Technical support by email?

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Technical support by email?

Postby atang1 » Mon Aug 26, 2002 12:17 pm

In my studies of failure mechanism of computers, semiconductors and software in general, a strategy developed in technical support to get dead computers fixed.

While in the early days, the beep codes were developed to help computer newbies to fix their own computers by repacing components. It was not enough because the knowledge of computer terminology required, to know which component should be replaced. Most people tend to go directly to the heart of the matter. Power supply is at fault if the computer will not start, or floppy, harddrive and/or fans stopped turning. Then if video does not light up, it must be the video card. When in fact, power supplies do shut down to protect anything in the computer that is shorted or draws too much current. And video cards will never work if the computer refuses to boot.

The posting process which is power on system test, in fact tests each important part of the computer in the proper sequence. A motherboard is working if it passes post and start to boot the operating system.

To learn the post, I sometime back invested in a mini post card. Which has two LED alpha numerical digits. It will go thrrough the post with digits of hex codes. When you have failures, it will stop at some post code. It indicates to you that the next post code failed. You have to have a post code chart before you know which component in your computer failed. The problem is not every bios has the same post codes. so you have to do much reseach to find the appropriate post codes for your diagnostic skills.

Now with beep codes, it is much simpler. You may have much less beep combinations. And while it does not give you too much details, it gives you exact failure item every time. the beep is the thing that failed. Like 9 beeps may be the failue of the video card, on the other hand, it may be that the video card was not detected by your chipset. So it could be your mothefboard being defective or the video card being defective.

So, beep code interpretation could also go either way.

Finally, after much experience with many people, I have developed a technical support system by email questionaire and instructions. 15 emails, and you can have the failed part replaced and the computer put back up and running.

Is this an internet TV repairman talking? Well it is done with ebay customers. And they are tough, they know how to call names. No one can ban them, "they pays they monies and calls them shots". But the technical support system by email survived.

Postby atang1 » Fri Aug 30, 2002 11:47 am

In a way, Gone in 60ns, has changed direction and posted a series of articles which helps in technical support and points out the interest of collecting computer parts.

In technical support, we used actual experience of many design defficiency in the industry to help computer assemblers to watch out for fatal mistakes that they can avoid, if they had only known. Then the motherboard can be tested out of the computer case, where everything can be visually inspected. The whole system can be tested before installing into the computer case.

In collecting the motherboards, for profit or for daily use, we have to look at the future of computer technology. While it is cloudy at times, the demand on ebay definitely shows us the trend of collectors' interests.

Postby atang1 » Tue Sep 03, 2002 10:55 am

Back to technical support.

In order to test motherboard, it is preferred to test them on a bench. The bench set up would consist of a power supply, a speaker, and a momentary switch to a jumper connector. This is to test the motherboard with only cpu fan and memory. If it works beep codes will happen.

On the otherside of the power supply will be the floppy stacked on top of a harddisk already connected to the powersupply. This side of the setup is to test all the components to be installed on the motherboard. You need a telephone book under the motherboard to install all the cards.

Recent result shows long term(half a day) temperature change of socket 7 motherboard on telephone book adds 2-3 degrees C to the cpu, due to lack of cooling under the motherboard. So card board trick should have cut outs to avoid the underside of the cpu socket, and have air movements as well.(09/18/02)

After all the tests passed, the system is ready to be installed into the computer case. Never tighen the screws too much. The screws should allow the motherboard to float a little.

good luck, you are ready to do your own technical support by beep codes.
Last edited by atang1 on Wed Sep 18, 2002 4:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

Postby atang1 » Thu Sep 05, 2002 1:31 am

Often people think technical support is to fix your problems. In fact, the need for technical support is to be able to speed up your computer.

Most people think that you can speed up your computer by changing the perameters in the bios. In fact you can. The first place is to optimize the wait state of memory. Change the CAS, RAS and any other items in your bios that can be changed to see how speed changes. Then, turn on the bios and video shadow. Turn off the power management of hard disk, etc. Turn on UDMA on peripharels setup.

Beyond bios speed up, we can change the packet size in the modem data transmission. Most cache, internal or external, can be write back instead of write thru. Even though write thru can cache twice the dram, write back is faster by up to 25% in speed. More cache is more speed for longer application software.

Nowadays, the bus speeds can be changed by software in the windows enviroment. FSB change by PLL circuit registers. PCI bus change, AGP bus change to speed up the video cards. Most of these free programs are available by searching on the internet. Because of the change is in windows environment, the change is not permanent, and may not damage your equipment if you shut down fast enough immeditely after your computer stalls.

Then there is the overclocking aspect of changing core voltage and with the help of the largest fan/heatsink on the cpu, speed up the FSB. You can speed up the video controller the same way.

So, your apetite is wet. Well lets try a few of them and see how you like it.

Postby atang1 » Sat Sep 07, 2002 2:08 pm

One of the major technical support needs is the transition from AT power supply to ATX power supply. Then from older ATX power supply to the latest ATX power supply without any instruction manuals to describe the ATX controller and what it does.

AT power suppy is very simple. It has a mechanical power switch. You turn it on and the regulators go to work. It there is a short, the power will automatically short off. If you switch off, there is no power on the motherboard, you can even clear cmos.

In the early days of the ATX power supply, Intel has a specification for all the power supply manufacturers. The power supply does not have a mechanical power switch. The power supply is on the minute you plug it into the wall plug. It has 1 volt supplied to the motherboard. The momentory switch connected to the motherboard then will be able to switch the power supply to full power. when you switch off the full power, 1 volt is back on. You can not clear cmos even if you took the battery out. And any movement of any componenet except the PNP hot swap items will get damaged at the spike of 5-6 volts transcient power surge. Always have to remeber to disconnect from the wall plug before you move anything on the motherboard. The momentary switch turns on the motherboard with a sigle push, but can not be turned off unless you hold down the momentary switch for up to 8 seconds. Just hold down until the power LED goes off. Otherwise, the power supply goes on 1 volt power but the motherboard goes into suspence or goes to sleep. You touch the momentary switch again and it come back to life or the motherboard and your system is back on.

The latest ATX power supply added automatic energy savings features. when it goes to sleep, the cooling fan on the power supply will slow down. When you have a short anywhere, it will stay on 1 volt and shut off the high current supply very fast, LED will not lite up. When your computer woke up, the fan will speed up. What a mess, if you want the computer to work right away and do intensive computations. But they added a mechanical switch to shut off the power at the wall plug. Now your ATX power supply will not burn out due to forgetting to shut off the power for days on end. My brother's did burn out.

Once technical support gets this knowledge across, the motherboard failure problems simply goes away. World they give you a manual to warn you? No way, Jose. Let the motherboard be blown, the ATX power supply will still be ok.

More on other technical support later.

Postby atang1 » Sun Sep 15, 2002 2:59 am

When you were poor, you hope to fix your computer by changing an IC or two. You would think that manufacturers would do that. The economy of it is that it is cheaper to make a new motherboard than to fix an IC or two. To replace a $10.00 part will cost thw manufacturer $150.00. The cost of manufaturing a motherboard is only in the $50.00 range.

So, in technical support, we are interested to identify the faulty hardware and replace them, instead of identify the integrated circuit and repair the motherboard. Even the mosfet transistor requires some skills to replace. The skills involve repairing of the printed circuit traces. The kit from Radio Shack to repair printed circuit traces may run up to $30.00 range. So if you can buy another motherboard for less than $50.00, you are way ahead on saving cost of fixing your computer.

Technical support professionals require you to give them all the hardware parts you have installed in the computer, so that with the symtoms you give them, they can ask you to test a few things and get you on your way.

The technical support on a chat line such as what has, is not technical support by professionals. Most posts are not very helpful. But technical support is really very simple. Just like most medical doctors who know the sickness that is going around, techical support people know by statistics what problems are going around with they products. So, the answers are very professional.

To do technical support on hardware failures, the support person has to take over the computer, and the person who owns the computer has to do what he was asked. Then he reports what happened. A professional would tell him what to expect, good or bad before hand. After the result is known, then an analysis can be given, to replace or to try to isolate the problems to other than the motherboard. Isolating the problem is solved by replacing with a known good part, which most people do not have on hand. So, professionals will use beep codes if applicable. No beep codes means either cpu or motherboard is dead. Which one do you suspect? You better find a known good part, whichever(it is easier to clear cmos and replace the cpu, which is easily overheated if you never bend the motherboard).

So. this can be done by email. I am sure the technical support on will improve with some guide lines. There used to be too many problems unanswered. Now almost every one posted has some responce. But is that enough? Do we need to set a higher standard, and still avoid banning anyone to post their opinions?

Postby atang1 » Tue Sep 17, 2002 2:36 am

In technical support, what is the most common problems going around these days?

1) Cpu overheating resulting in stalling the computer or freeze up or lockup. You check your thermal grease condition, re-apply new thermal grease. You change to a large heatsink and fan.

2) Bending the motherboard when you install more memory, or cards, or a faster cpu. Use card board trick under the motherboard to straighten it, hopefully will work again, otherwise replace the motherboard. Always remember to add components on a bench, not in the computer casee, where the supports are not solidly across the motherboard. You push and the motherboard will bend.

3) Hard disk failure. Cooling by fan maybe a serious consideration, if the hard disk is not stable, especially during lengthy data transfer. If sectors can not be recovered, use partitions to avoid using the excessive bad sectors.

4) No beep codes, no boot. Replace cpu first. Then replace motherboard. On 4mb bios rom, clear cmos first and try to reboot. Bios rom seldom fail; but needs the latest update to work with newer cpus.

5) No power, with ATX motherboard. Either there is a short, or the momemtary switch is not installed. Power supply seldom fail, but will automatically shut down to save computer components.

6) No video, but power is on. No beeps means, cpu is dead or not recognized by bios. Replace with a slower cpu. With beeps, motherboard traces maybe broken. Replace motherboard.

There are, of course, many others; you have to pay a fee and get a professional to help you.

Postby atang1 » Tue Sep 24, 2002 3:06 am

Often people left their computers alone for months on end(3 month), moisture got into plastic encased ICs and the computer will fail to work properly. The cure is to turn it on and leave it on for over 1 week until the heat drove off the moisture from inside the IC. Use it or lose it. didn't they say that?

For some reason, you disconnected some equipment(printer) when power was on, and it stopped working. Leave the equipment in a dark place for two month or longer. Then, try it and see if it will come back to life. This is based on the assumption that the arcing caused the transistors to be zapped with electricity and the injected electrons supercharged the gate oxide. And until it dissipated, the transistors will not work.

Whenever, computer stalls, you must shut down quickly before overheating damage the cpu or chipsets. The most obvious problem turned out to be the thermal conductive material. In the case of cpu, they are wax or silicone, evaporated and separated from the cpu. In the case of chipsets, the thermal conductive material is rubber adhesive. Sometimes the application is too thick. If you twist the heatsink lightly and it wants to move; you have a potential problem(most motherboards die due to chipset failure). In all cases, thermal conductivity has to be restored to maximum efficiency.

Then there is the problem of contact resistance. When sockets have tin/lead contacts, they oxidize and change from 0.1 ohm to 40,000 ohms; and cards, memories, cpus, biuos roms, batteries and anything using pressure contacts will need boundary lubricant to restore contact resistance back to 0.1 ohm. The oxidation increases with temperature and vibration. Vibration lessons if motherboards and power supplies are not screw down too tight, use paper between metals to dampen the vibration will help. Grounding is done by wires, not by screwed down metal contacts.

Stress due to temperature cycling(thermal expansion and contraction), by turning on and off computer shortens the life of components. If you leave computers on full time, while the rotating machines will fail, the computer will live on. The life of rotating machines are defined by mean time between failure and hard drives are 230,000 hours(26.25 years), today. Older hard drives are 8000 hours.

These are general knowledge in the world of technical support.

Postby atang1 » Wed Sep 25, 2002 2:31 am

Software technical support used to be more difficult before WinME. WinME (32 mb memory minimum) changed all that with the Microsoft Help and online support feature. The help desk feature uses registry of the past to restore the operating system to handle any new problem that arrises. Most of all the new problems are solved by rebooting, when the operating system reconfigures the registry.

Win98SE is almost like WinME but uses less memory(24 mb minimum). Win98 original should always be updated to SE. The drivers of Win95 usually works with Win98SE, if not Win98SE may have its own generic drivers built in to take care of popular components. Any problems arrises from legacy software, should always be updated to rid of glitches. Therefore IE6.0 should be downloaded to replace all older browsers. The .net strategy of Microsoft has changed the way internet communications work. All other application software become secondary.

Win95 is still being used for the reason that it only requires 16 mb of memory. It is simple and does the job for older computers with first generation Pentium cpus. It caan handle the latest IE6.0. Win95 drivers by now are adequate. Most legacy device drivers are still available on the internet for free.

Win3.1, believe it or not, still can be used with IE3.3 if you are lucky to obtain a copy in the old days. The graphics are limited, but usable.

So, software technical support is mostly understanding from experience what works and what does not work. Work around glitches, mostly involves restoring the operating system and getting rid of data corruption by deleting the file and rebild the data. Format and install, does most of the tricks, if scandisk can not do its job. Missing files are often caused by sequential installation disorder. This is corrected in WinME, where restore is automatically done from the compressed copy of WinME residing in the HD. And rebooting restores the registry. So upgrade to WinME is often recommended.

This is general knowledge in the world of software technical support. WinXP(except home version, which requires 128 mb of memory minimum, to do the same job as WinME but with better video and sound), WinNT and Win2k, are professional operating systems; they are not common, and with intranet software are supported by large staff of IT department personel. But format and install in the proper sequence still is the order of the day.

Postby atang1 » Thu Oct 03, 2002 2:55 am

Injet printers are a pain in the neck, technical support involves mostly with the cartridge.

Ink is actually just clothing dye and water, with some glycerol to slow down the evaporation. Any water will disolve the ink, and smudge the printing.

It is definitely not for infrequent printing; because the ink will dry and the printer will stop printing. Some printer has a well that absorbs the leaking ink and keep the head wet, which will keep the printer working 45 days without printing. If you don't use the printer, you should remove the ink cartridge and put a Scotch tape over the ink jet holes(same as the new cartridges).

If the ink jet cartridge dried up, you can restore it by soaking in shallow hot water until the ink start to saturate the water.

If you should decide to refill the cartridge, all you need is some black or colored clothing dye. Put it in hot water, half a gallon. The dye should not all dissolve, so you know the ink is saturated. Pour some in a shallow large area dish. The ink should not touch the electrical contacts on the cartridge. Set the cartridge in the dish and let atmospheric pressure fill up the cartridge. Without glycerol, you have to use the printer everyday. If you have glycerin, then you add one drop at a time until it will not dry up for 45 days.

Good luck. Try it on an old empty cartridge. If you need convinscing, just use hot water in the shallow dish, fill up the empty cartridge. You can use it again for some time. The ink is of course not as dark? But then you did not spend $36.00 either?


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