Monday, December 12, 2011

Mr Fixit or Mr. Breakit

I seem to have spent the entire weekend fixing things. This would normally be a cause for pride of accomplishment on my part except for the fact that at least one of the breakages was completely my own fault.

The first patient was a cable  remote which had stopped talking to the set top box. After several batteries were wasted by various members of the family who assumed that batteries were the problem I decided that I had better roll up my sleeves and "look into it".

Looking into it consisted of  prising the plastic cover apart and peering at the circuit board inside, knowing full well that if there was anything seriously wrong I wasn't going to be able to fix it. While peering I noticed that the keypad matrix on the circuit board was covered in a syrupy gloop. The rubber keypad mat had its own fair share of this gloop. Guessing that this wasn't a design feature I carefully cleaned both and re-assembled. Hey Presto the remote works and Daddy is a hero.

The second case was my wife's PC which has been acting up for a few weeks, hanging irrecoverably at random intervals. These hanging incidents were just frequent enough to annoy my wife considerably but neither frequent enough nor predictable enough for me to make a serious attempt at solving the issue. It ffinally came to a head at the weekend when the computer sat down for good and refused to boot. My keen photographer spouse was quite distraught at her inability to get into photoshop but I was actually pleased. I knew from experience that a fault that stops the machine from working at all is usually easier to diagnose and fix than one that occurs randomly once a day.

She actually has five big hard disks on this machine to store all her photos but the problem turned out to be related to the main windows disk. A combination of binary search, trial and error, booting from puppy linux, disk repair using another machine, reseating all connectors and cleaing the machine out with a vacuum cleaner got us up and running again and I am hopeful that the problem is now fixed. Kudos again for Daddy.

The final repair job is the one that consumed most of my time and is the also the one that is entirely my own responsibility. It arose from attempts to upgrade the operating system on my Android phone. They say that if something isn't broken then you shouldn't try to fix it and that certainly applies here. Yes my phone was running an older version of Android but it was working great and it did everything I needed it to do. Complicating matter further was the fact that the latest version of Android hadn't been officially released for my country yet so I had to install a hacked version downloaded from the web.

I am not completely clueless. I have hacked my phone before with great results   but this time things didn't run so smoothly.

Although the upgraded operating system appeared to work very well the first problem that I had failed to anticipate is that the upgrade wiped all my apps and data. This wasn't the disaster it could have been because I was able to restore everything from backups and from the cloud but reconfiguring everything to be the way I like was time-consuming and tedious. It was made harder by the fact that the wifi seemed to be acting up and attempts to download anything more than a few megabytes invariably failed.

Eventually the wifi issue got to me and I went to google to discover that this was indeed a known issue for some phones using this latest version of the operating system. Various tweaks to the phone (and to the wifi router) were offered as solutions by commentators but I tried all of them and nothing worked. In fact my ham fisted repair attempts made things worse leaving me eventually with a phone that couldn't connect to the internet at all either via wifi or packet data.

At around midnight on Sunday I came to the twin realisation that a) My attempts at repairing the new operating system weren't working and b) I needed the phone to work better than this for the week ahead. I resigned myself to a late night and went through the tedious process of downgrading back to an official version of the Android operating system (which wiped all my stuff again) and then re-configuring and reinstalling everything I needed again. It was 2am before I had a fully working phone and could finally go to bed.

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