Archive for May, 2010

There are few moments in life quite as sickening as realizing that you’ve spilled a beverage on one of your gadgets. The feeling can range from mild infuriation (spilling a Bud Light on your PlayStation controller) to near-coronary levels (knocking over a Mountain Dew: Code Red onto your brand-new laptop). Either way, it’s never something you want to go through. Because of that, we’ve put together a simple disaster plan for dealing with beverage-soiled electronics. We hope you never have to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you read it.

1. Act Fast

Yeah, we know. You’re pissed. You just splashed merlot on your expensive gaming laptop. And while we do feel your pain, there’s no time to sit around and pout. Every second you waste is another second that whatever you’ve spilled gets to dry into a sticky, short-circuiting, corrosive mess. So act fast.

Start by unplugging your gadget from the wall, if it’s plugged in. If it’s a laptop, remove the battery. If it’s a keyboard, disconnect it from the PC. Liquid will create short-circuits inside your electronics, so getting it unplugged quickly will improve the chance of recovering your gadget intact.

2. Assess the Damage

Now that you’ve unplugged your device, take a second to assess the location and quantity of the spill. If it’s just a few drops on a keyboard, you might be able to get away with prying off the surrounding keys (image A) and wiping down the affected area. For this, we recommend alcohol swabs, which break up stains and dry very quickly. You can get enough to last for years for about $4 in the first-aid section of a drug store, so get some now, before you need them.

(Image A)

If it’s just a matter of washing down some keys, remember to wipe off both the keyboard and the keys that you’ve pried off. Your keyboard might be safe from electrical harm, but if you don’t thoroughly clean off every contaminated surface, your keys will start to stick as the mess dries.

If the spill doesn’t appear to be limited to the surface of your device, then scrub up—it’s time for surgery.

3. Take it Apart

You can’t clean a bespoiled device without first taking it apart. If the thought of opening up your expensive toys scares you, that’s understandable, but just remember that any chance is better than no chance at all, which is what you’ve got if you let that spill just sit there. Of course, if you don’t know which end of a screwdriver goes where, it might be worth calling a more electronically handy friend to help you out.

(Image B)

Using your tiny screwdriver (you do have a tiny screwdriver, don’t you?) open up the device (image B). Obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all guide for taking apart gadgets, but here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • You may need to use some force to pry apart your device, but be careful, especially with circuit boards. If something seems to be taking more force to pull apart than it should, check again for hidden screws.
  • Be careful to save all your screws as you go. Don’t just throw them all into a coffee mug, either, because most gadgets have several different-size screws in them, and you’ll need to remember which goes where when you put everything back together.
  • If something is particularly complicated, and you’re afraid you won’t be able to put it back when you’re done, grab a digital camera and snap some photos before you start taking stuff apart.
  • Your ultimate goal is to expose any circuit boards or other electronics that might have gotten spilled on. If you’re taking apart a laptop, this means you’ll need to isolate the motherboard and any daughterboards.

4. Wash It Off

Once you’ve exposed the circuitry in your device, you’ll have to clean off the stain. If you can see that the stain is contained in a certain part of the board, you can use alcohol swabs, as described above, to clean it off (images C and D). If an entire circuit board is soiled, you’ll need to resort to more drastic measures: completely disconnect it from the rest of the gadget and run it under soapy water.

(Image C)

Yes, that’s right, run it under water. We’re all conditioned to want to keep our electronics away from liquids, and that’s generally a good policy, but sometimes you’ve got to fight fire with fire, so wash that sucker off. Don’t scrub, just gently wipe, and let the soapy water do its thing.

When you’ve removed the stain, rinse off the soapy water. For the best chance of success, you’ll want to rinse with distilled or deionized water, which can be bought at most supermarkets. Tap water will leave deposits on your circuit board when it dries.

(Image D)

You’ll want to see whether your device will work right away, but you’ll have to wait a little longer. The next step is to make sure every part that you washed is completely dry. It’s best to air dry it, since cloth or paper towels can leave behind lint, although you can speed up the process by packing the wet parts in a desiccant, such as silica gel or plain old white rice. You can also speed the drying process by using a fan or even a hair dryer, although if you do, be sure to do so from a distance and using the low-heat setting, as you don’t want to warp the circuit board.

Finally, once all the components are clean and dry, it’s time to put everything back together. Refer to your photographs if you took them, and make sure that everything fits back together securely. We can’t guarantee that your device will be working again, but at least you’ll know you did everything you could.

If a business wants to block Facebook, it’s common for them to work with IT to design an elaborate, and ultimately flawed, scheme to do so. But according to Microsoft’s Stuart Strathdee, many businesses are just continuing to run the now ancient Internet Explorer 6. As it turns out, most of the slick new social networking sites don’t render properly in IE6; they sometimes don’t work at all.

This way a company doesn’t have to actively talk to employees about acceptable usage, or develop security tactics. "For a lot of our customers that’s just a comfortable consequence of staying on IE6," said Strathdee. This looks like a bit of speed bump in Microsoft’s efforts to get everyone on IE8. Strathdee points to the much improved security features of newer version of the web browser as reason enough for companies to switch.

Does your place of business still use IE6? If so, do you think they’re doing it out of laziness, or is there a more devious purpose?

ie dead

Application whitelisting company Bit9 is saying something IT admins already know: corporate and government PC users need to do a better job of protecting their computers from malware.

Bit9 surveyed 1,282 IT professionals and found that many enterprise and government desktops are littered with unauthorized software ranging from P2P software, to toolbars, Trojans, spyware, and ransomware, among other digital cruft.

"The results from our survey once again underscore the need for companies to adopt a more proactive approach to endpoint security to prevent unauthorized software from being downloaded and running in their organizations," said Tom Murphy, Chief Strategy Officer, Bit9. "Rather than scrambling to react to the latest malicious piece of software – costing time and money – IT administrators need to ensure that only approved software will run in their enterprise. This is a business critical need confirmed by the large amount of respondents that are dealing with malware across their networks."

A solution may not be so easy to come by. Even though 68 percent of IT staff surveyed said they have software restrictions in place, 45 percent said they still found unauthorized software running on more than half of their computers.

Read more here.

Asus, which has showed an increased interest in the mobile market the past few years, wants to become a top-3 notebook vendor and is apparently willing to buy its way there, according to a report in the Chinese-language Commercial Times.

As the Commercial Times tells it, Asus chairman Jonney Shih is pretty adamant about growing its notebook business through acquisitions, and has already reached out to Toshiba. Nothing has yet been finalized, and it’s not even clear how far the two are in discussions about a possible deal.

It’s not surprising that Asus would be interested in Toshiba’s notebook business. Toshiba, which focuses mainly on regular sized notebooks, currently ranks No. 5 both worldwide and in the U.S. in laptop sales, while most of the success Asus has enjoyed comes from its Eee PC netbook line.

Despite the upcoming retirement of Robbie Bach and J Allard, the two founding fathers of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division, Steve Ballmer insists there isn’t any discord behind closed doors regarding the company’s mobile and game console strategies.

"Robbie Bach’s been thinking about the possibility of retiring and spending more time with his family. He and I talked about whether we should go ahead and announce that now or wait until after Christmas," said Ballmer.

Back is to retire from Microsoft later this year, the company announced on Tuesday. His retirement comes at a time when Microsoft is getting ready to release Project Natal, Microsoft’s answer to motion-sensor gaming.

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