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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: New Jersey, USA
Integrated GPS on my Mini 9 - 10-07-2008, 10:22 AM
So, I wanted to add a GPS receiver to my Dell Mini 9, but I didn't want to have to use a dongle or other external device. I figured that a netbook really ought to just have it built in, so that's what I decided to do. All of these pictures are links to larger versions.
I started by tearing the Mini down and seeing if it was even possible. Dell's service manuals for the Mini 9 are pretty decent and are all you need to take the system apart. You can view them here. Luckily, there's a bit of space around where the Bluetooth adapter is located. It wasn't much, but it looked like enough, so I ordered the smallest USB GPS receiver I could find. It's a nice unit with a SkyTraQ chipset and support for AGPS. Once I used the included utility to download an AGPS update into the unit, it gets a location fix in about five seconds after a reset.
Once I made sure the GPS receiver worked, I immediately took it apart to see just how small it could get. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how small it really is. Here's a picture of the GPS unit, the Bluetooth adapter, and a quarter for scale comparison.
I then started moving the Bluetooth adapter and removing the old mounting provisions for it, since they were now in the way. There was enough room, but just barely. If the GPS was another 2mm thick, it would not have fit. The GPS completely fills the space between the Bluetooth adapter and trackpad. There is a lot more space on the bottom of the laptop in the unused WWAN card area, but the GPS needs to be on top so that it has a view of the sky. A unit with a separate antenna may provide other mounting options, but I decided it would unnecessarily complicate things. Here is a shot from test fitting.
Next, I needed a 5v source to provide power for the GPS. Luckily the trackpad runs on 5v, and it's right there, how convenient! The power is on the outer two pins of the ribbon cable connecting the trackpad to the motherboard. In the picture below, ground is to the left and +5v is to the right.
Here is the GPS unit with the USB plug removed and wires soldered on instead to save space. The orange wires are connecting power and the blue data. You can also see that the sheilding foil has been removed from underneath the Bluetooth's new location.
A connection to the USB of the Mini was needed, and luckily the WWAN mini PCI-e connector's USB lines are active. I was able to run the data lines through the hole in the motherboard for the WWAN card mount. I connected the USB data lines to pins 36 and 38 of the unused mini PCI-e connector.
So then I double and triple checked the wiring, put some tape in for insulation and put everything back together. I was quite pleased when it started right up, and now my Mini knows where it is! The satellite reception through the case of the Mini is excellent.
Fitment is perfect, you cannot tell it was modified without opening it up. There are no bulges or other outward indications that anything has been changed.
The GPS receiver is turned on and off by a Team MRB Power Isolator Module.
Keep in mind that when you try something like this, you very well could break your computer. If that is something you couldn't live with, don't even attempt it. Also, it helps to have electronics and soldering experience. That being said, are there any questions?
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Questions and Answers
Lots of good questions, I'll try to answer most of them here.
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA
Re: Integrated GPS on my Mini 9 - 10-07-2008, 10:57 AM
Ohhhh yeah! YOU ROCK!
This one has to be stickied, or Wikied or something.
The door is opened!
I don't have any excuse to NOT pursue my on board hub now that you've shown me where +5 volts can be tapped!
EDIT (to avoid multi-posts)
Now that I look at your placement I would have to be crazy to not drop a GPS module in there while I'm at it!
(Now I'm gonna have to get one.)
Good catch removing that foil from the BT relocation point.
That and burying my mouse's Nano Receiver inside still leaves two ports open!
This is the hub I'm planning on using:
I picked a couple up after seeing one used in a UMPC project so I know it breaks down very small.
Here's a link to THAT project for reference:
http://www.ultramobilegeek.com/2007/08/ ... ernal.html
Seriously, thanks for sharing your project.
Can you detail the exact solder points on the PCIe area?
How are drivers for that GPS module?
What GPS software are you using?
Former Inspiron Mini 9 Owner, Modder, Enthusiast
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Nanuet, NY USA
Re: Integrated GPS on my Mini 9 - 10-07-2008, 01:27 PM
Awesome write up. I am very impressed and jealous of your mod. Keep em coming!
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Orlando, Florida
Re: Integrated GPS on my Mini 9 - 10-07-2008, 04:28 PM
Congrats, you made Engadget. http://feeds.engadget.com/~r/weblogsinc ... 413925613/
Join Date: Oct 2008
Re: Integrated GPS on my Mini 9 - 10-07-2008, 06:11 PM
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