03 April 2011

The Z-Team and connectors...

I first got into fixing TCs, when my own 500GB unit (Mark 1) stopped working after about 17 to 18 months.
Like many before me I trawled the internet looking for what to do, since it was beyond its 1-year warranty and Apple’s response was ‘tea and sympathy’ (but without the tea) but nothing to help me.

Let me explain... I am an engineer, mechanical (by upbringing) and electrical / electronic by formal training and qualifications. I worked as a design engineer (technical director) when I had my own company in the early 1980s selling a product called ‘EUTECHNICS’, which was a name used for a CAD 2D draughting and 3D solid modelling system. I have merely used the name again, since I liked it so much the first time round!

When things go wrong I look for the reason why they have failed. There are probably many good reasons for doing this, I may have been a complete twerp and done something stupid, so if I know that, I won’t do it again. My Dad (85 and still going strong) is of the ‘make do and mend’ generation and simply had no choice when a young man that if something was broken, if you did not fix it, it remained broken! My Grandmother and Mum (died in 1999 and now 86 and still going strong, respectively) could give lessons in thrift that would simply not be believed today, in our throw-away society.

If Apple would not help me... then sod it, I’ll do it myself! I got some vital early-day help from Ray Haverfield in Australia and some timely encouragement from Dale Mosher in the USA, who was doing the same thing at the same time. The recommended route by Ray was to put the PSU ‘OUTSIDE’ the TC case. From an engineering point of view, this is a quite desirable thing to do. All the hot bits are away from all the delicate bits.

Ray and Dale (and others) do this as a service to fellow Apple users and I have no doubts whatsoever that reliability is now the watchword for their conversions. I have nothing but praise and thanks for these guys.

HOWEVER, no matter how I tried (and I did try very hard indeed) I simply could not make the external PSU and joining cable look as if they had been made that way. I am very fussy about these things and it was really annoying me. I could not find a decent connector or cable clip that looked like it was meant to do the job as intended. I half carved up my TC case to make the external power cable from the PSU go inside the case via a cable gland. It did not look good, to my overly fussy, everything-in-its-place, button down mind! The PSU was in a black case and no matter how I tried it looked like it was a repair. (I have often been told, if there is a hard way of doing something - Chris Fackrell will find that method and take that route!!).

I abandoned the external PSU option in favour of finding out why the Apple design was so crappy (special technical phrase) allowing the TC to cook itself to death.

The internal fan, so beautifully fitted in the corner, seemed to be wrong in so many ways... (I have listed these points before and without care for repetition list them here again!)...

1. The internal fan, other than a brief spin at power on, never seemed to come on. (It actually does, just before the case melts but that seemed a bit extreme)
2. It did not blow into the heat producing part of the TC - namely the power supply unit. It is pointing at the side of the hard drive - which is solid aluminium and very good at blocking the airflow.
3. This is the biggy... there was NO AIR INLET HOLE for the fan to get cool air!

Just what the hell were Apple doing signing off this design to manufacture? Hadn’t they noticed? Lord help the design engineer that missed this beauty.
It makes me think of the ‘automatic parachute’ design. Everything worked splendidly but not usefully as it opened on impact.

So... me doing ANYTHING to this design clanger would be an improvement. You cannot rotate the fan to point into the PSU because of the support pillar in the corner of the case. It gets in the way. I tried carving a hole in the side of the fan and that did cool the PSU down, but it felt like a bodge. What had gone wrong with the design? When looking at the fan mounted on the baseplate it is so very easy to see that it should blow through the outer casing of the PSU; one is designed to fit the other! Almost by accident it occurred to me that if I turned the fan OVER it would suck air into the unintended opening on the wrong side but that it would still work! The damn pillars are too long and would need to be fiddled with and the speed is either ‘off’ or screaming its head off, flat out at full speed!

The rest I waffle on about in the website under the Process, blah blah.

I absolutely refuse to accept that a modification to an original factory-manufactured product will always look like a patch has been added. If I am careful and meticulous with what I do, it should look like Apple made it that way!

Today though I repay a friend who kindly sent me bits to help me fix one of my very first ‘customer’s’ power supply units. The helpful friend is Dale in the USA and the customer became a very good friend indeed when he started up this website as way of thanks because I would not take his money! Allen Burton of ‘Apple-Allen’ fame is a true gentleman and genius-nutcase that I am pleased to call associate. (and friend). He and I created the Z-Team in a moment of utter madness. How we laughed... :-)

Today I have finally found some connectors to send to Dale. These will allow him to connect directly to the TC mother board and hard disk drive without having to ransack the removed PSU. He can make ‘proper’ power leads. I’ll advise Ray as well.

I feel good having found the parts and knowing I’ve helped. This was once what I did as part of one of my jobs. I was a component engineer in the manufacturing department of SYSTIME COMPUTERS, I rose to the heady heights of Quality Manager, so feel I can speak with some experience.

Long long ago in those CAD days of the early 1980s, I was asked by the software writers if I could design a quick and dirty method of inputting positional data rather than using the vast A0 Extended drawing boards to put in X and Y co-ordinates. I designed a simple sheet of glass with a coating of Indium-Tin-Oxide sputtered onto the surface that would give X and Y coordinates to the computer from any point on the surface... I had the preliminary patent on this (1 year then public domain)... this was being very rapidly developed and funded; financial institutions were knocking at the door... life seemed very good. Wow... this became the ‘mouse pad’.

THEN, from the blue Carol was diagnosed with a Ewing’s Sarcoma. She was only 28 and we had just had our third son...

Needless to say, I forgot about the patent and sadly I became a single parent to my boys. Life’s wonderful and rich pattern eh? I wouldn’t have demanded much money for the mouse pad on later laptops... 1/2p per PC would have done me.

Postage and supplies have to rise!

Prices have risen... I must pass them on... :-(
On the up side however, the UPSIZING I offer has come down in price from £199 to £185! :-)