Badaptor | DeWalt 20v MAX battery to Ryobi 18v One+

In 2019, I bought into DeWalt 20v MAX cordless tool platform as part of my mission to reduce complexity in and improve efficiency in as many aspects of my life as possible. This is a long term mission of mine with many facets but basic tools was at the foundation of this plan. DeWalt has a great line of tools to choose from, but they are aimed at the commercial, industrial or professional builder. I would consider myself an intermediate or advanced DIY-er with the occasional moonlighting as either a handyman or builder, so I wanted some of those higher end tools to be available.

I also found that there were some Ryobi cordless tools that I wanted as well. I didn’t, however, want to have another battery platform as that would go against my mission of reducing complexity. The good news is, I was able to find this adapter on eBay from a US Seller, the cost $25. Significantly cheaper than a Ryobi battery plus charger.

Enjoy my low-fi video. Maybe I would have been better off scrapping.

Design fit and Function

This is actually the second adapter I bought but what caught my eye is that it is a more simplified design and I am certain I prefer this. There are no moving parts, the battery retention latches into the tool but this is very welcome as it makes the design far more low profile than another version I have purchased. It almost makes using a DeWalt battery on a Ryobi tool purposeful looking.

The design of this appears to be quite rigid too. It doesn’t feel flimsy or fragile. The manufacturer claims it is has been rigorously tested for shatter resistance and general wear and tear. I do think that to be an accurate statement based on how it feels. The wall thickness is between approximately 2.5 mm and 3 mm with what appears to be a glass filled plastic. Interestingly, the Ryobi battery packs I have disassembled have a wall thickness of about 2 mm.

DeWalt 20v MAX battery on Ryobi Hot Glue Gun

I am very confident in the design of this adapter that I will get many years of use out of it. It feels quite robust in the design. It’s rigid and the marketing on the website promises it won’t shatter!

Use

The tools that I currently use with my Badapter are a hot glue gun, caulk dispenser (something of which DeWalt does have but I already had in my possession), and a chemical sprayer that I use around my home for fertilizing my small garden and flower beds as well as spraying for insects. At the time of writing, DeWalt doesn’t have a hot glue gun or chemical sprayer. Maybe that will change in the future? No idea. I don’t really see them adding such things as those are more “hobby” or “home-gamer” type tools, not something you would see in the commercial or industrial space.

Final Thoughts

There aren’t many Ryobi tools that I want or need but this really opens up the possibilities to getting whatever tools I think will make taking on challenges and home owner responsibilities a bit more enjoyable. I do believe that work and accomplishment should be a rewarding experience. Badapter certainly is an efficiency multiplier.

It should also be noted that Badapter has other adapters as well. Bosch, Milwaukee and Makita to Ryobi. If those are of interest to you, check them out.

References

Badapter.com Home Page
DeWalt to Ryobi Badapter
DeWalt Tools
Ryobi Tools
Outside the Cubicle | DeWALT 20v Max Cordless Tool Platform

APC Smart-UPS 1500 Battery Replacement

I am of the opinion, if you plan to have a desktop computer, and by that I mean a machine without a built in battery, you need to have a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply. I am of the belief, go as large as you can reasonably afford. Should you have a power interruption, your computer and equipment will thank you in the best way it knows how, by not turning off unexpectedly and corrupting your data.

I Received this used, APC Smart-UPS 1500 a few years back. They did work when I got them, not for long as the batteries failed. After building my workstation / server / desktop unit that I make do things all the time. I decided, after a power outage, it was time to investigate the failure and fix it. I was 99% sure that the batteries were dead as it was the “Replace Battery” light that was on.

Video montage of repair. It’s not very good…

Disassembly

Like in any repair of mine, I find that disassembling it first is the best way to go about it. I have had countless other projects that have gone wrong because I trusted online documentation and batteries for a UPS are never cheap. The first objective is to open it up. The tools required for this was just a crossed-recess (Phillips) screw driver. I opted for the battery operated driver because I am lazy.

Two screws on the front hold the battery compartment door shut.

After removing the batteries, I was completely certain that they were dead as the multi-meter made that very clear.

Search for Batteries

My initial search for batteries lead me to realize that this was not going to be a cheap repair. My local supplier of batteries had them listed at $54.00 each. Others I found all were comparably as expensive.

Then I stumbled upon a site called BatterySharks.com that had these batteries for sale $48.00… for a pair. For a pair! I double checked the specs from the old batteries to the new batteries and I completed the order.

I can’t guarantee that the prices will stay so low but was certainly a fantastic deal. Shipping wasn’t too bad, another $24.59 which brought the grand total to $72.55. I was thinking, however, I am making a $72 gamble that there isn’t anything else wrong with this UPS.

Installation

It didn’t take long for the batteries to arrive. The rather weighty package landing with a thud on my front porch signaled it had arrived. The actual installation was really quite simple. Just a reversal of disassembly. Installing the terminal connections, reinstalling the protective terminal caps, I used a little double sided sticky tape to hold them together like the originals (and thinking about it, totally unnecessary), and screwed it back together. Extremely basic.

I did clean up the corrosion with white vinegar just to be sure that there wouldn’t be any issues from the old battery acid that leaked.

Testing

After assembling it, it was time to do the initial “smoke test” to make sure that I didn’t mess anything up. Sure enough, I turned it on and an incredibly uneventful yet thrilling beep followed that meant, all was well and ready to be used. I did want to do some testing.

This included using a laptop hooked up to see that when the grid power was removed from the UPS, that it would continue kicking out uninterrupted power. Upon removal of the power, a clunk with a 60 hz hum sound coupled with an alarming “beep” to signal the loss of power and sure enough, just like its name, the power to my computer was uninterrupted.

I let it sit a while so I could watch to see the battery charge meter climb while it remained plugged into the mains. Since it all seemingly worked well so I shut down my server, router/firewall, access point and switch to plug it into the UPS. The load indicator was fluctuating between 1 and 3 bars out of 5 while I was standing there and monitoring it for a while. That was good news as it is well within the limits of this newly repaired but well aged device.

Power Loss

Within a week of installing this newly finished UPS system, the power went out at my house. The server, and network equipment kept chugging along and the battery charge held surprisingly well. Since I was using my laptop, I could still access all things on the server, wirelessly, though I was unsure as to how long it would hold out. After about 40 minutes or so, I thought I should probably start shutting things down nicely. I checked the display and I still had plenty of battery to go so I left it and within 20 minutes of that, the power was restored.

The timing of this repair couldn’t have been better…

Final Thoughts

This was one of those projects that was well worth the time and effort. I do know that I can connect this UPS up to a computer and have it do things but I really am not sure what. I think I need to start playing with the power awareness features so I can figure out how to safely shut down my server and Firewall safely should power levels get low.

Buying a new UPS can be quite expensive. Repairing a used one is much more affordable and also, a better choice for reducing e-waste. Hopefully, this little writeup and crap-tastic video will give someone just enough courage to try it out themselves.

References

https://www.batterysharks.com/APC-RBC7-p/APC-RBC7_ups12-18_x2.htm
APC.com UPS manufacturer website

Rebuilding a Ryobi 18v NiCad Battery

This was one of those unscheduled projects that I really had no intention of doing but when you have a persistent 9 year old that wants to take apart and rebuild a battery for some Ryobi tools, sometimes, you just have to give in.

I did purchase a bunch of NiCad 2200 mAhr C-cell batteries with tabs some years back with the intention of rebuilding my batteries when the time came. In that time, I changed tool platforms and went with Lithium Ion as the capacities are greater and the packs lighter, so the batteries sat along with some dead batteries.

I don’t use Ryobi batteries but have cordless Ryobi tools that I use with DeWalt Batteries. Doing that was easy, I just bought an adapter, popped it into the tool, slid on the DeWalt battery and I was off to the races, or at least, in many cases, off to burning my hand at my lack of attention paid to the hot end.

Sure, it looks a little goofy, but the benefit of having only one battery is quite substancial in keeping life efficient and simplified. By having one battery system, I am always ready with a cordless tool… But that is not what this is about, at all.

What started me down the path of this was that I needed, or rather wanted, a chemical sprayer for my garden to spray fertilizer or insecticide around the house and the like. Since I live in Michigan, bugs are a plenty and I use it to keep away things that will eventually infiltrate the house, like ants. I have a manual sprayer, but that is, well manual, so I bought this Ryobi One+ 18v Chemical Sprayer in an effort to enhance efficiency. My intent was to sell the battery and charger on Ebay but for whatever reason, my oldest took a shining to this system and made a case for why we should keep it. Although I didn’t fully agree, I appreciated the effort and we agreed on his active involvement with certain chores if I keep it. Ultimately worth the $40-ish I would have made from it on Ebay.

That same day, I was at my workbench riffling through the things littered about. It has a lot of my fix-it projects at various states where my kids put things that they break. They seem to expect whatever they place there to magically heal so I have to stay on top of that. I pulled out an old dead Ryobi NiCad battery along with a few other brands of battery packs I have been hording. I also had some 2200mAh cells in some boxes so my boy begged me to rebuild an old Ryobi battery.

This was not anywhere on my plan for the week or month but he insisted, I again struck a deal with him where he obligated to other various tasks if we were to do this. So, the project began. He started taking apart the battery and exposed the innards hidden away in its plastic tomb.

Once figuring out how they were chained together. I was able to replicate it with some “new” NiCad cells.

Building was tedious and since I don’t have the proper equipment, I used a lack-luster soldering iron and the tabs that were already welded in place. The soldering job is absolutely embarrassing so to ensure I never get a job soldering, here it is under construction.

Unfortunately, I misread the pack and thought that minus meant minus so I did have to rewire the connectors after I was finished soldering it. I could have probably handled it better but the battery is together and functional.

My son did help me put together the final bits and he finished screwing it together. Unfortunately, after putting it together, I discovered that I do not have correct Multi-chemistry charger for it so I had do charge it the brute force way. Regardless, it was a success, it holds a charge and seemingly operates as one would expect.

The Glue gun looks almost as silly with this battery as it does the DeWalt battery on an adapter. I don’t know how long this battery will last and if was worth the time it took to make but it was certainly educational. I don’t see myself making any effort to use this but it is amazing how excited a 9 year old can get fixing a 12 year old battery

Final Thoughts

Power tools are another nerd hobby of mine. I am amazed by the amount of power and capability you can get out of a plastic casing hand tools. Tearing them apart and seeing what is inside and fixing them, certainly, gives you a sense of accomplishment. It does make your tool much more yours.

Though I don’t see myself using the fruits of this exercise very much, what I do hope it sparks in my son is the desire to not just use but understand his tools, whether they are power tools, computers or any other electronic or mechanical device. That is ultimately why I did this with him. Strike while the curiosity iron is hot. I have also given my son a sense of ownership. Not only does he suddenly want to care for these tools but also use them properly. I see it as a great step forward in his growth.

References

Ryobi One+ Cordless Chemical Sprayer
Tenergy Batteries

2001 Ford F-350 Radiator Replacement

My trusty old Diesel powered truck developed another issue, the radiator was leaking coolant and I couldn’t help but think about the many Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes where Geordi La Forge telling the bridge, “We have a coolant leak”

That began my task of gathering things and knowledge to get this process started. I consulted one of the smartest people I know, a buddy of mine that lives locally that is quite literally one of the smartest people I know. He encouraged me that I could do it. He also directed me to a site that provides parts at a much reduced cost. I am all about saving money.

Preparation

In order to replace my leaky radiator, I prepared by making a few purchases and gathered a few items:

  • Purchased a radiator online to save a few bucks
  • Adequate amounts of replacement coolant
  • Coolant system lubricant
  • Buckets to collect the coolant
  • A couple funnels and some tools

I watched a YouTube video and was mentally prepared for the task at hand.

Step 1: Drain The Radiator

In order to remove the radiator, I had to drain it first. There is a little drain at the bottom of the radiator that makes it super easy to open up. I opened up the cap on the overflow to allow for air to flow in as the coolant escapes.

Step 2: Disconnect the Hoses

In order to get to the overflow hose at the top of the radiator, the overflow tank, which is an interesting design to me because it also contains the radiator cap… but it’s not on the radiator… Part of the jack kit also resides at the top of the radiator and integrated into the radiator retention bracket.

Once the brackets are removed, the hose clamps are easily accessible. The hose clamp to the engine return line uses a 5/16 driver while the smaller hose to the overflow is the squeeze kind that a channel lock does a fine job of releasing the compression forces.

The next task was to remove the connections at the bottom of the radiator. Two hoses and two lines to the transmission. I want to note here that I should have removed the hoses before I removed the transmission lines. I didn’t realize that the transmission coolant lines were not filled with coolant but transmission fluid. I should have known better. The fan shroud was was held in place by 2 screws and is retained at the bottom by tabs that fit into slots on the bottom of the radiator.

Step 3: Remove the Radiator

Once the disconnected I allowed the radiator to drain a bit more and I removed it from the truck. The radiator design is rather clever in that there are pegs at the top and bottom of the radiator that retain radiator in its place. It was actually nicely engineered to be easy to service, which makes me think, how often do they expect radiators to be replaced. The only area of difficulty was that the fan shroud had to be pushed out of the way as to make clearance for the connection points. It made for a little bit of struggle to get it out but really, it wasn’t that bad.

Step 4: Install the New Radiator

I pulled the new radiator from its box and made the unfortunate discovery that the radiator was damaged. The side of the radiator was crushed enough that I didn’t feel good about installing it. I wasn’t about to put a damaged radiator and live on hopes and prayers that it works. Since I didn’t want to go another day without my crusty old truck, I called a local parts store, AutoZone, to be exact, and found that they had one radiator in stock, it wasn’t the inexpensive version either, it was their high dollar unit. So much for saving money with the online company.

Step 5: Drive to the Parts Store to Get Another Radiator

I made the trip to get a radiator that wasn’t partially smashed and since I did lose a notable amount of transmission fluid, I picked up a couple quarts. I was pretty sure that I didn’t lose more than a quart but better to have extra on hand than not enough.

Step 6: Install the Radiator, Take 2

Installing the radiator was actually much easier than removing the radiator. Probably due to the fact there was nothing to drain. I started by attaching the fan shroud, then the transmission cooler lines to stop the bleeding of fluid there. Next I put the rest of the brackets in place, bolted the overflow in place so that I could connect that to the lower part of the radiator. I attached the hoses at the top of the shiny new part and began the filling process and double checking all my connections because I was not interested in making any silly mistakes that could lead to a fluid catastrophe. I added two gallons of coolant and started the truck to get the fluids circulating. I added two more gallons of coolant and almost a quart of transmission fluid. The transmission fluid was a bit tricky as I had to shield the fluid from being blown at me by the spinning fan.

What I forgot to do was add the coolant lubricant early on. That was my only mistake

Step 7: Happy Dance

I successfully completed the radiator replacement and had no drips. I am quite happy that I was able to do it myself. I need a “win” in life in this area. Not that I want to go from playing in Linux to playing with Automobiles but I am a strong proponent in self-empowerment and owning your own hardware, in this case, owning my vehicle.

Final Thoughts

I don’t see a future in being a mechanic for me. It’s certainly not my strong suit and does require a greater level of patience than messing with computers, at least for me. I have a greater appreciation for the skill and capabilities of mechanics are are truly are a people with a special talent and grace upon their lives to do the work that they do.

References

2000 F250 Radiator Replacement video on YouTube

Broken Headband on Bluetooth Headphones | Repair Instead of Replace

I purchased a medium of the road Bluedio headset that I have been using in both Bluetooth and wired modes. It’s pretty decent and they fit my head well. Unfortunately, my Magilla Guerrilla handling of it I snapped the headband. I didn’t think I was being rough with it but I do have a track record of such things. The break was on the left side near the slide out adjustment and although the set was still wearable, it felt like one ear cushion loose enough that it would slap the side of my head at every turn.

I had three choices, buy new headphones, deal with it and get used to the gentle paddling of my left ear or lastly, fix it and see if I can return it to an acceptable, usable condition. The paddling was completely unacceptable to live with and the the headphones would no longer fit snugly to my head so this option was ruled out. The option to buy something new was also out. My budget had already been allocated and I am not interested in getting new hardware when these were still electronically functional. Why wouldn’t I at least attempt a repair?

The padded headband was well stitched together in such a way that the stitching was easy to delicately remove. This exposed the poly-carbonate (I am assuming) structuring beneath.

Looking at it, the fix wouldn’t be difficult at all to do it, with the right combination of adhesive chemicals: Loctite 444 Ethyl cyanoacrylate liquid adhesive along with Loctite SF 7452 cure-speed accelerator for the aforementioned adhesive.

The nice thing about the accelerator (a trick I learned at work), you can add adhesive and immediately follow it with the accelerator to layer on material and consequently, greatly increase the strength. This was a technique demonstrated when I fixed my broken Porter-Cable Drill some time ago.

Just a few minutes of gluing and applying the celebrator, had extended the life of this headphone set. Would a normal upgrade to something new and better? Probably but that is just not how I roll. I can’t bring myself to toss out something that is easily repaired. I have yet to sew the padded headband back together but I am no longer getting paddled by the ear pad and when I do handstands, they don’t fall off of my head.

This is not an advertisement for Henkel but fixing toys or equipment is easily accessible to just about anyone as long as you have these two chemicals. It opens up a whole new world of fixing possibilities. I have seen YouTube content creators struggle with gluing broken bits together, clamping them for hours at a time when the job can be done in a fraction of the time. Sure, these are not the cheapest of products but they are extremely effective and drastically reduces the likelihood of your project ending in frustration.

References

Loctite 444
Loctite SF7452

New Life to Rock Candy Gamepad for PS3 | Another Repair

I am not one to just toss something when it is broken. I want to give every piece of equipment a shot at another life whenever possible. Somethings do have to go to the big recycler in the sky but not without some kind of fight at my end.

I couple years back when I thrusted myself into the foray of “modern” gaming, I purchased two of these “Rock Candy” Gamepads from a local retailer. This was for my first Steam Game purchase, River City Ransom: Underground. They worked quite well but having kids with passion bubbles very near the surface, gamepads have a tendency to go flying or falling from time to time.

After some time of play, one had a fall too many and the plastic broke that held the batteries in place on one controller. Within a week, the other decided it would no longer turn on. Both controllers were put away into storage, until yesterday.

My oldest son asked if they could be fixed and I suggested that we could take the board from one and put it in the body of the other. He said he wanted to do it. I supplied some tools, provided just a bit of guidance and my 8 year old took the screw driver to task. I guided him on disassembly and used a magnetic bowl to hold the screws so didn’t roll away.

When he started to put it together, he asked how to do it, to which I gave the proper fatherly advice, “just like taking it apart, but in reverse!” Surprisingly, that was enough. I just made sure that the Left and Right Bumpers PCBs was correctly placed. He knew what screws went where and placed everything just right.

I double checked the screws to ensure that they were all snugged up properly, popped in some batteries and we were off to the races. There is only just a bit of confusion now as the blue controller now goes to the green dongle.

In another proud moment, my boy turned to a SNES emulator and played Super Mario All-Stars. Those old games are still fun to play today, even for the youth, which is a testament to the fun-gineering of yeaster-year

Final Thoughts

Technology is certainly a fun thing to play with but it is so much more fun to pass on the joy of owning your technology to your kids. The amount of confidence my boy has earned through this exercise is worth far more than the cost of both of the controllers. I am hoping this sparks a flame for a passion for technology, not just in using but in creating and imagining new ways to use technology. I am quite sure that his abilities that will far surpass my own.

Garmin Vivofit 2 Battery Replacement

A short time ago, my step tracker and watch went dead. It is a Vivofit 2 that is very plain and ordinary with no bells or whistles, as compared to other trackers. All this tracker does is time, date, steps, estimate of distance and calories burned. No heart rate or altimeter to tell you how many steps you’ve climbed, that said, this is also the first “smart” wearable that has lasted longer than 6 months. As far as watches go, this thing has lasted longer than any other.

garmin vivofit2-01-dead

This device, of which is primarily my watch, was supposed to last one year on two Lithium button cell batteries. It ended up lasting over two years which makes me start to believe that these button cell run times are all underestimated.

In preparation for this repair, I pulled out my card of CR2032 batteries thinking I could just pop in the batteries on hand. Once apart, however, an unpleasant surprise greated me beneath its dirty shell. I didn’t have the proper battery, the Vivofit 2 takes CR1632 batteries which are far more expensive. When I looked on the shelf of the store they turned out to be the most expensive batteries on the shelf at $4.99 each.

garmin vivofit2-02-opengarmin vivofit2-03-batteries

Before doing another thing with it, I cleaned the gasket and housing with rubbing alcohol because it was two years sitting on my arm and looked terribly gross. Popping out the batteries was easily accomplished with a flat-head screwdriver. Inserting the batteries, only required a bit of pressure to seat them properly. Four screws hold the body together. Upon putting the thing back together, the device immediately reactivated.

garmin vivofit2-04-fixed

I let it do its thing of synchronizing with my mobile and that was it, the job was done and I have my watch back.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what voltage the old batteries were to know how much voltage was not enough voltage to power this wearable.

garmin vivofit2-05-old button cell voltage

5.327 volts was the magic number. Instead of just tossing the batteries into the recycling, I decided to hang onto them. Who knows when I might come up with a use.

Final Thoughts

The batteries were a bit more than I wanted to spend but replacing the batteries was still cheaper than a new tracker or even a decent watch. Since the thing is mostly a watch and I don’t need anything fancy, this will do just fine for now. The total cost of this repair was $10.58. Still far less expensive than $109 for a replacement from Garmin.

Truly, I think trackers are kind of dumb but I like the metrics it gives me and there is something fun with the dumbness… like the competitions with friends on steps. This thing is a fine watch and I don’t care about status symbols so until this thing has some catastrophic failure, I’m not likely to upgrade.

Oh, one last thing, I have also created a short video on this repair and edited it with Kdenlive. My first foray into doing video with Kdenlive and so far, I like it very much… once I figured out what I was doing. The machine I used, Dell Latitude E6440 running openSUSE Tumbleweed. I didn’t have a single crash or lockup of the software.

If you happen to like this, great, if you don’t, that’s great too. It was a fine learning experience that I enjoyed.

Further Reading

Vivofit 2 from Garmin.com

Garmin Vivofit 2 Battery Replacement on YouTube

Dell Latitude E6440

 

GB Boy Colour Repair

GB Boy Colour-10-Title.png

Last year’s Christmas present to my oldest boy (2017), started to misbehave in such a way that made playing it no longer enjoyable. This GB Boy Colour, a Game Boy Color clone, likely not made with the highest quality components started to have switch problems. It either wouldn’t turn on or turn on and immediately off, have continual reboots (is that what a Game Boy does, reboot?) or some other odd screen dimming, random lines flickering across and other peculiar behavior. This malfunctioning device was causing my boy serious frustration.

Old Tech Is Better Tech

GB Boy Colour-12.pngThese older Nintendo Game Boy games are great because they don’t require internet connection so there is no way I am being spied on and there isn’t any advertising. On top of it, these old games games are still fun many years later.

If you want to know more about the device itself just search “GB Boy Colour” and there are numerous reviews. What is particularly fantastic about this device is that it is a color screen with backlight and it not only has a bunch of built in games but it has the cartridge slot so that you can pop in those 25 + year old games and play them with an even better experience than you had in the early 90s. I wasn’t into the Game Boy when it came out but this particular unit is pretty great.

Disassembly

I turned this broken device into an education opportunity for my kids. They not only get to see the inside of this portable fun-box, they can also observe the process of soldering and the importance of taking care around tools, like the soldering iron. I consider it a huge win that I burn myself or my kids.

Easy OutTaking apart this device was a bigger headache than it should have been. The Nintendo specific screw heads could not be removed with the tool I purchased to remove it. I could have customized the tool to make it fit in the counterbore but since I don’t have a metal lathe (yet), I was not able to do so. I suppose I could have chucked it up in my drill and used a metal file or die grinder to grind it down but that seemed like far too much work. Instead, I decided to use an “easy-out” to remove the screws and replace the screws with standard cross-recess drive style.

GB Boy Colour-03-Screw Heads

Six screws is all that holds this case together. Pretty typical plastic screws you would see in devices of this type. Two of the screws are in the battery compartment which I didn’t immediately see.

GB Boy Colour-07-Back

Once the case is apart, there are three more screws that hold the main board to the front case.

GB Boy Colour-08-Separated.jpg

Once separated, you have to be careful not to let the screen dangle around and get beat up. That reveled the power switch soldered joints.

Repair

My inexperienced observation of the device reveled that the soldering of the switch was likely done too cold so there wasn’t a good bond between the board and the switch. The fix was rather easy, I was able to use my soldering iron to heat up and add a bit more solder. When I completed soldering the switch I also noticed that the switch itself was ever so slightly cracked. The metal contact was pulling away from the sliding action. I fixed this by applying a little glob of hot glue to properly support the bits to keep it from pulling apart.

GB Boy Colour-04-Switch

After reassembling this Game Boy Color Clone, I gave it a test run (read: played games instead of get work done), lost track of time for a bit until my boy insisted that he try it out himself.

GB Boy Colour-13-Super Mario Land.png

Final Thoughts

I was pretty fortunate that I was able to just re-flow the solder on this switch and beef up the walls with hot glue to hold it together. Using this as an educational opportunity with my kids made for some good family time. It brought about many questions about what the components do, how a soldering iron works and why it melts the solder. I not only helped them to understand electronics a little bit, it also created respect for the tools and the need for increased caution. From their perspective, the most important part was being able to play Super Mario Land and Ms Pacman again without the thing getting stuck in reboot cycles.

Further Reading

Nintendo Life Review of GB Boy Colour

NES SNES Security Bit Screw Driver on Amazon.com

Flashing Linksys E2000 Router with DD-WRT

No Network.png

When it comes to home networking, I have lost some “Geek Points” in the last few years. In general, I don’t find all the bits that go into networking all that interesting, I know the basics, have had my network doing what I want it to do and have basically neglected it for some time. If I need real help I will lean on my brother in-law to help me sort out the netmasks or routing tables or whatever else by which I am less excited. To the level I have come to understand I have gotten what I needed working so why think about it… That was until my router, already running DD-WRT, started to give me some problems.

Using Speedtest.net I was only getting 12 Mbps on the Wireless and around 70 Mbps on the wired Ethernet. This was becoming increasingly annoying as most of my work requires reliable internet connection so I started running CAT5 to each computer in my SuperCubicle plus one extra for a future project.

Productivity had been restored, so long as I was wired. Then one morning the wireless just stopped altogether. The wired Ethernet was still routing but the traffic on the wireless just stopped routing traffic all together.

Hardware

Linksys E2000.png
Linksys E2000

Not a very complex network and would have been something great 8 years ago for a home network but today, the idiom “long in the tooth” would be an understatement. I have a DOCSIS 3 Modem, which is new and trouble free that is connected to a Linksys E2000 router running DD-WRT. Attached to that is a Linksys 16-port EZXS16W switch. From that switch there are about 10 ports used up.

 

Linksys EZXS16W
Linksys EZXS16W 16-Port Switch

In order to bring the wirless back up, I tried to adjust some of the settings and nothing seemed to save. It was like it was working and not working in the same stroke. Rebooting the router didn’t change anything, it was still in a kind of undead state. I was unsuccessful with everything I tried. I saw only one option, factory reset the router and upgrade the firmware.

Firmware Flashing Complications

Using the DD-WRT Router Database I searched for the Linksys E2000 and downloaded the latest “Mega” firmware. Based on my understanding and referencing the wiki page, I just needed to update the firmware with the latest “Mega”. I did the initial attempt at flashing the firmware with the Falkon browser, it didn’t take. I got the “Flash Failed” error. I did it again but disabling the Ad Blocker thinking that might have been the problem but it still didn’t work. I tried Firefox and the Konqueror browser. All failed.

I downloaded the “Big” version and tried it again but with no success. What finally worked was upgrading with the DD-WRT: Factory Flash dd-wrt.v24-37305_NEWD-2_K2.6_mini-e2000.bin (at the time of writing, November 2018).

This flash was successful a since I didn’t need any of those extended features, the Mini was plenty good for what I need to do with it, at least for the short term.

Features I use

I don’t have a whole lot of requirements for my router at this time. What is important to me are the following features less common in typical consumer wireless router / switch / firewall / gateways:

DNSMasq

DNSmasq is a local DNS server. It will resolve all host names known to the router from dhcp (dynamic and static) as well as forwarding and caching DNS entries from remote DNS servers. Local DNS enables DHCP clients on the LAN to resolve static and dynamic DHCP hostnames. This is especially important when communicating with computers through the terminal or doing SFTP transfers. Rather than typing out the IP address, I can just type the computer’s hostname.

DHCP Static Lease

I have a few devices on my network that it is important that the IP address doesn’t change, specifically my HP OfficeJet All-In-One printer and my server.

DHCP LAN Domain

I like to set a LAN domain, not really a necessity but I like to have one for fun and fashion.

Next Steps

My home network hardware is aging and needs several upgrades. I think I am going to start with a pfSense Box probably use some sort of older x86 machine with a couple NICs, use the current router as a Wireless Access Point then look at changing out my 16-port switch to some sort of Gigabit Switch with about the same number of ports. Judging by my cursory review of the setup and features, I will have to make a significant time investment.

Network Cable Nest.jpg

Final Thoughts

It is remarkable how quickly one’s morning priorities can change when the network becomes largely inoperable. It is also remarkable how quickly it seems like your network components age when you are not thinking about it.

This little “breakdown” has inspired me to begin making the changes to my network. Future blatherings to come from this as I make the upgrades and figure out what works best for my home network.

Further Reading

https://wiki.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Linksys_E2000

Linksys E2000 DD-WRT Wiki page

https://www.pfsense.org/

 

Lenovo ideapad 110S Repair | UEFI Partition Currupted

Lenovo 110S Title-broken

For several months, I was happily using my Lenovo ideapad 110S running openSUSE Tumbleweed. I have had few complaints about the device, other than a lack of RAM (but I knew that going into the purchase). One day the thing just stopped working; on boot up it left me a sad looking, blank screen. No combination of key presses did anything to change its state. All I could do was hold the power button down and forced off the laptop. No matter how many times I power cycled the machine, it was the same thing, no splash or error message, not a single bit of useful information. It was a busy time for me so I just put it away in a drawer thinking I’ll get back to it and maybe dissect it for it “secrets” or something… but I really just forgot about it.

Three Months Later

I was listening to some discussion about BIOS issues and how it is possible for it to become corrupt and require some sort of reset. My mind wondered from the conversation to that misbehaving Lenovo ideapad and I thought that maybe I was having some sort of BIOS or UEFI issue. I am not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner but I thought, is it posssible that the UEFI boot partition may have possibly been corrupted?

Using my previous blathering about installing Linux on this machine, I tried to hit F2 rapidly on startup to find that it initially didn’t get me into the BIOS. I tried it a few times, all with no success. Then I remembered that this has one of those silly keyboards that defaults to having the media keys as primary. I tried it again, this time, holding the Fn key down plus F2. The trick is, just keep tapping immediately as you turn the computer on. Once it displays a black screen it is too late.

When I was able to get into the BIOS. I reordered the boot sequence to look for my USB drive but that didn’t work. It still booted into the back screen. Going into the BIOS for the second time, I switched the Boot Mode to Legacy Support. It is still set to look for UEFI first but when that fails, look for a Legacy Bootable device. This change allowed me to boot from the USB Drive.

Lenovo ideapad-01-BIOS.jpg

Using the latest openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshot, I performed the install, formatting UEFI ( /boot/efi ) and root ( / ) partitions. I figured, leave nothing to chance and just wipe the machine. The installation was uneventful and didn’t require any further intervention.

Now that I have the system back up and running, I can use it as my “go machine” once again. The 2 GB of RAM makes things a bit tight but maybe it is good for me to only have 5 or 6 tabs open at a time but as many terminal applications as I want.. It is unfortunate that I wasn’t smart enough to try this sooner as it would have been a better machine to take with me through the summer. The nice thing is, my drawer of electronic bits and bobs is slightly lighter. Thankfully, there is no need to make any effort to fill it with more junk as it seems to do that on its own.

Final Thoughts

I learned that just because a screen goes black on a computer and it becomes entirely unresponsive, doesn’t mean it is garbage. I wish I had thought of doing this to recover this laptop sooner, I would have been regularly using this machine. Not sure if this is a common problem or not but maybe, just maybe, this might somehow wind up helping someone else out with a similar issue.

Further Reading

openSUSE Linux on a Lenovo ideapad 110S Laptop

openSUSE Tumbleweed

openSUSE Tumbleweed installation media

Terminal Applications