Archive for the 'Design Rants' Category

Wii Shutting Off After a Few Minutes? Check the Fan.

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Two years after the last time our Wii showed signs of death by thermal failure, the repaired Wii is once again succumbing from heat death.

Now, the Wii will play fine for about 5 to 10 minutes and then just turn off entirely — no lights, nothing.

Before trying to fix it myself, I checked Nintendo’s customer support sight. Gone is any sense of personal account and, instead, I was told that’d cost $75 + s/h + tax to repair the now-out-of-warranty Wii; about $95 or, in other words, just about 1/2 the cost of a new Wii.


To be absolutely fair, Nintendo’s customer service has been absolutely top notch. $75 (+shipping & taxes for CA residents — $95) for a fix-any-problem service with a solid turnaround time of about 10 days (though it generally takes less) is actually very good.

A replacement optical drive — another component that oft goes flaky due to dust, dirt, or abuse — cost about $50 to $60 and are quite time consuming to replace. Thus, for some fixes, $75 is beyond fair.


Of course, there is no [non-hacky] way of moving all data and purchased content from an “old” Wii to a “new” Wii, thus replacing the unit with a new — hopefully better built — Wii isn’t viable. Not that letting Nintendo fix a Wii is that much better; they have a tendency to screw up your data in the process.

Fine. $95 and no options. Let me do some basic triage…

As it turns out, the Wii’s fan was jammed. Probably with pet hair or, hell, with one of my über-long bits of hair from my long haired days. And it was dusty, too. That could certainly be a problem!

After the fix described below was applied, the unit played quite stably for more than an hour, something that was impossible before.

So, if you are suffering from the same symptoms — spontaneous power down during play — you might want to give this a try before paying the vigNintendo to fix what is, otherwise, about $1.50 in parts (assuming they don’t do the same as below!).

  • Disconnect everything from the Wii and take it to a decent bright light (a flashlight will do).
  • Take a micro-screwdriver, toothpick, or something similar and very gently try and move the fan blades visible inside the vent on the rear of the unit. If there is any resistance, you have a stuck fan!
  • Spin the blade a few times with your poky-stick thing. If you can’t, you have an über-stuck fan and your choices are to replace it yourself or pay Nintendo ~$90 to do it for you.
  • Grab a vacuum cleaner that has a hose attachment.
  • Turn on the vacuum and place the end of the hose over the vent for a few seconds. You’ll likely hear that spinny-whistly-noise of a fan spinning up in a fast rush of air. Hopefully.
  • Put the Wii back and reconnect everything.
  • Fire up a game, turn down the audio volume, and listen for the whir of the Wii’s fan. Or have a look.

The end result might be a working Wii. If not, nothing lost as none of this procedure leaves any kind of a mark (if done right — you go sticking a metal bar into the fan and breaking off a blade is your own damned fault).

Looking more closely at the Wii, it appears that there are one of numerous design flaws in play here.

First, given the number of thermal problems reported by various folk, it is quite clear that Nintendo shoved too much crap into too small of a box without properly accounting for the thermal envelope required.

Secondly, the old-school GameCube memory card slots create quite a vent that leads directly to the fan below and behind the slots. Feeling the airflow when applying The Suck, it feels like those slots will quite happily draw anything in and dump it right on the fan! It makes me wonder if there is a correlation between fan breakage and folks that enjoy GameCube games and, more pertinently GameCube saves on GameCube memory cards?

In any case, our Wii is working again. Even if it is only makes it through the next week or so, it is going to make Christmas morning considerably happier (as it would suck to be all like “Here, son, awesome new game… you can only play it for ten minutes at a time and you’ll lose your saves. Have fun!”.

Dell Followup: Dell Responds!

Friday, September 8th, 2006

Update: Dell site design folk are actively reading the comments on the original post to evaluate how to better improve the user experience. Neat.

The whole “What the Dell?” design rant received quite a bit more attention than I expected (thanks to an initial link from Daring Fireball and snowballing from there).

Quite a few comments, too. Including comments from Dell employees that spawned a bunch of email communication with them. I have a new found respect for the company.

Aside: Yes, to be perfectly clear, I am an Apple employee. This weblog, however, is completely disconnected from my day job other than that many of my hobbies and my profession overlap. I am speaking entirely for myself here.

Initially, many of the respondents pretty much agreed with my opinion of Dell’s site design. Go read the original post if you want more context.

About 20 comments in, a comment from RichardAtDell shows up:

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Coffee Stupidity

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

I drink coffee. A lot of coffee. While I certainly drink coffee for the caffeine content and will drink Folger’s drip if I have to (shudder), I like good coffee. Fresh roasted. Grind it myself.

In particular, I prefer french press. Leads to an intensely flavored cup of coffee that really highlights the strengths of the roast and bean used.

As a result, I have a french press and bean grinder both at home and at work. I’m not so anal as to have spent hundreds of dollars on the grinder, nor am I so careless as to use one of those whirling choppers of death to pulverize the beans (those are only good for fine grinding spices).

Which has led me to the discovery of two intensely stupid industrial design mistakes.

The first is with the coffee grinder I use at work. A Braun KMM30. Now, I’m not normally known to be the most tidy of people. Yet, my coffee grinding/brewing area — the top of a filing cabinet — is a complete disaster area of grounds.

Why? Click through for the rest of the rant….

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Microsoft Word Ate A Bit Of My Soul

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

I’m expanding the Design Rants to include crappy software design.

First up? Microsoft Word.

Now, it may come as a surprise that I actually like Word. Or, at least, I did like word way back on my Mac Plus in 1986 or so. And I find Word 2004 to be a tolerable enough word processor once you turn off enough features.

Almost. I still can’t fathom how a piece of software can consume more CPU cycles when hidden then when its windows are simply shoved to the back. That, at least, seems to be mostly fixed. Or maybe it is because I turned off the live word count feature which seems to recount words perpetually, even when the app is hidden.

No. That isn’t what motivated this particular post.
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Silly Aerus Lux 5500

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

We have an Aerus Lux 5500 canister vacuum cleaner. It “features” things like a bag full detector, temperature protection, etc…

Unremarkable, but nothing to complain about. Has a fine particle filter on the exhaust port that actually does a decent job of catching mold, fine dust, and other nasties.

It worked well enough until recently. Suddenly, the damned thing decided that the bag was always full. Put a new bag in, it would run for two seconds then shut down with the bag full light lit.

Annoying. But, wait, the fine particulate matter filter is on the exhaust port. That’s dumb. That means that the really small crap has to float through the whole suction device beyond the bag.

Could it be that the “bag full” detector is simply a sensor that measures the difference between the suction before and after the bag? If it is too great, the bag must be full?

Gotta open it up to find out.
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Design Rants; a new weblog category…

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Anyone who has read this weblog for a while knows that I occasionally harp at length about notable industrial design issues that I run into. Often, these turn into rants railing against really pathetically stupiddesign.

I have several more of these brewing up. Obviously bad design seriously irritates the hell out of me and I’m going to share that frustration.

I hope nobody minds. (He says assuming that someone actually reads this thing).

I have created a category that will house nothing but the design rants.