Back from the Dead (part 1)

I chose the title ‘Back from the Dead‘ because I wanted to write about getting my notebook computer working perfectly again after it was unresponsive and assumed a ‘goner’ 25-months ago. But it also seemed appropriate for my first blog article after almost 6-years since I shut down my, now defunct, chemistry-teaching blog.

Notebook PC
My revived notebook with Chromium OS

Back to my original topic of the dead notebook: when the ‘on’ button was pressed the green ‘on’ LED would flash for about 1 sec and then turn off again. There was no display, no audible whir from a fan or hard disk, no beeps or other lights (except an orange LED to indicate that the battery was charging from mains power), So I had it repackaged ready for a return to the manufacturer for repair under warranty – only to find that the warranty had expired about a month before. So it sat in its packaging for 2-more years. It didn’t seem to matter much because it only was a cheap Kogan notebook purchased for less than $400 AUD.

When I started to think of reviving my dossier and blog I thought of buying a  new ultralight notebook. Perhaps a Chromebook, easier to carry around, fast-booting, good battery life, and a less distracting OS, than Windows, for writing and blogging.  The trouble was that I couldn’t find anything – Chromebook or otherwise – with reasonable specs and an FHD (1920×1080 pixel) display for less than $800 AUD. So I pulled the old Kogan Atlas out again an opened the case to see if I could get it working. What did I have to lose? Two days later, after replacing the memory and trying every repair tip I could find on Google, I was ready to throw it in the trash.

A challenge with the Kogan Atlas was that the batteries were non-removable and most of the repair tips I had found with Google had begun by saying: “first remove the battery-pack …” but in this case, I couldn’t remove the batteries without a great deal of difficulty. The solution was to gently separate the battery power connector from the motherboard and slide a piece of paper between them to isolate the battery. By itself, this didn’t help but then I realized that there was another coin-sized Li-battery on the motherboard itself to keep the CMOS powered. So I removed this battery too and left it for about an hour to ensure the CMOS would reset. After reconnecting the batteries I was shocked! My Kogan Atlas had returned from the dead after all these years! It booted into Windows 10.

I found that there were some issues in getting Windows 10 to run smoothly again after so long. No worries, after some backing up of files, downloading of CloudReady Chrome OS by Neverware and loading it on to a bootable USB, I was soon running Chromium OS on my Kogan Atlas. It was now much faster and more responsive than it had ever been with Windows but at the cost of needing to be online 90% of the time to be useful. However, this hasn’t been as much of a downside for me. My notebook works like new. For me, this has been a ‘Wow!’ experience. I haven’t lost the core capabilities I had with technology that I had when I worked at Agilent – Varian and when I was teaching ‘Computers in Chemistry‘ in my early years at QUT.

Part 2 covers the gory details of operating on the innards.

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