Thursday, January 3rd, 2019
Clie UX50 is back online!
After several weeks of trying, my Clie UX50 now has all its wireless
options working - IrDA, Bluetooth and WiFi. The first two were okay
right from the start, but WiFi always sent the machine to a weird
state, where the system tried to initialize it, blinked the WiFi LED
and nothing else ever happened. I even couldn't cancel it, that would
bring the poor device to restart.
I tried to find some solution, but there is nothing older, than
a fifteen-year-old palmtop. You can google DIY repair guides and forum
threads for 1960's mainframes, but almost nothing for PalmOS devices.
It took me couple of evenings, but after some fiddling with the
Wayback Machine I found answers.
Sony produced at the same time two palmtops: UX50 and UX40. They were
in fact the same devices, just the first had WiFi and the second
didn't. As the form-factor didn't allow for some kind of slot for the
WiFi module and manufacturing two different boards would raise costs,
the module is a tiny separate board soldered to the bottom of the main
board using Ball-Grid-Array technology. With BGA neither soldered part
has a proper pins or holes - both have just a contact matrix and are
soldered together with tiny balls. This technology is quite sensitive
to any stress, vibrations etc., especially when used with a lead-free
When I found out (thanks to repair manual from Jynx) that UX50 is
soldered with a RoHS-compliant solder, I knew what to look for. And
I was right - even back in 2006-2007, when Sony repaired faulty units
by replacing the whole main board (for $138), people, who carried the
device a lot, had after some time the problem again with the repaired
So one of them found a quick and dirty solution: to fill the space
between WiFi module and the case with duct tape. It will press the
module against the board, making the faulty units work again and
lowering the risk of fault on working ones.
It took me almost an entire afternoon, because you have to unscrew
the special Sony screws, remove the bottom part of the case, stick
a piece of duct tape to the module, put the case back, screw the
screws back, test the WiFi and if it didn't help, do the whole process
again with another layer of duct tape. If you put too many layers,
you'll deform the bottom part of the case. If you don't put enough
layers, WiFi won't start to work. After one layer of thick tape and
three layers of thin, transparent one, it was just enough - init part
of connecting was quite quick, the scanning took about half of
a minute and then Clie displayed list of 802.11b networks...
...which were exactly two and none of them with old WEP encryption,
because it's kind of 2019 and we don't do this anymore. But that's
a whole different story.