My trip to Las Vegas & the Grand Canyon!

Hello! I usually do technological writings, as any of my readers well know. But today, I would like to present to you all my thoughts and photos of my trip experiences from March 14th to 18th, of touring Las Vegas and its fancy, fun and extensive hotels, as well as checking out the Grand Canyon! I’ve had a wonderful time here, and I’ve got a website, so why not share it here?

Background

My best friend and his family go to Las Vegas every couple of years or so. He offered to me the idea of going with him. How exciting! I decided to go along, and this is all about my experience during the trip.

The Flight

I haven’t actually been on a flight before this trip. Oh, what a treat I was in for! Some days before, I was kinda anxious about the whole process. I took the time to study about it, and it helped me understand a lot better. It all wound up not being of any issue for me. Just a lot of red tape, waiting, and sitting.

After boarding the plane, it was soon time for takeoff. First the plane taxied over to the spot it needed to go, and that already felt quite interesting – it basically felt like being in a tremendous winged bus going 40 MPH.

But that was nothing compared to what I was about to feel. Now it’s takeoff time! When it began to take off, it was so intense!! It was so fast, that I felt like I was leaving the reality I once knew, transcending into something entirely different! Watching out the window, the ordinary world seemed to flatten, like as if being turned from reality to merely an illustration. It became less and less recognizable, until it disappeared entirely. It was dizzying, and my ears felt muffled! But that was an absolutely amazing experience in and of itself.

We’re now above the clouds. From here, it looks like we’re sailing in the air, above a vast space of cotton, going as far as the eye can see. The textures of the clouds sometimes looked like anything from a bunch of cotton balls, a giant woolly blanket, clumps of fluffy white dunes, waves like an ocean, and even like that of a large marble countertop. And now the pace and altitude seems to have become consistent, and I don’t feel so dizzy now.

Now things feel quite tranquil. Up here, there’s nothing here to see but the vast, open space of clouds, the blues of the sky, and the reds of the sunrise. Heard is the loud, thundering sound of air rushing past us at speeds inconceivable – at least by me, I have no idea! Otherwise, there’s a quiet sound of some people chattering about things, but it’s barely heard over the loud yet somehow calming sound of rushing air. It’s an environment somehow both wakeful, yet peaceful.

It feels like a nice time to nap. Yet, despite the fact I’m running on 4 hours of sleep, I actually feel pretty awake! I’m happy to just sit down and relax during this ride seemingly inter-dimensional.

After all, I’m too fascinated with all the sights outside my window! Everything looks so flattened, as if squished flat by a heavy object like you see in a cartoon. Even the mountains I see still look quite flat – they have the appearance of veins running thru the body of Earth. Only looking to the very horizon does anything start to appear to have elevation. Even the clouds almost look as if they were fused with the land below!

The plane is now preparing to land! We’re getting closer and closer to land. The two-dimensional flat shapes appear to grow back up into a 3D form, and the depth of the land and buildings begins to make itself apparent once more. Cars no longer look like little moving ants, and now I’m sure anyone nearby can hear and see our plane loud and clear!

The Hotel

After getting up early in the morning with four hours of sleep, followed by a day full of taking in so much sight from out the airplane window, and then settling down in the hotel room. We’re here at last! I’m very tired. What an experience it’s already been!

I thought the room looked pretty nice, so why not show some pictures?

Street views

But this is just the beginning, we’re just getting settled in! We’ve still gotta explore around, and soon we’ll be going to the Grand Canyon tour!

Grand Canyon Tour – Hoover Dam

It’s tour time! My friend and I barely managed to get there on time, since we were so sleepy. But we did it! We ran for it! That sure woke us up. The bus left at 6:30 AM. There’s both paid-for breakfast and lunch, which is pretty sweet!

First stop – Hoover Dam! We’ll be going up and checking out the view of the dam.

It’s a stunning view! It’s so deep, and really something you’ve gotta be there to feel. I’m not sure how high in the air we are, but it’s really high, and the low part after the dam is VERY far below. Maybe 1000 feet or so – maybe more! What a sight to behold!!

Grand Canyon Tour – Eagle Point

There’s quite a bit of a drive from the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon. I’d say it took about two to three hours, and the space was mainly a whole lot of desert land with mountains in the background. Sometimes the elevation would come close, but for the most part it was a whole lot of bushes, and the quite unique-looking plants known as Joshua trees.

Every now and again, you’d see some old houses – some clearly abandoned and falling apart, others seemed to be at least somewhat cared for. Many fenced areas with old cars, some in great shape, but others just rusted-out frames. Soon, I learned that the name of this area was Dolan Springs, AZ.

Occasionally I’d even see a person actively doing stuff, but it was pretty rare and mostly I saw absolutely nobody, leaving me to wonder whether many of these houses or buildings even had occupants. I even saw remains of a sizeable building that must have burnt down – left was only its warped, rusted metal skeleton, and an equally rusty air handler unit. Curiously, right smack next to it was a small shed that served as a stark contrast of being in great condition! How odd!

After this long, tiresome time of riding thru a bit of a ‘ghost settlement’ I’ll call it, we arrived to the Grand Canyon itself!

It’s so so beautiful to behold! I’m absolutely mesmerized looking at it. Hoover Dam was already impressive, but this is absolutely mind-blowing. You can look at it for anywhere from a couple minutes, several, or study it for over an hour – still, you can’t wrap your head around it. It’s simply an amazing sight to see! I couldn’t get enough of it. Totally worth the wait, hands-down!

Neither words, nor even the thousands of words’ value out of many pictures, can possibly sum it up. It’s absolutely colossal, and yet since you’re up so high, you can see pretty much everything from top to bottom! You can see for miles and miles! From edge to edge, it’s 15 miles across, and yet you see everything so clearly. Yet you walk around, and your perception of the other side doesn’t even budge, because it’s that far!

Much like looking out an airplane window, it almost seems like as if it’s flat. But now you’re looking at absolutely everything, and not just thru a little port window that’s just about big enough to look thru! All in all, it’s truly an amazing experience to behold – and really only something that your presence of being there can truly deliver.

Next stop – Guano Point! We’ll get to see another beautiful view of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Tour – Guano Point

A lot of great viewpoints were had at Guano Point as well!

Such gorgeous views!! Once again, I simply couldn’t stop admiring it. Such amazing sights!

After a few hours of riding in the bus, time had slipped into the evening hours, and we were arriving back at Planet Hollywood hotel at last. My friend and I were very exhausted after all that, between traversing the rough terrain, taking in the amazing sights, and hours of sitting in the bus. It was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad we went!

Exploring the Hotels

Although the Grand Canyon was amazing, that wasn’t all we did! We took a lot of time just to explore, and I took a lot of pictures there too. So many beautiful sights!

Paris Casino

A pretty fairy tale-looking area

The Venetian

Omega Mart

Since my friend was really interested, we also went to Omega Mart, which was incredibly strange. Basically, it’s a supermarket acid trip! I was quite off-put by it first, but over time I warmed up to it. There were some pretty funny moments we had over there!

Apart from that, we went and tried out various restaurants, which were all really good! And otherwise? It was all about going all around to see what there was, and taking in the sights. A lot of walking, even a lot of running – we were very active! And it was a blast.

I’m going to miss this trip so much! I learned a whole lot during the trip. Normally I’m rather shy and reserved, but I found that I really enjoyed socializing with people, and I felt a lot more like I was actually part of the world around me. It was a very liberating feeling! I sure hope to do this again one day.

Why eBay Totally SUCKS!

We all know eBay. They’ve been around since 1995, and they’re one of the biggest commerce sites on the whole Internet – if not the biggest.

Well, the fact that they’ve been around for so long really shows, as their infrastructure is incredibly dated, janky, and really lackluster in comparison to their competition. Not only that, but because they’re inevitably having to make some changes to try and look like they’re competing, you have new stupid things being introduced that don’t even make sense, adding complication on top of complication!

To start, their listing process is awkward and messy, and doing sales on there can really get you screwed over unless you watch the hell out, and play your cards just right. And while most of the frustration is on the seller’s part, there’s also annoying issues for buyers, as well.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Product Matching & Reviews

Initially, eBay didn’t have any sort of product review system. Instead, everything was solely based on seller reputation, where buyers & sellers exchange a feedback rating based on their experience with the transaction. Ratings are positive, neutral, and negative.

Over time though, the lack of any kind of product rating system was really beginning to show as a sore spot for eBay, as pretty much any website of an online merchant already had that implemented. Even in 2012, you couldn’t see what others’ opinions on a product were on eBay. So, of course, they had to add that.

However, eBay’s infrastructure was never meant for this to begin with. eBay’s infrastructure has always been on a per-listing basis since their founding. For this, a product matching system was implemented. Users are asked when listing an item to match it against others’ listings, prior to creating the listing. This allows whatever reviews paired to that to show up on that listing.

But it has its own problems! For one, each product match has its own completely-filled-out description attached to it. What happens is that with any item that can have variations will all get the same info applied to them! Not only that, but they put that information all over your listing, whether it’s accurate or not! What kind of ‘matching’ system is that!?

Plus, since everything is user-generated, you can easily wind up with the same or similar item having a zillion different matches, so user reviews are chopped up into little bits and spread all over the place, greatly reducing its practicality and value.

None of this is helpful! It’s just a mess.

There are a few different ways this could be dealt with:

  • Product matches are made into minimal templates managed by eBay admins (kind of like Amazon)
  • Keep it user-generated like it is, but remove the useless pre-filled information
  • Screw the damn product matching as a whole! eBay isn’t Amazon – most users are stupid and don’t care to list things elegantly, so stop pretending like they will. Just make it brain-dead minimalist.

While option 1 sounds nice on paper, it poses extra difficulty for the monkeys at the support desk. Plus, Amazon is known for their own problems and questionable practices, not unlike eBay itself. So, it’s not really a solution.

Option 2 is in that sweet spot where it takes the least effort yet makes the site that much more practical, because you don’t get sellers having to literally work around the platform out of necessity, by saying “eBay’s info is incorrect, this is actually <whatever detail>.” What a ridiculous design!!

Option 3 would be like YouTube bringing back the star ratings. People would love it, but it’s never going to happen. (If anyone even remembers that anymore.)

Sales & Shipment Fees

eBay has the usual fees, but sometimes they throw in a ‘bonus.’ These typically are:

  • Selling fee – or ‘final value fee’ – about 17% of the sale taken from you.
  • Shipping fee – varies wildly!

But sometimes, I’ve also seen:

  • An ‘electronics recycling fee’ – what?
  • An extra fee if you’ve been having a lot of recent returns – really???

As far as I know, a lot of sites usually take a 10% cut from you. Specifically, I know that to be the case with Mercari & Facebook Marketplace. eBay is greedy and likes to take a bit more. But also, their shipping is weird. The price varies a LOT.

Like, a LOT! What the hell would make it go to $142.31 with all package characteristics being the same?? This doesn’t have to do with just UPS, by the way – USPS and FedEx are the same. And why is eBay even telling me the original price? Also, why can I choose flat rate shipping!? Especially considering the shipping cost can fluctuate so much!

Now, look – I get that shipping prices themselves vary. I’ve done well more than enough shipping to know that. But you see, in comparison to their aforementioned competitors – which both offer consistent shipping rates – this is incredibly cumbersome and unnecessary. As far as I am aware, those sites only vary the charge per weight & size, not destination. That’s been my experience, anyway. This is just one reason eBay sorely needs to catch up with their competition. They only don’t because they have so much momentum from being such a big site for almost 30 years.

There’s even a stupid option buried in the messy settings about whether you want to charge the buyer the original price, or the eBay label price. Why can I choose that? And why is the default the original price!?

Know what makes all this even worse? If you choose free shipping, you won’t even have a chance to know what the hell you’re going to be hit with until it’s too late! So if you have a buyer purchase your item in some location where it’s expensive, well it sucks to be you because you’re gonna have to pay a LOT of money in shipping. Unless you cancel the order, which then affects your rating.

Cluttery Interface

Good luck trying to change any settings on eBay. Or even knowing which ones exist, for that matter! There’s SO many options that most people really don’t need. One of the worst – besides trying to change just about any setting, that is – would be the shipping rate calculator.

What in the hell of design is this?? It’s actually pretty hidden at this point, I guess because they know it’s embarrassing. But you’ve got these “Letter,” “Large Letter,” “Package,” “Large Package” options selected, with no explanation about what is what. And then below that, it tells you what you selected, like as if you don’t already see that! Why can I set a handling fee? Is it so I can be compensated for handling eBay’s design??

If they have this whole shipping calculator tool, why can’t they actually show you how much you’re gonna need to pay up before you accept an offer from a buyer based on their location?? You give the seller this tool if they’re willing to jump thru enough link hoops, yet you can’t even show that value at the right point in time that they need it? What is wrong with this website!?

Payment is optional!

Yeah, you read that right. On eBay – for whatever reason – the default option isn’t to require payment in order for an order to be created for your item. Ergo, payment isn’t actually required.

So, unless you remember to check this stupid setting, people can actually place an order for your item without paying, and then since the buyer has up to three days to pay, you’re blocked out on any legitimate buyers for that long!

WHY!? Why isn’t it default to just always require payment?? Do you think I want to sell my item to some idiot who doesn’t pay?? There’s already enough morons trying to get your item for half price when you’re making nothing to begin with! What the hell is the point of that!? What kind of idiots even made this website?? Idiots rich from momentum, that’s what!

In contrast, Mercari – not to mention any other e-commerce site – requires you to complete a full checkout and payment process before an item can be considered yours. Specifically in the case of Mercari, the funds are held until the buyer approves the item, for which they have three days to do so. Should the buyer go quiet, after that timeout, the transaction is completed and the seller collects the payout.

Returns are HELL!

Once, I had someone purchase a laptop motherboard from me. When the buyer received it, I got a return saying “it didn’t work for me.” I know it worked, but I went ahead with it and let them send it back.

That jackass sent me a different item than I expected, a vastly different one at that. Seller protection has me covered, right? Well, think again! I reached out to the monkeys at eBay’s support team, showing them pictures of exactly what happened, and they just told me to go kick rocks! They said they didn’t have any evidence to believe me. What the hell!?

I tried to argue with them for a while, even calling them via phone. They offered me the insult of a measly $10 compensation for their blatant lack of holding up to their own word. I was too mentally flattened at this point to care about fighting with them anymore over this stupid motherboard, so I sucked it up and accepted their pathetic offer, deciding to simply move on.

I’ve luckily never had anyone do me that dirty again, but that guy sucks, and so does eBay for not even caring to ‘protect’ their sellers. They don’t care about sellers, because they say they are always the thieves, and that the buyer is always innocent. Go take your business to Mercari instead, who will actually look at your case. Or literally anywhere else than this cesspool that is eBay. The more I work with them, the more disgusted I am, yet they’re a necessary evil to some degree, because everybody looks there.

Feedback System

As mentioned, eBay has a feedback system where the buyer and seller have the option of leaving each other positive, neutral, or negative feedback. But this is an option, so you get a lot of people who just don’t care to leave anything.

In contrast, Mercari actually requires both the buyer and the seller to exchange a rating of 1-5 stars, before the transaction is deemed finalized, and only then are the funds released. Should the buyer be dissatisfied, they have the option to open a return case with Mercari. At that point, the admin team reviews the case and decides appropriately what should happen.

You know what else Mercari has? Actual helpful support. eBay’s support is an absolute laughing stock of a bad excuse of anything that could possibly be labeled a ‘support’ system. You’re better off supporting yourself with positive affirmations through the hell & high water that eBay puts you thru, than you are trying to work with them!

No Search Wildcards

Many items and part numbers can have a numbering scheme that really necessitate a wildcard system. For instance, HP Pavilion N3000 series laptops; one model is N3210, another N3310, another N3450. There’s no way you can make a search of all of them, other than using a code like (N3210,N3250,N3310,N69420), ad nauseam.

Evidently, this used to be possible, but it was removed! According to that blog post I linked, they removed it due to it causing extra server load. Just kinda sucks though. It’s not like most sites implement this anyway, but at least that would’ve been a great thing for eBay to still have. Especially seeing as eBay’s the biggest e-commerce site, therefore the most likely to see niches of that type.

AI-generated descriptions!?

Here’s the newest feature for me to criticize. As said, users are stupid and cannot be bothered to type up good listings. eBay says, why not just let AI do their homework for them? That can’t possibly be inaccurate, can it? Tell me it’s not a scheme for eBay to hit more sellers with “too many ‘not as described’ returns” fees! Or even if not that, it’s still stupid!

Look at all that! This is just a bunch of fluff padding, there is next to nothing useful here to be seen. This is literally like asking someone to make an Increasingly Verbose meme post out of a damn listing title! If you can’t be bothered to describe what you’re selling by typing just a little bit about it, I don’t even want to waste my bandwidth or time seeing your listing online, let alone do business with you! And there’s no reason anyone else should, either!

Closing

All of that said, it’s very clear that eBay’s only functioning on momentum, and that’s why they can do dumb things and not have to care about it. But we as customers of services can do our part in using the best tool for the job.

Alternatives like Mercari and Facebook Marketplace are becoming bigger and bigger, while eBay is just a perpetuation of old problems mixed in with new frustrations. If you’re going to use eBay, it’s important that you:

  • Avoid choosing free shipping on your listings – accept offers instead
  • Be careful when listing items that the automated algorithms don’t put incorrect information in your listings!
  • Record serial numbers of your items prior to shipping them off, and take good pictures as well.
  • Don’t use AI-generated descriptions – instead, know what you’re selling. Do I even have to say that??
  • List your items on more platforms than just eBay. Don’t keep doing deals with the big giant.

And of course – look before you click! And otherwise, you’ve just gotta remember that taking losses sometimes is a normal part of business. Just, it shouldn’t be because of a crappy platform!

Dell Dimension 4300 Complete Setup

I got a complete Dell Dimension 4300 computer setup! It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these project log articles, I thought now that I got this, it’d be the perfect time to get back into it!

It looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t working perfectly. It can’t boot up, and it looks like there’s something up with that hard drive.

Sure enough, we have a hard drive failure error. That’s really no surprise on such an old system. Good thing I have a big bin of hard drives!

Inspection & Teardown

When I opened the computer though, I immediately noticed something else was wrong. Can you tell what it is?

Here’s a closer view. See it now? It’s not just the dust, there’s another problem. It’s sitting right above the CPU auxiliary power connector! We’ve got a bad capacitor!

That too, is also not surprising on such an old system as this one. But it means that there’s definitely work ahead of us.

In order to get a good look at the cap, it’s best that the motherboard is removed from the system. So I’ll go ahead and take the board out. In doing so, let’s check out the cards it has!

These systems use a convenient green latching lever that holds in the cards. On my system though, the green plastic has broken somewhat and it no longer has an extended piece to hold as a hinge onto the metal frame. I’ll come back to this later with a simple fix.

The video card is an ATi Rage 128 Pro 16MB SDR, DP/N# 7K113.

The 10/100 Ethernet card uses a Davicom 9102A chip. I’ve hardly seen Davicom NICs at all, but the last one I had was in a cheapie USB 10Mbit NIC, colored in translucent blue using the DM9601 chip. Anyone remember those? That had to have been one of the earlier (and most crappy) USB Ethernet solutions! Given PCI is of course the more mature interface for Ethernet cards (second only to ISA), I’d expect this card should be perfectly okay.

Lastly, here’s the modem card! Not so interesting, other than the fact that it has a built-in speaker I suppose. Not as cool as some of the ISA ones I have!

And here’s 128MB of SDRAM!

This system utilizes a motherboard tray mount, which is quite convenient. The green clip at the right-hand side is lifted, then the board is pulled in that direction. And as easily as that, the board is free!

One screw fastens it to the tray. Remove it, and the motherboard is now ready to be recapped! Now let’s get a really good look at that capacitor!

There it is! A bloated Nichicon HM capacitor of 1800uF capacitance, rated for 16 volts. I checked my part bins and I have a suitable replacement! And since the others are most definitely seeing wear as well, I will replace those other two to the left. I plan on replacing more later, particularly the Nichicon HMs as pre-2005 ones (like those on my 2001 board) have a manufacturing defect, which I learned long ago thanks to Badcaps.net. But for now, I simply want to get the most obvious problem out of the way and do a little easy extra too.

Never forget to remove the CMOS battery! Failure to do so could result in the BIOS getting corrupted while tinkering with the capacitors.

Here are my replacement capacitors!

And here they are, now installed! You might notice that instead of two Nichicon HMs and one Panasonic FM, it’s now one Nichicon and two Panasonics. This is because I realized after the above shot that the other Nichicon HM was actually a 1200uF, rather than an 1800uF. So I used a 1000uF Panasonic FM (what I had on hand) to substitute, which is fine because of the 20% tolerance rule. I’ve never once had a problem doing this and I’ve recapped many boards since 2016.

(Later note: I would also like to note that the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that I actually put those capacitors in backwards! Dell actually backwards-masks these boards, and uses the white arrow to indicate positive rather than negative, which is the total opposite of what the capacitor itself does as well as most motherboards. The system did not turn on at all until I corrected this.)

That is now done! While we’re at it, why not replace that ancient thermal paste?

It turns out that Dell is using some sort of thermal pad business here. Well I don’t want that, I want fresh paste! This pad was easily removed with a razor blade. It reveals the S-spec as SL59V, which is in fact the slowest Pentium 4 on Socket 478. The only slower ones are those on the short-lived Socket 423! I’ve very rarely ever seen a Socket 423 board, they are incredibly elusive. This is with good reason, since that socket was canned so quickly after Intel released it, much to the misfortune of the early P4 adopters at that time.

I decided to put some nice Arctic MX-5 on there. I have many different pastes, but I thought since P4s are practically little toaster ovens in a CPU socket (especially Prescott!) And so, the heatsink is placed back on, and the board is installed back into the case.

With this expansion card retention lever, I chose to install a bent-up paperclip to go thru the hole and hold it in. Works as good as new now!

BUT – there’s something else really important that must be checked before the system can be considered good. When capacitors on the motherboard fail, it’s very common for it to be caused by a bad power supply. I’m going to check that now!

Here is the power supply. It’s a 250-watt unit designed by Hipro, model HP-P2507F3P, with Dell’s brand name slapped on it and given the DP/N of 1E115.

And would you look at that – the culprit is found!

At this point, I looked thru my spares, and the unfortunate thing I found is that none of the other ones I have will fit. Dell did something annoying with this model, and it’s in the way the case’s frame is designed. The metal doesn’t leave a nice, big opening for the power supply like in most computer cases. No – this one actually only leaves a proper opening for the AC socket and passive PFC switch! So if you have a power supply with a mains switch in the back, you can’t use it! Alas, all of my spare power supplies have that switch, so I don’t have a fitting replacement.

For the time being, I chose to borrow one from my other Dell Dimension, which unfortunately has shorter wiring than is desired in the case of this crazy computer’s design. As in, literally the very case itself!

Here’s how that looks! Please excuse the dust – cleaning will happen soon. I can’t open the case very far at all due to the short wiring, so this is quite impractical. I’m going to need to either repair or replace the power supply, and in either case I must order it online.

You will also see I’ve installed a replacement hard drive under the original. I’m using a Western Digital WD400BB, which I’ve already thoroughly tested & wiped during an earlier mass testing session. The old drive is an IBM IC35L020AVER07-0, a 20GB drive.

Installing Windows XP

Now let’s get down to the software business! The computer powers on happily and boots from the Windows XP CD. The DVD drive it has actually doesn’t seem to read the disc properly, so I have another temporary one dangling for the time being. Once the operating system is installed, I’ll try to use a laser lens cleaning disc in the original drive, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll just junk it and make the temporary replacement into a permanent one.

My handy-dandy Windows XP installation CD is one that I customized with Nlite. Thanks to that fantastic tool and my customization efforts with it, the only thing I have to tell Setup to do is format the hard drive. Once that is done, everything else takes care of itself! So convenient! Anyone who’s ever installed XP can tell you that it asks a whole bunch of questions at random times during setup, so you can’t leave it unattended for long. This takes care of that completely!

If I had to guess, since this computer originally would have come with Windows Me judging by the key sticker it has, Windows XP probably has most of the drivers built-in, if not all. But that said, it is now late at night, so I’m going to come back to this tomorrow and hopefully be greeted with a Windows XP desktop!

Yay, it works! Sure enough, just like I speculated, XP recognizes all of the devices out of the box – no driver installation needed. How convenient!

The original CD drive is unfortunately bust, even a lens cleaning disc couldn’t save it. So I promptly replaced with the drive I used to install XP. With that done, let’s get this thing cleaned out!

Cleanup

Using my trusty Metro Datavac 500-watt powered dust blower, I was able to remove a lot of the dust. Still, a fine dust layer was caked onto many of the components.

Using alcohol and a brush to clean the surfaces, everything looks much nicer now!

Behold the startup! There’s still one issue remaining though that I’d like to fix. It’s quiet, but in the above video, you can hear that the fan makes a low growl that slightly fluctuates as long as the PC is on. Clearly, the fan has seen better days. But I’ve heard much worse! Still, I like to help out any fan that sounds a little worn, so I’m going to add sewing machine oil to lubricate it. I’ve done this with many fans, and as long as the fan wasn’t already way too tired out, it does a great job! Even if it doesn’t wind up quieting the fan down any, it’ll still prolong its life.

Motherboard Recap (cont.)

To further prolong the life of the motherboard, I will replace all the Nichicon HM capacitors on it.

I have taken a look across the board (literally), and have confirmed the only two dubious Nichicons are those behind the CPU VRM circuitry. The rest are Rubycons, which have a good rep and have no known problems like the pre-2005 Nichicon HMs. Seeing as these reputable caps are not bloated and the computer has been working in my testing thus far, I will leave them alone as I see no reason to mess with them.

All of the necessary motherboard capacitor replacement is done! At this point, all the dodgy caps are gone. Curiously enough, I noticed that one of the slide clips in the motherboard for holding it to the metal tray has a couple of absent solder! None of the rest of them are like that. I wonder how many more Dell boards are out there with unsoldered components…?

Now, once the power supply capacitors come in, I will be installing those. That will complete the recap!

Power Supply Recap

I’m back again! Today is February 2nd, and I have received the capacitor order from Mouser Electronics!

As you can clearly see, not all of the caps are bad. But, I want to make sure to get rid of those low-quality capacitors from the capacitor plague era! I’m replacing all of the vented electrolytics, and will be leaving the teensy ventless ones alone. I choose to do this because those are generally more reliable. So, let’s get this done!

Everything was going quite smoothly for a while. That is, until I noticed that some of the capacitors I ordered were too big! Whoops! Specifically, it’s the 4700 uF and 3300 uF.

New cap on left, original on right.

The reason this happened is because I actually select capacitors via an AutoHotKey script that I wrote, which automatically pulls up a Mouser listing based on the specs I type in. However, I didn’t do any kind of checks for cap diameter! I’d best be doing that next time! If not adding an automatic size check functionality, it’s at least worth a quick look to see if it pulled up some huge nonstandard size before adding it to the cart.

Now, one huge cap isn’t necessarily an issue by itself. But a big problem happened when I tried to fit one of the 3300 uF capacitors in next to the big 4700 uF!

Well, the answer to “how,” is “you don’t.” It simply wouldn’t go in, because it was bumping up against the side of the other capacitor. One exceeded size spec is one thing, but fitting two oversized caps next to one another? No way! Even getting a normal size cap adjacent to an oversized one can take some care, but this really isn’t going to fly.

But I’m not about to place another order from Mouser if I don’t absolutely have to. I decided to turn to my scrap pile…

Bingo! In my scrap pile, I found an EVGA power supply with perfect replacements! They’re tall Teapo branded caps. And though “Teapo is cheapo” – as is said over at The BadCaps.net Forum – the capacitors themselves show a manufacturing date of 2020. That’s a whole heck of a lot newer than the rest of the components in this 2001 computer! The capacitor plague ended well over a decade ago, so I see this as perfectly safe.

Huzzah! All of the capacitors are now installed! The green guys are the 2020 Teapos, and the brown are of course the oversized Nippon Chemi-Cons that I ordered from Mouser. I was short on one Teapo, which is totally fine since at least their small size still allowed me to use one of the giant NCCs. And so, the repair is complete! YAY!

I looked everything over, made sure the solder joints were good and what not (sorry, I forgot to get a picture of that), and also double-checked the polarity of each capacitor to make sure I didn’t inadvertently build a bomb! (I’ve made that mistake before!) Following this, I went ahead and plugged in my power supply tester to make the supply run, then plugged the power cord in…

It works! And no pops, booms or sparks. Just good power! Now that it has been recapped, there need be no worries of bad caps sending terrible unfiltered power to the motherboard, and basically undoing my repairs to it.

So now, all I’ve gotta do is just put that power supply in there, and it’s ready to rock and roll! When time allows, I’m going to be getting some pictures of it running some games and post them here. But for now, at least the capacitor replacement is done!

The Finale

Well, I’ve been distracted for awhile – it’s now May. But the great news is, I’m done! I put it thru a lot of testing with Prime95, and it’s stable as a rock. I tested it for two weeks straight!

I’m going to be listing this for sale online. After all, I personally don’t particularly have a use case for it, as I’ve already got plenty of other stuff. But I wanted to be sure to document it along the way!

The HP Laptops

Way back in 2006, I bought a brand new HP Pavilion dv8000 laptop. It was a gorgeous computer running Windows XP Media Center Edition, with a large 17″ screen, an AMD Turion processor, integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200M graphics, probably 1GB of RAM and 80 GB for a hard drive if I had to guess. Which I do, because I was too young to know the difference. It worked great! I don’t remember having any issues with it.

Well, not until I did, that is. At one point, maybe a year or less in my ownership, I spilled a little bit on the keyboard! I tried to clean it out, but in the midst of pulling keys off, I didn’t know how to get it back on. Again, I was too young, so what wound up happening at that time was sending it to HP for them to look at.

The dv9000 – A New Replacement!

They replied saying that they did not have that part anymore for the system, so they’d give me a new HP Pavilion dv9000! I accepted this upgrade. I was now running Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit on an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200, a dedicated Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics chip, 2GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive.

Unfortunately, the first problem with this unit was that it always ran kinda slow. No doubt this was due to Windows Vista’s inefficiency in comparison to Windows XP, which often performs a fair bit better on even an early Vista-era system. It definitely ran better when I installed Linux on it, so I kinda alternated between Vista and whatever Linux distribution however I saw fit.

Everything was fine for a good two years or so… until my unit fell victim to the first common HP dv9000 failure – the hinges! One hinge seized & the casing busted open. Following this, I wound up performing my first-ever laptop repair, and replaced the lid.

Image (clearly) from InsideMyLaptop.com – I don’t have my own picture.

After this, everything was smooth once more with the laptop.

Well, at least for a while – in March of 2010, I was using the laptop while running OpenSUSE Linux on KDE 4. I was in the Firefox web browser, doing research related to the recent failure of my Acer Aspire M5630, when all of a sudden, all the text started turning garbled! I saw enough of this happening in the browser that I then closed it, opened the file explorer app, and was met with more garbled text. Confused, I rebooted the system.

The odd-looking ‘gray screen of death’ failure. (Sorry about the fingerprints – the picture’s 13 years old and I can’t retake it.)

I was then met with the screen pictured above. Clearly, the GPU failed. What a shame! Oh, and the hard drive decided to fail right after that, too. Like as if a dead graphics chip wasn’t enough.

I did some searching around, and I found some people talking about ‘the towel trick,’ which was a (terrible) procedure of wrapping the device inside of a towel and letting it run for about an hour, then turning it off, letting it cool, and then you are met with a working device.

Well, I decided I’d try it. Much to my amazement, I was greeted with the HP screen!! I was VERY excited! But…as with anything that is only a workaround and not a solution to address the real problem at play, it didn’t last. After a few days, I got a nvlddmkm.sys BSOD, followed by the above gray screen again at bootup.

The Repair

The system sat for three long years being unused. I’d often think of the laptop – the memories of using it, what I liked about it, how it ran and even how it sounded in use. (Old computers have such character to them!) It was probably the highest-end laptop I had ever owned at this time.

Eventually, a need came up for a secondary laptop. So, I decided it was time to stop making jokes about the good ol’ dv9000, and finally seek repair for it. I turned to Brickfence of eBay, who does BGA reballing service.

I know that the system’s board had to go back three or more times between 2013 and 2015, and is now on its third GeForce GPU chip. But since then, it’s never had a problem! I’m using it to type this article, all these years later.

Today! Isn’t he beautiful? <3

My Sonic Story

The coolest guy ever.

I’ve told this story a number of times to my friends over the years, but I never had actually written it down. I felt it was time to do that!

This is all about my history with my Sega game consoles and the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. It holds a lot of meaning for me – so significant, that my homepage even says it If you know me, there’s a 99.9% chance you already knew that to some degree – after all, it’s in my domain name!

My Entry into Sonic & Retro Gaming

Long ago, I was stumbling around YouTube, and I encountered some meme videos that mentioned of Sonic. I was curious, and it was from them that I was introduced to & found interest in Sonic the Hedgehog. It wasn’t long until I got to play the original Genesis titles online, and had a lot of fun with them! On PC, I got to play the original, Sonic 2, and 3(&K).

I’ve always taken a lot of interest in computer hardware, particularly older hardware – I played with XP-era systems while Windows 7 was current. (And in fact, I still do!) Considering I was now taking interest in games from two decades ago, now I was really curious to get my hands on a vintage game console! I was just a young teen saving up money at the time – but I really wanted one.

All about the Sega Nomad

My two Sega Nomad handheld game consoles.
My two Sega Nomads (taken in 2016).

In August of 2011, I managed to score my first game console – a Sega Nomad, for $60 at an eBay auction! It’s a nifty little handheld gaming device – a whole Sega Genesis console’s worth of hardware, control buttons, a small speaker and a small LCD, all crammed into a pretty snazzy-looking portable package. Although it’s chunky, it fits well in the hand, and it’s sure built solid!

There were two main problems with the console – first, the STN LCD was very blurry and low-quality. As any LCD of the type, which as far as I know was most any color LCD back in the nineties, it suffered from severe ghosting due to a slow response time. TFT panels existed by the mid-’90s, but clearly it was cost-prohibitive to put such a thing in an already-expensive console handheld launched at $180.

The other problem was the battery life – no huge surprise there. As anyone with one of these things will know, to run unplugged from a 9V DC power supply (same as Genesis model 2/3), you need an extra battery pack that slides & locks into the back of the device that holds six AA batteries! Whew! And this thing burned through them, too – in a couple hours, all six of your batteries were toast! I can’t imagine that to have been seen any better back in the day, with the higher costs of these electronics then.

Otherwise though, it’s a pretty nifty little device. Personally, I didn’t find the screen blur to ruin the experience for me – not even as an avid Sonic player – though it certainly isn’t great, especially if you’re used to today’s screens.

Now, the funny thing is that the Nomad has been found by Genesis enthusiasts to actually be the highest-quality version of the console! Many Sega Genesis revisions were made, and many more than just the models 1, 2, and 3. No, there were many revisions within those. They were cost-cutting measures, so generally the newer revisions weren’t as good in terms of video and/or audio quality. The model 3 is the worst one, and ideally the earliest-revision Model 1s are the best. The Nomad, however, was found to have the least of these issues.

All that aside, I had a lot of fun playing on the Nomad. What really wound up bugging the hell out of me was that apparently these things are quite prone to cracked solder joints in the DC jack! When this happens, if you wiggle the cord, the console will turn off. A terrible thing, especially in the case of the majority of the game library which did not feature game saves!

The issue begun getting really bad, and I wound up buying another second-hand Nomad for about the same price. It too developed this problem. Bummer!

Now, fortunately it wasn’t all completely useless to me, because besides somehow achieving the unnatural task of remaining still while playing a handheld console, I had gotten sixteen Enercell NiMH rechargeable AA batteries from my local RadioShack! They gave me a deal on getting all that stuff, and a speedy charger to go along with it. (I can’t remember what I paid.) I got about two hours of gameplay time, at which I then could progressively charge those up with the four-bay charger, while doing some more gaming with the other six readied ones!

Doing it this way, I had a lot of fun back then playing a few different titles, a couple of which were Outrun 2019 and Road Rash II, but most of all it was Sonic 3 & Knuckles!

(Retrospect: Around 2016, when I learned how to solder, I would come back and fix both consoles’ DC jacks. I also managed to source a third Nomad on the cheap in 2019!)

My Sega Genesis & Dreamcast

In the beginning of 2012, I bought another console second-hand – this time, I got the Genesis model 1.

It’s very pretty!

Finally, no more DC jack trouble! I played this Genesis I had a trash-picked Emerson EWF2006 19″ CRT TV that worked great and its image looked absolutely gorgeous – it was perfect. And to top it all off, I got two Sega MegaFire controllers, which featured a switch above each of the three buttons to either rapid-fire a button without pushing, rapid-fire only when pushing, and normal (non rapid-fire) functionality. I had a blast with it all!

The model 1 only had mono audio output via the AV cable, strangely enough. I wound up routing a 3.5mm audio cable out the front and into my TV, to get that sweet stereo sound.

The Sonic Adventure

My Sega Dreamcast game console.

By the time of mid-2012, I wound up getting a Dreamcast for just $40. I also got Re-Volt and Toy Commander, two unique and very fun little games on the system. Definitely recommended by me, if you’re looking for games to try! I was getting interested in trying the Sonic Adventure series out for more Sonic experience, seeing as I was already such a fan. Though, I just wasn’t so sure I wanted to take the chance of spending money on them, due to conflicting opinions of the games. Adventure was about $20, but Adventure 2 was a whopping $60!

Well, in August, I met someone who was also a Sonic fan, who took interest in my playing around with my Sega Nomad and told me all about how great the Adventure games are. He had played the Genesis Sonic titles too, but then got to see Sonic on a whole new level with Adventure 1 & 2!

Lo and behold, he wound up finding his own copy of the games, and wound up lending them to me. I got to play them, and man, oh man – although initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about the games, I was blown away! Especially with Adventure 2. That game blew my mind. By the time I played it to the story end, that was the most amazing, thrilling experience I had in a video game.

Looking back at my Sega Dreamcast's game save file for Sonic Adventure 2, showing a last modified date of 9/29/2012 at 8:14 PM.
A lot happened in that save file. A lot has happened since, too. But I sure haven’t forgotten the fun I had!

Still today, 10 years later, I remember that first experience of playing those games. I also still have the discs as he never had asked for them back. I haven’t heard from him in a long time – dude, if you’re out there reading this, thank you so much. These games really blew me away. They’ve made me a huge fan of Sonic, which already had a big impression on me – but this really made it all the more significant. Oh yeah, and let me know if you want your discs back. That’s important too.

My Connection with Sonic

A big part in this isn’t only the fact that I had fun playing around with the old game consoles, no – a lot of it is also in the fact that I identify a lot with Sonic.

The blue blur himself!

Specifically, I’m talking about the character – the speedy blue boy himself. I find him to be a great influence. He has a lot of great qualities; he’s energetic, confident, bold, brave and strong, but yet also kind, thoughtful and caring for his friends. Anyone can agree that’s a great list of qualities!

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that he won me over. I’m not even certain what it is, but that isn’t necessary to me because what I do know is very meaningful. I have a strong admiration for him, even if he’s a fictional character. He’s inspired me to become a much better person overall, and that means a lot!

I never talked about this for a number of years – much less posted online about it – but over time with talking to others, I’ve been able to find quite a bit of people who feel the same as me about him, and I think that’s a very wholesome thing! There’s plenty of videos on YouTube of peoples’ character analysis of Sonic, and many have such glowingly-positive things to say about him, just like I do.

It may well sound funny, but it really is real. Whatever it is, anything that brings you positivity and makes you a better person, is something certainly worth having in your life!

All in all, I’m so very thankful for the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and likewise that I’ve got my hands on some real fun pieces of gaming history!

Setup of a Motion Computing M1400 Tablet PC & Windows 7

In mid-2022, I managed to get a hold of a free Motion Computing M1400 tablet PC. It seems like it hadn’t been used since 2005, and judging by the hard drive’s statistics, it barely got any use overall!

The stock specs on my unit were: Intel Pentium M 733 1.1GHz, 256MB DDR RAM, 30GB 4200 RPM hard drive.

The hard drive wasn’t very happy though. When it would run, but especially after maybe a bit more than half of any bootup attempt, it would make a loud grinding noise! I thought it was the fan, but as it turns out, this tablet doesn’t even have a fan! I pulled the hard drive out, and it was completely silent. So I managed to make a disk image of the old, original XP install, and cloned it to a replacement drive. In my case, that was an IBM 40GB 4200 RPM drive. Although it booted up, sadly I was getting random BSODs.

Seemingly, a fresh install didn’t do this anymore, but it didn’t have any of the drivers either. So, I figured the XP install was bust. I then decided I wanted to make practical use of the tablet for practicing art. I’d need to put Windows 7 onto it though, to run my preferred app – FireAlpaca.

This proved to be quite complicated. But, I did manage to get it all working! An old article from 2011 covered this topic, but it didn’t have all the information I was hoping. He couldn’t figure out how to get the graphics driver working, and I almost couldn’t, either – key word ‘almost!’

What I had to do was install this Intel graphics driver known by its filename 855gm_vista_driver.zip, which is hard to find. But also, here’s the big gotcha – you have to disable the bootup animation in msconfig, or else you will get stuck in a BSOD loop! It isn’t going to work any other way. So I hear, this is because Windows 7 forces a specific screen mode that this particular display driver really doesn’t like. I have never once seen this behavior on any other video chip installation adventure I’ve had!

Just open up msconfig, and check off OS Boot Information After doing this, every bootup shows drivers loading up like safe mode, and – imagine this – doesn’t crash! Huzzah! Now I get all 1024×768 pixels of my screen. You’re not gonna get Windows Aero, but who expected that? I’m just glad it works at all!

Pen support works out of the box, but to make it better I used Wacom’s tablet driver version 5.2.4-6 (2/15/11), found on their site here (click ‘Older Versions’ under ‘Just looking for drivers?). Now I get pressure sensitivity, too! I tried Lenovo’s driver 7wge69ww, as well as HP’s SP51088 driver, but I found Wacom’s to be the best & most reliable. It works fantastic! I don’t think it could possibly be any better.

For all other devices, such as the fingerprint reader, I headed over to DriversCollection.com’s page for the device. This site and DriverGuide are my go-to sites – they have a large database full of even very old drivers – and as long as you’re paying attention, you don’t easily get duped by fake utilities, malware & other unwanted junk. Remember – the world’s best antivirus is being cautious of what you click!

Altogether, with the above tweaks & installing 2GB of RAM (probably overkill), it actually does quite a satisfactory job at being a drawing tablet! Yes – even with the 4200 RPM hard drive. I prefer it over my 2021 HP Spectre 13! Using Syncthing, I have it sync my FireAlpaca project files automatically to my main PC, which is very convenient.

Once an old system being recycled, now my gorgeous little art workstation!

Here’s to hoping that this article can help someone!

The Acer Aspire Horror Story (2010)

Way back in June 2008, I got a new Acer Aspire M5630 desktop. Its specs were:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • Acer EG31M Motherboard (made by ECS)
  • 2GB (2x1GB) DDR2 RAM
  • ATI Radeon HD 2400 Pro Graphics
  • WD Blue 500GB 7200RPM HDD (WD5000AAJS)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
My Acer Aspire M5630 PC.
This is it – my Acer! Taken on June 21st, 2009. I added a floppy drive.

It lasted me about a year and a half. It used to work great! I loved the system, I had plenty of enjoyment using it. But something really odd begun to happen at the 1.5-year mark – the beeper speaker would emit rapid beeps, followed by the processor’s cooling fan briefly speeding up.

Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep! vrrRROOOOOOooommmhhh…

What in the world? I had never once heard the system do this before. I had no idea what was happening. It was really loud and beginning to get me scared! (I was really young.) I just went about my business though, continuing to use the computer.

I had recently installed SpeedFan, which does – you guessed it – fan control. But, it wasn’t causing the fan speed to change. I’m pretty sure the temperatures weren’t going out of control.

I didn’t know what to do. I continued to use the computer. The noise would continue, sometimes the fan would spin for longer.

Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep! vrrRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooommmhhh…

If memory serves me right – this was right around January 5th, 2010. The noise continued to happen more frequently and for longer, and it was getting me quite worried. I decided to shut off the computer, and I went to bed.

I woke up, and went to go turn on the computer as usual. I’m met with this VERY loud noise of the fan spinning at maximum speed! (4500 RPM 92mm, quite loud)

vrrrrrRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

There was no display signal. The computer was dead.

I had no idea how this happened. But, now my main desktop was a doorstop.

Moving Onwards

Using my only other working computer, an HP Pavilion dv9000 (spoiler: it didn’t work for much longer), I tried to do some research on the issue. Some people would say the power supply could be bad, others the motherboard. Some even said the processor could be bad. I had no experience in this field, and I really didn’t know what to think.

At this time, the Q6600 was fetching a whopping $130 on eBay! But I didn’t know what was bad on my system. There really wasn’t any safe option for me.

So, I did the most surefire one – I built a new system entirely from scratch. I knew how to take apart and put together a desktop, but I had never done any part choosing. I really didn’t have much money to work with, either – I only had about $200 saved. One of my desktops used an AMD Sempron 3100+ processor – my good old Compaq Presario SR1010Z. I liked that system, and I felt I wanted to give AMD a try.

I managed to get together a working system, but only after messing up on having ordered an ATX motherboard, when my Acer used a Micro ATX case. I had to get a new case, too! And it was a total piece of junk. I would’ve been better off just running it outside of a case, at this point. But, the deed was done. I got the whole thing working, reusing my old hard drive and (barely, due to cable slack) power supply!

Its specs were:

  • AMD Athlon II X2 215 (~$50)
  • 1 GB DDR3-1066 RAM
  • MSI NF750-G55 Motherboard (~$80)
  • A literal piece of aluminum garbage for a case (~$50)

One look at that can tell you that this thing was weaker than my old system! As I mentioned, I didn’t exactly have a lot of money to work with, and I had no idea what parts were good or bad on the Acer system. But, I got a lot of enjoyment out of building myself a new PC, and it worked great!

My first PC build!
My first PC build! Taken on February 16th, 2009.

Over the next couple of years, I would swap a few things out – like getting a way better case, the Cooler Master CM690-II, and also a different motherboard, that being the Gigabyte GA-770T-USB3. Reason being, the MSI had some instability issue that I couldn’t quite figure out. The Gigabyte was pretty stable, definitely left me a better impression.

I ultimately wound up buying a new laptop. The Acer continued to sit aside for years, in unknown condition…

Well – it sat mostly untouched, at least. I seem to recall at some unknown time (later in 2010, I believe), that I tried putting in a Celeron 420 (haha, nice) processor, and that actually did get it to boot up. Though, it ultimately did the same really strange loud beeping & fan behavior. But apart from that, undisturbed.

The Beginning of the Conclusion

In the beginning of 2013, I was wanting to get back into using an actual desktop PC instead of my laptop for everything. I wound up using my sister’s old computer, which she didn’t need anymore after getting a really nice custom build we put together! (WAY better than my system was, and about a year newer.)

The system was an HP Pavilion a6300f, if memory serves me right. A pretty bog-standard machine of the time – Pentium E2180, 2GB DDR2 RAM, 500GB HDD. Still worked good. But I decided I’d try something crazy, and that’d be to put the Q6600 into this system! I had no idea what was going to happen. Would it work? Would it do the same thing as my Acer? Would it catch on fire and explode?

I placed the processor in, and I turned on the system…

…IT WORKED! I saw the HP splash screen, and the BIOS acknowledged the Core 2 Quad installation! WOW! I wasn’t sure at this point whether it would stay working or not, but so far it seemed way more hopeful!

The inside of the HP a6300f PC.
The inside of this PC. Taken on February 7th, 2013.

Indeed – as it turns out, the processor was fine all along. I eventually wound up doing a whole bunch of upgrades to the system – including an AsRock FM2 motherboard, AMD A8-5600K, 8GB RAM, EVGA GTX 650 and more – eventually morphing into a full-on new build. This system would become my best one I’ve ever had, and continued to evolve – all the way to 2014, with an i7-4790K, and 2015, where I got a brand new NZXT H440 case and a GTX 950 2GB graphics card. That system was a BEAST!

Yet still, the Acer sat in a corner, with most of its components having been removed. It was basically just a case, and a motherboard. It hadn’t ever been powered on since the incident happened.

The Conclusion

The time is now late 2015-early 2016. I’ve learned about The Capacitor Plague at this point, and also learned how to replace capacitors. I was mighty curious about my Acer at this point, and I knew a lot more than I once did! Could I potentially finally figure out what was going on with it?

Well, I put the Quad back in there, and it did boot! But, of course, it was doing the same issue again.

Looking at the board, I saw a capacitor that looked just ever so slightly off. It wasn’t even bulged, it just looked a little odd and slightly different from the other identical ones. These were TK, or Toshin-Kogyo capacitors. As far as I saw on the Badcaps.net Forum, thse weren’t known to be a likely-to-fail brand. So, not C(r)apXon.

I replaced the capacitor, and lo and behold – never again did I experience the strange fan behavior! The system worked like January 2010 never happened. Six whole years later, it seemed the mystery was solved!

How? We’ll never know. It’s the beginning of 2023, and of everything I’ve learned, this still boggles my mind. I guess that capacitor really had to have been failing somehow, and clearly must’ve been a defect, to have failed so quickly.

The ‘Heated’ Adventures of a Samsung TV Repair

One evening, I found a curbed Samsung UN40J6200 – a 40″ 1080p TV. The panel looked to be in good condition, so I went ahead and took it.

After I got home, I tried to plug it up, and I could see it briefly light up, then go out. Clearly, its LED backlight was failed. I’ve done a number of these repairs in the past, so I’m no stranger to that procedure. To isolate the backlight as the issue, I took the back cover off, unhooked the backlight connector from the power supply, then plugged the TV back in. I shone a flashlight on it, and I could see the Samsung logo!

So, as far as I could tell, it looked like I had scored a good TV – just needed new backlights. I ordered some, then put everything off to the side.

The Beginning

Today (10/28/22, at the time of this writing), I decided that it was finally time to try and fix it.

First, a little information for those unfamiliar – the general procedure for LCD TV backlight replacement is to first remove the back cover, remove the screen bezel, carefully lift the LCD panel out, remove some diffuser lens sheets (which evenly distribute the light), then pull out the old and install new backlights.

I began to follow once again that procedure for this TV. After removing the LCD panel, I noticed that something looked a bit…odd. Behind the last diffuser sheet to remove, I saw the top-right looked a bit darkened. I figured maybe a backlight must’ve blown out – every now and then, you’ll see something like that. Though, it seemed a bit strange to notice that through a diffuser sheet.

And boy, was I ever right about it having a good blowout – as soon as I removed the diffuser sheet, I saw that it had caught on FIRE! WOW!! I’ve never seen anything like this before. Since I’m of course not the original owner of the TV, I know nothing else about it than what I’m seeing here.

Inside of TV showing backlights and a big hole burnt in the rear diffuser sheet
I’ve heard of Fire TV, but this is ridiculous!

Damage Control

The rear diffuser sheet is quite obviously ruined – the top-right of it is missing a lot of its material entirely, and the thick sheet that goes over the pictured area, the last one I removed, had melted plastic and black burn marking all around. This seriously complicates the repair. I had come this far to replace the backlights though, so I wasn’t about to call it quits. It was clear that the first thing I needed to do, was to test the TV out with the new backlights I had ordered to make sure that the circuitry was OK.

Picture showing the TV taken apart to the frame, new backlights installed and lit up.
It works!

Fortunately, the power supply is good! It lit up without a hitch. That’s about what I expected. It’s clear that although that the LED backlight failed normally, and that all other electronics of the TV are okay, the power supply didn’t stop trying to power it. Thus, the LED got hotter and hotter, until it caught aflame.

My speculation is that, since the TV would initially flicker on briefly even just plugging it in, the power supply was going through a constant cycle of trying to start, noticing the short at the backlight circuit, then shutting off and trying to start again – all without user intervention. And from there, due to the repetition, and quite possibly also because that LED was quite distant from the wires (and therefore, higher resistance, thus meaning harder for the power supply to notice), the LED went up in flames.

It could’ve even happened with nobody watching it at the time! The TV may very well have blacked out during watching it, with the power supply cutting completely off, but it still kept trying to start up. Thus, leading to this ‘heated’ incident!

The next step was to go ahead and test the panel to make sure it looked good. After attempting to clean up the toasted frontal diffuser sheets as best as I could, I pieced the TV back together enough to keep the LCD panel safely in place.

TV showing a pretty picture, albeit with a darkened spot at the right side
Looks great! Except for that dark spot.

It works great! Thank goodness. This was the first time I actually saw it lit up – and indeed, the panel is perfectly fine. Beautiful, in fact! There’s just a couple dark spots where the panel isn’t being lit up. The panel itself is unscathed – it’s only the burnt frontal diffuser sheet causing this.

The Unlikely and Strange Solution

Although I now knew that the TV worked, the question remained – how can I get the dark spot out? I could sell the TV as-is, but I really wanted to fix this thing right. I didn’t want to go all this way just to have a partly-working result, even if it was better.

I soon remembered that I had a junk TV with a busted panel. Finally, a use for a busted TV – its diffuser sheets! Never something I thought I’d need, yet here we are.

Unfortunately though, this TCL 43″ TV wasn’t the same size as this 40″ Samsung. This means larger diffuser sheets. The only way I could make this work was to actually cut the sheets down to size. This proved to be a tremendous pain in the rear – it’s way too thick for a razor blade, let alone scissors. The only way I was able to make this work was using tin snips to make several vertical cuts across the area to the depth of which I needed the sheet to be, then cutting or snapping off the sections between the cuts. The sheet shatters as you cut it – VERY messy and tedious work! Eventually, I got it down to a good enough size to fit within the frame.

TV minus the display panel, only the diffuser sheet which has been trimmed.
That was a total pain in the butt to do.

For the rear diffuser, fortunately that was easy – I just cut away the charred and melted portions, then used sheets of paper to fill in the area. Now that I’ve got good diffusers, it was then time to install the LCD panel. I very carefully installed it, snapped on the outer LCD bezel, and then pieced it together…

TV working fully and looking beautiful!
Success!!!

Voila, a working TV! What a hassle it was, but my am I ever glad that it was a success. Not a bad unit! I wouldn’t want to do this over again, but I’m sure glad at least I was able to save this from being a total loss. Since the panel wasn’t damaged, this TV definitely deserved another lease of life – and that, it has been given.

 

Floppy Drive Resurrection (Citizen W1D)

Intro and Backstory

Floppy drives are very fine little intricate pieces of machinery, and that’s something I’ve definitely learned. Especially some particularly unique designs, such as the Citizen W1D floppy drive.

I came across a Compaq Presario 1070 laptop from my recycler buddy that I purchased for a measly $10 from him. Its hinges were seizing up when I got it, the screen backlight just barely worked, and, after fixing all of those issues, I had discovered the floppy drive didn’t work!

The floppy drive, made by the probably-long-gone company “Citizen”, was buried deep inside of the system. It wasn’t like the NEC Versa 2435CD I used to have, where the floppy drive simply slid out. No, this one required just about entire disassembly of the system! And as anyone who collects vintage electronics can tell you, that can be dangerous as the plastic parts and what not become brittle over time.

Well, I wound up getting my hands on another couple of these laptops – a Presario model 1070, and a model 1010. The two models are very similar. The former has a modem, as well as a slightly larger screen, despite being the same outside dimensions. The LCD assemblies are cross-compatible, and you can put the 1070’s LCD assembly on a 1010, and vice versa. As far as I can tell, the LCD screen and bezel are the only differences in the assemblies. Everything else seems 1:1 the same.

Sadly, these too, also had bad floppy drives!

Possible Symptoms of a Bad Belt

A couple of different things could happen: either, upon insertion of a disk, you hear a fairly constant whirring/whining noise, or you don’t hear any hints of anything spinning at all. In either case, floppy disks do not read, and this is because the disk itself is not spinning. The former symptom seems to happen as a result of the motor rubbing up against the worn belt which is no longer tight enough to allow proper drive function, while the latter seems to be what happens when the belt is just so bad-off, that the motor can’t even grab onto it whatsoever.

Floppy Drive Adventure

Other than the other two laptops I wound up with, I did buy another Citizen W1D drive for a bit shy of a whopping $90. These drives are just that uncommon, sadly. Unfortunately, it, too, did not work, so I was able to send it back for a full refund.

But why were all of these drives bad? I decided to investigate further.

The belt has turned brittle and broken down into pieces.

Opening up one of the drives, upon lifting the ejection mechanism plate (or whatever the heck I should call it), I immediately saw what you see above. The belt was broken. It had dry-rotted and was completely and totally useless. The only way to proceed was to replace the belt.

But what size?

I used my “Google-fu” skills, and I found out that these drives use approx. 70mm belts. But keep in mind, I really had no real way of knowing. My only drives are bad, so I had no working drive to use as a reference. Even if I did, in that case, would I really want to open it up?

I wound up buying a cassette player belt kit on Amazon of multiple sizes. Here is a link to that kit.

2023 EDIT: The kit seems to have gone out of stock! Here is another kit that seems to include the same kinds of sizes – please note that I cannot guarantee!

The replacement belt, installed.

The belt replacement was fairly involved, but I went ahead and got it done. Here is the complete process:

  • Remove top cover of drive. (Two hidden screws are under the metallic tape.)
  • Gently lift the head, and carefully remove the ejection mechanism plate.
  • Remove the motor (top-left of above picture).
  • Remove any and all existing fragments of the old belt. Do take that it can get messy, as the belt has become so brittle that it splits into pieces.
  • Install the new belt. This is a bit tricky, and is a process in itself. I like to first put it around the motor, reinstall the motor, then put the belt around the large drive wheel in the center that spins the inserted floppy disk, and afterward put the belt against the little golden wheel.
  • Gently lift the head once again, and reinstall the ejection mechanism plate, taking care that the spring for the dust cover is put under the plate.

It’s definitely tricky, but it’s possible! I really hope this article can help someone, because it was very difficult finding information on this topic.

My Way of Dealing with Sony VAIO Recovery Discs

I came across a Sony VAIO PCG-FX150 with a few issues. I wound up purchasing another similar VAIO off of eBay (a PCG-FX340) and combining the two units’ parts together to make one dang nice retro laptop. As far as a good battery goes, that remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, one hurdle I had to face was that I needed the drivers for the Fn key combos to work right, for stuff like brightness adjustment, etc. I depend on that a lot, because I expect my doggone laptop to function the way it should. I like key combos and I cannot lie.

I was fortunate to have received recovery discs with the second machine that I purchased, which seem to have been burnt by the seller of the machine. Wow, they really went out of their way to help me out! Very cool. Anyway, I tried to run the applications disc on my VAIO, but it wouldn’t let me, because mine was a FX150, and it was looking for a 340! Thanks, Sony!

But I wasn’t going to stop there. I found out that I could extract the disc content with the utility known as KCAP. I downloaded it, but then I was faced with a new issue: the folder names were uninformative! How was I supposed to go into each one of them, and find out which one was what I wanted?

Lo and behold, I found a way. Each folder usually contains a Setup.ini that tells you what it is. It’s annoying trying to go into each folder to find out what each one was, which I did for a while, but I decided to write a really simple Python script to deal with the problem, which I have attached to this post. I call it the Sony VAIO Recovery Disc Folder Renamer. I’m licensing this under the WTFPL, because I do not care whatsoever. It was so easy, but yet I’m hoping it will actually prove useful to someone, at least one person out there, who might run into the same situation as me.

It’s pretty easy to work with, all ya gotta do is just put the script into the same folder as all of your extracted recovery disc files are, and run it with Python 2.

I’m also attaching KCAP, just in case something happens where it becomes nigh-impossible to find anywhere else. For information on how to use KCAP, see this page on Archive.org.

Enjoy!