Category: Gadgets

EeePC: Surviving liquid spills – phase II

Posted by – 03/09/2009

About four months ago I described how my EeePC survived the spilling of orange juice over its keyboard. No! I never spilled anything on it again, if that’s what you’re thinking… But I noticed that some keys (those that got more juice on) began to malfunction. At the beginning I paid no attention to it, hoping that it would just go away, but, eventually, they just stop working… And those are not just unimportant keys… I am talking about arrows and the forward-slash (/) keys in the lower right corner of the keyboard!!! How could I survive without those keys, without a quick access to my bash history and vim search?

Well, I began googling around and found some good advice. Everything that made sense regarding how to cleanup my keyboard I compiled and, when I was enough confident it would work, I just follow the procedure I’ve devised. This is what I did:

  1. After turning it off and removing the battery, I removed the keyboard. Check the instructions I linked in my previous article for some pictures on how to do it.
  2. I poured 500 mL of distilled water in a clean plastic box (I bought 1L for BRL 20 at a local pharmacy), added enough dish detergent to make some foam (I was careful to select a non-biodegradable one) and drowned the whole keyboard in the solution.
  3. For the next 30 minutes I pressed and released the affected keys over and over again. My intention was to dissolve anything that might have remained from the orange juice.
  4. I left it soaking in the solution for the next 12 hours.
  5. The next day I got the keyboard out of the solution and used current tap water to remove any detergent still left in it. This might have took about 10 minutes.
  6. Our tap water is really clean, but its hard, and I would not like to remove any juice from the keyboard just to add some minerals that might have the same effect, so after I was certain all the detergent was removed, I left the keyboard in the remaining of the distilled water for another 12 hour soak.
  7. After that I just removed the keyboard from the soak, dried it a little bit using a paper towel and left it to air-dry (away from the sun). I don’t remember how long it took, but I believe not more than 4 hours… Those were hot days… Anyway, I was really sure it was dry.

When I plugged it back, surprise! All keys are working again! Of course, that was just what worked for me… Best advice still is: Keep liquids away your EeePC!

I hate Joey Hess

Posted by – 10/07/2009

OK. I don’t actually hate him… It’s just that I also wanted to buy a Palm Pre and install Debian in it… But living in Brazil and using GSM makes that really hard today. Maybe he can advance me some info: can I migrate my data from my Palm Treo 650 to a Palm Pre? (Anyway, if that is not possible, I’ll just run J-Pilot inside the thing 😉 ).

Good luck with your new toy. Keep us posted!

EeePC: Surviving liquid spills

Posted by – 30/04/2009

Last few months since I got my EeePC have been a lot of fun. Playing and tweaking the little bastard is a joy in the end of a busy day. Besides, since I loaded it with the most useful SysAdmin tools, it became a powerful device in my “tool belt”.

Unfortunately, I’ve been stupid enough to drink a glass of orange juice while messing with it. I know, I know! Silly thing to do. I should know better! But life is like that… I spilled a few drops over it. Of course, the web is pouring off information on what to do in cases like this, so I’ll just summarize what I did:

  1. Imediatelly, without thinking or questioning, I turned it upside down and removed the battery. It was a clumsy thing to do… I ended up spilling the rest of my orange juice on the floor while worrying about the EeePC. Concearns about filesystem corruption (or whatever) crossed my mind, but I can always deal with that later… First things first!
  2. I went online in another computer and found out how to disassemble it. For me it was easy, since I got other two computers at home… but if I needed to leave it there while looking for information, I would! If it’s upside down and has no power whatsoever (the battery was removed), it’s safe, I think. The information was easily found. I decided I didn’t need to disassemble all of it, but having those information at hand was pretty useful.
  3. I began by removing the keyboard. It’s tricky but not difficult. The secret relies on the spring-mounted tabs near the screen. I checked for spills under it and cleaned with a cotton swab.
  4. I was not very confortable to open the case, but I decided that turning it back on without checking the electronic parts first was too risky. So I said “goodbye” to my warranty and unscrewed the 6 screws from the bottom and the 9 from the silver casing under the keyboard.
  5. There I found some little drops! Good decision to open it up! I dried it using cotton swabs again.
  6. Before putting it all together, I decided to leave it open until the next day. I was pretty sure everything was dry again, but “better safe than sorry”. The next day I successfully assembled it and turned it on. Great! Everything worked fine.

Now… that was just what worked for me. My EeePC is back, fully restored but, of course, the warranty is void 🙁 So I cannot recommend you to do the same. Best advice I can tell you: Keep liquids away your EeePC!

Bluetooth presence detection

Posted by – 27/12/2008

This is the follow-up on my Asus EEE PC configuration. Next on my TODO list was to make the webcam work, and as Ben Armstrong had pointed it worked fairly well, proving to be a non-issue.

After that, I decided it would be a good thing if the presence of my bluetooth-enabled cellphone were tested, so that if I walk away from the PC, it called xscreensaver -lock. After some googling, I found a tool that did just that: BlueProximity. It really seemed a good idea, except that my cellphone (a Palm Treo 650) kept warning me about a connection going on, which was quite unpleasant. This happens because BlueProximity tests the RSSI of a bluetooth connection… Beautiful, but a little overkill for what I wanted: I just wanted to know if it is there or not.

First I tested the bluetooth discovery with hcitool scan, but for that I would have to keep my cellphone Discovery On, which is not a smart thing to do… So I tested other things, and found out that hcitool name XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX only returned the name of my cellphone if it were around. So that was what I used. This is script:

CMD="/usr/bin/hcitool name $TREO"
if [ "`$CMD`" = "$NAME" ]; then
  exit 1
exit 0

It returns 0 or 1 if the TREO device is absent or present, respectively. I use it from the following cron script:

/usr/bin/w | /bin/grep $LOGNAME > /dev/null 2>&1
if [ $? -ne 0 ]; then
  # Running user is not logged in
  exit 1
LOCK_CMD="/usr/bin/xscreensaver-command -lock"
/bin/touch $FILE
/usr/bin/tail -2 $FILE > $TMPFILE
$CMD; echo $? >> $TMPFILE
/bin/mv $TMPFILE $FILE
/bin/rm -f $TMPFILE
for line in `cat $FILE`; do
  if [ "$line" = "1" ]; then
    exit 1
# Got here: all 3 lines are not 1
$LOCK_CMD > /dev/null 2>&1
exit 0

This is run from the user crontab file every minute, recording the last 3 runs in a file in /tmp. If all 3 runs indicates the absence of my cellphone, xscreensaver -lock is called. Simple enough and doesn’t give me connection warnings in my Treo.

Other approaches are surely possible. Also, I am not sure would work for other devices… This is just what works for me…

Lenny in the Asus EEE PC 901 – day 2

Posted by – 18/12/2008

Really, now is the day 3… I am just considering this day 2 for I had to do a lot of things again due to my dumbness. Let me explain:

I had a desktop environment in place (with fluxbox), wired network, and most of my daily softwares (Iceweasel, X-Chat, Pidgin, GkRellM), then I decided to test the Suspend-to-Disk… At first, it seemed to work well: I made a swap file for uswsusp, just as documented… what is not documented is that this file must be outside the encrypted partition!

So, when I turned it on again, an error telling me about some corruption in the opened luks partition. I though “OK, something gone mad, just a matter of running an e2fsck”. So I booted with the netinst pendrive, opened the luks partition and ran it with -y. Everything seemed to be corrupted!!! It spend almost 5 minutes fixing bogus inodes and stuff before I decided to interrupt the process… this “fixed” filesystem would never work anyway.

So I began from scratch… All over again. When I got into a working base-system, some other thought stroke me: what if Brenda were to use rohan (have I mentioned the name is rohan? I name all my machines after places in Middle-earth)? So, a minimal “user-friendly” desktop is needed… After some research, I decided to go for LXDE. This is a minimalist desktop with OpenBox as the window-manager. I’ve been using FluxBox for a long time now, so running another BlackBox-based would not be such a problem.

LXDE is quite good. So far, everything I expected is working fine….

Then I decided it’s time to move on to configure the Wi-Fi stuff. I installed the RT2860 modules from Debian/EEEPC Repository and added rt2860sta to /etc/modules. At first I was worried that some reports of it not working with WEP showed up in a Google Search… But nothing could be smoother! I installed wicd and it detected our WEP AP like a charm (and a bunch of other APs nearby)… after entering our key it just connected fine and I’ve been using it since… no glitches so far.

I would like to play a little more, but I called the day since I got a lot of work going on… Next item planned is the webcam…

Lenny in the Asus EEE PC 901 – day 1

Posted by – 16/12/2008

Following my previous post, today I began to turn my brand new Asus EEE PC 901 into a Debian Machine. At first I wanted to do all in one day, but since work is taking too much out of me (and everything seems to take more time than expected), I’ll have to split this in different days…

So, first things first. I read Debian Wiki on the issue and began by doing the most important: backing it up. So I got a daily netinst iso, put it on a USB Pendrive and followed the tip on backup over the network using netcat. Easy and effective, and took only 8 minutes on the 901 (I think the 35 minutes described on the wiki were for models with slower NICs).

From there, I had to decide which version of the installer I’d use. I chose Standard, since I want an encrypted disk on my EEE. So I run the installer and, on the partition manager, I deleted /dev/sda1 (where Xandros was installed), turning it into a 300 MB /dev/sda5 (to use as /boot) and a 3 GB /dev/sda6 building a Logical Volume over an LVM Volume Group with it and /dev/sdb1 (where the user directory was), and enciphering it. This took a long time, since, I believe, random data were being written to the device to increase crypto strength. I left /dev/sda{2,3,4} as they were, since they can belong to the Asus EEE Recovering System (and they don’t take too much space 🙂 )

Now base system is installed, and wired network works like a charm… Next steps will have to wait until tomorrow.

It arrived!

Posted by – 15/12/2008

I got an Asus EEE PC 901 Linux. Unfortunately it arrived just now, at the end of the day. I’ll document the process of turning it into a Debian machine as I go, beginning tomorrow. So, stay tuned!

Bem-Vindo LHC

Posted by – 10/09/2008

Eles finalmente ligaram o LHC! A BBC está noticiando que o primeiro “raio” de hadrons completou o circuito às 5:30 BRT (8:30 UTC). Eu, com certeza, espero que eles não terminem por criar um Buraco Negro que cresça indefinidamente com ele 😉 (embora, criar um desses em Brasília não pareça uma má idéia).

Recording with Palm TX

Posted by – 30/04/2008

I gave Brenda a Palm TX, so she can better organize her life. As a plus, it is wi-fi aware, so all sorts of interesting things can be done. Sadly, though, it doesn’t ship with a microphone (I still wonder why… it’s large enough to hold an embedded mic, just as Palm smartphones have). Lately, Brenda was talking about recording some sessions or holding her thoughts in one of those tiny memo-recorders, and this promptly stroke me as “another gadget to stuff her purse”… then I remembered having read that Palm TX have all that is required to hold a microphone, but the microphone…

I retrieved the Palm Multi-Connector pinout from Wikipedia and realized that all I had to do was attach an electret microphone to 16 and 17 pins and there we go. I ordered a charging cable just for the connector and here are the pictures I took of the building process:

The tools and pieces I used:

It’s easy to disassemble the connector. Take a close look at the attaching plastic hooks… there are four of them: two outside, near the pins, and two inside near the cable. Last two are harder to detach, but once you’ve detached the first ones, just hold the two pieces of the connector and easily shear them: one side will detach first.

The microphone have two terminals that already hold enough soldering tin. Beware to solder the “blue” cable (the one that goes with pin 16 – AGND) to the marked terminal of the microphone, and the “red” one (the one that goes with pin 17 – MIC_IN) to the unmarked one. (In the picture, my cables are all black, but the wires inside are “red” or “blue”. I could not get a good picture of the terminal markings).

I have dissolded the charging cables from pins 1, 3, 5, and 8, but that is up to you (you can just cut the main cable and leave the pins untouched). Also, while soldering the microphone cables to the connector, beware of using as little tin as possible. It’ll be even easier if you remove the pin from the connector… it’s easy to do if you have small pliers and careful fingers. Try first with one of the other pins that will not be used. Solder the “red” one to pin 17 and the “blue” one to pin 16.

I cut a piece of an old earphone cushion to close the charging cable hole (and to protect the microphone). Here is the final result:

Now, for the recording software, there’s a nice free software that does that perfectly for PalmOS: Better Recorder. Now Brenda can record her mind!