Liquid-damaged 3DS consoles

This entire entry is about why I no longer avoid liquid-damage auctions as much as I used to, but even I wouldn't mess with this shit.

This entire blog entry is about why I no longer avoid liquid-damage auctions as much as I used to, but even I wouldn’t mess with this shit.

One of the greatest things I’ve recently discovered about repairing 3DS consoles — and any small electronic gadget in general — is that I really don’t need to be avoiding “liquid damage” items as I once thought. Now, with mobile phones there’s the ick factor involved, since we’ve all seen people who use a mobile phone while in the restroom and, of course, when you see a liquid damaged mobile phone in an auction you can’t help but wonder if it fell in the toilet. That’s something I’m still not sure I would want to mess with. When it comes to 3DS consoles, however, the risk of the item touching shit or piss is far less since I think that the number of people who use a 3DS while on the toilet is far less than the number of people who use mobile phones while on the toilet. In other words, it’s not zero, but it’s a relatively low risk.

With mobile phones you more often have damage caused by the phone becoming completely submerged in a liquid (such as toilet water or a puddle in the street). However, because of the nature of a 3DS it’s more likely that liquid-damaged 3DS consoles experienced spillage, rather than submergence. It’s easy to imagine a clumsy person sitting, let’s say, on the couch with a beverage on the coffee table. Maybe this clumsy person sets the 3DS down next to the beverage and the beverage somehow spills. Spillage means that it’s often the case that the screens are not damaged and that there is less time in contact with the liquid , which means less widespread corrosion.

I have repaired six or seven heavily liquid-damaged 3DS consoles and, contrary to the warnings I see all the time, I haven’t yet seen one with any blown fuses. I’ve read warnings all over the place about liquid damaged consoles where people cry wolf, “It’s a waste of money because they all have blown fuses which are too hard to replace so you end up replacing the whole motherboard instead”. That’s hogwash.

When I get a liquid-damaged console I first take some WD-40 and spray a bit into each external screw hole. I let the console sit for about 45 minutes before attempting to open it. This is because the screws rust easily. I sometimes have to use WD-40 even for non-liquid-damaged consoles, but in the case of liquid-damage it is especially important because if you try to remove those small screws when rusty you can very easily strip them.

99% alcohol and a soft toothbrush are the main tools here. Yes, it’s pretty low-tech, but you often don’t need much of anything else. I take out all the internal screws, remove the WiFi board, SD card slot, analog stick, IR sensor, camera, and speaker ribbon cables. I take the motherboard out and scrub it clean with the alcohol and toothbrush. It’s fine to be rough on the board. Nothing will come off the board. It’s all soldered on there well. The key is to get every nook and cranny. The fuses are most likely fine. Let it dry and hold a battery to the connector. If it works, great. Connect screens and speaker and try to power on. If it works, reassemble. If no power, keep scrubbing. If still no power after cleaning the board very well, then get out a multimeter and do a continuity test on the fuses.

I recently had a console with only slight liquid damage near the battery connector area and it exhibited strange symptoms. I had scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed the board front and back to pristine condition, but the trouble persisted. The symptom was that the instant you pressed the battery to the connector the orange charge light would immediately turn on and one to two seconds later it would boot on its own. Once powered on it both charged and functioned totally normally and you could press the power button to turn it off. However, once you turned it off, the only way to power it back on was to remove the battery and then re-connect it, at which point the orange light would turn on again and it would power on one to two seconds later. I had no idea what was wrong, so I set it aside for a while and worked on some other consoles. A few days later I decided to turn it on to check all the other functions to make sure they still worked. When I tested WiFi I got the “An error has occurred. Press and hold the POWER Button to turn the system off. Please refer to the Operations Manual for details” message. This was strange, since WiFi had worked when I first tested it after cleaning the board. Nevertheless, I took a Post-it note, wrote “check wifi board” on it, and stuck it to the console and set it down for a few more days. Eventually I had some spare time one day and decided to open the console back up and check to see if the WiFi board was loose. I popped it off and just as I did so, I noticed the tiniest bit of corrosion just peeking out from beneath the metal frame on which the WiFi board rests. I took a spudger and lifted up the metal frame and, sure enough, there was some sludge under there.

Just this tiny amount of corrosion was enough to break WiFi and cause weird power and battery problems.

Just this tiny amount of corrosion was enough to break WiFi and cause weird power and battery problems.

Thirty seconds of scrubbing cleaned the area up. I bent the metal frame back into place, popped the WiFi board back on and, sure enough, this fixed all the problems with the 3DS. Yes, it fixed the battery and power issues, too. The charge light no longer turned on when I connected a battery. It no longer booted automatically as soon as the battery was connected. WiFi worked. I could turn it on and off reliably using the power button. Just this small amount of contamination can mess your system up. The good news though is that, once you find it, it’s generally very easy to clean and fix the problem.

Changing gears here, another reason that people avoid liquid-damaged consoles is because, there’s a widespread belief that a liquid-damaged LCD must be replaced. It’s common to see mobile phones that the owner put in rice or something after getting them wet to save the motherboard. And sure, those phones work, but if you look at the LCD you see those drying marks that get left behind. Even quickly putting a device in a bag of rice doesn’t necessarily save it from those drying marks, often described by unscrupulous eBay sellers as “cloudiness” of the LCD. “Cloudy LCD” means “device dropped in the toilet” in eBay doubletalk. It’s like how “genuine” means “it is tangible” and not “it is made under license from the IP owner”. Anyway, those LCDs don’t necessarily need to be replaced. You can remove those drying marks. While you can’t restore the LCD to like-new condition, you can make it good enough for resale in many cases.

Now, I don’t know the proper terminology or even how exactly an LCD works, but it doesn’t really matter for my purposes. The LCD has several “papery” layers behind it. There is a reflective layer, then a backlight, then a slightly transparent white layer, and then some others that I forget the order of. We need to wipe all of those papery layers clean, since that’s where the drying marks are. When the backlight shines, those drying marks are made visible on the screen. In other words, it’s like taking the greasy wrapper that a burrito came in and holding a flashlight in front of it. If you do so, all the grease marks become more prominent on the semi-transparent burrito wrapper. But unlike a burrito wrapper, the papery layers behind the LCD can be cleaned with tap water. I use about 50% alcohol and 50% tap water. I originally used 99% alcohol but I found that it was too strong and left streaks. Tap water on its own will work fine though. I just use the 50% alcohol to help it dry faster.

Open the metal frame of the LCD and the backmost layer is this shiny one. On the left is the the metal frame.

Open the metal frame of the LCD and the backmost layer is this shiny one. On the left is the metal frame.

In this picture the LCD is on the left. On the right are the various layers and backlight that must be cleaned.

In this picture the LCD is on the left. On the right are the various layers and backlight that must be cleaned.

Anyway, just remove the metal frame in which the LCD is held. On the 3DS there are some clips that you can open using your fingernails. Above is what it looks like when you open up the top LCD of the 3DS. The first (backmost) layer is the shiny one. The easiest way I’ve found, so far, to clean these things without getting any marks or fingerprints on them is using a combination of one pair of microfiber eyeglass cleaning cloths and a pair of rubber-tipped tweezers. We must clean both sides of each layer, so it’s important to make a plan of action before we start. I put the microfiber cloth over my fingertip and hold the layer down as I clean it using a cotton swab and a half tap water half alcohol solution. I then dry it using a second microfiber cloth (while holding it down using my fingertip covered by the first microfiber cloth). I flip the layer over using the rubber-tipped tweezers and repeat on the back. After doing this for each layer I close the screen up and test.

Yes, that's a coffee maker in the upper left. The kitchen is the only place with the right lighting for this type of cleaning. Checking for smudges or specks of dust is important and good lighting is indispensable.

Yes, that’s a coffee maker in the upper left. The kitchen is the only place with the right lighting for this type of cleaning. Checking for smudges or specks of dust is important and good lighting is indispensable. There’s nothing worse than screwing a console back together only to find that you have overlooked a speck of dust remaining under the LCD.

To test we need to connect the lower LCD, speakers, and upper LCD to the motherboard. The two little ribbons cables from the upper LCD must be connected to the appropriate connectors on the speaker/3D/brightness ribbon cable.

To test we need to connect the lower LCD, speakers, and upper LCD to the motherboard. The two little ribbons cables from the upper LCD must be connected to the appropriate connectors on the speaker/3D/brightness ribbon cable. It’s a tough balancing act connecting all those things, holding the battery in place, and taking a photograph all at the same time!

We check for streaks, dust, or any other blemishes at this point, since it would be a colossal pain in the ass to install the upper LCD, camera, speakers, WiFi antenna, and reassemble the housing only to find afterwards that there was some schmutz left under the LCD. Yes, this has happened to me before and no, you would not have wanted to be in the room at the time.

In the end this screen was 100% fixable. Sure, replacing it would be less work, but you can save money by cleaning it instead.

In the end this screen was 100% fixable. Sure, replacing it would be less work, but you can save money by cleaning it instead.

To connect this to my earlier point, it is far easier to clean these LCDs and get them in excellent condition suitable for resale when the liquid damage was of the spillage variety, rather than submergence. I’ve had some LCDs that I tried this process on that were just not salvageable because there was so much dirt in there that I couldn’t clean it all off without leaving streak marks. But if there are just some drying marks here and there on the LCD there is a good chance that you can clean them off well enough that you would never be able to tell there was liquid damage afterwards. Although 3DS screens are rather inexpensive, this can save you some money on parts, especially if both screens are liquid-damaged.

ePacket is just so ridiculously fast it’s unbelievable

Ever since I first read about the cooperation amongst China Post, Hong Kong Post and the USPS to make the ePacket service possible a couple of years ago, I’ve been trying, whenever possible, to buy from eBay and Aliexpress sellers who use ePacket for customers in the United States.

Prior to ePacket I would get lots of parcels from China, Hong Kong, and Singapore sent by ordinary air mail, which would take between 2 and 3 weeks to arrive. Of course, even back then it was a bit faster to the U.S. than to many other countries, but 2 to 3 weeks is still enough of a wait to make it so that, price being equal, I used to buy from U.S. sellers because it was faster.

With ePacket though, as long as price is equal, there’s absolutely no reason for me to buy from a U.S. seller rather than a seller in China or Hong Kong. If I get an item sent by first class mail from, say, California it would take about 3 to 4 business days to arrive here in New York. That’s assuming the seller ships immediately. Now let’s compare with this parcel sent by ePacket that I ordered just recently:

ePacket to the U.S. is at least as fast as EMS.

ePacket to the U.S. is at least as fast as EMS.

ePacket is not always this quick, but it’s not at all unusual for the item to make it here to NY in just a few days. I remember the first time I ever had something sent to me by ePacket it wasn’t much better than ordinary air mail. But over the past year or so it seems to have gotten much faster, at least to my location.

Two neat things I’ve noticed by tracking ePacket parcels is that, at least according to the tracking info, they seem to get sorted at the EMS sort facilities. The other thing, which may or may not be mere coincidence, is that I’ve never had ePacket parcels held up at customs. With ordinary air mail it’s rare for my packages to be held up at U.S. customs for more than a few days, but I’ve had items shipped to me occasionally that have been stuck for up to 14 days yet never opened or inspected in any way that I could detect. With ePacket I never even see a scan at customs. The first scan I see after the origin sort facility is always a local sort facility, rather than ISC New York. I guess ePacket must still get processed through customs like any other package, but it sure is a lot faster.

Frankenstein 3DS XL (my adventure in housing and LCD replacement)

When I saw this I knew saving the console was worth my time.

I bought this console with no information about it other than a picture. When it arrived and I saw this I knew saving the console was worth my time. God, I love eBay.

So Halloween just passed and I’ve graverobbed together a nice GW3DS compatible 3DS XL for myself out of two broken consoles. I had first bought a console with a broken hinge, thinking I might fix it. However, I quickly realized that, if I could play my cards right, I might save a bit of money and a whole lot of time by combining two broken consoles together to make one functional console, instead of buying replacement parts separately. The other reason I chose to go this route is that replacement 3DS XL parts are few and far between. There are no Chinese companies that I’m aware of that make replacement housing parts yet, and the only time that official Nintendo replacement housing comes up for sale is when somebody is parting out their own console, which is not an everyday occurrence even on eBay. There are some companies that make aftermarket replacement LCD screens, but they’re usually quite expensive.

When I received the console the first thing I did was check that there was nothing else wrong with it besides the lower LCD. This was a risky move, since you never know what sorts of problems sellers will leave undisclosed on eBay auctions. They may mention one thing that’s wrong with the console but neglect to mention several other larger issues. Fortunately, when I got the above console the only thing wrong with it was that the lower LCD had some slight damage that caused those vertical lines in the picture. There were also cracks in the front housing. Luckily the uupper housing was not broken so I didn’t have to go through the trouble of rolling the ribbon cables through the hinge. I took a good lower LCD and digitizer from another console I had purchased with smashed up housing and bought a replacement front housing section for $15.

3ds xl lower lcd3ds xl replacement front housing

The first step, of course, is disassembly. The best method, by the way, to remove those two little rubber things on the bottom of the console without damaging them is to use a sewing needle to pry them up.
DSCF4154

3DS XL disassembly is only very slightly different from a normal 3DS. Once you remove the battery cover, battery, and back housing the motherboard is revealed.
3ds xl motherboard

We then remove all those little tiny screws on the right, left, and bottom center of the board. There are 10 in total. We also remove the two very long screws that hold the analog stick control mechanism in place. There’s a round, papery thing beneath the analog stick control mechanism that you’ll want to put aside so it doesn’t fall out and go missing. You also need to remove the WiFi board (it pulls right off) and disconnect the antenna cable from it. Finally, disconnect the bottom LCD and digitizer, the speakers, and camera ribbon cables from the motherboard. Use your fingernail to open up the clips and gently pull the ribbon cables out.

Now we can lift the motherboard free of the lower housing.

Now we can lift the motherboard free of the lower housing.

The top LCD ribbon cable is still connected in the upper right of the above picture. Disconnect that. Now the motherboard is completely free.

This is the ugly, cracked piece of the housing that I wanted to replace.

This is the ugly, cracked piece of the housing that I wanted to replace.

To replace the front section of the housing it’s necessary to open up the top housing. Remove the four square rubbery pads surrounding the top screen. Again, if you use a sewing needle for this you can probably manage to remove them without any damage so that you can later re-use them. They were already damaged on my console so I wasn’t particularly careful and ended up destroying one and losing another. Remove the four screws beneath.

Once you remove those four screws you need to push hard on the back part of the top shell. It’s hard to explain, but if you put the console on your lap with the back of it (i.e. the side with the charge port) against your torso and push forward on the top housing using your two thumbs it’ll slide upwards and off. I looked at these pictures to figure it out at first, but contrary to what the photographer writes, you definitely don’t need to use a screwdriver or anything else to pry it open. You can easily do it with just your thumbs. You push forwards, not upwards, and it slides off.

Here's the big mess I made out of two consoles. It all works out in the end though.

Here’s the big mess I made out of two consoles. It all works out in the end though.

I’m not proud to say it but I couldn’t figure out how to slide the left hinge inside of the top housing in order to cleanly separate the top and bottom sections of the console. On a normal-sized 3DS you can stick a small screwdriver or a pair of tweezers into the top leftmost section of the bottom housing and push the hinge inside the upper housing, allowing you to separate the two halves of the console. I couldn’t figure out how to do this for the 3DS XL though. So, in the end, I used a pair of pliers to crack open the upper left corner of the lower housing since it was already cracked a small bit. This revealed the hinge. I then pushed it into the top housing using a small screwdriver. This allowed me to separate the two halves. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it made no difference since I was destroying a part that was already broken anyway. Below is the hinge position that will let you separate the two halves. The hinge is in the same position in both photos; they’re just taken from two different angles.

Hinge pushed inside the upper housing.Second angle.

Once separated we simply slip the ribbon cables and WiFi antenna cable out through the slit in the original lower housing and pull them through. We then slip them into the slit in the replacement housing.

Top screen assembly installed in the replacement lower housing.

Top screen assembly installed in the replacement lower housing.

Before replacing the back of the top housing make sure the 3D slider is in place. It’s very likely to fall off. Also make sure the speakers are in place. When you’re ready to replace the back section of the top housing make sure you push the hinge back inside the lower housing. When you first push the hinge into the lower housing it will slide in and feel like it’s in place properly, but it most likely isn’t. Don’t be fooled! You need to push it quite hard once more after that and will go in a bit farther so that it’s nearly completely hidden inside the lower housing. Here are comparison images of the hinge in different positions:

Hinge open. Top half can be separated from lower half when in this position.

Hinge open. Top half can be separated from lower half when in this position.

Hinge not fully inside lower housing.

Hinge not fully inside lower housing.

Hinge fully inside lower housing. Halves cannot be separated. The console will now "click" open and closed like normal.

Hinge fully inside lower housing. Halves cannot be separated. The console will now “click” open and closed like normal.

Now you can replace the back part of the top screen housing. Just push the two pieces together. It’ll click into place. At this point reassembly is just the opposite of disassembly. There are guides for the ordinary 3DS and the 3DS XL isn’t much different. I would recommend that, before closing the console up, you test it by simply holding the battery in place, flipping the motherboard over, and pressing the power button with your finger.
DSCF4346

If you hear a popping noise then double check that both screens are properly connected. Also check for debris on the connectors. You don’t need to connect everything to do the test. You just need both LCDs connected. You can leave the WiFi module and analog stick disconnected when testing and the console should still power on.

Once I confirmed that everything was connected properly, I screwed the thing back together and gave it a test. I had noticed before the repair that there were parental controls on the console because when I had tried to format it I got the following screen:

oh no! what i do now?

oh no! what i do now?

The last two times I bought a locked 3DS console on eBay I had to call Nintendo and pretend to be a morbidly forgetful parent who not only forgot his PIN but also the answer to his secret question in order to get a master code. Well, that was all before neimod cracked parental controls earlier this year. No more embarrassingly bad acting! This time I was able to remove the parental controls easily and quickly in my own home. Now all is right in the world. Eventually I’ll get around to replacing the battery cover and the top housing since they’re scuffed up pretty damned badly. But for now I’m satisfied with the console being 100% functional and Gateway compatible. I put my own parental controls on it to make sure I don’t accidentally update it!

3ds xl repaired

All in all, the two consoles and the replacement housing piece probably cost me about $180 so it’s not like I saved much money. I could’ve bought a brand-new 3DS XL from 2012 with firmware ~4.3 for not much more than that. But it’s so much more fun and satisfying playing a console when you know you’re the one who saved it from the trash bin.

Cleaning stinky, pre-owned eBay headphones

I never knew headphones could be as stinky as this pair that I bought on eBay.

I never knew headphones could be as stinky as this pair that I bought on eBay.

I got a great bargain on eBay, gambling on a “for parts or not working” auction. I bought a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 headphones. When I got them I disinfected them first with some Lysol and 99% isopropyl alcohol. I eagerly put them on and listened to a few songs I knew well to test them out. At first I thought, “Wow, these work just fine”. The next day, however, I noticed that the balance seemed very slightly off. The right speaker seemed just a bit weaker than the left. After checking that it wasn’t a problem with my sound card drivers I recalled that I had read somewhere that people occasionally assume they have a faulty pair of headphones when they notice a balance problem, failing to realize that it could just be that the driver has slipped out of place. I removed the pads and unscrewed the two screws underneath the right one and, sure enough, the driver had slipped out of the clip that holds it in place.
Sennheiser HD280 02Sennheiser HD280 03

It was only a few centimeters out of place so that’s why the difference was so very subtle that I didn’t notice it at first. I clipped it back in place so it was nice and snug, closed up the headphones, and then tested them, comparing them with my Sony MDR-7506. One of the most useful websites to test that your headphones are working properly is the ultimate headphones test.

After listening to these headphones for a few weeks I’m very happy to say that the only thing wrong with them was that the driver was physically out of place. The balance is now perfect.

Once I was sure that they were 100% functional my next task was eliminating the smell. The previous owner must have worn one hell of a lot of cologne, because these headphones reek of the stuff. The initial disinfection routine of Lysol and alcohol that I performed when I first took them out of the box was nowhere near enough. I tried using a bit more alcohol and cleaned the pads with a cotton ball but it didn’t help too much either. These things were soaked through and through with a powerful cologne stench.

The pads are actually very easy to remove. I had trouble figuring it out at first, but all you have to do is pull them out from the groove surrounding the earpiece into which they’re tucked. They’re quite sturdy so they won’t break even if you stretch them a bit. Once I removed them I decided I would simply put them in the laundry. I wrapped them up individually in some clean socks so that they wouldn’t get damaged in the washer or scorched in the dryer.

Sennheiser HD 280 padsDSCF4268

I put them in the washer with the rest of my clothes. I considered washing them separately to avoid the risk of them getting snagged on a zipper or something and getting misshapen, but I figured the socks would protect them well enough. I used the “bright colors” setting on a Maytag commercial washer. It uses cold water. I used ordinary detergent and nothing else. When they were done I put them in the dryer along with the rest of my clothes on the normal setting. Again, I felt there was no need to use the “delicate” setting since they were protected by the socks. When I took them out of the dryer they were undamaged, but they still stunk pretty badly. They were also still a bit wet. I knew I had to take more drastic measures.

It was then that I remembered when I had bought a liquid-damaged DS Lite console that also stunk to high heaven of whatever liquid the console had come into contact with. I had also tried alcohol, Fantastik, Lysol, and even Febreze to clean the stench from the housing of that console but all to no avail. The housing had been in very nice condition so I wanted to salvage it. I then had the bright idea of submerging the housing completely in dishwashing soap. This was an old trick of mine that I’ve used for years to clean keyboards. You remove all the keys and put them in a Ziploc bag. You then squeeze in a generous dollop of dishwashing soap and fill it about halfway to the top with warm water. You don’t want to use water that’s too hot because you could warp the plastic of the keys. You then zip up the bag and shake it vigorously until your arms get too tired to continue and you let it sit for a half hour or longer before rinsing and drying the keys.

washing headphone padsDSCF4287

So I gave it a shot. I used a massive amount of green Palmolive dishwashing soap and placed the pads inside. I shook it up, let it sit, and then after about 30 minutes removed the pads and rinsed them a bit. I then figured I’d put them back in the washing machine for a second spin to get the dishwashing soap out. Since the pads hadn’t dried very well the last time when they had been wrapped up in socks I put them inside pillowcases this time, on the theory that, since the pillowcases were much thinner than the socks they wouldn’t hinder the drying process as much but they’d still protect the pads from scorching.

After leaving them in the dryer for an hour I took them out and they were still dripping wet. Fed up, I removed them from the pillowcases and put them in for a second hour-long cycle completely unprotected. When I took them out they were almost completely dry. They weren’t scorched or damaged at all. I let them sit overnight to dry out completely and now the stink is nearly imperceptible. If I really get my nose in there I can still faintly smell the cologne, but I feel that this is good enough.

Now nearly stink-free!

Now nearly stink-free!

I bought this (almost) brand new 40 inch LCD TV for $78

I've had this Coby TFTV4028 TV for a few months now.

I’ve had this Coby TFTV4028 TV for a few months now.

Sometimes gambling on those “parts or not working” eBay auctions pays off. The damnedest thing is that, from what I gather, this was a store return. It’s still under warranty though, which means that even if it were broken, the original owner should have been able to get it repaired or replaced for free. He or she would have had no reason to sell it.

There’s not a single scratch on the screen at all. The only cosmetic imperfection is a scuff on the lower left corner of the bezel.

The TV does have an iffy power supply. It sometimes won’t come out of standby mode. If I take the back off the TV, unplug the motherboard from the power supply for a few seconds, and then plug it back in it usually starts working again and will last for weeks or longer as long as I leave the TV plugged in and don’t have any electrical outages. If it loses electricity for even a second, it’s likely to get stuck in standby mode again and I either have to leave it unplugged from the wall for anywhere from several hours to several days or unplug the motherboard from the power supply again to get it work. It’s not much of a problem though since I don’t plan on moving/unplugging it any time soon.

People should really erase their tablets before selling them (p.s. I have a Kindle Fire now and you don’t so ha-ha)

What a waste of an e-reader.

What a waste of an e-reader.

Note that I actually wrote this thing in late October 2012 and forgot to post it after, you know, getting my ass handed to me by Sandy. I checked my records and it looks like October 22nd was the day I got the Kindle Fire. That means I had a grand total of 7 glorious days to play with it.

I’m perpetually a generation behind. As is my wont, I went ahead and purchased a Kindle Fire the other day, shortly after reading about it’s successor, the new Kindle Fire HD. I have a Nook Color on which I run Cyanogenmod 7 and love it, but I found a good deal on a Kindle Fire listed as “bad battery” on eBay. Well, it turns out the USB port is the problem, not the battery. The USB port must be coming loose from the mainboard because it won’t charge unless it’s held in a certain position. Presumably this is why the seller took it to be a bad battery.

In any case, though I deny all accusations of being a stalker, I do enjoy the sort of voyeurism purchasers of used tablets are given opportunity to enjoy. The previous owner of the last tablet I bought seemed to use the device for nothing other than logging into his profiles at multiple online dating sites. Other than a few shirtless pictures of what I presumed to be him taken in front of a mirror using the built-in camera, there were hardly any multimedia files on the device at all. I checked the man’s email (which he had neglected to log out of) and found that he used it for nothing other than dating sites. He had even received via email nude pictures from a few ladies. He left himself logged into Facebook, too. I had a look at some of his friends’ profiles but got bored quickly. There weren’t any naughty or incriminating pics. Nonetheless, there was enough information available to me so that I could have found out where his house was and gone to kill or burglarize him had I had the mind to.

So it’s a fun thing to do, snooping through the stuff left on pre-owned devices, that is, not killing people. Of course, I always restore to factory settings after getting bored perusing the previous owner’s emails and other personal information and it should go without saying that I’d never actually reveal information that could be used to personally identify the previous owner or take advantage of it, since I’m an ethical sort of person. But I certainly could, if the mood struck me.

It’s both funny and a bit frightening that people don’t take the precaution of removing personal information from devices before selling them or giving them away. Sometimes it’s understandable, such as in the case of tablets with cracked screens. But other times, such as with this Kindle Fire or the shirtless man whose email I was able to read, there’s no explanation other than carelessness. On the other hand, most people, I would hope, even if given the opportunity to log into the previous owner’s online accounts, would take the high road and refrain from doing anything naughty, instead simply chuckling privately at the previous owner’s quirks and vices and then promptly wiping the device.

Pages and pages of novelty apps.

Pages and pages of novelty apps.

When you buy something like a Kindle Fire, you expect there to be some books on it. My generation 3 Kindle keyboard had lots of books on it when I got it, including Fifty Shades of Grey. Incidentally, an e-book reader is the best way to read a book you’re too embarrassed to be seen with. This Kindle Fire is well-used yet there’s not a single book on it. The reason I know it’s well-used is because of all the non-book shit left on it. There’s several hundred megabytes of useless apps on here. There’s a baby adoption app, ice cream shop simulator, daily joke, truth or dare, child lie detector, and something called “Fake iPad” which, when opened, simply throws up an image of an iOS screen to make your tablet look like an iPad. There are pages and pages of apps like this. Almost none of them do anything useful.

Out of the countless apps on the device, there are only a few that I would ever consider choosing to reinstall after I restore this device to factory settings and register it to myself. Pandora radio is one of them. Christmas is coming and I refuse to buy an entire album just to annoy my family with Wham’s “Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart)”. The previous owner and I differ in our taste in music though. I opened up the Pandora app (which logged me into her account automatically) and the sounds of ‘Lil Wayne immediately spread through the entire apartment because the previous owner had left the volume set to maximum. This, by the way, was my first opportunity to listen to the speakers of the Kindle Fire which, I was pleased to learn, are incredibly loud and clear. I’m not an audiophile by any means and don’t know the first thing about speakers so I’m not speaking from a technical perspective, but from a practical one there’s no question that they’re much better and significantly louder than the speakers in my Velocity Cruz PS47, T301, or Nook Color. Heck, they’re actually a lot louder than the speakers in my Acer laptop, although part of that problem is a less-than-ideal driver implementation in my OS. After being blown away by the volume of the speakers I tapped the back arrow in the Pandora app to see if there were any other stations that the previous owner had created. There were seven or eight others featuring artists I’d never heard of. There was one with a name that I did recognize though and that was the Justin Bieber station.

The previous owner's Pandora radio stations.

The previous owner’s Pandora radio stations.

It’s not exactly my intention to ridicule (although that is always fun), but I can’t help but find it peculiar that someone would buy a Kindle Fire just to listen to Justin Bieber and play the ice cream shop simulator app. The previous owner was still logged into Amazon.com so I decided to check her recommendations. Interestingly, as far as I could tell she had never purchased physical goods from Amazon. She had purchased dozens and dozens of apps and had lots of recommended apps, but no matter which category of physical goods I clicked on — even music — Amazon reported that they had no recommendations, which is most likely because the previous owner never actually bought anything other than digital goods.

Of course, on the one hand I am very much a believer that every person ought to spend his or her money and time as he or she likes, particularly if it doesn’t harm anybody else. So it’s fine with me if someone wants to buy a Kindle Fire and never read a single book or periodical on it. It just seems to me though that if the chief reason you’re buying the tablet is to kill time with apps and listen to music, then why buy one marketed as an e-reader that lacks access to the ordinary Google Play store and costs $199?

Meh, probably the same reason I need four tablets and an e-ink Kindle.

Extracting Wii save files from a BootMii NAND dump

My water-damaged Wii. Believe it or not, this image has a happy ending.

My water-damaged Wii. Believe it or not, this image has a happy ending.

So other than all my furniture and my apartment itself one of the various items that was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy was my Wii. Replacing the hardware is easy since a Wii is only about 60 to 70 USD these days and will presumably just continue to drop in price since the Wii U came out. The thing that’s impossible to replace is the save data. That’s why I wanted to see if there was some way of recovering my save data and copying it to my replacement Wii.

My Wii console, AV cables, and power brick were destroyed. My controllers and WiiMotes were in a box on a high shelf so they were fine. This includes a Gamecube controller, which I found out was necessary for this process.

My place was not safe to enter for months and still isn’t. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a chance to retrieve some stuff though. I took the Wii, placed it in some bubble wrap, and put it in a box that went straight to a storage facility along with everything else that was in the apartment.

It was just about a week ago that I had my first opportunity to see if it had been damaged. I disassembled it to check and found that it was absolutely covered in rust on the inside. I went ahead and tried cleaning it up a bit with cotton swabs and some alcohol and actually succeeded in getting it to boot. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a WiiMote with me at the time so I turned it off. That was the last time it ever boot normally.

Every time I tried to boot it afterwards it would show the green LED, the blue LED on the front panel would flash once, and the fan would spin up, but there would be no audio or video on the TV screen and no WiiMote would sync to it. The TV did detect a signal but the screen would just stay black.

Fortunately, I had Priiloader installed on it. I held the reset and power buttons at the same time to boot to Priiloader. I inserted an SD card prepared with Bootmii and used the option in Priiloader to launch Bootmii as IOS (since I hadn’t been able to install it as boot2 when I first got the Wii). I needed to use the Gamecube controller for this since no WiiMote would sync.

Once in Bootmii I made a NAND backup. It was from this backup that I was able to extract my saves. I used ShowMiiWads to extract the files from the nand.bin. I was then pointed in the right direction by this thread on WiiBrew. In the “title” directory of the extracted NAND dump there’s another directory called “00010000” with a bunch of directories inside containing the saves for each game. I copied all of these directories into a folder called “savegames” on the root of my SD card.

Once copied, I added “00010000” to the beginning of the name of each folder that I copied to the “savegames” folder. Then I moved the files inside the “data” and “content” folders into their respective parent directories.

For example: SDroot://savegames/00010000534e5445/

Inside the “00010000534e5445″ folder are the actual save files such as “save.dat” and “banner.bin”. I’m not sure if the “title.tmd” files from the “content” folders are necessary, but I put them in there anyway. This whole process of dragging and dropping was a bit of a pain in the neck because I had saves for something like 30 different games.

I then used Save Game Manager GX from this link on the Wii to install the save files from the SD card to the Wii. It took many attempts because I kept having to try different versions of the program since I kept getting one error or another. This is the one that worked for me. Of course, you do have to already have a save game on the Wii for each save you want to restore. So I just started up each game and made a save before trying to restore my saves from the old Wii.

Ultimately I was able to restore somewhere in the area of 200 gameplay hours worth of save data to my replacement Wii from the old one. It did take me a few hours of research and trial and error to figure out how to accomplish this, but I think it was worth it, especially considering that there’s nothing much to do around here while I wait for the co-op board to get off their asses and hire someone to do repair work. They won’t let us hire our own people. Pfttt…

For the record, I think the problem with the water-damaged Wii is that, though the motherboard itself is fine, either the Bluetooth module, the WiFi module, or both were damaged by the water. The DVD drive may also be bad. I read that a Wii will boot properly without a DVD drive, but it will refuse to boot if either the Bluetooth or WiFi module is damaged or missing. This means the system could actually be fixed if I replaced those two boards but I don’t think it’s worth it now that I have a replacement Wii and my save games so I’ll probably just see if I can sell it on eBay. The reason Priiloader worked, I suppose, is that it must load before the Wii checks to see if the BT or WiFi modules are damaged.

Stupid USPS keeps wasting my time

Normally I’m the first person to defend the USPS. I’ve generally had good experiences with them. I’ve only had a few packages permanently lost in my entire life. This time, however, I must complain.

When I send and receive parcels I nearly always use delivery confirmation. The way this works is that the carrier scans the package using a handheld scanner when it’s delivered. This way the seller can confirm that the item arrived at the destination. This is useful in situations where the buyer claims the item was never received and asks for a refund or a re-shipment. With DC you can just point to the confirmation of delivery on the USPS website and the would-be scam artist gets shut up.

Signature confirmation is like a much more extreme version of delivery confirmation for more paranoid sellers. It’s more or less the same as what happens with any UPS delivery. The carrier must give the parcel to a human being at the address and get the signature of the human being. If there’s no human being to accept and sign for the package, it doesn’t get delivered. With DC it’s possible that someone other than the intended recipient will steal the package (eg. it’s left by the mailbox and the neighbor steals it before the addressee arrives home). Signature confirmation is a pain in the neck if you’re the recipient for obvious reasons: you must physically be at the address and answer the doorbell when the mail carrier arrives. When you’re like me and your mail carrier arrives anywhere between 1:30 pm and 5:30 pm depending on the day of the week, it’s a terrible inconvenience to wait around all day.

Registered mail is about equally inconvenient as non-registered signature confirmation parcels if you’re the recipient. It’s better for the seller though because supposedly registered mail is handled in a more secure manner than non-registered mail while in transit. I don’t know the details, but registered mail automatically requires a signature so for the recipient it’s more or less the same hassle as non-registered mail with signature confirmation, regardless of class.

Anyway, I always try to use only ordinary delivery confirmation. Regardless of whether we’re talking about media mail, parcel post, first-class mail or priority mail, I always try for just delivery confirmation when ordering packages. Ordinarily my mail carrier just leaves the DC parcels outside the mail box and I pick them up when I get home. The last three parcels I’ve ordered with DC, however, have all gone straight to the post office and I’ve had to go pick them up. I find that very annoying. DC is DC. There’s no requirement, as far as I know, for a human being to physically accept the parcel if it’s just got DC. That’s the point of the handheld scanner, if I’m not mistaken. That’s also why signature confirmation (which ensures a human being accepts the parcel) is more expensive. If DC required a human being to accept the package, there wouldn’t be much use for signature confirmation since it wouldn’t add any protection that DC didn’t already provide other than the name of the specific human being who accepted the package.

Anyway, it’s just annoying that the USPS would suddenly start requiring a human to accept parcels at the exact time that my apartment was destroyed. It’s enough of a pain in the neck having to travel to the remnants of what was once your home to pick up the mail without also having to travel to the post office, wait in line, and show an I.D. every time a piece of mail with delivery confirmation is sent to you. I’m starting to wonder if maybe the USPS started blacklisting addresses of destroyed homes.

In defense of USPS, I do understand how some people might see this as a an upgrade to the DC service, since requiring the addressee to travel to the post office and show identification makes it much more likely that the intended recipient gets the package, rather than some neighbor or even somebody else (such as a family member) who lives at the same address. Of course, it doesn’t stop an impostor from picking the package up using a fake or stolen I.D. card, but it’s still much more secure than leaving the package at the mailbox.

I don’t see it as an upgrade though. That’s because I’m not ordering any sensitive materials. If I were, I’d use registered mail with signature confirmation or maybe FedEx.

Anyway, hopefully this is just bad luck I’ve had on my last three parcels and not an indication of an actual change to the way delivery confirmation works.