Arise, FRANKENTOP!

I guess I forgot to post about this a while ago, probably since I was so despondent over the issue. A few weekends ago, after repeated passages through gravitational and subspace anomalies, the structural integrity fields on my laptop began to fail and it suffered significant damage to the outer hull. There were many casualties, including the first officer, chief engineer, and Ensign Rickey. It was barely salvageable, and has been in spacedock ever since.

Ok, yah, that was really lame. Only the Phils (my father Phil, my coworker Phil, and perhaps JK) are likely to fully appreciate that, but hey, it was funny. YES, IT WAS FUNNY! Actually, my laptop did break, and the outer hull reference wasn’t that far off.

The laptop has actually been slowly breaking for quite some time, due to what I would consider a poor design. The actual computer innards of my laptop (a Sager 5680) are great, but the casing is not. The first thing that went was the latch that holds the screen down when the laptop is closed. That went about three months after I bought it. I was rather peeved, but I was able to fix it quite easily with a well placed rubber band.

A month or two later I started noticing some stress fractures appearing on the casing opposite of the LCD panel near the hinges. I was rather annoyed with that as well. The subtle fractures matured into full fledged cracks, and it got to the point where I had to pinch the affected area back together while closing the display to make sure the cracks didn’t advance further. It finally came to a head a few weeks ago, when the front and back casings of the display would physically seperate by a half inch or so when closing the laptop screen.

I had enough at this point, so I decided to take the thing apart to see if there was any way to fix things, or whether I was totally screwed. When I opened it up, I found that the metal piece that connected the LCD panel to the hinges had completely broken. Things didn’t look good. I thought about turning it into some sort of entertainment center computer due to its small size, or perhaps into a car computer, but it certainly wasn’t going to be a functional laptop again. Or so I thought…

I was talking with Chris at work about some completely unrelated stuff, and the subject of my broken laptop came up. I described the broken piece, and he offered to try to weld it back together. He stopped by after work and picked it up, and I was quite happy when he said that he was able to fix the part! Tears of joy ran down my face (well, not really) and I rushed home to pick up the parts to reassemble the beast. I had loosened up the hinges earlier to try to relieve some of the strain on the part, but when I got the thing back together, I realized that they were way too loose. The screen wouldn’t stay open at any position other than vertical. I was a little peeved because I had to take the thing completely apart again to get at the hinges, but that wasn’t too much of a big deal.

Once I got home I started phase two of the reconstruction – structural reenforcement. I ran over to Lowes to buy some nuts, bolts, and washers in the attempt to curcumvent the plastic that took so much of the stress earlier on. I ended up running a single bolt through the entire display where a much smaller screw previously sat on each side of the display. I snugged the bolts in with plain and locking washers and a single nut on the outside, then cut off the excess bolt length. So far, everything seems to be working very well.

What did I learn from this? First, never buy a laptop with crappy internal design. Kind of hard to judge that based upon external appearances, but it’s still a lesson. More specifically, don’t buy one of the Sager 56xx series unless you want a broken laptop. Another coworker has the same laptop as I do and recommended it to me before he started seeing the same structural problems I have. Well, he and I both think the case is a piece of junk, as do many other people on the ‘net who have complained about their cases breaking in the same manner as mine. Second, coworkers with welding equipment are cool. Third, fixing things yourself is more rewarding than sending stuff away.

Since my laptop now has metal bolts protruding from the back of the screen, I think it’s only fitting to give it a new name – FRANKENTOP! Corny, but fitting. And when am I ever not corny?

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