Hacker Fixes MacBook Air SuperDrive to Work With Any Computer

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Did you ever wonder what caused the MacBook Air's external SuperDrive to only play nice with the Air itself? Hacker tnkgrl did, and she embarked on some hardware research to find out just what was going on.

It turns out that it is neither special kernel extensions, nor that the drive requires more power than the standard USB 500 mA. It is in fact a custom IDE to USB bridge that locks other machines out, and that is a part which can be replaced.

Tnkgrl (who, judging by her driver's license, actually does look a bit like the real Tank Girl) ordered the $9 replacement and grafted it inot place. It's not a pretty hack -- the daughter board needs to be tossed to make space, but the SuperDrive now runs on any USB equipped machine.

Which leaves the answer, "why?" Why did Apple bother to lock out PCs and even other Macs? It makes little sense, as this small and stylish bus powered drive could be a big seller. Maybe it's just because other PC makers can manage to get an optical drive into their ultra-slim notebooks when Apple cannot. Sour grapes, perhaps?

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