An iPhone 8 plus on steroids

As a disclaimer I’m often considered an Apple fan boy. Since my first iPod in 2005, then my first iMac in 2008, to my trustworthy MacBook Pro, Apple is my brand of trust, I choose their products for me and my loved ones, as it’s the only brand that seemed to focus that much on reliability and support.

But since January 2018, I’m not that sure of that anymore.

I’ve been living in the USA for almost 2 years now and obviously, this is here that I buy my Apple stuffs. Because it’s ludicrously cheaper here than in France and because I have an Apple Store 5 minutes from my house.

So before taking a month off in France for the Christmas holidays, I decided to treat myself with a fancy iPhone 8 Plus at my local retailer. So new, so shiny, myyyyy preccccccious.

But 10 days of service and feast later, I’m not the only one to feel a little tight in my clothes…

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Because of my daily job (I’m an embedded systems engineer), I’m familiar with the problem. That’s the very problem you fear when you’re making a battery powered device, that can bury a brand image (remember Samsung?). In a nutshell, when a customer brings you back one of your product in this shape, you handle the situation very carefully and discretely.

Despite the situation, I don’t panic, turns off the phone, and schedule a phone call with Apple the next morning.

One hour on the phone later, I’m comforted, I have a ticket number, Apple is sending UPS to pick up the phone in the next 24 business hours and I should get a repaired (I insist: a new one) iPhone within 7 days, with maybe a commercial gesture. That sucks, I’m without a phone for a few days, I’m stuck at home waiting for UPS, but that’s fine.

After factory reset, it has expended a little more...

After factory reset, it has expended a little more…

Waiting the whole day Friday, Saturday… Monday evening and still nothing. In addition to not having received any phone call from the customer manager that was supposed to call me at 11 AM for the compensation…

Checking my e-mails when all of a sudden…

"Your repair has been canceled"

“Your repair has been canceled”

And my ticket number has disappeared from my account, everything’s erased.

At that point I’m pretty pissed and I schedule another phone call. Which will be the first of the 4 phone calls I will have today, with THE one where the Apple Store I was planning to visit transferred me to Apple Care with a delightful 29 minutes on hold, for a total of 3 hours on the phone, where I’ll get 4 new ticket numbers, and where I’m told that:
– I need to go to an Apple Store
– No, that’s ok, UPS will come pick the phone.
– No, I REALLY need to take an appointment in an Apple Store, since my phone was bought abroad it can’t be handled otherwise (WTF?!) and that all Genius Bars are booked for this week. First appointment available in Paris (my closest Apple Store: 300 km) Saturday in 5 days. Not mentioning:
– my interlocutor attempts to send me to other Apple Stores at times I patiently remind him I wasn’t available.
– the criticisms I receive for buying a phone abroad, and not in a country I’m spending less than one month a year.
– smart advices such as taking back to the USA a phone, now classified as an incendiary grenade, with me on a plane.
– the fact that a damaged, hazardous phone, despite being new, be considered on the same priority level than helping a John Doe to restore his iCloud data on his new iPhone.

I take on me and agreed for an appointment to the Louvre Apple Store in Paris for Saturday, buy my 60 € train tickets and keep a suspicious eye over the fire hazard that I have to keep in my house.

On Saturday, I’m waiting in line in the Apple Store, as my UPS pick up has obviously been canceled in the same vague and mysterious conditions.

After one week, even not using it, the battery has swollen even more

After one week, even not using it, the battery has swollen even more

Looking good at first… Until I’m told that, “but sir, your phone has been bought abroad, we can’t proceed to an exchange, we need to order one, you’ll come pick it up in about 3 days”. Sure, I’m full time available, and I get free train tickets.

So, beside the fact that seriously, Apple had every single element to get a phone ready as my appointment has been scheduled 5 days ago, I’m still in the biggest French Apple Store. There are obviously about 500 iPhone 8 plus ready behind this door across the store. And even though they need to change it by a phone covered with a world warranty, if I can’t find it in the most touristic city in the world there’s something terribly wrong in their customer support. And it’s even more frustrating when people around you leave with a brand new phone when the one they came with was an old iPhone 6 with legitimate battery weaknesses. But for a new phone with manufacturing defect, nope, not gonna happen.

And the explanation that it’s an American phone so according to the international legislation and tax reasons it can be changed only by an American model, being given by a company so famous for its tax optimization in Europe, is pretty hilarious.

I put this article on pause for a moment: I’m not blaming the Louvre Apple Store, neither its employees and manager, that are obviously facing major global company-level restrictions, and have to go through the Apple Care phone service too. It’s driving me crazy after one hour, they have to do it all day long, while buffering angry customers. Hell of a job.

On the Genius Bar table, after a few minutes powered on, the plastic clips holding the screen are breaking.

On the Genius Bar table, after a few minutes powered on, the plastic clips holding the screen are breaking.

Time to fetch a sand bag!

Time to fetch a sand bag!

I give up, surrender my cursed iPhone (that’s a fire / explosion hazard I don’t have to worry about anymore), having been told that a new phone will be shipped to my house, shipping fees being covered by the Apple Store. Not exactly what I was hopping for but after 2 hours of fighting I know I won’t get a better offer. As for the commercial gesture a commercial manager is supposed to call me next Thursday.

Breaking news 1h30 later when the moment I arrived in the Gare de l’Est neighborhood, I received a call from the Apple Store telling me that they just received a new iPhone 8 plus that can be use as a replacement, that I can come pick up.

That’s one of the fastest trip across Paris I’ve ever done. I managed to pick up the new phone, go back to the train station and board my train, appreciating the involvement of the Louvre Apple Store. I’m aware that with the restriction they had to face, they handled my case pretty well, so I’m grateful to their employees and manager.

So I had time to chill a little before the Apple Care phone call a few days later. That’s not gonna last.

At this point, I was ready to let go for the 7 hours I’ve lost in this stupid story and the associated stress. I was just willing for Apple Care to at least cover the train tickets. Such naivety…

Quite quickly, I understand that one more time my interlocutor has no power and that the only thing she’s allowed to give is a silicon case for my phone. Except that I obviously already bought one with the phone, and not as ugly as the one sold by Apple for 45 euros. Despite my attempts to get a wireless charger, that would have covered the price of the train tickets and that would be, at least, useful, I have the uncomfortable feeling to be considered an idiot again, and I’m not willing to accept that.

Let's face it, it's ugly.

Let’s face it, it’s ugly.

I tried everything but I couldn’t reach a supervisor, hidden behind their operators that take the hit for all.

My interlocutor invited me to fill the satisfaction form that would be sent shortly after, which is supposed to make things evolve. But preparing my trip back to the USA and working just after, I couldn’t open the form sooner than 10 days after, and it was then unavailable, if it ever was.

TooLate

“We thank you for the interest you showed for this survey. You already answered it (nope…) or your invite has expired.”

As I can’t be heard through this mean, I’m telling this story through this blog, hoping that it will find a way to somebody at Apple that would be willing to make things better. I’m not expecting anything from Apple anymore, but maybe this advertising will help making them understand that their support sucks, especially when dealing with international warranty. I’m lucky enough to know the risks and how to handle such a technical problem and hazard, but I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for the regular tourist, visiting for a few days a country he doesn’t speak the language, and who would take the plane soon.

As a conclusion, my next phone might be a Samsung as they know how to handle this problem, or a cheap one that I can throw away every time I’m in a different country, since it’s kind of what I’ve been told by Apple!

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Fixing a Mesa Boogie Triaxis

Disclaimer:

This fix involves messing with a tube preamp running high voltage that can kill you. If you choose this path, do it at your own risk, I can’t be blamed!

Mode Erreur

A colleague I’m sometimes playing the guitar with came to me the other night with his dying Mesa Boogie Triaxis. Apparently this famous preamp works fine for 15 minutes, before falling into error mode, displaying his inner pain on the front panel display through the mysterious message “.3″ which, according to the doc, stands for “Err”.

A quick search on the net shows that this is quite a common issue, but I couldn’t find a concrete solution that doesn’t involve a $400 Mesa Boogie factory return.

Come on, a 90’s rack preamp should be easy to open and fix !

Here it is, laying on the surgery table, with all the care and concern of a tubes stuff guts (high voltage, afro haircut, death, and so on).

Triaxis Guts

Without surprise, it’s designed to be opened and tweaked, so a first diagnosis is easy to get. But let’s be honest, a full disassembly will be a PITA. So let’s hope it won’t come to this.

Both symptoms and Internet comments (microcontroler failure, not serviceable) made me want to blame the digital part and not the analog part, so I focus on this.

At first sight, everything’s fine. Some tantalum caps that could be on their aging days, but nothing pops up. Let’s look under this Faraday cage that must protect microcontrolers from electric noise.

Got the micro?

As expected, here are the Triaxis chip and some Z80, that I hope are fine.

Z80 and Cie

But having a closer look, there’s this C18 tatalum cap leaking, and IC11 dressed as a smoked rib. With a more chemical smell. That depends on the restaurant though.

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IC11 is a TL7705ACP, a supply-voltage supervisor, making sure that voltage is as expected before turning on other part of the circuit. If it goes beyond limits, it can be used to shuts things off or trigger errors. And the voltage of reference is decoupled by C18, the damaged capacitor. It’s thus very likely to trigger errors after a short period of time, which could explain the message on the front panel of the Triaxis!

Let’s order a new TL7705ACP and some 100 nF tantalum cap, even though a ceramic could do the job.

A few days later, parts arrived, and I call my colleague. Yeah, 40 minutes before my train, plenty enough of time!

I start by removing damaged parts. Simplest way to do it in my experience is to cut every pin, and then unsolder them one by one. Then I clean the leaks of cap juice and carbonized dusts.

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This part of the board is obviously burnt on several areas, so I don’t want to struggle and solder new parts directly. Actually I can’t because it’s hard to solder and can be damaged further. Pin 6 of IC11 in particular is just carbon at this stage, so I’ll connect it elsewhere on the circuit.

I check with a multimeter how everything is connected (GND, VCC, VREF, RESET…) and try to figure out how the part is used, based on the circuit reference from the datasheet. Again, I’m a little confused by how the RESET pin of IC11 is used, directly connected to ground. As the circuit is damaged here, I cross check my multimeter result with a visual inspection of the bottom layer of the board: that’s a match, so I’ll reconnect it like this, and will trust Mesa Boogie’s engineers (but if it was me I would have put a 10k resistor).

Beurk

Visually, it’s ugly. Probably one of my worst fix, but that was fast and it avoided a full board disassembly. Anyway I can’t see any influence on sound or reliability, so who cares.

A few other checks with my trustworthy multimeter, and I plug the beast.

No smelly blue smoke, no heat, and no errors on display anymore!

Tadaaa

A $2 fix instead of $400 :) Pretty sick!

The beast has been running fine for 2 weeks, and my colleague is happy!

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A painless Magic Keyboard?

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I usually spend around 14 h a day in front of a computer. At this rate, a bad posture is merciless and pain appears quickly. As a consequence, I took a dive into the world of ergonomics years ago, and I’m always looking for this comfy peripheral that would associate geeking and peace of mind.

For long days at work, I love the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, and I usually went back to the Apple wired keyboard in the evening, once back home. Alternating posture is a good way to release muscles.

But when I crossed the Atlantic ocean, and went full Apple, I was disappointed when I started looking for an ergonomic keyboard, Mac compatible, with French layout, and available in the USA. The best I found is a French layout Magic Keyboard, but it’s still an abomination, ergonomically speaking.

First, I wanted to mess with a Dremel, and giving it a V shape… But a negative slope, widely approved by ergonomic professionals, was easier and less definitive.

I launched my CAD software one more time, to create a pair of accessories to be clipped on the Apple Magic Keyboard, instantaneously featured with a relieving negative slope of -6,8°.

2 weeks later, the result was shipped to my mailbox. And the first days of use were delightful!

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It’s not worthy of the true ergonomics keyboard, obviously. But it’s always good to take and your wrist will be spared and ready for breathless foosball games.

iErgoKeyboard - 5

iErgoKeyboard - 6

So if you have a Magic keyboard you want to use for a long time, have a look at those cute accessories on my Shapeways shop.

And as in my opinion, everybody should be healthy and have access to ergonomic peripherals, the Brimbelle Lab iErgo Keyboards are under OSHW (Open Source Hardware) licence, and files can be downloaded here, so that you can modify or print them yourself.

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Pimp my cable

You fear people’s feet passing dangerously close to your power cable crossing the alley of the Starbucks to charge your brand new laptop? You got a 42 ports USB hub, with every single one busy, and you unplugged the very hard drive on which you were cut-pasting a back up with a gazillion subfolder and tiny files?

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I might have the solution to your troubles.

I’ve thought about paint (cracks and scratch gonna happen), electrician tape (sticky cable collecting all the dust and dirt existing on Earth, yummy…), but I eventually imagined and created these little clips to be 3D printed, in all the colors you might think of.

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Do yourself a favor and treat yourself with these little accessories, sold by pack of 30, on my Shapeways shopin 3.0mm (for cable from 3.0 to 3.7mm, i.e. 0.1181″ to 0.1457″) or in 3.5mm (for cable from 3.5 à 4.4mm, i.e. 0.1378″ to 0.1732″).

iPhone cable coming soon…

cableenhancer

Plus you’re sure now that nobody will stole your charger “inadvertently”!

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New York – 1

More on my Instagram!

9-11 MemorialTrump Tower

 

Flatiron Building

Williamsburg

DUMBONorthpole Bar

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Museum

Chamber Street Subway Station

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3D printing rox!

I have a sortof distorted sense of direction, causing my bicycle trips to be often much longer than originally planned. That’s why I recently bought a Sigma Rox 10.0 GPS, and I obviously took it when I moved to New York.

But once there, I couldn’t find the mounting parts I used to order in France. Actually the only one I found doesn’t fit the 27 mm handlebar of my old singlespeed, and is kinda expensive (20$).

I could have easily made something with usual tools, but I didn’t really brought my workshop with me across the Atlantic and thus, I thought of 3D-printing.

After one hour with my favorite software, and a few hesitations taking measurements without a caliper, here’s the result !

First rendering

As far as the printing material is concerned, a standard ABS or Nylon is perfect. There’s no particular weakness to be concerned about, except for water resistance.

Wishing my shipment to be received quickly, I made it printed by Shapeways. But I didn’t account on U.S. Postal taking five days to achieve a 10 km trip (:

Finally!

With GPS in place.

White plastic with polish finition.

Purple plastic with polish finition.

2 prototypes were printed.

This part allows to mount the GPS perpendicularly or in parallel to the bar (handlebar or stem), through 2 ziplocks (under 5 mm width or 3/16 inches). For more exotic kinds of mounting, you can also use the two holes which fit two M2 screws with countersunk heads.

With ziplocks in place

Here is the result, mounted on my bike!

Mounted on the bike...

... and with a GPS on top of it!

I’ve made a bunch of changes on the printed part, which improves the ziplocks mount when used on wider bars, such as a-head stems.

Final part

The .stl file is available here if you have a 3D-printer, or directly through my Shapeways shop : https://www.shapeways.com/product/J27KBDFCB/sigma-rox-10-support-oshw

I place this file under Open Source Hardware licensing. However, if you don’t feel like ordering through my Shapeways shop, and you download and print it on your own, your support through a nice comment or a Paypal donation would be utterly appreciated!

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NYC

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Lost in translation

I love the French language (although I happen to bully it from time to time).

For now, I was convinced to write this blog in my native language only, hopping to help narrowing the gap french has with other languages on the web, with its 8th position (sources: Wikipedia)

But letting my laziness beliefs win is reaching only 3% of the web users. And I hope that this website will eventually interest 3-4 readers out there.

So, this is the English version of this blog! With probably plenty of language atrocities, so feel free to contribute making the web a better place by sending me an email with corrections :).

Articles will be translated progressively, newer first. If you can’t stand waiting for it, may I suggest you to click on the French version, top of the page, right, with this little blue-white-red flag?

 

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Maté el ordenador…

Well, I didn’t. That was only to introduce the murder’s weapon : Yerba Mate. This is some highly conductive beverage that, oddly enough, make serious damage when split over the keyboard of an Asus X53S laptop.

The murder's weapon.

Emergency procedure: turns everything off, unplug the battery and power outlet, and let any liquid flows out and dry for a few days. Asian technic: put the device in a closed bag with rice, which will absorb humidity.

If on the contrary you are the kind of guy to carry on with your thesis manuscript whatsoever, even if your keyboard misbehaves and despite pyrotechnic effects coming from the inside of your computer, here is a way to bring your laptop back to life.

DISCLAIMER : Fiddling stuff randomly is the best way to learn, but also to hurt yourself. I can’t be held responsible for any injury, death, or destruction that might occur following this article. Be careful, unplug power supplies, and never let a hacked device without supervision unless you are sure of your hack.

Legal aspects being detailed, let’s hack!

In a nutshell: the motherboard has been seriously damped in maté. Careful cleaning done, two transistors have burst (MTB20N03AQ8) and another one (IT8572E) with pins oxidized by the beverage.

First ones are not available in France, but there are equivalents largely supplied. (Farnell, Mouser, RS…).

The second one is much more difficult to find. So let’s assume some hot-air rework will be enough.

I’ve considered buying a new motherboard from Aliexpress or eBay, but it turns out kind of expensive, whereas repairing my current motherboard seemed a reasonable challenge, if the diagnostic was correct. And if not, I can afford buying two transistors for nothing, and pick a new mother board later.

During repair, I noticed that a resistance close to one of the transistors I was changing looked very bad. Ohmeter spoked: infinite resistance, whereas the other transistor presented a similar design with a resistor of 100 kohms. This design is familiar: it’s a low-pass filter. Let’s put the same value on this side and everything happen, well, happens.

Desoldering it, the electric path went along with it, probably damaged by the short. Fortunately, a via was nearby, which also let me replace the 0402-sized resistor by a bigger one.

Putting everything back together, pushing the big button.

Hurray!

And here it is, ready for duty! How many Windows update in six months? :D

And here it is, ready for duty! How many Windows updates in six months? :D

Everything starts fine. The keyboard appears to be dead too. But it’s 15$ on eBay so this is no big deal.

Final word: don’t throw your electronic devices… They might be repaired. If you don’t think you can handle it, have a look anyway, go to a makerspace, or give it for free to someone who can fix it. One less piece of garbage contaminating the planet!

 

The murder’s weapon.

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Toolbag

Each year, when Christmas come, I know that I won’t sleep much because of hand-made present I like to offer.

toolkit60

This year, I will focus on mom’s present. She is a gilder, at the Atelier Or et Patine (click!), and she happens to need some chisels, since her current ones were made in China and about to break.

The perfect opportunity for me to work with wood, steel and leather, my favorite materials!

The fact that I had to make several chisels on the same model made me design some specific tools, especially a basic lathe, from stuff picked across my workshop.

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Here is the result, a leather toolbag containing 6 chisels with wood handles and XC75 steel blades (one forged).

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As usual, the fabrication process is detailed in the gallery below!

 

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