Setting up a (portable) computer repair kit

Discussion in 'Computer Games and General Discussion' started by FAST6191, Apr 4, 2010.

Apr 4, 2010
  1. FAST6191
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    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip
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    It seems I am presently playing the computer/electronics support/fixing gig alongside whatever else it is that I do and while my house/shed has enough stuff to sort everything it seems fieldwork is the rapidly becoming the order of the day. While I have yet to be troubled by anything it is only a matter of time until it does happen and I would rather spare myself the embarrassment if I can sort it out now.
    While I have my ideas I frequently get little suggestions here and there that make a big difference so I am putting it out there.

    Fieldwork can quite literally find me in a field, a boat hull or wedged in a wall cavity- running to the van is not ideal or even possible (secure sites- while there are good security guards I all too often end up facing power tripping idiots who have "protocols" and can not distinguish between cheesy film and reality*) so I am aiming for a bag somewhat similar in size to a medic bag and if I can fit it in my rucksack even better.

    *something like http://www.rapidonline.com/productinfo.asp...;catRef=30-3750 but an exposed PCB and the guy would give thought to phoning the bomb squad.

    I have no aversion to spending some money but know that if you are going to suggest software it had better be awesome.

    Hardware
    Cables
    I usually bring a mix of USB (A-B, micro, mini, extension), network (basic cat5(e) rather than cat6), a microfilter+ RJ12 cable and maybe the odd IDE/pata ribbon and SATA cable. Included in there are some sacrificial ones for when I have to make/fix things (you would be surprised how many things charge on 5V with less than 500mA and equally how often proprietary nastiness has the USB end fail) but not in there are extensions/adapters for internal PC parts (such things are a great source of 12V and 5V power with a decent amount of amps).
    Headphones, a male-male 3.5mm audio cable and a 3.5mm to phono cable.

    It has not troubled me yet but I tend not to carry serial or full on hardware reverse engineering stuff. This will probably be a second kit though.

    Tools
    A usual set of large ish screwdrivers, torx and security bits as well as a "watchmakers" screwdriver set.
    While I do not tend to carry it around I have a gas powered soldering iron and while it is useless for surface mount work I consider spade lugs and simple interference connectors to be evil so everything gets soldered. Naturally a solder sucker (manual plunger thing), some braid and various forms of solder go with it.
    Wire cutters, strippers and a set of basic pliers. No crimps beyond that which your basic black and red wire cutters afford.
    Two cheap multimeters and a better one if I need it.
    A box of assorted electrical components (through hole/wire ended rather than surface mount)
    An IDE/sata to USB reader- mine lacks SATA which is getting to be troublesome but that is easily sorted.
    Electrical tape (automotive grade and self sealing/healing/amalgamating tape mainly)
    Callipers
    Thermal paste.
    An anti static wrist strap- static danger is overhyped but for the sake of a £3 strap I would rather not have to explain a dead server.

    I lack anything resembling a null cable, socket tester and network tester and in what amounts to pure luck everything I have been around has not required me to pull/run cable through anything that was not easy to do.

    I would like a portable device for some pictures (wiring diagrams and the like) with a decent size screen- the DS/PSP is not cutting it and I have not seen a mobile phone capable of anything the DS/PSP can easily manage so I am looking at some form of palmtop machine. Field hardening is something I do for people so it need not rate in that world as I can sort that and everything I have seen amounts to a token effort. While I would be happy with your basic digital picture frame if it can have internet (wifi rather than 3g) that would be awesome too.

    I am also thinking about stocking some wireless adapters- if it can stem the flow of horrible belkin devices then even better.
    I imagine I also need to grab a cheap USB mouse and (micro?)keyboard (maybe also the PS/2 equivalents) and maybe a 3g USB device of some form in case of lack of internet somewhere.
    An assortment of memory cards (XD, SD- all form factors, CF and MS) as an assortment of hardware seems to want such things these days for updates and what have you.
    I probably should pick up some canned air.
    Whether I want to add in a "portable" DVD drive is another matter.


    Software
    The main reason for this. I plan to pick up a CD folder, some USB drives and burn off a new set of files to them (I will also stash a couple of drives for basic backup). I have several linux servers and the odd desktop under my care but it is mostly windows XP still but I do have the new shiny (home) laptop with vista or 7 to occasionally tangle with.
    While I do have things to sort on the software front and beyond that is a case by case thing so the four main things I have to do- all interrelated really but for the sake of example I am breaking them apart:

    1) Fix/tune up machines- the bread and butter of my trade here is a squared hijack free along with whatever customising app I have on hand that month. I do not rate automatic scanners and I would not sleep well if I called it safe after a basic AV scan.
    On the rescue front I have liveCDs of linux (usually puppy linux) and bartpe for snatching data from drives.

    2) Install machines from scratch- my mentioning that five year old machines and even older are still more than capable of office work seems to have been taken to heart or more likely old home machines get sent my way (usually with draw dropped once I can the 5 network adapter, 7 printer and assorted startup apps and the speed increases to new machine grade). http://driverpacks.net/ discs will be added to such a kit.

    3) "Make it work"- while I occasionally get to build machines for people more often than not I get given a piece of junk from your chosen big box vendor and asked to make it work.

    4) Update machines- I will spare horror stories but I have seen XP machines that lack even SP1 and assuming I am not around to play with nlite/similar UK internet connections are not enough to handle however many gigs of updates such things entail. I usually have something like http://gbatemp.net/index.php?showtopic=130031&hl= on hand though for offline updates (most of my clients are too small to need a full on WSUS server or have requirements beyond such a thing).

    I am also thinking about a collection of stuff from http://portableapps.com to complement the liveCDs. I also need to set up some more remote access stuff for things of my own but I can do that.
     
  2. Rydian

    Member Rydian Resident Furvert™

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    I can give some software suggestions.

    Autoruns - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinte...s/bb963902.aspx
    An assload of info about anything and everything that's set to automatic, from print monitors to codecs to stuff set to run on login, to services, stuff in IE, everything.

    Cleanhandlers - http://windowsxp.mvps.org/autoplayhandlers.htm
    Modify/remove autoplay info.

    WinDirStat - http://windirstat.info/
    See what is taking up how much space and where it's located, both in tree form and graphically.

    Shexview - http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/shexview.html
    View/remove explorer shell extensions.

    Astlog - http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/astlog.html
    Disable using asterisks to hide a password, useful in case somebody forgot theirs, but has it auto-remembered in something.
    Virus scanners and such can pick this up as a threat, just to warn you.

    Gspot - http://www.headbands.com/gspot/
    Codec information, lets you see exactly what codecs are used and other info about a video/audio file, and lets you test codecs.

    Process Explorer - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinte...s/bb896653.aspx
    Super-fancy task manager that even lets you see which services an svchost is controlling, and any network connections a process may be making/using, in addition to loads of other info.
     
  3. UltraMagnus

    Member UltraMagnus hic sunt dracones

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    If you want to save some space and weight you could replace some of your tools with a good quality multitool, a leatherman wave or SOG powerlock would be a good choice, although if you don't mind spending a Paladin tools PT-540 would be perfect for what you are doing as it has wire strippers, crimpers, and 110 and 66 punchdown tools.
     
  4. Psyfira

    Member Psyfira Credit: 0ml. Insert tea to continue

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    Not sure why you specifically mentioned carrying spare wireless adapters, but speaking about repair jobs in general I'd avoid stocking up on too many spare parts. I know it's tempting to try and build a perfect kit for every eventuality, but the last thing you want to do is end up out of pocket with lots of brand new stuff that never gets used.
     
  5. Raki

    Member Raki GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Some MemTest Software will be useful if you replace RAM/upgrade RAM
     
  6. Frederica Bernkastel

    Member Frederica Bernkastel WebPerf and PWA advocate; @antoligy on Twitter

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    software/OS wise, I carry three USB sticks around with me.
    One is: Ultimate Boot CD http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/
    Second is either a random linux distro, or FreeBSD
    and final is Win7 x64 USB
     
  7. Panzer Tacticer

    Member Panzer Tacticer veteran human

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    Just thinking out loud here.

    Download copies of all the last several OSs in a clean install fashion burned to disc. Because sometimes format install is the only logical choice. And you can always use your disc and their serial.

    Get a decent sized USB flash drive like Sandisk Micro something you can run a web browser off of, and that has usable AV installed that can go into an infected system and clean it directly.
    It will also allow you ability to go online and grab drivers etc you might find are needed.

    I'd also gain a familiarity with where to get new parts, as sometimes the only logical choice is so say 'this would be cheaper by just buying a new (and usually better) hard drive here [insert mention of a real computer parts supplier here] at X dollars rather than spending more to have a tech bring it back to life'.
     
  8. Rydian

    Member Rydian Resident Furvert™

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  9. FAST6191
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    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip
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    I just realised I never posted back here, apologies for that one.

    I got around to setting it up properly about a week ago.

    I ended up with:
    Some password kits:
    http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/ (XP and vista/7 versions)
    http://pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd/bootdisk.html
    Linux is easy enough to do manually with physical access.

    Operating systems:
    nlited XP mainly to merge updates into the install and a few choice options. Going to have to see how well I keep it all updated.
    debian net install
    puppy linux
    bartpe

    I will see to vista and 7 as soon as I can find a reliable "production grade" way around their chosen protection methods.

    I have a few virtual machine options set up (four way split between Xen, virtual PC, VMware and qemu) but I am looking more towards hypervisor/sandbox type methods like that of comodo and Sandboxie.

    http://driverpacks.net/driverpacks/latest as well as the usual assortment of Realtek audio and basic graphics drivers for current and legacy NVIDIA and ATI kit.

    A copy of CCCP: http://www.cccp-project.net/ (It is not updated that often and for basic multimedia playback it works wonders).

    @Rydian I had used many nirsoft apps in the past but I had sort of forgotten about them so thanks, they got added to the USB drive I made from my trip over to http://portableapps.com/ and grabbed a load of stuff. Not sure how often I will opt for that over a liveCD but we shall see.
    http://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/ has long been one of the big 4 apps I use for XP although it looks like I will need to update it as it gained a number of nice features since the circa 2003 version I have.

    @UltraMagnus I have been after a good multitool since I destroyed my last one some 7 years ago (attaching to a power/air line tool on a routine basis was not a good idea).

    @Antoligy- http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/ added to the "to burn" folder. Not entirely sure how useful it will be for me vs the liveCDs and CPUz but for the sake of a disc I am not going to worry.

    @Psyfira I agree entirely and such a thought was never far from my mind. I instead opted for a use this for a week until shipping catches up for a couple of wireless USB adapters.

    I also added a basic HTML with CSS using php website template/framework I have kicking around (nothing resembling a CMS mind)- it feels like cheating when I use it but I find most websites are good with just some text and a nice layout and having usually dealt with cowboys how many people are happy to see a rapid port and deployment of such a website. Obviously it is no good for web shops unless I kick it to their tat market of choice and has no browser workarounds (I never truly appreciated how bad some versions of IE are- makes me glad I never went into web development) inbuilt which will trip things up and apparently PHP is still an optional extra in places so a rewrite may be necessary here.

    Naturally a toolkit is not going to remain static, between what I have and a few things I have waiting for me to press buy I am happy enough for now though and can add things as and when funds, demand or boredom requires.
     
  10. wchill

    Member wchill Resident chillxpert

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    This is my software toolkit.
    Hirens + UBCD + TinyXP + Windows 7 x86/x64 w/loaders + NT Password whatever-it-is + KonBoot v1.1 (you can find it in one of the UBCD images) + Ubuntu + live XP/OSx86 + OSx86 Snow Leopard.
    Of course these are all meant to be booted from, but I always download whatever I need instead of letting things become not-updated.
     
  11. Velveteer

    Member Velveteer GBAtemp Regular

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    Hiren's is a gift from the software gods. At some point, I want to modify the PE it has so I can install anything I want.
     
  12. clegion

    Member clegion GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    for the palmtop machine, try finding one of ARCHOS media player with wifi

    how large the screen you require?
     
  13. FAST6191
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    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip
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    @clegion screen size is more for schematics and maps.

    Not sure about archos but thinking about it rockbox should have been my first port of call- pictures and text usually sort it. I suppose I have been spoiled by DS and PSP homebrew.

    @wchill added hirens. I have fiddled with tinyXP before and usually I feel I can do better with nlite.
     
  14. clegion

    Member clegion GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    well the largest screen is on the 700 model, i dom't think that model could be used with rockbox though
     
  15. Raki

    Member Raki GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    how about one of these archos android tablets? plenty of software [​IMG]
     
  16. clegion

    Member clegion GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    that is a good idea, good software, and quite the large screen
     

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