Sunday, September 25, 2011

Current Events

I fixed an electrical outlet today (yeah, the title is a bad pun).

I know a couple of brilliant electricians, and I've also been electrocuted by an outlet before - so I'm really proud that I was able to do this repair.  Here are my takeaways:

1.  Was able to accurately decipher my circuit-breaker layout and deactivate the correct circuit.
2.  Used my voltmeter, set the proper setting, and determine correct voltage present
3.  Acquired the correct type of GFCI outlet with metal cover (this was an outdoor outlet)
4.  Retro-fit the new outlet and cover into the existing outlet space

For step #2, I needed YouTube's guidance.  I didn't want to destroy myself or my voltmeter, so knowing the proper setting and the correct orientation of the probes was key.  I'm less-afraid of electricity today.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bottom feeders

I don't know why I enjoy the occasional dumpster-dive - perhaps (if you'll allow a bit of auto-psychoanalysis) it stems from a lifetime of saving:  putting money away for college, then med-school, then a house, then the kids' college tuitions et cetera.

Usually, when people dumpster-dive, they come away with a nice shirt, maybe a gaudy lamp, or old National Geographic back issues.

I got fifteen laptops.

Now, I should mention that this was no ordinary dumpster.  It was actually the electronics recycling pile at my office.  We often use prototype hardware to develop our semiconductors on and, well, these prototype laptops were a few years old.  They have very prominent stickers that have interesting phrases like "Not for resale" and "The materials used within are confidential and are not to be shared..."  It's all rather sexually stimulating really.

But there they were, all stacked in a nice, tidy pile waiting for their next owner(s).

The laptops themselves are in perfect shape, but they didn't have any AC Adapters (apparently, the lab engineers hold on to those) and the batteries, understandably, no longer held charge.

"Tish-tosh", I thought.  I can get those items myself.  To the internet!

eBay is wonderful in bringing Hong Kong vendors right to your monitor.  Herein, however, lies the crux of my problem and the inspiration for this post's title.  You can pay a fraction of the retail price for a third-party HP AC Adapter.  Which is what I did.  The item arrived and....would not sufficiently provide power.  My laptop's charge light would blink - struggling to pull electrons from the power-brick.  It had to go back.  My money (minus the shipping charge and time) was refunded.  Strike one.

"Alright", I pondered.  Let's try someone different.  Another PayPal transaction later and a few more weeks of waiting and I had a second AC Adapter to play with.

...for exactly nine minutes.  That's when the innards of the adapter decided to celebrate Independence day by detonating twice.  The LED indicator on the brick fizzled and this piece of equipment was confirmed dead.  Strike two for me.

So now, I've learned that bottom feeders do exist on eBay.  Maybe their profit margins are solely based on their shipping and handling charges - just shuffling these shiny parts that are mere moments away from the landfill.  It doesn't seem like a very solid business-model, but I'm not the one with an entire warehouse of these things (yet).  In any case, I will not be deterred.  I'm determined to find a reputable dealer for AC Adapters and batteries.  I know they're out there and I'll still get a great deal.  Once those are in place, the fun really begins on Black Friday, where I predict several deals will be had on laptop memory and solid-state drives.

Also, I'm getting over a nasty virus (that'll teach me to borrow my son's toothbrush).  So nasty, in fact, that my coughing fits actually broke my butt.  So I'm taking ibuprofen for my own bottom.  I expect my ass to be 100% in another week.

Stay healthy, my friends.