Salvage: HTS541680J9SA00 80Gb HDD, Duracell AAA, Optus Cable Card & Alcatel-Lucent Home Cell

I’ve been occasionally accused of being a hoarder, which I suppose is true. The result of this is that I do end up collecting interesting tidbits, mostly broken things, which I can take apart and explore … or just admire because I’ve never seen one before. Now that I have some time to write about them – I won’t feel as bad if I have to get rid of them.

Hitachi 80Gb HTS541680J9SA00 2.5″ Hard Drive

This was a failed drive from a laptop which was operated under some very harsh conditions. This is a 2.5″ 5400rpm 80Gb SATA laptop hard drive, which should be built like a smaller version of the 3.5″ drives.

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Owing to the limited thickness allowed, the top cover is very thin and cannot be used to bear weight. The rear PCB is very thin as well, and features no protruding components.

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20150622-1855-7173The cover reaches over to seal the drive, but is thin enough to flex under finger pressure. The label on the front is very beefy, and is like a thick copper tape, and is hard to remove. The cover itself seems to be ribbed to control the airflow inside the drive. The breather hole, and an air-evacuation hole on the lid. Serial number and connectors are on the ends, as usual.

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The rear is covered with a black plastic and foam combination to help separate the PCB from the chassis. No cut-outs are on the rear side, but the motor interfaces to the board with springy contacts, as does the head stack.


The PCB has a code name of Palau-3, and has a TI based motor controller, an SoC controller and a Hynix cache ram, fitted in a very precarious angle to make the best use of the limited space.


The underside of the lid has the breather filter secured by adhesive.


Inside the chamber, there is a single platter with a single screw securing the platter to the spindle. Ramp load and unload technology can be seen here, an innovation by Hitachi/IBM no doubt. The shock piezo sensor can be seen mounted on the flexible printed cable. The recirculation air filter is in the corner, as expected.


The head coil is very thin in comparison with a desktop unit.


The head seems to feature active fly height control, with six connections, but it has a very odd patterning on it that is not symmetrical at all. A shiny metal ring (or maybe glass) was collected … and a few magnets … and the rest was scrapped. Desk space recovered!

Duracell Ultra AAA M3 Technology

What happens when you buy a packet of fresh batteries and forget all about them? They get given to me and I marvel at them …


This packet was expired back in 2011, so was likely to have been made in 2004 to 2006. The batteries are branded as “M3” technology, probably as a bit of a homage to the BMW M3 to sound cool. They claim M3 stands for More {Fuel,Efficiency,Power} … it really doesn’t mean anything.


They even added more “colours” to the packs to try and make their packages more eyecatching and supposedly easier for consumers to select their battery. I don’t think people are so easily confused by batteries. The batteries had a power checker on each of them – a marketing improvement over the previous “one checker” per pack, moulded into the plastic shell itself that could be used on any battery but much more wasteful.


Of course, now that it has passed its use by date by four years, it’s leaked quite badly and the batteries seem to have probably completely discharged.


Corrosion can be seen on both sides, meaning that the active material must have corroded through the shell of the battery. So much for being “leakproof” – a good reason for you to make sure you remove any batteries from unused devices.


The corrosive products even caused the rear cardboard to bow slightly and discolour where it was in contact with the product.

Optus Foxtel Cable Smartcard

After having salvaged a card a while back for Foxtel and not seeing one before, it was rather surprising when I went out for a walk and came across another newer card for the taking.

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So there we go, an Optus branded Foxtel cable TV card.

Alcatel-Lucent Home Cell v2

I also came across this unit on a walk, obviously from a customer very engrossed with Optus. This is a pico/femtocell unit designed to cover areas where Optus network coverage was insufficient. The power adapter wasn’t anywhere nearby, and because it is easily identified and tied to some user account and MSN’s, it would be of little use to me. It’s probably built with a decent amount of security because it interoperates with a mobile provider’s network. That’s not to say it’s unhackable – because I have heard of a femtocell being hacked in the past


The unit had a nice and glossy exterior, white, with yellow surround and Optus branding on the front.


The rear is covered in vents, a power jack, a reset button and has two LAN ports. Likely, the unit was capable of “routing” so it could sit in-between a modem and a router to do QoS shaping of the rest of the users to ensure adequate quality for the picocell’s operation.

The unit was an Alcatel-Lucent 9361 Home Cell V2, part number 3JR09110ASBA. It was sold as Optus Home Zone, and was a 2100Mhz only 3G unit, capable of serving up to four users simultaneously, with up to 11 users registered simultaneously. It was designed for self-installation with automatic self configuration and three-beep warning that tells you your call is going through the femtocell. It does, however, chew up data quite dramatically in keeping a continuous link back to the network over your broadband connection. When the service is cancelled, the unit is normally returned to Optus, but in the case it seems that didn’t happen.

From the datasheet, it has a 20mW maximum transmit power, and -113dBm receive sensitivity which apparently translates to a 30m range. It is capable of a 21Mbit/s downlink carrier. It also has a “secure, tamper-resistant outer casing”. That will be a joy to take apart …


It has a hardware power button to one side to turn the unit on and off.

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It also came with an interesting “null” plug used as a dust cover for the unused LAN port. How handy.

To take it apart, I got out a screwdriver and with some care, starting at one corner, it came apart. Tamper resistant? What a joke!


The underside of the front cover shows there are four status lights which should shine through the cover.


The body of the unit shows two antenna connections, of the same type that you might find on a regular mini PCIe Wi-Fi card. One cable leads to a big antenna on the side, which may be for the 900Mhz signal for interoperability and adjacent cell reception, whereas the other one leads to the antenna in the top mid-left centre.

The board on this side has a plastic shell on the left, and two shielded cans with centilation holes. Near the LEDs seems to have a few chips, maybe memory related, which are potted to try and make it hard to tamper with (I’d say). Or they may just be moisture sensitive chips. There seems to be a debug or test pads near the mid-left of the board on this side. The board was secured to the case with a few Philips screws.


The other side of the board seems to show two large metal heatsinks. The plastic enclosure goes through to the other side. Two Hynix RAM and a Hynix flash unit is visible on this side, with three crystals – one for the LAN and two for the main CPU. The magnetics for the LAN is visible, along with all the input power conditioning circuitry (caps and inductors). The PCB seems to have provision for a second button and power connector, and probably an external plug in jack for configuration in the bottom left.


The larger antenna is visible secured to the side of the case, and seems to have a loading coil of some sort.

Was I going to stop tearing it apart now? Of course not. First to come off were the two cans. Luckily, these were covers that easily unclip rather than being soldered down.


The left can hides a few mixed signal front end Analog Devices chips – AD9963 10/12-bit low-power broadband mixed signal front ends with up to 100MSPS ADC and 170MSPS DAC – a software defined radio solution it seems. The ADF46 chip seems to be a transceiver or amplifier to boost the signal.


The right can doesn’t hide anything interesting, but both cans oppose heatsinks – so the cool stuff is definitely going to be on the other side. The heatsinks, however, are soldered down, so I needed to get the iron out for those …

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The plastic cap, however, enclosed a crystal oscillator on one side, and four resistors on the other side. This is a basic primitive “crystal oven” configuration which keeps the temperature of the crystal regulated so the frequency stability can be maintained.

The desoldering doesn’t stop me – so off come the heatsinks.


The right side heatsink was put down directly on the gold-plated board, to provide some heatsinking for the MxFE ICs on the other side, with the heat conducted through the vias. The left side heatsink hides the main SoC, which definitely does get a bit warm – hence the “metal” core package.


The heart of the unit? A Picochip PC302-HSC picoxcell, with a 400Mhz ARM1176JZ-S ARM core with security features.


I can finally clean some of my bench space now that I’ve managed to take things apart and document them. It’s interesting just what you end up coming across just walking around and keeping your eyes out. Of course, that’s never all – there will always be more things to take apart, repair, break, explore, etc.

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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