Personal computing discussed

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Pachyuromys
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That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:24 am

In over 30 years of working with computers, I have to say I have never encountered this problem before. Read about it, but never actually saw it.

A friend of mine has a laptop. (The brand and model are really unimportant.) Over the last few months he's had a few problems with it (all software-related) which he has engaged me to fix. Despite my work on it, he has become increasingly upset with it, and just recently bought a new laptop, even though the one I've worked on is only a few months old. And he ever so graciously decided to just give me the (not so) old one.

Now, I have to mention two things. First, this friend lives in what I can only kindly refer to as unsanitary conditions. I mean, I could be more specific, but I don't want to gross you out before you read any further. That part comes next.

Secondly, on a couple of occasions while I was fixing this laptop, I happened to notice a few very small cockroaches in the vicinity. The first time, I considered it an unrelated nuisance. The second and third times, I thought it was just an odd coincidence. The fourth (and last) time, I actually saw one crawling out of one of the ventilation holes. Fortunately the laptop wasn't on my lap at the time, else there might have been some hardware that needed fixing, too.

So now, I am expected to take delivery of said apparently cockroach infested laptop in a couple of days. I'm sure a few of you are saying to yourself, "hellllllll no!" right about now. But, as the saying goes, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. I'm not about to turn down an otherwise very nice (and free) laptop just because of a few computer, um, bugs. Rather, I'd like to find a way to de-infest it. This is where you, O Gentle Reader, come in.

Without having done any research into this whatsoever as of yet, a cursory review has lead me to consider and dismiss the following options, for the following reasons:

1. Take it apart. (I've never taken a laptop apart before and I'm 99.9999% certain I couldn't put it back together again if I did.)

2. Freeze it overnight. (I'm fairly sure some components in it might not like being frozen, not the least of which is the liquid crystal display, and I'm almost positive it wouldn't kill the roaches anyway.)

3. Lock it in a closet and set off a bug bomb. (This might kill the roaches, or it might not. I think I'd need to have the laptop running the whole time just to draw the fumigant into the machine, and even then it might not reach all parts of it. And then I'd have the smoke residue (which is pretty thick and sticky stuff) left inside which at the very least would likely affect the ventilation properties of the machine.)

4. Bury it in boric acid powder. (This would almost certainly kill the roaches... eventually. Probably take even longer to clean all the powder out afterwards. Probably even wind up having to take it apart. (See Option 1)).

F. Drown it for a week in a vat of some non-electrically conductive liquid, like mineral oil. (The cheese option -- not to be taken seriously. ("OK, who's the U-Boat commander?"))

Ok, so, what do you think? Any ideas?
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:58 am

As far as I know, cockroaches are very infestatious, so whatever you do, don't open it up in your home.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:11 am

Shake it very vehemently until they all fall out from the ventilation holes.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:16 am

Nasty. I'd say option number 3 would be the best course of action. It might be even more advantageous to leave the machine on while the entire room is being fumigated, in case of the buggers infesting the rest of your house. Of course, afterward it'd be best to take it apart and gently clean all parts with alcohol.

I had a similar thing happen with a computer I got from a neighbor's. The thing was infested with fleas which in turn infested my room. That was a bad week.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:34 am

You wanna see roaches, you should work rent-to-own. i did, from 1998-2000, and the memories still haunt me to this day. It's amazing to go into houses (if they could be called that), and see the people not even noticing or caring that roaches or maggots or whatever are crawling all over the place.

I've seen electronic devices get their circuits caked with roach shat to the point where they short out. You better bug bomb it, and bomb it good. Put it in an airtight, nuclear blast-proof safe and set off 10 cans of bug killer, then open it 2 years later. You might be safe.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:03 am

not a chance. that thing would not be coming into my home until it was roach-free. And even then I'm not sure I'd trust it - bugs freak me the hell out.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:47 am

Put it in the bath tub and take it apart? At least then you'll notice if anything comes out of it =/
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along82
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:56 am

Yes, cockroaches LOVE electronics. I repair cable modems for a living. The company I work for receives a couple thousand modems a week to be test, repaired, and cleaned. About 15% of those modems are heavily roach infested. And they're not just full of bugs. Usually they're coated with this orange/brown bug goo. Depending on how bad they smell, you may want to vomit on sight and/or scrub your hands with a brillo pad and beach if you touch one. I get shudders thinking about what some of the homes look like that these modems come from. Anyways, if you decide to keep the laptop, I recommend taking it apart and cleaning it. Thats the only way to make sure your not going to bring any roaches in your house. Get some rubbing alcohol and a wire brush for the electronics, and something fragrant for everything else.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:08 am

I had a very simliar problem with my GBA while in Belize... It seems some ants decided to move into it while it lay untouched during the time we were actually in the country... On the plane on the way back they came exploding out of it from the battery compartment as soon as I started playing it and running all over the plane, I quickly zipped it up in its case to contain them until I got home... My solution was to put it in a ziplock bag with a cotton pad with nail polish remover on it (should have used isopropyl, I know)... It killed the ants, but my GBA didn't survive (and it had an Afterburner in it and everything)... :(

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It's amazing how often this story has been relevant since 2003 when it happened... :-?
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:03 am

Pachyuromys wrote:
...
1. Take it apart. (I've never taken a laptop apart before and I'm 99.9999% certain I couldn't put it back together again if I did.)

You may be able to find a service manual for it on the manufacturer's web site, which would make this task less risky. I've taken apart a couple of HP laptops, and gotten them back together without incident. However, even if you take it apart and clean it out carefully, you still won't be certain that there aren't roach eggs hiding inside things like the optical drive or key switches.

2. Freeze it overnight. (I'm fairly sure some components in it might not like being frozen, not the least of which is the liquid crystal display, and I'm almost positive it wouldn't kill the roaches anyway.)

As long as it is sealed in something (e.g. Ziploc bag) so that it doesn't get full of condensation when it warms up, this probably won't harm it. But it probably won't kill the roaches either.

3. Lock it in a closet and set off a bug bomb. (This might kill the roaches, or it might not. I think I'd need to have the laptop running the whole time just to draw the fumigant into the machine, and even then it might not reach all parts of it. And then I'd have the smoke residue (which is pretty thick and sticky stuff) left inside which at the very least would likely affect the ventilation properties of the machine.)

This probably has the best chance of success. It does run a risk of fouling any mechanical devices though -- optical drive and keyboard, in particular.

4. Bury it in boric acid powder. (This would almost certainly kill the roaches... eventually. Probably take even longer to clean all the powder out afterwards. Probably even wind up having to take it apart. (See Option 1)).

This will likely kill the keyboard, optical drive, and fans. Bad idea IMO.

F. Drown it for a week in a vat of some non-electrically conductive liquid, like mineral oil. (The cheese option -- not to be taken seriously. ("OK, who's the U-Boat commander?"))

Glad you're not taking this one seriously...

On a lighter note, you do know the origin of the word "bug", yes? (Some linkage here and here... the two pages seem to disagree on the exact date, but the other details match.)
You run into Grace's presence everywhere you turn in modern computing. The term ''bug'' used to describe a flaw in software code traces back to the day in 1945 when she took the Mark I's successor, the Mark II, apart to find out why it had stopped working. The answer: a moth that had become caught between crucial contacts on one of the computer's relays. The moth carcass was taped into the project's log book with this inscription: ''First actual case of a bug being found.''
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:14 am

Roaches are nasty infestatious. Whatever you do, be careful with the laptop. If it gets delivered to you in a cardboard box, the roaches will probably eat their way through it in no time.

If you use options 3, 4, or 5 (though I'd listen to JBI on these) and are successful at killing the roaches (not 100%, but then, I'm used to tangling with New York City Roaches) you're still going to have a complete mess of egg sacs, carcasses, feces, and related roach goo inside the laptop that you'll have to clean out. Roaches and their related environmental affects smell horrendous, so I really think you want to completely clean it up.

The first few times I opened up laptops I couldn't put them back together again either, so I understand your hesitation in opening this one for a cleaning.

So, decide what's most important to you:

1) If having a free laptop is paramount, kill the roaches and live with the knowledge that a cockroach necropolis exists in the bowels of the device (and hope that the infestation didn't cause -- and won't cause any more -- usability issues). Also hope that remnants of the roach village don't attract new bugs to feast on the remains.

2) If you care more about a clean laptop than a free one, kill all the roaches, then take the laptop apart completely and clean every single piece. Even if you can't put it back together, it was free anyway, and you'll have gained valuable experience, so the next time you'll have a better idea of what you're doing.

Personally, I'd go for option #2.

The way I would kill the roaches is, I'd get large, airtight container, like a Rubbermaid storage box or something of that sort. I'd place the laptop in the container, and around it I'd put a few dozen of those black Raid roach bait traps. The more traps you put in, the safer you are -- theres probably a lot of roaches in there already, and if they laid eggs, there could be hundreds or thousands of them waiting to hatch any minute. Then I'd seal the box completely and tightly with multiple layers of tape (multiple, because tape is actually a tasty treat for roaches, so you'll want to make it hard for them through which to eat). If the container is clear, you can visually observe the progress. You may wish to resupply the container with fresh roach traps after a few days for Man vs. Roach, round 2.

Whatever solution you choose, I want pictures of it in this thread! :o :-? :lol:
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:35 am

I have done work of this type before, and I found a PERFECT way to kill all the little bastiches.

FIND A PLACE THAT SELLS DRY ICE.

The cold doesn't kill them, but CO2 can quickly smother insects. Get a plastic tub, as tall as you can, and large enough to easily enclose all the components to be debugged. Put a large piece or two of dry ice in a glass bowl and gently set it down near the device. Adding water is optional and NOT RECOMMENDED or necessary.

Replace dry ice chunks periodically. The goal here is to keep the electronics solidly coated in high concentrations of CO2 for as long as possible. This will very nicely kill cockroaches, ants, fleas, ticks, leeches, maggots, EVERYTHING. It even works on most eggs (not all, I found out, but the great majority).

Do keep the tub somewhat supervised during the process. CO2 is very poisonous in the concentrations you need. Dry ice can also burn the CRAP out of anyone foolish enough to touch it unprotected.

Afterwards, you'll want to open up whatever components, at least superficially, and scrub out dead bugs, eggs, crap, and anything else they left in there. That junk can be as bad or worse than the bugs themselves.

Oh, I highly recommend doing this outside, or in a garage or enclosed porch. Doing this in your living room could get you divorced/dumped, or even worse, infested by escaping cock-a-roaches.

Do NOT use chemicals. They might kill the bugs, but the laptop will be mildly poisonous forever after. Plastic is porous kids! My method can be cleaned up after with some brief scrubbing and a session with a good fan.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:39 am

Don't bring it inside. Leave it outside, put it in a cardboard box, or a tupperware/rubbermaid tub with roach bombs, and put THAT in a big trashbag. This will protect it in the event it rains or whatever, but will seal in the roaches. Just re-add roach bombs once a day for 2-3 days and you should be golden.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:50 am

Forge wrote:
DRY ICE

Bingo.

Dry ice is relatively cheap too, even in large amounts - there's no reason why you couldn't submerge the entire laptop (perhaps sans the screen) and just use some cryo-therapy, then air out the device when you're done. So long as you're careful not to crack the cold plastic, of course.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:54 am

Forge's CO2 idea sounds like a winner.

If you know someone who brews and kegs their own beer, maybe you can borrow their CO2 tank and regulator for a day. Use the CO2 tank to flush the air out of the container you've got the laptop in. This is probably less hazardous than dealing with dry ice...
Meadows wrote:
Forge wrote:
DRY ICE

Bingo.

Dry ice is relatively cheap too, even in large amounts - there's no reason why you couldn't submerge the entire laptop (perhaps sans the screen) and just use some cryo-therapy, then air out the device when you're done. So long as you're careful not to crack the cold plastic, of course.

I'd be a little leery of getting the laptop that cold; thermal stresses might do some damage. But yes, I agree the CO2 / dry ice idea is probably the best one so far.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:30 am

Image
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:54 am

Meadows wrote:
Dry ice is relatively cheap too, even in large amounts - there's no reason why you couldn't submerge the entire laptop (perhaps sans the screen) and just use some cryo-therapy, then air out the device when you're done. So long as you're careful not to crack the cold plastic, of course.


As JBI noted, the cold does not kill. The CO2 the dry ice makes as it sublimates kills.

Don't try to kill with cold. Cockroaches in particular just slow down till their metabolism almost stops, they can take some really impressive temps.

CO2 on the other hand, will kill pretty much any insects in a matter of seconds, if the concentrations are high enough.

Even better would be CO, carbon MONoxide, since that's more actively poisonous versus CO2 just being unhelpful to life. There are personal liability and public hazard issues there.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:00 pm

Forge wrote:
Even better would be CO, carbon MONoxide, since that's more actively poisonous versus CO2 just being unhelpful to life. There are personal liability and public hazard issues there.


So, lock the laptop in the garage and turn the car on?
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:10 pm

FireGryphon wrote:
So, lock the laptop in the garage and turn the car on?
Only if it's an old (or very out of tune) car. The emission controls on the new ones keep CO low enough that it's really hard to kill yourself that way, and probably impossible to kill a cockroach.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:16 pm

Another easy source of CO2 is paintball tanks. Some tanks are compressed air but most are CO2. It would be pretty easy to rig up a way to get the CO2 out of the bottle and into your container of choice with one of them.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:25 pm

Another lethal substance to bugs are mothballs. Take a large ziplock bag and some balls and toss them all in together in a warm place. Let them sit and enjoy each other for a while.

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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:30 pm

Forge wrote:
Even better would be CO, carbon monoxide, since that's more actively toxic versus CO2 just being unhelpful to life.

CO2 is quite actively toxic too, even if there's sufficient oxygen besides it.
In high enough concentrations it's toxic to muscles and dampens or negates the effectiveness of nervous systems.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:33 pm

This is a bit far fetched, but if you know something has hundreds of nasty bugs in it, could you buy a tarantula and lock 'em all in a box, and have the spider eat everything for you?
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:39 pm

FireGryphon wrote:
This is a bit far fetched, but if you know something has hundreds of nasty bugs in it, could you buy a tarantula and lock 'em all in a box, and have the spider eat everything for you?


You're dealing with a pretty long timeline there. Also there's the minor issue of needing a tarantula (I'm fresh out) and still having a ton of roach crap inside the laptop. Even more before they're all done, too. As noted in an earlier post, shorting from roach crap is actually a bigger danger to the electronics than the roaches themselves.

Also, as the roaches finish eating any crumbs and stuff inside the laptop, they'll eventually move on to eating the insulation off the wires.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 1:13 pm

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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 1:15 pm

Ick. I thought the old desktop PC that had been left in a barn with one of the expansion covers off was nasty. Mice were living in it, and pooping in it, etc.

The owner wanted to see if we could fix it. :lol:

Definitely try the dry-ice idea. You'll still have to disassemble and clean everything. Personally I'd refuse the laptop, but I'm squeamish about really dirty things.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 6:18 pm

It's not really relevant in this case since you want to fix the problem asap but for persistent infestations there is something called Gentrol -- a synthetic insect hormone that prevents them from reaching maturity and reproducing. It's not necessarily a solution in itself (unless the area is sealed you can still get new adults from outside) but it's not toxic (AFAIK) compared to a lot of insecticides.
drfish wrote:
I had a very simliar problem with my GBA while in Belize... It seems some ants decided to move into it while it lay untouched during the time we were actually in the country...
Sounds like pharaoh ants, which are notorious for taking up residence in electronics, inside walls and appliances, etc, but judging from the photo your pests were something larger.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:17 pm

Do you know anyone with a vacuum sealer? No air for a few days should kill them, no? Of course you would then have a chassis full of dead (and soon to be decaying bugs).

No matter what you do, you may end up having to open it up.
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:32 pm

cubical10 wrote:
Do you know anyone with a vacuum sealer? No air for a few days should kill them, no? Of course you would then have a chassis full of dead (and soon to be decaying bugs).

No matter what you do, you may end up having to open it up.

I don't think a few roaches use that much air. It's better (and a lot quicker) to poison them with dry ice I suppose.
 
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Re: That's not a bug, that's... disgusting

Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:58 pm

I think, after reading this thread, one can conclude that it's not worth accepting the laptop unless you're prepared to thoroughly clean it, and it's not worth thoroughly cleaning it unless you're extremely strapped for cash and need the free laptop.
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