Monthly Archives: March 2017

Giving back to the Community

Welcome back, I’m Benedict, and in this post I would like to share with you how I try to help contribute back to society using the abilities that have been given to me.

Some of you may be wondering, “What do you do with all the things you have found or repaired?” Well, I can assure you they aren’t sitting in a pile in my home collecting dust.

I give them away, freely, to the people who need it. People (mainly teenagers) from single parent families who struggle financially, and to those who can’t afford a laptop, tablet or whatever gadget they need for their studies. I get asked about why I don’t charge people for my effort.

My answer to that is because I went through the same thing as they did. As a teenager starting secondary school, I asked my father for a computer to do school work. He just told me that we simply couldn’t afford one, not even a second hand one. He knew I liked to find electronics in the trash, so he asked me to search there for something useful to begin with.

That’s just what I did. A few blackouts, small electrical fires and a couple of electrocutions later, I had a working computer. It was slow and clunky, but it was good enough for that time. Sadly, I don’t have a photo of that from that time. However, if you wish to see some other projects I worked on in my younger days, have a look at some of my older posts below.

Donating things aside, I also participate in a volunteer computing project through the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, contributing my computing resources to the World Community Grid in the hope of speeding up the search for the cures for various diseases. Let me explain how this works.

The researchers, doctors and scientists are trying to find the potential cure for various pressing diseases around the world, such as AIDS, Ebola, Zika, Cancer, Malaria, etc. This is normally done through the use of proteins and whatever other biological ingredients necessary (Sorry I don’t know much about medicine, so I won’t speculate here.).

The main problem about finding the cure is that the combination of possible proteins, any of which may hold a potential cure, number in the trillions and quadrillions. How many can you test in a lab in a day? These researchers and scientists have modeled the various diseases and their potential cures into computer model simulations because computers can work much faster than humans in searching the models and studying their interaction.

Here’s where our computers come into play. Since the amount of computing power required to do this task is way too much even for the largest data centers to handle, the workload is split into millions or billions of smaller tasks that are then sent to the computers of those who participate in this project all over the world. Together, we can help to speed up the search for a cure, from a matter of decades, to a matter of years.

You can find more information about these projects through the link below:
https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/discover.action#comparisons

I’ll also put a screenshot here from the Rosetta@Home project, which I m also participating in. (Sorry about the poor resolution, but you get the idea.)

rosettahome-2

Despite having many older less powerful computers that people generally are not in favor for, their combined processing power would be sufficient to get the work done within the time limit. Strength in union, and United we stand, many would say.

You see, unlike other people who volunteer their time or donate their money, those are two things that are not on my side. Instead, I’d rather give from the abundance from the knowledge and skills of what I have learnt.

Thanks for reading once again, and I do hope this will inspire you to go and help other people in whatever way you can. When we support each other, we create a more caring community. Until next time, take care.

It’s worth a Try – Repairing and Making Stuff

Hi everyone, Benedict here once again. I apologize for the lack of posts recently. I was in the midst of completing my third year of study in Singapore Polytechnic (SP). I finished my exams at the end of February.

Alongside my studies, I have also continued to find more discarded electronics and computers and attempt to repair them. It is true that some thing are thrown out because they cannot work anymore, as was the case I faced about half the time.

As for the other half, they were either still working or could be repaired with minor fixes. You can read about how these fixes were carried out below.

photo-435 photo-1068

The first example in the pictures above is regarding portable chargers. Due to the nature of us inserting and removing the USB cable from the charging port all too often (sometimes with a strong push or pull), it can often result in the pins of the socket getting broken off the circuit board, preventing the charger from charging anything.

As you can see from the picture above on the right, the joints at the pins of the USB port were broken and just needed a touch of some precise soldering to join them back together again. (I have circled the repaired joint in red, please enlarge the image to see it. The problem was solved. I managed to save a couple more portable chargers this way.

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The second example was a little more challenging for me. I salvaged a laptop which had its hard drive removed. No issue, I know it is important to properly destroy sensitive information and I do it too.

Normally when I run into a case like this, I would simply swap in a replacement hard drive and get it running again. But this time there was an exception. I believe that the previous owner did not know how to properly remove the hard drive, and just yanked it out, breaking away the leading edge of the laptop motherboard and connector. It just left a bunch of pins sticking out from the board.

Look carefully at those thin sliver lines in the center of the image. What I did to attempt to resolve the issue was to solder the broken pins directly to the socket pins on the replacement hard drive I installed. This way of fixing the issue isn’t quite what most repair technicians would do or advise. Just like in the first example, the soldering had to be extremely precise.

To my surprise, it works without issue. I was expecting there to be some trouble, but there wasn’t any. I was able to install a Linux operating system and it works just fine.

Repairing aside, I have also managed to extract and use components from discarded machines such as bridge rectifiers and stepper motors. Below is one example of such a use: A hand cranked flashlight.

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I pulled the stepper motor from a printer and soldered a Light Emitting Diode (LED) onto each coil of the motor. You will first need to do some testing to determine which pair of pins on the motor belong to which coil. That’s it. It works right away. I also observed a few differences using a stepper motor compared to a traditional Direct Current (DC) Motor.

  • Although LEDs are a direct current components because the stepper motor produces alternating current, the LEDs function like a half wave rectifier and light up whichever way the shaft is turned. A DC motor only lights up the LED when it is turned in one direction and not the other.
  • You don’t need as much force to turn the shaft to get the LED to light up, unlike in a DC motor where you would have to get the shaft to spin very quickly.

That’s the gist of what I’ve been up to for now. I hope this will inspire you to get working and do some technical stuff with your hands. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I sincerely hope it helps you one way or another.

Until next time, take care and don’t forget to back up your data.