Friday, December 10, 2010

New Blog

Hey friends, so with my new website setup, I've decided to relocate the entire blog itself. Please check out my new projects here:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Website Up

I've just launched a new website for my little side design/consulting business. It details a few of the projects I've done in the past. It's just a small sampling of what I and my partners can do, so if you need something crazy designed or just want to get some feedback on your ideas, check out the Contact page on the site.

Thanks everyone

Monday, September 28, 2009

HPvs19e Monitor Fix

***UPDATE*** This project summary and any further comments/updates have been moved to Please visit the new site for up-to-date info, and to see all the other cool projects!

OK guys, my post on fixing the HP vs19d monitor was immensely popular and it looks like it helped a lot of people save some money on buying a new monitor. I've had several comments made about people that have successfully applied my fix to the vs19e monitors. To help those of you that may be a little uncertain about applying a fix to a different monitor, I've posted images and short instructions for the vs19e below. If you want more explanation, visit the previous post for the vs19d monitor. It goes into a little more depth and detail (vs19d).

So, first things first, here's the image of the monitor:It's almost identical in appearance from the outside to the vs19d. There are a few differences on the inside. The dis-assembly is pretty much identical to the vs19d. First, flip the monitor onto it's front and remove the screw cover at the base. Then remove the three screws holding in the stand:
Next, remove the stand from the monitor, and use a flat head screwdriver to pry the front (light silver) cover from the dark gray main portion of the monitor. See the image below:

When it's all said and done, you should have two pieces now, the main monitor portion and the monitor face plate:

Now, carefully remove the monitor from its case. The switches will still be attached to the main case via a bundle of wires, so be careful not to damage them as you remove the monitor. They will stay attached, so make sure you have room to fold everything out.
As you can see in the above image, there are, like in the vs19d, two metal enclosures in the monitor. We're concerned with the larger of the two. Remove any visible screws securing the metal box. Also remove the screws that hold the power port in place. When you remove the box, you should see the board, like below:

The next step is to find your busted caps. In the monitors I've repaired, they tend to be in the lower right hand corner (referenced to the above image). Someone had already tried to repair this particular monitor and put the caps in backwards. They should have read this post. Oh well. Busted caps seen below:

As an aside, because the question has come up before, that white goo is nothing to be concerned with. HP likely slops that stuff on components that have bare leads to ensure nothing shorts out. I didn't spend too much time inspecting it, but that's my theory. Now you need a way to prop up the board so you can get to the terminals underneath. The board will remained attached via the ribbon cables at the top, so this portion can get a little interesting.
Now heat up your soldering iron, and while melting the solder on the busted caps, pull gently on them to pop them free. Then use some desoldering braid or a desoldering tool to remove the excess solder to make room for the new caps. **I was out of braid, so I used a very small drill bit and very carefully bored out the solder in the holes. Be careful doing this. A dull bit that bites with the torque of a power drill could split the PCB into pieces, then you're screwed.**

The new caps were 1000 microF, 35V (which is overkill) caps from Radio Shack. I recommend these caps over other brands. Some of the other brands I've seen have a different profile and will actually be too tall. Just make sure you get polarity right.

Once everything is soldered in, clip your new caps leads, screw the board back down, screw the metal box back down, reattach the screws at the power port, carefully put the monitor back in the gray case, make sure the switches and speaker wires are all in place (or close to it), reattach the front plate (just press down around the edges, it will snap back together), insert and screw down the stand, and replace the screw cover. Now, hold your breath, plug it in, and hit the power button....

And that's it! You've just fixed your monitor for about $3.00. Also, one more note. It's always nice to work with someone, they can help hold the board or soldering iron if needed. I've included a pic of my work bench buddy below:

UPDATE: I've added some info about finding the busted caps and getting polarity correct. Thanks JoAnna!

1. A cap is blown if the 'X' shaped vent on the top is busted or bulging. You will likely see some brown paste oozing out, but not always. Sometimes, the 'X' vent doesn't fail and the paste comes out the bottom. They're usually pretty easy to spot.

2. On the boards I've worked on, the polarity is indicated on the PCB where the caps are soldered into place. Look at the capacitor on the right in this image ( Underneath, you can see that half of the circle is black. This is generally the negative terminal, and you want to line up the negative pin of the new capacitor with the black semi-circle. You'll also notice the other two caps in the picture are backwards (hence why they exploded and required fixing).

Good luck to everyone. Post questions, comments, successes and failures in the comments below.

If this tutorial saved you lots of money or time, a small donation would be enormously appreciated. This little stream of income allows me to dedicate more time to helping others with their problems. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Video Card Problems

I need help. I'm having a hell of a time getting the video card in my desktop to work. A few weeks ago, I tried to turn on my tower. It powered up fine, but the monitor indicated "No Signal" when I turned it on. I unplugged everything and plugged everything back up and it worked fine.

A couple of days ago, I had the same problem again, but this time, unplugging the cables did nothing. I made sure the video card was seated properly, but still, same issue. I took it to my office and had the IT guy look at it. After removing the copious amounts of dust, nothing had changed. Due to some discoloration to the PCB on the card, the IT guy came to the conclusion that the card was probably fried. I should let you know that this card was the stock card in my HP machine, an nVidia GeFoce 7500LE. Well, this was an OEM card, so I couldn't order an exact replacement. I got an nVidia GeForce 8600GT from NewEgg and tried to install it. No luck. I tried every possible combination of driver installation/uninstallation. I tried reseating the card, reseating the RAM, turning off the on board video, everything. I know the computer works fine, because the TV out on the motherboard itself still works, but no matter what, the video card will not work. If someone has a similar problem or has an idea of what I could do, I'd grealty appreciate any advice. I'm about to drop the whole thing off a very, very tall building.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Open a file in Windows Media Player in Full Screen

I've created a cool little Flash executable that shows a list of my movies I've put on my computer, along with a little summary and the run time. I set it up so that all you had to do is browse for the movie within the program, then just click play and Windows Media Player would automatically play the file. Unfortunately, I could find no way within WMP to have the file START automatically in Full Screen Mode. I'd always have to do it manually.

Long story short, I eventually found the answer in a forum somewhere and have decided to re-post it here, so more people can gain access to it.

For my application, I simply updated a .bat file to fill in the correct movie name everytime. If you only want it for one movie file though, simply create a .bat file that contains the following code:

"%ProgramFiles%Windows Media Player/wmplayer.exe" C:/path_to_movie.avi /fullscreen

Note: There are spaces between the words in "Windows Media Player", and there is a space after the location of your movie file and the parameter "/fullscreen".

Hope it helps.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stuck before Boot Screen?

This post is another effort to save people time and headache. Last night I decided to wipe Vista off my laptop and replace it with XP. I booted from my XP disk and chose to delete the partitioned space on my HDD to make a completely clean install. Vista was wiped off fine. Somewhere between that and a finished install of XP, something happened. I walked back to the living room to find my laptop stuck at the startup splash screen. I've got an Alienware laptop (piece of crap), so the big white letters of the ALIENWARE logo were stuck on my screen. Nothing would get it to move on.

I tried a series of things that DID NOT WORK:
1. Pressing DEL to get into the BIOS Post screen showed that it recognized several components, but when it got to the hard drive, it froze (the code 0078 appeared in the bottom corner of the screen).

2. I tried pressing F8 once I was in the BIOS Post screen to select my boot device, but nothing happened.

3. I tried booting from CD, and the drive would spin a little, but nothing happened.

So, here's what I did that eventaully worked. USE CAUTION when proceeding with these steps. It requires you to work with the internals of the computer WHILE IT IS POWERED ON! This is usually not advised, but I was desperate.

First, unplug your hard drive from the laptop. (Be sure you disconnect the right end of the cable. Don't disconnect the cable from the motherboard. It should have a sticker that says M/B). I recommend leaving the cover off for this entire process.

Next, power on your computer and press whatever key will allow you to select the boot device (mine was F8).

Insert the CD for installing XP (or, at this point, any operating system you wish).

Once the CD has booted, BEFORE IT SEARCHES FOR YOUR HARD DRIVE, flip the laptop over and plug the drive back in.

For me, these steps worked. I believe that when I initially tried to install XP, I somehow corrupted something on the HDD. When the computer defaulted to booting from the HDD, it simply froze. There was no way to get around it unless I removed the HDD all together. We are essentially tricking the computer to boot into CD, and then before the CD has to recognize the drive, add it back to the system.

If you are able to boot from CD with no problems with the Hard Drive removed, then these steps SHOULD work for you, assuming your HDD is not fried completely.

DISCLAIMER: Please be extremely careful when working on a computer while it is plugged into the AC outlet. I suggest working with one hand in your pocket if possible, and minimize what you have to do beforehand. Unscrew everything so all you have to do once the power is on is unplug it. If you feel like you aren't able to do this safely, don't do it. I take no responsibility if you get electrocuted or if you fry something else in the process. Take your laptop to a repair shop and see what they can do.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Personal Movie Server Introduction

There are two flavors of Personal Movie Servers. You can either have it "on-the-grid" or "off-the-grid". In fact, you can even make a blend of the two. I'll explain each individually below:


On "Off-The-Grid" movie server is one that exists solely on your home network and is not accessible from the outside world. This way, you don't have to worry so much about password protecting your files, or having the MPAA or the FBI knock on your door to request an audit of all your movies you've posted on the internet. In order to set up a closed system movie server, you really only need two things:

1. Front-end device, such as a small PC, a modded xbox, a laptop, etc.

2. Back-end device: PC w/ HDD.

You can sometimes mesh the two together if you want, but I have always liked having them split up. The following is the setup of my system:

For the frontend, I have a soft-modded Original Xbox with Xbox Media Center (XBMC). The software is free, and you only really need an exploit disk and a way to move some files from your PC to your Xbox before the mod (I bought one of those cables that allows you to connect an Xbox memory card to your computer). I'll write up a detailed guide for installing XBMC at a later date. The frontend is then connected to my home network.

For the backend, I have an old (OLD!) HP Vectra running Windows XP and Xserver (used to deliever content to the Xbox). This piece of crap sits in my closet and is always on. I connected an external 250Gb HDD via USB, which is where I keep all my .avi movie files. Once all the configuration is done, its really easy to sync the files on the Vectra with the Xbox frontend. XBMC even downloads the latest info from IMDB, like cast, director, year, a plot synopsis, and even the DVD cover.

Now all I have to do is turn on the Xbox, and I have a library of all my DVD movies sitting in front of me.


This version of the setup can be started after you've already built the Off-the-grid version if you like, or it can be setup from scratch. You don't need a frontend, just a backend. For this, you'll have to have a static IP address (or a DynDNS account, which is free). You simply point the DynDNS account to a webpage that lists all the links to your movies. I had a pretty cool setup with a searchable database of plot synopsis, run time, etc. The only problem was that for movies of considerable size (which is most movies if they are in .avi), the buffer time was too long to be functional. On the occasions that it DID work, it was awesome. My Vectra served as the backend, and I could watch Casino Royale from Nashville simply by pointing my web browser to my static IP page. It was a pretty slick setup.

I'll post an in-depth HOW TO in a few days, this was just to get everyone inspired.