In my previous post about this I checked to see if the touch panel I’d ordered worked. It did, so this weekend I actually cracked open my Eee and installed it (that’s it mounted over the screen in the picture above). I’ve uploaded a full Flickr set here.
I must say, having a touchscreen on the Eee is *very* cool. I’ve been doodling in Gimp since I got it installed and it’s great. That being said, I find myself wishing that it functioned more like the wonderfully touchable iPhone screen to which I’ve grown so accustomed. I find myself touching websites, wanting to be able to scroll up and down the page at the flick of a finger. Good news: this actually works when reading comics on my Marvel Digital Unlimited account.
Despite how cool this is, I must stress: don’t do this hack unless you know what you’re doing, consider yourself a patient person, and are used to cracking open machines and soldering. I’ve been tinkering with computers forever, worked professionally in IT for over 5 years, contributed to several O’Reilly hacks books and even wrote PSP Hacks, and this hack is quite a bit trickier than I originally thought it would be. My amateurish soldering skills and large orgre hands resulted in a re-evaluation of where I wanted to connect this touch panel to my computer. I tried connecting to the 5V connection on the underside of the board that other people have detailed in their hacks, but every solder attempt failed / was too sloppy to trust, so I had to undo it. That connection was also the largest of the ones available for the hack, so I knew continuing to attempt to solder to the USB connections under the wifi card would result in failure.
So, instead, I soldered the USB connection to the left-hand USB port on the Eee. This is not the optimal placement for two reasons: 1. It makes that port unusable for anything else. 2. The 5V connection for that port doesn’t fully power off when the machine is shut down, so it will slowly drain the battery, even when in the off position. In any case, I’ve become a pro at disassembling and reassembling the Eee, so I’m just going to wait until the next time a friend of mine who is a 1337 solderer is around, and at that point, I’ll crack the Eee back open and we’ll move the connections. We’ll also add the USB hub, the 16GB flash drive, and the internal SDcard reader that I had prepped for installation, but gave up on.
The panel I ordered causes the screen casing to buldge out slightly at either side. It’s a bit wider than the actual screen, so I had to break off two little black plastic clips on the inside of the screen casing to get it to fit. The ribbon comes out the bottom of the panel, but there is all sorts of stuff at the bottom of the Eee’s screen, so I had to install the touch panel upside down (it can be calibrated upside down, so no problems there). I had to fold the ribbon twice to get it pointed in the right direction. Then I stripped 4 wires at the end and pushed them into the ribbon’s connector and taped them in place with electrical tape. I then ran the wires down the left side of the screen, under the screen and under the motherboard at the right hinge. Why all the way over there? Because there was no room with all the cables on the left hand side. Bad side effect: the cables push the part of the motherboard with the power button on it upwards ever so slightly, and as a result, the button was always pressed when reassembled. I had to pop the machine back open and shave off some of the plastic at the back of the button to make it workable again.
So those wires run under the board to where I installed the controller for the touchpanel (right next to the memory slot). I taped the controller board to the motherboard, soldered the wires from the panel to the control board, and then took the USB cable that came with the control board, stripped it and separated the wires while keeping the clip in tact. I plugged that clip directly into the board (as it was designed to do), taped the shielding wire to dead end, then ran the remaining 4 wires along the underside of the left of the motherboard, and up over to the top in the space just in front of the lefthand USB. Then I soldered them in place.
I plugged it in to test. It worked. I reassembled. It didn’t work. I opened it back up, two of the wires had popped free. Soldered again. Rinse repeat. It worked. I reassembled. It worked…. for about 20 minutes and then it stopped. Disassembled. One of the wires had popped free. Soldered again and did a good job for a change, reassembled, and now everything works like a charm. w00t
I’m using a stylus from a DS Lite as my stylus when I need one. I need to fashion some sort of sleeve for it, so that I can have it *on* the Eee ready to go at all times. If you own an Eee you know that it’s slightly screen-heavy and can sometimes tilt back if you push the screen too far past 90 degrees. Adding a glass touch panel increases the occurrences of this phenomenon and adds some weight to the Eee. I actually think I might add some more weight to the Eee near the front of the keyboard / on either side of the trackpad to serve as a counterbalance for the screen.
In any case, I may write a more detailed explanation of what I’ve done later, but since it’s going to be a different project depending upon which model touch panel you get and how 1337 your hardware hacking skills are, I don’t know if that write up would be very helpful. I’ll try to shoot some video of it in action later.
Supposedly, Asus is going to come out with a 9-inch touchscreen version of the Eee in the future, so if you feel a little too nervous about a hack like this, save yourself a weekend of sweat and soldering and wait for that model to come out and buy it. However, if you like to tinker, go for it. It’s awesome.