Friday, November 27, 2015

The best mouse in the world

This time the post is about a PC mouse. However, it's ~10 years old so we can call it 'oldschool'.
This is the best mouse. Ever. Built. Really.
This one has built for eternity. It still works. It's not even scratched, not broken, the cable is still intact.

This is it:

It's small, light-weight, ergonomic, the cable is NOT 176451264 meters long and it fits my hand perfectly.

Actually, after 10 year the buttons became a bit worn, sometimes I experienced unwanted double clicks and unstable behavior. But other than this THE mouse.

So I was looking for a solution, this means I disassembled the mouse and checked the micro-switch inside. After a quick research I found that they are very standard switches and still available to buy. Guess what, 5 pieces for 1 GBP. And free postage! Wow, that's... a bargain.

It took 4 weeks for 5 pieces of new micro-switches to arrive from China to the UK but it well worth the wait. Maybe they were traveling using donkeys. I don't know, it doesn't matter at all.

So, I disassembled the mouse, this is how it looks like in pieces:

The screwdriver wasn't inside the mouse, obviously, that's just an extra decoration on the photo.

Grabbed the soldering iron and desoldered the micro-switches:

Then soldered the new ones in:

It's getting easier and easier to desolder/solder small items like these switches. There is not much tin around them and desoldering pump sniffs the tin off from the circuit quickly. Also, not much heating is needed on the connectors.

And I have a perfect mouse again!

(disclaimer: this post is NOT an advertisement and NOT sponsored by the manufacturer of the mouse)


Today's music: Mouse on Mars aka. Maus af dem Mars aka. Egér a Marson

Thursday, November 19, 2015

C64 power switch surgery

A few days ago I saved a C64 C. The owner wanted to throw it out because:

"This is just an old keyboard, it doesn't even fit the PC"


The case has serious scratch marks and looks like soldering iron or something similar melted parts of it. It has replacement screws that are too long and went deeper than they should and drilled new holes into the plastic...

The C64 was surprisingly in a good condition inside. Almost no dust, motherboard was fairly clean, keys are stiff. However, keyboard holder metal parts were missing and the fuse was blown out.

Replacing the fuse was the easiest part, then I gave it a try, plugged the cables in, and switched the C64 on.

Well, I tried to switch it on. The power switch was stucked in the OFF position, I had to use serious force to switch it ON.

And... after a few breathless seconds and the init black screen...

It's alive!

Everything works fine, except the stiff power switch. I have to do something with it. Why not replacing it to a new one? Yeah, that's a brilliant idea.

The hunt for a new switch was easy, I should consider myself lucky as there was an ad on AmiBay, a guy sold some spare switches for a few bucks. Let's do some serious soldering business again!

Look at those tiny legs, they are easy to heat up and sniff the tin off with a desoldering pump. But the 2 stronger stuff that are not really visible because I was lame and didn't make a better photo... I recommend to use a better soldering iron with 75-80W power at least, it can heat up the tin much faster.

These are connected to the "ground" and are deeper mounted into the motherboard with more tin.

I was afraid I would heat the panel up too much, so I used brute force - and a screwdriver - to remove the switch: heat it up as much as possible AND insert a screwdriver under the switch at the same time.

It worked well and did not cause any damage on the motherboard.

So, next step was to insert the new switch and burn it in. I've chose a very thin tin (hehe, thin tin, hehe...) and a small amount was enough to glue the switch into its place.

It was easy. Really. Even an amateur like me can do it without risking to break anything.

It's not the most beautifully soldered switch ever, but good enough. Those brown burn-a-like spots were already there, I suppose this C64 got some serious electric shock, maybe from a damaged power supply and that burned the panel a bit. This would explain the broken fuse as well.

Now I need to find a solution to the plastic case...

  • Heat, heat, heat! Need a lot of heat.
  • Use the force IF heat doesn't help.
  • Be careful but be strong with the heated up part.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Super Nintendo - From Yellow to Reborn

Sooooo, it took around 2 weeks to clean a SNES and it could have been shorter if we had sunny days... instead of natural UV light I had to use a UV light bulb which is not that efficient. Other than this the procedure was kinda the same as with the C64. Basically this is the short version of the SNES Story.

Longer version:
I was happy when I received the special screwdrivers and finally was able to dismount the SNES.
Everything started with a dirty-dusty, yellowed machine:

As I already mentioned in a previous post, it was fairly easy to clean the cartridge slot with earbuds and compressed air, so the SNES was in a good working condition but the plastic was, well, just look at the photo...

Disassembly is easy if you have the right tools:

However, I still don't understand why it was necessary to use 2 different type of screws (check previous post).

Surprisingly, the interior wasn't that dusty as I expected. A slight push of the compressed air bottle and a soft brush touch did the job well.

And then... no sunshine for days... what a sad week was that. I mounted the UV light to the slot, moved my bed from the bedroom to the kitchen and put the cardboard box into the bedroom.

For a few days only.
Then a bit more...

Cardboard box and aluminium foil interior, it helps to reflect the UV light to EVERYWHERE.

Switch on the UV light:

And we wait.

Still wait.

Even more...

After 6-7 days I was fed up with this procedure and cleaned the plastic parts from the cream, using a lot of warm temperature water in the bathtub.

After reassembly:

And... what is that..? Oh, no, again...

A leftover screw...
I have no idea where it belongs. Really. There were no empty slots, no holes, nothing. All I can think of this screw belongs to another device. Hopefully.

But at least the SNES works fine, I played with many games since I cleaned it.

  • SNES disassembling is easy
  • UV light bulb s*cks. Should use natural UV light or a lot more powerful bulb.
  • Clean the plastic after 2 days and re-apply the cream again to achieve more even whitening
  • SNES parts are a bit harder to reassemble, it has more parts and it's a bit more complicated inside than a C64
  •  SNES is fun. SNES is a robust machine.
  • Aluminium foil is great, it reflects the UV light and spreads it everywhere.


Today's slightly annoying music: Pac-Man DX soundtrack

Monday, November 9, 2015

Retro Computer Museum - Leicester, UK

I had the chance to visit Retro Computer Museum in Leicester last weekend. That place is the heaven for retro computer enthusiasts. They have a lot of curiosity of various stuff and you can have your hands on anything and play. It definitely worth to visit and spend hours with chatting with people, playing games and having fun.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Question of the day

A new post about refurbishing a SNES is on the way, and in the meantime I was wondering what a Nintendo Engineer could have been thinking during the planning phase of the console?

I just can't get it why... just look at this photo:

What could be the idea behind using 2 different type of screws?

The screws on the right side of the photo are used to hold the plastic case, the others are used inside the SNES. I still don't get it. The inside screws are simple and usual + headed screws, I believe 95% of the average households have a screwdriver to them.

But the other type of screws is something different. It's called.... wait, I need to Google it...

Result: "Torx styled Nintendo security screw"

Now I know. It's the fault of E.M.O.S. aka Evil Manufacturers of Screwdrivers!

You have to use a special set of tools to be able to assemble/disassemble a SNES, this way they will be rich and will rule the world. It might happen slowly, they might rule the world in 50 years or more.


Seriously, does anybody have a good and reasonable explanation to this question? Please share it with me.

Good night.


Today's last thought: I hope you get the irony :)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Commodore 64 has reborn

You can read about the refurbishing of a Commodore Datasette in a previous post. It came together with a C64 C, both have been laying in the loft for many years. Try to imagine the yellowing of the case and the amount of dust inside... Let me help you with some photos:

Notice the yellowed keys and the dust, also the case was more yellow than the picture would suggest.

I started with disassembling the case and removed the keyboard and motherboard. Silly me forgot to take photos of the motherboard before cleaning... 
But I didn't forget to shot the keyboard:

I suppose it doesn't need much explanation... the dust must leave.

The case was kinda easy to clean, first it received a soapy massage with a lot of water splash from the showerheads. Afterwards the usual H2O2 treatment happened, luckily we had sunny days with a lot of sunshine.

C64 case after soapy-water cleaning. This is still yellowed but thanks to the *fine* photo it's not really visible.

After 3 days on the balcony, 3-4 hours of sunshine daily. She's a beauty, isn't she?

In the meantime I was thinking of the keyboard parts, how to treat them with H2O2. I decided to use some aluminium-foil to cover the inside of a cardboard box and put the keys inside and cover them with cellophane:

Sadly, the sunny days were over (I did this procedure on another day, after the case has been cleaned), so I had to come up with another solution.

UV lightbulb! Yes. Ordered one and was waiting with a lot of patience.
Well, maybe being a monk would help to be more patient but this time I was simply working on a SNES until I received the UV light.

It's a simple one, 20W overall so I was thinking it might not be enough but it was:

The UV light is simply not as strong as the sunlight. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
It needs a lot more time to whiten the yellowed plastic but it worth the wait at the end because the result is good, and the UV light is more consistent than the sunshine. You can leave this on for days and the amount of light will be even on the plastic.

The keys got the light for 2 days, and I was 50% satisfied only:

They were definitely better but still had yellowing here and there. So, repeated the procedure, let the keys sniff in the UV light for 3 more days and the result after the second round was 100% satisfying.

In the meantime I cleaned the motherboard, it was just dusty but worked fine. Used a soft paintbrush to remove the dust and it was about time to reassemble the C64.

Luckily, I have another C64 on the shelf so it was relatively easy to put all the keys back to their original position:

The remaining procedure was simple again, putting everything together and test if everything works fine:

This time there were no leftover parts so I consider this refurbishing procedure as a big-big success:

- sunshine is the best but a UV lightbulb is also good
- keys need more H2O2, their top is concave and the cream won't be even on the sides
- C64 <3
- uhm... electricity bill..?


Today's music: Creatures 2 soundtrack