1780: "Appliance Repair"

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1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Al-pocalypse » Mon Jan 02, 2017 12:58 pm UTC

Image

Title Text: "[Holding up a three-phase motor] As you can see here, the problem is that humidifier I took this from is broken"

Link: http://xkcd.com/1780/
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Dthen » Mon Jan 02, 2017 1:08 pm UTC

I like this one. It made me ha ha.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Mon Jan 02, 2017 1:13 pm UTC

It seems he got a job at BHG repairs company.

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby cellocgw » Mon Jan 02, 2017 1:47 pm UTC

Huh-- this is actually a true cause of failure, so long as he meant "someone before me started to disassemble."

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Flumble » Mon Jan 02, 2017 2:24 pm UTC

I like disassembling things and putting them back together. I usually postpone disassembling until the thing is actually broken.
Sometimes there's an opportunity inside to fix the thing. :D

cellocgw wrote:The standard meme is this

It would seem that link only works if you're logged in to pinterest; it's semantically broken for me.

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Jan 02, 2017 2:46 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:Huh-- this is actually a true cause of failure, so long as he meant "someone before me started to disassemble."
It's the "uh-oh" feeling you get when you get home with the friends' practically new laptop you promised to fix, lay it on the bench, get your screwdrivers out, then discover at least three missing screws that you don't have to unfasten, after all...

"Yeah, we had this other guy fix it for us, earlier..." Oh, and is this also why the installed Windows isn't anything like the one that the (for once, actually not torn off) case licence-key sticker refers to? And when I got inside I found the ribbon connector to the audio jacks isn't actually held in place other than by Hooke's Law and the Young's Modulus of the ribbon itself? (There was also a loose screw inside, that may or may not have been supposed to be through from the outside.) Do you want me to fix everything (which means getting a bit of plastic of a very specific shape), or shall I just get you it working better (and more legally) than it was when you last had it back from repair?


(Of course, this strip is another Frog joke. You can dissect it to see how it once worked, but it's messy, amd then all you're left with is a dead frog. ;) )

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Old Bruce » Mon Jan 02, 2017 2:59 pm UTC

The problem is that he needs a hammer, preferably a BIG one.

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby somitomi » Mon Jan 02, 2017 3:04 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:I like disassembling things and putting them back together. I usually postpone disassembling until the thing is actually broken.
Sometimes there's an opportunity inside to fix the thing. :D

I like doing that too, so much that sometimes I consider warranty to be a nuisance. I like the feeling of almightyness I get after fixing small, simple faults in an appliance. Although sometimes I'm happy if I manage to return it to the same state it was before I grabbed the screwdriver without breaking a few previously unbroken parts.
The other standard repair procedure my dad is an expert at goes like this:
  1. disassemble faulty appliance
  2. look for fault for a while
  3. find nothing
  4. reassemble
  5. appliance now unexpectedly works properly
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby RogueCynic » Mon Jan 02, 2017 3:06 pm UTC

I ran into this recently. The timer knob on my clothes washer stuck and had to be replaced. Someone took a look at it and when pulling the mechanism out, broke a couple of tabs. The new mechanism would not sit properly so I had to replace the back splash as well. A hundred dollar project became a 200 dollar project. Thank you.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby CelticNot » Mon Jan 02, 2017 3:54 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:The other standard repair procedure my dad is an expert at goes like this:
  1. disassemble faulty appliance
  2. look for fault for a while
  3. find nothing
  4. reassemble
  5. appliance now unexpectedly works properly


Classic Heisenbug, I hate those. They seem to be afraid of anyone capable of actually finding them.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Flumble » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:01 pm UTC

CelticNot wrote:Classic Heisenbug, I hate those. They seem to be afraid of anyone capable of actually finding them.

Does this ever happen to non-electronic appliances? I've only had heisenbugs in electronic devices (and software of course).

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby somitomi » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:09 pm UTC

CelticNot wrote:Classic Heisenbug, I hate those. They seem to be afraid of anyone capable of actually finding them.

I dislike them too (similarly to faults that disappear on their own after a while) because the fact I didn't do any repair gives me the feeling the fault could reappear sometime later. Like sitting on a time bomb...
Flumble wrote:Does this ever happen to non-electronic appliances? I've only had heisenbugs in electronic devices (and software of course).

I suppose it could. Car engines might need to be partially disassembled for certain measurements (e.g compression ratio) which inevitably carries the risk of somehow messing up (like not tightening the seal around the pressure gauge properly).
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby jeanrenaud » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:36 pm UTC

Like I just wrote in the explanation on http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1780, the fact that Cueball is holding a three-phase motor could explain why the humidifier does not work. A three-phase motor only works on three-phase voltage (208V or 600V), while the humidifier is likely built to work on standard 120V power (single-phase). If there was a three-phase motor inside this thing, it is likely that the humidifier never worked since they buyed it...

Unless the humidifier belongs to some industrial process, but the cord looks too small to be industrial-related.

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby cellocgw » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:59 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:I like disassembling things and putting them back together. I usually postpone disassembling until the thing is actually broken.
Sometimes there's an opportunity inside to fix the thing. :D

cellocgw wrote:The standard meme is this

It would seem that link only works if you're logged in to pinterest; it's semantically broken for me.


Apologies - I didn't even notice I was logged in
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Jan 02, 2017 5:19 pm UTC

In a past job, the 'datacentre' (not a warehouse of computers, just a glorified 'computer room' with plenty of rackspace awaiting expansion and with above-average spec aircon, etc) had a three-phase supply to the wall-mounted UPS and large external components to the heat-exchangers that kept the pressure-tested (sufficiently hermetically-sealed for fire-suppression gases to be useful) insides at the lovely low temperature, and they might have been three-phase... Though I didn't have much to do with the maintenance of anything that was moving air just for the sake of moving air (just most of the rest of the equipment, that was moving air 'incidentally' as an inbuilt part of the servers/routers/PABX/etc that they were...).

Don't know about 'mere' household (de?-)humidifiers, and that dissassembled one doesn't look like it was too industrial in its original size, but a geeky (i.e. xkcdy) bigh-spec installation might be being given three phases. Or it's in an office encironment like the above, a component part of a larger group of aircon components...

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby somitomi » Mon Jan 02, 2017 6:21 pm UTC

jeanrenaud wrote:Like I just wrote in the explanation on http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1780, the fact that Cueball is holding a three-phase motor could explain why the humidifier does not work. A three-phase motor only works on three-phase voltage (208V or 600V), while the humidifier is likely built to work on standard 120V power (single-phase). If there was a three-phase motor inside this thing, it is likely that the humidifier never worked since they buyed it...

Unless the humidifier belongs to some industrial process, but the cord looks too small to be industrial-related.

Dunno about the US, but here it isn't that uncommon for residential houses to have three-phase supply simply to distribute load evenly among the three phases (i.e different parts of the house are connected to different phase). I think most homes don't have any three-phase outlets though, but I could be wrong. My parents house has one because a three-phase surface planer was used during construction and a potter down the street has one for the furnace.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby niauropsaka » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:09 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:
CelticNot wrote:Classic Heisenbug, I hate those. They seem to be afraid of anyone capable of actually finding them.

Does this ever happen to non-electronic appliances? I've only had heisenbugs in electronic devices (and software of course).
Oh, I think this phenomenon been known in automobiles for a long time.

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Mikeski » Mon Jan 02, 2017 8:36 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:Dunno about the US, but here it isn't that uncommon for residential houses to have three-phase supply simply to distribute load evenly among the three phases

Similar in the USA, but "two phase". Neutral and +/- 120V, with the 120V loads "distributed evenly between them" (if you're lucky), and 240V outlets using both legs for things like a clothes dryer and oven/stove/range. (Though not always; I have a natural-gas clothes dryer in my house, so there's no 240V line routed to the laundry/utility room.)

cellocgw wrote:Huh-- this is actually a true cause of failure, so long as he meant "someone before me started to disassemble."

My father is the type who can fix anything not computer-controlled (and most things that are, if the computer isn't what's broken.) He probably had that sign, or similar, in his shop at some point. He would start from this comic and make a working humidifier. (He would call jobs like those "basket cases", as in "Fred brought me a basket of parts and wanted me to turn it back into a lawn mower").

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Jan 02, 2017 9:12 pm UTC

Hey, Cueball has at least managed to diagnose one problem with the humidifier - that's more than was know before he started...

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby wst » Mon Jan 02, 2017 9:27 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:
somitomi wrote:Dunno about the US, but here it isn't that uncommon for residential houses to have three-phase supply simply to distribute load evenly among the three phases

Similar in the USA, but "two phase". Neutral and +/- 120V, with the 120V loads "distributed evenly between them" (if you're lucky), and 240V outlets using both legs for things like a clothes dryer and oven/stove/range. (Though not always; I have a natural-gas clothes dryer in my house, so there's no 240V line routed to the laundry/utility room.)
It's less "2 phase" and more "split phase", you have your 3 phases (120 deg apart) going down your power lines along the street. Each house would get 1 phase, and then each phase gets halved by centre-tapping the transformer.

I've heard of someone splicing a 2nd plug onto a running Nintendo without a save capability, so they could walk it from socket to socket to get it into a different room. And the idea scares the shit out of me, as they could have hit a different phase and released a lot of blue smoke.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby somitomi » Mon Jan 02, 2017 10:26 pm UTC

wst wrote:It's less "2 phase" and more "split phase", you have your 3 phases (120 deg apart) going down your power lines along the street. Each house would get 1 phase, and then each phase gets halved by centre-tapping the transformer.

As far as I know, this sort of power distribution exists here as well, just without the center-tapped transformers. Some guy at university told stories about how every third house in their street would go dark occasionally because one phase goes out.
wst wrote:I've heard of someone splicing a 2nd plug onto a running Nintendo without a save capability, so they could walk it from socket to socket to get it into a different room. And the idea scares the shit out of me, as they could have hit a different phase and released a lot of blue smoke.

Not sure if Nintendo plugs have an earth pin but if not, then just plugging it the wrong way creates two shorts.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby JohnTheWysard » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:15 pm UTC

I think the repairman needs a humilifier.

The talk about heisenbugs makes me realize that my well pump apparently has one - for the past week it's been OCCASIONALLY just shutting down (no pressure, no warning lights, no other notable symptoms). This is irksome because we heat our house with a water-to-air heat pump, not to mention needing showers, flush toilets and the other amenities of modern life.

SO FAR it's either come back on spontaneously, or after power-cycling the pump; this morning it came back on when I rapped the pressure gauge with my knuckles, so that's what I'm hoping the repairman can use diagnostically (since it will OBVIOUSLY not fail while he's present, and/or will recover spontaneously while he's driving here).

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:40 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:As far as I know, this sort of power distribution exists here as well, just without the center-tapped transformers. Some guy at university told stories about how every third house in their street would go dark occasionally because one phase goes out.

Over here (UK), my locale has been prone to that effect, as it has been prone to (partial) power-outages. I always suspected that it was due to different phases for different subsets of houses in their connection to the mains power supply (historically 240V, rms, officially now 230V1, 50Hz).


And it is well known that repairpersons gather up a mysterious æthereal substance, as they travel to fix things. It is the same substance as the 'broken' device needs to work, but has temporarily locally depleted. Upon arrival, the repairperson's own inadvertent gatherings will often splash forward, as if a small bow-wave, and replete the device's environs with the requisite substance again. Different professionals interact with different subsets of these substances. For me, it was something we described as elementary particles called 'computrons'. Walking up the stairwells, between floors, was generally more efficacious than using the lift(/elevator), but there was argument about whether to always alternate the end of the building, or leave one of them untravelled until a big problem needed a fresh glut of unharvested computrons.

When local expertise was insufficient, the travelling engineer called in from far afield would probably gather the computrons (or 'telephons') from the roads he came to us on, again splashing our 'faulty' equipment with the necessary supply, before even making physical contact.




1 But both are mutually within the tolerance limits of the other, so there wasn't ever the same kind of fuss as when we converted from Coal Gas/Town Gas to Natural Gas, requiring the conversion of many an appliance to better make safe use of the new fuel standard, way back when...

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Flumble » Tue Jan 03, 2017 12:31 am UTC

I've never heard of computrons, but building on quantum theories, it's reasonable to say the "computronic field" (a.k.a. the IT aura) has an elementary particle associated with it, too.

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Jan 03, 2017 2:20 am UTC

Perhaps unsurprisingly, also a Transformers character. (Here depicted with an atypically large head.)

Image

Just got a new toy last year, too. (Transformers characters are names and likenesses that physically exist but wait around for decades to be expressed in action figure form. Or fan language assumes Platonism, something.)

Given that most Transformers characters have names that are or are closely based on dictionary words, I have to assume he's named for the undiscovered particle. Or particles, I guess - you two described similar things in interactions, but the mass estimates might be different.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Sableagle » Tue Jan 03, 2017 1:34 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:
  1. disassemble faulty appliance
  2. look for fault for a while
  3. find nothing
  4. reassemble
  5. appliance now unexpectedly works properly

  1. disassemble faulty appliance
  2. clean all parts in process
  3. look for fault for a while
  4. clean some more parts
  5. find nothing
  6. apply fresh lubricant oil where components obviously should be oiled
  7. reassemble, cleaning up surplus lubricant as you go
  8. appliance now works properly
This works for VHS recorders, motorcycles, farm tractors, CD players, assault rifles and pretty much anything else that isn't (a) alive or (b) fitted with one of those chips that kills it stone-cold dead a week after the warranty runs out.

(Actually I had to fabricate a part for the CD player, but that was easy enough.)
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby orthogon » Tue Jan 03, 2017 1:52 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:I like disassembling things and putting them back together. I usually postpone disassembling until the thing is actually broken.
Sometimes there's an opportunity inside to fix the thing. :D


I'm conflicted on appliance repair. I actually have a pretty good track record for repairing things: my vacuum cleaner, my dishwasher (twice), my central heating boiler (twice) and various other appliances. This means I feel that I always ought to try to fix things. And yet. Every time it's a struggle. 30% of the problem is figuring out how to take the thing apart; 30% is reverse engineering it to figure out how it's supposed to work; 10% is diagnosing and fixing the actual problem; and 30% is putting it back together again. I think I'd enjoy it more if I had more confidence that I'd succeed; and yet looking back on past successes, it feels more as though each time I either lucked out, or excelled myself in making the series of deductions required, in a way that I couldn't expect to repeat.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Keyman » Tue Jan 03, 2017 2:44 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:...yet looking back on past successes, it feels more as though each time I either lucked out, or excelled myself in making the series of deductions required, in a way that I couldn't expect to repeat.
This.

And then the person who said, 'can you take a look at this?' thinks you actually *know* what you're doing and will expect you to do it again, usually on something not in any way related to the original thing, and you know, just *know* you're going to cause a major disaster...

And you don't.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Shadowman615 » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:12 pm UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:It seems he got a job at BHG repairs company.


I was thinking more likely this repairman came from one of Beret Guy's shops.

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Flumble » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:30 pm UTC

Of course you're lucking out. But there's quite a high chance that the problem that's occuring is one of those you can fix. :D
Perhaps it's my youngness, and I haven't had a time constraint on fixing stuff, but I don't see it as a struggle: it's broken anyway, but I may find the problem and fix it. And the best part is there are no rules (other than "don't get a professional to solve it" and "don't throw the thing away" before conceding).
The only disappointment is when I find the problem but the solution is too costly (e.g. a spare part costs as much as a new appliance and takes a month to ship, or it requires special tools).

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby HES » Tue Jan 03, 2017 5:38 pm UTC

I presume that we are dealing with items that are out of warranty?
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Flumble » Tue Jan 03, 2017 6:12 pm UTC

Me too, or when the warranty situation is unclear or it would be too much hassle. :wink:

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby Keyman » Tue Jan 03, 2017 6:49 pm UTC

It certainly is out of warranty now.
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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby DanD » Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:04 pm UTC

A disappearing bug on an electrical or mechanical system is typically something loose. A wire, a joint, whatever. Correct reassembly eliminates this without the disassembly step revealing it. (It's not always obvious that a plug is not seated when you pull it).

However, most of these are not true heisenbugs, which are ones that disappear and reappear regularly. As opposed to an improperly connected plug, one of those might be traceable to a plug that allows play even with the latching mechanism in place, or a "broken" wire that still makes contact under certain flexing conditions. These are the sorts of bugs that touching the system can fix temporarily without the reason being obvious, and still have it reoccur.
Last edited by DanD on Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:32 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1780: "Appliance Repair"

Postby somitomi » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:32 pm UTC

DanD wrote:[..] one of those might be traceable to a plug that allows play even with the latching mechanism in place, or a "broken" wire that still makes contact under certain flexing conditions. These are the sorts of bugs that touching the system can fix temporarily without the reason being obvious, and still have it reoccur.

My mom's car had one of those. The engine sometimes struggled to start or begun to sputter and struggle out of nowhere while running, and it occasionally stalled completely (usually in the most inconvenient place possible). What puzzled us is that it seemed to happen more often while driving uphill. Eventually it turned out to be a fault in the wire connecting the crankshaft position sensor to the ECU...
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