Saturday, December 24, 2011

Frozen Cursor on Dell Vostro 1520 Laptop

Dell apparently issued a bad batch of AC adapters for Vostro 1500 laptops. After a customer brought it to my attention that the track pad wasn't moving the cursor on screen. Plugging a mouse into the USB will release the cursor to move freely about the screen. This proves it's not a virus or a windows glitch. This Forum provided the answer to the problem. Unfortunately it doesn't look like Dell will reimburse or send you a new one. Fortunately there's always Google Shopping. 

Apple Starts Independent Approach to Accessory Purchase

Next time you go to the Apple retail store, take a look over near the phone cases. You may notice a customer holding some merchandise from their wall of accessories, pull out an iPhone, and snap a quick picture before walking out with it. 
Before you decide to run and flag the security, you might wish to be briefed on the procedure called personal pick up. Now at Apple, instead of pulling out cash or card, you can simply pay by phone as you would any App purchase. 

  • First download the Apple Store App.
  • Snap a picture of the UPC of the product you wish to buy.
  • Provide the three digit security code on the back of the credit card used to purchase iTunes.
  • Confirm the purchase.
  • You will be emailed a receipt.
  • The store is immediately updated verifying your payment and prohibiting the guard from tackling you on your way out.
    Keep the original packaging and Apple will replace or refund any of these items no questions asked.

    This leads one to ask- Is this the future of retail shopping? If so what store will be next? Is the Apple store employee that informed me of this procedure aware that her job is at stake?
    What do you think?
  • Friday, December 16, 2011

    Installing RAM in an iMac 2.4GHZ Core 2 Duo

    In an effort to upgrade my iMac to play Sky Rim, I made a dash to Fry's the local electronics sotre here in California. I bought a 4 GB SODIMM 667mhz stick of RAM. It put me back about $67 after tax. Installed and booted no problem. Then hours later I noticed my browser dumping my pages every 5-10 minutes and the OS completely freezing up so it needed to be rebooted. Clicking the Apple at the top left and selecting About this Mac, it show there to be 6gb total installed. The other slot already had a 2gb chip. I decided to pull my 4gb and replace it with another 2gb. Reset the computer and the OS has been running smoothly ever since.  Which makes me ask, Is this a software or firmware restriction of RAM capacity?  Suppose the only other future upgrade would be replacing the hard drive disk for a solid state drive. Interesting side note- there's a drawing beneath the pedestal that illustrates the procedure for upgrading or replacing your RAM just in case you forgot.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Dodge Havoc and Destroy Dust Bunnies


    Want an easy way to make your system significantly slow and sluggish? Run it on the floor in a room full of dust for a year and let it slowly absorb every particle. Your PC is not a vacuum. If your CPU heat sink looks like this, I should turn you in for attempted arson. Please excuse the sarcasm. Just take note: The computer I pulled this from had a bad stick of RAM preventing it from booting. The RAM on this particular model Dell Inspiron 530s like many others sits next to the CPU. Heat dammage? It's likely. I identified the problem from 4 short beeps from the BIOS on post. I used an air can to blow the dust out and a vacuum next by to catch it. An old toothbrush to loosen the remaining dust in the corners, and one last vacuuming to finish the job.

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Tux Computer Case with Embedded Linux Kernel

    This is for all you true nerds out there. Not the fake ones that think wearing glasses, reading Harry Potter and play W.O.W. only count. More the ones that know the hundredth decimal of pi. Here for your viewing pleasure is Tux the penguin computer case in pico form factor. Taken from the site -"TUX Case is 16.9 cm high (6.66 inches) and can house a FOX Board LX plus an add-on board. The rear side is already holed for the FOX Board LX connectors (Ethernet, 2xUSB, DC input)." This cute little case can be found here for a decent price:

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    LCDs and DC Jacks, Two Lucrative Laptop Repairs

    Two of the most common problems that customers bring to repair other that viruses are damaged LCDs and broken DC Jacks. Here in Southern California I can charge upwards of $145 for a installed replacement LCD and $95 for an installed DC Jack. I usually jump on Google Shopping,  eBay, or locally on Craigslist for the best part prices.  Both issues are easy to diagnose.
    A cracked LCD will show the tell tale black 'ink blot' when held at an angle to the light. The lights and sounds on the laptop will work and the screen may even be very dimly lit but will display nothing. Replacement is as easy, but varies by model. Remove the bezel (the plastic frame around the LCD) and the 2 or 3 cables connecting it to the board. If your unsure of how to disassemble the laptop there are a plethora of videos across Youtube with specific instructions. Only tools needed are a small philips and flathead  screwdrivers.
    If the laptop is not charging (look for the indicating led) or will not turn on, the problem could be the jack. The problem is obvious when the jack is jammed inside or moves freely when plugged into the AC adapter. DC Jack repair involves removing the motherboard. There's about 25-40 screws to take out holding the laptop together and the board inside. Be alert and remember where the 10 or so wire cables connections were pulled from. Grab the jack with a pair of pliers and gently pull side to side as you heat the solder on each pin connecting it to the board. Use a desoldering tool the suck out the excess solder left over. Seat the new jack flat against the board and solder it secure.

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Set the Throttle to Light Speed with a 1000 Core Processor

    Just when you thought the computer you built last week with a six core i7 was beast, Scientists at the University of Glasgow have to one up you. They've used a new technique called Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) to make programable CPU cores. The cores can be assigned to individual tasks with their own allotted memory bank. Using this technology these Scottish scientists have reached speeds 20x that of todays fastest processor. Dr Vanderbauwhede hopes to present his research at the International Symposium on Applied Reconfigurable Computing in March next year.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    A Computer Repair Man's Rant

    Computers in general are volatile systems. One minute they're crunching data by the gigabyte the next they've run across a script error and will be shut down immediately. Of course all computers are not built the same. Some larger companies, HP, Dell, Acer, Gateway, Sony, to name a few, offer great support in terms of drivers and help information. They protect their reputation by building the systems that last longer. Alas there will always be a market for cheaper goods. Enter the clones, and after market China products. Don't get me wrong, I'm lovin' the great price, it's the price you have to pay later down the line that will kill you.
    Recently a customer from Rialto Ca brought a computer to my office that was constantly restarting. It didn't have a prayer. At first Windows would load and run for a half an hour then restart. Hours Later it began restarting every five seconds. I did suspect it may be the power supply. Switched it out, no difference. Exchanged the board and bingo! No restart. The damaged board was an ECS 'elite groups'. Funny cause I had that same brand mobo a  few years ago with about the same problem.
    Now for my rant. The customer brought a second computer to my office and figured I could work with the extra parts. The board was a Soyo Dragon 2. The computer flashes a screen displaying when beginning to  boot. I looked it up the site is non-existant. So much for finding the drivers there. The crazy part about these two computers was that I was able to pull the SATA HDD out of the ECS and run the pre-existing copy of Windows in the Dragon 2! It actually started accidentally as I was about to load Windows XP from CD. The only problem was of course it needed the different drivers. In cases like these I google it, and check the forums and cnet It took some time. Conclusion- spend a few extra bucks and avoid custom boards. You'll save you're self a lot of hassle down the line. Once you have the right network driver working you're golden. From there it's a breeze. Windows updates, Anti-virus loaded. Having the internet is really the only reason they want their computer fixed in the first place right!?

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    The Software Toolkit of a Computer Repair Man

    There are a series of different maneuvers and software applications that a computer tech needs to carry with him inorder to be prepared with going out to visit a job.
    Tool box Items of Computer Repair:

  • USB jump drive, or External drive (to store data temporarily, or load the OS faster than a CD) 

  • OS disks (Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, or 7)

  • Anti-Virus (Dr. Spyware, Avira, MS Security Essentials, Malware bytes, etc.)

  • Ophcrack (boots from linux kernel and cracks lost Log In passwords)

  • Internet Connection (Drivers for wireless, network, sound, video, printers, etc.)

  • Si Sandra (to search and identify components to know what drivers to look for)

  • Phone (customer contact, possible help from a friend in a pinch)

  • Do you know of other essential computer repair tools?

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Blue Screen Error Proves MS Disk the Culprit

    I received a custom built computer from customer with the Windows install disk still in the drive. Along with the computer he also handed me the CD plastic with the original serial. Figuring it was easier to just start the install from the disk that was already in the drive, I went ahead and booted from the CD. It would load for less than a minute before showing a blue screen with an error: "0x0000007E (0xc0000005, 0xf748E0BF, 0xF78DA208, 0xF78D9F08). Shrug possibly a random glitch. Two tries later I started going through the BIOS and hardware to find the problem. The RAM chip was installed in the second slot away from the CPU. Switched it over to the first slot to receive the same error.
    When I first started the computer it wouldn't recognize my USB mouse or keyboard. Using the old school mouse connection allowed me to at least click the user name to try to enter Windows. It wouldn't load at all, just display a solid blue screen no text. The OS may have some how been loaded from this broken disk only to support this broken system. Problem Solved: Finally ejecting this disk that came with the computer and inserting my own, the system loaded. Inspecting this faulty disk I found a small yet deep scratch in the center right where the data begins.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Gateway M series Laptop Error 02FA: Main Fan Error!!

    "Error 02FA: Main Fan Error !! !! Please turn off system and check your CPU fan !!"
     The fan on the Gateway M series laptop I was fixing was spinning up immediately the second after rebooting, then stoping cold. Since the fan did spin when the computer was turned on it was obviously still good. I flipped the laptop over removed the one screw and plastic panel covering the CPU fan and RAM. Removed and replaced the RAM, and it solved the problem. I received the suggestion to start it without memory installed and see if the behavior of fan goes back to normal. (computers do this when no memory is installed). 

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    Fire? Water?? Data Withstands the Elements with IoSafe SoloPRO Backup Drive

    Has anyone ever asked you: What's the first thing you're going to save in case there's a fire? As thoughts of family and pets are hopefully are the first to race though your head, your computer might just be second on that list. Think of all the time you've spent working on that excel file, or building your dream house out on Auto-cad. What about all the music downloaded before Limewire went down. On top of that the thousands of pics taken on your iPhone, but never uploaded to the cloud. Now your precious files can be one of the last items on the list of things to risk your life for. Introducing the IoSafe SoloPro waterproof, fireproof back up hard drive. With a 2TB max capacity, the SoloPRO is fireproof up the 1550 degrees Fahrenheit, and waterproof for 72 hours in 10' of water. Weighing in at 15 pounds with it's inches thick ceramic case, and one year of data recovery service included, Fort Knox is wondering where to get one. So when the next the nuclear holocaust hits your neighborhood, you can be sure as all hell fire that all your downloaded torrent and other unmentionables will be waiting peacefully inside it's silver plastic waterproof lining waiting to be opened on a computer that is more fortunate than the last.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Accessing a computer Remotely.

    Once in a while a customer will call asking for additional assistance on their computer. Although I want offer great customer service, it isn't always convenient to just show up in person. Considering the amount of time and money that could be saved, I decided to invest in a program called Logmein. It's offered free to try, and available for $30 as an iPhone app. If nothing else I figured it would be great way to access my home computer for files and other information as needed. First time trying out the software I wanted to control my wifes' laptop. Figuring it would be funny, I send her an email as an invite to the remote log in session. She accepted and was instantly in control of my iMac. ...Not quite the outcome I expected. After a laugh, I got to thinking how this program could be used to repair a computer remotely. Since then I've loaded the program on many computers to quickly help solve any problems they might have in the future.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    St Patricks day and the 40th Anniversary of the Computer Virus

    Not only is today the celebration of our Irish forefathers but the 40th anniversary of the computer virus. The first computer virus was called The Creeper. The Creeper virus was first detected on Arpanet, the forerunner of the internet, in the early 1970s. Creeper was an experimental self-replicating program written by Bob Thomas in 1971. Creeper used the ARPANET to infect DEC PDP-10 computers running the TENEX os. Creeper gained access via the ARPANET and copied itself to the remote system where the message, "I'm the creeper, catch me if you can!" was displayed. The Reaper program was created to delete Creeper.
    Back in the days when Apple was the major computer retailer another virus called the Elk Cloner was spread via floppy disk. The virus in the pic here shows an original BSOD. The virus was called Brain(c) and apparently gave an address to where the computer could be fixed. Funny how our business is called Brain Child Computer Repair.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    iMac Grey Screen of Death?!

    Looks like no apples here. I booted my iMac this morning only to see a circle with a cross through the middle sign instead of the usual Apple logo. I could only compare it to the common Windows BSOD blue screen of death. I was stuck. I laughed figuring this was more of a photo-op. Luckily the OS install disk was available. After running a repair on the Mac partition with Disk Utility the computer was back up and running 15 minutes later.