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 keybord! 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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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)
There was no display signal. The computer was dead.
I had no idea how this happened. But, now my main desktop was a doorstop.
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! I didn’t know what was bad on my system, though. 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!
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 (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!
Indeed – as it turns out, the processor was fine all along. I eventually wound up doing a whole bunch of upgrades to the system, and then once again going back to a custom-built system around June 2013 or so. 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 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 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 everying 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.