Thursday, January 6, 2011


Today was wet and soggy. How better to spend time getting things done.

So we installed SuSE 11.3 on the netbook and generally have things going right again. But the missing part still eludes us.

I've done a more generic search, resulting in a host of sites. They don't cite the part explictly but are obviously in the domain of reclaiming parts, so have emailed them with the particulars. We shall see. If no luck by tomorrow PM then it is time to cut bait and put it all back together. And if it still doesn't work, then order the part from California.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Screwtape on defence

OK, pursuing the solution. The repair shop didn't seem all that motivated, so I figured better to give it a go myself and only on failing to turn it over to them.
I'll come back later and clean up the pictures, right now I'm on the netbook and don't have a photo editor... :-(
I found 
that explains how to open the case. I also found lots of cat hair.
The disassembly proceeded directly, although slowly, as I was being particularly careful and documenting the steps and adding edits to the source:
Step 8:  remove the keyboard upper trim
+ Note: one of the eleven screws removed in step 5 holds this trim in place. Do not take a shortcut and skip removing the screws!

Step 14: remove cables 
+ The upper antenna cable (the one towards the rear of the machine) is grey.
+ Pull up on the black plastic tabs to disconnect the display connectors.

Step 17: Remove screws 
+ There are 5, not 4 screws on the P1630
+ Still more cat hair...

Step 20:We need to carry on further to get to the USB connectors. On the USB audio board:
+ Remove four screws
+ Disconnect brown ribbon
+ Disconnect white coax
+ Remove VGA connector cover
+ Disconnect phone plug connector
+ Lift out
USB audio board. 
This is the bit that needs to be replaced. Its data are, from top to bottom:

    VB335B* CP33353*-X1

    B.3 D.5 F.7 H.9

    08Y01298303 06

On the reverse of the card the serial connector has a tag that reads:
    Agere Systems
    Delphi Modem 040
    Approval No. 3785

    Morocco: 2514/2005
    TEC/WR/I/MOD-08/02/122.MAY 07
    IC: 4005B-DELPHI, REN:0.1

Careful examination of the the rest of the system does not find any signs of damage: flare points, melting, burn spots. 
But the USB audio card... 
There is a clear burn mark with black residue on the eight-lead processor in the center of the card.

So now we have five choices:

1. Declare faith in the take-it-apart-clean-it-and-put-it-back-together philosophy:
    a. Put it all back together to see if it flies

          Not likely...
    b. If it doesn't work then take it back to the shop and ask them to do all the foregoing. 
          That seems a waste, plus time, money and data liability, since I've already done all this.

2. Take the board to the shop and ask them to replace it.

3. Try to find the board myself.

4. Do #1a and if it doesn't work then #3.

5. Do #3 and on success or failure #1a. Then on failure #2. In any case keep the gear (and data) here until the card is replaced.

I vote for option 5. We have seen black residue in the past that didn't matter, e.g., the mouse. But if the card is not terribly expensive better to replace it now, given the burns and residue. And in any case delay turning the machine over to strangers until all other options are exhausted.

Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Wow. Major Screwtape...

C. S. Lewis wrote a delightful tale The Screwtape Letters ( in which a senior demon called Screwtape gives advice to his nephew demon (Wormwood) on how to corrupt the souls of men. Basically, it is a matter of tossing marbles in their way and then watching as they do themselves in. So when I see a bunch of marbles in my path I declare a "Screwtape moment". I know he is trying to get me to mess myself up, so it is a time to stop and reflect, and figure out what is the correct next thing to do.

I have just had a major Screwtape moment. In fact, several of them:

I've been trying to get Bluetooth connectivity from Linux OpenSuSE 11.3 to various bits of gear, including a Bluetooth headset. After spending major time struggling with kbluetooth to no avail I discovered that people were singing songs of praise to Bluedevil  ( as an alternative open systems stack.

So I went in quest, and found it as a git and  CMake project. OK, so more time learning about git and CMake to no avail. Then finally some friends pointed out the OpenSuSE 11.3 repository, where a vetted version resides. Downloaded it with YaST and hurrah! headset connectivity at last.

Next, as in after any major adjustment, reboot.


It seems that the Bluedevil package requires the latest KDE stack (4.5.3), but it is unstable so trashed the machine.

No problem, we'll just reinstall ("upgrade") from the CD.

Uh oh. The CD drive won't run and Linux complains about current overload. Arrrgh. Screwtape...
It sort of connects,installs some files, deletes some others, but then stops. "Connect DVD #1" it demands...

OK, go look for the power supply for the drive. I think it is a 12 volt unit, but the charger tips will tell. (The drive is an IOmega SuperSlimDVD and it does not show the charger voltage...) So plug in the charger, it fits, and ....


Nothing. The drive does nothing.

It turns out that the drive is one of these dual USB devices with a Y-split cord. I had only attached one of the two USB connectors, resulting in the current overload.


But now we have blitzed the machine or the drive or both and the kernel is gone:

Filesystem type is ext2fs, partition type 0x83
kernel /vmlinuz...
Error 15: File not found...
So the kernel is trashed, and I have no way to reinstall because the DVD drive won't respond.

That was yesterday.

Today I take the drive, the laptop, and myself up to Tottenham Court Road to Gigabyte Electronics, where several people are very helpful. We test various USB drives against the machine and other machines then migrate to powered drives.

All confirm: my USB port(s) are toast. I have several options:
1. Farkle with the machine tonight
2. Get the USB ports repaired (component level repair, air sucking through teeth)
3. Pull the Hard Drive and mount it somewhere to extract the data, then toss the machine.

The data are encrypted, so option three isn't all that bad, except in cost.

In the meantime, I buy a new CD/DVD drive and an ASUS EeePC netbook, then take the machine and the new acquisitions home to explore option 1. If it doesn't sort out tonight then options 2 and 3.


OK, so now we are home with a snack and a pint and go to work.

Regarding the defunct Fujitsu P1630:

+ The blitz occurred on the second USB port, which is possibly short circuited.
+ We have tested single and dual lead drives against ports 1, 2, or both, none work
+ We have tested powered drives against each port, none work.
+ We have connected other USB devices (hub, cell phones) all DO  work. ???

So the USB ports are knackered.

Regarding the netbook:

Some progress here, but 'way too slow.

+ OK, what about USB: I can read half the phone but not the part I really want, which is the memory chip. Hmm. Maybe I can put the chip in a card reader and load it directly into the netbook?

OK, put it on the "too hard" list for now and let's try Internet connectivity.


I have a mobile broadband transceiver with a SIM that connects through USB. But the netbook is "embedded", meaning it has a SIM slot. It reports this device as EM770. So the system refuses to find the outboard USB antenna, demanding a SIM for the embedded device. Whatevah, as long as it works, except of course it doesn't work as well as a space antenna. But whatevah, as long as it works.

OK, I can post (obviously), finished the pint and the snack and am about ready for dinner. So what is ahead?

+ Catch up on essential correspondence by email ( with business, family, friends.

+ Get used to the offplaced right-hand Shift key next to the PgUp key: whenever I try to use the former I get the latter...

+ Establish Bluetooth or USB connectivity to the phones and memory sticks. I'm going to nuke Windows as soon as possible, so anything of substance needs to be stored offline, like this posting.

+ Test the old CD/DVD drive against the new netbook before trashing it.

+ Examine connecting the memory chip directly to the netbook for offboard storage

+ Print out repair objectives:
     - Repair USB ports to allow booting from an external CD/DVD drive
     - Alternatively, rip the encrypted /data partition to a USB stick or DVD

+ Save the plan on the external medium. Especially save the latest versions of itinerary.xls from the phones and USB drive. This contains all the passwords as well as details for Linux reinstallation.

+ Nuke Windows on the netbook and install OpenSuSE 11.3. Windows drives me nuts with its insolence. The vendor touted this netbook because it had WinXP, "not the hated Vista or Windows 7". Amen.

+ Resolve the conflict between the "embedded" mobile broadband and the USB attachment. I need to elevate the antenna for better reception.

+ Resolve the video resolution conflict: WinXP allows resolutions up to 1920x something, but apparently the video card can only handle 1024x768?? So if you set the resolution higher then you need to scroll all over the place.

Sigh... Screwtape...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Christmas!

It has been a magic time, with the full range of traditional English Christmas:holly, ivy, watercress,snow, music, Messiah, Vivaldi, fairs, markets, family, and friends. 
We've had a fine time in London, with snow and full moon in Hampstead, browsing Covent Garden, Harrods, Bond Street, Burlington Mall, Selfridges, James Street, all the other West End offerings, and lots of walking, averaging around four miles a day. Found the most amazingly huge and wonderful mall in Shepherd's Bush ("Westfield Mall"). A lovely moonlit stroll down Embassy Row just west of Kensington Park and tea at the "Orangery" at Kensington Palace. Almost got locked in the park, as it closes after dark... Found the German Christmas Market in Hyde Park, full with roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, hand-blown glass tree ornaments, and Moravian stars. Supper at the Sherlock Holmes, went to hear Messiah at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. It was a perfect rendition. 
We walked down to Wapping High Street and visited the butcher, garden shop, green grocer, and pharmacy. It was like walking through a rift in the curtain of time: suddenly it was 1950 all over again... :-) The butcher is amazingly deft with his cleaver, with apparent total disregard for his thumb just millimeters away from the aimpoint. (I couldn't watch after the first blow... :-(
Found a lovely holly wreath and real mistletoe, now adorning the boat inside and out. Delightful. The last time I saw a holly wreath was when I made one myself as a college student after cutting the holly in the forest. And I can't remember the last time I saw real mistletoe. (Although she did warn us that the berries are deadly poison, especially for cats... :-(
And found once again that we have two cultures divided by a common language: I've been looking everywhere for "mineral oil" to lubricate a pump. Getting constant stares and shrugs. Never heard of it, they say. Well, browsing this anachronistic little pharmacy I found "liquid paraffin". Yup. Same stuff... :-)
The single-handed trip down from Shepperton to Teddington was "interesting", what with unmanned locks ("self-service") and *literally*frozen lock controls, then a white-out mini-blizzard once on the Thames below Teddington. No one else on the river, except for scullers and rowers with total ignorance of the laws of gross tonnage and too many lights... :-) 
So, living a full life, just wishing we could all be together all the time.