Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We Can Rebuild Him

So. I broke my phone.
Now I get to repair him.

Step 1:  Troubleshooting and Research
The problem is poor touchscreen response. I first tried changing the simple things that could be affecting it, but I strongly doubted they were the problem.

I tried removing the screen protector. It hadn't ever caused a problem before, but it was worth trying. No such luck.

Then I did a factory reset. Maybe it was a software problem. Maybe it was just a coincidence that the problem began immediately after dropping the phone. Strike two.
On the plus side this gave me a chance to test out the MyBackup app. It restored all my applications, but I lost most of the settings and data. Overall, I am not impressed. I hear Titanium Backup is nice, but my phone is not rooted.

I was out of ideas at this point, but the internet will know what to do!

I found a video that shows how to take apart the phone. Yay!
It doesn't show removing the screen or removing the touchscreen (or digitizer, or whatever you want to call it). Boo!

I found video of people showing their touch screens misbehaving. That's interesting. Not particularly helpful, but interesting. I promptly installed a drawing app and made something similar to the following pretty picture. This is not the picture I made on the phone, it is a dramatic reenactment of the picture using Microsoft Paint. I hadn't yet figured out that it was easy to take a screen shot on my phone.
The red and green lines are for reference only. The blue lines are what it looks like when I draw an X on the top half of the screen and on the bottom half. The top half of the touchscreen works fine. The bottom does not. There are three "rows" where it only registers as if you were touching at the top or bottom of the row. And it jumps abruptly between the two. That's not good....

Ok.. So.. There is clearly something wrong with it. I can't be the first person with this problem. There must be dozens of people who have tried to replace the touch screen. Several places sell replacements for it. Most aren't nice enough to provide instructions, but at least you can buy the part. Someone must have blogged about it. Or mentioned it in a forum. With pictures... Right?

It turns out that they didn't. Or if they did, they are hiding from me. ... They're probably hiding from me.

So. I am doing it here. I am documenting the problem. And the cause. (Apparently phones don't like being dropped. Who'd have guessed?) And the solution. (I hope.) (How hard can it be?)

Stay tuned. I ordered the part from Amazon. This one to be specific.

$30 is not so bad. I think I paid half that for a screen protector. (I'm looking at you Zagg.) And the protector doesn't feel nearly as nice as the phone does without it. If this ends up being anything close to easy (easy being defined in this case as about an hour's worth of work) I don't think I will be using a screen protector again. I'd rather enjoy the device than degrade it by trying to protect it.

Now I get to wait for the part to arrive. Waiting is fun. ... And now I wish that I had paid for better shipping. It's hard to argue with free, but I want it now! Sometimes it is annoying being frugal.

(Follow this link for Part 3 of the story.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Today I Broke My Phone

I am the proud owner of an HTC EVO 3D. It is the first smart phone I've ever had. I really like it. You might even say that I have grown accustomed to it.

I take 3D pictures occasionally, and they are fun to play with, but the main reason I bought this phone is because it does everything I would want a smart phone to do, and it does it well. Fast. Dual core. Lots of memory. Pretty screen. Potentially customize-able. All things that make the gadget loving geek inside of me very happy.

I didn't realize exactly how much I liked it until I dropped it.

It was in a rather minimal case when I dropped it. I am still rather happy with the case. It is slim and offers some protection for the cameras. It was this case to be precise:
It even had a screen protector on it. But that wasn't enough to protect the little guy.

I dropped it from about waist height onto a linoleum or vinyl tile floor. It landed flat on the screen of the phone.

As far as damage goes, there is nothing visually wrong with it. The screen is not damaged. The glass is not cracked. No bits or pieces went flying off. The damage is much more frustrating than that.

There are now three "rows" on the touch screen that no longer register touch. One of these three rows lines up with the keyboard, so there is now about 1/3 of the alphabet that I can no longer type without rotating the screen to landscape mode. Another of the rows overlaps the bottom row of the dots on the unlock screen, making it incredibly difficult to enter the pattern to unlock the phone. (I promptly disabled that security feature once I finally unlocked it.)

So. Without the ability to type or gesture effectively, I am almost back where I was originally. I have a phone that is good at making phone calls, but not much else. This does not make me happy.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, doesn't that phone have a 1 year warranty? And didn't it come out less than a year ago? That's an interesting point. I have not rooted my phone. I have done nothing to void the warranty. But the damage is not a manufacturing defect. It is not a design flaw. It is my fault. I dropped it. I broke it.

Sometimes personal responsibility is a bitch.

I will fix it. (Follow the link for Part 2.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My First Minion

min·ion  [min-yuh n]   -noun
a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power.
Everyone wants power and minions, whether they know it or not. This has been true for a very long time. It has caused many problems throughout history when taken too far. Luckily, there are better options today.

My first minion was a rescue. Once, he had served a purpose and had a home, but now he was all but abandoned in a pile of semi-obsolete parts in a dimly-lit back room. (I do not know the actual lighting condition of the room in which he was stored, but I feel this description sets the proper mood for the story.) A good friend of mine, whom we shall refer to as Chris, recognized his potential and entrusted him to my care, knowing I would find a use for him.

I named him Blue.

Blue is a simple thing. Outdated, but still useful. Originally he was part of a control system in a water plant where his job was probably to open/close a valve and report back the valve position. He has digital inputs and outputs and an event timer which can come in handy. He communicates with a computer with ASCII commands, through a serial connection. (I said he was a bit dated..)

It took me quite a while before I came up with a project that needed him. It wasn't until I started home brewing beer. I decided to build a stir plate to help with one of the steps for growing healthy yeast. It was giving me some trouble, and I needed a tachometer, a way to measure RPM, to troubleshoot the stir plate. More on that later...

I set up Blue with a breadboard, standard power connection for use with an old computer power supply, RS-485 to RS-232 serial converter, and serial to USB converter. I then spent several frustrating days trying to talk to him.

Unbeknownst to me, someone had rewired the RS-485 to RS-232 converter. My best guess is that they had an overall installation that was wired backward, so the easiest fix was to cut traces on the circuit board, and jumper things around. They had swapped the two data pins. (Thanks, Chris...) After frustrating days working with outdated software, I opened the case and discovered this. A few minutes with a soldering iron, and he finally started responding.

With this small success and the minor project that followed, I was hooked. I would definitely need more minions.