Monday, May 01, 2017

The Scarlet Amiga - Where is he now?

My regular readers will remember the horror that was the Scarlet Amiga. He had endured a tough life and one that no 16-bit 1990's home computer should have to suffer. Having rescued him from eBay, I set about making things right.

I didn't quite finish his story so this post brings an end to that and gives some closure to this tale of betrayal and intrigue*.

*does not contain betrayal or intrigue.

Firstly, all of the red abomination has gone. After picking off the gloss red paint I spent some considerable time sanding the case to remove all remaining traces. If you look closely in the 'vents' and ridges at the back you might see a few specks but in normal use, this Amiga is now beige. You might also notice that the top section of the case is rather lighter than the bottom section. It's not clear of this is as a result of my sanding or if the paint layer on the top case actually offered some protection to the colour and prevented the dreaded yellowing effect.

Almost looks completely normal. Almost. 
Two tone case - Note also chip in top case
near the numpad 'Enter' key.

I could sand the bottom section so that it would match the top but a) that would remove the original surface patterns etc from the bottom case and b) I'm far too lazy to do that. The case is clear of the red paint. It's time to move on....

One final point on the case. The plastic material for it seems very brittle in comparison to the A500+ that I used to have. The later 500+ seemed to be a more 'oily' plastic that was more flexible and, bizarrely, felt softer. Perhaps the age of this particular case means that it's just naturally that bit more brittle. Perhaps the production material was changed as time went on. Feel free to comment below if you know (or have an opinion!).

I've kept the keyboard. Its dual membrane loveliness stays with me. So there.

Why am I obsessed with the dual membrane keyboards?

Without KB or shielding - note Rev 8 board

Faithful A501 - survived the Varta onslaught

The more eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that this is actually a Rev 8 motherboard. In fact, it is the same motherboard that I repaired here. The original 1.3 motherboard went to eBay after I replaced its mouse port. I have always had a thing for the A500+ as it was my first Amiga. There's something comforting about watching the little blue disk disappear into the drive on the purple background. Much nicer than a plain white screen with a picture of a floppy disk on it. And I know that the consensus is that KS1.3 is the most compatible for games etc but, to be honest, I've found very few games that didn't work with the A500+. I certainly have far more trouble with the A1200 and games...

Along with the scarlet Amiga I also got a scarlet external drive. The case of this has also been relieved of most of its ghastly red covering but the results have not been as satisfactory. Underneath the red was the original cream paint and, in my rush to rid myself of red I managed to scrape through some of that too. It needs a really good sanding down, almost all the way to the bare metal before I spray it a more appropriate colour. I'm sensing beige. Or maybe beige. Possibly beige. No, wait. I know. Beige.

That case still needs some work...

More upsetting was that the drive would not read any pre-written disks. Not Workbench2.04, Extras, Fonts or even Workbench1.3. Another job of aligning the heads was in order which took some considerable time because of the way the drive is held in the case. To be able to adjust the read head I need to have the drive 'floating' but this causes problems because the platen underneath the drive is not covered. It was all too easy to knock the drive and then hear the scraping of the platen on the case underneath... It was, to put it simply, a major pain in the rear. After a lot of faffing I managed to get it to read 99% of disks but more importantly, disks formatted and written to on this drive were readable by my other drives. The one exception was an original Workbench1.3 disk I had. No matter what I did the drive just would NOT read it at all. I have no idea why. The disk works in my other drives but not in this one. But all the other original disks I have do now work in this drive. I will just have to put it down to the vagaries of floppy disks in general.

To be fair, this drive is nearly 30 years old...

...and needs some new feet too. :)

And here, gentle reader, ends the tale of the scarlet Amiga.

Calling All Original Xbox Owners

Lots of vintage computers and consoles suffer from a problem of leakage due to age. This type of leakage is a little more damaging than a weak bladder though. Batteries leak their acid over motherboards or logic boards, destroying PCB traces and components. Capacitors leak their electrolyte and do the same although normally at a slower pace.

It turns out that even more 'modern' consoles are not immune. If you are an Xbox owner, and I mean the ORIGINAL Xbox, not the 360 or Xbone, then you need to act now. Inside the Xbox is a capacitor that was used as a way of retaining the time and date while the console was switched off. Well guess what. The caps used weren't that good a quality and now they are starting to leak and destroy Xboxes, quietly and without any fuss.

Later Xboxes actually had an improved capacitor and are not affected by this problem. A quick way to check is to look at the bottom of the console and find the manufacturing date. If it is 2004 then you are probably OK. If it's 2003 or earlier then you need to do something NOW.

Here's my Xbox looking a bit dusty but, otherwise, in fine working order.

Dusty - But good.
First things first, this one was made in early 2003 so almost certainly has the dodgy clock capacitor. Lets get that top off.

Topless - insides not seen in nearly 15 years
There are the DVD drive and hard disk on top. It's a simple matter of disconnecting the cables then undoing three screws to remove both units. 

Yup - it's a hard disk

Phillips DVD - has a non-standard power connector though

Logic board to the left (green) - Power supply right (brown)

The capacitor is located in a little gaggle near the front and is labelled C7G3 with a C7G2 label nearby. In the picture below there is a suspicious 'shadow' around the capacitor..uh-oh.

Has it leaked?

Yes, why yes, it has.

It has definitely been leaking. Fortunately, there looks to be no obvious damage but the thing has to come out. I tried the 'wiggle' removal method but the cap was soldered tight into the board and I just couldn't get enough movement going. Break out the soldering iron....

To get at the pads I had to remove the entire motherboard. It wasn't too difficult but there are quite a few screws and they are all the 'torx' variety. Have a set of multi-sized torx screwdrivers handy when you do this.

Cap legs marked - don't want to get that wrong!

It was a 30 second job to get it out with the soldering iron. Hit each leg in turn and pull. Eventually, the cap 'walks' off the board. You can see the corrosion on one leg of it in the picture below caused by the highly acidic electrolyte.

Another bad cap.

A quick clean up and it seems there's no lasting damage. It's worth noting that these earlier versions of the Xbox do not need this capacitor to work. However, later versions do so if you try this on a 2004 onward model you will need to replace the cap with an equivalent..

Before cleaning - the spillage is obvious

After cleaning - the spillage is gone

I re-assembled the Xbox and tested it just to make sure I hadn't affected anything else. The only difference is that it will not retain the date and time now but he's safe for now (until the other caps decide to leak....).

There is a lot of information on this issue across the internet including here, here and here. There's also a great teardown by iFixit. If you have an original Xbox, take note and don't delay. Do it now! Go on. What are you waiting for?