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Wow bad wiring in the AC outlet - expensive failure!


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I was working with my CTB08D tonight. I connected it to my laptop, then plugged in the controller. As soon as the plug hit the socket, I heard a loud pop. I immediately unplugged it. Looking in, there was a metal sliver lying on the circuit board, and a burning smell. After removing the chip, I replaced the fuse, and plugged the controller back in. The LED status light did not turn on. I went to see if there was anything that I could do with the hardware utility, but my laptop was off. I can not get it to turn on. Even when off, the power indicator is usually lit, but now there is nothing.

First, is it even possible that a surge somehow went through the CAT5 to the usb and completely fried the laptop?

Second, how do I go about repairing or getting the LOR board repaired?

Finally, does anyone have any troubleshooting tips for the laptop?

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As far as repair/replacement of the LOR board. Simply contact support@lightorama.coma and let them know what happened. They should the be able to guide you on what for you to do, and/or what they will do.

The component that you state had the metal chip on it is a voltage regulator. Depending on what the other side of the chip was against, very likely effected your laptop as well. Wish you luck.

Keep all informed. I am sure we can all learn from this.

Also, Any idea how the metal chip may have gotten on the board? Could if have been from your mounting in the enclosure?

Chuck

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I've taken the board out of the enclosure. There remains a smell of burnt electronics, but nothing looks visibly damaged (no exploded capacitors or resistors, which is all I really know to look for.)

I was able to pull the hard drive from the laptop and retrieve my files. At least that's not a total loss.

I did mount the board in a metal enclosure, but I was very careful to remove all chips from the enclosure. I've used this board off and on for testing ever since it arrived this summer. My only guess is a chip was stuck in a corner or something, and finally came loose when I got the board out this evening.

Thanks for identifying that component for me. I e-mailed support, and it was nice to be able to tell them what exactly happened.

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Just to follow-up. I talked to Dan at LOR, and he told me to ship the controller and USB adapted back to them. I put it in the mail Thursday. Friday I received an e-mail that a replacement had been shipped, and would be at my place Monday.

When I asked Dan about the cost of the replacement, he told me they were covered by the warranty! A problem that was 100% my negligence is covered by the warranty? I'm amazed. I feel a little guilty, I like to take responsibility when I screw up, why should LOR pay the cost? But I'm blown away by this excellent customer service. I've read alot of you talk about how good this company is, but you really can't appreciate it until they come through for you. There was a time after I bought my first LOR controllers that I regretted not going the DIY route. At the time I decided the extra expense for the LOR controllers was worth it for the time it would save me. This week I learned the real reason to buy from LOR. Not only do you get fantastic products that work without a hitch, but you get the peace of mind that if anything, ANYTHING goes wrong, they will take care of it. And not only take care of it, but with amazing speed. They shipped the replacement before my broken controller even got back to them.

Much thanks to Dan and everyone at LOR, from a customer for life. I guarantee I'll make it worth it to you with my future orders.

P.S. The laptop's still fried, I'm pretty sure for good. Fortunately it was my old one, and the hard drive survived.

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I solidered one of the flip-flops in wrong and had to cut it out. Dan is sending a new on at no charge. You can't beat his service. Of course, I think he knows I'll be ordering a few more controllers this coming year.

He gets us hooked and we keep on buying. lol

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DanglinModifiers wrote:

Just to follow-up. I talked to Dan at LOR, and he told me to ship the controller and USB adapted back to them. I put it in the mail Thursday. Friday I received an e-mail that a replacement had been shipped, and would be at my place Monday.

Dan and crew are a class act, that is 110% for sure! Sorry about your laptop... even though it was an oldie... it at least served it's purpose for you. :P

-Jeff
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Jeff Millard wrote:

DanglinModifiers wrote:
Much thanks to Dan and everyone at LOR, from a customer for life. I guarantee I'll make it worth it to you with my future orders.


That's how I felt when he replaced my non-working controller. Later I realized he didn't really gain anything more than he would've if he hadn't replaced the board. I was still going to place all those orders regardless. This stuff if addictive and I can't stop myself. It'll reach the boiling point when the house and car payments start to get overlooked...LOL

Jeff

He gained a lot. He got me as a new customer and I can tell you now, I will buy at least 10 controllers next year.
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Dan's whole crew is that way. I had a problem with the set up on one of my ELL's last year. Got a message from John that gave me his cell phone number with instructions to call him on a Sunday and he would walk me through the fix. Turns out it was operator error. :-) got it fixed ok. Had one of my controllers started acting flaky last year and had Dan telling me that he could have me a replacement controller in the mail first thing in the morning and that we would worry about shipping the old one back later.

I have always been impressed with their level of service. My boss is even more impressed.

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Whoops I did it again...

Got the new CTB08D and USB adapter from Dan. Got everything up and running last night no problems. Got up early to do a little sequencing before work. Plugged everything in. When I went to connect the power supply to the ground pin (for servo control) I got a spark. I have a header pin connecting the ground and two servo pins to molex connectors mounted to the housing. The CTB08D was on (stupid), the power supply was off. The spark occurred on the ground pin of the molex connector.

This somehow tripped a circuit breaker. After resetting it, I connected everything to the CTB08D, unplugged this time, plugged in the controller and got the flashing status LED, plus the two servos centered themselves. Everything seemed to be going well. I went over to the laptop.... dead.

The good news/bad news is it was my 6 month old laptop from work. Good news because it's under warranty (and they're coming out with a new motherboard tomorrow) bad news because what kind of idiot fries his work laptop trying to set up his Christmas lights?

I tried to use the CTB08D on yet another laptop, this one being very old, and no loss what-so-ever if it dies. I got an unrecognized hardware error from windows when I plugged in the USB cable. I tried again with a different controller, and got the same error. So it looks at this point like I fried another USB485, and another laptop. The CTB08D may have survived, but I don't know. For sure I'm getting the isolated USB adapter to try to avoid frying anything else. And hopefully Dan or someone here can give me some pointers on how to stop this craziness from happening. Is it as simple as connecting the power supply while the controller was plugged in? Or am I doing something else wrong?

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I've ordered the isolated USB adapter, it should be here tomorrow. Lesson well learned.

But let me make this even weirder.

So tonight I'm all set to sequence. I load LOR on my wife's laptop. I promise her the controllers will get nowhere near it. I go to plug in the monitor and BANG. Something sparks at the monitor connection. Laptop screen goes blank, all the LEDs on it are lit, it's completely unresponsive. And again, I blew a circuit breaker. Not the breaker the monitor was on, the one the laptop was on. I reset the breaker, unplug the laptop, pull the battery, and.... thank God it powers up and everything is fine. But now the question is: is the monitor the culprit of all this?

The monitor is the one constant in all three laptop blows. Is it even possible that the original metal chip on the CTB08D not only fried the controller and the laptop, but also the monitor? And fried the monitor in such a manner that it proceeded to fry two more laptops? This morning was the first time I tried to use the monitor since the first blow. Looking at the cable, it's missing pin 5 at both ends, which the internet tells me is ground. Is it possible the surge completely burned up these pins? And now without it's ground connection the monitor is causing problems elsewhere? I should note the internet said not all monitor manufactures use all the pins on the monitor cable so maybe it never was there.

I'm terrified to do anything with computers!

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I agree that it is worth getting one of those little plug in outlet testers. They can check for a range of wiring faults from trivial, to extremely dangerous..

While it is possible that a short could have blown away the pins, you would almost certainly see damage to the connector base where the pins were. If they are clean holes, I doubt this is what happened. Also, the connector shell should also be ground on the video cable..

I'd start with the outlet checker, including verifying that the outlets in any power strips all check OK as well.. If nothing odd shows up there, then testing that monitor is a good idea, just not sure how to suggest testing it...

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After a night of testing, and a lot of help over at the PC boards, I think I've nailed the problem.

The outlet the CTB08D was plugged into for failures #1 and #2, and the laptop for #3, had not only the hot and neutral reversed, but the ground was also hot. I've isolated the problem to the run of wire between the breaker box and the first outlet in the circuit. I'll be checking it out tomorrow.

So Dan and everyone else at LOR... not your fault! Feel free to add that to the title of this thread. Thanks a ton for your help with this!!

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Donald Puryear wrote:

You are lucky the CTB08D was not in a grounded metal enclosure. You may have been fried instead of the Laptop.

The CTB08D was in a grounded metal enclosure.... I guess that makes me very lucky.

I wound up tracing the whole thing back to some electrical work done by the previous owner. At some point my house had two three way switched for this circuit. By the time I moved in, those two switches were replaced with standard 2-way switches for some reason. Some additional electrical work I did, assuming everything was right, compounded the problem.

It's actually pretty scary. I tested everything with one of those three light outlet testers. And it always indicated this outlet was wired correctly! I guess they never planned that some bozo would be using them on an outlet as screwed up as mine. Somebody needs to make an outlet tester with LEDs or something else than can measure not only relative voltage, but polarity.

Anyway, I identified all the wiring related to the original three way switch set up, and was able to trace it to a common junction box. I installed a new junction box right near the outlet in question. I was able to cut the wire leading up to the outlet, and join it with a new run of wire straight from my breaker. I'll remove all the wiring related to the switch at some point, but for now it's all disconnected.

I still can't believe I've lived with wiring like this for almost four years and never had a single problem with it until last week. Like I said... Very lucky.
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May I recommend a apc battery backup. Speaking from experience, MID Our electrical company has bought me a few for free. My street blew a transformer and when they can back to install a new one, they somehow revesed the wires and blam, apc destroyed . All my computers and servers were 100 percent ok. They will even warn you if you have a open ground or wiring fault! Just a tip. =) Saves you a headache in the long run.

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I do like, and use a lot of APC UPS's around the house, (including two for the entertainment system) but I am not sure it would have detected this either...

Speaking of scary grounding issues, there is a reason that code calls for old ungrounded circuits to be upgraded to grounded all the way back to the circuit panel. As an interim step, someone I know had extended a circuit, and upgraded part of it, but had not replaced the run back to the panel, because they were waiting until a newer (much larger) main panel was installed, and the fuse box that fed this circuit was retired..

Unfortunately, somehow in one of the boxes, the insulation on the hot wire had been nicked, and came into contact either with the ground wire or ground screw on one of the outlets. As a result, all the ground pins on the outlets on that circuit were hot. I found it when I accidentally brushed a cable TV coax across a galvanized power strip that was plugged into one of those outlets, and it drew a spark.. Not good when two supposedly grounded pieces of metal draw an arc.... I can't tell you how many times I had grabbed that power strip when plugging or unplugging stuff from it.. I'm glad I was apparently always insulated from ground!!!!:shock: Glad I was never touching the coax ground and the power strip at the same time!!!

- Kevin

P.S. The entertainment system has two UPS's for a reason. Most of it is on an 1100VA UPS, but the DirecTV system is on it's own.. There are still copper paths between the satellite dish and the rest of the system, but I figured I would at least put in some isolation, by putting it on a separate UPS... Really kind of odd to have a power outage, but still be watching TV...

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