Sunday, February 27, 2011


As part of my preparations for changing my head gaskets I build myself a work bench. I figure I'm going to need the dedicated space to keep the parts organized as I take the car apart. As far as materials go I was able to purchase all the lumber except the 2x4s from the Home Depot lumber scrap area.


2 - 4" x 6"x 48" - front legs = $4 - (Plus, I got to make some nice wheel chocks with the extra.)
1 - 48" x 45" particle board - top and shelf = $4
1 - 3' x 7' laminate - cover the top = $4
5 - 2" x 4" x 96" - back legs and supports = $10

Lumber Total ~$22

3/8" Machine bolts in 3 different lengths, lock washers, fender washers, and nuts = $22

3/8" Spade bit - $3.50

Final total ~$48

I chose the machine bolts instead of lag bolts because they can easily be adjusted, removed, and reinstalled without compromising the wood. Since I'll have to move again and weather and age will change the wood I thought this was a good idea.

First, I learned that cordless drills are a pain. It took several days to assemble because I could only drill a few of the holes before the drill died and I had to wait a day to recharge. Second, I learned that a drill press, in addition to being electric and circumventing the recharge problem, would have been a benefit because the holes would have been straight and my bench might have been square. Oh well, it'll work even if it's not perfect.

Here's a quick picture before adding the top melamine and a shelf above (notice the extended 2x4's in the back). I was too lazy to move everything out of the way, but the general idea is there. Now on to the head gasket project. See isn't this way more fun than paying someone else to do the automotive work.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

HP HDX-18t Laptop Keyboard Replacement

For whatever reason, I've decided to post some of my projects on the blog. It's probably because I'm planning to replace the head gaskets on my Subaru soon and have spent some time reading helpful accounts of others who've had the same project. We'll see if I post the details of the head gasket job. I already know it's going to be a pain, but since I don't charge myself labor I should be able to save around $2,000.

This project started Monday night when I got home from the hospital. Michelle told me the kids had pulled all the keys off of my laptop. The kids were very sorry and Michelle had taken at least 2 hours trying to put the keys back on. Of course, many of them were broken and irreparable. After getting over the initial shock and anger, I found a new keyboard online for $36 after shipping and after reading the factory manual figured out it would be an easy replacement process.

First I removed the 6 screws which secured the switch cover (red arrows).

Then I pried off the switch cover, which reminded me how much I hate plastic things that snap together. If I don't break something trying to unsnap it, I always feel like I'm going to. Thankfully, I didn't break anything important this time.

Seeing my computer with the cover removed gave me a new appreciation for the sound my 2 little speakers can generate, and for amount of dust and junk inside my laptop.

Next I removed the keyboard cover. Again prying carefully just waiting for some vital plastic part to snap off.

The green arrow marks the ribbon cable that I removed, though in hindsight I could have avoided a lot of headache by just leaving the cable attached and the keyboard cover flipped up as it is in the picture. My fingers were too fat for the skinny short cable and I ended up using my needle driver to push the cable back into the slot.

Removing the keyboard's physical connection is as simple as removing the screws marked by red arrows plus 2 screws on the back of the laptop. After those screws are removed the top of the keyboard lifts up and the bottoms tabs just slide out of their grooves.

The final step is removing the ribbon cable which attaches the keyboard to the motherboard electrically. This should have been simple as the service manual states, "Release the zero insertion force (ZIF) connector to which the keyboard cable is attached and disconnect the keyboard cable from the system board," but I had to pry whole socket apart. Again I'm glad I didn't break some vital little plastic nubbin.

The lower arrow is the socket into which the keyboard ribbon connector slides and the upper arrow is the ZIF attachment that secures the cable in the socket. As it turns out I could have just flipped up the ZIF with my fingernail to release the old keyboard ribbon (the black piece pivots over the pins and upper half of the white piece) put the new ribbon in and pushed the ZIF back down, but of course I had to pop it off completely, lose it under the table, locate it, and figure out how it is supposed to work. Naturally that doubled the time for the keyboard replacement and caused much anxiety and frustration.

As they say in the service manuals, "Installation is the reverse of removal."

Luckily this project turned out perfectly and this keyboard (You should've seen it before Michelle spent 2 hours with the keys.) got replaced by a shiny new one with fully functioning keys.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Here are a few pictures from December. I have been a little lazy about the pictures - really need to get back on the stick. But we had a wonderful December!! Here are pictures of a few of the fun things we did:

While Ty's family was still here for Thanksgiving, we went to a Christmas tree farm and cut down a tree. It was a ton of fun! We got to wander around and choose our favorite tree, then the man who owned the lot cut it down for us (kinda wished we could have done it ourselves). He threw it in his truck and took it down to shake out the pine needles and stuff. Coleman laughs about "the shakey" (and so do his uncles) even a couple months later. :)

Cole, Brookie and Tyler getting ready to bring the tree in.

Decorating our first Christmas tree.
Until this year we've made do with an eighteen inch tall tree that I got for my 14th birthday. This year we decided - since we live in a very wooded area (there are Christmas tree farms 5 minutes or less from our house) - we'd do the real thing! :) It was so fun!
We strung popcorn and made paper stars and Ty's parents got us some great ornaments to decorate. While we were popping the popcorn, Cole got so excited! We told him we'd be putting it on the tree and he immediateley grabbed handfulls and began stuffing it onto the side branches (Amelia Bedelia) :). So cute! He and Brookie had a terrific time putting the decorations on - we all helped. It was loads of fun - and I found loose popcorn beneath those side branches every day until we took the tree down. Occasionally in the morning, the kiddos would wander over and take a bite or two as a breakfast appetizer. :)

We had our good friends over to play and made peanut butter play doh. We decorated it with mini M&Ms, then we made pine cone Christmas trees and decorated those with frosting and M&Ms - always a good thing to have around. We had a blast!

When we go grocery shopping, Coleman always wants to look at the "sea creatures." Winco always has a variety of sea food, and Cole loves to ask all about it. I have to admit I probalby know more sea food names in Spanish because of some weird unit we did in college than I know in English - I'm not much of a sea food eater. Does anybody know the English name for "mariscos?" Anyway, while we were looking, Cole convinced me that we needed a crab. I told him that if we bought it, we'd have to eat it and he seemed ok with that. He held in (in the bag) in the car and around the house for a few minutes until I couldn't stand the smell. I finally resorted to "Daddy's really good at crabs. Let's put it in the fridge 'till he gets home." Poor Tyler! It worked though and he waited. Here are the pictures of the experience... after all that, he didn't eat any. Brookie seemed to enjoy it though, and it was yummier than I thought it would be. I guess I'll have to eat future crab with my eyes closed.

A few pictures before church -

I have fond (mixed with mildly annoyed) memories of sponge curlers. Brookie thought they looked like fun, so we gave them a shot.

Doesn't she look thrilled? They didn't last super long, but I was suprised that she let me out them all it. She's usually such a wiggle worm!

Playing with sea creatures!

Playing with sea creatures from the library!

More curlers. She really is such a girly girl!
Ty finished his rotations and tests at didactic week and we were getting ready to head to Utah. We decided to take one day just to regroup and have a little fun before we embarked on our long drive. We stayed home and just played, packed, and gave the kids their Christmas presents. "Santa" wasn't thinking ahead when he decided Cole needed a basketball hoop and Brookie needed a kitchen. Definitely not good traveling items for spending Christmas at Grandma's...
The kids had a good time playing with them beofre we left, so it all worked out.
Cole shooting hoops ("doing boom shacka-lacka") and our decorated tree!

Brookie playing with her kitchen