Electronic devices

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Forskaren
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Electronic devices

Post by Forskaren » Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:47 pm

I have been thinking some about money spent on electronics. I notice that over the years I have bought many cellphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. Many of the devices have much overlapping use, and I owned several working ones on overlapping time periods

Is it quite common that many people buy several pieces of new electronics that in principle fills the same function? If you own many devices at the same time and have a fast replacement rate of those, it has to waste a lot of money.

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BRUTE
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by BRUTE » Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:26 pm

yea, brute used to do the same thing. it's probably just a geeky "oh new shiny toy" thing. like others collect trading cards or fast cars or cute girlfriends. at one point brute got kind of bored, and ever since, has only ever had 1 computery device (usually laptop) and usually 1 phone.

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Re: Electronic devices

Post by jacob » Wed Sep 14, 2016 2:28 pm

It's quite common. It's called consumerism. Been there, done that, particularly when it came to electronics or "gear". I still like to look and enjoy the newst techmology vicariously, but I very rarely touch anymore.

I'm increasingly leaning towards a selective kind of luddism. It's not a value driven neo-luddism per se, but more of a cop-out in which I try to minimize my dependence on anything I do not control or understand well enough to repair. Most electronics fall outside this sphere for me, so my preferred strategy is to own as little as possible and outsource as much as possible. I'm also developing a mindset where electronics is a luxury rather than a need. I figure as long as I'm not able to build a fully functional computer out of things I can find in a scrap yard, I shouldn't depend on it. When it comes to electronics, I try to either outsource (let someone else own it and maintain it) or find a substitute.

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BRUTE
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by BRUTE » Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:51 pm

at this point, not even an EE major could repair modern phones/laptops. too embedded.

for brute it's less the repair aspect, but brute has determined that almost all gadgets subtract value from his life, instead of add to it. brute really, really likes communicating over the internet, and listening to music, and reading. apart from that, modern electronics seem to annoy humans on a 30 second basis, blast them with ads, unnecessary information ("news"), and other crap. more information is not always better. in fact, it rarely is better.

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Dragline
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Dragline » Wed Sep 14, 2016 8:04 pm

Forskaren wrote: Is it quite common that many people buy several pieces of new electronics that in principle fills the same function? If you own many devices at the same time and have a fast replacement rate of those, it has to waste a lot of money.
Yeah, don't do that. I try not to replace anything unless (1) the one I was using doesn't work anymore; and/or (2) somebody else is paying for it. I purposely ignore what other people have until mine breaks down. And for gods sakes, never watch roll-out presentations for new electronic devices of any kind or attend trade shows or look them up.

But OTOH, its worth paying for a well-functioning device if you actually use it all the time. Its better to think of purchases in terms of "dollars per use" than actual dollars. Once you have more than one thing that does the same thing, the dollars per use goes up for each device, which is undesirable.

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Sclass
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Sclass » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:26 am

BRUTE wrote:at this point, not even an EE major could repair modern phones/laptops. too embedded.
Yes. But they don't really teach the skills in universities.

I fix a lot of ewaste for fun. No it isn't as easy as fixing a 1970s Sony pocket radio. But it is doable at home. I'm an outlier and I have such a low throuput I'd starve doing this for a living.

That being said there is a huge cottage industry refurbishing broken electronics and reselling it on eBay. You need to invest in some tools but it isn't that bad. $200 goes pretty far for Chinese soldering equipment these days. Hot air station, USB scope, voltmeter, small probes.

Once I learn a particular item's issues I collect the broken ones. I fix and collect. I have a pile of Kindles, iPods and iPhones among others. I did Alpine car media players for awhile. All for fun. I get a rush when I can refurb ewaste.

Not impossible once you figure out how things fail. But yes Brute, I didn't learn this in EE school. I learned circuit dogma there. They don't even teach you how to design consumer electronics in school - at least in US schools.

Hey all that being said, isn't electronics so cheap now repair is senseless? I just bought a Chrome book for $175 shipped just so I could learn Scratch. I bought a last gen Apple TV and solved my TV reception issue (I live up a canyon and don't want cable). I hooked it to a $159 32" HDTV and I'm living large. :P

Unless you're indulging in the newest MacBook Air or iPhone 7 this stuff is noise compared to housing and transportation costs.

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BRUTE
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by BRUTE » Thu Sep 15, 2016 11:50 am

Sclass wrote:newest MacBook Air
funny.. if only Apple had actually released a new Air in the last what, 5 years?
Dragline wrote:And for gods sakes, never watch roll-out presentations for new electronic devices of any kind or attend trade shows or look them up.
brute actually seems to get allergic reactions when watching any Apple presentations lately. courage, really? it wasn't dumbfuckery that led Apple to remove the only non-proprietary jack left on the god damn phone?

so it can work both ways: seeing Tim Cook and Phil Schiller makes brute want to run out and buy a Lenovo to throw some Arch on it these days..

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Sclass
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Sclass » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:46 pm

BRUTE wrote:
Sclass wrote:newest MacBook Air
funny.. if only Apple had actually released a new Air in the last what, 5 years?

..
:lol: I'm clearly not their customer. I saw a brand new thin Mac laptop on a table and assumed it was the latest. Time to hit Apple.com and see what my friend wasted his money on.

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BRUTE
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by BRUTE » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:58 pm

it's "the latest", but it's not called "Air", just "MacBook". because the names weren't confusing enough.

brute really, really wants to not go back to Linux, but Apple is making it harder and harder..

ducknalddon
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by ducknalddon » Thu Sep 15, 2016 2:55 pm

Sclass wrote: I fix a lot of ewaste for fun. No it isn't as easy as fixing a 1970s Sony pocket radio. But it is doable at home. I'm an outlier and I have such a low throuput I'd starve doing this for a living.

That being said there is a huge cottage industry refurbishing broken electronics and reselling it on eBay. You need to invest in some tools but it isn't that bad. $200 goes pretty far for Chinese soldering equipment these days. Hot air station, USB scope, voltmeter, small probes.
Interesting, I've been doing a little bit of this on the side, I got inspired after watching some youtube videos. I'll probably do a lot more once I've retired.

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Sclass
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Sclass » Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:06 pm

You can do a lot.

It all comes down to how the stuff is failing.

Many failures in HW these days are solder and mechanical stress on connections. It's a confluence of several trends like lead free solder, low power design and built in thermal management that have created this storm or opportunity however you want to look at it.

My strategy of understanding roughly how something is supposed to work and looking for unhealthy signals then reflowing the questionable areas with hot air has had about a 75% success rate. I boost that by using what I've learned on a particular item and fixing more of the same item.

Stupid stuff like knowing how to swap a battery or screen is good too.

It's fun.

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Forskaren
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Forskaren » Sun Sep 18, 2016 1:56 pm

Dragline wrote:
Forskaren wrote: Is it quite common that many people buy several pieces of new electronics that in principle fills the same function? If you own many devices at the same time and have a fast replacement rate of those, it has to waste a lot of money.
Yeah, don't do that. I try not to replace anything unless (1) the one I was using doesn't work anymore; and/or (2) somebody else is paying for it. I purposely ignore what other people have until mine breaks down. And for gods sakes, never watch roll-out presentations for new electronic devices of any kind or attend trade shows or look them up.

But OTOH, its worth paying for a well-functioning device if you actually use it all the time. Its better to think of purchases in terms of "dollars per use" than actual dollars. Once you have more than one thing that does the same thing, the dollars per use goes up for each device, which is undesirable.
Yeah, dollar per use, per hour or per kilometer sounds like a good metric to measure the costs of stuff. Thats why it's so expensive to own several cars, several oversize houses or too much clothes. I think also it is important to distinguish between the average cost per use and the marginal cost to use that thing an extra time.

For example: My car cost on average 50 cent per kilometer to use. But the marginal cost to drive one kilometer extra is just 20 cent. It would not make sense for me to rent a car for 35 cent per kilometer for a long trip, instead of using my own car.

Another example: If I already own an Ipad, I have already paid the upfront cost and the marginal (additional) cost per use will be more interesting than the average cost.

LarryW
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by LarryW » Sun Sep 18, 2016 7:36 pm

ducknalddon wrote:
Sclass wrote: I fix a lot of ewaste for fun. No it isn't as easy as fixing a 1970s Sony pocket radio. But it is doable at home. I'm an outlier and I have such a low throuput I'd starve doing this for a living.

That being said there is a huge cottage industry refurbishing broken electronics and reselling it on eBay. You need to invest in some tools but it isn't that bad. $200 goes pretty far for Chinese soldering equipment these days. Hot air station, USB scope, voltmeter, small probes.
Interesting, I've been doing a little bit of this on the side, I got inspired after watching some youtube videos. I'll probably do a lot more once I've retired.
Out of curiosity, where do you go about finding cheap/free broken electronics to fix? Craigslist? Garage sales? Dumpster diving? I've been considering starting fixing ewaste for resale as a hobby/small side income, but need to find stuff to start with.

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Sclass
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Sclass » Sun Sep 18, 2016 10:31 pm

LarryW wrote: Out of curiosity, where do you go about finding cheap/free broken electronics to fix? Craigslist? Garage sales? Dumpster diving? I've been considering starting fixing ewaste for resale as a hobby/small side income, but need to find stuff to start with.

1. I start with good stuff and it breaks over time
2. Yard sales
3. Church rummage sales
4. eBay "lots" where you get a big pile of broken items of the same kind
5. Friends - people know I tinker so I get things dumped on me.
6. Craigslist on rare occasions.

I think it's mostly eBay though. I search for "as is" "for parts" "broken" "not working". Etc.

My latest is an iPhone with bad wifi. I bought it cheap on eBay. Yesterday I took it apart and removed the motherboard and reflowed the wifi transceiver IC with a cheap hot air pencil. Works great now.

This is the tool:(tip T6)
http://docs-europe.electrocomponents.co ... 5ed4a3.pdf

Combined with a K type bead thermocouple on the PCB and a stop watch I can get pretty good reflow temperature profiles.

I don't do this for money. Fun only. There are easier ways to make money. My monumental debug job was a four day eight hour per day probing of a digital media player from a car. Six circuit boards, ten processors. One bad IC. Not even worth the retail price of $300. But fun to bring it back from the dead.

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BRUTE
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by BRUTE » Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:32 pm

Sclass wrote:My latest is an iPhone with bad wifi.
so just an iPhone

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Sclass
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Sclass » Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:47 pm

BRUTE wrote:
Sclass wrote:My latest is an iPhone with bad wifi.
so just an iPhone
No, seriously the connection would only last three minutes after boot. Then it would disconnect and the icon would turn gray. It was like a clock so I thought it was software. But a bunch of YouTube videos pointed to a ground pad solder joint issue under the chip. Since it kind of worked I knew the chip was somewhat functional. One popular theory is that the chip overheats and shuts the wifi down if the pad isn't soldered. So that's what I went after. Bad solder my most common gremlin in this kind of stuff.

It has been working a day nonstop after I reflowed it.

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Re: Electronic devices

Post by LarryW » Tue Sep 20, 2016 6:56 am

Sclass wrote:I don't do this for money. Fun only. There are easier ways to make money.
Thanks for the advice. Guess the appeal of electronics repair to certain personality types combined with the ongoing parade of new devices really give it low margins.

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Sclass
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Sclass » Tue Sep 20, 2016 8:39 am

Yeah. If you want to make money here is my advice. I worked with a few engineers who did this for money. You find a thing that breaks because of a bad design or bad manufacturing that a lot of people own. You figure out on your own what is wrong. Do not post your finding no matter how proud you feel of your achievement. You buy up as many broken units as you can and fix them. Resell on eBay.

One guy I knew did Electronic speedometers for a very common year and make of car. He never told me what he fixed but he said all it needed was five minutes with a soldering iron on his bench. He bought up the the parts from junkyards. He negotiated with dealerships for their ewaste bin contents. He even built a web site that described the symptoms and promised an exchange if you sent your faulty core in with money.

Years ago I did gen 4 clickwheel iPods. As the disks got older they'd draw too much current and overwhelm the power control circuit and the disk wouldn't spin up as the voltage spiked down momentarily. I developed a mod but I never sold my collection of iPods. I gave them out as gifts.

Kindle 3 e ink had two really bad diseases with boot up. I figured those out and created a fix but again, I collected up a bunch of kindles and donated them to a friend who helps the blind. They had text to speech.

Right now I'm playing with iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. There are some issues with the wifi hardware.

I bought a bunch of logic analyzers from a business going bankrupt. I needed some for our QC. After awhile they started dying and I tore one down to bits to find the problem. They all failed the same way. (Which is the key to playing this game). I found the fix and I showed a young employee how to market a kit for its repair. Test equipment repair is very expensive from the majors...so this kid was able to make some pocket change in his spare time with the "trick".

That's how I'd approach it if I wanted to make a dime off it.

So that is a strategy.

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SalutNounou
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by SalutNounou » Wed Sep 21, 2016 5:39 am

Another domain where you could make money repairing electronic devices would be in Vintage Hifi. It is clearly a niche market but I know for a fact that a lot of people are looking for old tube amplifiers or solid state devices from the seventies (think old Marantz or Sansui amps like this one : http://www.hifi-studio.de/hifi-klassike ... U-555A.htm).

These devices have an argus price that tends to go up significantly lately because of the audiophile community. Usually the repair work is just to change the old chemical capacitors, so it is not very difficult to do.

Another advantage is that the circuits are rather simple (technology was not that much integrated at that time) and the components are quite big compared to today's components.
I know that because ten years ago I designed and built my own tube amp (I was an audiophile at that time, but cursed with the budget of the poor student, so instead of buying I made one), so these stuffs are not too complicatd for the layman.
In Europe these days i come across a lot of boutiques that find old quality hifi devices, repair them and resell them. Plus, the audiophile community likes to spend a lot on their Hifi components.

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FBeyer
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by FBeyer » Wed Sep 21, 2016 5:55 am

You people... You. Are. Awesome!

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Sclass
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Sclass » Wed Sep 21, 2016 6:52 am

SalutNounou wrote:Another domain where you could make money repairing electronic devices would be in Vintage Hifi. ...Usually the repair work is just to change the old chemical capacitors, so it is not very difficult to do.
You are so right. Dried out electrolytic caps are also common in old guitar amps. I have an old buddy who likes to restore old guitar amps and does well trading vintage tubes. Apparently they aren't created equal. He will buy an unknown amp cheap And replace the coveted tubes with cheap ones and resell the tubes and "restored" amp for more than he paid.

DIY audio is fun. I had the opposite experience in grad school. I wanted to build but I found it was cheaper to buy used stuff rich guys got tired of. Pre craigslist...rec.audio I think. I missed out on learning tubes.

I just thought of another one. 1980s motorcycle ignition systems. Some of the Japanese makes like Suzuki are no longer providing cdi units for their old bikes. It's a show stopper if you have a cherry bike with a burned cdi. A cottage industry exists where they obtain a good unit, read out the output under simulated input and then replicate the old analog circuit with microcode and a chip. Somebody I know did this for Mercedes tachometer amplifiers because the real ones are grossly overpriced.

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Re: Electronic devices

Post by LarryW » Wed Sep 21, 2016 7:28 am

@SClass
Thanks for the advice.
@SalutNounou
Capacitors failing is one of the big issues for any older electronics from what I understand. For what it's worth, one of my former coworkers collected high end tape recorders from the 1980s and 1990; he mentioned that they were a bit pricey. Apparently there is still a market for older higher-end audio equipment.

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Re: Electronic devices

Post by IlliniDave » Wed Sep 21, 2016 7:29 am

BRUTE wrote:at this point, not even an EE major could repair modern phones/laptops. too embedded.
Not true! I'm still on my first cell phone (non-smart, flips like a Star Trek Communicator). It was replaced once under warranty 7 years ago. It developed a problem several months back where it would randomly power off while typing a text message. The problem was arguably mechanical in nature, but after two months of trying to figure out what was up, I managed to fix it.

Besides that, I have one laptop computer. It's my fourth computer overall. My first one still works, but it was a Pentium II and just became obsolete after about 3 years, could barely handle Win98 OS. Since then I've had two others that failed irreparably (or at least it was more cost effective just to junk them and get a new one). I also have a Sony knockoff of an ipod, and a few pieces of guitar signal processing gear, most of which is > 10 years old. I did get a new preamp 3-4 years ago with money I got selling off one of my guitars and a few other odds/ends.

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Dragline
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by Dragline » Wed Sep 21, 2016 7:58 am

SalutNounou wrote:Another domain where you could make money repairing electronic devices would be in Vintage Hifi. It is clearly a niche market but I know for a fact that a lot of people are looking for old tube amplifiers or solid state devices from the seventies (think old Marantz or Sansui amps like this one : http://www.hifi-studio.de/hifi-klassike ... U-555A.htm).

These devices have an argus price that tends to go up significantly lately because of the audiophile community. Usually the repair work is just to change the old chemical capacitors, so it is not very difficult to do.
My father has a Marantz 2270 that I believe still works just fine after 35 years.

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SalutNounou
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Re: Electronic devices

Post by SalutNounou » Wed Sep 21, 2016 12:15 pm

Yes, they are usually good stuffs. Amps from this period were very musical *. Hifi producers used to think that the less component on the signal way, the better the final sound, and that less distortion is not always synonymous with better sound. it was before these integrated circuits, those who tend to have giant feedback loops which will reduce the distortion to a minimum amount, but kill the musicality of the amp.

When they are still in good condition, these amps are worth more than $500. At least, it was the case last year when I came by this store in Paris :
https://www.facebook.com/Mood.vinyles.h ... 5038856898

What is cool with Vintage Hifi is that usually the price of good elements does not amortize. For instance I bought several years ago a pair of kef Ls3/5 a loudspeakers, for around 1000USD.
I had the good surprise today to see that their worth on the market has almost doubled :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/ ... d-edition/

So I really think that someone who is good at finding old broken amps and repairing them would be able to generate some serious income.

*Woops, typical survivor bias here. I guess not all amps were good, but an interesting quantity of models were good enough for us to still talk about and like them today.

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