TideLog Archive for March, 2010

As the Laptop Doctor of my firm, Kitamura Computers, it’s my job to look after my patients. I make sure they all get operated on, stripped down, and rebuilt to factory procedures. Here’s the patients currently in Dr. Tidosho’s IT surgery right now:

Patient 1: Tiny A360 1.1GHz 14″ laptop

This machine came to me, and she’s almost perfect! I’m an ex-Tiny engineer, and did the job for nearly 6 years, servicing many, if not all of Tiny’s range, and I’ve never seen an A360 as perfect as this one in nearly 4 years. They’re nearly 10 years old! This one was in someone’s loft for years, and has been very well preserved. The only damage is to the vents at the back.

Specs:

Pentium III 1.1GHz Coppermine CPU

512MB SDRAM

DVD/CD-RW Combo

30GB HDD

Original Tiny branded Windows XP install, complete with OEMInfo branding and recovery partition

Fault:

There isn’t one, really, apart from a dodgy keyboard. A few keys don’t work at all, and the Shift keys seemed to be stuck, and StickyKeys kept activating on boot-up, resulting in all icons highlighting. I washed the keyboard using my tried and tested method, it stopped the Shift problem, but didn’t fix the failed keys. I borrowed the keyboard from a preserved Tiny A440 I’ve had for a few years, so I could put all updates and software on.

Status: Awaiting new keyboard before being sold.

Patient 2: Compaq Presario 2500 Celeron (Upgraded to Pentium 4) laptop

This machine is in lovely condition. It’s almost like it was used only a few times. It’s been in our store for years at our storage in Warrington. The screen is smashed, and needs replacing. I’ve stripped and rebuilt it, and the inside of it is mint. No dust, nothing. All screws factory tightened still with thread glue. I’ve upgraded the CPU to a Pentium 4 from a Celeron, to increase its value when I finally sell it. This lil thing’s going to be worth something!

Specs:

Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz CPU (Upgraded from crappy Celeron!)

40GB Toshiba HDD

15″ Quanta TFT screen

DVD-ROM drive

ATi Mobility graphics

Fully working brand new original battery

Status: Awaiting new screen, and Windows installation.

You need to be really careful with Compaq/HP machines. If you replace the screen on one, MAKE SURE you replace it with the EXACT same model that came out. There’s an EEPROM chip that stores the characteristics/geometry of the screen, and if it’s not right, the screen won’t work. You need a Compaq Utilities disk, that’s SPECIFIC to the machine, to reprogram the EEPROM to the screen.

Patient 3: Acer Aspire 5040 AMD Turion 64 laptop

This one’s come to me from a dear friend of mine, Lindsay Wootton. She’s broken the screen by leaving her glasses on the keyboard, and closing the lid. It’s really bent and smashed the screen badly, bursting some screen surround clips, and shattering the backlight (her glasses didn’t survive, either!). The machine also kept shutting down, due to overheating, but I cleaned the heatsink out, and the computer stays running. I’ve stripped it down completely, and vacuum reworked some switches that were worn (the trackpad button switches are soldered to the motherboard, and all power/hotkeys switches) and cleaned it all out for her, renewing thermal paste, and thread glue on all screws, to keep them tight.

She’s one of those chicks that loves Messenger, and Limewire, so I’ve had to clean the usual spyware and toolbars off it for her, using an external monitor. She had Norton on, and it allowed it all on, so there goes to show just how good Norton ISN’T!

Specs:

AMD Turion64 2GHz Mobile CPU

512MB RAM

80GB HDD

DVD+/-RW DL drive

Status: Awaiting new screen ready for fitting. I’m also fitting her a new keyboard, the impact has caused a few of her keys to fail, plus a new screen surround and lid. These 3 items I’ve got in my company laptop graveyard (we have literally thousands of laptop carcasses!) so they’re easy enough to source. Literally, locally sourced parts!

Acer laptops sometimes scare me, they’re very cheaply made, and once all screws are removed, fall apart VERY easily! And I’ve done hundreds, following Acer service literature!

Patient 4: Advent 7039 AMD Athlon64 3000+ laptop

I’ve done literally hundreds of this range of laptop built on this chassis, having worked for PC World when they were in the market, and at Kitamura, as can be seen from our forum. The Pentium 4 variants, and AMD. But, none of them surprised me as much as this one. It was bought along with an Advent 7036, a P4, and they were both perfect after I’ d serviced them.

Then, the day I was going to sell the 7039 to a customer, the screen processor failed! The screen just goes white. A perfectly working screen, rendered useless, unless I rework a new chip or PCB on to the screen. It’s a Quanta that uses heat soldered ribbons to interface to the LCD, and they’re a bugger to do. It’s now just sat under my office desk, with my 7036, which still works and gets used as a DJ machine, waiting for a screen!

Specs:

AMD Athlon64 3000+ CPU

512MB DDR RAM

40GB IDE HDD

Pioneer DVD-/+RW drive (upgraded from combo)

ATi Radeon Mobility 9100 graphics

So, there you have it. An insight into one of the things I take great pride in. Laptop repairs. I’m not like your average British, Pakistani or Indian cowboy rip off shop. I’m professionally AND self taught, follow all manufacturer service documentation, and take great care and pride in each and every machine I service. I actually do put a lot of these rip off merchant jobs right. I get machines in with long screws where they shouldn’t be, circuit assemblies not seated or screwed in correctly, machines with thermal paste missing, screws and covers missing. They go out of my care perfect!

Kitamura Computers is a different company to the rest of them. I named the firm after Kassie’s dear friend Ryoko Kitamura, who sadly passed away tragically in 2005. They’d known each other for 12 years, and I dedicated the company to her. Every machine that comes in has the care and dedication to the job that I’ve been campaigning for in this industry for many years. I’m sick of immigrant Pakistani and Indian people, coming into this country, Brits too, and making a mockery of the IT repair industry, and the British people, ripping them off, and doing a shoddy job, thinking because they’ve built a computer they can do it all. It’s taken me many years to get as trained and professional as I am. I’m nearly 25, and have been doing computers since I was 9. And I’ve always taken massive pride in it, even as a child. I studied, and studied, and then practically performed the job.

And I’m bloody good at what I do. And British. I can proudly say that, and have about 300 happy people to back me up from over the years, neighbours, friends, and family, plus other colleagues from all the firms I’ve worked for, both good and bad.

Now I’ve got my lovely girlfriend Kassie backing me with Kitamura, she’s better in IT than I am, at 30, she’s very experienced with Linux and Mac, and has taught me extensively, and pulled me out of tricky situations, and being Japanese, has a lot of playfulness and charm. We also have Ryoko’s spirit looking over us. We’re a concrete firm, and I’ve watched many cowboys finally hit the dust since we were established. Good riddance to you all. It’s about time decent friendly experienced independent technicians like me survived, rather than immigrant ripoffs, and massive conglomerate monsters like PC World, who don’t really care about you, just money. It’s nice to be able to walk into an independent shop, be looked after, and have a laugh and cuppa at the same time. I did it myself with Bob Gorton, from Radiovision in Little Lever. He was my local repair guy, and we became good friends up until he retired, and sold his business in 2000. He also taught me a lot about professionalism. I probably wouldn’t be as professional as I am without him, instead sucked in by cowboys like PC World.

Kitamura Computers is a mixed firm. British, so we’re local professionals, with a sense of humour and a strong sense of Japanese charm, professionalism and friendliness. Your machines are in caring hands with us!

Plug my own firm, on my own blog? Why not? Self marketing is its own reward!

Comments No Comments »

I reported a while back that Microsoft had dropped the Hardware Assisted Virtualization (HAV) requirement for XP Mode under Windows 7. They’ve now rolled out the update, on their XP Mode pages. I’ve set it all up on my M670SU, and it seems to run pretty stably, but there’s a few minor default settings that seem weird:

1. VirtualPC is set to only have 256MB RAM by default on the XP image, and it’s slow as treacle, even on this Core2Duo CPU with 2GB RAM. I increased it to 768MB.

2. The VHD file is set at 126GB Expanding (My HDD is only 60GB!!) and I’ve haven’t yet figured out how to decrease it. You could easily overlook this, and then have your machine start acting weird as it runs out of space, yet VPC won’t bother!

3. The graphics will only go up to 16bit colour, using a crappy S3 Trio emulated card. At full screen, the title bar and window looks washed out, with colour loss and banding. Come on, Microsoft, the Trio is friggin’ ancient!! I wish it’d use my nVidia 8400 built in card, it’s WAY more powerful!

4. The virtual machine Hibernates instead of shutting down when you close it. This has to be changed to Shut Down, as you can’t change settings while it is Hibernated.

Other than that, it seems fine. I’m currently setting up VirtualBox to do a side by side comparison, because VPC doesn’t feel as fast as VBox does. XP Mode automatically shares your PC’s drives, so you don’t have to set them up manually like in VirtualBox. Here’s the installation window:

It then sets itself up, and displays the main XP desktop, which seemed to take longer than it should. If it performed this slowly on my dual core system, imagine how slow it’d be on a single core Pentium 4! I haven’t tried it, nor do I want to!

There’s been a lot of criticism of it on forums like Digital Spy, and news sites like the Register. People saying that VirtualBox and VMWare Workstation are better. They are right! The only snag is VMWare isn’t free, whereas VirtualBox is. I like XP Mode, it is useful for people using Windows 7 who don’t want to manually install a virtual OS. Then again, XP Mode is officially only intended for business use, and not personal.

But, to me, it feels slower than it should. My Core i7 rig runs it lightning speed, but the graphics are still emulating that awful S3 tripe. My i7 has the latest ATi HD5700 based card, for God’s sake!

If Microsoft call *this* a “selling” point of Windows 7, they’d be wasting their time. It feels like it was something they came up with at the last minute. Hang on, it WAS!! My advice to any business is, use VirtualBox! VirtualPC has been lacking and lagging behind the market for some time, mainly with USB support, they’ve only *just* caught up, but even this version feels rushed, and thrown together. On an older machine that meets the Minimum Win 7 requirements, you’re SURE going to FEEL it!

Comments No Comments »

I’ve seen it many times in my PC repair life. People replacing laptop keyboards just because the keys are sticky, or a couple don’t work. 99% of the time this can be fixed, it’s a tried and tested method I’ve used hundreds of times. Here’s my method:

1. First, remove the keyboard from the laptop. Refer to the machine’s service manual, or ask me for help. I’ve dismantled many laptops, hundreds of times, and am professionally trained. DON’T force anything, you’ll often make the job much worse for yourself.

2. Clean the keyboard ribbon connector. The contacts on the keyboard ribbon connector can get worn, and dirty/full of dust. Clean it with some contact cleaner, and lint free cloth.

The next bit’s the bit where things can go wrong if done wrongly:

Cleaning the keyboard

3. We’re going to wash it! Yep, you heard me! The trick here is to soak it for just the right amount of time, for me usually about 30 minutes, in SCALDING hot water, swishing it about vigorously every 10 minutes, dunking it in and out of the water. DON’T do it forcefully, you’ll bend it. DO NOT add soap. It can dry in between the contact sheets if not washed out correctly, resulting in “stuck key” syndrome. Some soaps will also damage the key contacts. Plain water has done me just fine.

Many “technicians” or geeks will tell you you should remove all the keycaps, this IS NOT TRUE, you can damage the fragile keycap retainers, and some keyboards have proprietary ones. The keyboard will be just fine with all its keys on, and they’ll also get a good washing.

The reason we don’t do it for too long is the chassis of the keyboard, some are made of steel, and this can rust. Aluminium ones can, too.

4. Now, you should see just how much gunk your keyboard has accumulated, floating in the water! Hair, dust, bits of food (eating at your computer? Did no-one tell you your computer doesn’t need feeding?), coffee/tea/cola remnants (I see this a lot from liquid ingress rescued machines, I often bring them back to life, using special chemicals and equipment on the motherboard).

5. Rinse the keyboard with fresh water. Hot or cold, it doesn’t matter.

6. Now, we need to dry the keyboard, but not too hot. First, hold the keyboard lengthways in both hands, over a bath, or outside, and shake it up and down equally, turning it over frequently, to remove excess water. Once all the excess water is out, place the keyboard on top of a radiator. Put the radiator on full if possible, and leave the keyboard there for about 4-5 hours, turning it over every half an hour.

This trick won’t always bring every keyboard back, especially if it’s an old one that’s suffered contact failure, but it’s useful to get any sticky keys easy again, or any dust/dirt that causes problems out. It has brought failed keys back to life for me. Usually, it’s sometimes the ribbon connector to blame, cleaning this THEN the keyboard can rejuvenate it. Clean inside the motherboard connector too. I reccommend a specialist like myself do it, as they are easily damaged. If ruined, it can mean a new socket, or even motherboard.

Laptop keyboards aren’t normally the best, they need regular maintenance, and can’t take as much of a hammering as a desktop keyboard. I’m always telling my co-partner Greg to stop hammering his laptop, and customers’ machines. They respond to gentle touches, and if they don’t, they need cleaning or replacing.

Comments No Comments »

Today was an experience I’ll never forget! We went up to Runcorn at 2pm. I was wearing Hopwood’s red Adidas branded kit today, as it was a proper match, so I had to wear the same colours as the girls. The pitch was huge! It’s a full size pitch used by amateur teams in full matches, and was something else! Stood at one end of the pitch looking towards the other, the field seemed to go for miles! The changing rooms were really big (that *might* have been because I had one to myself, as usual! The girls were in their own!) and a lot more luxurious than the ones at the public pitch in Birmingham.

I got to meet the other ladies team, who called themselves the Warrington Wasps, wearing a yellow kit, with black shoulder strips, like a wasp, coincidentally! What a team of cuties! There’s a cute babe on the Wasps team called Antonia, she’s got to be the cutest petite footie babe I’ve EVER seen! 5ft 1′ tall, brown hair, blue eyes and lovely tanned legs! Sorry Lisa, you’ve got competition, and she might sting you babe!

I was going to be scared as soon as I saw this team of ladies in their vicious looking waspy kit, but they were really friendly, and seemed to like the fact I was the only guy in the whole match. The Hopwood babes and myself went and had an hour’s training and warmup with Rikku, while the Wasps had theirs with their Captain, who, like Rikku, was a gorgeous redhead, but from Ireland! Wow,  Canadian AND Irish redhead babes are so sexy, and the Irish accent is something else on a woman….

Rikku was referee on this match, and was wearing a blue kit, looking really cute! Her red hair goes well with any colour! I’m so glad she went red! The match was really good! Disappointingly the pitch actually wore me out too easily, because it was so big. Pitch condition was excellent, as proper pitches are well looked after. Our pitch in Birmingham is on a hill, at the bottom, and always gets really messy after heavy rain. I was slightly disappointed, as I did have to use more energy running up and down the pitch, and thought I might have had a bit more stamina. I’m not really a fast runner, but am quite powerful. Like a bus, power not speed! Rikku pulled me over and told me not to go for it too much, that the girls would give me chance. They did, and must have sensed that I was the trainee, because all of a sudden the game seemed to slow down, and I didn’t feel so worn out once I took it easy. It might have just been me overanticipating things, and getting overwhelmed.

Strangely, we seemed to swap goals after half time, and I hadn’t realised, until Rikku was running alongside me waving her arms, shouting for me to go the other way, which baffled me, as no-one had told me, and they don’t usually do this tactic in football! That error aside (I blamed myself and Rikku for not telling me) everything was great! We won 1-0, and at the end of the game when the final whistle blew, it didn’t feel like it’d been 90 minutes.

After today, if I don’t lose a stone in weight, I’ll be surprised. I must have run about 20 miles in total during today’s game, it feels like it, and it certainly will tomorrow! My legs are going to kill! The Warrington Wasps are a great team of hot footie chicks, they’re actually just a new social team, but were bloody brilliant, I enjoyed the game with them today! I actually told them I’d like to do it again, and I think there’s a few think I’m cute! Aww, shucks!!

Comments No Comments »

I get this one a lot, both in forums, and personally at work. People posting threads, saying, “My laptop keeps shutting down after 2 – 10 minutes”. The default response to this is usually, “Oh, just blow compressed air into the vent, to blow dust out”. I’m sick of keep putting people right!

Well, here’s Dr. Tidosho’s advice, on his own blog. You’re wasting your time, for several reasons:

1. You’re just blowing the dust back into the machine, ready for the fan to suck back in, and spread all over the heatsink, where it’ll be compressed into a thick blanket, that CAN’T be moved by compressed air. See 2. below.

2. The dust has probably built up so much, and had the fan blowing air on it for so long, that it’s become compressed into a thick blanket. Compressed air won’t remove it. 99.9% of the time it’ll be sitting between the fan and heatsink, so by blowing air in all you’re doing is shoving it back into the fan, in a big chunk, which can cause it to become stuck, jamming the fan, making the problem worse, as the bearings will burn out, as well as the heatsink getting too hot because the fan isn’t even running pushing ANY air through. This can damage the CPU over time, as when the computer shuts down on its own, it means it’s at its maximum tolerant temperature, before damage is done.

Here’s what you’re often dealing with. This is from an Acer Aspire 5040 I bought as faulty:

That was between the heatsink and fan. Blowing compressed air in wouldn’t break it up enough, and the fan would get blocked.

The remedy is to take your computer down to an engineer, such as myself and my friendly guys at Kitamura Computers, where we’ll safely and profesionally dismantle your machine, and remove the thick blanket of suffocating dust, renewing your thermal paste as we go. We’ll then re-assemble your computer, to FACTORY procedures.

Only charging you a fiver, yes, just £5! We won’t rip you off, like our competitors, or damage your machine, like the “whizz-kid” neighbours we’ve heard so much about, who put long screws where they shouldn’t, and cause more damage and expense!

People think that laptops don’t need servicing, because of their compact size. In fact, they need it a lot more. There’s a lot less space for dust to escape, and it often clogs a laptop heatsink up pretty quickly in dusty houses. We see it almost every day. We wouldn’t recommend home users should dismantle a laptop, as they’re precision built, and need to be put back together exactly as they came apart, otherwise components don’t sit correctly, causing all sorts of problems. It’s better to let time served professionals like me do the job for you, safely, cleanly, and professionally.

Comments No Comments »