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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Mon, 27 Feb 2017

I finally replaced my HP Pavilion g6 keyboard

I had a new keyboard, and my "n" key on the old one broke again (the replacement was never as good as the original key), so I decided to pull the laptop apart and install the new keyboard.

While putting it all together, I did get one little screw wedged in a plastic hole (I'll extract that one later and replace it), but an old laptop can get along with many fewer case screws than it ships with. If you've ever had a used or otherwise repaired laptop, you know what I'm talking about.

The keyboard replacement wasn't too hard. I probably took out a lot more screws than needed to make it happen. I could have just removed the back panel, unscrewed the keyboard-retaining screw (that's the wedged-in-plastic one) and popped the keyboard out from behind/below by aggressively pushing on the proper spot with an eraser-tipped pencil.

I tried that, and it wasn't happening. I knew the keyboard was held in "tight" due to the last time I tried to replace it when I had the wrong part.

So I took out a bunch more screws and then tried again. The extra screws probably didn't need to be removed, but at that point I was more confident in the amount of pressure I was putting on that eraser-tipped pencil to push the keyboard out through the top of the laptop's plastic case.

I got the keyboard out and pulled the ribbon cable.

Inserting the new keyboard's ribbon cable wasn't instant. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how it snapped in. But I got it done, snapped the keyboard itself into the case and closed everything up.

It all works, and now I have a new keyboard on this laptop that will be 4 years old in a couple of months.

This keyboard isn't a "springy" as the other replacement keyboard I bought a few months back that didn't quite fit, but it'll do the job and give this laptop some more useful life.

My last laptop, a low-priced Lenovo G555, only lasted 2 years before it went to sleep and never woke up. This also-cheap HP Pavilion g6-2210us is still running at nearly 4 years old, but not without effort.

It just underscores my contention that you can't really get 5 years of service out of a laptop. If they don't fail mechanically or electronically, they'll be ancient in some other way. I'm no longer saying "don't pay more than $500 for a laptop," because I see real differences between the $500 and $700-900 laptops being offered these days. But I will say that no matter how much you pay, if you're beating the hell out of it like I do, don't expect more than two trouble-free years.

* Pictured above is the new keyboard before I put it in. After removing the hatch at the bottom of the laptop and removing a retaining screw, there is a little hole on which you can push at the keyboard from below with an eraser-tipped pencil and loosen its plastic grip with the case enough to start unsnapping it the rest of the way around for replacement.

Tue, 03 Jan 2017

Adding memory to a laptop when they don't want you to add memory

When we bought my daughter a cheap Asus laptop a couple of years ago, I knew it had only 2 GB of RAM. But I also knew, or thought anyway, that I would add memory at some point in the near future. After all, upgrading memory is easy, right?

The answer is yes, I suppose, if you have the kind of Windows laptop where you can get the battery out by switching a lever. The hard drive and memory are a plastic door and a couple of screws away.

That's how it is on my 2013-purchased HP Pavilion.

But on my daughter's 2014-made Asus Aspire E15 laptop? Nope (battery access), nope (hard drive access) and nope (memory access).

To do anything -- change the hard drive, memory or even the battery, you have to remove 18 screws from the bottom of the case, crack it open with a case-cracking tool (I use a little plastic spatula from a long-dead and -gone mini food processor), and then start taking off parts.

To get to the RAM module on this Acer, you have to remove the hard drive, pull about a dozen cables of various types and then remove the entire motherboard from the case BECAUSE THE RAM IS ON THE BOTTOM.

If I hadn't pretty much torn down and rebuilt more than a couple of laptops, I wouldn't have even attempted it.

It's frustrating. Laptops traditionally allow the user to swap in new RAM and hard drives. You might want to do an upgrade, or a drive can go bad. And batteries? Mine last about a year and a half, and then I need to replace them.

So now that tablets are ubiquitous and are basically glued together, laptops, especially cheap ones, are not serviceable or upgradable?

If the hard drive dies or I need more memory, it's just tough tacos?

No. I do not accept that.

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Sun, 06 Nov 2016

Well-used laptops don't last forever

My experience, anyway, is that heavily used laptops like mine don't last anywhere forever.

My Lenovo G555 lasted a little more than two years before it died.

And now I've had this HP Pavilion G6 2210-us for three years and six months. I'm on my third battery (luckily they're cheap), and now I'm about to replace the entire keyboard (also cheap).

I bumped up the RAM to the maximum of 8 GB a while ago. No regrets there.

The HP has had one catastrophic drop onto concrete that didn't affect it at all -- except for some nasty abrasions on the plastic case.

The drive it came with was an ample 640 GB in size. I sort of want to rebuild it as a Linux-only computer with a 1 TB drive. I generally have 100 GB of free space, and I'd have even more if I could kill out the Windows 8 instllation that I could never successfully upgrade to 8.1 and hence never even try to get Windows 10. If I don't go SSD (and I can't see doing that on this old laptop), the 1 TB would give me a lot of breathing room.

So the batteries last about a year, and the keyboard lasts 3 years. I'll replace the keyboard and hope the rest of the thing doesn't go south.

Would a more expensive laptop -- this one sold for around -- last longer? I don't think so, but you never know.

No more replacement keys, I'm just going to replace the entire keyboard

While my last key replacement was rocky yet ultimately successful, the results aren't what I'd hoped. And now the space bar is going wonky.

My "new" N key works, but it doesn't have the clicky/bouncy feel of the other keys. I'm not sure if it's the rubber cup or the hingy mechanism, but it is what it is. And it's not great.

I tried new rubber cups that I got from ReplacementLaptopKeys.com, and that didn't help.

The space bar is just generally loose and mushy, and it doesn't work on the ends all that well.

This time I'm just buying a whole new keyboard. What I didn't know is that they're cheap. For this laptop anyway.

I'm not sure if this is the case for all laptop brands, or just HP, but the market is awash with OEM replacement keyboards, and I just bought one for on eBay. Sure I'll have to take the whole damn laptop apart, but it should really have a new lease on life.

Sun, 21 Aug 2016

ReplacementLaptopKeys.com comes through again

Just like on the laptop before this one, if you bang on it and take it enough places, you end up with a busted key.

Where do you get a new one?

HP won't sell you one key.

Enter third-party individual-key sellers like ReplacementLaptopKeys.com, which attempt -- usually very well -- to send you any individual key to replace a broken one.

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Tue, 13 Oct 2015

Virgin Mobile LG Tribute users: Finally get the LS660ZV6_01_update to work

The LS660ZV6_01.zip update has been dogging me for about a month on my Virgin Mobile LG Tribute phone. I couldn't install it. No matter what I did, there was "insufficient space" to do so. I finally got the update installed, and I will share my not-so-secret discovery with you.

tl;dr: You need 550 MB of free space to install the ZV6 update on the LG Tribute. Start deleting app data and full apps until you get there. Then try to install the update that has been dogging you and eating up your data for at least a month if not longer. It should work.

Even though the LS660ZV6_01.zip update is supposed to be "only" 73 MB in size, the most internal memory I've been able to free up by clearing out app data and cache was 300 MB. And the update still won't install. There is still "insufficient space" to cram this supposedly 73 MB update on my LG Tribute's 4 GB of internal memory.

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Tue, 26 May 2015

Gear review: The iRig 2 guitar interface to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

The iRig 2 guitar interface

Here's my short and not so sweet review of [IK Multimedia's iRig 2] guitar interface to the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and some Samsung Android devices.

The iRig 2 was floating around the office, and I figured that I'm a guitar player, I've always been interested in headphone-amp type solutions, and maybe this would enable me to play an electric guitar, with the aid of my iPod Touch 5th Generation, and leave amplifiers behind.

Here's the challenge: I play jazz mostly. I don't like distortion. Jazz guitar for the most part requires a lot of headroom but no distortion.

Can the iRig 2 handle it?

First of all, the iRig 2 is an inexpensive device. It's something like $39. That's cheap. So how much can you expect from it? How good is the onboard preamp?

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Wed, 05 Mar 2014

Helpful post: How to manage/sync your iOS 7 device under Linux (natively) by Manuel Escudero

This post is here more so I don't lose track of this extremely detailed tutorial on how to deal with iOS 7 devices under Linux, especially Fedora.

(Because friends don't let friends use iTunes)

Fri, 31 Jan 2014

Just because you're a former Apple manager doesn't mean your iMac's getting fixed

An extremely cautionary tale on broken iMacs, Apple's relative indifference, and how barbaric this all seems in relation to hardware from other vendors:

Readwrite: How I Fixed An iLemon -- Repairing a Mac is no simple task — take it from someone who worked at Apple for 20 years by David Sobotta

Wed, 16 Oct 2013

File under obvious: Turning off CPU fan makes computer run hot

So I noticed a BIOS option to turn the CPU fan off on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us. I tried it.

After invoking this in the BIOS, the fan didn't run all the time. It ran about half or more of the time. And the bottom of the laptop was appreciably hotter.

So I went back into the BIOS and turned the fan back to "always on."

Now the laptop runs cooler.

Obviously, right?

The fan isn't so loud that it's a problem, and it does have variable speed, so having it cycle off and on is more noticeable than just having it on all the time.