Friday, September 26, 2008

How I learned to Solder (or DANG! That's hot!!!)

We depend on our Digital Video Recorder. Yes, we watch way too much TV, but I have a Radio and TV Journalism degree, so doesn't that give me some kind of special dispensation?

Anyway, our faithful Panasonic DMR-E85H (a DVR with a Hard Disk and TV Guide program guide) decided to show us the "Please Wait" message and nothing else. Turned it off and on. Searched the web. Called Panasonic and tried all the secret key combos to reset everything. No luck. We could ship it off to them and have a repair done for $130, but buying a new DVR with a digital tuner wasn't a whole lot more than that. So we bought a DVD recorder from Wal-Mart. The Panasonic was relegated to sitting on the fireplace unplugged for a few days.

But I got around to doing a little more research on the web, to see if maybe I missed something. And I ran across a post about someone having the same problem and fixing it by replacing a couple of capacitors that had gone bad. Hmmmm.... could this be our problem too?

After reading the post and a couple of related posts referenced, I cleared off the dining room table and opened up the unit. After fumbling around figuring out which screws to take out , I finally got down to the power supply board. Yup, the two capacitors in question had bulging tops and a little leakage. So now it was off to Radio Shack to buy a soldering iron and a couple of capacitors.

Now armed with my $7.99 Soldering kit (completed with a little metal stand, a double ended pick/scraper thingie, some clippie thing that is supposed to be a heat sink and a length of solder wound up like a spring), I set to removing the bad capacitors.

First I tried to "tin" the tip of the iron. This is supposed to coat the tip with metal to make things go on and off smoothly. Ok, melted some solder on the tip. Now to desolder the bad capacitors. According to what I read, you just used the hot iron on the back of the circuit board to melt off the existing solder. That should be easy. Well, then again - maybe not. First off, my hand is not as steady as I thought. I keep jabbing the circuit board as the tip slides off the solder point. Boy there is a lot of smoke. At the same time I am trying to wiggle the capacitor on the other side of the board loose. This is slow going..... And the heat from the iron makes the capacitors quite hot to the touch. In hindsight, maybe I should have read more on that heat sink thing. But finally I get one side loose. Hopefully I haven't scorched the board jabbing it with the iron tip. After a while I have both capacitors out of the circuit board. Sigh of relief.

Now its time to put the new ones in. After a Google search to see which lead is positive and which is negative (longer lead is positive), I position it in the correct holes in the motherboard. After I check to make sure there is enough room, I decide to leave them upright rather than laying them down on the board. I bend the leads enough so the capacitors don't go too far up or down and begin trying to solder. Strange, it seems like the solder is just vaporizing as I touch it to the tip. I don't get any little drops of solder to fall onto the lead to bond it to the circuit board. This turns into quite an ordeal before I finally get some solder to drip down where I want it. After struggling to get all 4 leads soldered, I have both done, put the board back in, put the hard drive back in and screw the case back on.

I take the unit over and put in on the brick fiireplace, carefully clearing all flammable items from the area. Well, something could go "Pop" you know? The moment of truth comes. I plug it in and ....... nothing. Not even a "Please Wait". Rats. Oh well, we still have the new recorder. Well, actually - we took that recorder back because it turned itself off a couple of times. We order a new one with a hard drive online. (Magnavox H2160MW9 - post from AV Science Forums - which is THE place to get info on all things TV and Audio. Great place to search for opinions on things you want to buy and help for stuff you have.)

Later, just before I fall asleep, I realize in my elation of actually getting solder to hold the capacitors to the board, I didn't trim the leads after I soldered them in. Maybe they are touching the case and causing a problem. So next day I unscrew the case, remove the hard drive, and remove the circuit board. I trim the leads and discover that one solder on each capacitor had come loose. Time to heat the iron up again. Trying again and again to heat the solder already on the leads proves difficult, and I worry I am charring the circuit board. I have to put more solder on and again, it seems like it just evaporates. Then I manage to drop a big glob of solder on the circuit board, but not where I need it - CRAP! I wait for it to cool and then keep tapping it with the iron, trying to get it to cling to the iron and come off the circuit board. I finally get that clean as best I can. I solder the leads and let them cool several times before I get them to stick. And of course, in my impatience, I am one point grab the soldering iron a bit too high up on the barrel and singe my fingers good. Hold them under cold running water then against an ice pack for a while.

Finally, everything seems to be holding. I screw everything back together again and walk over to the fireplace. My wife suggests the patio. I'm not surprised. I go out, plug it in, and ......"Please Waite". Cool! At least I'm back where I started. But wait, the screen changed. Can't read it in the sun. Wife comes out and I hold the unit up for her to read. Has the current time on it. Could it be?

Take the unit in, plug it all back up, and turn it on. The thing actually starts up! All the programs we recorded and haven't watched yet are still there! Those programs are immediately dubbed to DVD for safekeeping. We turn it to standby so the TV Guide listings can download. My wife walks out to the living room the next morning and the unit is recording the Today Show. It even remembered what we had set up to record. Amazing! Despite all the mishaps trying to solder, I actually repaired the unit for under $10 and some blistered skin. Many bonus points from the wife!

So now we have 2 DVD recorders with hard drives just in time for the new season. It remains to be seen what we will be able to do with the Panasonic when the digital switch comes as it is analog only. I read some post about a certain converter box and an IR Blaster. Hmmm...we'll see.

So the moral of the story boys and girls - you too can solder! Just watch where you grab the freakin' thing. And here are some of the posts that walked me through the process:

From,, and the first post I found that led me to fixing this, again from Many thanks to the people that posted those great instructions. My wife thanks you too!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Our Fur Baby

My wife had dachshunds growing up and I had lived next to a couple over the years. She really wanted to have a dachshund in the house so a year after we got married, we went and got 2 pups. She got a smooth red minature and I got a black and tan. They were from different litters but spent a week together before we picked them up. Here are our boys. We had them for 7 and 8 years but lost them to various ailments. Such sweethearts :-)

After a failed attempt at a rescue dog (was too aggressive for us), we happily got connected, through our Vet, with a breeder of miniature dachshunds. She was a serious breeder, showing all over the country. Even at Westminster. We had decided on a puppy and somehow we ended up bringing the puppy, another puppy and the first puppies mom home with us. The other two were just going to stay for a couple of days.

The two puppies were all over mom - nipping at her, never giving her a moment. Finally the puppies settled down and my wife, so upset that the mom was getting so harried, picked her up and cradled her in her lap. When that dog fell asleep in her lap, that sealed the deal. Puppies (who we suddenly remembered were a LOT of work) went back and we kept mom. She is a wild boar wirehaired miniature dachshund. And she is just adorable! This is her at 4 years old when we got her. And we must have made a great impression on the breeder for her to give her to us. A year or two later we went to see her at a local dog show and a friend of her's was there. When she found out which dog we had, she remarked that she had been the breeders favorite.

So now she is nearly 14 and rules the house, as all dachshunds are prone to do. She takes up more room in the bed than the two of us do. She loves lettuce, ice cream and cheese (as well as anything else we give her). She loves being in the hamper with warm clothes just out of the drier. And we couldn't love her more.

She is very portable - at 9 pounds you can scoop her up and take her most everywhere. She loves to go for a walk - she goes ballistic when we start to get ready to go out. She thinks she is about the size of a German Shepard, the way she barks at every other dog we see on our walk. Have to be careful on our walks, if another dog gets too close and you try to pull her back, she is so light you can lift her right off the ground without trying.

She loves (err...tolerates) the kids in the neighborhood. We have met so many folks in the neighborhood since everyone wants to come up and pet her. She's such a joy (and sooo much cheaper than having a kid!). I hope you enjoy these pictures of our "child". Can't image not having her.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How do people find a blog?

Since this blog has just started, it will be interesting to see if anyone finds it before I begin to tell the online communities I belong to about it. So far, I believe the only person who has read a post is my dear wife :-) I am going to keep this blog a "secret" for a bit longer to see if anyone stumbles across it. I plan to do a couple of posts on books I have recently read and authors I love. I love to read and have so many great authors to share. Also, I need to find a good picture of our Fur Baby and post it here so you see where DachsieGuy comes from (the profile picture is just too small to do her justice!).

Cowboys and Packers on Sunday - should be a great game. Cowboys are meeting expectations so far and the Packers are exceeding it, with Aaron Rodgers playing well. Hopefully the Cowboy defense can step it up a bit and actually bring down the quarterback this week.

My other football passions are the Oklahoma Sooners (who don't play this weekend) and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (who open their newly remodeled H. A. Chapman Stadium). Playing a New Mexico team who beat Arizona and played well against two other teams should be a great match-up. From what I have read, the remodel is great and actually decrease the number of seats. Should be easier to get things rockin' and rollin'. Go TU!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cowboys- Eagles What a Game!

I'm one of the 2 people in the US that don't have cable - so I had to listen to the MNF game on a local radio station. What an incredible game! My Cowboys came out on top but the Eagles are so solid. With the Giants looking fierce and Washington figuring out Jim Zorn's offense, the NFC East is a beast of a division.

Fantasy football has so changed the way I watch a game. I would have been laughing my head off at DeSean Jackson's miscue if I didn't have him in a fantasy league and was ruing the fact that he just cost me 6 points. Having to draft people on teams you despise makes you watch the NFL a whole different way. I watch games I would never have watched before and watch the tickers to see who scored. What an evil genious plot the NFL has going there.

The Cowboys looked great, with so many weapons. And still have some room for improvement. Thank goodness there aren't a lot of Donovan McNabb's out there because he made the defensive line awfully frustrated with their inability to bring him down.

Felix Jones brings a dimension they haven't had in a while. Talk about straight ahead speed. And Nick Folk, as they said on the radio broadcast, is just Money. And the line game Tony Romo plenty of time to throw. Here's hoping we survive the NFC East and make it to the playoffs.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Greetings and an Introduction

Welcome to yet another blog! Some background - I've been working in the IT field for almost 20 years now, though before that I have had a varied work experience. I was a "teacher" for a dance studio for junior high and high school kids during the disco era (I was in high school myself at the time). I managed a wine and spirits shop for 5 years. I sold computers for 3 months before that chain got a case of the over-expansion blues. And I worked for a corporation in a business finance group before being laid off due to the junk bond economy problems (and maybe just a little management incompetence). The next job led me to becoming a full time IT person. I have since worked for a manufacturing company, and 24x7 Internet commerce company and now in a medical informatics setting. I've had a computer since the late 70's, starting with a Tandy TRS-80 Model III.

My degree is actually Radio and TV Journalism, though I have only used that in writing newsletters, doing one radio commercial for the wine shop, magazine articles on wine, and a short stint doing game reviews for the old Microsoft Magazine. So hopefully, those rusty skills will help make this blog readable (and enjoyable).

I love sports, reading, music, gardening, dachshunds, and wine & spirits. I have played computer games for years, though Everquest has been my addiction for the last several years.

I hope to entertain and inform on any number of subjects. Or this could possibly just take up space on a web server somewhere and never be read by anyone other than myself! Either way, my thought will be out there for anyone to review and judge for posterity (or til blogging becomes passe and these kinds of sites get shut down).

Welcome and thanks for reading!

Dachsieguy (aka Cabernet Elvenwine in Everquest)