Flashback: Disappearing Apple

Flashback: Disappearing Apple

I love electronic music, but lately looking up on stage at shows seems more and more like a perfect photo op for an Apple ad. I also love my Mac, but in a dark, nightclub setting, that glowing Apple elevated on stage is a distraction. It reminds me of an article in MAKE Volume 09 by Tom Owad where he shared his process for removing the Apple from an iBook. Owad took it a step further and not only got rid of the Apple on the lid, but also used some open source tools to remove the Apples from the operating system. Bear in mind that this article ran in March of 2007; he was working with Mac OS X 10.3 and a couple of the tools no longer seem to be up and running, but I think it’s still a good read nonetheless and maybe some folks out there know of current alternatives they can share in the comments below. Now I need to print it out and distribute to some musicians I know. Enjoy.

Disappearing Apple
Removing the logo from an iBook.
By Tom Owad

I am writing a book/TV documentary for Canongate and the BBC called Bonfire of the Brands. The short story is that I am attempting to overcome my addiction to brands by burning all my branded stuff on a great bonfire on 17th September 2006. Afterwards, I will be attempting to live a life brand-free.”

This was the introduction to an email I received from Neil Boorman last August. It continued, “I have allowed myself one luxury which will be spared from the fire, which is my iBook. But to keep it, I must de-brand the thing, which is why I’m contacting you.”

There’s a particular problem with removing the iBook’s Apple logo: it leaves an Apple-shaped hole. To circumvent this problem, I considered a number of techniques, from molding an entirely new lid, to simply covering the Apple with a big white sticker. Ultimately, I decided the best way was to cut out the logo on a milling machine, then mill a replacement piece out of another lid. I called PreOwned Electronics and ordered a stack of grade B iBook lids to experiment on, then headed down to the garage.


My mill is a Homier Mini-Mill (and currently halfway through a homebrew CNC conversion). I mounted the lid on the mill, outside down, using a clamping kit. The Mini-Mill was just big enough for the job — half an inch less travel on the Y-axis would have made the job extremely difficult.


I loaded a 1″ end mill and cut out a rectangle around the Apple logo. Because end mills are round, the mill can’t cut inside right angles, so I then removed the lid from the clamps and filed the corners down (this only took about two strokes with the file).


To make the inset, I took another iBook lid and hacksawed it down to a bit bigger than I needed; I then clamped it into the mill and milled it down to the exact size.


Next I filed off all the burrs and snapped the piece into the lid. A little super glue on the inside of the case held everything snugly in place, but still left a visible crack around the perimeter of the rectangle. I filled this with Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty, then sanded it down.


Finally, I spray-painted the lid with Gloss White Krylon Fusion for Plastic. To prevent light from shining through where the logo used to be, I merely taped on a piece of aluminum foil.

Removing the logos from the operating system (Mac OS X 10.3) was much easier, thanks to a share-ware app by Geekspiff called ThemePark (geekspiff.com/software/themepark) [Version 4.1 has been released, and you can use it to customize Snow Leopard] and CodeServant’s open source application ThemeChanger (codeservant.com/themechanger.php) [this no longer exists; anyone know of an alternative?]. ThemePark presents a window with the graphical elements in the user interface and allows the user to just drag and drop replacement images over them. I replaced each Apple logo with Neil’s initials. Once I was finished with my changes, I saved the theme and installed it with ThemeChanger.

The boot panel — the window that appears during startup with the Apple logo and progress bar — can be modified just by replacing the PDF stored at /System/Library/CoreServices/SystemStarter/QuartzDisplay.bundle/Resources/BootPanel.pdf. This leaves a single Apple logo: the dark grey apple that first appears when you turn on your Mac. With Ryan Schmidt’s Startup Syringe (ryandesign.com/jagboot) [need an updated version], replacing it is just drag and drop.

About the Author:

Tom Owad is a Macintosh consultant in York, Pa., and editor of Applefritter (applefritter.com). He is the author of Apple I Replica Creation (Syngress, 2005).

16 thoughts on “Flashback: Disappearing Apple

  1. Anonymous says:

    A bit extreme for a minor problem. A piece of heavy fabric, perhaps rebranded with your own performing logo or some interesting pattern, won’t do?

    Or just a piece of black cloth tape?

    1. Comrade Rutherford says:

      Black cloth tape will not last more than a year, the glue will either go sticky, or crusty depending on which type of tape you use.

      Back in 2000 I had the ‘Pismo’ (black cased G4 500MHz) which was easy to crack the case on. I carefully placed a theatrical lighting gel (Lee 181) which was a deep fluorescent purple behind the Apple on the lid. I have the only black-light Apple logoed Pismo!

      Now my current machine has the three year AppleCare plan, so I don’t dare mod it lest I void the warranty. But Feb 2010 that runs out and I have the take-apart manual for it, so I’ll be putting a slip of black-light gel in there asap!

  2. zof says:

    silly me, and I thought the only reason people paid extra money for apple hardware was because of the trendy logo…, kind of silly to pay extra money for a brand only to remove it, when you could have bought a off brand laptop and done the same thing, and yes you could have got OS X on it with just a little extra hassle(and maybe not legal).

    1. Anonymous says:

      I pay extra money to Apple solely so I don’t have to suffer from horrible Windows. My computer just works, without asking me every second if I really want it to do what I asked it to. I can’t stand my computer second guessing me all the time.

      Linux isn’t an option because I need video and DVD authoring software for my income, and I don’t have time to dick with my OS all the time.

      I don’t have time to be hassled by my computer, I have work to do: that’s why I buy Apple computers.

      1. Anonymous says:

        dude no offense, but nobody cares…

      2. Anonymous says:

        “I can’t stand my computer second guessing me all the time.” here, we clearly see you’re kidding, because OSX is worst than Vista’s UAC.

  3. Keith says:

    “My mill is a Homier Mini-Mill”

    Homier? Is that a brand?

    I wonder if he ditched it too?

    1. Zach says:

      He was working on commission for someone *else* who was ditching brands.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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