Hacking my MSI Wind (Wireless card, USB Hub, bluetooth, 16gb flashdisk, wireless mouse)

I just opened up my MSI Wind after its hard disk gave out. To check whether it was just a software crash or hardware (really!), I opened it up and swapped an old 2.5 SATA disk from an old (headless) computer. It worked which means that the current disk did not work any more. In the spirit of turning a "bad" thing to a good thing, this offered me a chance to hack out my Wind netbook.

First things first: replacing the hard disk. This was easy to do. Then I remembered that the RTL8187 wireless card of the Wind was quite crappy and thus decided also to get the wireless card (Intel) from the other computer and replace the one in the MSI wind. Thus the hacking starts!

I took out the battery and opened up the MSI wind by removing the screws and using my fingernail to pop out the back cover. Removing first the antenna connections on the wireless card and the screw that holds it down, it is now easy to take away the mini PCI card and pop in the replacement.

Before that, I need to unscrew the SATA hard disk out and replace it with the working HD. Putting all the screws back together, putting in the cover and the battery, all it needs it a test. I had previously installed Ubuntu 9.10 there and surprisingly it all worked. The wireless card was detected, the hard disk was working-- this means I have a working netbook again.

Yet, this is also an opportunity to put in Bluetooth as the original computer had none. I have an old bluetooth USB which protrudes 1/2 cm out of the side when plugged it. I surmised (correctly) that it will fit inside. All i need to do is to wire it in!

But why stop there? Searching the web, I found some blogsites (the MSI Wind forum was down probably permanently) that pointed the way. Finding an old USB hub, stripping it down to its barest minimum, checking the internet again for the correct USB wiring connections, I soldered the hub down, stripped a 16gb flash drive, stripped down the bluetooth dongle and got my wireless mouse dongle (which I got cheaply for the holidays) and connected them to the hub. That left me with a single port for "future" upgrades. :-)

I tried to put in the 3G smart bro stick inside but it was too thick and to separate them out needed special connectors that I don't want to make as of the moment.

I soldered the power carefully, the USB D+ and D- lines and the ground for the hub. Soldered in the USB stuff and placed the hub and the dongles underneath the hard disk. The flash disk was placed beside the hard disk so that I could see it light up when accessed. Using a glue gun and masking tape liberally since I don't have kapton tape, I fixed in the components and put in back the cover and the battery.

Turning on the power, I see now the bluetooth module is up in Ubuntu, the wireless mouse works and the 16gb disk is detected. Hardware hack done!

Not satisfied with this I now upgraded the Ubuntu 9.10 OS to the latest alpha (I know it is alpha software but this is "cutting edge" hacking hahah) Ubuntu Lucid Lynx 10.04 version (due on April 2010).

Now I celebrate the new year with a new OS and refurbished computer. Pictures to follow soon!

Happy new year!