Monthly Archives: October 2016

An Unlikely Resource Discovered

Hi everyone, I’m Benedict, and thank you for taking the time to come back and read my blog.

Over the many years of me tinkering with electronics and computer components, I have been asked quite a few times, “How could you possibly afford so many PCs/parts?”

My reply: I didn’t buy them, I found, repaired and then used them. (Otherwise I kept them for future use.) So where did I find all these parts? The answer might surprise some of you. So here it goes: The Trash. Yes, the place where people throw their garbage.

I liked to search for said electronic devices in dustbins and waste refuse areas. It’s a term known as ‘Dumpster Diving’. Although, these days it’s very rare to come across such devices in these places anymore, unlike back when I was in primary school, I would find something at least a few times a year. The best part was that it was free, since you can take trash and no one will bother. If it wasn’t in working condition, I would try to fix it anyway I could.

It’s actually a good thing that fewer electronics are being thrown in the trash. Electronic circuits and components generally have many chemicals in them that would be harmful to the environment if they were thrown into landfills or incinerated. This also means that it would become more difficult to search for free electronic waste (E-waste) to repair.

So recently, I changed my tactic and started searching inside E-waste bins. So far, the things I have found have been quite promising. Among the things I found were:

– A laptop charger to replace my damaged one.
– Computer parts like CPU, RAM and hard drives.
– Several portable chargers and lithium ion cells.
– A few broadband routers.
– A couple of working laptops.
– Many smaller electrical components, etc.

They were all mostly in working condition, and have allowed me to carry out many more experiments and invent more things. If I discover that something I picked up doesn’t work or can’t be fixed, I return it to that bin. In fact, here’s a picture of one of the laptops I successfully managed to repair. I installed a Linux operating system (OS), which is Ubuntu 16.04 on it, to get more experience using and configuring that type of OS.

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When I was younger, I used to obtain my electrical components like resistors, capacitors and diodes by de-soldering them off their original boards and wiring them together with crocodile clips. Not exactly the best way to connect a circuit. Thankfully, after joining SP, I was able to get the necessary and proper tools and parts to do the job, such as a breadboard for prototyping circuits.

I’m guessing you might be wondering, what’s the purpose of me telling you this? Well, sometimes, you need to look in more than one place, even in the most unlikely places to find the solutions or inspiration that you seek. Think out of the box, look at the situation from another person’s viewpoint, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help shows that you are humble and have the will and motivation to learn.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my life’s experiences and lessons. I hope they will be able to help or motivate you in some way.

Dare to Explore and Try New Things

Hi everyone, Benedict here. I apologize for the irregularity of my posts. I was preparing with my team for a presentation for our final year project.Although this preparation occupied the bulk of my semester break, I was still able to squeeze in a little time to work on a few small projects and experiments. Allow me to share two of them with you below.

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The first is bridging two computer power supplies together to effectively combine their powers to supply enough power to my PC. The second power supply is tucked in the bottom right corner of the chassis (case) as you can see in the picture above.

So how did I come to this idea? Well, prior to doing this, I observed that my PC was constantly freezing or crashing when it had been under load for anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour.

One observation I noticed when it appeared to freeze, was that it only froze when carrying out a disk read or write operation. (A task that needs to read or write data to the hard disk.) If I dragged an open window across the screen, it worked fine. If I tried to open an application, it froze.

After some trial and error, I realized that it occurred because at the time when the system was under load, there were moments where the hard drive could not receive enough power for the disks inside to continue spinning, causing them to spin down and be unable to start up again. The most likely cause I deduced was a power supply with an insufficient wattage rating to handle all the components in it.

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The second is changing the cooling system for my graphics card, also known as a GPU. At the time of purchase, it was using a squirrel cage type fan. This fan was fine for normal use, but once the GPU was running under load, I observed the temperature of around 80+ degrees Celsius.

I used a few applications to monitor the temperature. They are CPUID’s HWMonitor, Speedfan and Piriform’s Speccy. This was to ensure that the temperature was being reported accurately. Hot temperatures increase the rate of wear and tear on the GPU circuits, hence I thought of a better cooling solution, and came up with this.

Yes, I just directly screwed down a powerful fan onto the heatsink, and made an adapter for the fan wires. (Sorry that it isn’t in the picture.) Why this method? Well, I was looking at how CPU processor heatsinks were designed, and thought, if these heatsink designs are able to sufficiently cool a CPU, they might just be effective enough in cooling the GPU.

I installed the GPU back and gave it some work to churn on. Using the same software as mentioned above, I observed the temperature drop to around 50+ degrees Celsius. It was a drop of almost 30 degrees Celsius. At first, I was a little suprised at the vast drop. I even touched the heatsink with my bare hand, and yes, it was much cooler.

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The third is still a work in progress. The device you see in the picture above is a Global Positioning System (GPS) tool that I happened to find in the trash. Well, sort of. I had to remove the back cover to do some minor fixes and it broke in the process, so I had to case to mount it in.

So I played around with the user interface for a while, and managed to find a way to get into the operating system. It runs on Windows Embedded Compact Edition 6.0. In other words, it’s very much like an embedded PC, which has limited functionality, with only the tools needed to serve it’s purpose as a GPS.

I’m still poking around it for now, and I see some potential uses for it, such as a media player or document viewer. Although it cannot connect to the internet due to a lack of the necessary hardware, it does accept a micro SD card for data transfer. It’s quite interesting to see how many functions it can serve as for an embedded PC.

I hope this information is useful to you, especially if you have been experiencing some issues like these with your computer as well. If you need further help on this, please feel free to drop me a message through my contact in the “About Benedict” page at the top.

Last but not least, thanks for coming once again to have a look at my blog.