Faulty screen on Lenovo S10-3 10″ laptop

My trusty and very portable S10-3 – one of the best laptops ever made in my opinion – died a couple of months ago. Well its screen went black. Or it went all-white, to be precise. And I mean black OR white; every pixel was either full-on or full off.

The rest of the machine appeared to be fine – it could be heard booting and it appeared on the network – you just couldn’t use the screen.

Today I fixed it. There was a loose connection where the LCD panel cable joins the motherboard. Unfortunately, it’s been lying in a pile waiting to go to Lenovo’s service centre in Germany all this time because I couldn’t figure out how to check for loose connections. Like most laptops, dissassembly isn’t obvious. Fortunately, like most Lenovo (nee IBM) laptops, it’s actually built with servicing in mind. So here’s the trick:

Remove the battery and undo all obvious screws on the back cover. There four captive screws on the cover plate, behind which lurk the winchester, DIMM and cellular modem (if fitted). Don’t be fooled; they don’t come out! You can remove the winchester if you wish, but watch out – it has two of its own retaining screws and two more screws that are part of the cover you’ve just removed. You could go mad looking for them if you miss this point.

There are then six black M2 screws to remove to the case, and three very small screws under where the battery fits. Remove them all, and it will look like nothing’s changed.

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Next you have to lever the keyboard off. It’s actually very easy if you lever in the right place, which is along the top edge. It ‘snaps in’ at the corners; gentle levering with a small flat screwdriver and finger nails pops it off easily.

To disconnect the ribbon cable connector, pull the black bit of the PCB socket clip forward and up. (Good luck getting the cable back in, from underneath, and closing the clip again with adult sized-hands!) You can then put the keyboard aside, and undo three further black M2 screws, which are found at either edge and the centre of the silver plate thing you’re looking at. Then you need to prise the top of the case off – the sliver bit comes with it. Again, this is much easier than it sounds if you lever with a small screwdriver and get your fingernails underneath.

The planar (motherboard if you’re younger than a certain age), is now laid before you. The LCD cable is obvious at the top left; they’ve even labelled it. Although it looks like it’s taped down, it just pulls in and out; reseating it did the trick for me.

If you need to dismantle the screen/lid assembly (or if you’re curious, like me), you can detach the power cables that come in on the right hinge and undo a couple of screws at each side to remove it completely. To open it you need to remove the screws hidden under the self-adhesive rubber pads in the corners. Then you need to flex the screen frame quite dramatically, working around the edge, until it un-snaps (if you see what I mean). Let’s just say it’s easier to replace the lid as one unit if you’re breaking for spares.

Anyway, my little friend is back and I’m happy. It’s just a shame the manufactures are pandering to the craze for fondleslabs and had dropped the 10″ form factor for truly portable “proper” computers, able to run software other than games, Facebook and surfing the web. Now that ASUS has dropped the Eee book you’re looking at something like the ThinkPad E145, which I was about to buy in spite of its extra bulk, weight and cost.

Unfortunately, the S10-3 and closely related models in the field  are currently not replaceable until fashion swings back.

Using ISO CD Images with Windows – Burn.Now problems

When CD-R drives first turned up you needed special software to write anything – originally produced by Adaptec but they were soon overtaken by Nero, with NTI and Ulead having lower cost options. Now, when you get a PC it will usually come with one of the above bundled, and Microsoft has added the functionally to Windows since XP (for CD, if not DVD). This is not good news for the independent producers, but Microsoft’s offering doesn’t quite cut the mustard, so most people will want something better.

My new Lenovo PC came bundled with Corel Burn.Now. Corel recently bought the struggling Ulead, and this is fundamentally the same product as Ulead burn.now. Unfortunately Burn.Now is also pretty feeble – it just can’t do the basics.

To duplicate a CD you need to copy all the data on it. Pretty obvious really. If you’re not copying drive-to-drive it makes sense to copy the data to a .ISO image on your hard disk. You can then transfer it to another machine, back it up or whatever; and write it to a new blank disk later. Burn.Now will create a CD from an ISO image, but if you ask it to copy a disk it uses its own weird and whacky .ixb format. Some versions of Burn.Now gave you the choice, but not the new Corel. It’s .ixb or nothing. This matters, because whilst everyone can write .ISO files, only Burn.Now can write from  .IXB format.

Burn.Now is crippled. What about Microsoft’s current built-in options? You can actually write an ISO image using Windows 7 – just right-click on the file and select “Burn disc image”. Unfortunately there is no way to create such a file with Windows. To do this you need add Alex Feinman’s excellent ISO Recorder, which basically does the opposite: Right-click on the CD drive and select Create Image from CD/DVD.

Unfortunately ISO Recorder doesn’t read all disks – it won’t handle Red Book for a start. This is a bit of a limitation – was its author, Mr Feinman concerned about music piracy? Given Windows Media Player can clone everything on an Audio CD without difficulty, his conciousness efforts won’t make a lot of difference.

So – Windows is its usual painful self. If you just want to simply create an image of a CD or DVD with no bells and whistles, go to UNIX where it’s been “built in” since the 1980’s (when CD-ROMs first appeared). Just use the original “dd” command:

# dd if=/dev/acd0 of=my-file-name.iso bs=2048

An ISO file is simply a straight copy of the data on the disk, so this will create one for you. You can write it back using:

# burncd -f /dev/acd0 data my-file-name.iso fixate
# cdrecord dev=1,2,3 my-file-name.iso

Burncd is built in to FreeBSD (and Linux, IIRC), but only works with atapi drives. In the example it assumes the CD recorder is on /dev/acd0 (actually the default).

Cdrecord works with non atapi drives to, but has to be built from ports on FreeBSD and for other platforms it’s available here – along with lots of other good stuff. The example assumes the device is 1,2,3 – which is unlikely! Run cdrecord -scanbus to locate the parameters for your drive.

Once you have your ISO file, of course, you could use Windows to write it. The choice depends on whether you have strongly held views on whether Windows is a worthy desktop operating system. Corel Burn.Now is, however, a long way from being a worth CD/DVD writing utility.