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Author Topic: Using a tablet laptop and digitizer?  (Read 62594 times)
aoste
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« on: April 08, 2010, 12:13:04 PM »

Ok i know now i shouldve checked out this forum before i bought a Toshiba R10 R15 Tablet LCD Touch Screen from ebay and converting it to a diy cintiq, as no one here seems to have made a similar one work or have dismissed it as too difficult, well i thought it would be a neat shortcut....looks like may have made a mistake there, anyway seeing as ive bought this piece i thought i might as well give it a try. So forgetting the LCD display part, in simplified terms the key to getting this to work as a graphics tablet is connecting the wacom cabling to some form of USB cable, is this right? once it gets delivered i can post some photos i was hoping someone would be able to advise me on possible ways to get the tablet side working, i have a bit of I.T. experience but no electronic knowledge really,
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random-jimmy
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2010, 02:42:21 PM »

I should be able to help you a bit if you can post some high-resolution pictures.... HOWEVER you will need some important tools like:

- a good soldering iron for the job - as in >$75 - not one of the cheap plug-in ones you can pick up for $15 at the local shop
- solder wick
- solder (the finer, the better - get 60/40 alloy)
- some hookup wire (if you are an IT guy, you should be able to use an old floppy cable for this)
- a multimeter
- a USB cable to salvage the end off

But before you race off and buy this stuff, get the display and post pictures of the touch interface first. It is a slim chance that it can be made to magically work - some of the circuitry may actually be on the laptop motherboard itself (to make it cheaper in terms of production) so therefore you may be lucked out.
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bernard
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2010, 03:08:37 AM »

Is your Toshiba in working condition?  If so, make sure everything works before dismantling. Do you have the pen?  Those Tablet PC - it is not certain that those are USB -- it might be serial.  Also, I would imagine there is no daugther board and the "wacom" ICs are directly onto the motherboard. But you might get lucky...

That will be easy to spot just by looking at the names on the ICs ( Iwould look near the where the sensor board is connected).  Wacom typically has 2 chips with their name.

Pictures: I find it quite difficult to take nice shots of large electronic boards because they tend to reflect the light a lot. Your flash goes in the way. The best is to have a powerful light coming at some angle or well diffused in such a way that it does not hide the "markings".   You can also take separate shots, it tends to be easier.
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aoste
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2010, 08:49:29 AM »

Thanks for the response guys and the tips, i just bought the screen and digitizer, so theres no motherboard, it was sold as working.
BTW at the moment im just looking to get the digitizer working, rather not spend any more on Lvds boards etc if possible and i should be able to pick up a 15" lcd
I suppose if it doesnt work out, this tread could still be used as a what not to do thread...
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aoste
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2010, 01:37:09 PM »

...oh yeah i do have a wacom pen from an IBM tablet
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bernard
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2010, 11:17:52 PM »

If the digitizer is a Wacom brand - (which is likely) - then you will need some sort of electronic board to drive it. And in there, at least one (but typically it is two) square ICs that has the word Wacom written on it.  Else, forget about it, all the Wacom magic occurs within these.  You are missing half of the digitizer.

Here I am just doing a wild guess from what you are saying -- posting pictures would rather help.



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aoste
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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2010, 03:06:04 PM »

Thanks Bernard, i dont have the piece at the moment, i had thought it might not work after reading this forum (after id ordered it Sad )and if that the case ill just have to accept my mistake
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Wilcorp70
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« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2010, 07:55:07 PM »

It would be great if you could post pictures of what you bought even if it wont work.  I've been trying to do some investigation of how these boards work in the hope that someday we might be able to interface these boards.  Someone on the internets managed to drive one of these off of an FPGA board, but no one is quite sure how he did it.  School has got most of my attention (as well as my tablet's) at the moment, but a picture of the wires, and which of them go to the digitizer would be very helpful if you could post it.

~Will
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bernard
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« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2010, 03:48:56 AM »

wow -- if you really want to go down the path of doing an FPGA to drive this, it's pretty cool -- and quite a project too... You would have to learn how it works in the first place -- you could try to read the many Wacom's patents -- they describe quite a lot of things -- but I had quite difficulty just understanding all the text and graphics.

I analyzed a couple of boards myself (not from a Tablet PC, but Ultrapads)  and I can say the following:  The base circuitry of the sensor panel is really simple:  It is a big double-sided PCB with lines on one side and columns on the other side.  All those lines are driven separately using very basic multiplexing ICs (analog switches). There was like 10 or so wires and most of them would be used to "address" which column/row to "switch to" and then the external circuitry could decide to send any signal to that selected column/row. 

If you happen to have a good oscilloscope, you should get your hand onto a working sensor of the "same kind" to really "learn" what is happening. The Wacom boards I have seen (the oldest ones) seems to always have 2 custom ICs -- I would not be surprised that one is an FPGA (or similar). The other one is probably a custom-built microcontroller, but that is just a very wild guess.  You could look at the "Wacom Science" thread I wrote while looking at these things. http://forum.bongofish.co.uk/index.php?topic=1514.0
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Wilcorp70
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« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2010, 04:40:16 AM »

    I posted a little on that wacom science thread of yours, we talked about the number of pins connecting to the main board, but that was before school caught more of my attention.  I posted this thing before, but I don't think you've seen it.  This is the guy who drove the screens with an fpga: http://home.comcast.net/~olimar/DS/jumbotron/
    He says on his site that he used the linux driver to figure out how to control it.  Well beyond my level of electronics expertise, I've tried to figure some of it out from his pictures, but I dont know very much about fpga's.  I've been looking at some tablet pc motherboards recently on the internet, but I have yet to find any Wacom branded chips outside of the digitizer, though. 

~Will
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bernard
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« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2010, 08:20:10 AM »

OK, thanks for the link. I did see it but I guess I did not realize how much info we could extract from it. I just took another look at that project now. It mentions A Wacom Pen 30$ -- so it seems we are really talking about an RF digitizer and not just a touchscreen (Wacom also sells touchscreens).

FPGA is kinda of a generic custom chip -- like it contains tons and tons of hardware logic "gates" that you can essentially "program". It typically excels in applications with a lots of inputs and/or outputs. It can emulate all sorts of things like a CPU, a serial port, LCD driver. It is perfect for "reading" the LCD screens output from the DS, upscale it to 1024x768 and driving the TabletPC LCDs. That Diligent SPARTAN-3 board with 4 big red digits on it is a XILINX FPGA prototyping board. There are 2 other boards in there which are LVDS modules to convert TTL/RGB signals to LVDS signals -- one per screen.

This gets me thinking. If I add-up all the info I can see about TabletPC digitizers: 
- Your comment talking about looking at TabletPC's motherboard without any apparent Wacom chips.
- the apparent facility to which this guy did this "conversion"
- "just by looking at a TabletPC's linux driver source code"
- TabletPCs are beast that can rotate/flip the screen -- in other words, the number of wires going to the motherboard must be kept low.

All leads me to think that the so-called "wacom chips" would be inside the screen. The linux drivers do not need to interact with the hardware "sensor board" directly -- but with its associated circuitry's I/O port. (circuitry includes the Wacom chips). This is either a serial port or USB (and most of them are serial -- especially the older ones). I did look at the code and the forum.

Since the guy later added a (huge!) USB board to his prototype, that leads me to think that the Gateway screen tabletPC digitizer portion was not USB and thus driven by a serial port. And in its simplest form a serial port is really only 2+1 pins:  TX, RX and Ground. Serial ports are common stuff to do in FPGA.

So all that is quite promising! Smiley  maybe those TabletPCs digitizer boards are really just Serial UltraPads or if not, they might be recycled by connecting it to some sort of serial port and running the penenabled Wacom driver -- which BTW, I *think* works with 64 bit Windows 7..!  I must be dreaming.  Tongue

Another point: given that he only needed to "emulate" a touchscreen, it didn't need to read "pressure" data (beyond detecting if the pen is touching the screen or not). And did not need to do any of the exotic Wacom stuff (buttons, eraser, tilt).
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random-jimmy
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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2010, 01:07:15 PM »

I thought I would lend a hand in this thread: my friend said he had one of the HP tablets - but it has a dead motherboard (lightning strike). Once he claims it on insurance, if they don't take it away, I am going to see if I can get my hands on it and use it to create a 12.1" cintiq (another one lol).

If you would like I could take a look at the logic - perhaps a working one would be better for that Tongue but there might be some sort of clue on the board or wires themselves as to what signals they carry. Even just counting the number of wires leading to the sensor board will help - if it is under 10 then it is serial - 4 or 5 and it could even be USB!!! XD

I will also start researching the boards. Another interesting thing: hackintosh tablets Smiley

Also: can anyone get a copy of the source for a linux penabled driver? It might be possible to see if it references a serial port anywhere; if it does, then we know that the penabled boards are serial.
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random-jimmy
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« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2010, 01:28:11 PM »

It is amazing what happens when I type something into google...

Long story short, a lot of digitisers for penabled TabletPC's are actually serial - however some connect via PCI. The easy way to tell is find the same model tabletPC, and look in device manager - if it mentions a "Wacom Serial Pen Device" or something along those lines then it is a serial digitiser.

However I have yet to find out if the serial logic is contained on the motherboard itself, or on a separate daughter board - once I get my hands on that tabletPC of my mate's (I think it is a TC1000) then I should be able to tell. Common sense says that all the circuitry would be self-contained behind the screen (to minimise long wires and hence lots of interference for the sensor board). All that (hopefully) will be left to do is find which serial pins are which - fingers crossed for the good old "RX" and "TX" PCB markings  Roll Eyes

If you want to look into it, I can suggest the following searches to get you started:
         wacom "tablet pc" baud rate          <-- what I started with
         WACF008 OR WACF004 serial     <-- where I ended up after coming across an insanelymac thread about Hackintosh TabletPC's (so drivers, etc)

Note that WACF008 and WACF004 are, according to 10mins of research, apparently the model names of the penabled boards included in a lot of TabletPCs.

If anybody want to build on this, feel free: but at the moment it is late at night for us Aussies and I have a calculus exam tomorrow Sad so I will continue my research tomorrow evening.
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bernard
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« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2010, 03:25:53 PM »

Exciting! Grin

About linux:  the source is available and, most importantly, there is even a whole "site" documenting this. http://linuxwacom.sourceforge.net  There is also a forum and active maintainers (yes, active). Here you learn that it can be Serial or USB. http://linuxwacom.sourceforge.net/index.php/howto/tabletpc

From another front, I know Wacom sells development kits for OEMs which I believe are serial too -- or at least was serial for a long while. This is another reason why I think most of the tablet PCs -- at least the old ones, must be serial.

Those boards are often split in two -- and there is often only a very few connections (maybe 10) -- exactly like the Ultrapads -- but this requires the Wacom ICs on the other side, I would say it would be outside of the scope for a "quick" project. And yes, those would carry sensitive non-digital signals (analog/RF).

I started another thread about maybe driving serial boards in Windows 7 using HID minidrivers: http://forum.bongofish.co.uk/index.php?topic=1664.0
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Wilcorp70
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« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2010, 10:53:33 PM »

    This topic has been thrown around a few times over the years, but Im excited that it has finally gotten some real attention and what appears to be progress.  I've long been suspicious of the claim that there were wacom chips on the tablet motherboard.  It just seemed like a guess, and maybe a justified one, but no one ever substantiated it. 
    I think we can probably settle the debate of whether or not most of these boards are serial, although there are some newer ones that are known to be usb.  The Asus R1F was one of the first, I believe, and it is the main reason that the linux guys created a usb driver (Somewhere in their forums there is an email conversation between them and some wacom reps where they had to repeatedly ask for more detailed information about the board so they could complete the driver).  Im not sure what other newer tablets have these usb boards, but recently I've been guessing that the modbook uses one as well (the 13 inch one uses the same lcd panel as the R1F in fact).  It would probably be a safe bet that any 13 inch widescreen tablet pc is usb.  Interestingly enough, if the modbook uses this type of board than its probable they would all support 512 pressure levels.
    It does seem like this guy had a pretty easy time of getting these screens to work and he does mention that implementing pressure sensitivity wouldn't be that hard.  I have a feeling that the fpga is probably simplest to implement but also probably overkill, it is after all a prototyping board.  He mentions an email address at the bottom, maybe we should try to contact him and ask if he still has the code he used to program the FPGA or any other burning questions we may have.  If this project is feasible, it could really provide some interesting possibilities for a diy mac tablet.
    And finally, unfortunately, Random-Jimmy the TC1000 unlike its son the TC1100 uses a finepoint digitizer, not a wacom one.  Wow, I talk too much...

~Will
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