Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Projects akimbo

We are at the Elks lodge in Fremont, California (map). This is a much more pleasant spot than our usual digs in San Jose, and they have a dump station in addition to power and water (they also used to be $3 cheaper, but the rates increased to $18 in July). This used to be my home lodge, so it's familiar, along with its surroundings.

There is no access to transit here, to speak of, which is why we usually choose San Jose instead. But we have a car on loan from our good friend Eric, who has a spare, and this spot is a tad closer to some friends we have been visiting for the last couple of days, the principle reason for our return visit here. He has just been released from the hospital with cancer that has metastasized to several organs, and we don't know how much "good" time he has left -- as long as we are in a holding pattern with the Red Cross, we wanted to spend some time with them now.

We'd only paid for two nights when we arrived -- we're trying not to get too ahead of ourselves, since we can still be called to a disaster response at any time. Today we will pay for another night or two, since we are well-situated.

Since the health issues have dictated that our visits be kept short, I have been using the down time here to get a few things done. For one, now that the turbocharger issues are behind us, I had quite a bit of work to get the cover back over it and the flooring back in place. Most of the effort involved scraping off the old sealant and bits of the plywood hatch that had stuck to it.

The other big project I tackled yesterday was repairing my computer. A couple months ago, one of the hinges that holds the screen to the laptop base broke. The broken piece is part of an aluminum casting that forms the base of the computer -- no way to repair it, other than to replace the whole base. Still, that's less work for me than switching over to a new computer, so I hit eBay looking for parts.

I ended up buying a whole laptop, advertised as "for parts only -- does not boot." That cost me less than what most sellers wanted just for the case bottom naked -- in part because the seller could not spell "Gateway" (he left out the "e"). It actually turns out that the only problem with that laptop is the DC power input jack (a known issue with these machines -- new jacks are ubiquitous on eBay for $6). When I slapped a fully charged battery in it, it fired right up. The 80-gig hard drive was completely full -- with rap, hip-hop music and pornography. Louise speculates it belonged to a middle-class white teenager trying to be all gangsta.

The base is probably the most difficult part of a laptop to replace -- absolutely the entire machine must be dismantled. It took me the better part of five hours to completely disassemble both machines, swap cases, then reassemble them. I also had to carefully remove and swap all the labels -- serial number, model number (they were different models using the same case), WiFi information, and Microsoft COA sticker.

My computer is back to its old self (well, OK, this case is a little more beat up than my old one), a welcome relief from having it taped into a cut-up shoe box in order to even be able to use it.

And I now have a complete spare, hip-hop and all, waiting in the wings. Since Louise and I have the same model laptops, this gives us spares for the screen, keyboard, DVD, WiFi, CPU cooler, trackpad, and other items. Plus, the computer is actually usable as-is in a pinch. I'm sure I could solder in one of those $6 power jacks, buy an AC adapter for another $10, and sell the whole thing, broken hinge and all, for more than $116, making a profit on the deal. But having the spares is actually a better plan.

Today's project is to find tires for the car we are borrowing -- the ones on it now are shot, and I thought it would be a nice gesture to do the legwork.

Top photo by flattop341


  1. I think the "shoe box" repair was pretty cool! American "make do" ingenuity at its' best! Take care kids...Doug Smith

  2. Sean, I've done this a few times myself. I agree that replacing the chassis is much harder than the screen frame. Keep the parts. A closed laptop doesn't take up too much room. Screens get cracked too easily and cost much more than $116 on eBay.


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