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Monday, October 1, 2012

Toshiba Satellite C655 Screen Replacement

I have recently had the pleasure of replacing my first laptop screen. The Toshiba C655 below is not mine, I was asked if I could replace the screen in it by a co-worker. Having never done one before I called a friend of mine who I knew had and asked how difficult it is to replace one, he informed be it was a pretty simple process.

If the Toshiba C655 is the model you are replacing the screen on then here is how you do it, it takes about 15-20 minutes and is fairly simple. I recommend popping the screen out far enough to get a part number before ordering, just to keep there from being any kind of mix ups, the C655 actually has two different screen types that were used for the same model. I confirmed the type then ordered mine from LaptopScreen.com it came in about 3 business days through UPS.

Tools required:
  • Small Philips screwdriver
  • Exacto or other razor knife
  • Patience

First thing I figured I had better do is remove the battery so I wouldn't accidentally turn this thing on mid screen pull.


Flip it back over and locate the screws in the screen bezel, they are circled in red in the picture below, they are covered with a small sticker to make them blend in a bit better.

 Here is a closer view of one of them.


Now carefully take a knife, carefully remove the screw covers and set them aside. I used my pocket knife for the first one but I would recommend using the exacto or razor blade as it is much easier to get under an edge of the sticker.


Here they are all removed.


Remove all four screws and set them aside as well. Now for the part that takes just the right amount of force and finesse, removing the bezel. It is snapped to the back pretty well honestly, so you must be careful not to crack the flimsy plastic as you pry it apart with your fingers. Pick a spot away from the corners and apply the kung-fu grip to the bezel pictured below.

Now carefully pry the bezel away from the screen until you can get your fingers under the front of it a bit more.


 Eventually you will be far enough under it that it will unsnap.


Carefully work your way around until you get it all removed, the corners are more difficult, I used two hands to apply gentle pressure to it coming from both the top and side. Slipping the hinge covers (circled below) off was probably one of the most nerve wracking parts of the process as you can't just tilt the screen back far enough that you can just lift it out, and the whole time you are pulling on it you are expecting to hear a click and see the lower half of it go flying away never to be part of the laptop whole again. I was probably being too overly cautious, but as I said before this is not my laptop so I don't want to break anything on it getting the screen out. Anyways, just be gentle and patient and they will come out without breaking.


Now for actually removing the screen from the laptop you will have 3 screws holding the screen to the frame on each side, I circled them in the horribly blurry picture below(my apologies). These are different than the screws holding the bezel together so make sure to not get them mixed up for reassembly. I recommend leaning the screen back a bit before removing the screws, it keeps the screen from plopping out and makes it easier getting the new one back in. Moving the frame without the screen is difficult to do without bending the frame itself, it is very flimsy with out the screen screwed in, so I would put it wherever you want it for putting the screen back in.


Now we need to identify our screen type, most of the C655 are LED from my understanding, but apparently some of them are backlit LCD's so before you order a screen check the connection circled in red below, and the part number circled in yellow below. If there is just one connection, as this one has, then it is an LED with a 40 pin connector, if there are two then it is a backlit LCD with a 30 pin connector and a connector for the back light.

The plug has a thick plastic sticker over the connector and the plug holding it in place, my guess is that this is to somewhat insulate the plug and keep it from wiggling loose over time. carefully take your knife and peel up a corner.


 Peel it back to just the plug.



The cord also has some adhesive holding it in place to the base of the back of the screen, so lift gently from the back side of the cord until it is free.



Now you are ready to gently unplug the connector, I used the peeled up part of the sticker to hold on to and pulled straight down.


Remove the old screen and place the new one on the keyboard oriented as the old one was.


Plug the connector in to the new screen. Be sure all the pins have seated, pull the heavy duty sticker tight, but not too tight mind you, and stick it to the back of the new screen.


Apply some pressure to the cord at the base of the screen so that the cord adhesive sticks again.


Put the screen back in the frame, and put your screws back in.


Normally I would suggest testing the screen at this point, so slip the battery back in carefully.


Well crap, the battery is dead and he didn't bring me the charger, I guess we will test it when I take it back to him.


Snap the bezel back together around the new screen, be careful not to pinch any of the wires running around the inside of the bezel. Put the 4 screws back in.


Put your screw covers back on.


Now you are done, you can now enjoy your crack free screen, as soon as you recharge the battery. On a side note as soon as we got the charger plugged in to it and hit the button the screen came up and everything was working just fine.

Good luck with your screen replacement, and even if you don't have the exact model shown here, your replacement should go something similar to what is outlined above. You may have more or less screws, and if the manufacturers are jerks they will have some funky screw head on them so you have to buy a tool from them to remove the screws, but most are just standard tiny phillips screws. If your laptop has a built in webcam it will make things a bit different, TimBobSqrPnts from Reddit recommends unplugging it as well.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Whole House Fan for a Standard Sliding Glass Door.

   I'm going to start with a bit of back story to explain why I went this direction instead of a more traditional approach of buying a whole house fan or even the similar commercial product like the Aircycle, so if you would rather skip to the how to it starts in paragraph 6 with the shopping list. I also provided some rough schematics for the cabinet here.



Here is a picture of the mostly finished product. I plan on staining and sealing it, but I wanted to put it into use.


   My Wife and I bought a house when we were 18 and 19, if we had it to do over again we would do it differently, but we don't so for now we are living in the double wide trailer that we purchased and put on a new foundation on a half an acre we bought from my uncle. There isn't anything really wrong with the house and it has served us well as a dwelling, that said I would like to have a basement, and a handful of other little things I would do differently if I had the option to go back and build a house instead. Financing for a trailer is highway robbery over financing an identical built home as well, higher interest rates and mandatory PMI for the life of the loan for example.

   The trailer is about 1450 sq ft has vaulted ceilings and is really, really well insulated, my only complaint with that is my attempts to use window fans and box fans to pull in night air to keep the house under 80 during the day without kicking on the air conditioner have failed. Even when it gets down to 50 degrees at night I am only able to vent enough hot air to get down to about 70 if the house is starting at 80. The ultimate solution to this problem is a large whole house fan mounted in the ceiling that blows massive amounts of air into the attic and out the roof or side vents in the attic drawing cool air in through the windows or doors that are open in the house. However  with a vaulted ceiling there isn't much open attic space out on the outside edges of the house. With the lay out of the house the fan would have to go in the living room or the kitchen in the middle of the house to get enough space between the ceiling and roof to get good ventilation to the attic vents already in the roof, logistically and cosmetically this isn't a very viable option.

   I climbed up on the roof to see if I could maybe boost the bathroom exhaust fans with some larger in line duct fans to do the job, no luck, they were vented using small 3" pipe and I don't think I could get a high enough velocity fan in that would fit in the small pipe to do the job for a reasonable price.

   I then decided that something like my "suction tower", as I'm calling it, was pretty much the only option. First I searched for a commercial option, because I don't have enough time in my schedule to do the projects I want to do as it is. The only thing I could find was the "Aircycle" that I linked to earlier, and for $400 I would want it to move much more air than it does. The suction tower cost me around $300 out of pocket because I had most of the small ticket items like screws, switches, wire, and electrical boxes just laying around from other projects. Someone should be able to reproduce this for under $400 from scratch and get a fan that can move up to 8000 CFM instead of 1700. That is over 4.5 times the volume of air moved with only a little over 2 times the energy usage, plus if you only use one fan on low you get around 2 times the air moved with the roughly same electric used as the Aircycle on high. After doing more research for this post I realize I should have purchased This fan as it moves almost twice the CFM for roughly the same price as the ones I bought at my local Orschlens after shipping. If you use the ones from northern tool you may have to modify the width of the cabinet to get them to fit right, I don't know the exact dimensions of that fan drum, but I would suggest using the Flow Pro fans as you get more bang for you buck with some minor modifications to my plans.



Shopping list for this project. Admittedly I would use different fans as I explained in the previous paragraph.
  • 2 12 foot 2x10s
  • 1 12 foot 2x4
  • A 4x8 foot sheet of 3/8" plywood
  • A couple standard electrical boxes
  • A standard 110v house electrical outlet
  • A light switch
  • Wall plates for the outlet and switch
  • A 10 foot 3 prong extension cord at least 14 gauge wire
  • Possibly some wire nuts
  • Some Romex connectors
  • 2 of These fans.
  • 4 casters, the ones I used are 3" tall (if you use any other size you will need to keep that in mind when you cut the 2x4s and the 2x10s for the sides.
  • *Optional: a Thermostat from an attic fan* (Make sure it can handle the load of 2 of these fans.)


1. Start out by measuring your door opening write down your measurement from the floor to the bottom of the door frame. Subtract the height of the casters from this number, in my case I started with 74 inches minus my 3 inch casters leaves me with 71. Measure the width with the door all the way open as well, if it is less than 32 inches you will have to use 1 by lumber and be much more careful with it when assembling as it is easier to splinter and crack, and less sturdy than 2 by lumber. If it is less than 30 inches this will not work for you at all.

2. Cut 2 2x10s and 2 2x4s to the calculated number from step 1, once again 71 inches for me. Use a table saw and cut an inch off the long edge of the 2x4s leaving you with 2 boards that should measure 1-1/2 inches x 2-1/2 inches.

3. Measure the depth and width of the groove that your door slides into on the door frame when shut, mine was 1 inch wide and 1/2 an inch deep, I cut a 1/2 by 1/2 inch corner out of one of the trimmed down 2x4s to leave a 1 inch by 1/2 inch tab that will slide into the groove the door does when it is shut. Here is a picture to kinda show you what I am talking about.
The 2x4 that is nearest the camera has a corner trimmed out so it will fit in the door frame where the door would when closed.
4. You need to cut 3 2x10s to the length of your fan's Diameter, mine were 26 inches.


5. Now you need to assemble them into the cabinet pictured below, I used 3 inch screws here, and the middle shelf is just that, right in the middle of the cabinet centered 35-1/2 inches from either end.

6. Now would be a good time to put the casters on as well, you want them as close to the corners as you can get, I used 1 inch long screws here as anything longer would have went through the 2x10.

7. Attach the 2x4's to the face of the tower you want facing out the door, be sure the grooved out side is on the side that will be against the door frame. Line them up so they hang out on either side to allow you to slide them in the groove in the frame and close the door on the other side to provide support so the tower doesn't blow itself over in the middle of the night and scare you to death.


8.  You should probably install the electrical next as getting around the fans to mount the outlet box is a pain, I didn't do it that way as evidenced in the pictures, but it was 10 at night after a full day of work and my brain wasn't firing on all cylinders, that is also why the pictures aren't the best for explaining the step I'm trying to. 
       8.1 Anyways, you will take and cut the part of the cord you plug into off strip the insulation back about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch and wire it to the outlet in the box, most outlets have a guide telling you which side is supposed to be black wire and which is supposed to be white printed right on them, and green is always ground. 
Here is the back side of a standard outlet, you will want to attach the black to one side the white to the other and the green to the green screw terminal.
       8.2 The switch is not 100% necessary as these fans have their switches right on the back of the fan so they are easy to get to even after the cabinet is closed up, but I put it in anyway. You will strip off the outer insulation of the cord for about 2 inches and cut the black wire in the middle of the exposed section but not the white or green. Push the stripped off part of the cord into the switch box and pull it out the front far enough to wire it to the switch, strip the black wires back 1/4 to 1/2 an inch and wire them to one post on the side of the switch each. Strip a section of the green insulation off and loop the wire around the ground terminal then tighten the screw.
Here is the back side of a standard switch you will want to hook one black to the top terminal the other to the bottom and loop the green around the green screw terminal.
       8.3 This step is also optional, but I wanted a thermostat on it so it wouldn't get too cold in the house at night, so I wired in an old attic fan thermostat I happened to have laying around. Wiring on the thermostat is the same as the switch, cut the black and hook them to both connections on the thermostat leave the white in tact and strip a bit of insulation off the green and loop it around the ground terminal and tighten it down.
This one was taken the following morning after I realized I hadn't gotten a picture of the outlet placement, I mounted it close to the inside of the cabinet and underneath so if it rained it wasn't getting directly wet.
9. Take your fans out of the little cart they are mounted in, keep the bolts and knobs as you will use them to mount them in your cabinet.
Here is a shot of the empty carts
10. Take the guard off the front of the fans, and remove the carrying handles from the outside as they will be in the way when you go to mount them in the cabinet. NOTE: Unplug them first, the blades are semi-sharp and I'm not responsible if you lose some fingers because you bumped the switch while messing around in the fan.

11. Place the fans in the cabinet where you want them, line the back of the fan up to the inside edge of the cabinet. Make sure you have them facing so they will be blowing out of the house when the cabinet is lined up in the door. Spin them so that the hole that the bolts where in for mounting them to the carts are up against the sides of the cabinets, take a pencil from the inside and mark where they are.
You can see the bolt coming out of the fan here and into the cabinet frame.
12.  Remove the fans.

13. From the inside drilling out put 3/8 or 1/2 inch holes in the center of the marks. (3/8 will work but you will need to be more precise on placement and if the hole is level or not as that is the exact diameter of the bolts)

14. You will need to go to the outside now and counter sink the holes so you can use the knobs that were threaded on the mounting bolts as the bolts aren't quite long enough to reach all the way out to the outside of the cabinet. the round part of the knob is 1 inch in diameter so take a 1 inch bit and drill about half way through the board from the outside in the holes you made from the inside out.

15. Set the fans back in, line up the holes and push the bolts through their mounting holes and the cabinet, thread the knobs on from the outside until they are nice and tight. Once done mount the guards back on the fans.
Should look something like this when you're finished.
16. Now measure the outside dimensions of the inside face of your cabinet, mine was 71x28-3/4 inches.

17. Cut a piece of plywood to the dimensions in step 16

18. Measure from the top of the cabinet to the middle of the top fan, mine was 21-5/8 inches, write it down.

19. Measure from the top of the cabinet to the middle of the bottom fan, mine was 56-5/8 inches, write it down.

20. Measure from the side of the cabinet to the middle of both fans they should be the same number, mine was 14-1/2 inches, write it down.

21. Go to your plywood and make a mark at the measurement from step 18 down from the top and the measurement from 20 in from the side, do the same with the measurement from steps 19 and 20.

22. Now mark a circle using the radius, or half the diameter of your fan and the center points you just marked on the plywood. I used a bit of string tied to my pencil at 13 inches out and anchored at the middle point with a push pin and drew my circles for the top and bottom fans. This step takes a bit of practice and a string that doesn't stretch is a must.

23. Cut out the circles carefully, I used my router as I don't have a jigsaw, but ideally you would be using a jigsaw for this.

24. Mount your plywood to the inside side of the cabinet, make sure your holes for the fans line up with the fans. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the closer to perfect you get it the better results you will get from your fans.

25. Cut a hole for your switch box and mount it in the hole, I had to un-wire and re-wire it but I got it working at 11 the night before without adding the plywood and called it a night, I added the plywood like I originally planned the next day, and I will talk about the benefits of adding the ply in the conclusion.

26. Mount your thermostat somewhere where it will get the air from inside the house pulled across it constantly so that it is getting a sample of what temperature your house actually is. I put mine on the inside between the two fans and it seems to be working ok there.

27. I took a zip tie and tied all the cords together and tucked them up under the middle shelf and it doesn't look too bad that way, I would recommend doing something to tidy up the cords cause having them loose could cause some problems.

28. Plug it in, put it in the door, slide the door shut around it, and test it out.

Here are some more shots of the mostly finished product
Inside view

Door side view

Frame side view
Outside view

   I added the handles from the fans to either side of the tower in the middle to give you a good place to grab it and move it around from. It is a bit top heavy but if you are careful it is pretty stable while it is rolling around, once it is in the door however it is solid, and you can cut and place a block behind the back side of your inside sliding door to essentially lock the fan in place giving you security if you need it. When it isn't in use I can just roll it to the side since it is on casters and close the door.

   As mentioned in step 25, I ran it the first night without the plywood because I was beat after a full day of work and running some personal errands, I got it operational and went to bed. I noticed significant blow back from the fans as it wasn't sealed into the door so a lot of air was essentially looping around right at the door, adding the plywood stopped  most of this, and the closer you can get your ply cut to the right spot and size the better your results with this will be. I am planning on adding a bit of weather stripping to seal the gap between the fan and plywood so that it is even tighter. There was also a significant noise reduction by adding the plywood as much of the fan noise from the outside of the fan is blocked by it. I measured the decibels from 2 feet after adding the ply and with both fans on low it runs about 85db, or about the same as a busy street, and both on high is a bit too loud at 105db, or similar to a lawnmower.  I didn't measure without the ply but I can tell you that before on low was close to the same noise level as after on high so adding the ply essentially dropped the noise level 20db. Once you get about 8 feet away from this you can carry on a normal conversation without needing to raise your voice when it is on low, which is plenty of air movement for normal situations. I feel that this is a tolerable level of noise especially since it will mostly be only in operation at night. I like that I have the ability to really clear out the air in the house by kicking it up on high for about 10 or 15 minutes, in case we get back home late that day or some other abnormal event prevents me from kicking it on as the sun and temperature go down.

   If you can't add a whole house fan to your house feasibly for whatever reason, I feel this is a good alternative that costs less than installing a traditional whole house fan. The whole project took me about 5 hours including daydreaming time for the design, so someone with some construction experience should be able to get this built in a couple hours or so.

   On a side note I think I found a decent use for the carts that the fans came on, these little plastic trays are pretty wobbly when you get them full of plants that just got watered, and they are the perfect size to set in the cart comfortably. I'm going to take the left over plywood and make a platform so that they can sit even on top of it, but otherwise this will be great for me to pull them out during the day so they can get some sun, but bring them in at night so they don't get too cold or wind blown without worrying if the tray is going to buckle under the load and kill all my seedlings from dropping 3 feet to the floor.
I really think I'm going to get some decent peppers this year! At least, I hope anyways.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Portable Automatic Filler Valve that hooks to Garden Hose

I have made a couple of these, they are handy for keeping livestock or outdoor pet's water tanks full at all times (make sure they are shaded all day long or you are in for some serious algae growth), or making tasks like filling a pool or large water tank an unsupervised affair. You can use what ever plumbing between that you want but getting from the 3/4" garden hose to the 7/8" fitting for the toilet fill valve is something most of the hardware store employees in my area have been unable to help me with.

Shopping list, total cost for materials that could be used again $9, total cost for parts around $20. It could cost less if you can get all your fittings in plastic, but I was unable to.

  • An universal toilet fill valve (should cost around $8-12)
  • A short section of  3/4" PVC pipe (around 3 feet is plenty for a filler like the one I am making, under $3)
  • 2x3/4" PVC slip elbows (around $0.30 each)
  • a 3/4" PVC slip to 3/4" female thread elbow (around $0.50)
  • a 3/4" PVC slip to 1/2" female thread elbow (around $0.50)
  • a 1/2" male pipe thread to 3/8" compression adapter (the only one my hardware store had was in brass, it cost around $3)
  • a 3/4" male pipe thread to 3/4" male garden hose (once again only available to me in brass around $4)
  • a 3/8" PEX faucet supply line (around $2)
  • a small container of PVC primer and cement (the small 4 oz cans were around $4 each, and I hardly used any of it)
  • a roll of thread seal tape (around $1 for a roll and hardly used any of it as well)
Here is a picture couple pictures of the PEX adapter so you know what you are looking for.




Lets get everything we need lain out and prepared so assembly will go quickly. First we need to cut our PVC, I used a hacksaw, we need 2 pieces around 3" long and one around 14"-15" long. To make sealing go smoothly take all the burrs off the inside and outside of your cut PVC ends, this can be done quickly with a round file.

A word of warning about using the PVC primer and cement in combination, it sets very, very quickly. You have at most 10 seconds after slipping the pieces together to line it up where you want it. After that, for all purposes of re-positioning a joint, the pieces are bonded on a molecular level. 

Assembling the plumbing only takes a few minutes once you have everything together. The process for gluing PVC pipe to the slip fittings go like this.
  1. Swab the inside of the slip fitting and the outside of the pipe with the primer
  2. Let that dry, it should only take a couple seconds.
  3. Swab the inside of the slip fitting with the cement.
  4. Press the pipe into the slip fitting as far as it will go, usually about an inch, as quickly as possible and get it oriented like you want it. As mentioned before it sets very quickly, so pretty much once you stop twisting the connection it will never move again.
  5. Rinse and repeat with the next fitting.
I highly recommend the use of thread seal tape on the fittings that thread into the PVC. You will want to wrap the tape around the fitting clockwise 2-3 revolutions, no more than that though as it will cause binding when trying to get the threads started.

I have lain everything out on the table disassembled as it will be glued or threaded together, so if you are looking for a road map this picture is it.



For those of you who like a walk through I will start on the Garden hose end and work my way to the fill valve.
  1. Thread the pipe thread into the 3/4" slip to thread elbow. (Use caution not to over tighten and strip the plastic threads out of your adapter.)
  2. Glue a 3" piece of PVC into the slip side of the elbow.
  3. Glue a 3/4" slip elbow to the assembly, make sure it is oriented so the next pipe you glue will be parallel to the assembly so far forming a U shape.
  4. Glue the 14"-15" piece of PVC to the assembly.
  5. Glue a 3/4" slip elbow to the assembly so that it runs perpendicular to the bulk of the assembly
  6. glue a 3" piece of PVC to the assembly
  7. Glue the 3/4" to 1/2" slip to thread adapter to the assembly so that it runs parallel with the bulk of the assembly.
  8. Thread the 1/2" male pipe thread to 3/8" compression adapter into the assembly. (Use caution not to over tighten and strip out the plastic threads of your elbow.)
  9. Remove the brass ferrule from the compression nut as you will be using the plastic ferrule that came with the PEX faucet adapter.
  10. Cut the 3/8" PEX faucet adapter down to about 2-3 inches.
  11. Put the 7/8" nut that came with the toilet fill valve on the PEX adapter so that it opens toward the fill valve.
  12. Put the 3/8" compression nut on the PEX adapter so that it opens toward the compression fitting.
  13. Slide the plastic ferrule onto the PEX adapter so that the skinny side is toward the compression fitting.
  14. Slide the PEX adapter into the compression fitting and tighten the compression nut until the PEX adapter no longer moves in the compression fitting. I took a picture of it as it is the only semi complex thing to assemble in the whole project, see below.
  15. Thread the 7/8" nut onto the bottom of the fill valve.
  16. The top is adjustable on the unit I used, so adjust it to the desired water height.
  17. I used a zip tie to tie the rubber hose that comes off the side of the fill valve so that it runs down parallel to the assembly instead of shooting strait out the side of the fill valve.



There you have it, an assembled portable automatic filler you can hook straight to a garden hose. Of course this setup might not be the ideal solution for everyone. I have made these a permanent fixture in a tank before as well. Which requires nothing more than drilling a 7/8" hole in the bottom of the tank and mounting the fill valve in the tank just as you would a toilet tank, then adapting it out to garden hose using the PEX adapter, the compression to 1/2" pipe adapter, a 1/2" pipe coupler, and a 1/2" pipe thread to garden hose adapter (a bit cheaper on parts, maybe a couple dollars, and requires no PVC primer or cement).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How anyone can turn an Android Smartphone or Tablet into a no monthly charge Wi-fi phone.


 Let’s start out with a little of my reasoning for the project.

 We do not have a land line phone at our house, I wanted a phone that my daughter could use in case of trouble to get a hold of someone like her mother or I. I couldn’t see dumping at least $20 a month on a land line for this, since its only purpose would be to contact my daughter or a babysitter at the house. Enter old Smartphone, re-purposed.

Now days you can find a used Smartphone in decent condition for around $100 if you look long enough, or maybe you upgraded and are looking for something to do with your old phone. It took me about a week on Ebay to locate and successfully win a used Samsung captivate for $129 in good condition. It was not unlocked  which is perfectly fine for what I am going to do with it but if you intend on using it as a mobile either prepaid or otherwise you will want one that works with the carrier you are planning on using. It turns out I am planning to later get a prepaid plan with AT&T so that if she is out of Wi-fi she can still make a call to us when her car breaks down or other quasi important event, but that is around a decade away so no hurry there. There are other venues for used Android Smartphones like www.swappa.com and of course your local classifieds or craigslist but I have had good experiences with purchasing used phones on Ebay so that is the route I went.

This project will work with any Android Smartphone or Tablet running 2.1 or later and you will be able to make and receive calls from anywhere you have a Wi-fi connection without using any minutes on a wireless plan. It will also co-exist nicely with your current wireless plan, so if you are looking to supplement your stock of minutes this will work for you as well. As a bonus free text messaging is possible with the Google voice app (no MMS or short number service however)

Here is your shopping list for this project.
  • A working Smartphone or Tablet running Android 2.1 or later. (required for GrooVe IP pronounced groo-vee eye-pee)
  • Access to a mobile with a phone number and service. (required to upgrade your Google voice account)
  • A permanent number you own to associate with your Google voice account. (Google requires you to have one forwarding number on your voice account, can be landline or even prepaid cell)
  • $5 (for GrooVe IP)
  • Access to internet via Wi-fi


I recommend installing a custom ROM for your device at this point, I did for mine and www.cyanogenmod.com has full update guides for every model phone they support. It isn’t really all that scary and with step by step instructions there is very little that can go horribly wrong. However that option is not for everyone, and is not a requirement for a Wi-fi phone to work.

Setting up a Google Account and associating it with the phone.

First thing you will want to do is set up a Google account for the WiFi phone if you don’t already have one or don’t want to use your current account (it isn't going to hurt anything to use an existing account). I used my daughter's account since it is going to be her mobile eventually. For those of you who don’t know how to do this head over to www.gmail.com and sign up for an account. If you have already done this skip ahead to setting up voice.
The link circled in red or the button circled in blue will do nicely



Next you need to associate your Google account with the phone, on the home screen of the phone press the menu button and go to settings>accounts & sync then click add account. Select the Google account option and fill in all your information. As you go through the setup you will have various options to sync different Google services on the device, if you already have the account associated you can skip this step.

Setting up Google Voice

Here is where you will need access to a phone with mobile service, if you have decided to go prepaid and have service on the phone already you are set, if not you may need to borrow a good friends Smartphone and number for about 5 minutes, or bum their sim card for a bit if they have a Simplephone (warning this may cause the carrier to attempt to force them into a data plan for Smartphones, if it is only used momentarily and they call customer service when they get a notice from the carrier it can be avoided. If you are running Android 2.3 or later there is an option in settings>wireless & network settings>Mobile networks to turn off mobile data. I would recommend doing this before you pop your friend’s Simplephone sim in your Smartphone to avoid unnecessary data charges for him/her). If you already have a Smartphone with Voice set up you can skip to setting up your voice account to work with GrooVe IP

You need to set up the Google voice app on a phone that has service to upgrade your Google account so you will be able to get a free Google voice number.  If you don’t have the Google voice app on the phone open the market and install it, it is a free app from Google.

If you have service on your phone simply launch the voice app and go through the setup (I think it sends/receives 2 text messages to verify the phone number). Once that is done skip to setting up your voice account to work with GrooVe IP.

 If you are doing this on a friend’s phone you need to launch the voice app on their phone go into settings and sign out of their account.

 Then launch voice again and set it up with the account you intend to use on your phone.
Click the use a different account and fill it in with the info for  your Wi-fi phone account. When asked which number to associate with voice select the "this number" option.
  Afterwards go to a computer and navigate to www.google.com/voice, log in and go to voice settings.  Add the phone number you own to the forwarding phones list, circled below in gold (I used my Wife’s mobile since she doesn’t use voice on her phone, but you can use any number you have ownership over and can answer). Google will give you a verification number then call the entered phone number and ask for the verification number to confirm that you do in fact own the number and it is valid. Make sure to remove your friend’s number from your account, otherwise they will not be able to use it with their voice account. Have your friend set their voice account back up on their phone as you won’t need it anymore.  Now go to your Wi-fi phone and set up Google voice, when prompted for the number of the phone use the number you manually added through the browser instead of the “this number” option. If there is only a "this number" option then something has gone wrong with adding your number manually, you should go check voice settings again and make sure your number is listed as a forwarding phone.
Right there circled in green is where the link to settings lives.


Once you are in settings the first page is “phones” and that is where you want to be. The add another phone link is circled in gold. Make sure that if you used a friends mobile to delete their number after adding yours.



Getting your Voice account ready for GrooVe IP

After you have Google voice associated with the Wi-fi phone go to www.google.com/voice and go into settings (pictured above).   From there you can request a free public phone number for your voice account on the “phones” page in settings; also circled in red in the photo above (this option is not available until you have completed the voice app setup). If you are lucky they have a phone number available near you, if not you can go with any number really, the only people it will affect are land lines, and long distance charges are starting to go extinct. I wouldn’t recommend the porting option as it is an additional $20 and even Google admits it can get kinda hairy and takes at least 2 days to get everything ironed out. While you are in settings change the forwarding settings for your phone numbers, uncheck the box next to your phone number and uncheck text messaging (circled in blue above), then check the box next to Google chat (circled in green above).

Setting up GrooVe IP

On the Wi-fi phone, go to the market and find “GrooVe IP” it was $4.99 at the time of writing. Install the app and open it.

Sign in to the Google account associated with your phone. You may want to go into misc settings and set it so it auto starts, and just dig around in the options there until you get it set the way you want.

Now go out to the dialer, either GrooVe IP’s dialer or the native one (note: if you use the native dialer and actually have mobile service on the phone I would make sure GrooVe IP asks on every call if you want to use mobile network or GrooVe IP) try to make a call, if you are hooked up to Wi-fi and signed in to GrooVe IP it should call out with your free public number from Google. And as long as you are hooked up to the internet via Wi-fi GrooVe IP should try to keep you signed in, so you can receive calls if someone calls your Google number.  If you are unable to receive calls check your voice settings to insure it is forwarding your calls to Google chat.

That is all there is to it, free internet calling anytime on your mobile phone, free SMS through the Voice app, no service plan required. My daughter loves that she has her own real phone, and I love that it isn’t costing me a dime beyond the initial investment. Plus since it is a Smartphone she can game away on it all day long. Later I plan on putting prepaid service on it and she can have the responsibility of adding minutes to her plan with allowance/job so if she wants to use it as a mobile she can, but she will learn how to manage her money so she has something nice when she needs/wants it.

Let’s tally up my total cost for this project and compare that to what a comparable land line service, or adding her on my mobile plan would run me for a year, and throw in a standalone $25 prepaid plan as the other prepaid plans are not viable standalone options for me.  Let’s also compare the pros and cons while we are at it in a nice neat table.
               

Wi-fi phone
AT&T add on
AT&T Prepaid
Local only Landline
Phone
$129 Smartphone
$20 Simplephone
$20 Simplephone
Around $20
Monthly charges
$0 including taxes
$10 not including taxes
$25 not including taxes
Around $20 Local Only
Service type
Unlimited talk, free SMS, data through Wi-fi, MMS sent through email
Shared 850 anytime, unlimited M2M, unlimited text, pay per data
250 minutes, pay per text, pay per data
Unlimited local, pay per long distance, SMS what?? Data who?
Additional one time charges
$5 GrooVe IP
$18 Activation
$0
$19 activation
Pros
Completely free service based on the fact public   Wi-fi is an option, plus Smartphone!
Unlimited M2M and text and service most places.
Um… Not tied to my main account so she can’t run up massive charges.
With the right type of phone (not a wireless handset) will work in a power outage.
Cons
Only works within range of a Wi-fi access point, a tiny bit more complex of a system to set up and operate
Contracted in for at least 18 months, regular old Simplephone
A girl, once they hit the right age, seem to grow a phone in place of an ear, and 250 minutes will be gone inside a week. Plus regular old Simplephone.
Only Local calling, and not mobile.
Total Cost over a year for me
$134
$158
$320
$279

Note: You can make free 911 emergency calls from any of these service options including the Wi-fi phone no matter where you are, even if you do not have a service plan or you are out of minutes your phone can still dial 911 through the cellular network. GrooVe IP needs to be disconnected so that local cell networks can handle the call to get you to a local 911 center, but this is as easy turning off Wi-fi.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments, I will try to answer them as best I can.