TideLog Archive for March, 2011

Following the recent disaster in Japan, Kassie’s brought her family down here to live for a while, all 14 of them, her 7 sisters, 3 brothers, her dad Tetsuya and her mum Midori and two cousins from the worst hit area of Minamiriku. I’m kinda glad Kassie took on the 8 bedroomed house from Rikku, but it’s a real shame watching them struggle to get used to life here, we do things so much differently than they do in Japan. Her mum and dad lived here, up in London, back in the 70’s. Kassie was born here, and they couldn’t afford to carry on living here at the end of 1980.

At the time they had 4 kids. Kassie (aged one), her eldest sister Ayumi (aged two), two of her brothers and another sister, Suzuki, and they couldn’t afford to take them all back. Luckily a couple they knew, Colin and Marie Johnson, agreed to take Kassie and Ayumi in as foster children, they moved to Manchester after the adoption. Ayumi went back to Japan when she was old enough, but Kassie stayed here, and still to this day spends every other year over in Tokyo, spending time with both sets of family. Ayumi still comes here too, but not as often as Kassie.

So, it isn’t so bad for her, Ayumi, Tetsuya and Midori, but the rest of them are having trouble. No jobs, no friends, not much family, I feel so sorry for them. We don’t know how long they’ll be over here, mainly until the radiation scare is over, but even that could be years, and the plant isn’t even fully stable yet. We’ve been having fun though. I’ve driven them all in a coach around Manchester, London, and a part of Liverpool so far, and they like it a lot. Money isn’t a problem at all, as Kassie and her family all own a big family run holdings firm in Japan made up of lots of companies, add to that Kassie’s companies over here, but it’s the isolation that’s getting to them.

Exactly the reason Kassie and I couldn’t carry on as a couple with her moving away every other year. I’d be in the same situation if I was to move to Tokyo every other year, or pernanently. I’d only have her and her family, but no business, immediate family, money, or friends. Now she sees my reasoning.

More than anything I just want to snap my fingers and rebuild Japan for them, but that isn’t possible. I donated nearly £3,000 to the charity so far, I know it’ll be well used and appreciated. The Japanese are the loveliest people I have ever met, when Kassie and I got married in Malaysia and spent our honeymoon in Tokyo they were so accommodating, warm and friendly, and I’d do anything for them.

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I went to watch Amy, an ex Woodhill LFC player and friend of Rikku playing footie in Stockport. She’s taught me skills with Rikku in footie kickabouts, and I’ve gotta say she’s really powerful, quick, she wears her kit really well, and looks really hot too, as this action shot I took explains:


She’s the one in white, and her opponent is looking hot too, plus defeated, and rightly so, as the ball went in after this photo was shot! That look of pure concentration on Amy’s face says it all. Don’t be fooled by those lovely slender legs, they hold a lot of power, she’s kicked me with them several times in matches, and she hurts!

Even Kassie was jumping up and down screaming for her! I remember how sexy K looked in that match with Hopwood last year, my cute Japanese babe learning footie showing off her trademark silky pins… Awww! Hehe, she got quite muddy (and giggly!) really quick, she wasn’t used to running fast in football boots on a muddy slippery pitch! We were watching Amy and I reminded Kas of that day, she giggled cheekily!

Cute, but not to be messed with when adrenaline fueled and in charge of a ball, that’s a girl footie player summed up!

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While researching the GPU problems with my new P55IM, I’ve seen a lot of nonsense on the internet about it, mainly a forum called nVidiadefect.com that seeks to blame retailers, manufacturers and nVidia. Everyone’s saying it is Sony this, or HP that, or taking Currys to court. Forget the Sale Of Goods Act for a minute, because here’s the truth from me, a rework engineer. The retailers and SoGA have nothing at all to do with the core problem:

Ball Grid Array chips are fragile. They use solder balls on the underside of the chip. These solder balls used to be made of lead. Ever since all the RoHS crap came into force, we’ve had to cut out lead from circuitry. That includes solder, boards themselves, capacitors, resistors, IC’s, you name it. Lead solder has been replaced with lead free solder, which is softer, and needs lower temperatures to solder chips. So, guess what happens when your chip comes close or over the melting point during normal use? Yep, the solder starts to soften, and because of the force of the heatsink on top of it, the solder either shifts, or cracks from pressure, breaking the connection.

It isn’t just nVidia. It’s an industry wide problem. Cheapness. BGA is now an inferior technique, because the solder can’t withstand the temperatures needed under normal use. Why do you think Xbox 360’s and PS3’s were failing in droves after so many years? I’ve repaired many laptops with solder ball fracture problems, one of those being the famous Mitac 8640, known amongst us vacuum rework engineers as a hot running imminent failure, and a piece of complete s**t, as it ran far too hot anyway, under idle.

Hot chips, running over the melting point of the solder, you’re asking for trouble. Lower the die size and fabrication process, along with that the number of transistors, and core temps come down, like with the Elite 360s just before the 360 S. I haven’t had one of them come in, they run so cool. BGA needs to be replaced with pass-through PGA, where the chip has pins and they pass through the board, being soldered on the underside, like Mac processors. OK it costs more, but the stuff stays out of landfill longer! This method also supports the chips, as the solder and pins hold the chip still, so it doesn’t shift under heat, and it won’t come away from the board as easily.

Moral of my story and lesson? One, is to do your research before passing the blame, and two is to understand how the technology works, and its flaws, like I do. Stop blaming retailers and nVidia, and blame a cheap surface mount miniaturisation electronics industry. You whizz kids make me so angry!

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My Clevo M670 died recently. The graphics RAM went bad. The display would go corrupted just after the “Starting Windows” screen, but it would run fine in Safe Mode and normal if I first booted into Safe and removed the driver. I couldn’t be bothered repairing it. I only paid £84 for it a year ago, and it’d cost me twice that to source one memory chip (because they are sold in bulk to OEM builders), and then to hire a computerized vacuum rework station to do it.

So, I’ve had a lovely customer, Nicole,  come into the shop to do a part exchange deal. She wanted a Core i7 laptop and desktop, and wanted to part ex her quad core and dual core laptops. Her laptop is a Uniwill P55IM, the screen wasn’t working, but it works on an external. It has a nVidia GeForce 8600M GS 256MB card in it, an actual removable modular card, twice the power of the onboard 128MB 8400M G of my Clevo. I decided to go ahead and part ex her old systems, and keep her laptop as my own, giving her £1,500 off an i7 Alienware laptop, and one of our Kitamura Titan custom i7 gaming rigs.

No LCD screen output? Easy fix, I thought. Until I read that all nVidia G84 & G86 chips were inherently defective, with faulty chip underfill, causing my blank screen problem. My luck has again ran out in the laptop department, as the card in this doesn’t have a standard PCI-E connector that some Acers and Sony laptops have. I can rework it, but it’ll fail again, so I’m gonna be naughty and say f*ck you to the shitty surface mount ball grid array industry that insists on using lead free solder balls and low soldering temperature. I’m gonna buy a new GPU chip and use LEAD solder, at least then it’ll last.

Until then I have to use it on an external, but I have to admit, my HD videos of Kassie and Mika look really stunning on our 60″ 3D telly through the laptop’s HDMI port. Hehe, I know, I’m a naughty boy, watching their dirty videos testing equipment! Why not, makes it enjoyable! They’re both so cute I thought it’d make the laptop hot enough to reflow itself!! Sadly it didn’t, two cute Japanese ladies in love doesn’t have the same effect on machines…

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I’ve never had a laptop fail on me, ever, until recently. I look after them by:

A. Keeping the brightness as low as possible to keep the inverter running (a common failure on laptops, because the higher the brightness, the hotter the backlights and inverter run, shortening their lifespan).

B. I don’t shut the lid when the machine is hot. I see that a lot in TV shows, and it infuriates me. Someone using their laptop, then all of a sudden they just slam it shut. You better hope the machine goes to sleep on closing the lid!

C. I don’t open or close the lid unevenly. I close it from the center top of the lid, where the force on the screen is even. You should NEVER open or close the lid from the corners or edges, it can break the screen, lid and support rails. I’m seeing it a lot at work now with netbooks. They have very thin screens, and people are breaking them by not following this advice!

D. I keep the machine serviced. A laptop is a small case, and needs its heatsink cleaning out very regularly. The amount of machines I get in that are overheating and just shutting down, I open them up and there’s a massive blanket of dust between the fan and heatsink, choking the computer! If I had a quid for every time this happened I’d be a billionaire by now! You need to do it every 3-4 months in a dusty environment, and renew the thermal paste too!

The amount of people I see not renewing thermal paste when taking the heatsink off annoys me. Do you leave old gaskets on your car engine when overhauling it, or re-use old engine oil when doing an oil change? Thought not! The trouble is that manufacturers don’t mention this fact in the user guide. All the crap on forums about blowing compressed air in the back is nonsense, that will just blow it back in to the fan! Most modern laptops have a single cover underneath that houses the CPU, RAM, wireless card, and graphics card if it’s a separate one, and the heatsink is over the GPU and CPU, and sometimes the CPU is under the keyboard.

Some newer Toshiba laptops are quite difficult, as they don’t have a service cover, and the CPU is facing the bottom cover, so the keyboard, palmrest & motherboard have to come out to flip the board over to get it out. Toshiba have done this on purpose, to stop amateurs in their tracks, and there’s tons of screws!

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