Last Sunday the screen on my laptop went out on me. That’s usually either the voltage inverter or the tiny flourescent light tube situated along the bottom edge of a sheet of glass in the screen. I have replaced both those elements in other laptops in the past, reviving the computer. But this one belongs to my employer, and it’s still under warranty. So I called Bill, our IT guy. We removed my hard drive and installed it in another computer he had on hand that is just like mine. So using that laptop felt “just like home.”

Then we sent my laptop back to Dell. But just before we did, the screen came back to life. That probably means a broken wire connected (or not) to the flourescent tube. But hey – we sent it anyhow.

It came back today, along with a report of what they did. Nothing about the screen. They replaced the cracked wrist pad, and that was all. Neither Bill nor I were very happy about that. I turned it on, and it was working, so… what can you do?

When I got home, I fired up the laptop again, and within 10 minutes, the screen went blank again. This did not come as a surprise. The screen came back again, went out again, and then came back again. I’m sure it will eventually not come back at all. Maybe Bill will send it back again tomorrow.

I took another look at that broken laptop I’ve been working on since… well – since before the beginning of the new year. And now it works, hoorays!

Patially assembled laptop

The display! She is working!


The last thing to plague me on this was reassembling the backlight. I was trying to drop it straight down into its frame, but I found that if I removed part of the frame and slid it in from the side instead, then it fit a whole lot better. Anyhow, now it’s working. I brought it home for Beth to use, and she was beside herself with joy. That is, until I told her to get off and practice her piano.

Once I got the thing working again, I went to the snack room and got a Hershey’s bar to give to our solder tech as a “thank you.” She was delighted to hear that it was working again, and she seemed to genuinely appreciate the chocolate. I told her I thought her help was worth way more than 40 cents, but… it’s chocolate! She was very appreciative, but I think I was even more so.

In other laptop news, I got a new keyboard for my main laptop today. The Y and H keys had been sticking, and since it’s under warranty, Dell just sent us a new one. Bill (our IT guy) and I installed it. This new Dell comes apart a lot easier than the old ones. I also got a new power adapter, as the strain relief on the old one slid out of it’s little hidey-hole:

Power Adapter composite

Red arrow points to badness


No telling when that thing would fail me, but I’d rather not wait, especially when it’s under warranty.

The other thing that happened today was that I got a call from the service tech who was going to realign our satellite dish. He said he’d be at the school at 10:30. Jonathan had told me that he would get out of class at 10:00, so I expected him t oshow up at my office no later than 10:15 or so. Only he didn’t. I called him at 10:15 but he didn’t pick up, because he was in class. (He was wrong about when he’d get out.) So I sent him an email telling him where I’d be. Then I drove to the school.

The tech was there already, and Katrina (the teacher) showed him to the network closet. He was hooked up to it and – just as I could not, – he could not connect to it. I told him to switch to a 169.254.x.x IP address and all would be roses. And it was. The signal strength was 1 (out of 100). He said that either we were way “off the bird” or our receiver was blown. Then he told me that he didn’t have a ladder high enough to get up there (the dish is on a second-story section of the roof) so he’d have to rent a truck with a lift. And (thinking it was already Friday) suggested that he’d see me again on Monday. Sigh. luckily he realized that today was only Thursday, so he corrected that. He called a place to have the truck delivered here tomorrow morning, and then told me he’d be here at 8:00am. I was fine with that.

But then he called me when I was on my way home from work to tell me that he needed to pick up a new receiver unit for us from the airport first, so he wouldn’t be there until 9:30. I was fine with that too. Hopefully we’ll be back online at the school again tomorrow.

Last week I ordered a new backlight for my old laptop. The display no longer works, and my friend CW diagnosed it as having a bad lamp. This lamp is a small flourescent tube that mounts under the edge of the “glass” at the bottom of the screen. Unless it lights, you get no display.

The tube came in yesterday, and I tore into it during lunch then. It has wires that run from a power inverter (which jacks the voltage up high enough to light the lamp) and then connects to either end of the tube. These wires are soldered onto the tube. When I got it disassembled, that’s when I discovered the real problem – one of those wires had burned off. There was probably nothing at all wrong with the tube, but if you’re changing a light bulb (or flourescent tube) in a place that’s really hard to get to, it’s insane to put an old bulb (or tube) in there. So even though the old one was prolly still good, I was going to use the new one.

Now I do know how to solder, and I’m not that bad at it either. But this particular job looked like it was at the edge of my ability, and I wasn’t sure which side of that edge it was on. So I decided today to ask our solder tech if she’d be willing to work on it for me. And she very graciously agreed.

After she got the first lead soldered onto the new tube, she was sliding some heat shrink tubing into place cover the joint. It did not want to turn the corner. So she applied more force. That’s when the tube snapped. 😯 Oh noes!

She was mortified, and I felt bad that she was so distraught over it. I pleaded with her to not worry about it and suggested that maybe we should try soldering the old tube on instead (since it’s probably still good). I also told her that the tube was only $4.00 (OK, that was true, but it also cost another $4.00 to ship it – she didn’t need to know that). She got it soldered on, but I have not yet put it back in the laptop to see if it worked or not. Maybe tomorrow.

Earlier this week I ordered a replacement power inverter for the LCD in my old laptop. It came in today. I installed it. It doesn’t work as well as the one I replaced. Grrrr. I should pursue this, but I don’t know if I will. That’s a lot of headache to go through for something that will likely not end the way I want it to anyhow.