2006-04-06

Laptop Sound

I've been living without sound on my Toshiba laptop since last summer.
When I opened it up, I found the sound card was this tiny board, maybe 2 inches by a half inch. And it has this plug-in to the motherboard. The connector on the motherboard had come loose. Considering that plugging in earphones would cause mechanical stress on this top board, it almost seems inevitable that this connector would break on the motherboard or sound card. This should have been right on the motherboard or connected with a ribbon connector. There are a number of other ribbon connectors in the laptop, so it is already a workable solution.

At first it just worked oddly - sometimes the sound would work, sometimes it would make odd noises - sometimes it didn't work. And of course this happened after the unit was out of warranty. I can only imagine that if I took it in to be fixed, the answer would be to replace the motherboard. A motherboard and labor - I can only imagine this would cost nearly as much as a new laptop.

So I opened it up. I was able to get it to work again twice before. But both times, it stopped working. The last time I tried, I couldn't get it to work again. And the track-pointer has been acting oddly since then. Good thing I use an external mouse with it most of the time.

There was another solution. Not too long ago, they started selling a PC/MCIA (laptop card port) sounds card. But all the sites listed the cost at around $100 dollars. At best I've seen low $90s before shipping. Most weekends I browse the tech-store circulars. I never got to it this past weekend.

Last night I was running some errands. I'd offered to pick up raffle tickets for the next geocache meeting. I figured an office store would be a good bet. I stopped in at the local OfficeMax. With a little help, I found the raffle tickets. Boy that is a big roll! It should keep us busy through 2020. On my way down the isles, I peaked at the cabinet where they keep computer add-in cards. I looked for the laptop sound card. I'd been hoping that at some point before next month that the card would drop down $10. We want to set up a lan party on the side at my son's big birthday party. My computer needs working sound for that.
Looking in the case, I spot the card. It has a yellow sale tag. Down from $99.99, Down to $54.99. Wow! That is a fantastic deal! So I grabbed the next sales person and asked him to get it out for me.

I got it home and installed it. It took a long time to install all the software it wanted to add. Then I had to reboot. There was a break to read some bed-time stories. Then I got back and logged back on. I plugged in the earphone. Nothing. Tried the other port. Ahh - SOUND!!! Yay!!!

The laptop built-in sound had a nice feature, a little thumb-wheel to control the volume. With the new card, it is only soft settings. Also, of course, the card is not able to play through the built-in speakers. I'd figured on that - and that I'll have to open it up and hack into the speakers, putting a little plug wire in for the card. The only other choice is external speakers. Maybe for the lan-party I'll do that - but not for a long term solution.

There is one more drawback. While the card itself is standard type-1 height (a type-1 card is usually small enough that 2 type-1 cards can fit in a standard laptop) - then end of the card is bigger. It has to sit in the lower half of the slot, and doesn't leave enough room for a second card. I already have a card that I used to download my memory card for my digital pictures. This means that now I will have to swap out the sound card to load the picture card into my laptop.

But it is worth it to get sound again from my laptop! I tried a DVD. I know in theory that it should play a DVD, but I didn't know if there were any issues. It played the DVD - the sound was much louder. This is good news if I want to watch a movie on a plane. And now I can use it as a T-Pod again if I want to.

T-Pod - my version of an iPod. Putting my laptop in it's backpack as a training weight for hiking, and being able to use it as a hard drive-MP3 player.

No comments: