What’s in a… Kindle e-reader?


A Kindle on the edge… of being binned

Well, it’s a New Year, so what better time to peek into some useful device for no other reason than it was already broken when I picked up, honest? After the unqualified success of my last “What’s in a…” post, I thought I would try do it again, with something different.

Before the end of 2015, actually quite a way before, my lovely Kindle lost its own plot as well as those of the books stored on it. I suspect that the poor device knew what was in the pipeline – I discovered it had stopped working when I was about load onto it a copy of my NaNoWriMo efforts, “The Xylophone at the Gates of Dawn”. Personally, I would not have been offended if it had just said “No, please don’t make me store that rubbish in my brain”. However, my Kindle chose quietly to stop working. The charging light would only stay on for about twelve seconds (okay, exactly twelve seconds) before switching off. I am sure there is a little emoticon chappy that represents me going “harrumph”, but I haven’t found it yet.


Cover removed with a handy plectrum

Taking one of these things apart is actually quite easy as long as you remember to be gentle, to treat your Kindle kindly. The many plastic lug things that hold the case together can be eased apart with nothing stronger than a piece of plastic, rather than a metal screwdriver.* Personally, I use whatever was lying around – in this case, a guitar plectrum (my workbench is surrounded by guitars and broken dreams, so it wasn’t that surprising a choice). I have previously replaced the broken screen of niece-of-snail a year ago when she sat on her Kindle (probably) and learnt then that plastic beats metal at this task. There are also twenty tiny screws to remove – not so bad when you consider that the newer Kindle Paperwhite devices are simply glued to the screen so completely impossible to separate and thus to fix. Shame on you Amazon!


The battery and, below it, the 3G module. The bits shrouded in metal contain magic. Or possibly cheese.

My immediate thought was that the thin internal battery was finally too flat, electrically speaking, too far gone to be charged. I bought another but this, alas, failed to fix the problem. By jury-rigging a power supply where the battery goes, I tried to persuade the book-filled flat e-reader** to start up, which it sort of tried to then didn’t.


The back of a screen that has cracked up


What makes up the keyboard

It looked as if there was a component on the circuit board that had given up the ghost. Sadly, you can’t really fix a circuit board as found in modern devices – all-in-one with a few surface mount components. This kind of computing power has come at a price – fixability is zero. The only thing to do is to replace the whole board and then salvage any components you can for making up your own stuff.

So, I bought an old Kindle off e-Bay which was described as having a broken screen. Unfortunately, it too suffered from the 12 second charging light symptom as well and so behaved exactly the same way when I attached my presumed working screen. Perhaps my screen is broken too?

Oh well, back to the drawing board, a board lost under the mountain rubbish, er, useful things on my workbench (a wiring loom for a stuffed VW camper van doesn’t just make itself – it requires a whole mess of its own). I haven’t given up just yet though, as I want to see if my Kindle’s brain is still saying “hello” when it is powered up. If not, well, I’ll acquire a cheap second-hand screen and see if that works with the original circuit board. Or I’ll just stop reading e-books…

RIMG2459 - Copy

Still hovering close to the edge of landfill


* …or a hammer and chisel.

** If you can think of something to go there that makes sense and rhymes with ‘puss’, do let me know.

Categories: NaNoWriMo, repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Couple of Good Yarns

Both these yarns could be yours!

Both these yarns could be yours!

In a rush of blood to the head caused by turning too many cartwheels in celebration of completing NaNoWriMo this year and knitting for Wovember, the Snail and I are giving things away – yarn and a book, or possibly yarn and yarns (the same word, the latter use attributed to sailors telling stories whilst engaged in menial work such as yarn-twisting – hence ‘to spin a yarn’).

First there’s my book Kirkenes Blue: a gripping yarn of intrigue and deceit under the beauty of the Northern Lights. The perfect read for when you need a rest from all the knitting!

But that’s not all! There’s a ball of fabulous self-patterning 4 ply yarn. There’s 100g in the ball which is plenty to make a pair of socks and it’s 75% Merino wool so is lovely and soft, but with 25% synthetic fibre to make it hard wearing [please note: I have no idea what some of that means but the Snail wrote it, and she knows about that stuff, so it must be right].

If you want a chance to win this pair of yarns, simply leave a comment below; and if you want to double your chances, head over to thesnailofhappiness’s blog and leave a comment on her post about this give-away too.

We will send the package anywhere in the world and all comments left before the end of Sunday 6 December (UK time) will be included in the draw.

Good luck!


Categories: General silliness, Kirkenes Blue, NaNoWriMo, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 24 Comments

Something Out of Nothing and a little trick to help hit that Word Count

Badge of Honour

Badge of Honour

As you will probably know, once more this year I am NaNoWroMo-ing, just for the fun of it. I reached the 10,000 word mark today and thought I would share with you just how weird it feels to have soaked so much creative juice onto electronic paper is just 6 days. Yuk, what a horrible metaphor. All the good ones are in the 10,000 words (probably).

Seven days ago I had a name for a person. OK, it is a silly name, unless you really are called Nathan Xylophone in which case I am sorry to have mocked you. But really, it is a silly name. Your nemesis-type person thing also has a silly name, but I’m not going to reveal that here.

I have discovered a nice way of handling the word count fright that comes with this territory. I plan to write 2000 words a day, like Stephen King does, so I have split this up into 20 blocks of 100 words. 100 reasonably coherent words are easy to write and 20 is a small enough number of blocks not to be too scary. As the challenge – 50,000 words in 30 days – translates to 1,667 words a day, I have leeway for procrastination (or staring out the window, if you prefer). If you are NaNoWriMo-ing too and find the word count a bit of a scary thing, then feel free to try out the block method. Splitting stuff up into smaller manageable chunks isn’t new of course, but I mention this here in case you haven’t thought of it before.

If you really have writer’s block then look out the window and imagine your main character looking in at you. Describe the scene from your point of view, from his point of view, from the POV of the spider you’ve just noticed. I have another word document of notes open where I can put such things. It helps to get those creative juices flowing and, if you are short of words at the end include your notes. No one is going to disallow them!

A Canine 'Helper'

A Canine ‘Helper’

Since 1st November, my guy has travelled through time and is about to be presented with a dog. And there has been a vortex that looks like “a wobbly mess of flaming bluey black treacle”. What I love about writing like this, over a far more compressed time frame than usual is that if you ask me “what’s going to happen next?” I can honestly answer “I have no idea”.

40,000 more words to go. It still seems a lot but now I have to keep going to see how it all ends.


Categories: NaNoWriMo, Writing | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Here we NaNoWriMo Go again

BaNaNoWriMo 2015

BaNaNoWriMo 2015 – silliness abounds

It’s that time of year again when the more foolish of us attack the NaNoWriMo challenge as if nothing else mattered, whilst carrying in our heart of hearts the fact that it really is nothing more than an indulgent pursuit. I don’t really know if anyone takes it really seriously, I hope not. Even if you don’t participate in groups, online or in the flesh, even if you don’t donate money or buy merchandise, it should still be fun to have a go. And it’s not as if there is a word count police, checking your every keystroke.

For me, this attempt is slightly different to the previous three in that I have no specific plans to publish the novel I am going to start to create this time. With that in mind, I am writing something that is just plain silly.

When I tell you that the main character is called Nathan Xylophone, you’ll know that I’m just not taking this year’s NaNoWriMo seriously at all. As if to labour the point, here’s a little excerpt:

“If the past is like a foreign country, the future is like the bit behind the ‘fridge where no one dares to look.”

Nathan Xylophone read the line and then wrote “I have absolutely no idea what that means. I have no real idea what anything means anymore.” He replaced the stylus in its holder at the side of his smartphone and locked the screen with a swipe.

It really was going to be a difficult day. Again.

Yesterday had been quite difficult: so had the day before that. The day that started all this unbelievable nonsense had, annoyingly enough, begun really well. Nathan had reached his research laboratory well before lunchtime, beating the rest of his team by about three hours.

Jay Gee, Thanxy, Sasky, Mik and Tim were the hardest working, brightest research group in the field of Super-compression Wave Disintegration Fusion Physics that the world had ever seen. The fact that there wasn’t another Super-compression Wave Disintegration Fusion Physics research team on the planet was, well, proof. No one else dared to be compared to such a collection of super-luminaries. Well, that’s what Jay Gee, Thanxy, Sasky, Mik and Tim liked to believe.

Nathan “Thanxy” Xylophone stared out of the dirty, smeared window at an unfamiliar landscape and sighed. Rising high above his window, the massive bridge carrying a twelve lane motorway ripped through the sky, carrying a sound that was a cross between thunder and a door closing on the original series of Star Trek. Like the whole past/ future/ foreign country/ ‘fridge thing, it made no sense.

He sat on the edge of the bed and, for the hundredth time that day, ran through the sequence of the last three days in his head. He wanted to feel like that incredibly smart detective, the one who turns up at a crime scene and sees the one supposedly insignificant clue that everyone has missed; the clue that solves the whole case, that solves the whole case that has been the main story arc for twenty one episodes.

He didn’t know where he was. He didn’t even know what country he was in. He had no idea what time of day it was, what season it was or what the oddly pleasant but at the same time disturbing smell in this room was.

An incredibly smart detective. If he had been any further away from that description, he would have been on another planet.

“Oh god!” Unlocking the screen of his smartphone, Nathan extracted the stylus and wrote “I think I’m on another planet!” Then he said it out loud, to see if it sounded as stupid as it looked.

“I’m on another planet!”

A voice from over his shoulder said “Well, close. You’re in Wales. Or what’s left of it.”


Categories: General silliness, NaNoWriMo, Writing | Tags: , | 9 Comments

It was this or grow a moustache…



Well, you all probably know how this works. One minute you’re editing away, gazing out the window or walking the dogs and the next minute, before you can write “Register for NaNoWriMo” on the dryboard in your office, you’ve gone and… blown the punchline.

Actually, that is sort of what NaNoWriMo is all about: 50,000 words, a lot of them different and in whole sentences, but with no time for that bit inside you that says “No, don’t write that!” to say… oh good grief.

Surprisingly, what tends to happen is that after a few days, you settle down and, despite there being no checks or actual pressure to complete the task, you treat NaNoWriMo like the challenge it is – fun, silly, madcap, DEADLY SERIOUS.

I could grow a moustache for Movember but I already have one (a hairy lip, not the eleventh month) all the rest of the time (apart from when I display my ‘summer plumage’, which now having typed, I regret putting but I have my internal editor switched off in readiness for November).

I could also earn  money, but that should never stand in the way of a potential Nobel Prize for Literature. Or may be it should, but I have enough squash and apple to keep me going a while so I’ll be able to eat. if nothing else.

So, a novel it is then. I wish all NaNoWriMers good luck (hi Kate!) and a month’s supply of whatever it is they need to get them through the ordeal.

Happy writing!

Categories: NaNoWriMo, Writing | Tags: | 3 Comments

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