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    Fixed my GPS with a screwdriver
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2014 Nov 26, 12:23 -0800

    This happens so rarely I thought I would pass along my story...

    Last Spring I think I mentioned that the GPS in my smartphone (a Samsung Galaxy S3) had begun acting erratically. It would sometimes lose its fix after ten or fifteen minutes. Coupled with the excellent traffic avoidance and route-planning in the Google Maps app, I have found the GPS incredibly useful in many situations. For example, there was a major accident on the main highway to Boston the day before my trip on the Charles W. Morgan in early July, and I would have missed my ferry and been hours late to Provincetown if the app had not warned me in advance and selected an alternate route. The app-selected route was weirdly complicated but very efficient, and I never, never would have selected it with a paper atlas even if I had been able to read one while barreling down the highway at 70 mph. I was very fortunate that the GPS stayed functional for the entire 90-minute drive up to Boston. But I found the problem frustrating and considered various software upgrades that might have caused or contributed to the problem. I also got in the habit of popping the battery out to reset it, which usually worked, but it was a damn nuisance. I read some bizarre suggested solutions on the Internet, but figured I would probably buy a new phone soon.

    Last month my smartphone GPS died. The GPS system in the phone would only connect for a few minutes and sometimes it would go for hours unable to get a fix. I realized I was in no mood to buy a new device, so I went back to the Internet and decided to try one of the bizarre solutions. I experimented with a few software tricks that did nothing, and then I resorted to my last option: tighten the screws. I remember saying aloud when I first read this suggestion: "Yeah, right!" It sounded like the sort of Internet voodoo that used to get passed around in email forwards. As instructed, I removed the back panel from the phone (easy, that's how the battery comes out, too) and then using a tiny screwdriver, I carefully tightened eight very small screws that fasten the main hardware block to the front of the phone. I sealed it back up, and that was it. Just like brand new! The phone once again gets a GPS fix in less than five seconds anytime I need one, and it works much better inside buildings than before. While writing an earlier message today, I was able to check UT using the GPS signal in the middle of my apartment, far from any window. Apparently tightening the screws somehow improves the connectivity of the antenna for the GPS circuitry. Whatever it did, it works. 

    There's something rather crazy about fixing a GPS receiver with the same tool, a small screwdriver, that I might use to adjust a sextant! But so it goes... It's not all bits and bytes in the 21st century.

    Frank Reed
    Conanicut Island  USA


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