iFixit Answers is live!

December 3, 2009 Answers, Site News — Kyle Wiens

After a solid month of testing, tons of feedback, hundreds of little tweaks (and a few big ones), we’re making iFixit Answers public! Everyone in the beta has gotten a tremendous amount of help with problems on a wide variety of hardware. Now it’s your turn! Go ask a question.

At the moment I’m writing this, people have asked 255 questions yielding 811 answers. Out of all of those questions, just 5 haven’t gotten answers yet. (I don’t expect them to stay unanswered very long.)

Wow, this is useful!

Here are three of the most popular questions from the beta:

How dangerous is working on a CRT?

The answers to this contain lots of interesting information about the thousands of volts that CRTs build up and the tools that technicians have to use to work with them.

Where can I find a star point screwdriver?

Apple’s latest MacBooks have a screw that looks different than we’re used to. It turns out that it’s actually a new kind of security bit, a ‘Torx Plus 6’ with five points instead of the standard six. Fortunately, a 1.5mm flat head screwdriver works just fine to remove it!

What does my Wii’s blinking light mean?

It turns out this person was worried for no reason! The blinking light on a Wii (rather unintuitively) means that there is a new message waiting on the Wii message board.

First user to hit 1k reputation!

Our first user hit 1,000 rep, and several others are well on their way.

Spreading the Christmas joy

I thought it would be fun to have a little drawing to celebrate the Answers launch. So we’re going to give away some hardware. What are the goodies?

Givaway: Wacom Bamboo Touch & a Zune HD

Givaway: Wacom Bamboo Touch & Zune HD

I have the Zune HD from our teardown (no, we don’t destroy things when we take them apart) and one of those fancy new Wacom Bamboo Touch tablets. They’re both awesome devices. I know, because I’ve personally been testing them out to make sure they worked! (Yes, I love my job.)

We’re going to randomly select two winners from people who have at least 100 reputation on December 24th. What’s your rep? Start helping people with their problems!

Zen and the Art of Battery Life

November 23, 2009 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

The lithium-ion polymer batteries shipping today are amazing creatures, packing greater energy density than both the nickel-based cells of yore and the first generation Lithium-ion cells. Yet most people are unaware of how to properly manage the life of this new technology. What you do on your laptop is your own business, but following these tips will let you do it longer (that’s what she said!). Most of this info holds true for iPod batteries as well, so you might as well learn the ropes now and reap a lifetime of rewards — at least until scientists come up with new, better, battery technology.

Step 1: Learn The Tech
LiIon cells charge in two stages. Stage one is a fast charge at constant amperage and steadily increasing voltage. When the battery reaches a 70- to 80-percent charge, the second stage begins, gradually decreasing the current applied to the battery while maintaining constant voltage until the battery is fully charged. This second stage is called the trickle, or topping-off charge, and it takes two to three times as long as stage one.

Apples charge stages graph

Apple's visual description of charge stages

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter whether you completely drain and completely charge the battery every cycle, or grab a few minutes of charge time whenever you can (with regard to battery life, at least).  But the latter practice will eventually make your reported battery-charge and remaining-life times inaccurate. To make sure the battery knows how much capacity it has, every once in a while you should completely discharge then fully recharge it. This keeps the electrons flowing through all the cells and calibrates an internal mAh counter.

Charges are cumulative, and you do not have to completely discharge the battery every cycle.

Step 2: Use It or Lose It — or Replace It
If you store your LiIon battery with a full charge, it’ll irreversibly lose about 20 percent of its charge capacity per year. If you aren’t going to use your machine for a while, leave your battery partially charged (40 to 50 percent). Even then, LiIon cells will lose capacity over time, but will do so more slowly at cool (not freezing) temperatures. Think about that when you’re choosing whether to store your old iBook in the basement or the attic.

Apple will sell you a new battery for any of its current laptops for $129, but the company no longer sells batteries for most of its older models. Fortunately for you, iFixit sells batteries for every portable Apple has made in recent memory. If you don’t get a battery from us, know that the main concern with after-market batteries is age: It’s best to buy a recently-manufactured battery and not just a “new” OEM battery that was made five years ago and has never been used.

Step 3: Gauge It
Battery capacity is expressed in milliamp-hours (mAh) or watt-hours (Wh).  The Late 2009 plastic unibody MacBook has a 60 Wh battery, so its claimed 7-hour battery life tells us that the MacBook sips just 8.6 watts. (This battery runs at 10.95 volts. Quick refresher from high-school physics: P = IV, so 60 Wh = I * 10.95 volts. Solving for current (I), we learn that this battery stores 5.48 amp hours, or about 5,500 mAh of juice.)

Your battery consumption can vary depending on how much the computer components are used (hard drive access, burning DVDs, using Wi-Fi), but the battery has a finite amount of capacity that only decreases over time.

On a Mac, you can easily determine your battery’s remaining capacity with third-party utilities such as Battery Health Monitor (shown above) or Coconut Battery, but you can also use Terminal (located within /Applications/Utilities). Type “ioreg -l -w 0 | grep Capacity”. The first item, CurrentCapacity, is your battery’s current capacity in milliamp-hours, whereas DesignCapacity lists the battery’s original capacity. System Profiler (on every Mac in /Applications/Utilities) also shows some information in the ‘Power’ profile.

Step 4: Recycle It

The Lithium inside these batteries isn’t super toxic (unlike most other batteries), but the world’s supply of lithium is finite. It’s gotten a lot more convenient in recent years to recycle batteries. Home Depot and Radio Shack will take back and recycle batteries at most of their stores. To recycle devices with integrated batteries, the fabulous e-stewards program publishes a list of certified e-recyclers that are properly accounting for their waste stream rather than shipping it overseas.

Random bit of trivia: Unused lithium batteries have been rumored to be a common source of lithium for making methamphetamines, but the ionized non-metal form of lithium used in Lithium-Ion batteries doesn’t work for this purpose.

Introducing iMac and Mac mini repair manuals

November 19, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Kyle Wiens

We are proud to announce the release of over two hundred repair guides, covering every Mac mini and most iMacs produced by Apple since 2004. All iMac and Mac mini repair manuals are immediately available for free on iFixit.com.

The repair manuals include in-depth disassembly guides, model identification tips, troubleshooting techniques, and upgrade information. The 241 new repair guides use 1,452 photos to clearly communicate each step of the repair.

iFixit repair guides are well known for world-class photography and clear, concise step-by-step directions. We are also launching an iMac parts store with hard drives, RAM, power supplies, disassembly tools, and more.

Pressed for comment, our CEO Kyle admitted that: “We have been pummeled with requests for iMac parts for years, and I finally couldn’t take it anymore. That’s right, we are now accepting money in exchange for iMac parts.”

iMac

  • The iMac repair manuals cover all 17″ and 20″ machines manufactured since 2004, including both G5 and Intel models!
  • 184 iMac repair guides use over 1,000 photos to illustrate the process of diagnosing and repairing each machine. They cover all aspects of the iMac, including removing the glass panel, upgrading the RAM and hard drive, and replacing the logic board.
  • The iMac parts store includes RAM, hard drive, and optical drive upgrades, as well as replacement parts such as power supplies and glass panels.

Mac mini

  • The Mac mini repair manuals cover all iterations since its inception in 2005. The list includes G4, Intel Core Solo, Core Duo, and Core 2 Duo machines.
  • Our experts have completed a total of 57 Mac mini repair guides. They cover accessing every part inside the Mac mini, including replacing the RAM, swapping out the wireless card, and removing the logic board.
  • Mac mini parts include RAM, hard drives, and optical drives, as well as enclosures allowing the installation of two internal hard drives.

We’re super excited to announce this. Our technicians have been working hard all year to make this happen, and I’d like to thank the entire team for their wonderful work. I hope it’s useful.

Droid Teardown Contest Winner

November 11, 2009 Hardware, Teardowns — Miro

Our war with the Droid is over, and we’ve won! A bounty hunter / iFixit user by the name of Dr. Wreck stepped up to to plate, ripped apart a Droid, and posted his teardown on our site.

The phone was quite a handful to take apart, having a multitude of hidden screws and latches. Interestingly enough, the sliding mechanism consisted of two rails that were imbedded within the screen portion of the device, providing a simple and effective method to slide out the keyboard. Sadly, no aliens or hidden messages to Princess Leia were found inside.

We’ve awarded Dr. Wreck $300 cold hard cash for his valiant effort. One Droid had to be sacrificed for the cause, and we’re glad it wasn’t ours (for once at least).

Feedback Loops

November 5, 2009 Answers — Kyle Wiens

I recently learned a lesson on the importance of feedback loops. We have lots of people participating in the Answers beta, and I reposted a couple questions there from our public discussion forums. I was hoping that it would produce some helpful solutions. My approach turned out to be a mistake, but not for the reason that you’d expect.

People actually posted several thought-out, interesting answers. The community voted some higher than others, and some of the answers . What did I do wrong? I got several answers to the user’s problem, a number of which looked viable to me. But I didn’t know which answer to accept! It turns out that the information that I think is useful is probably different than what the person who asked the question actually needs. I wasn’t able to honestly accept an answer because the question wasn’t mine!

Accept this

This really illustrates the need for our ‘accepted answer’ loopback mechanism. One of the really fun things about repair is that when you do find a solution, you know for a fact that it worked. There is no wishy-washy epistemological debate. Either what you suggested works to fix my problem, or it doesn’t. Accepting an answer communicates this success to the world, and to the person who posted the solution. This feedback is hugely encouraging to people posting answers.

Accepting answers solves an important issue with online communities. Troubleshooting forums are traditionally full of ‘hit and run’ questioners: people who post a single question and then disappear forever, never communicating the end result to the community members who tried to help. There are two problems with one-off questions: over time, it discourages established members from helping newbies, and it doesn’t indicate to people who stumble upon the forum whether what they are seeing is actually a useful answer. Establishing a social norm of saying ‘thank you, that solved my problem’ solves both these issues.

Two perspectives

The asker is not the only one who benefits from answers. There is another intended audience for the answers people post: the community at large. There are actually two right answers to every question: the response that fixed the asker’s problem, and the answer that the community as a whole finds most useful.

There is an immediacy to the first answer— we strive to provide timely, helpful solutions to problems people post. But what’s wonderful about our system is that it gets better with age! The more people vote up answers, the more views it will get and the more people will be able to edit posts to make them better.

When you help people here, you aren’t just writing answers to questions. You are building a long-term knowledge base of solutions to problems people encounter about devices. Because everything is editable, the answers to more popular questions will actually get better over time. The world needs this information.

Wanted: Motorola Droid Internals

November 4, 2009 Hardware — Miro
Wanted: Motorola Droid Teardown

Wanted: Motorola Droid Teardown

We love making teardowns, but we’re preoccupied at the moment with trying to change the world and just don’t have any spare time!  We’re turning our preoccupation to your benefit: we want the public’s help in acquiring a teardown for the Motorola Droid.  We’re giving cold, hard cash to the first person who posts a teardown of the Motorola Droid onto our website. That speedy contestant will get $300!

Contest Rules:

  • Purchase your very own Motorola Droid by any means necessary. We suggest lining up in front of Verizon’s store on the East coast, as they have a three hour advantage over us Western folk (but it was a pleasant 80 degrees today, so take that East!).
  • Create a Droid teardown on our site by snapping excellent photos and writing witty text.
  • Be the first user to post the Droid’s internals. The person with the first “layout” shot wins $300 USD. Example layout shots: iMac 27″, PSP Go, Nikon S1000pj.
  • The contest ends on November 13th at 11:59 PST, a week after Droid’s release.

We’ll update this post to announce the winner once the contest is over. Anybody is welcome to participate, but only one person will win!

Congrats to Dr. Wreck, the first user to post a Droid teardown for our contest! Read the full scoop on Dr. Wreck’s teardown here.

Introducing Answers: A Collaborative Repair Community

November 3, 2009 Answers, Site News — Kyle Wiens

I am proud to announce iFixit Answers, a collaborative repair community of people helping people make devices work longer. We are launching the private beta today, but we will be inviting more people throughout the testing period. To get an invite, add your name to our list (we’ll be sending out invites to people on the list as we have room) or, if you want to be bumped to the front of the list, write a teardown!

The world has a problem with rapidly consuming devices and tossing them aside, ignoring long-term environmental impact. With your help, we are going to change that. I’m confident that we can change our culture of ephemeral ownership.

Fixing a Mac, the iFixit way

iFixit has helped hundreds of thousands of people fix Apple hardware. Just last month we shared our repair knowledge with over a million people in 175 different countries. Our internet-scale troubleshooting and repair documentation has made electronics repair accessible to people all over the world. In this new and exciting time, you can leverage your knowledge about hardware to make a difference not just to people next door, but to communities halfway around the world.

Answers is a natural progression from our successful forums. The community will have complete control over the content on Answers, and the system will be collaboratively managed by you, and other people like you. Every question and answer can be voted on by anyone and edited by members of the community.

As we were designing Answers, we had four guiding imperatives:

  1. It’s important that posts get more useful over time. It’s not uncommon for a traditional repair forum response to become the canonical source for an answer to a problem, only to get outdated and stagnant as technology changes.
  2. It’s important that we recognize expertise. It matters if the author of an answer is a professional technician, or has helped 200 people fix their problems.
  3. It’s important to make helping people fun. There’s a rush that comes from helping someone solve a tricky problem, being recognized by people for the research you put into a question before asking it, or testing your hardware diagnosis mettle against others.
  4. And most important, we need to close the feedback loop between the people answering questions and those asking them. Repairing things is uniquely tangible — when you use a solution proposed by someone, you know for a fact whether or not it worked. Finding out that the answer you gave someone actually fixed their problem is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Sony Contest: 19 New Teardowns

October 28, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Our Sony teardown contest is complete, and we’re ready to announce the winners!

Most Creative Sony Teardown: TR-63 Transistor Radio

Most Creative Sony Teardown: TR-63 Transistor Radio

We received 19 different entries for the contest, featuring all sorts of Sony products:

The Sony Playstation 3 teardown was voted Best Overall. Author karasumachitose wins a PS3 Slim for a thorough walkthrough of how to get inside the PS3!

The Sony TR-63 Transistor Radio teardown was voted Most Creative. Author bac wins a PSP Go! This was our favorite teardown. The photos inside this historic piece of technology are absolutely stellar.

Best Overall Sony Teardown: PlayStation 3

Best Overall Sony Teardown: PlayStation 3

The judges were six members of the Wired editorial staff:

The judges labored for hours trying to pick the best teardowns. We thank them kindly for donating their time and for partnering with us for this contest. We loved the variety of teardowns you contributed. A good portion of them included tidbits on repair or reassembly, giving the world a useful resource, in addition to the pretty pictures. Good job to everyone who participated!

Want to create a teardown of your own? Get started!

27″ iMac Wallpaper

October 23, 2009 Hardware — Miro

Our 27" iMac (it's turned on!) with our new wallpaper.

One of our staffers came up with a great idea, an idea so fun that we dropped everything we were doing and started reassembling the 27″ iMac.

He thought it would be awesome to take a picture of the iMac internals and make it into wallpaper. So we did exactly that.

We reassembled the iMac to the point of how it would look like as if you just opened it: no glass, no LCD, and no iSight. We took the wallpaper shot, then fully reassembled it and put our fresh wallpaper on the machine. The results were nothing short of wonderful.

We learned a long time ago that “sharing is caring,” and didn’t want to keep this accomplishment all to ourselves.

So here it  is, in its 2560 x 1440 glory. Enjoy!

27″ iMac Teardown

October 22, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Kyle Wiens
We spared no expense to bring you internal photos of Apple’s latest and greatest. We have in our studio, in pieces, the biggest iMac money can buy:
http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iMac-Intel-27-Inch/1236/1
Lightning-quick teardown slideshow:
XXXX
Highlights:
* The power supply puts out 25.8 amps at 12 volts, for a total output of 310 watts (365W input, 85% efficiency). That’s the biggest power supply we’ve seen in an iMac.
* The GPU and CPU are quite far apart, and they have separate heat sinks leading to opposite sides of the computer. This rather complex feat of thermal engineering allowed Apple to upgrade the iMac to use Intel’s desktop line of processors.
* The lack of Blue-ray support in this iMac is a bag of hurt. Fortunately, this is a drop-in replacement: http://www.panasonic.com/industrial/computer/storage/optical/models/UJ-135A.asp (Of course, until Apple releases software support, you’ll still have to boot into Windows to play movies.)
* There is a Wi-Fi antenna leading into the Apple logo on the rear of the iMac. Aside from the ports, this is the only spot on the rear of the machine that isn’t solid Aluminum. This is quite clever, and while it seems like the obvious place to put it, we’ve never seen Apple do this before.
* This thing is BIG. The desktop processor / GPU need three large fans and two huge heatsinks to dissipate heat.
* The new iMac’s edge-to-edge glass can slide around. After upgrading the RAM in our iMac, we noticed the glass was slightly out of alignment on one side. You can push it back into place by hand.
* There’s no direct line from the external Mini DisplayPort connector to the LCD. The signal will need to go through the logic board, so you’ll need to have your iMac powered on if you want to display from an external video source.
* Our 3.06 GHz E7600 Core 2 Duo processor is a LGA 775 Socket T CPU. There are some Core 2 Quad chips that use the same socket, but we don’t know if they would work. The i5 and i7 quad-cores included in the high-end 27″ iMac use a different socket, LGA 1156 Socket H.
Overall Photo
http://s1.guide-images.ifixit.com/igi/UZQRO2ARtsvgaDkP.huge
No screen
http://s1.guide-images.ifixit.com/igi/TLfSqZEZWnTwKylR.huge
Removing logic board
http://s1.guide-images.ifixit.com/igi/avNjZSRYK3eaWBm4.huge
Logic board w/2 heat sinks
http://s1.guide-images.ifixit.com/igi/ktLKDUFPyGmyPPQJ.huge
As always, I’m available for questions or interviews. You are welcome to use up to three photos in your story, as well as the video embed.
Cheers,
-Kyle Wiens
iFixit CEO
P.S. Check out this user-submitted Sony transistor radio teardown: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Sony-TR-63-Transistor-Radio/1219/1 Retro cool!

We spared no expense to bring you internal photos of Apple’s latest and greatest. We have completely dissected the biggest iMac money can buy. We also made a super-fast YouTube video slideshow, replete with banjo music, for your enjoyment.

Highlights:

  • The power supply puts out 25.8 amps at 12 volts, for a total output of 310 watts (365W input, 85% efficiency). That’s the biggest power supply we’ve seen in an iMac.
  • The GPU and CPU are quite far apart, and they have separate heat sinks leading to opposite sides of the computer. This rather complex feat of thermal engineering allowed Apple to upgrade the iMac to use Intel’s desktop line of processors.
  • The lack of Blu-ray support in this iMac is a bag of hurt. Fortunately, there is a drop-in replacement. (Of course, until Apple releases software support, you’ll still have to boot into Windows to play movies.)
  • There is a Wi-Fi antenna leading into the Apple logo on the rear of the iMac. Aside from the ports, this is the only spot on the rear of the machine that isn’t solid Aluminum. This is quite a clever design, and while it’s an obvious place to put it, we’ve never seen Apple do this before.

  • This thing is BIG. The desktop processor / GPU need three large fans and two huge heatsinks to dissipate heat.
  • The new iMac’s edge-to-edge glass can slide around. After upgrading the RAM in our iMac, we noticed the glass was slightly out of alignment on one side. You can push it back into place by hand.
  • There’s no direct line from the external Mini DisplayPort connector to the LCD. The signal will need to go through the logic board, so you’ll need to have your iMac powered on if you want to display from an external video source.
  • The 3.06 GHz E7600 Core 2 Duo processor is a LGA 775 Socket T CPU. There are some Core 2 Quad chips that use the same socket, but we don’t know if they would work. The i5 and i7 quad-cores included in the high-end 27″ iMac use a different socket, LGA 1156 Socket H.