Project I-Love-Lamp: Adafruit Qualia + Lamp

Hi dere, internet.

It’s me, the human embodiment of a baloney sandwich, at it again.


Recently, one of my favorite sites in the whole Multiverse, Adafruit, released a new product called the Qualia Board! If you haven’t heard, this little board makes it easy to use your iPad Retina (3/4) screen, as a secondary monitor! That’s 2048×1536 resolution on a ~10 inch panel. Pretty fantastic.

I purchased one of the bareboards and got to work. (There’s also this awesome kit, if hand rolling is not your thing. The kit is pretty rad all on it’s own.) The idea is, to take the iPad screen, mount it in an iPad shell, and mount the iPad shell onto a lamp base! I did something similar in one of my previous projects with a broken Nexus 7. I really am happy with my little N7 Lamp, so I decided to give it another shot with something a little bigger.


Adafruit Qualia Board

iPad Retina Screen

Hampton Bay Architect’s Lamp (22 in. Matte Black)

Display Port (Full Size) to MiniDisplayPort (It MUST be DisplayPort, you cannot use a converter.)

12V-9V 1A Supply

I used: iPad 1 Back Panel

(You could probably do better with an iPad 3 Back Panel, but I couldn’t easily find one for cheap enough.)

Machine Screws:

8x 2x8mm

2x 3x12mm

2x #3 Flat Washers

12x #2 Metric Hex Nut

2x #3 Metric Hex Nut


Grinder/Dremel Tool

Power Drill with various bits

Needlenose Pliers

Philips Screwdriver (or a flat, whatever head you chose for your machine screws)


Sheet of 8×11 Paper


The Plan:

First thing’s first. Take your drill, choose the appropriate size (one size larger than the silver rivets holding the lamp head to the arm), and drill out those pesky rivets. Snip and pull the AC cord out from the body of the lamp arm.






Next, place your Qualia board onto the 8×11 sheet of paper. Trace it with the Sharpie. The ribbon cable for the screen will exit the LCD to the left middle of the iPad backing, if you have it mounted horizontally, so you have to cut it a whole to run it to your Qualia board. Trace a smaller rectangle inside the one you made when tracing your Qualia board, about 75% of the original size. This will be the template you use to cut the whole in your iPad backing. I completely botched this part of mine, and cut the hole too big, so I added some perfboard to mount the Qualia to.



Be sure to add some insulating material between the Qualia and the iPad backing. It’s conductive aluminum, and will potentially short it, otherwise. Test fit your iPad screen into the backing, make sure the ribbon can reach the board easily. It should not be bent in a strange way, or it can be damaged. It’s very easily broken, so be careful when handling the ribbon cable. Mark the 4 holes of the Qualia on the iPad backing (using your 8×11 sheet), and drill them using a #2+ drill bit. Mount the Qualia using 4x of your 2x8mm machine screws and the corresponding bolts.

Place your 8×11 sheet up to the end of the lamp arm, and mark the paper for the two oval holes. Use this as a template to drill the two holes in your iPad backing, where you’d like the arm to mount. I chose dead center (because the arm can go portrait/landscape). Use a #3+ drill bit. Place the 2x 3x12mm screws through the end of the lamp arm, through the iPad backing, put on the 2x #3 flat washers, and then thread on the #3 nuts on both screws. Make sure these are secure.

Now, place your iPad screen atop the 8×11 sheet of paper. Mark the 4 holes for the mounting bracket. Double check once more that the ribbon cable from the screen reaches and plugs in properly. Now, place your paper atop your iPad backing, and drill out the 4 mounting screw holes. Same drill bit that you used for the Qualia mounting points. Put your other 4 2x8mm screws through the backing, thread a single nut on each screw. Now, place your iPad screen onto those 4 bolts. Put another single nut on each screw to secure the screen in place. Connect your screen ribbon cable.



Plug in your DP and power cables, and run them down the arm. I secured mine with zip ties. Just make sure you leave the appropriate amount of slack on the cables, so that the arm can flex properly, or you’ll limit your motion.



Kapow! Done!



I love that this thing articulates. My at-home desk is a very small table, and previously I did not have enough room for a second monitor. I’m addicted to having one thanks to my work-desk, so this totally beats that problem. It’s a neat little gadget. It could be a lot nicer looking if you used a donor broken iPad 3/4 as your shell, but I only spent 15$ on the iPad 1 backing, which is pretty cool for a sweet piece of a aluminum like that. Same goes for finding a 10 inch capacitive touch panel to place over the screen, but… that’s not that easy.


Project eyeMac: Aluminum Dreams

Hello FriendlyNerdFriends,

It’s spring time again, and as always, my collection of spare parts and I get into a turf war, AND SOMEBODY GETS CAPPED (Modded).

And, here begins the saga of Project EyeMac (2): Aluminum Dreams. This is technically the second of these that I’ve built, but the first one isn’t written up. I apologize in advance for the underexposed photos, I blew the ballasts for my overhead lights in a tragic accident involving french toast.




So, I was browsing the eBays a couple weeks ago, when I stumbled upon this beauty right here:


Someone was selling a mint condition 20 inch Aluminum iMac case (with front glass!) for only 35$. It’s one flaw (that I could find) was that it had a chip in the upper right corner of the front glass.
Hardly a deal breaker for somebody like me, so I bought it. It was one of those impulse buys that I knew could be something cool. Worst case, I could make it into a strange lamp or something.
The very next week, I was browsing Newegg for something job-related, and BAM. There was a 20 inch LED slim monitor on sale, from Acer, a reputable brand. The gears started turning,
and off I went. I already had a Core i5 13 Inch MacBook Pro logic board with permanent damage to the battery interface, a perfect candidate for a desktop mod.

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The monitor is impressively thin, thanks to it’s LED backlight. By design, the LCD glass was built into the plastic housing, rather than it’s own independent frame, meaning it wouldn’t be very sturdy without it’s bezel. Another major contributor to it’s thinness. If you can believe it,
the bezel fits perfectly inside the iMac’s aluminum case. I did have to shave it in some places, to clear standoffs, and whatnot, aside from those rather small modifications, you’d think it was made for this purpose.

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I flipped the LCD control board around, and double-stuck it to the front frame. The monitor has built in auto-off/on and input scanning features, so for the most part, I knew I wouldn’t need the button panel. So, that stayed in it’s original location. It’s my intent in the future to break out some of the buttons, and take advantage of the unused DVI connection, but for now, it’s fine as is. I did a couple small mods in this area, removed the barrel jack connector (It was mega-thick, like… Xbox big.) and re-routed the ribbon cables. I also made a super-fancy rainbow right-angle VGA adapter, because EVERYBODY likes rainbows. The last photo in that set is the final configuration.

Now, some fools are gonna get CUT. With the Dremel, that is. I removed many of the plastic standoffs from the case, and many of the steel ones as well. I also cut some notches out of the bracing center frame, to leave room for my SSD bracket and power supplies. I stripped out as much as I possibly could. The most important detail with the case, is it’s thickness. I wanted to close normally, and ended up accepting “somewhat” normally. I’d use different USB ports next time, as the ones I chose were a tad too thick.

Next up, I grabbed some IO panel USB headers, snipped the connectors and soldered USB-A Male cables to them. I took a tiny USB hub I had, extended the connector, and plugged those males into it, with the exception of one, which went to a root port on the logic. After that, they were mounted to the iMac in the stock locations. The last port is in the Firewire connector hole, which has a similar enough footprint that the connectors fit well. I cut a hole in the IO panel for my RJ45 male to female, to break the GigE out to the panel. I also mounted a 3.5mm Male to Female for the speakers. I left the rest of the IO empty, as those were the only things I needed. I stripped an AC input (with filters) from a busted computer PSU, snipped the end, and patched it into a two-prong adapter fits into the MacBook PSU. I also split this AC input for the monitor PSU. The logic board was mounted on a cutout from the MacBook Pro 13’s bottom case. The standoffs for the logic are intact, but the IO panel was removed. There are bolts that brace the logic to keep it from being bent (as the iMac’s case is beveled). Mounting the logic upside down (as it is on the MacBook) recreates the same airflow pattern, as that was a concern of mine. The SSD is a 256G OCZ Agility 4, and it’s mounted on a 2.5->3.5 Inch Hard Drive Bracket for SSDs. The bracket is secured to the case using bolts, all of which are visible from the back. I like the scattered bolts across the back of the iMac. It gives it the Frankenstein look. The hard drive ribbon is curved, but not crushed at a right angle. These ribbons are extremely delicate, and bending them fully will break them.  The multitude of tape you see in the left upper corner is bracing for the ribbon. Also in that area, the WiFi/Bluetooth module. I ran the iMac’s built in antennas to the upper left corner, and attached them to the WiFi card. Great reception. That’s mounted to the case using a single bolt, through the shaved mounting bracket/heatsink. The DC input board is mounted near the logic, braced by two bolts that go through the case. The grounds for the DC input and logic were tied together using a small wire, unnecessary as it might be. Nothing too special here, the regular MagSafe wire attaches to the DC board as it does in the stock setup.

I attached a set of speakers to the logic on it’s stock connector. These are strictly for the startup noise, as they’ll be deactivated when OS X detects there are headphones plugged in (my 3.5mm male to female adapter). They’re secured using hot glue. I use a Thunderbolt to VGA adapter for the video connection. The MacBook will default to an external monitor connection if there is no monitor detected on it’s internal connector. If your MacBook doesn’t behave this way, try resetting the NVRAM, as I ran into that at one point.

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The power button mod. Next to the SMC on the MacBook Pro logic, there are two tiny little pads. Shorting these pads together will boot the system, without a keyboard! They’re REALLY tiny. I used 28AWG wire, and there was still overhang. Also, once you’ve attached and tested those wires, seal them with something. I made the mistake of letting these wires flap around while I was working on the placement, and I lifted one of the pads. I then had to solder onto the smallest via in the known universe to get it back. We’re talking like, only slightly bigger than a Quark particle here.  Here’s a link to a high-res shot of the pads, with them highlighted in red. Run these two wires to the Power Button on your iMac shell, and you’re golden.


And, that’s it! I removed the iSight and obviously didn’t bother with the SuperDrive, since I don’t have a need for either of those features. Now, I’ve got a machine that maxes out at 16GB of RAM, is powerful enough for all of my daily coding routines, and is pretty damn confusing to most. I love how the Acer logo aligned perfectly above the Apple. It’s…. IT’S ALIIIIIIVE! MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Final Specs:

Core i5 2.3Ghz
16GB DDR3 1333 (G.Skill)
256GB OCZ Agility 4 SSD
Intel HD 3000 Integrated Graphics
4x USB Ports
1x Gigabit Ethernet
20 Inch Acer LED Monitor (Here’s a link to the monitor, if you’d like to try this yourself.)

Comments from Coworkers:

“What a piece of garbage. That asshole should just go buy an iMac instead of wasting everyone’s time.”

“I like your weird monitor thing.”

“That’s not going to start some kind of fire, is it?”

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