Fear the software guy with the soldering iron

Today, for the first time ever in my life, I used a soldering iron.

Remarkably, I neither conflagrated my house nor inflicted horrible burns on sensitive portions of my anatomy. Cat and wife are looking visibly relieved at this. As well they might.

I have a couple of Auria 27″ flatscreens that stopped working in a way that suggested it was due to the power supplies they were shipped with being pieces of shite. During the weekend we were building and qualifying the Great Beast of Malvern, my new friend Wendell disassembled one of them and tried replacing the capacitors, that being the overwhelmingly most likely failure point.

That didn’t work, but Wendell undertook to scare up replacement power supplies from one of his Asian business partners. Only it turns out there’s a funky thing about the cables on ’em and he wants to salvage the old ones to attach to the new supplies.

I knew I had a soldering iron in a primitive electronics-repair kit someone gave me any years ago. Maybe I could desolder the cable so I don’t have to ship Wendell the heavy useless brick part? Challenge accepted!

And met. Took less time to melt the leads loose than it did to let the iron heat up sufficiently. It is only a small achievement, but broadening my range of skills always makes me happy.

73 thoughts on “Fear the software guy with the soldering iron

  1. Two most dangerous things in the world, a 2nd Lieutenant with a map and a programmer with a screwdriver.

  2. @esr:

    … nor inflicted horrible burns on sensitive portions of my anatomy.

    Hmm, I’ve always thought it important to tell people which end of the soldering iron to hold, but now I guess I’ll have to be sure to add an explanation about exactly which prehensile appendages are, in fact, suitable for grasping said cooler end.

    Anyway, congratulations on apparently getting it right :-)

  3. I have a soldering iron that’s older than you are.

    And it works, too.  I used it in just the last year (because my newer one was packed away someplace unfindable when I needed to alter a circuit).

    Now, to dig back into that Python book…

  4. It’s been a while since I needed to, but I was a reasonably deft hand with a soldering iron back when.

    For that matter, I was once a structural and ornamental metal worker, and learned heli-arc and oxy-acetylene welding. I did not achieve mastery, but neither did I maim myself nor damage what I was working on. But it’s long enough ago that all I can say is I remember having done it. I’d have to learn from scratch before attempting to do it again, and I’m just as happy no one has asked me to.

    But then, I’ve always been mechanically inclined, thought visually, and could often take things apart and put them back together without reading the instructions. I could see how the parts had to fit together.

    It came in handy in various IT related positions because I *could* pop the hood and fiddle with the innards of a misbehaving device. At one point I was systems, network, and telecom administrator for the facility I worked at, (“Man responsible for anything with a wire leading to it, and various things that didn’t” in the words of a co-worker) and I found other things tossed at me. “We need these cubicles enclosed as full offices. Find us a drywall contractor.” “We need additional cooling in the computer room, and that means a water cooled air conditioner. Find us a plumber.” “We need additional power, and need to get a 60 amp circuit upgraded to 100. Find us an electrician.” My boss apologized, as those tasks should have been handled by the office manager, but she was having family problems and was largely out of commision. I said “It’s okay, Larry. I’m the best qualified person in the shop to do it. I can read blueprints and talk to contractors in their own language. It’s *not* a task Sonya can do well. But if you want em to be your facilities manager as well as systems, network, and telecom admin, we need to talk about my job description and compensation…”

    Along those lines, I’ve built my machines from components for years, and the present one (a refurb Dell system), is the first one in a long time bought as a complete system. I enjoyed your quest to spec and build the Great Beast.

    I’m actually a bit surprised this is the first time you’ve used a soldering iron. Given what you’ve done over the years, I’d have expected other excuses before now.
    ______
    Dennis

    • >I’m actually a bit surprised this is the first time you’ve used a soldering iron. Given what you’ve done over the years, I’d have expected other excuses before now.

      Your surprise is reasonable; I’m not sure how I dodged it this long myself.

  5. @William: “Two most dangerous things in the world, a 2nd Lieutenant with a map and a programmer with a screwdriver.”

    I recall hearing about a tech outfit that gave the clip-on style pocket screwdrivers to the sales force. Field Service wound up grimly confiscating all of them. They had enough issues from normal in use failures of what they maintained, and got tired of what happened when a sales rep said “I can fix that!” :-p
    ______
    Dennis

  6. @ DMcCunney on 2014-12-27 at 15:15:03 said:

    I recall hearing about a tech outfit that gave the clip-on style pocket screwdrivers to the sales force. Field Service wound up grimly confiscating all of them. They had enough issues from normal in use failures of what they maintained, and got tired of what happened when a sales rep said “I can fix that!” :-p

    If you let a sales rep anywhere near anything important/expensive you have only yourself to blame. Sales Reps are only useful when they can take you to lunch.

  7. @William: “If you let a sales rep anywhere near anything important/expensive you have only yourself to blame. Sales Reps are only useful when they can take you to lunch.”

    I’ll let the reps demo it for me. If I *buy* it, they don’t touch it afterward.

    (At one prior employer, I was Tech Support Manager, and had to restrain the enthusiasm of the main sales rep/company owner on various occasions. “No! You sell it. *I* lay hands on it!”)
    ______
    Dennis

  8. Like me with welding. How have I managed to live 62 years without learning to weld? OTOH, I’ve been competent with soldering tools since childhood, and became a qualified MIL-SPEC soldering tech in the army & later rode the winds of change to surface mount boards. A useful skill that helped support me for many years. And soldering is fun, too, as you have now learned! :)

    • >And soldering is fun, too, as you have now learned! :)

      Strictly speaking, I have yet to make a solder joint. I have merely dissolved two that became inconvenient.

  9. I’ve been soldering longer than I’ve been programming. It’s not difficult once you understand the basic principles. It’s not a skill I use very often, but it is useful.

    Basic principles:
    1) Heat the joint, not the solder.
    2) Apply heat until the solder wets the whole joint.
    3) Soldering is like sex: you’ll never get anywhere without a clean tip. (No, I can’t claim credit for this one. A friend who used to teach at a community college gave me that one.)
    4) If it’s not smooth and shiny, you did it wrong.

    Back in the days when I was doing IBM mainframes for a living, I once scared hell out of the operations manager by walking into the machine room with a soldering iron…

  10. @Maggie: “(How ya doing, guy?}”

    Not dead. Not in hospital. Not in jail. Well enough. :-)

    (And the Dilbert cartoon reminded me of the employer mentioned above, where I had several conversations with the boss along the lines of “Run the contract by me *before* you get the customer to sign, so I can tell you whether we can *do* it and will make *money* on it if we do.” The boss could sell refrigerators to Eskimos. Doing so *profitably* was another matter.)
    ______
    Dennis

  11. Continue to the dark side of hardware. Next thing, you will be sticking chips and wires in a breadboard and making a LED flash.

    The biggest threat is the cold joint (several chinese 5v power supplies I’ve fixed – a big current hand soldered wire). It looks like it is connected but the solder is not melted to the metal, it just solidified around it. Sometimes you have to say “What? The Flux!” – to insure the solder will flow and deoxidize the metal.

    But you can do magical things like masking non-maskable interrupts.

    You cease to be limited by what “off the shelf” hardware can do, e.g. jumpering a modem control pin from the PPS output of a GPS.

    It is not the same skill as software. There is noise, bandwidth, crosstalk, magnetic fields – inductance, capacitance. The correct circuit on a simulator might or might not work on a breadboard or circuitboard.

  12. Oh, and that soldering iron of yours is a barely usable piece of Radio Shack crap. I’ll have to get you a good one.

  13. The real fun comes along when you start with surface-mount components. I was on a kick a couple of years back building a prototype electronic gadget (the POC worked, but I couldn’t get the voltage booster reliable enough to work on a battery), and I could semi-reliably hand-solder an SSOP, and even an QFP is possible with care and a little luck.

  14. you forgot the most frightening thing of all, an engineer with a compiler.

    Compiler?  Try compilers.  I think the craziest thing I’ve ever programmed in is the Sauer-Danfoss graphical logic thingy (that is translated to some of the ugliest C code you’ll ever see in your life).

  15. I hand-built some prototypes a while back where I couldn’t get devices in leaded packages from DigiKey, so I soldered little bits of wire onto the SMTs so I could plug them into my breadboard.  Good times.

  16. @Engineer-Poet: In case you find yourself in the same boat, these days it’s pretty easy to get cheap little PCBs that break out leads from a SM package into .1″ DIP.

  17. Ah, the smell of the rosin-core solder dissipating as I built one of the sundry Heathkit devices (mainly alarm clocks) that litter my house to this day. I’m sure I’ve inhaled my life-limit of vaporized lead.

  18. @esr: Welcome to a dying breed….but….have you been trained in ROHS soldering? Stop at once! We can’t have you giving the world lead poisoning!

  19. I gotcher ROHS right here, bub.

    Hell, I’ve still got most of a pound of very good, 24-gauge solder I’ve had for years. You can have that when you pry my Glock form my cold dead fingers.

  20. The ROHS is certainly a bit frustrating, as the melting temperatures of lead-free solder are higher, and even well made joints are no longer as smooth and shiny as they are with classic leaded solder.

    If you can get and use leaded solder, do so. It’s much easier to work with. Just be sure to use the same reasonable precaution (washing hands, etc) when handling it that you’d use for handing any other piece of lead.

  21. @Jay Maynard:

    > If it’s not smooth and shiny, you did it wrong.

    As Jeremy alludes to, if you have to do ROHS stuff, depending on the exact composition of the solder, it is sometimes much more difficult to ascertain whether you have followed this rule. In almost all cases, the shiny joints are not as shiny as the tin/lead ones, and in many cases, the cold joints are actually much shinier than a cold tin/lead joint.

  22. @esr:

    > Strictly speaking … I have merely dissolved…

    Nah, strictly speaking Dorothy dissolved the Wicked Witch, and you melted the solder.

  23. > Your surprise is reasonable; I’m not sure how I dodged it this long myself.

    Mark me as another who was surprised. I have made very occasional use of soldering irons in the past, and I figured that you would have done so once or twice over the years, as well.

  24. Color me surprised too, I would have thought it had come up before too. I used to be a dab hand at soldering custom cables and the like. My hands shake too much these days I’m afraid for SM components.

    @William O. B’Livion, yes, a programmer (or engineer in my case) with a screwdriver is a scary thing to behold. I’m well known at work for “if he has to get out a screwdriver, we must be really fucked”. I once called up our base in another city to get a part shipped up to me, I knew they had one but they asked if I really needed it. I replied that I had climbed a 5 metre ladder to check, and it was definitely dead. Knowing my attitude to heights, they had it in the mail within ten minutes :) (He climbed a ladder?)

    It’s never too late esr to play with hardware. It can be an interesting intellectual exercise with totally different rules, and I would guess well outside your comfort zone. Good for the brain.

  25. As someone once said “avoid specialization”! Surely, being in the software silo and never dangling a foot over the hardware silo is specialization in the extreme. The two silos are figuratively welded together in ways that other branches of human endeavor can only hope for. So why not move around in them both? I silently speculated that this might be one of the reasons why you didn’t include (actually you consciously excluded) hardware hacking in your discussion of hacker culture. Perhaps now I think I understand why?

  26. There are even a few of us who have used real soldering irons, the ones that you heat up with a external flame.
    They don’t work real well with small stuff, but are good for putting pieces of tin sheet metal together.

  27. Useful use for soldering irons: Ever had a laptop where the power jack stopped working quite right? That is, you’d plug in the power cord, and sometimes it would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t, and sometimes you could get it to work for a while if you jiggled it in the socket?

    That happens because the connection between the power jack and the motherboard is often cheap and weak, and sometimes breaks. It’s expensive to have fixed if you can even find someone to do it, but you can repair it yourself with appropriate use of a soldering iron.

    Of course you have to get the motherboard out first, which can be a gigantic pain with all-proprietary parts and usually no documentation. Getting it back in is even worse. Which is why it’s hard to find someone to do it. Back in my computer-repair days, we were the only shop in town willing to take a crack at it. And honestly I was sort of making it up as I went along.

    It’s not fun, but it can save a lot of money for a stupid problem.

  28. Congrats, Eric! I had never seen the verb “to conflagrate” used previously. in addition to your acumen as software god and soldering tech, you are a notable wordsmith as well.

  29. Did you use a solder-sucker?

    Man…that brings back memories of desoldering chip after chip after chip after……..

    It’s a perishable skill though…I reckon I’d have to dig out some junk electronics to practice on without fear, before doing any real work.

    • >Did you use a solder-sucker?

      No. I wished for one, but what I ended up doing was simply heating the joint with the soldering iron in my left hand while putting slight tension on the wire with my right. When the solder melted enough the wire pulled free cleanly.

  30. @A:

    Useful use for soldering irons: Ever had a laptop where the power jack stopped working quite right?

    Yeah, my daughter’s. She dropped it onto the power jack. Twice.

    Of course you have to get the motherboard out first, which can be a gigantic pain

    54 screws and lots of bending and twisting on my daughter’s laptop.

    with all-proprietary parts and usually no documentation.

    For name brand laptops, you can usually find the repair manual online, and usually enough people have dropped them you can figure out the part you need. But yeah, once you figure out the part number, you can 3000 of them for 30 cents each. Fortunately, the free market has come to the rescue, and you can usually buy them in onsies for around 6 bucks:

    http://www.dcpowerjacks.net/catalog/index.php

    http://www.laptopjacks.com/

  31. “Did you use a solder-sucker?”

    Those things aren’t of much use with today’s components. Wicking is much more effective. Still, Eric’s use of melting the solder and pulling is often the way to go….for a through-hole component:
    1. Cut the body of the IC off of the pins and remove it.
    2. For each pin, grab it with your needle-nose, melt the solder and pull, gently.
    3. When all the pins have been removed, use the solder-wick to clean up the pad holes.

    …and for $DEITY’s sake…don’t listen to all the advice in the hobby books about using a small iron so you won’t damage heat sensitive transistors. Get a 40 watt model, preferably thermostatically controlled, that can take a fine tip. A 25-watter will leave you sitting there waiting until the board is all charred with the solder still unmelted.

  32. Actually, this is why I prefer a temperature-controlled iron: it’ll put enough heat on the joint, even if that takes more than the usual small amount.

    I generally don’t like pulling IC pins out of holes with heat applied. I’ve pulled too many through-hole platings out that way. I use a solder sucker, then apply just enough heat to detach the pin from whatever solder is left.

  33. But in this case, he was just removing a cable from a trashed power supply – in which case, burn, baby, burn!

  34. Useful use for soldering irons: Ever had a laptop where the power jack stopped working quite right? That is, you’d plug in the power cord, and sometimes it would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t, and sometimes you could get it to work for a while if you jiggled it in the socket?

    That happens because the connection between the power jack and the motherboard is often cheap and weak, and sometimes breaks. It’s expensive to have fixed if you can even find someone to do it, but you can repair it yourself with appropriate use of a soldering iron.

    Anyone who doubts that Apple is a truly innovative company has not thought through the implications of Apple’s magnetic power connector w.r.t. this very problem.

  35. William, you forgot the most frightening thing of all, an engineer with a compiler.

    No, I have generally found that EEs (specifically) an in general other sorts of Es can make the transition to software quite well, as one of the things that generally gets beat into “real” engineers heads is “failure kills people”, or at least “failure costs the company money”.

    A couple of guys from a Silicon Valley Startup were visiting a trade show in Reno, and decided to take the scenic route home, this involved 431 out of South Reno to 28 along the east side of Tahoe, then 50 for a bit to 89, and then 88 would take them into Stockton where they would pick up 580 and into the Bay Area.

    Somewhere between Silver Lake and the turn off for Bear Lake Resort–on a long downhill, as luck would have it–the brakes on their rental car went out.

    The guy driving–a Systems Admin by trade–did everything he could think of (and being a SA, he was quick witted and stable in a crisis) to get the car stopped. He used the guard rails to burn off speed–and paint, he got the car sideways, and almost lost it when a tire blew. But finally he got the car stopped RIGHT on the edge of a cliff.

    The three got out and by the car staring at their cellphones and waiting for the shakes to stop before trying see if the 2 bars on their phones would give them enough signal to call for help (note, don’t ever leave on a trip when everyone has the same cellphone provider and company provided phone).

    The Engineer was the first one to speak, and in a voice of disgust he said “You know, if they’d have designed and built those brakes right this wouldn’t have happened”.

    The SA disagreed saying “The design is fine, if they’d have done proper maintenance on them it wouldn’t have happened”.

    The programmer put his phone in his pocket and opened the trunk. He said “Let’s get this tire replaced, take it back up and see if she’ll do it again”.

  36. Anyone who doubts that Apple is a truly innovative company has not thought through the implications of Apple’s magnetic power connector w.r.t. this very problem.

    Google “magsafe repair”.

    I got my mangler at work to buy me a second power unit so I could leave one at work and one at home *so I wouldn’t break them*. I attempted (and failed) to get one apart so I could replace the wire on it (where I would have had to learn to solder, which is On My List).

    So no, they didn’t entirely fix the problem, just moved it outside of the computer to a cheaper part. Oh, and because if their INSISTENCE that every part of the package be over-designed, they made it more expensive to replace because it’s proprietary AND more fragile.

  37. @Patrick Maupin that issue is nothing to do with the magsafe technology – I had basically the same exact problem once on a pre-magsafe powerbook. And it’s fundamentally a solved problem – every other manufacturer’s cord has a somewhat bulky strain relief thing that prevents it from ever being an issue. But Apple didn’t like the aesthetics, and thought they knew better.

  38. Apple has a tendency, in general, to go for as thin/flimsy as possible with their wires and connectors – I’ve observed this on their headphones and on their USB cables, and I’ve also seen the exact same fraying issue on numerous 30-pin iPod connectors (No data on Lightning yet). Apple’s official support page for the barrel-type connector actually has a picture of it happening at the point where the cord enters the power block.

    I suspect it’s an image thing – with their markup it can’t possibly be about shaving pennies off the cost.

  39. @Random832:

    > that issue is nothing to do with the magsafe technology

    Exactly. Same basic technology was 20 years old, and working fine with much higher voltages, with deep fryers.

    > But Apple didn’t like the aesthetics, and thought they knew better.

    That’s one of the reasons I’m not an Apple guy. I like the aesthetics of the Caterpillar phones much better.

  40. >> caterpillar phone
    I thought Patrick was kidding till I googled for them. I wonder if the service, both quality and length will be the same as their tractors was when I was a heavy equipment mechanic in a different life.

    Honest to , twenty five years ago or so, when I called for parts for a 1948 engine, the next question was “New or used”. Then “Sorry sir, it will be three or four days for those parts. They are currently on the east coast.”

    International Huff loaders from the late 60’s (then around 20 years old) was “Nope, we don’t sell any of those parts. You will have to call the junk yards for them.”

    Expensive parts, but always available from Cat.

    Jim

  41. > Exactly. Same basic technology was 20 years old, and working fine with much higher voltages, with deep fryers.

    Right, but what I’m saying is more that the cord fraying issue has nothing to do with the use of magnetic connectors at all – it’s an older issue even on Apple products, not properly associated with even their original implementation of it. I think the root cause is actually their use of soft white rubber for insulation.

  42. @Jim: “I thought Patrick was kidding till I googled for them. I wonder if the service, both quality and length will be the same as their tractors was when I was a heavy equipment mechanic in a different life.”

    Unlikely, because you simply won’t be using the phone that long. As technology changes, you are likely to get a new one in a few years. Their concern is that the one you have will work properly under harsh conditions until you *do* decide it’s time for a newer model.

    (As far as I can tell, the phone is actually made for Caterpillar under an OEM deal, by an outfit who licensed the right to use the brand name. Caterpillar was likely fairly rigorous about qualifying them. “Our products are built to last. If you want to use our brand name on your products, they’d better be too,”)

    “Honest to , twenty five years ago or so, when I called for parts for a 1948 engine, the next question was “New or used”. Then “Sorry sir, it will be three or four days for those parts. They are currently on the east coast.””

    IIRC, John Deere is similar: it’s a point of pride that if they made it, you can still get parts and service for it, and there are Deere tractors built in the ’30s still in use in places like Latin America.
    ______
    Dennis

  43. @Random832:

    Right, but what I’m saying is more that the cord fraying issue has nothing to do with the use of magnetic connectors at all

    I’m not disagreeing, merely pointing out to Jeff Read that Apple’s “innovation” in this instance was to take perfectly good 20 year old technology and add a significant (and significantly unsafe) point of failure right next to it. Way to go, Apple!

  44. Mix soldering with an enthusiasm for working on old-ish cars and you’ll learn some odd things, first hand. For example, Europe didn’t master industrial soldering until at least 10 (maybe 15) years after America and Japan did. The first time I cut open a Bosch module from the 80s, I suddenly understood how those expensive luxury cars had earned their reputations as shop ornaments. They got better at it, of course, but they also kept pushing the boundaries so that it seemed like every car had at least one module that was slightly beyond their ability to solder reliably.

    Chinese electronics are educational too. Solder wise, they seem to fall mostly into two camps, the first being clones of the very effective and reliable Japanese automated processes. Sadly, products of the second camp appear to have been hand soldered by drunken cavemen. (Components and counterfeits are a whole ‘nother story.)

  45. No, Apple isn’t the only company making power cords that fray.

    I have an Acer netbook, and the power cords are cheap as crap and about as good (about $6 + shipping; be sure to get two or more, since if the wire doesn’t break, the inside of one of the connectors will come out…) A month or two ago, the wire on my last one snapped just above the little wart, and it would be a few days to mail-order a replacement. I picked up some electrical solder at the local hardware store ($6 for a smallish coil; they only had the tin-lead stuff, which is quite fine by me) and used a wood-burning kit to solder it.
    Working fine, now.

    That was my first use of electrical solder, but I’ve soldered plumbing with a torch many times previously.

  46. @kjj:

    Sadly, products of the second camp appear to have been hand soldered by drunken cavemen.

    Don’t forget the third camp, where somebody who knew what they were doing reflow-soldered all the SMT stuff, and then the drunken cavemen attached the wires.

    (Components and counterfeits are a whole ‘nother story.)

    Yes, and interestingly, completely orthogonal to the soldering problem. I’ve seen really good solder jobs on really bad capacitors.

  47. @ kjj
    Crack open a Bosch magneto from 1910 and tell me what you think of European industrial soldering technique. I’m sitting here looking at a couple of shop ornaments from 1910 running on their original maggies. Old-ish is a matter of perspective.

  48. @Yet Another Darren on 2014-12-30 at 00:51:09

    My 1970s Bang & Olufsen 4004 has beautiful circuit boards inside, hand soldered. I guess I should have specified wave/reflow circuit boards rather than using the generic “industrial”.

    @Patrick Maupin on 2014-12-30 at 00:31:32

    Indeed. Bad capacitors appear to be the leading non-sokder cause of death of Chinese electronics in my house.

  49. >I’m actually a bit surprised this is the first time you’ve used a soldering iron. Given what you’ve done over the years, I’d have expected other excuses before now.

    I’ll second that.

    Note to Cathy:
    If you ever want to get Eric out of your hair for a week or so, buy him an Arduino or Raspberry-pi and a breadboard starter kit. Both make hacking hardware about as painless as hacking software.

  50. “I tried soldering with a torch once. Realised that you need special solder when the flux caught fire.”

    Actually, you need special flux, which you brush on externally. The solder is solid – that is, the flux is not included inside it.

  51. Yes your flux was on fire. You can buy solder with different kinds of flux, or no flux.

    Some of the better fluxes are quite volatile, so even with electronics soldering with flux core solder, additionsl flux can be quite useful.

  52. They probably should have worried about me when I started my current job. A few days in, one of my cubical neighbors was asking if anyone had a screwdriver and I pulled one right out of my bag.

    I’ve used a soldering iron a fair bit over the years. I remember my first experience was rewiring a pair of Radio Shack Nova 10 headphones back in the mid 80s. Of course, back then a pair of headphones were so big that taking them apart and replacing the cord was very easy to do. Nowadays everything is so small, it’s often impossible to fix (at least for me).

  53. No kidding.  A few years ago, a neighbor kid had a broken set of ear buds.  I took a look at them.  The wires down to the plug were single-strand copper about the thickness of magnet wire.  With an exceedingly delicate touch I suppose I could have stripped and soldered good joints in them, but with such fragile wire they’d be certain to break somewhere else as soon as they were stressed a little bit.

    Such stuff is probably best disassembled for the magnets.

  54. “The wires down to the plug were single-strand copper about the thickness of magnet wire.”

    In olden days of yore, days of 2000 ohm magnetic earphones (slanged as ‘cans’), the cords were made of tinsel wrapped around a core of cotton threads. Various ham radio/electronics magazines would give hints on how to solder them – except that none of the hints actually worked. (You’d end up with blobs of solder on your workbench and carbonized cotton threads.) Either you’d have to buy a new cord, or rewire the existing one with real wire.

  55. Wow… I can actually do something Tech better than Eric S. Raymond! I learned how to solder in 1983 in calibration school, and had to take a soldering class where I was certified to solder to NASA spec when I worked for Apple back in the early 90’s.

    Yep. Hardware guy first. Then learned some of the art of coding.

    Good deal though! It is much easier to master than coding in any language with just a bit of regular practice.

    Remember use the special SMT (Surface Mount Technology) low temp digital tip for all digital circuitry and any surface mounted components, but it’s ok to use a hot soldering iron for big components like Capacitors and Resistors, and really any other analog components in the power supply or on the power supply circuit of the motherboard, and use extra flux whenever possible whether soldering or desoldering to speed up getting the solder into a good flowing state.

  56. Reminds me of one joke:
    “The three most dangerous things in the world are a programmer with a soldering iron, a hardware type with a program patch and a user with an idea.”
    – _The Wizardry Compiled_ by Rick Cook

  57. I had the same problem with a monitor being used by my uncle just a few weeks ago, he’s a farmer and was going to trash it, but replacing the caps with new ones off digikey worked for me… Hope your repairs go as well as mine did, good luck!

  58. I just watched TV show that doesn’t like names… 24 #2AFF19 where Jack gets tortured with a soldering iron. A couple hours later, he’s chasing his world’s best Audacity hacker. Unlike this hacker, however, ESR is not completely useless with weapons.

    I do find it truly hilarious how the stuff labeled with “No user serviceable parts inside” are easier to fix (as long as you don’t discharge them through your buttocks.) But perhaps that’s because you’re no longer a mere “user” when the iron’s hot. …and I don’t think my tip’s big enough to handle the OP job without any solder wick/puller (I have a very, very slight preference for solder wick, but that might be because I’ve never used a motorized solder sucker, only the awkward spring-loaded reverse syringe type.)

  59. >Hell, I’ve still got most of a pound of very good, 24-gauge solder I’ve had for years. You can have that when you pry my Glock form my cold dead fingers.

    At some point a few years ago, it sounded like leaded solder was about to go the way of leaded gasoline, so I bought a couple of rolls: different diameters, different compositions (60/40 vs. 63/37…probably should’ve just gotten 63/37, in hindsight).

    Fast-forward to the present…walk into Fry’s and you’ll still find leaded solder on the shelf. Oh, well…the quarter-pound roll I bought from DigiKey in the early ’90s lasted maybe 15 years at my rate of use, so the two one-pound rolls I now have might well outlive me.

    As an aside, I’ve had this on hold for a while:

    https://github.com/salfter/ReflowToaster

    It’s half-built…figured I’d assemble and test the microcontroller bit first, then add in the oven interface bits. So far, it’s not responding to the usual Arduino tools when I plug it in to another Arduino that’s supposed to serve as a programmer. I don’t know if my USB connections are FUBAR (tried reflowing them in the toaster oven under manual control) or if there’s something else going on.

  60. Soldering tip: if the soldering iron is rolling off the table, let it go. Throw your hands over your head and watch it hit the floor. No good can come of trying to catch it. You’ll want to catch it, and it doesn’t look hot, but a dynamic soldering iron is bad news.

  61. You can’t catch it by the cord? There’s got to be some middle ground between burned hands and melted carpet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *