Free Audio Books

I’ve recently discovered a great source for free audio books: Librivox.  Librivox is a community of people who record their readings of public-domain books for others to listen to.

From their website:

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free

Their short science fiction collections caught my ear immediately.  I’ve only gone through the first two collections at this point.  There are some really good stories in there.

The quality varies from contributor to contributor, since these are amateur recordings, but most of them are of acceptable quality.  Only once did I skip a story due to a terribly irritating voice, but a couple of other contributors’ voices sound not far from professional quality readings.   There are also sometimes technical issues with the recordings themselves (i.e. hissing, minor background noises, etc.), but they are often easily fixed with a graphic equalizer or just ignored when the story is engrossing.

Definitely check out Librivox if you’re a fan of audio books.

Dell XPS M1210 Blank Screen Problem – Mystery Solved!

Over a year ago, my Dell XPS M1210 laptop started randomly having the screen go very, very dark — almost black.  This didn’t happen very often at first, but it eventually got worse and worse until finally the screen would just flicker on for an instant during startup, then go dark.

After doing some research, I found comments from other people indicating the problem could be one of two things: a problem with the inverter board for the display, or a defective backlight.  Well, a month or so ago I bought a new inverter for about eight bucks off of eBay and dismantled my laptop, replacing the old board with the new one.  No change.

Then I bought a new backlight for my laptop (again, from eBay, for less than $20) with the intent of attempting to replace it myself.  I couldn’t find any instructions on how to do it — unlike replacing the inverter board — but I plowed ahead and tried anyway.  As of right now, I have replaced the backlight, but have yet to put everything back together.  I’m not 100% sure I’ll succeed, but I haven’t given up yet.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND ANYONE TRY THIS AT HOME.  It’s difficult and it’s too easy to break something.

Anyway, this is what I found when I finally got to the backlight:

Mystery solved!  One of the wires harnessed to the backlight had, apparently, deteriorated.  Taking into account how many people suffer from the blank screen problem, it looks like this is the result of defective manufacture (or design) of the component.

Given this evidence, I think Dell should have to pay to repair anyone’s Dell laptop which has been experiencing the problem.  The problem is simply too common to simply be from normal “wear and tear”.

Armed with this knowledge, I hope potential laptop buyers will think twice about buying a Dell.


I managed to successfully put the whole thing back together again!  The screen lights up properly now and doesn’t go dark anymore.  I didn’t do a perfect job putting the new backlight in, however, and the bottom-middle of the screen has a bit of a bright spot, but it’s not too bad.  At least my laptop is usable now.

So, to reiterate, the initially intermittant and eventually permanent blank/black/dark screen problem on my Dell XPS M1210 laptop was caused by a fault in one of the wire connections on the screen’s backlight CFL.

Good Mechanics

Recently I had the seat track under my car’s driver’s seat rust out and break.  I called a local dealership about a replacement part and was told it would be almost $500!  After some searching online, I found the part I needed on a site called for less than $200.  With this information in mind, I went to my regular auto shop, Signature Motors Collision Centre.  The guys there had some old cars with a compatible track and replaced it for me for $200, labor and taxes included!

The guys at Signature Motors on Clarence Ave. have yet to steer me wrong.  The last time I had brought it in for repairs I got my transmission rebuilt, a new clutch put in, new rear brake drums and a replaced wheel bearing for $1500.

I heartily recommend them if you’re in need of automotive repairs!