Friday, 14 September 2012

VENI VIDI REFECI – Wombling free! Rise of Maker Man, or how I managed to avoid spending a lot on a new monitor while philosophising about how the Universal Soldier really is to blame and also creating my longest blog post title yet.

The title means (in Latin) I came, I saw, I repaired. My step son, who’s pretty handy too, says he is going to get me a T shirt with this slogan on after the following all took place. In case readers don’t know, “maker” refers to the online trend for people to make their own - like growing-your-own, but with more carpentry and metalwork!

Maker links: Wiki article about makers - Maker faire - Make magazine 

Transition initiatives (click for a link to Jersey in Transition’s website – or Facebook page) are also keen on making and mending to demonstrate that there is another way besides buying and chucking away until people have “used it up and worn it out - because there’s nothing left in this whole world that they care about” (Odyssey’s only UK #1 single) .


Now to the nitty-gritty of this post.

My computer monitor started flickering badly a couple of weeks ago whenever it was switched on. The flickering would settle down after a minute or so but the period was getting longer every day. I started to think I would be needing a new monitor, as I was not expecting it to be repairable. You know what modern electronics are like. Before I revved myself up to be a consumer again, I Googled for the problem and - hallelujah! - there were quite a few forums and Youtube videos that suggested the likely cause for this fault, which is mostly the electrolytic capacitors on the power supply board. Apparently quite a few manufacturers use low spec parts in this area – in my case, my Samsung 226BW used CapXon capacitors, which supposedly last about 2000 hours or three years and pretty much take you just to the end of the warranty period. Now doesn’t that almost look like someone designed the monitor to fail so it gets replaced (too) early? Most people would assume that it could not be economically repaired, as indeed I almost did, and I normally always try to repair anything that breaks first before I splash out on a new one. That makes me a bit of a rarity outside the transition and make and mend movements. There’s probably much larger numbers of people who are fed up with goods failing and breaking down too early but WHY DON’T THEY PROTEST ABOUT IT? Consumer pressure these days is just about the only thing manufacturers listen to, now that integrity, longevity and fairness have gone so out the window now we are in the 21st century. Yet so many just say “mustn’t grumble”



and soldier on without a squeak. Well Universal Soldiers, here’s a message for you. Every time you say nothing or do nothing, you reinforce the very situation you grumble about under your breath or bitch about to your friends and colleagues. You know what you should do, why don’t you do it?


“He’s the universal soldier and he really is to blame, but his orders come from far away no more, they come from him and you and me, and brothers can’t you see, this is not the way we put an end to war”

Phew – back to the mundane. Having obtained three new caps for under a fiver including postage and packing (I ordered higher spec ones – 35V instead of 25V ones, so they should last longer) I set to a few days ago following the video below and a step by step set of photos on the Overclockers forum which was a bit easier.

What pleased me first was that the case of the monitor was quite easy to split – it holds together using plastic clips, which often are not only hard to get apart but sometimes break. Manufacturers design these things so they can put them together as fast as possible and do not often seem to bother if that makes them harder to open for repair. Anyway, using a butter knife and debit card as levers, it popped open easily.

As I used to make electronic circuits when I was a teenager, I found I didn’t need to dismantle everything as thoroughly as the guides did so I managed to desolder the offending caps and resolder them (with the aid of Merlin, my trusty assistant Siamese) without going to their slightly excessive lengths. The three caps that usually go on this monitor are the three with arrows in the bottom right of the second pic. The “blown“ caps were immediately obvious once I got the power supply out – the tops were not only domed instead of flat but had started to leak the brown electrolyte from inside too. The two 830 µFs were blown but the 330 µF appeared Ok - I replaced it anyway as it was the same spec as the dodgy two.

Here is my assistant Merlin after the outside case and bits have been separated.

The power supply board is the right hand (slightly raised) one.  Merlin felt like a nap afterwards, because it was quite hot work in the sun.



The offending power supply board with the 3 dodgy caps arrowed (bottom right)



Can you see the leaking electrolyte on the top of the two larger caps?

Both of them are domed upwards because of the pressure – the smaller cap has still got a flat top but would no doubt blow shortly after putting the monitor back together - if it wasn’t replaced right now… You can just see Merlin’s paws as he formulates his strategy.



Merlin having a think about how he is going to tackle the soldering with this weird (borrowed) “solder gun.”

However, that will be after he has had another nap. He has already sorted out three new replacement capacitors.



First capacitor “legs” fed through the holes in the circuit board

Make sure to get the correct polarity leg through the right hole…



All three capacitors soldered on. Legs not yet cleaned up and clipped off

Excuse the rubbish soldering  - Merlin is only a cat and he said the soldering iron was not the best he’d used. I tend to agree with him but I’d borrowed it so beggars shouldn’t be choosers, I suppose. I tidied up the solder and flux (brown stuff) on the joints after I took this pic, although Merlin claimed he was a bit offended.



Just the back to go back on now

Merlin has disappeared for some snacks after his hard work and has left me to do the easy bit.



If you’ve got this model monitor; here’s a Youtube video below

“Repairing a Samsung SyncMaster 226 BW monitor”

showing you fairly clearly what to do, narrated in English by “Retroswede” who is indeed Swedish.

There are other videos out there for other breeds of monitor so this dodgy capacitor problem looks like a common cause of failure. It opens up the possibility of getting nearly free monitors by wombling (see urban dictionary for definition) for discarded office monitors and fixing them up.

Making good use of the things that we find, things that the everyday folks leave behind

One of the Wombles’ mottos is "Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish". Quite Transitiony. here is Series 1, Episode 1

Orinoco and the big black umbrella

Alderney’s commemorative stamp issue – Author Elisabeth Beresford went there to live and retire.

wombles stamps


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Not the Paralympics

This odd but haunting video is not anything directly to do with the Paralympics but, curiously, it resonates strongly with them.

Sue Austin has been a wheelchair user since 1996, but has dedicated herself to “finding ways to understand and represent my embodied experience as a wheelchair user, opening up profound issues about methods of self-representation and the power of self-narration in challenging the nexus of power and control that created the ‘disabled’ as other.”