EMMC Hacks For The Speed And Capacity Upgrade Win

You could say that it is the essence of a site like this one, that the kind of people who form our readership are also the kind of people who examine the specs of the devices in front of them to reveal hidden features. Such was the case with [Ryan], who noticed that the eMMC controller on his 96Boards HiKey development board supports both HS200 data transfer speeds and 1.8v signaling, both of which it wasn’t using.

In unlocking the extra performance, he takes readers through a primer on the device tree, and is happy to report that his transfer rate has increased from 26 to 36 MB/s, a tidy return on his work.

However, the story doesn’t end there. The 8GB Samsung eMMC chip wasn’t quite as roomy as he’d have liked, so it was time to replace it with a 32GB version. Even with careful desoldering, he managed to lift a few pads, though very fortunately they were ones that were either NC or power rails that were duplicated elsewhere. Some tricky reflowing of what is quite a formidable BGA package to do by hand, and he was rewarded with a working board featuring higher flash capacity. We salute him for taking it on, we probably wouldn’t have had the courage.

We’ve brought you a similar upgrade before, this time an eMMC on a Nexus 5 phone.

Thanks [darkspr1te] for the tip.

Think You Know Everything About Soldering?

[Joshua] has frequent discussions about his soldering techniques with viewers of his YouTube channel. He finally decided to interview [Randy Rubinstein] who is the president of SRA Soldering. In nearly an hour, they talk about everything from solder alloys to proper temperature. They also talk about lead exposure, flux cleaning, and lead-free solder.

They also talk about strategies for rework with lead-free and using special solder for removing SMD components. Honestly, although the first frame of the video says “your solder sucks,” we didn’t really find any earth-shattering revelations about something everyone’s doing wrong. We did, however, find a lot of good advice and some interesting details about things like the uses for different solder alloys.

Continue reading “Think You Know Everything About Soldering?”

Hakko FX-901: Better than TS-100?

You’ve surely seen the TS-100 soldering iron. It has an OLED display, an ARM processor, and will run with an external battery pack. They are not too pricey, but at $80 or so they aren’t exactly an impulse buy, either. [Drone Camps RC] used one in the field and decided to try a Hakko FX-901 instead. He did a video review that you can see below.

The FX-901 is about half the price of a TS-100. Granted, it doesn’t have a fancy display and you can’t hack it to play Tetris. However, it does take batteries (including rechargeable) without an external pack. The manufacturer claims up to two hours of use and that it will melt solder in 40 seconds. From the video, the iron actually melted solder in under 30 seconds. The two hours, by the way, is with rechargeables. Alkaline AA batteries should give about 70 minutes of operation.

Continue reading “Hakko FX-901: Better than TS-100?”

Fail of the Week: How Not to Repair a MagSafe Charging Cable

So I made an awful, kludgey, “there I fixed it” level repair, and I need to come clean. This is really a case of an ill-advised ground.

My thirteen-year-old daughter asked for help repairing her Macbook charging cable. Macbook chargers really aren’t meant to flex around a lot, and if you’re the kind of person who uses the laptop on, well, the lap, with the charger in, it’s gonna flex. Sooner or later the insulation around the plug housing, where it plugs into the laptop, cracks and the strands of wire can be seen. This type of cable consists of an insulated lead wire surrounded by a stranded ground wire. The problem with this configuration is that the stranded ground also gets flexed until it breaks, one strand at a time, until the cable stops working.

So it was with my daughter’s Macbook cable. I didn’t have the money to buy her a new one, and I figured we could repair the break. We busted out her WLC100 and sat down to get our solder on. She started off working while I supervised, then I took over later on.

We began by using an Xacto to cut away enough insulation to expose about half an inch of the stranded wire. We pulled the wire away from the insulated lead wire and twisted it into a single stranded wire parallel to the lead wire. Grabbing for the iron, we tinned the ground and soldered a length of 22-gauge solid wire to it. The way the ground connects to the plug is by passing through a conductive ring. My idea was to solder the other end of the 22-gauge wire to the metal ring. Here’s where things started to go wrong. This is, by the way, the part where I took over so you can blame me and not my kid.

My daughter was using the WLC100’s default tip. I should have grabbed my own iron, a WES51, or at least swapped in its ninja-sharp tip. The WLC100’s default tip is a big fat wedge and it was too big to put next to the plug, and the conductive ring quickly got covered in melted plastic and I couldn’t solder anything to it. Worse, I had accidentally burned through the insulation protecting the lead wire, and had to cover it in electrical tape.

iFixit cracked it open and started from scratch.

What now? We were left with not being able to use the cable at all. One option was to wait until the goop had cooled and burnish it clean with a Dremel, then attempt to re-solder using an appropriate tip. However, that sounded like a lot of work. The solid wire was still securely soldered to the ground, so instead of trying to attach it to the cable side of the plug, I could connect it to the computer side, by shoving it into the socket alongside the plug. The business end of the plug has a big silver ground surrounding small gold positive leads, and touching the ground with the wire should work just fine, right?

It did. The computer charged up as happy as you’d like. And yet, I was left with the distinct feeling the solution could have been, I don’t know, cleaner. Certainly, the iFixit route shown here comes out much cleaner by sliding off the housing, clipping the damaged wire, and beginning anew. Clean as this is, it’s just waiting to happen the same way again.

So, brethren and sistren, lay on with brickbats and tell what I did wrong. What approaches have you used to fix cables broken where they meet the plug housing, and how do you improve the situation for the future?

Review: TS100 Soldering Iron

Temperature-controlled soldering irons can be cheap, lightweight, and good. Pick any two of those attributes when you choose an iron, because you’ll never have all three. You might believe that this adage represents a cast-iron rule, no iron could possibly combine all three to make a lightweight high-performance tool that won’t break the bank! And until fairly recently you’d have had a point, but perhaps there is now a contender that could achieve that impossible feat.

The Miniware TS100 is a relatively inexpensive temperature-controlled soldering iron from China that has made a stealthy entry to the market, and which some online commentators claim to be the equal of far more expensive professional-grade irons. We parted with just below £50 (around $60) to place an order for a TS100, and waited for it to arrive so we could see what all the fuss was about. Continue reading “Review: TS100 Soldering Iron”

Key to Soldering: Pace Yourself

When writing my last article, I came upon something I thought had been lost to the seven seas of YouTube: the old-school “Basic Soldering Lesson” series from Pace Worldwide.

This nine-episode-long series is what retaught me to solder, and is a masterpiece, both in content and execution. With an episode titled “Integrated Circuits: T0-5 Type Packages & Other Multi-leaded Components” and a 20-minute video that only focuses on solder and flux, it’s clear from the get-go that these videos mean business. Add that to the fact that the videos are narrated by [Paul Anthony], the local weatherman in the Washington DC area back in the 80s and 90s, these videos are a joy to watch.

Even if you know what you’re doing, don’t skip the first video. It’s where the “workpiece indicator” concept, which runs throughout the series, is introduced.

Covering everything from what solder really is to how to correctly solder integrated circuits, this series has it all, even if it’s slightly dated. And, while it’s not a hack, it’s a great way to rejuvenate your soldering skills or give someone a hot start on their soldering journey.

Speaking of which, we’ve seen many things designed to educate, but one size certainly does not fit all. Do y’all know of any well-made sources that teach foundational topics that are as accessible as this series? If so, let us know in the comments.

The first video in the series is after the break. In sum, they’re long but worth it.

Continue reading “Key to Soldering: Pace Yourself”

Cheap Helping Hands: Just Add Time

We think of helping hands as those little alligator clips on a metal stand. They are cheap and fall over, so we tend to buy them and don’t use them. However, if you are willing to put $35 or $40 into it, you can get the newer kind that have–well–tentacles–on a heavy base.  [Archie_slap] didn’t want that kind of investment, so he made his own for about $10. We think that’s Australian dollars, so that’s even less in the United States.

What’s better is he documented every step in meticulous detail and with great pictures. You probably won’t directly duplicate his project because you will probably pick up a slightly different base, but that’s not hard to figure out. The arms are actually coolant hose, [Archie_slap] picked up almost everything but the base plate on eBay.

It’s obvious [Archie] is a frugal guy, based on his drill press. It gets the job done, though. The build is attractive and looks like a much more expensive commercial product. Some of us around the Hackaday lab are old enough to wish there was a magnifying glass attached, but maybe that’s version two.

We’ve looked at a lot of different helpers recently. We couldn’t help but think about a somewhat similar Gorillapod holder we covered last year.