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Posted by james on Dec. 3, 2007
Andrew's mom's laptop had failed, the screen went dark. It would turn on and you could hear the HD going, but the screen itself seemed blank. I say "seemed", because it was actually displaying a very faint image. If you shine a bright light on the screen, you can see the windows start menu. This happens when the backlight is not working but the LCD itself still is. The LCD is like the push-pins on a lite-brite, and the backlight is like the lightbulb behind it. Without the backlight, you can't see the image clearly, but it's still there.
I guessed it was the backlight inverter, since inverter failure is much more common than backlight bulb failure. On faith (since I didn't know for sure what was wrong), I bought a second-hand inverter off ebay (love ebay!) that fits this among other dell models. Once I got it in, I opened up the laptop and tested it with both the old and replacement inverters. Old inverter: dark image. Replacement: good as new!
Price to fix the inverter: $23.99. Not bad, considering that the laptop is fairly new (though refurbished, hence no warranty) and still worth using. So now Andrew's mom has her laptop again.
Andrew also has his laptop that's broken... we'll see what ends up being wrong.
Posted by james on Dec. 3, 2007
Melissa's laptop broke recently, it wouldn't charge at all. With power problems, it's usually the power adapter wire failing (due to metal fatigue), or the power connector on the laptop failing, or the battery causing trouble. She said that the same thing happened with a friend's power adapter, so I guessed it was #2 the power connector on the laptop.
So in I go to open it up, and after a whole lot of disassembling and unscrewing (the power connector was under the motherboard... why??) I found it. The screw holding the power connector in place had loosened, and the slight wiggling had caused one of the wires to break connection, and then the laptop couldn't charge. I simply soldered the wire back on, taped it up, screwed it back in tight, and everything worked.
It's funny; screws seem like such inconsequential little items, but they do cause a lot of problems when they're missing or loose. The IBM service repair handbook actually says that their field techs are not to reuse any screws since they are specially nylon-coated, and only good for one insertion. The nylon coating acts as a sort of soft thread-locker, preventing the screws from coming loose. After they're removed, they must be replaced with new coated screws.
Of course, I don't have spares so I reused the existing ones. But it is interesting that the manual states that loose screws are the cause of much failure and service problems. For want of a nail...
Posted by james on Nov. 9, 2007
Every once in a while I get into a phase where I want to find a better X. Sometimes it's a mouse, or a cell phone. Right now, it's a better keyboard. I've been typing on a cheapo $15 Microsoft keyboard, which has medium-profile membrane switch keys but a better feel than most, and it's ok for now. But I definitely need something better, especially now that I'm starting to do more actual typing.
The tactile key feel is the most important thing, so I've been looking at scissor-switch keyboards recently. Those are the keys that are on laptops; they're very short, don't have much travel, are relatively soft to press but have a very definite feel. They're more durable than normal keyboards and are hit or miss with personal preference; some people like them, others don't. I do like some of them, and I'd prefer them over the mushy keys they throw on most desktop keyboards... even the nicer ones.
I have a Razer Diamondback mouse that I love, it's one of the best I've used. It's very smooth and has immediate tracking on the screen, doesn't give me that millisecond-delay feeling I get with some other mice. It's also a great flat shape, and has really big easy press keys and a good scroll wheel. It also has extra programmable side-keys, but they're small and hard to press, so they're useless to me. Thankfully I do mouse gestures and so the lack of usable extra keys doesn't matter anyway. Razer also has a couple of keyboards out that have gotten pretty good reviews. They're "gaming" keyboards, but not in the Logitech way of "Throw lots of extra keys on and an LCD display". Just a little backlighting, a simple layout, good key feel, etc. However, the backlighting is not for every key and the layout is non-standard. I really they would burn every non-standard keyboard, it really is my second biggest peeve (after mushy keys).
But Razer has announced they're latest keyboard, the <a href="http://www.razerzone.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2_21&products_id=76">Lycosa</a>. This I really think might work for me. First off, sometimes you just look at a product and from first glance you irrationally just want it. That's true with this one; it just looks great. A bit angular with the spider-fang palm rest, but I don't mind that. It's backlit, which is actually a great thing when computing in the dark (and really, when is a programmer really not in the dark? Give us a dark cave, good music, some pop...). As far as I can tell, it's got low-profile scissor-switch laptop-style keys (could be awesome) and most of all.... a *standard* key layout! I can't say how many times I've found a keyboard in my research that I would love to have, if only for the incredibly awful non-standard layout. Thank goodness that Razer has seen the light in this regard.
It was announced last month, and is slated to be released this month (November). As none of the retailers in my area even carried the first Razer keyboard, I can't imagine any will carry this one, so I pre-ordered it online. This is the first time I've pre-ordered anything, especially something without any real reviews and without seeing one. I can always return it, but this really is my best shot at keyboard nirvana. I'm setting myself up to be severely disappointed and disillusioned, I know, but I can't help it. I've tried this "holy grail keyboard" hunt before with lame results, and it's time for round 2 (or really, 3 or 4).
The worst part? Amazon estimates the ship date as January 1. I really do like Amazon and I'd hate to go with someone else less reputable, but once it gets released I really think I'll be scouring for anyone that offers it online. Now I know how beanie-baby and Harry Potter fans feel. Except it's a cool keyboard this time, not some lame book or toy. This is way* less dorky. Yeah...
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