eMate update!

Curse you, Jax184, for telling me to make sure a screen hinge clutch spring on my eMate wasn't about to let go and puncture the video cable.

Oh, all right, I suppose it's better to know about the problem before it happens than after. But still.

Off I went, all innocent, to the disassembly instructions here. They informed me that Apple cheaped out on including a couple of lousy connectors on the eMate mainboard, so you have to unsolder four wires if you want to actually remove the mainboard from an eMate.

Why do you have to do that? To reach the dodgy screen hinge springs, that's why. It's very difficult to reach the hinges even with the straw of a spray-grease can when the mainboard is still held in place by the soldered wires.

Since everything was, actually, still fine, I was pretty much willing to forego the unsoldering, put my eMate's back on it again, and just trust that the springs would hang in there. Except then I heard a piece of plastic rattling around inside.

It was, no doubt, some important little light guide or button that'd come astray (the disassembly instructions mention these things in some depth...), and I now had to remove the mainboard to reach it, anyway.

So I unsoldered the wires and removed the board... and found that the loose piece of plastic was actually just the base into which one of the case mount screws threads. It had broken loose at some point in this eMate's life.

That sort of thing doesn't actually matter at all, of itself. If more than one case screw in a gadget loses its mount then the device is likely to start feeling a bit creaky, but you can live without one.

Well, I was there now. I CAed the mount back down, put washers under the spring retention screws to prevent the springs ever popping loose, sprayed some new Miracle Lubricant Stuff that I'd bought earlier in the day at the second hardware store I went to in search of light-grease-in-a-spraycan (a Scottish fellow I once knew described the hardware store as "the store of broken dreams"; it sounds better with the accent) on the springs, and spent some time reassembling the bloody thing while the bits that jump out of their correct locations all jumped out of their correct locations.

After which, it was time to do the job that I had originally expected to have to do: Building a new battery to replace the very very dead original one.

I wouldn't say I'm a dab hand at battery building, but I've done it a few times. It's quite easy to solder up battery packs even if you are limited, as I was by what I had on hand, to normal cells without pre-attached solder tabs.

These excellent instructions for making a new eMate battery show you the solder-tab way, but you can solder directly to the ends of normal cells (even non-rechargeable ones!) as well. Just use a soldering iron with a broad tip, only a moderate heat, and - and here's the big trick - scratch up both ends of each cell first with a file or sandpaper, so that the solder will stick.

Get it right, and the solder will flow into place almost immediately. Get it wrong (fine-tip iron, high heat, unscuffed cells), and you'll boil the life out of the cells while still not getting any solder onto 'em.

(I talk about this more in my ancient piece about making external digital camera batteries, from back when all digicams ate AAs like popcorn.)

Aaaaanyway, I was so cocky about all this that I even built the pack out of fully charged cells. That's a big no-no for beginners - short out the pack while you're working and the thing may catch fire in your hands.

Against all expectations, though, everything went fine. The eMate played its happy first-startup sound (a variant on the Mac chime) the second I plugged the new pack in.

I didn't bother taking any pictures of this whole procedure, since I always find this sort of thing quite exhausting all by itself. Especially when you're working on something with a swoopy curvy case that's easy to not quite put together properly afterwards, requiring re-removal of screws and realignment of little catches and tabs.

But, hurrah, now it works, and I can actually play with it.

(My greatest achievement so far is working out that "Styles" is how you stop everything you enter appearing in large-print Apple Casual, which looks far too much like you-know-what.)

3 Responses to “eMate update!”

  1. Jax184 Says:

    For what it's worth, I've gone through it as well. Only the emate I tore into had in fact taken a bite out of it's screen cable already. It's still in pieces in a box, waiting for a new cable.

    I've also endured repairs on 100 series newtons, which involve desoldering bits and pieces to get into, and 2000 series, which mysteriously don't.

    I'd still take any of those over getting into a camcorder though.

    Did you get a manual with your emate? My 2100 came with one, and despite what you'd expect, it wasn't useful purely for selling on ebay once the unit became collectable.
    It explained such things as scribbling over text, making at least 4 non overlapping motions, to erase a piece of text. And how you can tap-tap-and-drag to copy a piece of text, and dragging that text to the side of the screen will put it into a clipboard of sorts.

  2. ratkins Says:

    Your e-mate is now thoroughly outdated of course, with last night's release of the Palm Foleo...

  3. Jax184 Says:

    Ahh yes. Palm really has the Underpowered-PDA-the-size-of-a-real-laptop-and-with-as-little-battery-life market cornered right now.

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