Friday, April 02, 2010

I <3<3 my laptop

About five years ago I got my eMachines m5309. Over two years ago I made this post about my laptop.

My epically reliable emachine scared me recently. You see, the power cable had been problematic after years of twisting and pulling, and refused to work unless the cable around the plug (on the laptop end) was just so, so I used a zip tie to hold the cord in a position that kept the power flowing. I knew it was bad to bend electrical cords so severely, but it ran, and I hoped it would hold out until the laptop gave up the ghost. It would have to be soon, right?

Nope. For about a year and a half, the laptop chugged merrily away until just recently. There was a pop, a flash, and the smell of burning electrical equipment. The heat melted the shielding around the core wire, and electricity arced between the two poles, shooting sparks, and burning a hole straight through the outer insulation. I fiddled with the cable, and satisfied my curiosity that it was teh dead...

Well, it had a good run. No, a GREAT run! But it's still a shame that it ends like this. Especially from an issue with the cable. Of course it happens at a time when we've run into a number of other unexpected expenses... When it rains it pours. Well, might as well see if I can salvage anything from it.

I then set about loose-wiring up the power to see if the motherboard and (most importantly) hard drive were ok. I was pretty sure the hard drive was ok, but didn't have much hope for the motherboard. Those kinds of voltage spikes can easily mess up sensitive electronics.

I pulled apart the power plug (on the laptop side), until it was down to the bare cylinder of the plug with the wires soldered to the housing, and twisted them together with the newly stripped wires from the AC adapter. I plugged it in to the laptop, made sure the wires were secure, and plugged the AC adapter into the wall...

It didn't blow up, which is a good sign, and the light indicates it's getting power. Lets try turning it on... It started up normally, and all the files were available! It was running a little slow, but I was just happy it ran! I'll be able to save my data! I can't believe it's ok after that... Hmmmm... The plug is destroyed, but everything else still works. I can't just wrap it up with electrical tape, because this thing gets too hot, and it'd probably melt right off the wires. Even if I use wire caps, they still won't be that secure. Maybe I can just soldier the wires directly to the motherboard. That would be pretty secure. If only I could make a new plug...

I wander around the house, looking for something I can use to make a strong housing for the plug, when lightning strikes! JB Weld!

I clean the wires and leads as best as I can, and twist them together as tightly and completely as I can, then mix up the JB Weld. I applied it while it was still runny, and it insisted in drooping to whichever side was at the bottom, so I kept flipping the JB Weld covered wires and plug until it started to become more solid. I worked it with the chopstick I used to mix it to make sure it fit around the wires and plug correctly, and in a few minutes (I used the 4 minute kind), it was almost rock solid. I eyed my handiwork and noted that the drooping exposed a few tiny points of the twisted wires that were just barely visible in the light. I wrapped the ends in electrical tape for added safety, and let it set for a little longer.

I plugged it in to the wall, and it didn't explode, which was good. (I later realized that I didn't think to check if JB Weld was a conductor. I'm lucky it's a strong insulator, because if it WAS a conductor, I would have permanently encased the plug in conducting steel, and probably destroyed the AC adapter with a full short) I plugged it in, and it worked fantastically!

After testing the box for a bit, I kept noticing how slow it was. When it overheated and shutdown on me, I realized I hadn't cleaned the heatsink in a very long time! I cracked it open and found the heatsink almost completely blocked with compacted dust! It had been overheating so severely that the CPU was cycling down to keep from frying itself! This puts terrible strain on the processor! I quickly cleaned out the heatsink, put it back together, and started it up again. Right back to normal. This thing is the fucking little laptop that could!

This laptop refuses to die.

It ran with almost no ventilation for weeks, took power spikes without flinching, saved itself from burning out when overheating, and just keeps on going.

The hinges that the screen opens up on froze up, and the housing holding the screen to the hinges cracked and broke off soon after, so the screen is held up by a Rube Goldberg wire hanger bent to hook to the PCMCIA wireless card. The screen is covered in scrapes and smudges to the unprotected LCD. The plastic housing it cracked and broken off in a variety of places. The battery refuses to hold a charge. The plastic on the bottom is darkened by the constant heat. The tactile click on the touchpad left click button is gone. The rough plastic under the keyboard and in many other places is worn completely smooth. It baked for months at a time, running constantly with no surface stand-off for the intake vent.

The motherboard still works, the CPU fan still spins, the ORIGINAL HARD DRIVE still works great after countless reformats, all the keys on the keyboard still work, PCMCIA slot (and wireless card) still work, the display is still bright and usable, the CDROM works (but complains), all USB ports work, and the touchpad still works perfectly.

This laptop has gone above and beyond, and when I get a replacement soon, it will sit behind the teevee as a Linux server barely making a sound.

Far, far, FAR more than I expected from an eMachine.



JP said...

There is a bit of credit due to emachines that no one gives them. Sure they are cheap computers, but every one I've ever worked with has been rock solid. My girlfriend has a emachines desktop that probably should have died 3 or 4 times by now.

Glad you got your machine running again. I am typing this on my HP laptop which I have recently noticed the power jack is starting to wobble... I am dreading the day I plug it in and it doesn't work - its probably coming soon.

Rivrdog said...

I'm writing THIS on a 6-yr old Fujitsu C2220 laptop. It has it's original drive (never reformatted), and is driving a new Acer 21.5" monitor, after the backlight in the laptop's monitor crumped last year, and I decided I didn't wear enough stars on my geek hat to attempt to change out the inverter.

The original power supply still works, and I am only on my second battery. This laptop was built as a "desktop replacement", and it serves that role well, but it's hoggish Pentium 4M 2.4 ghz processor needs 70 watts (with the backlight) to run the machine, so it's never been much of a portable. I did add 256mb more RAM, giving me 768mb. Windoze XP limps along, not the best OS in the free world, and I will probably change to a Linux OS this summer, likely Ubuntu.

I use this Fujitsu between 3 and 10 hours per day, and have since it was new. I've used plenty of duster cans to keep it clean.

For portability, I now have a Verizon Wireless Gateway 2016 netbook.

In my clan, ya dance with who ya brung, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and repair, re-use and recycle.

All THAT is part of being a REAL conservative.

Anonymous said...

Next time you have to anchor a set of electrical connections (plug, socket, etc.) try using the epoxy putty. It too, is non-conductive and is stiff from the start so it holds the contacts right where you want them as it hardens. The stuff I have sets up in about four hours.