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May 19, 2018

The Micro Dragon Examined

Inside the Micro Dragon

Inside the Micro Dragon

   The Micro Dragon retired from service last year after 8 years of service to  It had hosted all services of from 2009 to 2015 when the Sun Dragon took over the web site.  In March of last year the hard drive failed to boot the system and the Micro Dragon was replaced by the Emerald Dragon.  It has sat idle on my bench ever since.  So I decided to open it up to have a look inside.  This is one of the only computer I had never taken apart. 
   The Micro Dragon is an Intel Atom based computer.  The CPU boosted a 5 watt power draw as Intel was trying to get the x86 line of CPUs into the low-power market.  While 5 watts was impressive for an x86 the problem was the chipsets which were not so power friendly.  In this picture one can see the chipset's heat pipe and cooling fan.  The CPU is on the other side of the board and requires no active cooling.  In 2009 there were no ARM processor-based computer I could run my website with.  The Raspberry Pi wouldn't come out until 2012, and the firs t generation Pi's would not have had enough CPU power to run my site well anyway.  However, the 64-bit multicore ARM processors these days are not only more powerful, but lower power and cheap.  This is thanks in large part to the cellphone market which has been pushing for both faster and more powerful processor and as a result of quantity pushed down prices.  The Emerald Dragon out performs the Micro Dragon in pretty much every metric, and it was less than half the price.
   Still, the Micro Dragon did a good job at significantly less power than it's predecessor, the Indigo Dragon.  It also would run hundreds of days at a time without reboots and overall a solid system.  Its only weakness was the mechanical hard drive and during its 8-year life went through two of them.  Curious I plugged the hard drive into a SATA-to-USB converted.  It made a bad click sound when it started but did spin up.  My laptop was able to read the file system.  It could just be the boot sector that is bad, but at this stage I don't see a need to revive the Micro Dragon.  It has provided its service and it has earned its retirement.
   After gutting my old dryer I took the drum motor/blower assembly and wired it to a power cord.  When we have fires on the back yard I have been using a blower fan to help get the fire going when the wood is wet.  Sadly I helped the fire a little too much during our last event and the plastic housing on the blower melted.  This will be my replacement.  The blower itself is still plastic, but it has a metal duct that will allow it to sit much further away from the fire.  Sometimes you just need a fire, and sometimes you need a blast furnace.
   On Sunday after I picked up the replacement dryer I opened it up to see if I couldn't find a cause for the lack of heat.  There are only three items I suspected: thermal fuse, valve, and igniter.  It took some work to get at the heating unit of the dryer but as soon as I removed it the problem was obvious.  This is a picture of the silicon carbide igniter.  It is clearly cracked and broken.  These devices are fairly brittle and I have had to replace one in the oven.  They are also cheap.  I found a replacement on eBay for $14.85.  Took about 30 seconds to change the part, and 15 minute to reassemble the dryer.  When I fired it up the new igniter started to glow and shortly there after a had flames.  Mission accomplished.  Total cost of the new dryer and parts: $34.85.  And this is a nicer dryer than my previous one.
R.I.P. Dryer

R.I.P. Dryer

   Dryer has been giving me trouble lately.  We had a talk.  Hash words were said.  Didn't end so amicably.  Now I need a new dryer.
   The control board that runs the dryer has been acting up for some time.  Usually I was able to convince it to work by wiggling wires.  That seems no longer to be a functional solution.  A replacement will cost almost $300 new, or about $100 used.  That is as much as I paid for the dryer.
   Luckily there is this site called Craig's List which happens to be the reason I had this dryer in the first place.  The first dryer I found was an exact match of the newly deceased.  It was already being picked up by the time I contacted the seller.  However there was another dryer listed that was better but not in working order.  The owner said it ran but didn't generate heat.  I've run into this kind of thing myself before and have managed to fix the problem in the past.  It worked more than my disemboweled dryer and the seller only wanted $20.  Worth a shot so I picked it up.