From last Friday to Sunday, PIKOM PC Fair came to town. On Saturday, I decided to check out the wares on sale. It wasn’t a case of casual booth-hopping. I was actually looking for a specific equipment; a fan and heatsink combo for my aging (but still useful) Athlon Thunderbird processor. The processor may be old, but it runs on the still pretty common Socket A architecture.

So there I was, just in time to see the doors open for the 100 or so early birds (not really that early since the fair starts at 11:00 am). Surely I can find the heatsink of my dreams, right?

Well, sadly that was not the case. There were probably over a hundred readily built PCs on sale. There were probably just as many notebook computers as well. However, it was never my intention to buy any of those products.

I then saw booths from a couple of famous PC component vendors and decided to check them out. They have everything from processors, RAM, video cards, casings, portable hard drives and the ever present USB thumb drives. Hell, you can see hundreds of USB thumb drives wherever you’re looking during PC Fair. So prevalent were USB thumb drives, they probably should use it as a mascot!

As I went booth-hopping, it dawned on me that the odds for me to find a vendor who has a heatsink for sale was as much a me being struck by an 8GB USB thumb drive.

I then took a step back and looked around me. I noticed that the prices for hardware that remotely interested me was about the same as retail. I found it hard to find any component that was priced below market rate anyway. Motherboards, RAM modules, VGA cards, hard disks… all sold at retail prices!

So were there no deals at PC Fair? Sure they were; for mice, keyboards, headphones, combo card readers, printers… basically items that techies like me couldn’t give a hoot about. I concluded that PIKOM PC Fairs are not targeted at people like me. These PC fairs are probably used more as a way to offload excess peripherals (especially USB thumb drives).

Perhaps it’s better to rename this event to PIKOM Peripheral Fair… and use a USB thumb drive as the mascot!

As for my heatsink? I got one from Landmark IT Mall just across the road. Bleh!

I started my working life being a support/sysadmin guy with a computing giant in Singapore. Needless to say, spending over three years in such an industry made me learn a few unconventional tips and tricks to rectify common computing problems. One tip I’d like to share here is on reviving a seemingly dead notebook battery.

Before I proceed let me just lay down a few disclaimers here:

  1. If your notebook computer is still under warranty, then by all means get the battery replaced!
  2. There’s no guarantee that this tip will work with your notebook battery; but so far this tip has never failed me
  3. If you have the money and there’s still available stock for your notebook battery, then just buy a replacement unit you cheapskate
  4. I won’t be held responsible for any damages or injuries resulting from following this tip. You have been warned!

OK, now that the above has been made clear, here’s the tip: freeze the battery! Yup, that’s the concept. However, here’s the proper way to do it in easy to read steps:

  1. Remove the battery from the notebook computer
  2. Wrap the battery with old newspaper, making sure that it envelops the battery tightly
  3. Repeat step 2 above with at least three pieces of large sheet newspaper (if you’re using tabloid sized newspaper, then use at least five pieces)
  4. Place the wrapped battery in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator
  5. Let it stay in that cryogenic state for three to seven days

Once your battery has been given the frozen treatment, do not directly plug it into your notebook! Let the battery thaw to normal room temperature within the newspaper wrapping by leaving it in the open for at least half a day (overnight is recommended).

Tear off the newspaper wrapping and touch the battery. Does it feel cool to the touch? If so, then leave it at room temperature for a few more hours. Once it feels just about room temperature, take a piece of tissue and wipe the contact points of the battery just in case there’s some traces of moisture there.

Once this is done, plug it in your notebook computer, plug in the power adapter and leave your notebook in “charging” state. Do not power on the notebook!

Give your battery time to fully charge (this depends on your notebook/battery model). Once you’re 100% confident that the battery is fully charged, say your prayers, cross your fingers and power on your notebook. If all goes well, your battery should be working just fine.

Although I won’t promise that this notebook battery revival method will work for your particular notebook model, it has yet to fail me on a HP, Compaq, Dell and an old IBM ThinkPad… why not just give it a try, what have you got to lose?

If you find the steps above too complicated or risky, why not look for bargain prices for your particular notebook at batteries.com (FREE shipping on select laptop/notebook batteries):

Batteries.com: Free Shipping on Select Laptop Batteries

One of the reasons I resigned from an earlier job I had in Singapore was because of the unbearable queuing time I had to endure after the September 11 and SARS outbreak double-whammy.

In fact on a couple of occasions, the infrared thermoscanners that they point to everyone’s forehead as a precaution was the culprit. It often showed my temperature to be much higher than it really is. Of course, this is no suprise because I had to walk across the causeway every day. Why? Traffic was almost unmoving then; again, due to the post-9/11 paranoia coupled with the SARS outbreak precautionary moves.

Imagine my surprise to read that the forehead-scanning thermometers may not be as accurate as originally thought.

Well, at least ASEAN mostly survived the SARS outbreak pretty well. As they say, better be safe than sorry.