Sunday, January 2, 2011

Best Albums of 2010 IMHO

Well, unfortunately 2010 was not my most successful year in making and doing. 2010 was mostly the year of fixing the things that keep breaking. Luckily there were plenty of great albums to keep me company as my electronics and mopeds crumbled around me. There was a bit of shuffling around from my list in May, but the early year albums are well represented. Mostly because I haven't gotten the albums that came out in the last couple months. Anyway, here are my favorite 18 albums of 2010. Happy 2011!

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
2. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt
3. Nathaniel Rateliff - In Memory of Loss
4. Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time
5. The New Pornographers - Together
6. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
7. Portugal. The Man - American Ghetto
8. Broken Bells - Broken Bells
9. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
10. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
11. Best Coast - Crazy For You
12. The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme
13. Cameron Scott Fraser - Promised Land
14. Beach House - Teen Dream
15. Vampire Weekend - Contra
16. Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks
17. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
18. Land of Talk - Cloak and Cipher

When Moped Engines Explode

This happened about two weeks ago and I don't currently have the money to fix it, but there will be a future post about rebuilding my engine. It is a bit of a mystery as to what broke first, but I think it was the wrist pin. Check out the carnage:

Reflowing a GPU on a Macbook Pro

*UPDATE 12/11* In the last year I've done this two more times and both times it has come back like a champ. The moral is, it's not as much of a crap shoot as I had anticipated. Also, it's not necessarily a permanent fix, but I've got an extra year out of it with minimal effort. If you're planning on doing this I highly encourage giving it a try.

It was heartbreaking. My screen went black and the computer froze. Maybe par for the course with my PC, but I expect more from my Macbook Pro. I rebooted to find a checkerboard of confusion where my desktop used to be. It looked like this:

You could sort of navigate around, but it was nearly impossible to read anything on the screen. Subsequent reboots changed nothing and I began to fear the worse, my computer was finally dead and there was no bringing her back. I'm certainly in no financial position to buy a new MBP, so this represents a serious blow to my ability to work. I did some research on the interweb and discovered that the most likely cause for my issues was a loose connection between the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and the logic board. The only way to fix it was to replace the whole logic board or reflow the GPU. Reflowing is heating the solder connecting the chip to the board until it melts and "reflows". Then you just hope that it reflows in such a way that the broken connection fixes itself. The whole thing is complicated by the fact that the solder connections are all hidden under the chip, so a soldering iron will not help you. The trick is to heat the whole chip and just hope you don't ruin it or the rest of the logic board in the process. The techniques I came across involved either candles, blow torches, or heat guns. Since I wasn't going to spend $700 for a new logic board I decided there was nothing to lose. I might as well cook the chip and give it a try. I decided to go with the heat gun technique since I couldn't bring myself to expose my laptop to an open flame.

I'm not going to do a step by step walkthrough, but I will tell you some of the important specifics if you are looking to do this yourself. If you want more info check out these posts here, here, and here.

First step was taking apart the laptop, removing the logic board, and cleaning off the thermal paste. Luckily I have lots of experience with this from my last laptop adventure. Once the logic board was out and cleaned I made a heat shield out of about 6 layers of aluminum foil:

Next came the fun part (by "fun" I really mean "harrowing"). It was time to cook the chip. I got it as horizontal as I could and then placed a couple pieces of solder next to the chip on the foil. This was my temp gauge. In a perfect world I would have had a IR thermometer. This was procedure:

1. I started out with the heat gun about a foot above the chip with the fan on low and the temp set to about ~300C (although the controls on the gun are pretty crude). I think the solder in the chip needs to hit about 210C. Over about 60 seconds I slowly moved the gun down until it was about 2 inches above the chip.

2. I held it there for about 5 minutes then I put the fan on high. After about 5 more minutes the solder pieces on the foil melted. I was using 60/40 solder, which melts at 188C, so I knew I was close.

3. I continued to heat the chip for two more minutes. That seemed like a reasonable amount of time for the heat to soak through the chip and melt the solder below.

4. Finally I turned the fan down to low and slowly raised the gun up to about a foot over 60 seconds to slow the cooling a bit.

I removed the aluminum foil and let the board cool for about 30 minutes. I did the reassembly (don't forget the thermal paste) and then came the moment of truth. Honestly I didn't think there was any way in the world this was going to work. I figured I actually made it worse. No loss since it was essentially and expensive paperweight by that point. Anyway.... I turned it on.... and success! No f@#$ing way! I could not believe it. All in all it only took me about an hour and a half and it's been working great for the last three days. At this point I just need it to survive until I find a new job and can buy a new one, but in the interest of avoiding needless consumption I hope this one lasts for as long as possible.