Well it’s finally here. Took longer than I anticipated, but that’s mostly because of budget constraints. I finally got around to ordering it on 7/20/2012, and it arrived in about 2 weeks. Not at all unreasonable, considering it shipped all the way from Shenzhen China. In my original post,
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I haven’t posted anything on it (yet), but following some work I did on Silvia, I took on the task of rehabilitating my girlfriend’s old Dell Inspiron 1150, which was a mess to say the least: missing keys, a broken headphone jack, dead speakers, and a decapitated display. I did my best to bring it back from the grave but sadly it’s still a mute (speakers still dead). It does run with a tad bit more pep, and sports a few new coats of paint. My biggest triumph was repairing the headphone jack. Out of that project I acquired an extra LCD screen because, as it turned out, all I needed was a new converter cable, hinges, and cosmetic plastic covers to fix the display. The ill fated replacement was also the wrong size at 15″, though somewhat compatible (eBay burn). That extra screen has been sitting in “the workshop” dreaming of a day it would once again have purpose. Welp, it seems that day has finally come. Read the rest of this entry »

After making such a killing sniping great prices for parts, I was understandably eager to rip the cellophane and get to work. But actually, I was holding off because I intended to do the build with my little nephew. He… had other plans so I was on my own. As I mentioned previously, I was pretty much following the parts list provided in tonymacx86’s CustoMac Mini 2011 post with one small exception, the case.

He listed the Apex MI-008, but I chose the MI-100 instead. I stuck with the same manufacturer because I didn’t want any unforeseen fitting issues and their frames were pretty much identical. I really just found the face of the MI-100 to be more pleasing. The directions that came with the case weren’t exactly crystal clear, but after some trial and error I managed to put the right screws in the right places. I have to say, making all the connections to the motherboard was a little intimidating. Most of my experience so far was with laptops. But I knew enough to ground myself and avoid bending any of the pins on the processor (It seems now they have they pins on the motherboard instead). I also had Gigabyte’s instructions, which where a little easier to follow. The first thing I noticed

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Drawing upon what I learned with Silvia, I was beginning to think about building my own computer. Didn’t look that hard to build, the real hard part seemed to be finding the right parts for a good price with an upgrade path. I read a few posts over on lifehacker but the price just wasn’t right, not if wanted to use new components. So I put it off until I could either find a good deal, or maybe a decent bare bones kit that met my needs right now and could be upgraded later.

Around this time I had also read a few lifehacker posts on building a hackintosh. They referenced tonymacx86, so I started reading his blog as well. I was always curious about macs. We had a Mac lab in one of my high schools, and since I grew up mainly on PCs, they just seemed odd with their single button mouse and multicolored plastic. Obviously since then Apple has blossomed quite a bit (if only I bought stock). Now macs are in vogue or some sort of personal brand statement. I was always too counter culture to buy in, and as a tinkerer, I hate when companies put measures in place to prevent me from taking a look inside or tell me to leave such things to “professionals”. How insulting. I hate that almost as much as I hate the RadioShack guy suggesting I purchase $50+ HDMI cables. Enter the CustoMac Mini 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

By what was probably my fifth teardown/revision, Silvia had a new lease on life. Maybe I was just used to slow, agonizing hours of talking to an hourglass, but by comparison the performance boost was like night and day. The only trick was getting her started. That darn power button. My earlier attempts at applying pressure to force the connector into place didn’t hold up over time. The connection was intermittent and got worse as it slipped in and out-of-place, getting more and more loose. I fiddled with it so much the connector actually ripped right off the motherboard (yikes!). But I maintained my calm, scraped off the excess solder with an Exacto blade (Mr. Sharpee) and carefully re-soldered it with my fresh new skills. For good measure, I also anchored it with some krazy glue. I really hope that doesn’t come back to bite me later. Read the rest of this entry »

—Silvia (part three)…

December 24, 2011

(image credit: Home Theater Shack)

I stopped by my local Home Depot and bought my first soldering iron. When I was little my uncle had a soldering gun he used for small car related projects. I thought the concept of fusing metal was pretty cool. The pins on the faulty power button connector were so tiny I was afraid of shorting out the board. My early practice attempts at soldering ended in a fruitless, sloppy, unattractive heap on my workbench. Since I was such a novice I needed to learn some basic skills. I found a web tutorial on the proper soldering techniques. By this time I had also learned I could have purchased a better soldering iron and kit from Radio Shack, one of many regrets.

In any case, I had another project in mind that I figured I could hone my skills on Read the rest of this entry »

—Silvia (part two)…

December 22, 2011

Thanks to Dell’s excellent documentation on shall we say not-so-excellent products of the time, I discovered that a bluetooth card could be installed pretty easily (eBay!). That little blue LED lit up for the first time and I was so pleased with myself. I now had the ability to sync my BlackBerry wirelessly, though painfully slow… and not all files were compatible. Yea.. cool.

I started playing with Linux, or more specifically Ubuntu after a serious hard drive crash (another casualty of that fan). I ran one of their recovery programs to try salvage my data, as at this time the only option Windows was giving me was to install a fresh copy. It dumped file fragments in a bunch of folders. (I still haven’t gotten around to piecing them back together as it wasn’t really critical stuff.) Didn’t exactly save the day, but I liked the concept of Ubuntu, its light weight, and simplicity. And I loved the startup sounds of the drum. Read the rest of this entry »

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