It's been a long time since I thought to myself "Hey! I
really want to buy that Sony product!" Years of repairing
their garbage at work, struggling to get support for hardware
that's just out of production, and watching them commit atrocities
in the courts has left me soured to their products. But I confess,
when I heard about the Liveview, I was intrigued.
Remote is a little battery powered bluetooth device with an
OLED touchscreen that connects to an Android phone. It shows who's
calling, reads out texts, alerts you of updates to facebook and
twitter, etc. It also allows you to download plugins that add
things like media player controls and a GTA-esque mini map. Given
that 97% of the power used by my Sidekick
4G goes to running the screen, this sounded like a handy way
of boosting my battery life. Not to mention making Mp3 playback
a bit nicer.
Ahh, but this is Sony we're talking about. The unit was probably
produced in a Chinese sweatshop by slave kittens on their way
to being turned into soup. And I had many misgivings about its
quality. So while I eventually broke down and bought one, I chose
to get a second hand one off of Craigslist for $50 instead of
buying it new at $89 plus tax.
It turns out I was right to be concerned. Out of the box the
unit barely worked, despite being factory sealed. And my opinion
of it continued to drop as I clipped it into the included wrist
strap and stuck it on. The unit was huge, the strap was uncomfortable,
and it was very very clearly not the least bit waterproof. I'd
have to fumble with the strap and stick the thing in my pocket
if I wanted to wash my hands, or even go outside in the rain.
This would not do.
Rather than get mad or whine uselessly on a forum about how crap
it was, I decided to try making the device into something I'd
actually want to use.
First thing to do was check for a firmware update. It seems I'm
not the only one who was having constant disconnect and crash
issues, as Sony has a
patch on their website. It would have been nice if the Android
app that runs the Liveview had bothered to tell me that my firmware
was out of date, but so be it, the patch loaded smoothly. Upon
rebooting I found that the disconnects had been reduced from every
5 seconds to simply whenever I least expected it. Progress I suppose.
But the hardware problems were not going to be solved so easily.
No firmware updates could fix the uncomfortable and bulky strap
or the lack of gaskets around the buttons/USB port. I would need
to get creative to correct those.
I decided to tackle the case first while I considered how to
build a new strap. The case has a seam around the perimeter, a
USB port with an ineffective rubber plug, and 2 buttons with large
gaps around them. Water could easily get into any of these points
and ruin the device. So I decided to seal the whole case with
some very flexible black RTV silicone adhesive.
This stuff is great. It forms something resembling soft rubber
or latex when it dries. It can be stretched and twisted and squished,
only to spring back to its original shape. Just what I needed
to seal those buttons.
To open the screwless case I turned to my secret electronics
technician weapon; Nylon guitar picks. These are the thinnest
ones I keep on hand and they just fit the gaps in the plastic.
The trick was to get a corner in around one of the buttons, then
slide it down toward the bottom of the unit.
A gap opened as the side and bottom clips released. The thin
plastic was easily chipped on one side by the soft nylon pick.
Through the chip I could see copper and circuit. The case didn't
even pretend to be waterproof.
Once the sides and bottom were free I only needed to pull down
on the top section and give it a wiggle to release the top clip.
Then I could lift the top enough to peer inside. A small flex
cable from the touch screen was socketed on the left side of the
PCB, preventing the unit from opening all the way. Carefully lifting
the plastic clip with a tiny flat head screwdriver released it.
I would like to suggest to the reader that if he or she feels
compelled to follow in my footsteps, that now would be a particularly
bad time to get up and check the laundry. In my case it resulted
in the watch falling from my desk and crashing to the floor. Fortunately
the only damage was the ground wire which ran to the power button's
RF shielding. Still, oops.
No matter. We see that the unit is able to be opened
half way. The short copper ground wire next to the display cable
prevents the unit from being opened any further. I decided to
desolder it to make things simple.
Now the unit could be opened fully. You'll note
that I nicked the side plastic with my soldering iron. I used
an x-acto knife to smooth out the rough lump along the edge. Had
I left it like that the case would not have been able to close
all the way. Also be aware that the orange display cable is very
fragile where it connects to the board. We want to avoid flexing
it any more than necessary.
Two screws release the PCB, and by gently lifting
it between the buttons, the whole thing slides free of the bottom
Here we see the empty bottom shell. Note the piece
of orange kapton tape. It covers the pinhole which can be used
to remove the Sony Ericsson badge on the backside. Funny that
Sony thought to seal the opening even though the badge already
covered it, but completely ignored the buttons and USB port. But
oh well, time for some silicone.
I used a toothpick to spread the black RTV silicone
across the USB port. I had to get it underneath the curved edges
and across the back while also doing my best to avoid getting
any inside the port itself. This was especially tricky since there
are 4 openings in the metal of the port for the locking tabs on
the USB cable to clip into. In the end I simply had to be a bit
heavy handed with the stuff to ensure water tightness, even if
that meant a little squeezed into the port.
I also applied a healthy dollop of the stuff to
the case around the USB port. You probably can't see it here but
the rubber dust cover is in place under all that silicone. The
silicone will prevent it from pulling out all the way, but the
cap can still be folded back to plug the cable in.
The next step was to stick the board back in, screw
it down, and tidy up the port. A glob of silicone was hanging
just in front of the pins until I wiped it off with a q-tip. Then
I looked inside the connector. Sure enough, there was 4 bits of
silicone sticking through the locking holes. To fix this I used
a wooden toothpick and a lot of patience. After that I repeatedly
plugged and unplugged the USB cable, wiping the silicone off of
the tip each time. Before long it was as easy to insert as it
had been before I started.
It was time to address the matter of the buttons.
My earlier tests of the silicone suggested that it would remain
flexible enough to be used on something that had to move. I decided
to liberally spread the silicone across the walls of the button
cutout. In hindsight it may have been better to seal around the
exterior edges of the buttons only. I applied lots of silicone
on the inside walls of the power button and it no longer has a
distinct click. The select button, which saw more on the outside
than the inside, has the better feel. Both still work though,
so I'm willing to live with it.
Almost done. At this point I had to reconnect that
tiny ribbon cable and place the buttons in their cutouts, as both
would become much harder after the perimeter of the case had been
covered in silicone. You can almost see the line of silicone I
drew across the top of the button.
I did not attempt to be at all neat or careful with
the silicone along the edges. I was more concerned with sealing
them fully than with having the silicone leak out of the seams.
It's very easy to clean up wet silicone, much harder to repair
As a result there was a line of silicone all the
way around the case when I did finally snap it together. I was
able to remove it by slowly turning a q-tip as I wiped it along
the edge. It took a few passes and clean q-tips, but soon there
was no sign of the overflow. I also used a toothpick to apply
a second coat of silicone around the buttons. Were I to do this
again I could probably get away with only using silicone on the
outside of the buttons instead of the inner sidewalls as well.
As you can see, the plastic cleaned up nicely.
And here it is running.
So far I'd call the seal a success. The USB port
and the buttons work acceptably well, and I no longer have to
worry about it when I wash my hands or head outside.
When it's finished I'll update this page with my
new strap design.
Page created September 19th 2011
Come together now, yeah,