Category Archives: Consumer Electronics

I like Android and BlackBerry. I also like smart consumer electronics. What is “smart”? Well, anything that makes your life easier would be smart… isn’t it?

Modification to extend wireless range

Consumer Electronics Design not always beneficial if it retards the primary functions of a device. The internal antennas are such a design concept that cause a lot of headaches for tech guys like me. The primary function of a antenna is to transmit a signal, capture a signal or both. Since most modern equipments are manufactured with plastic casings (as opposed to metal), a lot of manufactures have opted for internal antennas. The advantage; now nothing is sticking out, they can make the equipment more desirable to mainstream consumers by making “beautiful” equipments boxes. I am on the other hand one of those people who would buy a device for its’ practical functionality over looks.

The following modification was made on my VeraLite (Vera3 variant) to remove dead-zones in my Z-wave network. However, using the same principles and steps, you can also extend the range of your WiFi network. I will add bits of information specific to WiFi extension on this article.

Vera3 and VeraLite controllers

The door locks on Z-wave networks almost always accept only secure authenticated signals. In order to operate the locks you must send the signal either directly from your Z-wave controller (in this case VeraLite) to the locks or use repeaters (or modules with secure repeaters) that are capable of secure signal handling. I found it is extremely hard to find such repeaters in Canada.

So I went with the second option; direct communication between the locks and the controller. However, my controller is in a locked cabinet far away from the locks. This causes reliability issues because unlike Z-wave light switches, door locks cannot take unsecured signals repeated from nearby low security switches.

Modification to the controller

Warning: This modification will void your manufactures’ warranty. Beware of the static charges. Static electricity could burn out your circuit board. Either use a grounded anti-static wrist strap or use extreme caution. Remove all power supply units (batteries & DC power unit) before opening the case.

Parts, tools and technical information

  • Antenna must be able to handle frequency range of the device (for this mod, 908 MHz)
  • U.fl/IPEX to RP-SMA Pigtail with at least 5 cm; 10 cm is too much; find happy medium) of wire length between the connection points
  • GSM antenna extension cable (optional and longer the cable, more problems arises)
  • Small needle nose pliers
  • Small Phillips screwdriver and a large slotted screwdriver or a flat plastic or mental piece
  • Small electric drill or a utility knife

It is very easy to take apart VeraLite unit. Only two screws and few plastic clips that holds the plastic casing. One of my readers (“Jack”) pointed out that the screws will not come out from the casing. In that case do not try to pull it out. Once the screws are lose, you do not have to take them out of the holes in order to separate the green cover from the case. Use a flat head screw driver or a flat object to pull the cover apart. Be careful to not to break the clips that holding the two parts.

Inside you will find the internal antenna attached to side of the box with a connection wire going to the Printed Circuit Board (PCB). Click on the the image below for more detailed information.

VeraLite PCB: A = Internal antenna, B = Cutout made for ext. antenna. C = Antenna connector
Figure 1: VeraLite PCB: A = Internal antenna, B = Cutout made for ext. antenna. C = Antenna connector

Disconnect the internal antenna wire from point C (refer to above image) by gently twisting and pulling on the connector. Do not pull from the wire because it will break the wire from the connector. I recommend using a small needle nose pliers.

Make a hole through the casing, either on the back or on the side. Make sure it is large enough to pass the SMA (SubMiniature version A) male connector but not its’ neck. I used a box cutter to be safe, but you can also use an electric drill. If you are using a large construction grade drill, please be careful to not to break the box. I found the utility knife to be the best option.

Creating a circular cutout to pass the male SMA end
Figure 2: Creating a circular cutout to pass the male SMA end

Take the U.fl/IPEX to RP-SMA Pigtail (Figure 3) and connect the U.fl side to the board. Then pass the SMA side from inside to outside. Then connect the other end to the point C (Figure 1) on the board.

U.fl/IPEX to RP-SMA Pigtail
Figure 3: U.fl/IPEX to RP-SMA Pigtail

Internal and external view of the final product.
Figure 4: Internal and external view of the final product.

Put the box back together and your done! For the external antenna now you have the option of adding it directly to the device shown in Figure 3 or you can add a antenna cable before adding the antenna itself. This is what most people do when they want to secure their devices in a cabinet. You can keep the network controller inside while antenna outside for greater coverage.

It is quite possible to salvage antenna and U.fl/IPEX to RP-SMA Pigtail connection wire from old devices such as wireless routers and GSM devices. But unfortunately most WiFi routers are on 2.4 GHz band while Z-wave is in 900 MHz band. For example, this particular model is at 908 MHz frequency. If you cannot find a GSM device to get an antenna, please buy one (~ $8 – $12 CAD) to take the full advantage out of this modification. Connection wire from a WiFi router is suitable for Z-wave broadcast.

Antenna length difference due to wavelength difference between 2.4 GHz vs 900 MHz
Antenna length difference due to wavelength difference between 2.4 GHz vs 900 MHz

If you would like to know more about how antennas work, try this site.

Modify WiFi Routers

Yes, you can modify your b/g/n/ac WiFi routers with built-in antenna(s) by following the same instructions. The only difference is now you can use any old 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz (not very popular) antennas for your project.

Modules associations

There are few different companies that manufacture modules for home automation. Even with products from same company, it can be difficult to find all in one solutions to consumers’ need. Through manipulating the behaviors of the modules through the controller, we can accomplish almost anything.

Let’s look at a situation where solution is not obvious. In my home, I have a separated garage with a conventional door opener and lights. To automate the door, I added a Z-wave inline module. It works great, but it often interferes with the built-in light of the opener. So I removed the light fixture from it. Now every time I come home the garage is dark because the other set of lights requires me to turn on separately. Solution is to combine two modules; the door open/close sensor and the light switch module.

I wrote down what I would like to have and what equipment I have to solve the problem. What I wrote is; Sensor is Armed –> Sensor is Connected/Disconnected –> Turn ON lights –> Wait 10 min –> Turn OFF lights. Then, being a good computer scientist I created a flow chart.

Flowchart: Garage Door Sensor associating with Light Switch
Flowchart: Garage Door Sensor associating with Light Switch
Now, I installed the Z-wave 2-way switch module by replacing the old switches. Then I used the association in Vera controller to make a relationship between the sensor and the light switch.

Here is an example video of an association (not the same one describe above).

You can resolve problems similar to this using associations in many other situations. Here are few example of typical problems that can be fixed using association method.

  • Turn on lights (switch module) when the motion senator (sensor module) is tripped if the time period is night.
  • Turn off the TV (plug-in module) if the motion sensor (sensor module) have not been tripped for over X hours in the entertainment room.
  • Turn on the sprinklers (plug-in module OR sprinkler controller module) if the light sensor (sensor module) detects low lights and it is at night.
  • If the light level (luminance sensor) is below 90 lux then turn on lights.
  • If the humidity level (humidity sensor) is below 40% turn on the humidifier and send an email.
  • If you install a multisensor, Boolean logic possibilities can be significantly increased.
  • …and many many more!

The key to a successful association type automation is proper planing and right equipment.

Improvised home automation

The ideal solutions for home automation devices are usually plug-and-play units or modules. They often require just powering the unit and adding to your main controller. I came across unique situation in which a Z-wave, x10 or Insteon modules does not exists, but a solution can be made by combining automation modules with types of electronic/electric units. It is technically an improvising what you can get on the market. However, it does not necessarily means the final outcome of these projects are lower in quality compared to plug-and-play solutions.

Electric shock alertPlease note that some modifications may result in voiding the manufactures’ warranty. Some project involves working with ~ 110/240 volts alternating current (AC). Even with the power cut offed, there is always a risk of electric shock.

Garage Door

Currently there are no manufactures or distributors in Canada that sells openers with automation as a built-in function. I have used a inline relay module between the traditional opener switch and power. If you are unfamiliar with what is an inline relay, check these items: Fortrezz MIMOLite Zwave Input Output Module and Evolve ZWave Inline Relay Module-LFM-20.

These relays acts as a human input to any device that has a ON/OFF type switch(es). Some of these may not work for devices that require continuous ON such as an electric heater. Make sure you read the manufacture’s datasheets before purchasing.

Door Opener

Yes, you can buy a automated door locks from companies like Kwikset, Schlage and Yale. But it will only allow you to either lock or unlock your door. What if you want to open the door remotely? To do that you need a motorized door opener. You can buy a door opener unit for either swing door or slide door type. They comes with an electric motor, mounting equipment, a switch and a remote. What lacks is any form of automation controlling unit (Z-wave, x10 or Insteon).

When you are purchasing a electric door opener, make sure it also has a push-button connection. You will replace this push-button with your inline module.

Again, we can use an inline module like MIMOLITE between the motorized door openers such as Skylink Otodor Automatic Swing Door Opener and its power supply. Then by adding the the module to network, you can open and close the doors with your computer or phone.

Security Cameras

There are several companies that produce high quality cheap security cameras. For indoor use, almost all of the reputed companies make great products that are simply plug-and-play modules. I also like the fact they are often independent standalone units. In other wards they can operate without a central controllers like Z-wave controllers.

In Canada, we run into one big problem; weather. Most wireless outdoor cameras are built to work between -20 to +40 degrees Celsius. In most parts of Canada (such as Calgary) we get temperatures as low as -40 oC during Winter months. You could buy a extreme weather cameras with a heated casing. But it will not only cost a lot for the unit, but also the subsequent costs for heating will add up over the years. Hence we must improvised with these cheap IP-Cameras if we want to use them outside.

Solution 1: Use indoor units

You can install a high grade indoor camera such as D-Link DCS-5222L close to a wide outside window (inside the house). Now by pointing the camera towards the outside, you can still surveils the outside without having a weather proof unit. The major drawdown is that the Infrared (IR) LEDs will bounce off the window at night causing distorted image. This can be overcome by turning off the IR mode and illuminating the outside area with a flood light.

Solution 2: Install on the other side

If you want to protect areas like your garage, you can install the camera inside instead of outside. In most situations this will provide adequate protection from weather. The darwdown is that if you have an enclosed area, you will not be able to see the outside. However, if someone breaks into the garage, that can be recorded.

Solution 3: Creating your own weather casing

This is really a improvised do-it-yourself project. You can create a metal or wooden box and add a HVAC pipe into the box from your house. So whenever the house is heated, the camera enclosure will also be heated. Please make sure that you are doing this according to the laws of your area. Some cities and countries would not allow you to use such methods due to safety reasons.

Last option is not really an improvise. You can just buy a Canadian outdoor weather reared camera. In December 2013, it will cost you around $300 to $2000 depend on the manufacture and the model.

When installing a wired outdoor camera (or anything else), make sure to use outdoor rated cables.

Plumbing

I would not buy a fully integrated taps or water controllers. This is because electric taps are often well-built. However, the electronics go into the automation can be unreliable. You do not want a leak after few years of use or unwanted turn on/offs. The solution is to buy an electric taps/water controllers with a push-button switch. Hence, the automation part will be added using a inline module that is independent of the water controller itself. Easy to install and easy to do maintenance work.

Electrical

I would not recommended improvising for anything to do with electrical. It not only pose a hazard to your health, but also could lead to criminal charges. But there are something you can do in your own home. Even the garage door and light switches automation involves electrical modifications.

Missing Common Wire

If you have a situation in which a Common Wire (“white wire) is not available in your house or the area in question, you have two options. One is to run a Common Wire from your main board to the location, and the second is to use a plug-in module. If you are not familiar with electrical work, I recommend the second option. You can connect lamps, electrical appliances, consumer electronics and many more to a plug-in module. Make sure you use the right module with proper rating. The module will plug-into the wall outlet and provide outlet with automation. The Evolve ZWave Plug-In modules are examples of such units.

LED dimmer causes flickering

This is a very common problem with LED dimmers and not the Z-wave module itself. Sometimes when the resistance, R on the circuit is extremely low and the current, I flow is also reduced through the dimmer, it will cause the LED lights to flicker. This happens when the dimmer at its lower illumination setting.

To resolve this we need to increase the resistance in the circuit. The best solution is to install at least five to eight LED light bulbs in a single circuit. You can try by adding one at a time until you no longer have this problem. If that is not viable solution, install a mixture of both LED and regular bulbs on the same circuit. However, I found by mixing manufactures of LED bulbs I was able to stop the flickering with just three LEDs.

Outdoor electrical modules

When working on an outdoor automation project, use outdoor approved electrical products. For example, GE ZWave Outdoor On/Off Module-45604 should be used when you are installing a sprinkler system. Do not try to save money by buying an indoor module to control an outdoor electrical products. There is a reason why outdoor units can be bit more expensive!

Please be aware that you may not be able to automate anything and everything. Use common sense and if you are not sure of something, do your research and/or ask an expert. Most manufactures and distributors also provide free support. Use them as a resource.

Advantages of Improvising

There are several advantages. I decided to list them so you can quickly glance through each one.

  • In-line modules can be from any manufactures and can be on any standard (Z-wave, x10, etc)
  • Most of the time, it is easy to install with improvised solutions (describe in the article)
  • If a unit/module fail, it is easy to replace as opposed to replacing an expensive and complicated unit
  • Parts can be easier to find (for example, an electric tap from Canadian Tire and a controller module from a Z-wave specialty store)
  • May be more reliable than having a single plug-and-play
  • Can be install on almost any house regardless of the age of the house or the electrical wiring/plumbing/door system
  • Provide much more expansion possibilities

Rooting an Android

Some of you may have heard about the term “root” or “rooting” with regards to Android mobile Operating System. This term is not something new to computer and software geeks. Root is the most fundamental level in a UNIX or Linux based operating system. In order to install some apps and to tweak the behavior of a OS, you need the root access.

Due to various variables, every option listed here may not work for your particular phone.

Skip Jargon

Introduction to Android

I am not going to give long history on Android. From a technical perspective, you should know that it is an open sourced mobile Operating System currently supported and developed by Google. More than hand full of manufactures use this OS to streamline their devices. Android can be installed on mobile phones, tables, televisions, GPS units and any other electronic devices that support such architecture.

Rooting

Rooting is granting access to most fundamental operations which otherwise will be blocked by system default. While not all applications of rooting may harm the device, due to the wide openness of what you can do with root access could brick your device (f*&^ked up beyond repair). This is why rooting an Android device will void your manufacture’s warranty. If you are not technically inclined, I would stay away from rooting. This article is written for tech guys who have limited experience in Android environment.

This also place a lot of responsibilities on the end user. After rooting a device, you will not have the “safety net” from malicious apps which otherwise will be in placed by default. It will be your sole responsibility to manage your root access permissions wisely.

How to Root an Android

Installing the Recovery

1) Download and install the drivers for your device from the manufactures. You may find them on their support website and/or the media that was provided to you by in the original packaging.

2) Download ODIN software. It will make it easier in flashing recovery and the rooted firmware. Please note that the ODIN will only works on Windows based computers.

3) Download the Odin flashable recovery (.TAR file) for your device then copy it to the same folder as Odin. There is an another option if you have a .img file. Please read further down for instructions.

4) Open ODIN by right click on Odin.exe –> “Run as administrator”. You should come up with a window similar to the following.

Ordin Program on Windows
Ordin Program on Windows

5) Turn off your phone and reboot into Download Mode. In order to go into the Download Mode, hold Volume Down + Home + Power while it shuts down. Continue to hold until the device is powered up and a text message appears on the top corner (very small sized texts). Once inside the Download Mode, press Volume Up to enter.

6) Connect the device to computer via USB/charger cable. It is recommended to use the original manufacture provided cable. If your phone do not support USB 3.0, please do not use USB 3.0 port on your system even if it is backward compatible. This is just to be safe.

7) The ODIN window should have a COM** port highlighted as shown here.

Comm USB port highlighted in ODIN.
Comm USB port highlighted in ODIN.

If ODIN is not highlighting the port, go back and make sure you have properly installed the right device drivers from your hardware manufactures.

8) Click on the PDA button on the right right pane of the ODIN. Refer to above image.

9) When prompted (once the PDA button is selected) go to the firmware location and select the firmware file (TAR file).

10) Warning! Make sure Auto-Reboot and F. Reset Time are the only options checked and that PDA is the only other thing checked on ODIN before starting the flash. CHECK again and again your settings and that you have selected the correct firmware for your model phone and are using the correct options. If you are using a laptop, make absolutely sure you are plugged in, or if on battery, that it is charged enough and will not go into sleep mode during flash.

11) Click Start to begin the flash. This will take a while, so be patient. Do not unplug or remove the battery during the installation. I highly recommend placing the device on a solid stable surface with the USB cable attached during this process. I would not move the device since some computers and devices have lose USB connections which could potentially disconnect your device. If the device gets disconnected, this may result in bricking your phone.

Flashing the ClockworkMod Recovery.
Flashing the ClockworkMod Recovery.

12) Once the installation is successfully completed, the ODIN will report PASS on the top left hand corner. The phone should have automatically rebooted at this time.

ODIN report back "PASS" in a green box after a successful install.
ODIN report back “PASS” in a green box after a successful install.
You may unplug the phone and close Odin if you wish.

13) Wait at least 5-10 minutes (or even as long as 30 min) for the system to boot the first time and then build its cache. Do not remove the battery or disconnect power during this time.

You may now flash a ROM file using the PDA button on the ODIN. You can also flash a ROM using either a custom recovery or the default system.

Another option for ROM Flash

1) Download the appropriate ROM zip file and save it on your phone (just like saving any other file).

2) To get into the recovery mode, hold Volume Up + Home + Power while it shuts down. Continue to hold until the device is powered up. An example of a recovery screen is shown below (CWM).

ClockworkMod Recovery screen.
ClockworkMod Recovery screen.

3) Choose “install zip” (or “install from zip”, “install ROM”, etc) and select the zip file you saved.

4) After few minutes you should get a success message. Now go back and reboot your phone.

Third option for ROM Flash

You may flash a ROM that comes in the image (.img) format. Do not feel overwhelmed by the coding. Just follow the instructions and it will be installed on your device in few seconds.

1) Download a recovery image of your choice. For example; ClockworkMod Recovery Images. Save the .img file in your device’s memory.

2) Rename the image file to recovery.img or anything of your choice. Note: If you decided to rename the file other than recovery.img, then please change the second line of code appropriately to reflect the file name (dd if=/sdcard/YOUR_FILE_NAME.img of=/dev/block/mmcblk0p18).

3) Download a terminal app, which will allow you to enter commands into your Android system.

4) Open the terminal app and follow these instructions.
– type and enter

$ su

– type and enter

# dd if=/sdcard/recovery.img of=/dev/block/mmcblk0p18

– type and enter

# reboot recovery
Example of a terminal with recovery image named as "re.img".
Example of a terminal with recovery image named as “re.img”.

There are significant risks associated with this method. If you flash an incompatible ROM or if you enter the codes wrong, you could end up bricking your phone.

Common Errors

During the rooting and installation process of a custom ROM, you may come across errors. Do not panic because most of these errors are common and can be fixed.

Status 7 Error – installation aborted

Be warned that editing the code impropriety may result in bricking your device. Before edit the code in the ROM zip folder, make sure that you have the right ROM for your phone. By removing the code, we essentially removes the safety mechanism in which recoveries like ClockworkMod uses to block invalid zips from being installed.

Clear codes in updater-script file up to (NOT including) show_progress(0.500000, 0);. You should be able to locate this file at, META-INF –> com –> google –> android. The number of lines that should be deleted varies with each custom ROM. For example, the CynogenMod 10.2 will have the following check code at the very binging.

assert(getprop("ro.product.device") == "d2att" || getprop("ro.build.product") == "d2att");
assert(getprop("ro.bootloader") == "I747UCDLK3" ||
       getprop("ro.bootloader") == "I747MVLDLK4" ||
       getprop("ro.bootloader") == "I747MUMBLK3" ||
       getprop("ro.bootloader") == "I747MUMBLL1");
mount("ext4", "EMMC", "/dev/block/mmcblk0p14", "/system");
package_extract_file("system/bin/backuptool.sh", "/tmp/backuptool.sh");
package_extract_file("system/bin/backuptool.functions", "/tmp/backuptool.functions");
set_perm(0, 0, 0777, "/tmp/backuptool.sh");
set_perm(0, 0, 0644, "/tmp/backuptool.functions");
run_program("/tmp/backuptool.sh", "backup");
unmount("/system");

Initial boot stuck in a loop

Go back to recovery and clear (wipe) user data, System, Cache and Dalvik. Instructions for will soon be posted here. These options are in the recovery section under “advanced” menu.

GooglePlay Store is not installed

Most custom ROMs do not include GooglePlay files. You need them not only to download apps, but also for basic functions such as the Google Keyboard. You can flash this file into your device using the any compatible ZIP file available online with the GooglePlay Store.

1) After downloading the ZIP to your computer/phone, relocate the ZIP file to the root of your device storage main memory. This will make it easier to find during flashing.

2) Go to the Recovery Mode and select “install zip”.

ZIP folder installation choice.
ZIP folder installation choice.

3) Select the option for device storage memory.

Go to device storage memory.
Go to device storage memory.
If you have saved the ZIP file in the root of the device, it will probably be under a folder titled “0”.

4)Go back and clear memory before rebooting. Once the reboot is complete, you should see your GooglePlay app. If you end up with a connection error even when you have a wifi or mobile network connection, try the following for troubleshoot:
– Check if you have installed the latest compatible version of gapps for your mod.
– Check if the hosts configuration is correct using a file explorer app. Go to device root -> etc -> hosts (open as a text file).
– If both of the above failed, delete the GooglePlay app (from the settings), then re-download the ZIP and start this process over. Sometimes during download process, the file gets corrupted.

Too many choices; help me out

To a novice Androider, choosing what recovery and ROM to flash along could discourage rooting. I am all for choices, but sometimes even I need some guidance. You may choose any recovery and ROM that is compatible with your device. You may even use the stock ROM with the root access. It all depends on your choices. However, in case you need my opinion (personal choice), this is what I would recommended:

  • Compatible version of ClockworkMod Recovery (Touch or non-Touch)
  • Compatible version of CyanogenMod stable release
  • SuperuserSU app for controls
  • Compatible signed version of Google Apps zip

Happy rooting 🙂

Tips for portable computer users

During the last decade, the portable computers have replaced most of the the desktop computers. Today some people use portable units like laptops or tablets as their primary computer. If you use these portable devices as your primary units, you should also take precautions to protect your privacy and data security. This is not a how to tutorial. This article is written for those who have no idea on where to start. I may improve some of the explanations over time.

Setup

In order to protect your data, create an administrative account with a very strong password. Your password should be at least eight characters long and should include numeric characters. In addition I recommend using capital and simple letters. But what if you don’t want to enter a long password each and every time you want to log in? The solution to this is to create a secondary account with “limited” privileges. You can use a weaker password for this account because this account will not have the permission requirements for modifications. The administrative account password will be needed every time you want to install (or uninstall) a program. While it will not provide ultimate protection for your personal data, at least it is a good compromise for busy individuals.

Hardcare

Caring for portable hardware similar to caring for desktop hardware. You to keep the electronics clean and in controlled environmental conditions. Both of these are harder to do with portable devices.

Dust

Compressed Gas Duster (oxygen can, air can, etc) is the best way to clean dust on hard to reach area. But dusting off also helps by removing debris around fans and vents intakes. If you decide to use the compressed gas to clean, make sure…

  • not to spry an area over a long period (will form water vapor)
  • not to spry directly into connectors causing the connectors to get lose due to the force of air

Temperature

In countries like Canada where we have a very wide range in temperature, it is difficult to keep the portable devices at ideal conditions. Another problem you will run into is that with our busy lives we take the technology for granted a smallest malfunction due to these environmental elements could bring a catastrophe.

The best practices in controlling temperatures can be easily placed in a list.

  • Do not close your laptop (specially MacBook Pro) right after a long use. The head from the internal parts could damage the screen.
  • Place your electronic devices in protective casings whenever you can. For example, a laptop can be placed in temperature controlled sleeves.
  • The mobile phone/PDAs are most likely exposed to environmental elements because we cannot place them in enclosed cases (what’s the point of having a mobile communication device if it not quickly accessible?.

Liquids

The best solution for this is not to spill anything around your electronics. The measures taken after any liquid damage is not always productive. Almost all liquids we use in our household are electrically conductive and have the ability to increase the process of oxidation of metals.

Repairs

Some of you may be surprised to hear you may be able to repair some mobile devices at home. While most electronics circuity use machines, some parts are made with easy repair in mind. The most common portable device accidents are caused by gravity. To be more specific physical damage to a component caused by a fall.

Screen

Mobile smart phones made by Samsung have screen glued together using a heat sensitive material. Therefore you can remove the damaged screen by applying heat around the plastic front frame. You need to get proper tools which can be brought online. It is very cheap to repair at home than to actually send it out if the unit is not under warranty. So do your research and you might save some money.

Battery

While not all units have removable batteries, most of them have a method to open the battery compartment. This is because battery failures are one of the most common problems in portable electronics. Usually the power supply and the battery is fitted with removable plates. You may require a special tool to open it (such as special screws). I found hobby shops have variety of specialized tools that works for computers.

Power Supply

You cannot replace the power supplies without breaking them on any of the portable devices I know. However, you may want to do more research into your particular model.

RAM

This is the easiest part to replace or upgrade in most computers. Exception to some Netbooks and Ultrabooks, most laptops come with an access window for Random Access Memory (RAM) cards. Check the manual or the model number of the motherboard and verify the maximum amount of RAM it can take. In addition make sure you choose the right type of RAM (DDR2, DDR3, SO-DIMM, etc).