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January 25, 2007

Free* Notebook Computer

A friend had a laptop that died. He brought it to me, and I fixed it for him. (I don't remember exactly what the problem was, or what it took to fix it, but I do remember that I had to format the HD and reinstall Windows and drivers.) The fixed computer lasted for a while, until my friend began to encounter sudden shutdown problems. (The computer would spontaneously shut off.) He Googled the problem and found out that it was fairly common with the Dell Inspiron 5100, and there wasn't much to do about it. He moved on, got a new computer, and offered the old one to me (for parts, if nothing else).

I decided to take it, and see if I could get it working a bit. If so, maybe I'd make it into a digital picture frame (DPF) or something. If not, I could always strip it for parts.

When he actually gave it to me, he gave it, and only it, to me. No CDs, no power adapter, nothing. I was told the battery held about 2 hours worth of charge. I booted up the computer, and encountered the blue screen of death. I shut down, tried again, and the battery was already dead.

I looked around for a Dell PA-9 power adapter, but the closest I came was the opportunity to borrow a PA-6 (lower amperage) model. I researched the price on eBay and found it available for $18 shipped, but I didn't want to spend the money, especially if I couldn't get it working somewhat decently.

I began to research the overheating problem to find out what I was up against. Was it really as bad as he indicated? I found that a lot of discussion focused on resolving dust buildup in the fan/heat-sink area. Most suggestions involved blowing air into the space. While this process may force out some dust, to me it seemed it would just move most of it around. Before attempting that, I decided to open up the computer and take a look, if possible. Having recently replaced the keyboard on my Inspiron 6000, it was fairly easy to figure out how to do it on the 5100. After removing the bracket and keyboard (4 screws) I removed the shield (1 screw), exposing the fan. I removed it (3 screws) and a bracket holding the fan cable in place (1 screw). I looked inside, and didn't see much, other than a piece of felt padding. Well, it looked like felt padding. In reality it was a buildup of dust covering the entire opening of the heat-sink (roughly 2.5" x 0.5" and 1/8" thick!). I was able to remove it all as one piece, leaving behind a nice shiny and clean heat-sink.

My assumption is that it should now work well for a while (at least until a lot more dust builds up), but I can't test it yet as the battery is not charged. I decided it was now worth the $18 splurge, and placed my eBay order. I hope the adapter comes soon, so I can test out the computer. I also found a handy utility called I8kfanGUI, which allows one to monitor the CPU (and other Dell system component) temperatures and control fan speeds.

I'm now less inclined to use such a decent machine (P4 2.4GHz, 512 MB RAM, 30 GB HD, CD-RW/DVD-ROM, 32 MB ATI video, 15" LCD, etc.) for something as simple as a DPF.

January 14, 2007

Energizer Batteries

Some time ago I found 10-packs of Energizer Max AAA batteries on sale. I bought a few. I used some of the batteries. I went to use some more, and the batteries didn't work. Upon closer examination, the batteries had leaked. In the (sealed) package. I fired off a disappointed email to Energizer:

I just opened a 10-pack of AAA "Energizer Max" batteries. They have an expiration of 2009, but most of the batteries are dead! In fact, several shows signs of leakage. I have NEVER had this happen before. Do I need to stick with Duracell? The UPC is 039800016041. There is a code on the batteries that looks like R31.
They responded by sending me an apology, and a $10 coupon off a future Energizer product.

Over time I found that the batteries also leaked in some of my electronics, namely my TI-82 and the remote for my Dell 17" LCD TV. I sent them another email
(written before I discovered that my TI-82 wasn't working):

I just opened a SECOND 10-pack of AAA "Energizer Max" batteries. They have an expiration of 2009, but most of the batteries are dead! In fact, several have leaked!

An even bigger problem is that my remote for my Dell LCD TV isn't working. The ENERGIZER batteries (from the same batch) also leaked! Even after putting in new working batteries, the remote isn't working. A replacement remote is $35 plus shipping! (http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04&sku=K2964)

Other than with one other recent package of ENERGIZER batteries, I have NEVER had this happen before.

Do I need to stick with Duracell? The UPC is 039800016041. There is a code on the batteries that looks like R31.

The good news is that the guarantee in tiny print on the back of their packages ("We will repair or replace, at our option, any device damaged by Energizer batteries, if the device and batteries are sent to us. This guarantee void if batteries charged by user or device.") seems like something they are interested in honoring! They mailed a pre-paid label to me to send them my stuff. After some careful cleaning I got the remote working, but the TI-82 is shot. (I opened it up, and found damage to the leads on the PCB. The +, x, 1, 2, and 3 buttons will probably never work again.)

I've prepared to send the stuff off today, and it will go out in Tuesday's mail. I'll keep you updated, of course.

January 7, 2007

UPDATE: Saving on Taxes 2006

Yesterday (Saturday) was the last day to make use of Staples extended holiday return period, so after confirming that the second PNY rebate would not be honored, I called to arrange a return of the 3-pack of 1 GB drives. Today I spent a little time looking into the overall cost of the purchase, and am now debating whether it is really worth returning the drives. On the one hand, they didn't cost me anything. On the other hand, Staples is basically willing to pay me $40 for them. Unless I can sell them individually for $15+, it's not worth it.

As you may recall, I bought a bunch of stuff with my TaxCut 2006. The total, after taxes and coupons, came to $276.27. Take off $255 in rebates (instead of the optimistic $280), $12.64 FatCash, and $21.35 in a tax refund (long story), and the order created a profit of: $12.72.

The rebates:
Valid $35__06-59269__CA Internet Security Suite 2007 3 Pack
Valid $25__06-59268__CA Internet Security Suite 2007 3 Pack
Valid $35__06-59265__CA Internet Security Suite 2007 3 Pack with Purchase of any Tax Product boxed product
Valid $20__06-55840__CA Internet Security Suite 2007 3 Pack and Proof of Competitive Upgrade From Participating Resellers
Valid $20__06-55839__CA Internet Security Suite 2007 3 Pack and any Wireless Router or PC Attach From Participating Resellers
UNKNOWN $40__497-07-307__Microsoft Money Deluxe 2007 and TaxCut Premium
Valid $20__06-57958__Identity shredder and select tax products
Valid $35__06-58363__Avanquest MyAttorney Home & Business & any Tax software Product
Valid $25__06-59081__PNY 2GB Attaché Flash Drive with Any Taxcut Product
INVALID $25__06-59081__PNY 3 Pack 1GB Attaché USB with Any Taxcut Product

This, of course, assumes that the MS Money rebate comes through. So far nothing is showing online, so I'll call them on Monday to find out what's going on.