Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

Low cost APC UPS RBC33 replacement

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

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A couple of weeks ago my APC Back-UPS 1200 XS started beeping at me, the battery light was flashing, a clear sign the battery has packed it in. I wasn’t overly surprised as the unit is quite old (I’m guessing 8 years? I can’t recall exactly when I got it) – you should only really count on a battery to last 3 to 5 years so it’s done well for me.

While I don’t remember exactly when I bought the UPS, I do remember price matching FutureShop against BestBuy, the price difference was only $20 but it still made me laugh to do it as they are both owned by the same parent company – that and the price match gave me an additional 10% off of the difference in savings (yup, a whole $2). The manual says I should buy a RBC33 battery pack, these are nearly the same price I paid for the entire UPS ($99 + tax).

I looked locally and on the web for a reasonably good deal for a replacement battery pack. The prices had quite a range and I could have opted to go for a RBC32 which is cheaper but still nearly the cost of original UPS. In the end I opted to go for the DIY route and just buy compatible batteries and do a swap – ebay had the best prices, but amazon.ca had a vendor that was almost the same price and I thought I’d go that route as shipping would be quicker.

The batteries arrived fairly quickly (about a week), faster than I’d expect from any shipment from the US. The two batteries are an identical size match to the pair that form the APC battery pack. The original battery pack has a wiring harness and the two batteries are stacked with one inverted.

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The procedure was very simple, it took me under 10 minutes and I was stopping to take pictures as I went along. Start by peeling away the sticker from the side with the cable sticking out – put it aside if it still is sticky enough to re-use. Fold the batteries so they are side by side. Remove the cables from one battery, then remove the sticker on the other side and separate the batteries. Last remove the harness from the remaining battery.

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Reassembly is a matter of working in reverse. I suggest taking pictures as you go as it is a great way to reference which wire went where, but my photos are a reasonable guide as well. You could also watch this youtube video which covers the battery swap.

My completed battery pack looks a lot like a stock RBC33. If the original stickers don’t have any stick left, a little duct tape should work well.

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The batteries in the original pack were 9Ah and my replacements are only 8Ah, this will affect the runtime of my UPS – for my needs a few minutes of backup are enough to protect the system, the new battery pack should give me nearly 30 minutes. Generally the power is good in my neighbourhood, and if it is an extended black out we’re without power for hours.

I’ve seen a few battery packs from systems at work where the batteries have bulged and are clearly bad, mine actually looked fine so I may try to restore them later. I did also consider upgrading to sealed marine deep cycle batteries, but the cost was significant and I’m not convinced of the safety of the solution.

One footnote, I have the UPS plugged into my server and use apcupsd to monitor the status. When the old battery had failed and the UPS was beeping my logs filled with the following:

2013-04-07 23:20:49 -0400 Battery reattached.
2013-04-07 23:20:11 -0400 Battery disconnected.
2013-04-07 23:20:11 -0400 Battery reattached.
2013-04-07 23:19:07 -0400 Battery disconnected.

Occasionally the beeping would stop (and I assume the logging) but in a short while it would resume beeping (and logging).

Repair Acer AspireOne 532H Netbook Screen

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

IMG_2767The Acer AspireOne 10.1″ netbook is a handy secondary computer to have around. It’s quite capable of browsing the web, email and viewing photos. Most casual users could likely happily use it as their primary machine. Tablets have all but killed this market, I’m hopeful that the Google Chromebook will bring help back this form factor.

Unfortunately being a secondary computer means that it gets left around (on the floor) and stepped on. This was the sad fate of this particular netbook. It turns out that replacement screens are relatively inexpensive making it well worth fixing. First step was to boot the netbook connected to an external monitor to confirm the resolution of the panel and make sure nothing else was wrong. Armed with that, and a compatibility list  I was able to find a good price for one from a Canadian seller on ebay. Shipping was very fast and the screen came well packaged: boxed and inside a padded envelope.

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Disassembly is quite easy, this YouTube video covers it quite well. Below you’ll find some photos and my notes on the process.

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DIY Repair Nikon Bayonet Mount

Monday, February 11th, 2013

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Nothing is quite as sad as a broken bit of equipment. Sadder still when it’s a fairly expensive component and repair costs at a shop are hundreds of dollars. This Nikon DX AF-S 18-55 VR lens took a kid + dog caused tumble to the ceramic floor, it was mounted on the camera and the impact busted the plastic mounting tabs (if you look closely at the picture above you can see the busted tabs).

On the bright side, if the tabs hadn’t given way something else might have taken more impact and broken. By carefully holding the lens on the camera it was possible to verify that it appeared to still be working fine.. if only it would stay mounted. Glue might have worked, but I wasn’t brave enough to slap a little glue onto an expensive lens. A few calls to local camera shops left me a bit shocked at the cost of repairs, it was not worth repairing as a new lens was almost the same price. What I found interesting was that even buying the parts from a local shop wasn’t an easy option, it seems Nikon is making it more difficult for repair shops to get parts.

I did find some reasonable web resources out there giving step-by-step information on replacing the mount. You can also pick up the required part via ebay. It turns out you can order the part directly from Nikon as well. Their email support was responsive within 24hrs, and I was able to call them directly with a credit card and have it shipped to me in a couple of days.

IMG_2781So with the correct part in hand, it was time to take things apart. I used both #0 and #00 Phillips screwdriver bits, my fingers and patience. I’ll avoid duplicating the instructions found elsewhere and simply provide a few comments on my experience:

  • The screws are very, very small. You’ll want to work in a brightly lit area with care not to lose any.
  • When reassembling and I was reaching with my fingers to get the tab with the electrical contacts from where it rested “inside” the lens, I managed to get a fingerprint on the lens. Using more caution you can avoid my mistake.
  • I messed up the first reassembly, the bayonet part of the new mounting ring needs to be in the ‘right’ place. Refer to the photo below: At about 10 o’clock there is a small metal pin. The bayonet should be clockwise side of that (say 11 o’clock). Everything fit, but the lens didn’t operate correctly on the camera.
  • Those metal rings, you don’t want to move them if possible. The good news is that three of the screws you take out fit down through those rings, making it relatively easy to get lined back up if you move them a bit.

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I’d never done this type of repair before and I was done well under an hour total. The second re-assembly was 15mins tops. Total cost: $10 + $15 shipping direct from Nikon Canada. If you opt for the ebay route, you may need to transfer the bayonet metal part from the original as most of them only offer the plastic ring – the official part is complete.