Sunday, May 10, 2015


I've been having fun over the past couple of days fixing a lot of things around the home.

  1. Apple Powerbook 190 laptop. My previously home-fixed power adapter gave way. In a box with scrap wall-warts, I found one with a similar diameter plug, cut away some plastic to make the length right, and soldered it onto the Powerbook's cord.
  2. Multimeter. While I was working on the laptop, my cheap Harbor Freight multimeter's probe's contact came out. A bit of soldering, drilling (to make the handle wide enough so I could thread it through) and gluing and it works again, but I wouldn't use it for high-voltage applications.
  3. Swim goggles. One of the retaining clips had broken. I made a new one out of some 1/16" acrylic sheet I had in my scrap collection.
  4. Tambourine. It was a gift for our baby, but the jingles were cut badly and had sharp edges. A bunch of filing and sanding and they're fine.
  5. Board book. Baby is good at destroying them, even though they're supposed to be indestructable. Some packing tape and it works agai (though there are safety issues I guess).
  6. Roomba. We love the succession of Roombas that has come through our home, but they fail periodically (hence: succession). In this case, the infrared LED in one of the bump sensors had failed. Fortunately (!) this happened before with the other bump sensor, and at the time I had the foresight to buy two repair sets, so I had an LED to solder in place of it. It's always a big nuisance taking a Roomba apart, though.
  7. Dishwasher. Upper shelf never washed well. Turns out that the spray arm for the upper shelf wasn't properly attached. Not sure if that's the only problem—it's an old dishwasher—but at least this problem is fixed.
And my big failure:
  1. Pleo dinosaur robot. Some time ago, I had soldered in a 6AA battery pack to avoid the super-expensive and poorly functioning OEM batteries. The battery pack eventually broke off (I didn't think through enough how I attached it). I re-soldered it. But now it doesn't start. Connecting to the UART port, I see that the firmware claims too high a battery temperature at bootup and zero battery charge. Disabling battery temperature and charge checks doesn't help. I wonder if I damaged something when soldering at too high a temperature. I may try a few more things, since the fact that I can talk to it through the UART opens possibilities.

Trite as it is to say it, the above does highlight the amount of bondage one is in to one's possessions.

On the other hand, there is something quite satisfying in fixing something oneself, particularly if it's with parts that one has lying around the home. I suppose it's a feeling of good stewardship plus accomplishment. A kind of neat thing is that more and more the things one is repairing can "say" what's broken in them. I was getting reports both from Pleo and the Roomba through their UART ports, and in the past I've ended up replacing the spark plugs in a car on the strength of the data from the OBD-II reader paired to my phone.

1 comment:

Sam Calvin said...

Alex didn't think something through enough? I don't believe it! :)