Heat gun GPU reflow fixes laptop

Solder connections on processors seem to be a very common failure point in modern electronics. Consider the Red Ring of Death (RRoD) on Xbox 360 or the Yellow Light of Death (YLoD) on PlayStation 3. This time around the problem is a malfunctioning Nvidia GPU on an HP Pavilion TX2000 laptop. The video is sometimes a jumbled mess and other times there’s no video at all. If the hardware is older, and the alternative to fixing it is to throw it away, you should try to reflow the solder connections on the chip.

This method uses a heat gun, which we’ve seen repair PCBs in the past. The goal here is to be much less destructive and that’s why the first step is to test out how well your heat gun will melt the solder. Place a chunk of solder on a penny, hold the heat gun one inch above it and record how long it takes the solder to flow. Once you have the timing right, mask off the motherboard (already removed from the case) so that just the chip in question is accessible. Reflow with the same spacing and timing as you did during the penny test. Hopefully once things cool down you’ll have a working laptop or gaming console again.

Bohemian Rhapsody on old hardware

Here’s another junk music performance to add to the list. [bd594] put together this rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on assorted computing equipment. The lead piano sound is from an Atari 800XL. Lead guitar is a Texas Instruments TI-99/4a. An 8inch floppy plays bass while a HP ScanJet 3C covers the vocals. He had to dub the scanner four times to get all of the vocal parts. He wanted to use four independent scanners but the prices on eBay were forbidding. The use of oscilloscopes to show the wave forms in the video is a nice touch. Check out our post about Radiohead’s Nude for more examples of this.

[via adafruit]

Hackit: Netbook haters?


Gadget blogs have been a fluster the last day about TechCrunch stating that netbooks “just aren’t good enough“. Writing a response post hasn’t proven very hard given the number of factual errors in the original. Boing Boing Gadgets points out that the low-end of the spectrum that TC post seems to cover are almost impossible to purchase because they’re so outdated. Liliputing rightly states that comparing the browsing experience to the iPhone isn’t worthwhile since it’s entirely a software problem. Laptop goes so far as to recommend the HP Mini 1000 and Samsung NC10 specifically for their keyboard. TechCrunch isn’t alone in their opinion; this week Intel stated that using the ultra portable devices was “fine for an hour“. TechCrunch is designing a web tablet right now using the collective wisdom of blog commenters. Looks like they’re just reboxing a netbook for the prototype.

We cover the netbook market for different reasons than most: Their low low price makes people much more willing to hack on the device. For the price of a smartphone, you’re getting a fully capable laptop. The low performance doesn’t matter as much since we’re running different flavors of Linux that are much lighter than Windows. People running OSX86 are doing it to address a market that Apple doesn’t.

What’s your experience with netbooks? Do you have one that you adore or are you annoyed by their shortcomings? Models we’ve covered in the past include the Acer Aspire One, Asus Eee PC, Dell Mini 9, and MSI Wind.

[Photo: Onken Bio-pot]

Install OSX on the HP TouchSmart

[Aaron Nelson] of Hijinks Inc. wrote up how he installed OSX on his HP TouchSmart IQ507. It looks and works like you would expect, save for a few things. The touchscreen works, but the calibration is so far off it’s useless. The most important things, like ethernet and the memory card reader, work fine. [Nelson]‘s biggest frustration is that he has to disable the on board audio every time he logs in, so that the keyboard and mouse will be recognized. He is working on improvements, and would love to hear any suggestions you have.

Memristor-based memory prototype by 2009

An article in EETimes suggests that we may see a memristor-based memory prototype in development as soon as 2009. The memristor is claimed by many to be the theorized fourth passive circuit element, linking the fundamental circuit variables of charge and flux. This news may not sound that exciting to most computer geeks, but this new component could usher in a new era of computer memory by forming the basis of RRAM (resistive random-access memory).

Scientists at HP labs have finally confirmed that the memristor behaves as their theories predicted. The reason that the component will work so well for memory is that the process is nonvolatile and the bits themselves will only change after the CPU tells them to. The bits in current DRAM systems slowly fade out and require a refreshment every 50 nanoseconds.

[via /.]

NVIDIA’s problems worse than expected?

According to the an article in the INQUIRER, it is very possible that all chips with the G84 and G86 architecture are faulty. The problem is said to be excessive heat cycling and when NVIDIA was questioned, they blamed their suppliers for the issue. Although NVIDIA is claiming that only a few chips that went to HP were affected, the INQUIRER points out that all the chips use the same ASIC across the board, which has not changed in the architecture’s lifetime. They also point out that Dell and ASUS are having the same issues.

The article then goes on to theorize why we have not seen more complaints. They say that failures of these type usually follow a bell curve distributed over the time domain and we are only on the initial up-slope. This is probably due to the different use patterns of the users. For example, people with laptops are turning their computers on and off more than desktop users, thus facilitating the heat cycling’s effect. They suggest the quick fix as more fanning, but eventually NVIDIA will have to do something about this.

[via Engadget]

HP Color LaserJet 2600n teardown

In the ongoing quest to find parts for new projects by scavenging old devices, the curiously sane and benevolent team at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories took apart an HP Color LaserJet 2600n. They wanted to see what makes it tick and what parts can be culled from it for later use.

[Read more...]