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A quick fix to a BIG display problem!


I work in an Orthopaedic surgery research laboratory and we have a lot of macs.  We have three MDD Powermacs, one B&W 350 mHz Powermac, a Wallstreet PB, a 1 Ghz Ti PB, and a couple other miscellaneous old school macs.  Before I even started at the lab the Ti Powerbook was having quite a few problems with the display.  It seemed that every time the Powerbook got even slightly hot (IÕm talking turned on for maybe 10 minutes with just web surfing), the display would become so garbled that it would be illegible and completely non-functional.  The only way to fix the garbled mess was to raise the Powerbook on some metal blocks that we had and put a fan to the side of it to keep it cooled.





As you can see, the display was completely garbled, and it was captured even in the screen shots, to my surprise.



Today, I went to the Ti Powerbook to do some research on the modulus of articular knee cartilage (the details of which I wonÕt go into), but found that the Powerbook was only giving intermittent display.  At first I thought it was turned off or asleep, but when I hit a function key on the keyboard and heard a dink system sound I knew that something had gone horribly wrong with the display.  I jiggled the lid a bit and the display would flash on for a few seconds.  Only by holding the lid in a certain position and applying pressure would it function. I removed the keyboard and examined the connections aimlessly.  IÕm not familiar with the PowerbookÕs internal architecture, I admit, but I DID notice that when I applied pressure to the upper left portion of the board, the display would flicker more without moving the lid.  I deducted from that observation that the video connection must be in that region.


Upon mentioning this to one of my lab advisors, he was basically gung-ho about taking the Powerbook and finding a fix to the problem.  With amazingly little coaxing, Andrew walked over to the tool area and pulled a couple of small screwdrivers that might work in place of a torx screwdriver.  At first we thought the project to be immediately foiled, but soon found one that worked.  He unscrewed some of the top logic board screws and found the  board wasnÕt moving, so he moved to the backside.  With much care, he unscrewed the torx screws and removed the bottom panel.


We soon found the display connector.  He turned the computer on with the logic board exposed (!) and by applying a bit of pressure to a connector on the logic board, found the defective connector that was the cause of all our display problems.


Here ^  is the connector highlighted with the larger yellow rectangle. The size of the entire connector was about that of my thumb nail.  (not actual photo, copyright of respective copyright holder:


Examining the trouble connector with a laboratory photo microscope.


Andrew views the region and takes a magnified snapshot with the attached digital camera.  We the examined the pictures below on one of our MDD Powermacs in high resolution and magnification.



This is a close-up view of the troubled connector. The microscope magnified the pins that were needle-sized to quite a large size. The digital camera enlarged them even further. Do not be fooled!


Immediately, Andrew noticed that the right half of the pins were loosening from the logic board.  By examining the digital photos, he was able to show what he meant.  We could literally see how the pins did not have enough solder to effectively glue the connectors to the board.  The left pins were nice and smoothly connected while the right half of the pins seemed shoddily soldered and probably loose.



An even closer view of the trouble pins. Viewed from the top and angled.


With little thought about it, Andrew grabbed the soldering iron that was conveniently sitting next to his hand.  [The soldering iron is used normally to make custom lab equipment for test purposes.]  He figured the Powerbook is no longer on warranty and if he took it in for repair the technicians would tell him to trash the logic board for a replacement.  So solder away he went.


Andrew soldering the pins with the aid of the microscope.  Another colleague, Laurel, is holding the Powerbook at an angle so Andrew could see the pins properly through the microscope.


AMAZINGLY, AndrewÕs soldering fixed the problem.  We took the Powerbook back to the power supply, powered it on and the display functioned beautifully!


How much do you suppose we saved on that one!?  Lucky for us we had all the proper equipment sitting there just waiting for us.









Copyright © June 23, 2005, Anthony Pe–a