TideLog Archive for the “Consumer Electronic Repair” Category

I had this problem suddenly pop up on me. My 3GS is jailbroken on iOS 5.01, it was all perfect until about two weeks ago. Every time I fully switch the phone off and then on again either using the power switch or because the battery went flat, with just WiFi and the cellular active, the phone would constantly crash at the home screen after two minutes, and reboot. It didn’t matter if I logged in using my passcode, or left it sat at the passcode screen, it still did it. If I was quick enough to log in using my passcode and launch an app, it still rebooted while the app was starting or running. The funny thing was, if I left it, it would stop the reboot cycle after about 20 or 30 reboots, and I could use it as normal, until it was fully powered off again, then the whole dance started again.

This whole thing is bad for the phone, as it’ll be constantly thrashing the flash chip, as it always does disk checks on sudden resets (you’ll know when it’s doing a disk check as the Apple logo stays on for AGES, it HASN’T crashed, leave it, it will continue, if you have a lot of data and apps it’ll take a while), this will run the chip into the ground if not put right, and you’ll lose all your data and settings if you don’t use iCloud backup. I don’t care about the phone, it can be replaced, but data can’t, so I always keep my phone backed up via iCloud. All I have to do is have it plugged in and connected to WiFi at night while I sleep, with the phone in sleep, and it backs up automatically.

I delved into the system logs, and there were a ton of kernel panic logs, all within three minutes of each other, for all 20 times it had rebooted, all with “WDT timeout” errors in. Now I’m going to get a little technical to explain what WDT is. It stands for WatchDog Timer, and all processors have them, they can also be software, as part of an OS. It monitors system processes, and internal chip functions, so for example if a computer CPU isn’t functioning or one of its subsystems isn’t working (the floating point unit isn’t working, not responding correctly, or reports a fault, for example), the watchdog timer pulls a reset on the CPU and motherboard circuitry by pulling the resistance on a reset pin of the processor high, resetting the device completely including all subsystem circuitry. You cannot reset a CPU without the whole system being rebooted, the motherboard components would be put into an unstable state, software would crash, and can actually allow exploits!

So, I did a bit of playing around with my phone, and I actually switched Airplane mode on, also turning Wi-Fi off. I rebooted, and the problem STOPPED! I switched just WiFi on and the phone stayed on. The trouble was I couldn’t use the phone, if I disabled Airplane mode fully it would reset again. So I had narrowed the fault down to the cellular section. The next phase was troubleshooting whether it was hardware or software, so because I have regular iCloud backups, I went into Settings-General-Reset-Reset all settings.

DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT, use the Reset All Data & Settings option when Jailbroken, it will brick your phone and you’ll need to do a DFU reset, if you have no recent backups you WILL lose data. Using the Reset Settings Only option is SAFE, I have used it on customer phones many times.

My phone is now settings reset, and seems to be staying on, it is in the middle of restoring apps, messages, contacts and data…. The thing that makes me feel good as a phone repairer is I did it all on my own, no forums or Apple “Genius”es needed, we all know what clowns they are 😉

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UPDATE: All my development PS3’s have now died. I have become tired of keep reballing and soldering them, only for them to die again 6 months later. I have now given up on Sony altogether, and only focus on Xbox personally, so I can no longer assist with re-marry issues

This is something I’ve done about 4 times. If a PS3 stops reading discs, it’s either the laser head unit itself that’s failed (99%), the drive board has overheated and died (1%). If the drive board has failed, you can put another logic board of the same model drive on, but it won’t work straight off. Like the Xbox 360, the PS3’s drive is electronically “married” to the motherboard using software encryption. But, unlike the Xbox, you can’t just take the drive out of a PS3 and connect it to a SATA PC to dump the keys, as the PS3 has a non standard ribbon connection. There are also no solder methods for the PS3 that I’m aware of.

The PS3 Blu-Ray drive won’t work at all if straight swapped, it won’t read PS1/PS2 (on backwards-compatible consoles) or PS3 games, Blu-Ray movies, DVD discs, or even audio CD’s, whereas a straight-swapped Xbox drive will read DVD’s and audio CD’s until the drive key is flashed across via SATA. Fortunately the PS3 drive can be “married” to restore full functionality, but only under certain circumstances such as with supported firmware. Professional repair guys like me have a service mode “jig”, which is a special USB dongle that puts the console into Service mode, and automatically remarries the drive. You can do it with a PSP and a USB stick at home, here I’ll show you how:

NOTE: This does not work on Slim PS3’s. The Slim consoles have the drive control circuitry embedded into the main motherboard like the old PS2’s did, so if it stops reading discs and you’ve tried a new laser all to no avail, you’re out of luck, you’ll need a new whole motherboard.

1. Make sure your PS3 is on OFFICIAL Sony firmware v3.55. If you are on v3.56 DO NOT attempt the steps in my article, your console will BE STUCK in Service mode. The console doesn’t work very well in Service mode, games often lock and the console freezes running certain apps, if you get into Service Mode on v3.56 you CANNOT get out again.

2. Your PSP MUST be jailbroken, and running custom firmware. I have done it using v5.50-GEN-B and can confirm it works on both FAT and Slim PS3’s running v3.55 FW.

3. Download these files (they’re hosted on this blog so won’t expire):

a. PSPJig v1.00 – this file puts the console into factory mode.

b. PS3 OFW 3.55 – This is the official Sony V3.55 Firmware. Not added to blog yet as having trouble uploading it. Google for now 🙂

c. LV2Diag.self-get-out-factory-mode – This is the file we’ll use to get out of Factory Mode.

d. PS3 Remarry v3.55 – These are the files we’ll use to actually remarry the drive.

4. To keep this article short and to the point, I’ll assume you already have the correct firmwares on your PSP and PS3. To start off, take a blank FAT formatted USB pendrive (minimum 512MB), and extract the files from the remarry zip into the root of it. Then extract the v3.55 original firmware PUP file into the root as well. DON’T extract the firmware into a PS3/UPDATE structure like you would if you were updating the system software, it won’t work, the file needs to be in the root.

The structure of your pendrive should look like this:

  • Lv2diag.self
  • manufacturing_updater_for_reset.self
  • fdm_spu_module.self
  • cfg/standalone.cfg (A folder named cfg with a standalone.cfg file inside it)
5. Then install PS3Jig onto your jailbroken PSP by copying the PS3Jig folder out of the zip into your PSP/GAME folder. Start your PSP and check that there’s a PS3Jig icon under the Games menu on the PSP XMB, it will be a PS3 icon as below:
Don’t run it, as you can’t exit out of it without pulling your battery, this will reset your PSP’s clock and date!
6. Next, connect your PSP to your PSP’s first left USB port, start PS3Jig on your PSP. DO NOT connect your USB drive with the remarry files yet. You will see a screen similar to this:
Note that you’ll only see the above message up to “USB Driver Started”. You won’t see the rest until you start your PS3 up.
7. Plug your PS3 into power, and switch on the rear switch so the power light is red.
8. Now switch on your PS3 using the touch sensitive power strip, then immediately afterwards press EJECT. Your PS3 will sit there for a few seconds, and then shut down. You’ll now see the rest of the above screenshot following the “USB Driver Started” section.
9. Now, switch on your PS3 using the power button. It will now boot to the XMB, and you should see “FACTORY SERVICE MODE” written in a red box at the bottom right of the screen. If you see this, you can switch off again.If not, repeat the process. It isn’t time sensitive, apart from pressing Power and Eject.
Your PS3 will stay in service mode as long as you want, even after turning the power off fully so don’t worry about it coming out, we need to manually force it out, which we’ll do later. Remove the USB lead of your PSP, and pull its battery to power off, we don’t need it again. You need to pull the battery as holding the power switch won’t switch off, it simply sleeps and comes back to PS3Jig.
10. Now, connect your USB remarry drive that we created in Step 4 to the FURTHEST RIGHT USB port, and power your PS3 back on. You’ll come to a screen similar to this:
I recommend sticking a BD Movie disc in before you turn back on, as this will restore BD DRL license files, essentially they authorize the drive to the motherboard that it can play Blu Ray movies. There’s a BIG note here that I need you to read, see below:
a. If the ==DRIVE INIT== section at the top is GREEN, but all other sections are RED, the re-marry was SUCCESSFUL, but only the game disc, DVD and CD reads will work. Some people have reported that sticking a Blu Ray movie disc in DOES restore BD movie playback, but it still comes up NG and FAIL on the second section. You just need to play about. Boot back into the XMB still in Service mode, and see if a movie disc will play.
b. If you don’t put a BD disc in whilst doing this, don’t worry, you can do it again any time. The tool is a bit iffy on the success feedback, but you can’t do any damage, I tried different methods when I was learning the non-dongle way of doing remarries and never bricked anything.
c. The ==INSTALL SYSTEM SOFT== section will always be red, this is because the tool is set not to reinstall firmware. Some people use this method on downgraded consoles and end up with YLOD because of incorrect syscon hashes, so it is left off.
11. Finally, once you’re happy that everything works, turn everything off. In Service Mode, games won’t play very well, they often freeze, don’t worry about this, they’ll work in Normal mode, which we’re about to get the console back into. Delete everything off the USB drive, and put the LV2Diag.self file from the Exit-Service-Mode.zip into the root of it.
12. Connect it to the furthest right port of the PS3, power on, and it’ll do the power-on-beep-shutdown process again. Remove the USB drive, and power her on, you should now be back in Normal mode again, with drive functionality restored! Congratulations! Go get yourself a beer, enjoy those feelings of having achieved something brilliant, because it is great even after doing it for the 100th time for me!

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These messages normally appear on the LCD screen when a mechanical malfunction occurs on a Panasonic Lumix camera. They are fatal errors, and will not allow the camera to continue operating, it must be restarted. Below I’ll detail fixes for the different messages:

“System Error”

This is a generic error, and can be caused by a sensor error (lens barrel gearbox or extend sensor, O.I.S sensor (Optical Image Stabilizer), software error, or a loose connection inside the camera, there are several ribbon cables connecting the lens motors, sensors and the CCD sensor unit to the main control board. It can also appear alternately with one of the other errors I’ve listed below.

“System Error (Zoom)” and “System Error (O.I.S)”

These messages appear due to a mechanical error with the lens system gearbox and sensors, pertaining to the focus, zoom and O.I.S (Optical Image Stabilizer) motors and gearing. The locating pins that keep the timing of the lenses has most often than not slipped out, and the gear teeth are out of sync, resulting in the zoom not working correctly, or the barrel not extending and retracting properly. I’ve had this similar problem when repairing Nikon Coolpix cameras with the “Lens Error” message due to it being dropped. Here’s an image of a Lumix DMC-S1 and the timing pins:

The locating lugs drop into the slots and then have to be aligned to get the timing right. This should ONLY be done by a professional repairer like me, as they are precision, and need to be disassembled in a clean environment, the CCD sensor and mechanisms are easily damaged by static and careless inexperience. I have thousands of service manuals and professional skills for cameras, I’ve been fixing them for many years and am highly mechanically skilled and experienced.

CAUTION: There is a HIGH VOLTAGE AC MAINS CAPACITOR that fires the flash that MUST be discharged when the case is opened and the camera disassembled for repair. The shock from this can KILL, DO NOT attempt repair unless you know how to safely discharge high voltage capacitors with suitable resistors, as simply shorting them WILL RESULT in a VIOLENT explosion, they become highly pressurized and explode. The metal body will rupture violently sending shards of metal flying at high speed which can cause injury and blindness if they get into the eyes at such speed.

I’m an experienced professional, you’ve been warned. It is safer to have the work done by a professional for a few quid than risk your safety trying to think you can do it to save money.

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This is one of the most common Optima XM problems I’m fixing now that most of them are over 20 years old. Take a normal Optima XM board, and at first you wouldn’t visually think there’s anything wrong with it, would you?

It visibly looks fine, but your system is still exhibiting weird symptoms. Do you have any of these symptoms on your system?

  • Power light on, but no other sound, keypad locks out?
  • System works apart from sounder or strobe/PIR’s?
  • Appears to work, makes all the right noises but won’t accept any codes?
  • External siren makes weird humming/buzzing noises along with internal siren when wired together?

First if you do get symptoms you should check all zone and tamper wiring/switches, as it’s a big misunderstood issue here on TideLog. Then you should check the transformer for continuity, and around 17 to 18v AC on its output. Once you’ve checked all that and are still scratching your head, undo the screws and bolts holding the keypad chassis to the board, suddenly you see the problem area:

The area I’ve labelled 1. contains the main voltage regulators. They take the incoming voltage from the transformer, smooth it out, then pass it on to the rectifiers in Step 2. above them, these convert the AC into DC, smoothing it out even more to make sure the power isn’t dirty, or has spikes in it, with help from the big capacitor to soak voltage up. From there it is then distributed to all the sections of the board, being split into all the different voltages for the board’s computer, EEPROM memory (where your code, entry/exit delay times and bell on time are stored), and timer chip, and the terminals for all the zones, tampers, strobe, bell etc.

Those rectifiers get hot, the big three legged things in Step 2 that had the keypad chassis bolted through them, the keypad chassis acts as a heatsink to help dissipate heat. Slight signs of burning and blackening on the plastic panel casing around those are perfectly normal, the rectifiers tend to burn off any dust that lands on them. NOTE: When reassembling, the rectifiers MUST be bolted back through the keypad chassis, if they are not dissipating to a heatsink type device firmly fastened they can burn out pretty quickly. The rectifiers go over the top of the keypad chassis lip, the screws go through this and bolt on to the back. Thermal compound isn’t necessary on these.

When used in switchmode power supplies (SMPS) you’ll see them bolted to thick heatsinks with thermal material between them. They are often used in Plasma TV’s they are in droves inside those as they contain several power supplies!

The most comon reasons for the system to fail are:

  • Defective transformer. If there’s too many surges or spikes, over the average 20 year lifetime of most of these Optimas, they take a hell of a beating, the two sections of the regulation circuit take the brunt. The transformer is wired straight to the mains, with no spike/surge circuitry built in, only a fuse.
  • Wear. When semiconductors and resistors wear out they sometimes (not always) short out, stressing the rest of the circuitry out.
  • Defective battery. As mentioned before both the transformer and battery are wired to the regulators so any damaged shorting battery will cause stress, as well as a fault in the battery charging system, also handled by the rectifiers. The battery fuse (the two fuses near the AC and BATT terminals are the Bell & Battery fuses) doesn’t always blow for some reason. I’ve deliberately shorted one out, the battery caught fire (I was in a controlled environment) but still the fuse didn’t blow!

A short on the terminals themselves won’t normally cause damage, as they have a line of resistors and solid state relays along the top of the terminal blocks. Some early versions of Optima boards don’t have relays, the one in my picture doesn’t, but I have boards for repair that do. The terminals to the right have rectifiers as they are voltage rails, for the Strobe, Bell, and 13v rails for the PIR power.

If you have a strange symptom, get in touch and I’ll help 🙂 Just make sure you’ve already checked zone and tamper wiring 🙂 And don’t forget, the transformer output wires to the board are not polarized, but the battery ones are!

The fix to this problem isn’t just replacing the burnt resistor. I always check the diode banks on either side for continuity as the resistor often shorts them, resulting in them all needing replacement. If they’re not checked damage to the battery (overheating, fire or explosion) may result as those diodes control the charging system. An overvolted or overcurrented battery can explode violently like a shorted capacitor!

I can fix this issue for you, get in touch. I normally charge around £20 for the components, soldering, testing plus return postage. I set the repaired system up on my test bench and full load stress it for 72 hours complete with battery.

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We all know that PC World are clueless when it really comes down to computer repairs. Charging £40 just to reinstall a driver, or as in the Sky News investigation, £229 just to reseat a memory stick, which should be a 10 second no charge job. When it comes down to their KnowHow scam, it gets worse. They used to be called TechGuys until they got so much bad publicity they had to rebrand and rename.

Here’s the truth about them. They get their staff from an agency called ADECCO. The people they take on have little or no electronics background, and only have about 6 months training with Adecco themselves before being taken on by PC World into their KnowHow scam, and are allowed to roam free on people’s televisions, washing machines and whatnot, with a multimeter that they don’t even really know how to use.

Their staff will come out, for example to fix a washing machine, and NOT know how to fix it (So they should now be called NOT KNOWHOW!!). I once set a TechGuys engineer up by putting faulty bearings in the tub drum of my washing machine, and calling them out. He went through a ton of basic checks, like checking hoses, the motor, and did a basic PAT continuity check, which failed (I know his test was wrong, because I professionally fix washing machines, and fix my own). After an hour he still couldn’t figure it out, after several calls to head office he decided to poke around a bit, then tell me the control PCB had gone, just to get a problem out in the air so he could have the £60 callout and diagnostic fee.

As soon as I came clean about what I’d done, and showed him my NIC-EIC electrical certificate, he soon got the finger when he still asked for £30 callout. He couldn’t get out the door fast enough he was so embarrassed, so fast in fact he left his multimeter behind. Lo and behold the battery LED was flashing, so his multimeter was giving false readings due to lack of power.

They always say a bad workman blames his tools, but in his case both he and his multimeter were wrong, poorly configured and short of power. Avoid the whole of DSG (Dixons Stores Group, including Currys, PC World and Dixons, plus PixMania) like the plague. Their latest KnowHow ads saying they’ll show you how all these new HD 3D TV’s work is just a cover, they don’t even know what 3D or HD even are!! They charge £100 to fit a flatscreen TV bracket, the cost DOESN’T even INCLUDE the bracket! In Kitamura Computers we fit and supply a HIGH QUALITY bracket for as little as £50!!

In my research of Adecco and KnowHow staff, I found out that everything KnowHow do revolves around output quantity, and nothing else, which really I already guessed. Things that are said to the general public might appear this is not so but don’t be fooled. Just go on the web and see their past history. Adecco staff I contacted on the web (remaining anonymous) constantly feared for their jobs if they didn’t meet these quantity targets, and they felt like Big Brother was watching their every move.

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I’m seeing a massive trend on the Internet, and I don’t like it. People are taking free service manuals available on the internet, collecting them, and then selling them on. I feel this is illegal, because:

  1. They don’t own the copyright to the service literature.
  2. They don’t have the rights, nor permission to SELL for profit, or a license from manufacturers.
  3. They often charge extortionate prices!

All for stuff that isn’t theirs! Tradebit, eBay, and all the other sites that charge on a per-manual basis, I don’t agree with, and detest them hugely. Add to that they often slap their own watermarks on, secure the documents with passwords (tampering with stolen goods) so that no-one can edit them. Service manuals are only public because they’re ILLEGALLY LEAKED, so all these arseholes are committing a criminal offence, by selling stuff that isn’t theirs.

Sites that offer unlimited downloads for a tiny monthly fee I agree with, as these aren’t extortionate, and they host the files on a server they pay for, so you’re not actually paying for the material, just the right to access the website. The ones I use even have permission, and pay royalties to manufacturers.

So, eBay sellers like “servicemanualseu”, and all those Tradebit cowboys selling a single 3 – 30MB file for $19.99, AVOID them. I often find that a quick Google reveals the stuff is available free elsewhere anyway. I’ve reported people like these to manufacturers, and a few have actually been disciplined, good riddance to ’em and all! These cowboys’ excuse is “we charge so much to stop DIY’ers”, but it isn’t your place or right of decision to say who can have them and not.

I have links with people in the electrical repair industry, being a qualified technician. I pay far less for a bunch of manuals from a manufacturer that wouldn’t even buy me a Tradebit cowboy’s single manual!


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Many Vestel TV’s are often rebadged with another company’s branding, and their own model number. This makes finding service literature for engineers like me really difficult. I have a tip that works on many rebadged Vestels to bring up a service menu that will reveal its true chassis number.

My Linsar 16LVD4 16″ HDTV is one example. There are Alba and Goodmans branded versions of it, with and without Freeview & DVD player, all with different model numbers, so putting “Linsar 16LVD4” into Google never reveals service literature, only replacement parts that are used in other TV’s.

I service a lot of Vestel TV’s, and their main method of getting into service mode is as below:

  1. Enter the TV’s main menu, by pressing either a Menu button, or an M button as it is on my Linsar.
  2. When the user menu appears, press the digits 4-7-2-5. This code works across almost all their LCD chassis, and a lot of older CRT chassis from Vestel.
  3. The user menu disappears, and a service menu appears.

It works for most of their chassis, and depending on the chassis model and S/W version, your menu may look different:

Down in the lower right is the TV’s true chassis number. As you can see, my Linsar is actually a Vestel 17MB25 chassis. CAUTION: This menu IS NOT intended for USERS, only engineers. Using features such as NVM Edit or the Programming function will DAMAGE the EEPROM settings, resulting in a dead TV that will need rescuing by a guy like me. The EEPROM chip will need to be desoldered and reprogrammed, or a new chip soldered.

The MB25 motherboard does not need the EEPROM to be preprogrammed before soldering, as the software is automatically flashed by a control chip on the board. This board is used in variants with a DVD module and USB port.

A few rebadged Vestel makes I’m aware of are Goodmans, Techwood (Morrisons stores), Alba, Grundig, Hitachi and Technika from Tesco. Just look for shiny glossy black plastic, as this is what most Vestels are made of! Note that not all models of the above makes are Vestel, it’d take up too much space in this article for me to list all makes and models that are rebadged Vestels!


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Pete and I fixed one of these today as a callout. We actually fixed the customers computer, and mentioned that we fix consumer and white goods. She said her washer wasn’t working, it was flashing the Delay Start button’s light after running any programme for 3 minutes. The Nextra 7 is full of sensors, so we took a look for her.

The engineer invoked self-test programme was halting when the heaters were started. So, we checked the dryer elements and thermostat, they were fine. The washer tub elements were passing resistance tests. The motor was good, its brushes were clear and the commutator oiled nicely. Resistances were OK so we started to suspect the control board. This contains all the relays for the motor/heater start stop and motor polarity reverse, and the surface mount CPU and timer control IC. Luckily I have a board for one of these spare, as Kassie and I used to have one, so we tried that.

Still no luck. Now we’d checked motor, dryer heater element, washer tub heater element, dryer thermostat cutout switches and control board, plus the water inlet valve solenoid. Next thing was the wiring, or a bad ground. I loosened the wiring harness keeping the wiring away from the dryer fan on the left rear side of the chassis, and the problem made itself obvious to us!

One of the positive wires to the dryer heat channel thermostat was cut cleanly in half, trapped inside the metal harness! The harness was too tight, so when the tub/motor assembly moved on its suspension the wire was being chafed against the harness and it had sheared cleanly in two! We repaired the broken wire with a terminal joint, and all was like clockwork again!

The wiring inside a modern sensor washer dryer is all linked in series, like in a Volvo bus vehicle CAN (Controller Area Network) multiplex setup. Each system and sensor is wired together like a daisy chain, so a failure of the dryer heater or thermostat, for example, will affect the control board even in a cold rinse, as an open circuit is treated as a catastrophic failure, halting the machine in any program. The Nextra 7 uses LED flashes as fault codes, this particular fault was 10 flashes and 5 second pause.

Moral of the  story? Use logical fault finding engineer knowledge. Try everything, start large, down to small. Motor, heater, pumps, control board, then sensors, manual reset thermoswitches, and all wiring. DON’T just do what idiots do on forums (“Oh, it’s the control board!!”) because that’s the stupid newb way of doing it!

And, if you replace an FRU resulting in the problem still occurring, put the old part back, and try something else. Never leave new parts in if they aren’t the cause of the fault, it is pointless cost for the customer, and wasteful, you end up with old used working parts in your van that could fail in the future if fitted somewhere else! This is the general way we do things in IT repair too, as well as consumer goods repair.

Common sense, really. Well, it is to me, I’ve always worked like that.

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I had a feeling it wouldn’t last! Time to hire the rework station again! I think you can guess what I’m talking about….. yup, my Uniwill has given up the ghost, last night while playing ToCA Race Driver 3 after detailing my fix here!!

The LCD screen hasn’t been coming on at all lately, and last night while ToCA was running it just froze, and then a BSOD:

“Attempt to recover display driver timeout period exceeded”

I switched off, and then started getting artifacting in the BIOS. Windows won’t go past the Starting Windows screen, so the solder has fractured again. I only reflowed it when I last did it, so now it’s time for a full re-ball.

Bugger, bugger, bugger! Back to using my 7 year old Advent 7036 Pentium 4 snail!! It goes to prove that the RoHS is to blame. My Advent 7036 has nVidia GeForce Go 5300 graphics, manufactured 2003, and it has lead solder in the BGA grids and all the boards, and it is still as strong electrically as the day it was bought. RoHS kicked in in 2006, and since then I’ve had no end of failed solder BGA jobs come in for re-ball/re-flow.

No coincidence. Not nVidia, guys, the INDUSTRY. Lead-free solder is god damn awful. And so is darn RoHS. Lead in PCB’s never killed ANYONE. I’m in contact with them all the time, and was for years before lead free crap came in, and I’m still fighting fit, even after breathing lead smoke from soldering irons.

This Advent may be single core, and ancient compared to what I’m used to in my job and today’s IT standards, but she sure is reliable, even having her GPU powered by nVidia.

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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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This is a common fault across a wide range of Samsung camcorders in their range. The camcorder will not power up from either mains or battery, and also will not charge the battery. It comes down to a failed triac and/or resistor on the charge board just behind the battery, resulting in no power getting to the main control and CPU board. They blow because of plug-in surges/spikes and age. Every time the mains is applied, surges occur, that’s why the resistor is there, to regulate power-up spike.

Note that the boards in some models, for example the VP-90 & the VP-L630 are almost identical, and will fit each other, but DO NOT work correctly. The last time I interchanged a VP-90 charge board into a VP-L630 the Camera function would not work, it just kept shutting down and restarting. Over extended periods, this will result in EXCESSIVE SURGE shock to the CCD charge coupler circuitry, and WILL damage it, resulting in no picture being recorded, and a new CCD control board being needed. Only do this, and use the Player function to verify the fault, and then either replace the board, or renew the failed triacs and resistors. Don’t excessively try the Camera, it won’t work due to differing circuitry and software.

MAKE sure you replace the board with the EXACT same camcorder model PCB. Models in the same family can be interchanged, for example the VP-L620 charge board can be used in the VP-L630, but check the features list, some have an optional filament camera light on the front, and these need high start current which the charge board regulates from input current.

So, if your local “repair” guy tells you your camera is totally knackered because the “main board has blown”, don’t believe him until you check my advice. I’ve had customers use me for second opinions, and I’ve saved them excessive cost! Some cowboy shops totally overlook the charge board, and because they don’t have bits to test the problem, write it off, which is totally wrong.

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I’ve been using my PS3 for the last few days, on two different full HD TV’s, one, Greg’s TV, a 32″ LCD Full HD Sony Bravia, and Kassie’s Samsung 50″ Full HD TV, and I’m far from impressed. GTA4 on PS3 is supposed to (according to the box) be able to do either 720p, or 1080i/p. It never did 1080, except at the XMB, on both TV’s, whereas the 360 does full 1080p straight away!

The aliasing on the PS3 was terrible, on all the games I tried (FIFA 09/10, Stuntman, GTA4) and they all only hit 720. I’ve now decided to sell the PS3, and stick with my 360. I repaired a Slim yesterday, and the fan in that is the nastiest thing I’ve seen since a laptop:

The fan is all plastic, tacky, and typical of Sony downgrading. The PS3 has gone downhill ever since its release, and here’s my full list of faults:

1. Features have been removed (cardreader, PS1/PS2 compatibility, Other OS) that made it better than the Xbox in terms of utilities.

2. The games don’t run at full 1080 when they are supposedly supposed to, and they look aliased and god awful.

3. The PS3 FAT had just as many faults, if not more than the original 360 (discs not reading, video not working, YLOD, RLOD , total failure of the PSU because it got too hot). The 360 has only ever suffered mainly RRoD faults, and the occasional DVD read error. Playstations have had laser failures since the brick Playstation 1, they still haven’t learnt how to manufacture a laser correctly. I’ve never once had to fix a 360 with failed PSU or no video without reason (E74)

4. The Slim PS3 is junk, the components are shrunk, the fan is noisy and cheap, and the games STILL DO NOT run at full 1080. The only thing that makes the PS3 somewhat if at all better than the 360 is that it has a BluRay drive, which is a con anyway, as the same games on 360 fit on DVD, nd they’re better quality!!

5. Firmware “updates” break features. Take for example a FW upgrade that caused people’s BD drives to not read discs? And the recent 3.5 update where 3D discs are choppy and out of sync? Yeah, nice, Sony. Not. They’re acting like they created 3D, which they did not.

I’m normally unbiased in my repair work, but here is my conclusion: Sony is JUNK, JUNK, JUUUUUUNNNNNKKKKK!!!! I’m so glad I gave up on them after my 3rd PS3 laser replacement. They’re still as damn bad, if not worse. An insult to the Japanese, and I love the Japs, as my lil lady is a Jap, and proud of it, Sony just mar their electronics industry. At least Microsoft offered a 5 year warranty, and the new 360 Slim is superior to the older consoles, and all the shite Sony have ever put out. My 8 year old Xbox 1 is still strong, modded, but with all original parts except HDD, so go figure….

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The new fan arrived this morning, and I fitted it. It’s all working as it should, and I’ve been out and bought a wireless controller and GTA:IV so I can roadtest it doing some Serbian terrorism!

I might replace the power supply, as the one that’s fitted is one that gets quite hot. There’s a cool running one available, so I’ll give it a try to keep the system heat level down. The Other OS feature has been removed, someone’s already updated it to 3.30, which was a FW with it deactivated. Oh well, at least everything else works, DVD & Blu-Ray and PS1/PS2/PS3 games all work fine, so I’m happy!

Refurbishment and repair is what I love, and am good at it, I’ve made a lot of profit from electronics repair!

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It arrived yesterday, and I stripped it today. The fan was jammed, it seems to be badly out of shape, the metal frame is bent and the fan coil assembly itself is slanted. It’s a 19 blade, so not one of the rubbish 15 blade ones Sony decided strangely to replace them with. The seller has used a hairdryer/heatgun in the vents to fix a previous YLOD, so the casing and heatsink plastic surround are warped.

Other than that, it powers, runs the XMB, and plays PS1 & BluRay games, and the hard drive works. I’m gonna get a new complete casing and a new fan is on its way via Special Delivery Next Day as I type, so it should be running again in no time! Here’s my total cost of ownership calculation for the stuff it needs:

Console from eBay with faulty fan and possible risk of YLOD = £69 inc £14 P&P

New complete casing to replace the heat warped one from the amateur hairdryer YLOD “fix” job of the old owner = £16

Used working 19 blade cooling fan = £16.98 inc P&P

Future BGA re-ball if it ever YLOD’s on me = £0 as I’m doing it myself

Possible future 120GB HDD upgrade = £30

Total = £138.98

So, still cheaper than buying a used fully working one, or a featureless Slim new. This 60GB FAT has the cardreader, PS1/PS2 backwards compatibility, and the Other OS feature. The Slim costs £229 without all that!!

Damaged repairable is the way to go if you have the skills and experience, which I have. I also don’t use towel, reflow or hairdryer tricks, only professional BGA re-ball, so I’m a winner!

Reflow must not be confused with re-ball. Re-flow is simply heating the component up to re-melt and bond broken solder, whereas re-balling involves renewing the solder balls completely and re-soldering with a hot air rework machine using more heat to ensure higher melting point. This reduces the risk of the solder melting at the console’s normal temperature.

You see? I’m not a bedroom enthusiast, like some of the “been in the console repair business 4 years” people that claim they can do it all because they’ve taken one console apart and watched YouTube. I’m a pro, I’ve been doing it since the Amstrad 464, before the Web or YouTube really existed!

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Often found in PC’s, VCR’s, and other electrical devices that require different voltages, and really clean smooth power, switchmode supplies are also known as switching power supplies and sometimes chopper controlled power supplies, SMPSs use high frequency (relative to 50/60 Hz) switching devices such as Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJTs), MOSFETs, Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBTs), or Thyristors (SCRs or triacs) to take directly rectified line voltage and convert it to a pulsed waveform.

Most small SMPSs use BJTs or MOSFETs. IGBTs may be found in large systems and SCRs or triacs are used where their advantages (latching in the on state and high power capability) outweigh the increased complexity of the circuitry to assure that they turn off properly (since except for special Gate Turn Off (GTO) thyristors, the gate input is pretty much ignored once the device is triggered and the current must go to zero to reset it to the off state.)

The input to the switches is usually either 150-160 VDC after rectification of 115 VAC, or 300-320 VDC after doubling of 115 VAC or rectification of 220-240 VAC. Up to this point, there is no line isolation as there is no line connected (large, bulky, heavy) power transformer.

A relatively small high frequency transformer converts the pulsed waveform into one or more output voltages which are then rectified and filtered using electrolytic capacitors and small inductors in a ‘pi’ configuration C-L-C, or for outputs that are less critical, just a capacitor.

This high frequency transformer provides the isolation barrier and the conversion to generate the multiple voltages often provided by a SMPS.

Feedback is accomplished across the isolation barrier by either a small pulse transformer or opto-isolator. The feedback controls the pulse width or pulse frequency of the switching devices to maintain the output constant. Since the feedback is usually only from the “primary” output, regulation of the other outputs, if any, is usually worse than for the primary output. Also, because of the nature of the switching designs, the regulation even of the primary output is usually not nearly as good both statically and dynamically as a decent linear supply.

DC-DC converters are switchmode power supplies without the line input rectification and filtering. They are commonly found in battery operated equipment like CD players and laptop computers. They have similar advantages to SMPSs in being compact, light weight, and highly efficient.

Where are SMPS’s used?

Switch mode power supplies are commonly used in computer and other digital systems as well as consumer electronics – particularly TVs and newer VCRs though audio equipment will tend to use linear power supplies due to noise considerations. You will find SMPSs in:

  • PCs, workstations, minicomputers, large computers.
  • Laptop and notebook computers, PDAs – both internal DC-DC converters and their AC power packs.
  • Printers, fax machines, copiers.
  • Peripheral and expansion boxes
  • X-terminals and video terminals, Electronic Point Of Sale systems (EPOS).
  • TVs, computer and video monitors.
  • Many VCRs.
  • Camcorder AC adapters.

In additional, you will find DC-DC converters which are SMPSs without the AC line connection, internally in an increasing number of consumer and industrial applications including things like portable CD players.

The up side is that they are usually quite reliable, efficient, and cool running.

The down side is that when a failure occurs, it may take out many parts in the supply, though not usually the equipment being powered unless the feedback circuitry screws up and there is no overvoltage protection.

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