Spills that kill

July 31, 2009 Hardware, Repair Stories — Miro

How to prevent spills.

That’s right, people spill. All the time. Even the best of us can be caught off-guard and let something slip. Sometimes the spill is harmless, such as tipping over a glass of water on the counter. Sometimes, however, a MacBook logic board meets its demise.

We’re people, after all, and accidents happen whether we like it or not. Heck, I managed to get a bit of egg white on my old Dell Inspiron “kitchen” computer last weekend. Thankfully the egg white landed on the speakers, which only “work”  when I wiggle the headphone jack (thanks Dell). Other people aren’t as lucky, and they come to our forums asking for help after the spill.

Some notable spills of late, which occurred on all sorts of laptops, phones, music players:

  • Water on laptop that was placed under a window overnight
  • Coffee Patron (didn’t know they even made Coffee Patron)
  • Coffee, sugar, and milk
  • Good old coffee, black
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Egg whites

We’ve had people contact us about giving their iPods/iPhones a good wash in the washing machine or dropping them into the toilet. We even had a soldier from Iraq ask about an iPod that was dropped into 2,000 gallons of jet fuel. The iPod got a new battery and ran fine — but we’re not sure how it smelled after that ordeal.

These are but a few of the liquids people manage to spill. The more pressing question is, however, what to do once the accident has occurred. Unfortunately the answer varies from case to case, depending on the type and amount of liquid, as well as where the liquid lands.

For example, we had a co-worker’s friend accidentally knock over an entire mug of beer on his MacBook. He was obviously at the scene of the accident (compared to leaving your MBP under a window overnight) and so he managed to react quickly. He immediately disconnected the charger and battery, and flipped the MacBook upside down. He let it air dry for a day or two, crossed his fingers, and turned it on. Thankfully nothing was damaged, but he currently has one of the manliest-smelling MacBooks around.

So here’s a few tips in case a spill ever happens to you, whether it’s on a laptop any other electronic product:

  • Don’t panic. Panic just complicates things.
  • Remove power to your device as fast and soon as possible. If that means not saving your blog post, so be it. You can always view the auto-save, but there’s no auto-save function for your logic board.
  • Shake out any liquid as soon as the device is turned off.
  • Let the device dry in a manner that is conducive to getting the liquid out. If it’s a laptop, place it upside-down on a counter and let it relax for a day or two.
  • Possibly disassemble parts of the device to verify that it’s dry, and/or to use a hair dryer to finish the job.
  • Cross your fingers, and turn the device on.

At this point you may or may not still have a functional device, and potentially any component may have been affected. For example, if your MacBook doesn’t turn on, it may be the logic board is fried, or just that a component on the upper case failed. Liquid damage can be one of the worst accidents to have to diagnose, but hopefully the steps above will prevent any major damage from taking place.

Spilled something unique? Want to share? Post a comment and we’ll add you to the list above!

Updates to Three iPod Guides

July 28, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides — Miro

We come across plenty of iPods and Macs on a daily basis. Over time we’ve become very proficient at opening them up, using techniques that we possibly didn’t consider when we originally made a particular guide.

On the other hand, sometimes we get a tip from an Apple insider (or another crafty person) which makes us totally rethink the way we open a device.

Either way, we understand that improved techniques are of great value to a person opening their device for the first time. That’s why we continuously improve our existing guides as much as we can, in addition to rolling out new ones on a consistent basis.

This week we’re announcing revisions to the case opening guides for the iPod nano 1st Generation, iPod 3rd Generation, and iPod 4th Generation/Photo devices. We’ve grouped them together because the guides have similar modifications made to them:

  • Easier opening procedure. The text and pictures reflect an opening procedure that we’ve found to be easier than the one in the previous pictures.
  • Brand-new case opening pictures. We’ve upgraded our studio since the guides were originally created, and we now have a better setup. The new case opening pictures are definitely clearer and higher-resolution than the old ones.
  • Updated text. Coming back to a guide a while after making it lets us take a fresh look at the overall feel. Are the instructions clear? Where could they use improvement? Did we omit something important, or ramble on about something unnecessarily? We answer these questions and make any appropriate changes.
  • Less overall steps. Each step now has the ability to contain three pictures, whereas before we had only one picture per step. We are able to decrease the number of overall steps by putting related pictures on the same step. For these particular guides, we were able to have three support pictures showing the overall action of opening the case. That many pictures would have taken several steps in the old one-picture-per-step format.

We certainly have a lot of fun sharing new ways of doing stuff with our user base. New methods pop up all the time, and we’re happy to include them in our guides whenever we can. Do you have a cool method you’d like to share? Let us know!

Three New Guide Features!

July 21, 2009 Site News — Miro

We’re excited to announce three new features on iFixit!

Slideshow: You are now able to view our teardowns as a full screen slideshow. All you have to do is click the “View as slideshow” link in the introduction to view it as a slideshow. Any browser can be used to view the slideshow, but users with the Cooliris browser plugin can view the slideshow in full screen. This is a beta feature, so please let us know if you have any issues or feedback while using it.

Single Page View: This has been one of the most oft-requested features by our users, and it’s finally here! You can now view the entire guide or teardown in a single page, as opposed to having to click “Next >>” every three steps for guides, or every eight steps for teardowns. Please be aware that loading all guide/teardown steps may take a while, especially for instructions that have a large number (30+) of steps.

The “I did it!” Button: We put a button at the end of every guide that lets you tell people that you successfully completed a repair! Clicking the “I did it!” button will link that guide to your profile, making it easy to keep a count of all the repairs you’ve made over the years. Just click on this link (you must be logged in our site for the link to work) in order to view your profile. Alternatively, you can log in on our Repair page and then click on your username in the top right corner of the site to view your user profile.

We hope you enjoy our new additions to the site. We’re continuously working on making your experience better, and we welcome any comments or suggestions you have.

New Soldering Guide!

July 10, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Miro

We’ve been working on an all-purpose soldering guide for our iFixit user base. Over time the electronics that have come through our doors have increasingly been devoid of connectors, instead using batteries and components that are soldered directly to the logic board. Newer generations of Apple products, such as the original iPhone and all generations of iPod nano and iPod touch, fall into this category.

This trend makes replacing the battery a much harder feat than other iPod and iPhone models, who use connectors to attach the battery to the logic board. The procedure requires a lot more of the user’s time, patience, and material cost (soldering iron, solder, etc.) to do a simple battery replacement.

We know that these products aren’t the only ones on the market that require soldering, and that soldering in general can vary depending on the size of the electronics (and type) being soldered. As a result, this guide is actually comprised of three mini guides. Each mini guide illustrates a different level of difficulty in soldering, and teaches that particular soldering technique:

  • Step 1: Beginning soldering. Focuses on large thru-hole components, such as cylindrical capacitors.
  • Step 7: Intermediate soldering — Focuses on small thru-hole components, such as battery leads and resistors.
  • Step 11: Advanced soldering — Focuses on small surface-mount components.

This guide will come in handy to anyone who’s curious about soldering. How do you do it? How difficult is it really? What tools do I need? All these questions can be answered by a click of a link.

Comments? Ideas? Let us know!

Teardown Introduction Guide

July 6, 2009 Events, Teardowns — Miro

We gave our technical writers free rein and told them to “come up with something funny” as an introduction to our new teardown system. Their training at the German School of Technical Writing* did not help at all (as the trainers managed to take out all the funny bones out our writers’ bodies). Yet we managed, through various iterations, to have them write a guide that is somewhat-hilarious. We linked to this guide when we announced our new teardown platform, but we felt it deserved its own post.

The teardown introduction guide points out the most effective method known to man for obtaining a gadget: camping in front of the store.**  It also goes through the intricacies of purchasing the gadget and opening the box. Very exciting stuff.

The guys also managed to spend almost six hours taking photos for the final picture, and another four hours editing them in PhotoShop.*** It turns out it’s super hard to impose a green background and black out the people, all the while keeping the iPod headphones white. Eventually they figured out a suitable technique and succeeded in their endeavors.

We applaud them for their efforts, and hope they enjoy being unemployed.****

The fine print:

*No such school exists, to the best of our knowledge. We apologize in advance if there actually is a German School of Technical Writing.

**That may or may not be the most effective method.

***Total time was closer to four hours.

****No tech writers were fired or harmed while making this guide.