Bloody chip brokers…(#R2)

Been a bit lazy in here as I was busy otherwise – visiting family always yields an entire car full of old and new goodies for me. This time, not only another chunk of records and random crap from the attic came into my possession, but also a damaged flatscreen TV. Well, I don’t watch TV at all, I didn’t have the equipment to do so nor the urge, but as already posted, I am forced to pay bloody GEZ TV fees for not watching one of the dozens of German propaganda stations. Now, the TV was broken (why else would people donate stuff), just like a lot of other electronics from my brother’s apartment. A direct lightning strike does not stop at blasting the kitchen hood from the walls, it’ll try to send you back to the stone age ;)

The process of troubleshooting was pretty standard, just follow the First Commandment that states “thou shalt check voltages”…having non-labelled voltages on a board always needs an educated guess if that is correct, but having 0.8ish volts far away from any FPGA or ASIC is always a dubious finding. Even more so if your USB power tester doesn’t turn on because there’s only 0.8V available on the port. Turns out, it was not the fat 5A regulator that I very much hoped for, but instead the PS461 4:1 HDMI switch from a company called Parade Technologies Ltd bit the dust. Don’t even know if there was a HDMI cable connected at the time of the lightning strike, but none of the triple tuners or something closer to the power supply died, but instead this 100 pin chippie did. Dead short from VCC to GND, no way to keep the 5V rail somewhere close to 5V even with some …external help. Say…a few few amps from an ATX power supply ;) It does get quickly to 130°C, but the heat sinking is also excellent, even without body contact.

So after desoldering it with hot air, the TV came back to life. Fully working – except all of the HDMIs, of course. So we have a clear way to make a full repair – either exchange the chip, or exchange the board. Without that, having a dedicated project post is kinda pointless, isn’t it?

Thing is: The PS461 is, being a HDMI 1.4 part, not recommended for new designs. And as there are very few DIY projects that need HDMI switches as they have so many inputs, nobody uses this chip anymore. Hence – it’s nowhere to be found – eBay, Ali, your run-of-the-mill Chinese desoldering parts shop. Except for, you guessed it, bloody chip brokers. “Distributor specialists”, or whatever the f*ck they call them. Like rats in the Digikey warehouse, except they rank pretty high on Google. Don’t think that is because of the fancy pages with so many helpful documents and other tech insights…

At least, they claim they can source the parts. I’ve asked a few, and only one answered. That’s alright, if you cannot get hold of the unit or do not want to start doing business with me, staying silent is an option. But the single guy? Not gonna link ’em, but I can say for sure that it was Sierra IC Inc. from Charlotte 28277 in North Carolina. Never heard of, but also never to be considered again when sourcing parts for work, like we did lately with good old DIPs that went to SMD-only form factors. Here’s your 15 minutes of fame in my obscure blog.

The reply?

Thank You for using www sierraic com [Yikes, WordPress, don’t link it!]
We have received your RFQ on the following:
Manufacturer :PARADE
We are sorry to say that we have no stock or available stock on this part at this time.
Thank you for your time and have a nice day,

Yeah thanks, Todd, to this day your website states the following:

1191 parts available.
Now, I bet Todd has to say a few more words about this discrepancy, don’t you think?
He has!

You need 1 piece….. I have a $250 minimum order

I have 100 left in stock.. NEW / PARADE

1 piece @ $250.00

Please send your PO, payment, and shipping account, I will dispatch immediately

Hope I am not wasting your time now???

Looking forward to your PO Mathias

You do, Todd. You do. A replacement board is 33 GBP, and all I need to do is to swap the existing unit and we’re good. No soldering, no sourcing and replacing three 0402ish capacitors and one resistor that went with the TQFP. Plug and Watch, as the HDMI consortium should call it. So if you wanna sell at least one of these chips before they rot in your imaginary warehouse, there’s your chance.

Todd actually tried again – 23 hours later. Maybe there’s not much going on at Sierra IC headquarters?

You sending the order?? or are we just wasting time? 😊

Think I’m gonna mount the TV to the wall first and see how much I use it for movies and other stuff that doesn’t really suffer from the lower VGA quality. If it is worth it, I’m gonna shell out the 33 pound sterling and replace the entire PCB. I’d fancy a chip replacement for the sake of reducing waste and the joy of posting some repair shots, but at least Todd’s gonna sit in bloody Charlotte in the middle of nowhere and not earning a single penny on that.

I’d also recommend to compare the Sierra IC HQ stock photo on their website with the Google Maps image of the building. Looks like a fortified lemonade stand to me, in the middle of the Dunkin Donuts, Wendy’s and Papa John’s Pizza calorie triangle. Let us all hope Todd doesn’t get fat when there’s nothing else for him to do in his cubicle…

(image attribution: Erika Wittlieb on Pixabay – image is CC0 [thanks!], but why not cite your sources anyway?)

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[…] each). Unlike my first donor which pretty much suffered a direct lightning strike (as described in rant #R2), this one turned on just fine. What’s wrong with it, why would you give away a former […]