Posted On: Saturday - April 17th 2021 5:05PM MST
In Topics:   Curmudgeonry  Artificial Stupidity
Nope, it's not about the "TECH Totalitarians" (VDare terminology) this time but actual computer hardware technicians doing what anyone could call real technical work. We've got a Dell laptop with only about 4 years on it that won't take any power. I brought it into a local fix-it/used sales shop that I am very glad is still in business.
Let me first tell you all the problem with this computer, a) for this anecdote's sake and b) well, Adam Smith may be of help*, haha, or someone else. Why not, right? It ain't like we're charging here.
I'd thought for sure this was a matter of a loose connection of the DC power input socket. My boy has not treated this computer very well. (It's not his - tragedy of the commons, bitchez!) In addition to spilling milk all over the keyboard one time, he has put lots of stress on that connector. OK, this should be easy really, or so I thought. The back came off easily, and this socket was very easy to get at. The socket has one screw to attach it for mechanical support, and the other end is a flat ~ 7 pin plastic connecter that goes into a board. It has 4 red wires, so I guess this power goes that many ways. The actual wires are not even 1" long. There really can't be anything wrong there, but I'm open to disagreement.
While playing around with the power supply, connecting and trying to find good conduction, I saw that the power light would go on for 5 seconds and cut back off, no matter what position I put the plug at axially. This is not a conduction problem. I even saw the fan start, and the screen get some light a few times. Battery or no battery, it's the same story. The power supply has a green LED lit up, but does that mean good DC power out or just good AC power in?
I did 1/2 hour of searching for this problem with no good answer so far. OK, down to the shop. These guys know what they are doing, right?
Well, I have no complaints here about racial or gender issues - there were 5 or 6 White guys in there - that was all. Maybe a couple were sales types with no technical knowledge, so I asked for help on the problem.
"Oh, look, your plug is bent. That's it." He meant that the plug (the DC side of the power supply at the computer end) was bent about 5 degrees. I knew that, but then, you'd think if this were the problem, I'd have an intermittent connection, but not on a regular basis. What the heck, though, this guy might know something, and it would be great if this were all. Nah, he plugged in another (but only the DC side), and the same problem occurred.
"Well, maybe it's the motherboard** ..." Geeze, what does that tell me? Getting a new computer is what that would come down to for me, as with that part, and a few hours of his time (I just wasn't up for a complete overhaul), we'd be close to the price of something new. Here's my problem: no damn thought, no problem solving or troubleshooting ability was in this guy, it seemed. I was kind of hopeful about this mechanics of miniature devices being a substitute for the work of the shade-tree mechanic of yesteryear, as discussed long ago here in DIY and mechanical aptitude in Americans vs. Chinese - self rebuttal.
Let's compare: As opposed to a remove & replace guy at the dealer service center, a good mechanic has some deep understanding of the workings of the vehicle along with troubleshooting abilities. With a car, that troubleshooting could involve a great ear, use of the multimeter on all the electrical problems, or just the common sense (learned from a lifetime of doing the work), that says things like "OK, even with starter fluid sprayed in, I'm getting nothing, so it's probably not the fuel pump as I'd thought..." etc. With this laptop computer, I'd like to have heard "let's see, it's getting power, but the computer doesn't see it as good power, so the power control chip is bad or it's not getting enough current..." I'm making this up, but it's just an example of the kind of thinking that I expected more of.
The car mechanic might say "OK, I think it's the ABC module, so we can try that first, but it's not refundable. If that's not it, then I'll try B, but that's hard to get to, so it'll take a couple of hours. At least then I can see if DEF gets a signal from ___ once I get that part off...." This guy, given the symptom, had nothing but "It's not your bent power plug. Maybe it's the motherboard." That's like: "It's not that wire hanging loose. Maybe it's the engine."
The guy did have one more idea: "You could replace that connector (the part I described, taking power from the socket end of it and distributing it to a board via the flat connector)." Yeah, well, fine, spend a couple of weeks waiting for a part that really doesn't have much of a way of breaking? That's an idea. It has nothing to do with the symptoms - it's nothing but 1" of dumb conducting material - and looks fine, but it's an idea ... not a good idea, just something to do. Nah.
Perhaps I expected too much. I was ready to learn, and yes, pay what money it took if it was worth it to fix it, but this guy had nothing to teach me. He did have one piece of hope: "We can ask Jody." He had already left, but I can go find him another time, when I get a chance to go back. I guess Jody is the one guy there that actually understands a bit about the workings of these devices. If you're locked up, it's "better call Saul." If you're computer's locked up, it's "better call Jody." I hope Jody has got the understanding and troubleshooting skills, as I'd really like to get to the bottom of this.
If nothing else, they can get our data off the drive, so there's that ... which IS important, in fact.
Is America losing our human technical capital? It seem like that's the case. Don't we need it? I sure thought so.
PS: I may still find the answer to this very reproducible problem on the web. In the meantime, I realized just a while back that I had forgotten to at least check the DC voltage output on my power supply. See, the guy at the shop had only used the DC side, due to ours being bent. It'd be great if it were nothing but a bad power supply still. I can't get to that computer right now... long story.
* Keep in mind, there's one simple thing I haven't even checked yet, but I can't get to the device right now, at press time.
** Are they still saying "motherboard"? I thought it had changed to "main board", but maybe it reverted, or this guy has been messing with computers a long time - I had no problem with that.