ITEM! My Treo 680 has given up the ghost. I suspect I will just drop data and use a non-data phone for a while. I’d love to jump over to an iPhone but while finances are uncertain I can’t commit to the platform.

Eric Sinclair wisely pointed out a shared-minutes, shared-data plan on T-Mobile which I initially dismissed out of hand but on reconsideration am likely to pursue once I have the handsets I want in hand.

Here is my desired featureset:

– Palm OS (not that important, but I have a raft of apps. I’m quite aware that it’s at end of life.)

– large screen

– fully-featured non-lockin ereader available for the platform (nearly all of my leisure reading happens on a phone now)

– alphanumeric keypad or equivalent (screen-only is fine)

– wifi connectivity option

– hackable for tethering, don’t care if it’s outside TOS

I would immediately seek out a Palm Pro or Pre, but it seems that the Pro is Windows Mobile only and the Pre is not yet CDMA/GSM available. Centro is the closest, but it’s clearly a downfeatured version of the 680, the device I just broke.

I can have some of these features but not all at once, it seems. This of course makes me want to map my cell number to Google Voice and just drop the handset altogether.

My desired handset price point is $50 or free. Eventually I can imagine forking out some dough to Uncle Steve for an iPhone or inheritor but right now, fuck that.

So here’s what my findings indicate: I’m fucked, what I want is unavailable. So my next most important goal in this matter is saving money. Our monthly cell expense is about $120. I’m thinking if I port our numbers to prepaid I can get that down to under $40, no data.

ITEM! Viv’s iBook G4 died after about five years of faithful service. The problem appears to be a wear-and-flexion-related soldering failure which is remedied by a procedure called ‘reballing.’ Reballing quotes and anecdotes on the intarwebs indicate that one may expect to pay from $40 to $300 for the procedure. In the iBook G4’s case, if the procedure involves a full-machine teardown and rebuild, it will be around $300 – the 5-year old iBooks are a BEAR to disassemble.

After diagnosing the issue, I was able to clone the boot drive using Firewire Target mode to an old PowerBook of mine, so Viv’s set.

But of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. For several years I amused myself by buying old and broken Mac laptops on eBay and rebuilding them, so even a hairy laptop teardown holds no trepidation for me. So I set out to release the motherboard of Viv’s dead iBook, and on the way, swap out the hard drive for another retired laptop drive I had handy.

Things went swimmingly!

It was a complex teardown – the motherboard replacement procedure has about sixty steps to the halfway point – but straightforward enough. The hardest tool to locate was a 4mm socket wrench, not a -hex- wrench, but an actual wrench to fit around a 4mm nut. I have boatloads of Torx and other obscure twisty doohickeys but this was the first time I had encountered an actual nut in years.

Once I had the drive pulled, I went off book, confident I knew what I was doing, and yanked the drive ribbon off the end of the harddrive as I have done countless times in the past.


The mating end of the drive ribbon was connected to the drive proper with a familiar black connecting comb, but the ribbon itself employs an innovative cost-cutting technique. Instead of mounting the connection points on the familiar green stiffener of a sliver of circuit board, the connection points are mounted directly to the highly flexible ribbon itself. The comb released the ribbon-mounted connectors BEFORE it released the rather more durable double row of connecting teeth at the base of the drive.

The tiny connectors unzipped from the ribbon like spring-mounted seeds from a noxious weed.

After a calm but dispirited hour attempting to reseat and true the liberated connectors, which bear a resemblance to tiny gold-plated squash blossoms, I accepted defeat.

The motherboard is pulled and I’ll get a local quote tomorrow – the hosed part is about $30 online. I kinda wish the local guys would quote me on the phone, I can’t imagine that they are gonna give me a $50 estimate. If they are over $70, it’s out of my range.

Still, even though I experienced chagrin at my idiocy, on the whole, it was a pleasant afternoon. My eyes are not as sharp as they were six years ago, the last time I did a laptop teardown and rebuild, but it was fun then and it remained fun today. I suppose that if it proves prohibitive to reassemble the device, there’s still some money on ebay in he parts, and god knows I have enough parts I need to get rid of.