 2 hours using a CF interface in lieu of a hard disk and optical drive (power savings vary on usage, but an increase of 55 minutes was the largest in our informal testing). Hey, you can only squeeze so much juice from this turnip.
Finally, let’s not forget those two salvaged drives.
Both of these excised power hungry devices can be repurposed inside USB external enclosures. You can then access either the 60Gb SATA drive or the CD-R optical drive via a USB port; preferably, when your gNote (formerly a gBook) is tethered to its AC adapter on your desk. And while the gBook is a prime candidate to serve as the foundation for our CF boot project here, there's no reason it can't be implemented on pretty much any old laptop you may have lying around. So let's get started.
Time: 9 hours
Drivers for gBook (if needed):
Now that we've got everything together, let's get started!single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.