Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saving Private Router...

A few weeks ago I got back from a trip and I replugged in all my electrical power adapters. If I'm out for a few days traveling, I like to unplug all those pesky power vampires that live in the house. My mobile phone chargers, my coffee maker, my computer speakers, computer routers and DSL modems. You get the picture. It probably doesen't make a big difference, but it still helps.

Well when I got back,I plugged in everything and turned on my computer to find out that my internet was down! Horrors of horrors. What am I going to do, heat I can live without, I have a lot of sweaters and blankets. Internet, now that's serious. Managed to find out that my internet was working, but it was my router that went kaput. Crap. I liked my router, it was a deal of a gizmo that I bought a few years ago for an amazing deal. It also included a built in print server so it was did the work of a lot of devices.

I yanked it from the wall and tried to figure out why it died. In the meantime, I stopped by my local (redacted) and bought a replacement router for $40. But I didn't replace it right away. I really didn't like the idea of getting something that couldn't be repaired. Last thing I wanted to do was add to the e-waste that was out there so I got on to the internet and looked up reasons why electronics die. Since in most cases electronics should not go to heaven. They are built that strong. The things that go out are the power or chemical parts of the products.

Looking around, it turns out the reason that most home network routers die is because the power adapter goes. I plugged my router in and while there were no power lights on, listening carefully there was a buzz coming out of the router. So there was life. So I decided to go buy a replacement AC adapter.

You can buy "universal" replacement power bricks that will plug into most devices. Just make sure the Amperage and Wattage are about the same as your old one. Here is an example link with a picture. You use the switch to determine how much voltage and then you are off to the races.

So I went and bought a replacement power adapter, configured it and plugged it in. "It's Alive!" We saved private router. The new power adapter was only $10. So I returned the replacement router and saved $30. So in the end, less waste, less landfill, less out of pocket dollars. Being green can save you money.

So if you have electronics that have a power brick go kaput, don't assume the whole device is dead, it's most likely the power brick. $10 universal power adapter at home can save you.

The other reason electronics go kaput is either bad memory or bad batteries.

For bad memory, stick the device into a computer and see if you can reformat (only do this after all other efforts fail since you won't be able to get your data off of it after you format it.) I've resurrected an old iPod this way. Funny thing is you may have to use a different computer. My old iPod Nano died, I restored it on a Windows PC and it worked ok. Could not restore it using my Mac. Go figure.

If the battery has run it's course. Try using it plugged into it's charger. If that works you can have a home based unit. Surprisingly, there are more and more replacement batteries on the market for iPods and other electronics. Check out ebay or the net.

Give your electronics a second chance by trying some simple fixes.


At 3:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be aware that "flash" memory is all the rage these days, coming in the form of "solid-state disks". This medium works on an electronic principle not fundamentally unlike etching little scratches into wood -- electron impregnation into a dialectric. Just as you'll eventually scratch all the wood away, flash devices eventually cause the glass covering certain transistors to crack, forever preventing the device from working again.

The end result is a dead memory stick / solid-state drive. Be aware of the number of "write cycles" the device has. Early units have 10,000 write cycles, more recent units have 100,000, and more recent still go up into the millions. Always get the higher value.

But, even so, be aware that every time you save data to disk consciously, the computer has hundreds or even thousands of writes accompanying that process. For environments which preserve your application state without you having to save (as with MacOS preferences settings), remember that each click you make might involve one write to the device.

It all adds up.

Now that Enterprise-level deployments of solid-state devices are becoming popular, you can bet that engineering talent will be focused on avoiding these problems. But, just be aware that it will always be an issue.


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