Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sick Puppy


I'll spare you the gory details but if I don't have at least a head cold I have a sinus infection.  Feel free to pray for me.


Gun Control: The Key Word Is Control

From someone who used to support gun control laws until they dug into the statistics, here is a very interesting page full of statistics about how gun control laws do not work to make people safer and reduce crime. At least half of it is graphs, so even YOU won't be bored by numbers!

 Hat tip: Instapundit

Dell Inspiron 600/600m Laptop Computer Loose Touchpad Surround Trim Plastic Repair

The Dell Inspiron 600 is getting a little old these days and it is starting to show.  I had one come through the shop, then another and another, with one particularly annoying sign of old age: the cute little colored plastic piece around the touchpad is loose enough to make a tapping noise when you tap the touchpad to click (or double click) on something, and it makes the whole touchpad feel like it is going to fall out of the computer.

This is how you can fix that loose trim piece, permanently.

Tools required:
  • #0 Philips screwdriver, preferably one that is strongly magnetized
  • Similarly-small flat-head screwdriver
  • Fine-tipped soldering iron
  • A little scrap of extra plastic

Start by unplugging the power cord and removing the battery, and set yourself up at a static-free workstation (ideally) or at least plan on not-moving for a while and have everything handy.  This repair was successful at my regular table in a carpeted area, with me wearing cotton clothes and touching the screw on a power outlet nearby before working to dissipate any large static charges.  These computers seem relatively static-tolerant but Murphy says you will zap your motherboard if you are not carefeul.  You CAN kill your computer if you attempt this work at a not-static-free workstation. 

You have been warned.

Click any image to see it full-sized.

Unscrew the screws that hold the keyboard-surround/touchpad bezel in place.  Set them aside in a pile, they are all the same length.

Open the computer all the way flat so the display is laying as close to your bench top as possible.  Gently insert your small flathead screwdriver in the little notch at the right end of the trim piece over the keyboard.  It takes some moderate wiggle/pull-up forces but this piece is only snapped in place. 

Pull all these screws also.  Set them aside more carefully, as they are NOT all the same length.

The keyboard will pull right out now; use the pull tab on the connector, do NOT pull up on the cable!

Unscrew the grounding strap by the video cable connector and gently pull up on the tab (not the cable) to remove the connector.  The entire top/display module is now loose.  Set it carefully aside.

One more screw was hiding under the keyboard.

Gently disconnect the touchpad connector.
Nothing else besides plastic 'snap' retaining tabs holds the top plastic piece in place.  Gently tug and pull, and the plastic all the way around the top of the computer will pop right off.  Do not be alarmed that this sounds like the end of the world.  Unlesss you are pulling TOO hard, it is just the snap tabs popping loose with no damage - but don't force it.  If you are pulling too hard make sure you got all the screws out, or you will end up buying a new top panel on ebay!*

Three screws hold a metal shield in place under the touchpad.  This shield may do double-duty as a brace for the touchpad, but on this computer it was not touching the plastic (or at least, not pressing hard enough to keep it firmly in place).

The factory heat-staked the colored trim surrounding the touchpad in three places.  Sometimes that was enough, but sometimes the trim piece works loose.

This kind of plastic was heated and injection-molded to form it into a computer part.  Re-heating it and adding a little bit of plastic to your computer part will not harm anything when done properly.  Just keep the heat as low as it will still melt the plastic (I used 600ish degrees F, and worked quickly) and be VERY careful as you are working.  

If you have never done this, practice on a piece of scrap plastic first to avoid destroying your computer!  My technique was to cut a little bit of scrap plastic and pick it up with the tip of the soldering iron.  Then I stirred the new plastic on the to-be-repaired area with the tip of the iron, ever so slightly melting the trim panel and keyboard bezel, and the new scrap of plastic, into one lump.  Be very careful not to melt through the bezel or trim piece!  Smooth the finished bead of plastic with the tip of the soldering iron after is the plastic has cooled and hardened. 

 I used a bit of scrap plastic from another (dead) computer and a gentle touch, and welded the trim panel to the keyboard bezel in several new places, plus I reinforced the three heat-staked spots.

The touchpad flops out, and I welded a couple more spots near the bottom.  Be careful here, because one false move and you will ruin the touchpad!  Also you need to be careful about the dimensions of your weld spots.  Gently trim the welds if they are too big, until it all fits together perfectly again.

That's it, you're done.  Put it back together. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. 

You will notice that now, when you use the touchpad and tap by the edges, it feels like one solid piece of plastic.  It is.  Congratulate yourself.

*Speaking of eBay, if you haven't yet gone to eBay and purchased a 1.6GHz  or 1.7GHz processor for yours Inspiron, do that next after you do this. 

Be sure NOT to get any processor besides the Pentium-M, and be sure it has a 1M cache and 400MHz bus speed, to prevent buying an incompatible CPU!  Also buy more RAM for your computer while you are there.  Both of these upgrades should be less than $20 and you would be surprised how much of a boost you can get.  If you are rocking a 1.3GHz CPU and 256 or 512MB of RAM, it will be like a whole new machine once you max it out!  Before you install the new processor, be sure to visit and download/install the latest BIOS and you SHOULD be able to use a faster processor no problems - but be sure to buy from a seller that accepts returns, just in case.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Recession? What Recession?

In case you missed it between all the "fiscal cliff" and "gun control" blathering on the news, the world is still headed deeper into a global recession (or, if you like, the second downturn of the ongoing global depression).

Japan and Europe are currently on deck, with most of the rest of the world out of the headlines but on the same greased slide.  The solution is the opposite of what most countries are doing to fix the problem.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

For Steve, Two Hondas

Steve, he loves him some Hondas.  Here are a couple of local cars from a night drive a while back.

An S2000 from a frequently-seen angle:

And an RSX just barely-visible in the darkness.  Almost like a drawing but let me tell you it's a gen-u-wine photo.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Hate Funerals

The last time I went to a funeral was several years ago.  Before that one, I don't even remember the last one.  I don't think I would even go to my own parents' funerals. 

But when you are asked to be a pallbearer at the funeral of your brother-and-shipmate, how can you say no?  So I went to a funeral today.  Mostly I was as stone-faced as ever but I had to point my eyeballs up a little extra when somebody in the family of the deceased started bawling by the casket, and again during the military honors.  If there had been a 21-gun salute I think I would have been Mr. Faucet Eyes already.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.  We were all supposed to have basically endless, carefree lives in intimate association with God, in person, on a daily basis.  Then a serpent had a conversation with Eve.  Physical death is hateful to me.  ESPECIALLY the death of somebody I care about, and ESPECIALLY a brother-in-arms.  It doesn't matter if he was 87 years old and barely kept one step ahead of the grim reaper for the last decade.  He wasn't supposed to die.

Well, he didn't really, but his widow from a 65-year marriage is probably going to miss him until they meet again.  It seems like it would be cold comfort, the first time you would go back to a bed that would always be empty when you left it.  Over coffee the next morning, it seems like it would be very comforting to know that your loved one is in a better place.

Still.  Standing at attention and staring down into a hole lined with landscaping timbers during prayers, and seeing an old lady's eyes all watery . . . sucks.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The U.S. Will Have To Change."

Well excuse the [deleted] out of me, I think I will stay just the way I am.  The only thing that needed to change right before that school shooting was the order of killings: asshat first, then the kids.  He got the order wrong but at least he took himself out at the end.  President Obama, being both a Democrat and a Leftist, likes to clump people together in groups instead of thinking of individuals.  Well guess what?

I'm not going to kill anybody, and neither are you, and neither is the guy who shot up that school last week.  In fact, that will never happen again because he's dead as a door nail! 

Well, then again, President Obama is still in campaign mode.  He got elected and re-elected as a blank slate. People projected what they wanted him to be onto the vague platitudes he spoke, and elected what they wanted!  In the spirit of bipartisanship, I will project what I want onto His Vagueness also.

The U.S. will have to change.  Yes.  The USA should become more like Israel and have the Card-Carrying Good Guys wear guns in the schoolhouses across our nation.  No, not the Police . . . the TEACHERS.  How many school shootings like this have you heard about in Israel?

Let's take a guess as to whether CT's strict gun control laws or the likely Gun-Free Zone nature of this school campus gave the shooter even a moment's pause.  Yeah, they don't stop any CRIMINALS from doing bad.  They stop GOOD PEOPLE from being able to do good.  You know what stops a school shooter?  Here's a hint: it's not laws forbidding private gun ownership . . .


Saturday, December 15, 2012

New Wallpaper

Fall has finally fallen in Central Texas.  This file was left at 1680x1050 pixels for those of you on the same screen resolution as I am using at home.  Click through, seriously - it's huge.  Right-click, view image, zoom in by clicking again.

Not Bad

My long range sniper deer rifle is back up after a couple of years waiting for a part.  Finally for the first time in too long I took it to the range.  Four shots with one called flyer and the other three within a 2" "group" right on target at a hundred paces.  The yellow dots are 4" circles.

Close enough.

Now if only someone would invite me on a hog hunt I could get some bacon with it . . .

How To Tell If A Woman Has Children

You can know your lady has kids very easily in one easy step.  This actually happened to me the other day.

If you are on the phone with her, and about to hang up, and she says in a calm voice:

"No, get your feet off his face.  Bye!" and hangs up, she has children.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Winning: Use IrfanView for First Cull.

If you are not using IrfanView as the default image viewing program on your PC, you are doing yourself a SEVERE disservice.  Before you read the rest of this post, go to the IrfanView Official Homepage and download the program and the plugins, install the program, install the plugins, and let it associate all the file extensions with IrfanView.  Double-click any image file and note that it opened more-or-less immediately.  Hit the space bar on your keyboard and the next image is there.  Hit backspace and the previous image is there.  It works with pretty much all image file types, and can even read some partially-corrupted images.

I have been using IrfanView since the years when it actually mattered that the entire program can fit on a single floppy disk.  It is one of the first programs I install on any new machine.  I like it so much I actually donated my own money to support the program, and I NEVER donate to shareware/freeware authors.

Anyway, I just realized as I was sifting through a pile of images on my camera's memory card that when you hit DELETE on the keyboard, and it gives a confirmation dialog, and you hit Yes or the Enter key - it deletes the image as if you had deleted the file in Windows Explorer.  My previous method of doing a first-cull to delete throwaway images was using the Filmstrip view in Windows Explorer, full-screen so it shows up a big image.  With IrfanView, it can give a fullscreen image, and hitting control-H shows the actual pixels so you can see every last detail.  Windows Explorer resamples in a not-great way but IrfanView shows a very clear image on my monitor.  My life just got more efficient.  Thanks to Jesus! (and to IrfanView!)

SOLVED! $0 DIY Nikon D70 CHA/CHR Error Fix FREE*


You love your D70 but it keeps giving an error on the top screen, "CHA" and every once in a while you lose a picture.  The camera will say "This Card Cannot Be Used" with a known-good CF card, or when it does work, it will sometimes say "Zoom Cannot Be Used With This File" or it will fail to record an image.  Sometimes it even says the card has to be formatted - which deletes ALL your photographs!

This rarely happened, then it got worse and more-frequent.  The camera is no longer a beloved friend, it is become an enemy and not to be trusted.  Maybe you even (ugh!) resorted to using your phone's camera instead, because at least it reliably captures images, however low-quality they may be.

You have found that pressing harder on the CF card in the camera, or maybe a few insert/removes of the card will temporarily clear the error, sometimes for weeks!  Perhaps you have taken to leaving the card in-camera and using the much-slower USB interface on the camera instead when downloading files.


For money: The CF slot in the camera is bad. It is about a $40 part if you can find it, and the repair requires disassembly of the camera.  Having a shop repair the camera might be more expensive than buying another, newer-model, used body.  But.  I have not seen the CHA error in months and I am happy to consider this fixed, "free."

*Tools required: 
  • Ability to do fine-pitch soldering by hand
  • Helping Hands (with magnifying glass!) 
  • Veeeery fine-tipped soldering iron 
  • Very thin solder
Very carefully disassemble the D70 to the point where the CF slot subassembly/circuit board is completely free of the camera.  Use your helping hands to hold the board while you work.  Very quickly and gently reflow ALL the solder joints between the CF card reader slot pins and the circuit board.  Add just a tiny daub of solder to each joint.  Make this a very quick operation to avoid melting the plastic pin frame and make it a tiny bit of solder you dab on there to prevent bridging/shorting between adjacent pins.  Thoroughly clean all flux residues when you are done.  VERY CAREFULLY inspect your work for solder bridges, as you could kill the camera by doing this wrong.

The REAL root cause: These were machine-soldered with either the wrong sort or not enough solder, or they did it wrong>  The joints ended up "cold" from the factory.  Over time, with each insert/removal of your compact flash memory cards, the solder joints are stressed and eventually they break.  This is a problem of execution, not design, and Nikon would repair it under warranty when a warranty still existed on this camera.  These days, you will pay handsomely for them to repair it if they still will, but at least it will be returned VERY clean!

What is not the problem: Your new cards and your old cards are probably fine if they will work in your computer's card reader.  You DO NOT need to FORMAT your card and lose all your vacation photos!  An image-recovery software tool should be able to extract any images properly written on the card, even if the camera cannot read them!  The pins are not plated with too-thin gold plating, which eventually wore off.  Some people (me included!) found partial success coating the pins with dielectric grease because it lubricated the pins, putting less mechanical stress on the bad solder joints with each card insert/remove.  The phase of the moon is not incorrect. 

At least in my case this was a fairly straightforward repair of a problem common to poorly-made soldered electronics. 

MANY thanks to for their wonderful disassembly/repair instructions!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Way to Foster Democracy, Guys.

Islamists want a caliphate under a supreme leader.
Leftists in the USA claim to want democracy.
So we helped in the out-kicking of a dictator in Egypt.  Are you with me so far?
Then the islamists elected their own to power in Egypt.
Then the elected islamist rulers excluded the infidels and rushed through a session creating their new constitution  . . . effectively making the new Egyptian President . . .

wait for it
the new dictator!  Congratulations, President Obama and Secretary Clinton!  Your Smart Diplomacy® skills have evicted a dictator who was friendly to the USA and promoted stability in North Africa, and installed a dictator who would probably like to nuke the USA and have the whole region consumed with islam-related warfare until peace breaks out.

Peace, of course, to an islamist means only one thing: everybody is either a muslim, paying tribute, or dead.

So, pat yourself on the back American taxpayer; you had a hand in the upcoming war also!  Okay, good night - sweet dreams!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Magic Under The Lights

Imagine walking at night in near-total darkness on an abandoned city side-street
Straight into a forest
Where trees are a hundred feet tall
The grass is trimmed neatly
And each tree is covered in points of light right up to the top of the canopy 

That was the perspective from the eyes of #4 last week-end.  If this does not qualify as a magical experience for a child, I don't know what would.

Click the image to see it supersized, hit escape to close the image window.  Better yet, right-click the image and "view image" then click it again to see it full-size (I left it at 1600 pixels wide so it should cover your entire screen)