Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another stroll down the boulevard of broken hardware

I picked up my Treo last Saturday to find that instead of having its screen in the customary off state it was already turned on, and looking distinctly odd. The camera operation would not work, and a cursory examination indicated that none of the buttons were working quite right. When I had a chance to look at it more closely, I found that it was completely discharged, and plugging it into its charger did not bring things back to life. Ooh, bad news, for aside from being my mobile phone it was the only place I'd recorded a bunch of login passwords for machines I'd been setting up at work over the last several weeks.

We took a trip to the mall to pick up an inexpensive GSM phone from T-Mobile (unactivated), and popping the SIM chip out of the Treo and into the new one was all it took to do a phone account transplant. The new phone is about a quarter the weight of the Treo, and I made sure to purchase a secure case for it, for I blame most of the trouble with the PDA on worn-out Velcro on the flap on its belt case, which would come loose and cause the unit to tumble onto the tiles many more times than I wished.

Back at home where I had access to my small hand tools, it was time to see if anything at all could be pulled off the dead palmtop. I determined that part of the problem with the Treo had something to do with one surface-mount capacitor soldered directly above the power connection which came off - I was able to reattach it with the same conductive ink pen that I'd done my previous bit of Treo surgery with. Then after numerous trials, I found that if I tipped in the battery while holding the sides of the case just so, then plugged in the power connector, I could get it to boot up, then use my one free hand to get into my encrypted password application, then jot down as many of the critical items until my hand would slip and the thing would freeze or die again. Persistence finally paid off and I was able to get all of those off of the Treo before I could no longer pull off the trick of getting it to power up at all. Though I had not by that time retrieved my recent address book entries or memopad entries, it was still a sort of victory.

So while I've long been a champion of the high-end gadget which does everything for you, I'm going to take a different course now and hold off on an electronic organizer for now, relying on this new phone and a low-tech PigPogPDA to hold the many activities which need my attention. I think it will be fine as long as I don't lose either of these items.

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