Random stuff on informatics, computer science, physics, etc.

## Category: Electronics

### Fixing Trek Stor 3.0’s blank screen

My wife’s eBook reader TrekStor 3.0 suddenly started displaying a blank screen after a fall. If you’re having the same problem and the screen is intact, chances are that the problem is identical, so I will describe how I proceeded to fix the issue.

Blank screen

Since there are no moveable parts and the screen was obviously undamaged, I decided to open it to search for the source of the failure. I discovered the problem is that the eBook reader is so slim that the case presses down on the inductors even when a minimal amount of strength is applied. In this case it was easy to pin-point the problem to a broken SMD (surface mount device) inductor, in this case a 10 uH inductor (you can read “100” printed on the inductor which means the inductance is $10\times 10^0 = 10$ uF ).

Old, broken, inductor

Having no SMD components at hand, I decided to try a through-hole inductor and see whether or not that fixed the screen.

Test inductor (through-hole)

It worked, so I bought a SMD inductor and soldered it into place.

New inductor

New inductor

And voilà! Problem solved!

Working TrekStor

### Fixing an Asus K53’s power jack

I fancy Asus laptops. They are not expensive and come well equipped. Plus, Asus is a well established company and their products tend to be, in my opinion, of good quality.

Unfortunately, the power jack of my wife’s Asus K53S started having problems after a couple of years. The connector from the charger started to feel loose when connected to the jack and the laptop would suddenly alternate between charging and discharging the battery.
After trying a different charger, it became clear that the problem was the power jack. I have changed it and since then the laptop has been working flawlessly. In what follows I describe the steps necessary to access the power jack, desolder it and solder a new one. This guide was constructed for an Asus K53S but it should work, with minor modifications on most, if not all, laptops of the K53 series.

Here’s the material you will need:

• New power jack (I ordered mine from ebay)
• Precision Philips screwdriver (#0 or #00)
• Soldering iron
• Desoldering pump
• Desoldering braid
• Solder
• Pair of diagonal pliers (potentially)

You will need to disassemble the laptop in order to access the power jack. Begin by laying the laptop down with its bottom side up. Remove the battery and remove the screws indicated in the following figure:

Fig. 1: Back side

The red arrow points to 2×6 screws while the blue one points to 3×6 ones.
Now remove the memory and hard drive compartment and remove the following screws (all 2×6):

Fig. 2: Memory and HDD compartment

Remove now the hard drive by sliding it. There is another screw beneath it that needs to be removed (2×3):

Fig. 3: Screw under HDD

Remove now the keyboard by using a flat screwdriver to push the three pins on top. You need now to remove three ribbon cables: one from the keyboard, another one from the power button and yet another from the touchpad. To release the one from the keyboard, simply pull the black restrainer. To remove the ones from the power button and touchpad you will need to rotate the retainer 90 degrees (see Fig.8 and Fig. 9). You can now remove the screws under the keyboard (again, all 2×6):

Fig. 4: Screws underneath the keyboard

Now turn the laptop around and remove the optical drive. You need now to remove three screws that are sitting at the optical drive bay (these are 2×3 screws)

Fig. 5: Screws under the optical drive

Turn the laptop around again and remove the top part (where the keyboard used to sit). You have now access to the motherboard. You will need to remove several cables (blue arrows) and screws (red arrows):

Fig. 6: Asus MB

Again, all these screws are 2×6.

Fig. 7: Locked retainer

Fig. 8: Unlocked retainer

Now that you have access to the jack you will need to desolder it. I recommend that you use, at least, a desoldering pump (these are very cheap anyway) and if possible desoldering braid. You should begin by applying flux to the old joints and the new solder on top (yes, you read well. You should apply new solder to desolder. ). Ideally you would desolder the piece and remove it intact. Honestly I found this hard to do. The old solder didn’t seem to melt and I was out of flux (except for the one contained in the core of the solder I was using). Therefore, what I did was to destroy the old jack and cut its contacts using a pair of diagonal pliers.

Fig. 9: Old power jack

Fig. 10: Soldered jack with destroyed one next to it

Soldering the new jack should now be easy. After that you just need to put everything back in reverse order.
And that’s it!

P.S. I am not responsible for any damage your laptop incurs in following this guide. If you have absolutely no idea of what you’re doing, you’re better off contacting a repair service.

### Bulding a DC power supply and a current amplifier

And here goes something in electronics. This was something very simple, but one of my professors in the university needed a 15/30V DC power supply AND a current amplifier in order to feed a system with very small impedance. Since he required both things simultaneously, I decided to put everything into the same case.

This is partly a guide on how to build these things and partly a brief description of how I did it. I could try to make this more general, but I guess that would only complicate things. Suffices to say, a lot of these things can be done in a different way, different components can be used and the end result will still be the same. The input and output voltages can, obviously, be different with a small change of components.

I will split it into two parts: part I is concerned with the power supply itself and part II with the current amplification and buffer in order to feed this low impedance circuit.

Part I: 15V/30V Power supply

For this part you will be needing the following components (you will also need some tools, which depend on how you plan to assemble things):

• 15V*2 transformer
• 1x diode bridge
• 2x 1000 uF electrolytic capacitors
• 1x LM7815 positive voltage regulator
• 1x LM7915 negative voltage regulator
• 2x 220 uF ceramic capacitors

Optionally you will also need an adequate fuse, switch, LED and appropriate resistance for the LED.

First transform the mains AC current (220V @ 50 Hz in my case) to 15V (@ 50 Hz in my case) by using a transformer with two secondaries (careful when handling transformers if they are connected to the main socket!). Transformers are very simple devices which consist of two coils and a metallic core (usually iron) and functions via magnetic induction.
For security reasons you should connect a power switch and an adequate fuse between the transformer and the main power. In the output of the transformer you can connect an LED (using an appropriate resistance in series with it, to avoid burning it) to indicate whether the device is on or off (true, the LED will blink, but at 50 or 60 Hz you will not see it!).

Power supply schematic

Next we need to rectify the signal. What happens is that the signal from the mains is a sinusoidal signal which, with respect to the ground, varies between 230V and -230V (I live in Europe). We want the signal to be always positive or only negative. To do this we use a diode bridge (Br in the schematic). Diodes are solid state devices that only allow current to pass in one direction. You can either build your own diode bridge, or buy a pre-assembled diode bridge (which I recommended).

We now need to filter the signal, that means converting the sinusoidal circuit from the mains into something more constant (the aim at the end is to have a completely DC signal).

For this use two high capacity electrolytic capacitors, 1000 uF (C1 and C2 in the schematic). Be very careful how you connect electrolytic capacitors. Polarity is important with these guys. Assemble them the wrong way and they may explode! (yes, it does make a lot of noise, but it’s usually harmless) You should now feed the resulting signal into voltage regulators. In my case I used the LM7815 (positive terminal voltage regulator) and the LM7915 (negative terminal voltage regulator). Note that if you need a different output voltage, you should use different voltage regulators. This may be all that you need, but in my case I was not satisfied with the end result, since there was still high frequency noise, so I added two low capacity, 220 uF, ceramic transistors (C3 and C4 in the schematic)

And that’s it! You should now have a clean DC signal and three outputs, +15 V, 0 V and -15 V, so you can either have an absolute voltage of either so 15V or 30V.

In case you want to build the circuit on a PBC, it’s better to use an adequate software and send it to a company specializing in doing PBCs. I projected mine in Eagle.

Power supply PCB (Eagle)

Power supply schematic (Eagle)

Part II: Current amplifier

For this part you will be needing the following components (you will also need tools, which depend on how you plan to assemble things):

• 1x BC547C
• 1x 2N3055

For the current amplification I decided to use the so called Darlington pair. It basically consists in an arrangement of two transistors and has a very high input impedance, a very low output impedance (which was necessary in my case), so you can use it to feed circuits with very low impedance (speakers, for example) and amplifies current instead of amplifying voltage (also what I wanted). One can also obviously have voltage amplifiers. A small note here is that such circuit MUST be powered (it’s an active circuit, which is obvious. Think about it this way, power is V.I. If the output voltage is the same as the input and you increased the current, energy must be coming from somewhere, right?). In fact, the power supply previously built can be used to power this circuit!

Now, I won’t delve into transistors since that would make this too long (it’s probably already too long), so I’ll assume you know some stuff about transistors (if you don’t, read Wikipedia). We need the transistors to be always in the active zone. This means $V_{BE}$ must always be above 0.7 V (for normal npn transistors).
In our case we connect the BC547C (Tr1 in the schematic) and the 2N3055 (Tr2 in the schematic) as in the schematic.

Darlington pair

In this case, since we have two transistors, we need that $V_{B^\prime E^\prime }$ exceeds 1.4V.
In case you are feeding an AC signal, you may need to sum a constant DC component to allow this (this is easily done anyway). In my case, since I wanted to use the output signal of a signal generator that allowed me to have a DC offset, I simply didn’t care about it,

Again, you can print everything into a PCB.

Current amplifier schematic (Eagle)

Current amplifier PCB (Eagle)

My Eagle files are available here.
And well, that’s all of it! In my case I bundled everything into a metallic case not only for safety reasons, but also to allow the components to dissipate properly (I attached some of them, like the power transistor, to the case, to serve as a heatsink) and also because it looks much nicer. Here’s the drawing I glued to the front of the case (the small hole at the top left corner is for the LED).

Case front