Friday, March 4, 2022

Lessons from Laptop Repair

You can keep older equipment running, but eventually there is an end game.

The new (used) motherboard for the Toshiba C655 arrived a day early.  I installed it, which is to say, re-assembled the laptop as the motherboard is sort of the heart of the thing and you have to disassemble everything to replace it.  It booted up and once I re-authorized my copy of Windows 7 Ultimate, it ran fine.

But of course, for how long?

Many folks think you can indefinitely repair or "fix" things and you can, provided you continually replace parts over time.  But eventually the cost and hassle gets to be too much and the equipment gets outdated and it is time to replace.

Also, as I noted before, whenever you take apart something, whether it is a computer or a car or a blender or whatever, there is a finite chance you will break something else.  In computers the big bugaboo is static electricity.  When trying to "fix" a computer you can accidentally shock it with static and blow out all the memory.  Or leave the hard drive next to your magnetic screwdriver - goodbye!

Even if you do all that right, there are screws you can strip out or reassemble wrong.  I don't know how many cars and computers I have worked on that someone else before me worked on, and forgot to put back all the screws or bolts or whatever.  What's worse, so much today is made of plastic that snaps together and when you unsnap it - after years of the plastic getting brittle - it just snaps, period.

Funny thing is, I went through this before with my old Dell laptop, and I kept that on life support before finally throwing in the towel and buying these Toshibas.  They were $300 new - why bother messing around with repairing an outdated Dell running Windows 98?

It is interesting, having two identical laptops.  As I noted in my previous posting, when I took apart the broken one, I noticed the lefthand hinge was shot- the ferrules had pulled out of the case, which had cracked.  I fixed the one laptop and noticed the other had the same problem, so I fixed that, too.  But a mound of superglue and baking soda is not a permanent "fix" and I suspect they will pull out again sometime down the road.  Come to think of it, I see a lot of old C655 Toshibas on eBay with the notation, "broken hinge" - I can fix that!

But eventually, something else will break and then something else again.  Semiconductor chips don't last forever - the transistors (which is all they are - tiny transistors and capacitors) eventually fail, and all it takes is for one to fail.   I've already replaced memory, keyboards, batteries, hard drives, and now a motherboard.  It is only a matter of time before some other component calls it quits.

That's the problem with high-mileage cars.  I read online about some poor single Mom trying to get her 200,000 mile Subaru to keep running.  She goes to get it repaired and they fix it - for now.  Next month, something else breaks.  Where will it all end?  In the junkyard!  When you reach the end of the Weibull curve, it is time to pack it in.

So why did I bother fixing it?  Well, I enjoy tinkering and being able to manipulate your environment is a way of staving off depression.  When I put it all back together and powered it up and saw the opening screen, it was like 'Woo-Hoo!"  Of course, if I got a black screen, I guess I would have been depressed - but not for long, as the new Chromebook arrives Friday.

I suspect if the Chromebook is worthwhile, I will end up using it more and more (and maybe buying a second one) and the old Toshibas will sit in a closet somewhere, their batteries slowly going dead, until one day, I realize I haven't used them in a year and that they are worth nothing to anyone, and they'll get thrown away.  It is like leaving an old friend or having your dog put down, somewhat.

Maybe that is why people like to fix things and restore old things - it is a way we can cheat aging and death.  Entropy makes things fall apart over time, and we can add energy to these systems and bring their energy level back up, reorganizing the machine to a higher state.

But quite frankly, spending even $40 on a new motherboard was a waste of money.  I would not recommend it to others.  Better off to put that $40 toward a newer machine!