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.

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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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Conjunction

Meanwhile in the sky, three planets are aligned…

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That’s not everyday you can see both Jupiter and Venus in the eyepiece of a telescope!

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Eclipse

GifEclipseVersionCoruteRecadrée

Not as spectacular as in 1999, but that’s still a pretty impressive show!

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Fixing a broken Focal Spirit One headset with 3D printing

I love Focal for its speakers’ designs, and I was happy to be among the first to support the French brand when it released its first headset.

Unfortunately, mechanical constraints are not really the same between loudspeakers and headphones, and the engineering team was optimistic with plastic parts durability, to say the least.

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When I figured it out, I managed to “fix it” with whatever I could find on my desktop. But that could only be temporary.

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For a much more durable repair, I could have used my usual methods: a steel pipe at the correct diameter with a little blacksmith work would have been enough for a few bucks. But the problem appears to be very common, and many users could benefit from a solution which would be easier to implement and requires zero material. That was the perfect opportunity to discover the  world of 3D printing!

After a failed attempt with Sketchup for the part drawing, I launched my favorite CAD software Catia.

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With my precious caliper and one hour later, the design was done. But the printing company was still to be chosen.

I eventually went with Sculpteo, for which shipping cost wasn’t more expensive than printing the parts…

As far as printing material is concerned, I needed something stiff, yet thin enough. ABS was obviously out of the competition. I hesitated between alumide and resins (similar stiffness), but I eventually choose a white resin, mostly because it can be reworked somehow after printing, according to the advice of my dear friend Xevel.

Two weeks later, I received the parcel! The parts dimensions were matching my expectations, although some adjustments deserved to be made, especially an additional cutting for the tab lock that prevent earphone rotation (hence the “v2″ in the file name).

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So if you encounter the same issue, weep your tears, and download these STL files to print it yourself (print each part twice, for a total of 4 parts).

fixFocalPart1-v2.stl

fixFocalPart2-v2.stl

There is a basic tutorial in the gallery below, as usual!

I didn’t tried to print the new version on my own, but a French reader of this blog has, and seems to be happy with it.

 

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Overnight Sensation

I listen to a lot of music. Actually, as soon as I’m home, iTunes is running. And the sound comes from the speakers of my old iMac.

Sad uh?

When I became aware of this, I ran into this link: http://techtalk.parts-express.com/forum/speaker-project-gallery/36241-apple-themed-overnight-sensation-mtm/page5?amp;postcount=70. That was the kind of slap I needed!

I thus had a deeper look to Paul Carmody’s designs (from which the previous work relies on), with DIY sound system in mind.

Quick checkup of my needs:

  • Listening to MP3 (decent encoding) through the iMac sound card. Clearly, I won’t spend thousand euros here.
  • No subwoofer, since I live in an apartment…
  • For the same reason above, no need of 500W power.
  • No piggy bank break.
  • Speakers, not headset because I don’t like it.

Considering my needs, the small “Overnight sensation“, paired with a T-Amp seemed to be the perfect fit.

A few weeks of thinking, parts ordering, computing, cutting, soldering, testing, adjusting and painting, here it is!

OvernightSensation-47

OvernightSensation-48

OvernightSensation-49

And it ROCKS! From Classical to Death Metal!

Let’s listen for the first time again my whole music collection… Because there’s a lot of new instruments and tracks that have never been there!

At the end of this article is a build log, while files of blueprints and simulations (Catia v5 for CAD and Multisim for electronic) are available here.

A few observations after a few weeks of use:

  • It’s not enough to bring sound in a 40 meter-square room (not an issue in a small apartment)
  • It’s an audiophile path your putting your feet on… There’s no turning back after this and you will suffer ear torture when going back to the internal speaker of your laptop. Beware!
  • Better beyond compare with the Sony APM-137D I’ve been using during the time of the building (sound space, bass, details, realism). However, my setup still doesn’t reach daddy’s Denon HiFi system, but maybe the source is to blame rather than the speakers.

Final word: Thank you Paul for sharing your wonderful designs!

Edit July the 24th, 2011: Adding the blueprints in pdf format. It’s my adaptation of Paul’s designs to european standard materials, using metric systems. OvernightSensationBlueprints

Materials have been bought at Castorama. Coils and capacitors were found in www.europe-audio.com (but it tooks like forever to receive the parcel). Finally, resistors and amp were bought at Audiophonics, a shop that I definitely recommend but never open because I could spend all my money there!

 

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For more…

Please visit the french version here for the rest of the website!

Translation in progress… Thank you for your patience!

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