As we showed you in our May 2008 issue, Asus's Eee PC has quickly become a favorite of hardware hackers around the web. Here, we offer the first installment of our Eee PC School series. Check back in the coming weeks for more tiny ultraportable tweaking.—Eds.
What good is that portable PC if you can’t type anywhere and anytime? With its ultra-compact keyboard, even touch typing pros will be hard-pressed to avoid frequent mistakes on when the lights go out. To say it’s a frustrating exercise in futility to locate the miniature F3 key in the dark is an understatement. Oops, you just lost WiFi contact by accidentally hitting F2.
Clearly, a keyboard backlight like those found in higher-end laptops is the answer to your nocturnal Eee PC typing woes. And for less than $15, such a backlight can be installed with minimal fuss.
Time: 3 Hours
If you need more visual guidance for opening the Eee PC, see this tutorial.
WARNING: While Asus has been somewhat non-committal on the warranty status of hacked Eee PCs, adding this keyboard backlight could very possibly void your warranty, so proceed at your own risk.
EL Wire, I Presume?
Snip off the EL wire from the Techno Flash. This will leave an approximately 18-inch length of black cable attached to the IM-4 EL inverter power source. Carefully remove one-half inch of the black cable and reveal a black and red wire. Strip and tin the ends of these two wires.
Polarity doesn’t seem to matter with these solder tabs. Therefore, solder the red wire to one tab and the black wire to another tab. Insulate all wires and solder tabs from any contact with the keyboard’s metal tray. Test your wiring. Add two batteries to the Techno Flash and turn on the inverter’s switch. The EL Backlight should glow a nice bright white/blue/green color. Remove the batteries and carefully close the Eee PC, fasten all screws, and connect and reseat the keyboard. Don’t force the keyboard back into place. Make sure that your wiring, solder tabs, and insulation aren’t interfering with the keyboard’s proper seating.
There was a lot of hand-wringing over how to fasten the Techno Flash to the exterior of the Eee PC without greatly compromising its portability. While this is a personal design issue, we settled on using good 'ol Velcro, attached to the outside of the LCD. Remove the belt clip from the bottom of the Techno Flash. Attach a strip of Velcro hooks to the underside of the Techno Flash. Find a suitable site on the outside of the LCD cover and attach a strip of Velcro loops. Choose this site wisely—this is where the Techno Flash will be permanently mounted on your PC.
Note: Stay tuned to popsci.com/category/tags/eeepc for more Eee PC School hacking in the coming weeks. Extra credit for readers who swap the Techno Flash’s batteries with a LiPo battery system that can be recharged via an Eee PC’s USB port!
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.