Pro Tips: Use a Hot Air Gun to Reflow Solder

Why A good hot air solder rework station costs well upwards of $100. If you have just a few parts you need to reflow, you can use a common heat gun available at most hardware stores for around $30. These guns have all kinds of uses and are commonly used in construction to strip paint. They are usually around 1000W and some have temperature control. I use a Wagner HT1000, which has selectable 750F and 1000F modes. How Common solder melts around 500 degrees F, no problem for most of these guns. These guns push a lot of air and can blow away smaller components if they aren’t held down, […]

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Online Business Owners: Beware of SURBLs!

About this Post We recently found ourselves in a fight with SURBL.org to get a client’s domain off of one of their blacklists. This is a little bit of information about SURBLs and some resources to help others who have been wrongfully blacklisted.

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Drive an RC Servo from Analog Voltage

ABOUT: This is a circuit I designed to generate a PWM signal for an RC servo given an analog voltage or high frequency PWM.  It has no microcontroller and can be built with one quad op-amp and passive components. The op-amp I used in my implementation is a NJU7034D-ND, available from digikey, but any rail-to-rail quad op-amp will do. Since the input stage has a low pass filter built in this circuit will accept a high frequency (>~5kHz) PWM as an input in addition to analog voltages.

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BIOS Password: Don’t Set it and Forget it

We recently had a computer in the shop that had a Hard Disk password and a BIOS password set on it. The Hard Disk password is stored not only on the logic controller, but also on the disk itself, and make the drive unusable without entering the password. Under normal circumstances, people will password protect their windows logon, but their data is easily obtainable just by removing the hard drive and accessing it from another computer.  If you set the Hard Disk Password, this is not the case.

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Performing a “Clean Install”

A clean install is a reinstallation of your operating system “from scratch”.  Under most circumstances, this is a last resort when the operating system is so badly damaged, corrupted, or otherwise uncooperative, that other options won’t work. Some other reasons to do a clean install are: When transferring a computer from one owner to another.  This is to delete any personal data and make the computer “new again”.  This is a great option for parents who want to “hand-me-down” their computers to kids. When buying a new computer.  It’s a stretch, but some new computers are so bogged down with crapware from the manufacturer that customers just want a clean […]

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Making a Digital Sign out of a Decommissioned Laptop

We often find ourselves the new owners of our customer’s old computers. Some cheerfully donate them for parts, some just don’t want to ever look at their old laptop again (this stems from the same bitterness that caused them to get a new one in the first place). This post will show you how to put a nearly dead laptop to good use: Make it a digital sign! You will need the following: A dying, old, or otherwise neglected laptop. A spare LCD display. Display cable, power cables, network cables. First, we gut the laptop.  The screen was failing, the case was cracked, and it’s lugging around a dead battery, […]

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Targus Universal Power Adapters – Beware!

A few people coming in for laptop power jack repairs have also brought in the universal power adapters they use as a replacement for the original AC adapter that came with the laptop, which they lost. From what we’ve seen Targus dominates the universal power adapter market with this. From what we’ve seen the adapters themselves work alright (though there are reports of overheating around the internet). The main problem we’ve seen is that there are a wide variety of tips available, and several tips may work to power one laptop model even if they don’t fit properly. It usually goes like this: the user buys a new universal power […]

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Recovering Lotus WordPro Files (In Russian!)

A customer recently came into the shop with some Lotus Wordpro documents that she had recovered from her old laptop. They contained a dissertation that was written almost a decade ago that had to be revisted… the kicker was that the files were written in Russian, and opening them with a text editor revealed page after page of UNICODE Gibberish. Opening the old files was simple enough. There is a free program out there called Lotus KeyView that allows you to open (but not edit) .lwp files. We were easily able to copy and paste the text that Kevview presented to us, but it was certainly not encoded properly. After […]

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iPhone Repair: Combine parts from two broken iPhones to make one working iPhone

Today is a good day. Last Friday was a bad day. My dog took it upon himself to vomit all over the console of my car, which happened to be where I had parked my iPhone. It was sideways, partially submerged in about an inch of dog vomit for about 20 minutes, and was unresponsive. This video was awesome at explaining the suction cup method for opening and iPhone, which works like a charm. You remove the two screws at the bottom, apply a 2″ suction cup to the face, and pull gently back revealing… iPhone innards and dog puke residue. I let the components dry a little bit more, […]

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Windows Deployment Services

Doing clean installations the old fashioned way can take over 2 hours, and that’s assuming you are sitting there, eagerly waiting to press the “OK” and “Next” buttons on the dozens of command prompts you will be faced with. Once Windows is installed, the updates can take an obscenely long time to download and install. (As of the time of this post, a clean installation of Windows XP Pro Service Pack 3 requires an additional 65 updates after installation!) We’ve explored several alternatives to doing clean installs without CDs, including several flavors of “no-touch” install gizmos, USB installers, slipstreaming, drive cloning and more, but none come close to the ease […]

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