Thursday, September 3, 2009

Repair of a Roku Soundbridge M1000

Despite having repaired a bunch of stuff since I started this blog, this is the first true fixer-upper entry. Everything else I've fixed in recent times had been documented elsewhere on the web. For this repair there wasn't that much anywhere to go on so I hope that whatever appears here helps someone.

I used to listen to music all the time. There was always music on in the background - at work and at home. It was the soundtrack to my day with music for every occasion and mood. The soundtrack became silent when I moved continents. My CD collection was placed into a few of boxes and stored in a relative's garage in my home country. Some of the disks were hastily ripped to mp3s (thanks Dan) but I haven't listened to them since I moved (sorry Dan). I find that listening to music through earbuds far too isolating for my lifestyle. I embarked upon this project to bring my CD collection into my lounge room from boxes in a garage on another continent and restore some kind of soundtrack to my home life.

I recently bought an Intel Atom based Linux server (running Ubuntu Server and Firefly/mt-daapd) to store and serve the music up to my home network. (Note: It is also Time Machine capable to prevent the cause of the previous post). I just needed some kind of network media player to play the music to my cheap Craigslist-acquired bookshelf stereo and bring one part of my media system into this decade. I also wanted to be able to play internet radio streams. Being a bit of a self- and spouse-induced tightwad I decided to buy a broken Roku Soundbridge M1000 and fix it.

The non-functional M1000
For $15.50 plus shipping I acquired a non-functional Roku Soundbridge M1000 from ebay. The most obvious problem was the VFD display wasn't working. The previous owner also stated "there might be other problem besides display connection". In hindsight, this was a huge gamble as I wasn't 100% confident I could fix it without spending a lot of money (a new 280x16 VFD display from Digikey costs about $100, a new M1000/M1001 is now only $129). Also, the broken M1000 had no remote. Before I bought it I worked out that a replacement from Roku was only $20 plus shipping. I decided to take a step-wise approach and fix the display problem before I bought a new remote in case the unit was beyond repair.

The repair job: WLAN pcb
Before I pulled the M1000 apart I powered it up. The display was dead as described. I figured the unit was getting power as one of the LEDs for the ethernet came on. With the help of a link to a labelled tear-down of an M1000 ( I opened up the M1000 to investigate. When I unscrewed the WLAN pcb from the mainboard it just fell off leaving both parts of the connector on the mainboard. The solder joints of connector on the WLAN pcb side had cracked and failed. I suspect one too many vigorous insertions of the CF WLAN card may have caused this. I cleaned up the pins of the connector socket and soldered the connector socket back onto the WLAN pcb. I heated up each each pin at a time with the soldering iron set to 15W to re-melt the solder. I repeated the process a couple of times to make sure I didn't miss any pins. The result is not the prettiest job (I melted some plastic in the process: see image below) but at least the socket is now firmly attached. I connected the WLAN pcb onto the mainboard and screwed it back in place.

The next thing I had to address was the display, in particular the display connection. I found a forum on the replacement of the LCD screen of a Roku Soundbridge M500 ( This forum cautions that the M500 and the M1000 are very different (LCD vs VFD) but I was more interested in their similarities and the images really helped out. Except for the display, the mainboard and pcbs look very similar. The correct orientation of the display connector was obvious and the fact that the display was connected incorrectly was even more obvious. I connected the display correctly (see image below) and powered it up. Immediately the display came to life displaying a startup message. I plugged in the ethernet cable, powered it up again and it detected my music collection advertised by my server. The display of the M1000 works perfectly now. Suddenly my gamble seemed like it might pay off.

Diagnosis redux
I then decided to try to go back and work out where the problem lay. I removed the WLAN pcb to mimick the faulty solder joints. I powered the M1000 up and the display did not power up. The previous owner mentioned something about the display fault being intermittent. It seems that all along the defect lay in the faulty solder joints of the WLAN pcb. The M1000 requires a connected WLAN pcb to power up properly.

Before I shelled out for a remote I needed to know if the M1000 had any chance of working properly. I hooked up the M1000 to my stereo and the network and powered it on. With no remote it was difficult to fully test the device. Luckily there is some basic control commands available by way of telnet (see I worked out the IP address of the M1000 on my network and logged in using the telnet and was able perform a couple of tests. The mfg command returned that all tests had been passed. The auditone command transmitted a nice signal to the stereo in both channels at whatever frequency I set. This all looks really good and a remote was ordered.

Remote arrival
The remote came and with a fresh set of batteries I was instantly able to navigate all the menus. I upgraded the firmware from 2.1.25 to 2.7.x, then finally to 3.04. Everything about this Roku Soundbridge M1000 seems to work perfectly now except the CF WLAN card. The card I have shows no sign of life (no LEDs flash at all) when I plug it into any other computer, so I think it is dead. I won't need it as I'm using this device wired anyway. With the new firmware I got control of the Roku M1000 from my laptop using SoundBridge Commander, which is handy if I'm at my laptop and out of the range of the remote. This software also displays what the VFD is displaying. I can't believe how awesome this device is!

This is easily the most rewarding repair job I've ever done. I didn't have to labor too hard to get it to work and the results far exceeded my expectations. I'm glad the display was good, it could have been an expensive project. Let's hope my wife and I can agree on what to listen to.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Leopard boot disk for a unibody Macbook

The hard drive if my brand new "Unibody" 13" MacBook (Late 2008/Aluminum) running Leopard 10.5.6 became corrupted last Saturday night before a presentation the next week and through trying to revive it I quickly realized via the web there are no third party resources available to recover it. I also read on the web that it isn't possible to create a boot disk for Leopard to be able to run something like Disk Warrior. The options to recover your drive are:
1) Use Time Machine before the chaos began, which I hadn't set up (doh!) due to tight funds for a big external drive.
2) Run the grey OS X Install DVD and use Disk Utilities to fix up the drive.
3) Pull the drive out of the Macbook and try to mount it with and external USB->SATA adaptor to another computer. About there was when I really missed target mode..... Sob.

Anyway I recovered the drive after a while but wished I'd had a boot disk with something other than disk utility. I'm posting this as a starting point for more useful tools for drive recovery from the DVD drive on the unibody Macbooks. What I have done is make a boot disk for "Unibody" 13" MacBook (Late 2008/Aluminum) that works.

I was able to make a boot disk for my new Apple Macbook from the grey OS X install DVD that came with the Macbook using Coriolis CDMaker version 1.2.2 (17) - the version packaged with iPartition 3. I noticed that if you try to create a boot disk straight from the grey OS X install DVD in your DVD drive you'll get an error message. "Coriolis CDMaker failed to create a template from the intsallation media. Try again or use an alernative source..."

Here's a workaround I stumbled upon.
1. Using Disk Utility in the Utilities folder create a new image of the Mac OS X Install DVD. Change the Image format option from "compressed" to "read/write". Create the disk image.
2. Mount the OS X install DVD disk image.
3. Trash the folder "Optional Installs" - whatever is in this folder prevents CDMaker from creating a boot disk template.
3. Open CDMaker and it will detect the mounted OS X install DVD disk image and create boot disk template from the startup data in the disk image.
4. Follow the instructions and burn your boot disk to DVD.
5. Boot computer from DVD to test. It workerd!

Now making a disk that full of useful recovery software, that's probably another story.