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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Replacing upper screen on Nintendo 3DS XL

Quick blog post to journal my experience replacing the upper screen on a Nintendo 3DS XL.
The 3DS worked fine but the top 1/3 of the screen was black.   The owner said it hadn't been dropped so I had no idea if it was damaged, defective or what.    There is some chance the connector was loose but usually the screen just needs to be replaced.

I won't write step by step instructions, because I found this page that does an excellent (not perfect) job with pictures and steps.

Generally I think this is the most difficult 3DS repair that there is.  You need a magnifier, strong light, tweezers and patience.   You have to completely dissasemble the 3DS.  You have to open the top section to replace the screen, but you also have to totally take apart the bottom section and remove the motherboard to get to the connector.   The hardest thing is to thread the new ribbon cable through the hinge.   I did this by rolling it up and pushing it through and then unrolling it, using tweezers.  The guide doesn't give you any help in how to do this.    There are lots of tiny ribbon cables that have to be removed from there clamp connectors and re-attached later.  The plastic case and covers has some tricky clip and snap nibs, as well as the top section parts fall all over the place when you open it.

All that said, I did it!   You probably can too, but this is not for first time amateurs unless your DS is headed for the trash bin anyway, then what the heck, do it!   The replacement screen was not too expensive... I bought this one from Amazon.  It came quickly and fit.   So if you fail, you only lost $20.

Note that the screen has a silver edge, not the black bezel that the original did, so it looks different when you are done.   Check by before and after pictures to see what I mean.   Also the glass looks a bit different than the original.

There were cheaper ones, but this one was shipped from US and didn't look like too sketchy a source.

Dissasembly and re-assembly took me a couple hours.   As I said the hardest part was the large ribbon cable that has to go through the hinge, there is another cable also going through already so it ain't easy.

The first pass through I had some trouble with the top shell, getting the 3D slider in right and getting all the clips back on the cover.  I had squashed them a bit a first and it wouldn't close right.   I replaced the screw covers with squares of black electrical tape, prying them out damaged them and they didn't look right afterwards.

When it was all together, I turned it on and FAIL.  Screens flickered but stayed black.  Power light came on but no display.   Aaargh.   Opened the bottom and reseated the ribbons I could reach without removing the mobo, and then found the issue by accident.  I had installed the snap in IR module upside down.   Check the pictures, it will go on either way.  Once it was turned around, the system booted and the displays came on.   Win... almost.

The system froze every time i entered an application.   Opened it again, and reseated the WiFi module.  This is a common reason that 3DS freeze.  Looks like in the last round of fiddling and removing the cover, it was not seated properly.   Once it was snapped down tight everything started working.  Win...  Woot....!   Here is the system working.   Note the sliver bezel around the upper display, the only sign that this has been repaired.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

GE GSS25TGPEWW refrigerator hot, freezer OK.

My GE GSS25TGPEWW side by side refrigerator has a problem.  Today's issue is the refrigerator side is warm.  I mean really warm, even hot.  But the freezer is just fine and cold as ever.   One strange thing is that the top interior light is very hot to the touch.   Weird.

I fixed an icemaker issue on this thing - wow it was 5 years ago.

Note from future self - read the end of the blog first if you are going down this road, the fix turned out to be really simple and free.

First random google searches show I'm not the only one who this ever happened to:
This website is pretty good, you put in your model and it ranks possible issues.

Evaporator Fan
Main Board

Since the fridge is downright HOT, the defroster sounds like it could be the issue.  I also need to figure out where the evaporator fan is.   The only reason i don't like the evaporator diagnosis is that the freezer is nice and cold.

I need a picture to find where these parts are, and to see what is at the top under the light assembly that could be getting hot.

Gotta love google,   Image search leads me here:
Looking at this page the part#460, refrigerator Damper assembly Part Number AP3775595 is right where this thing is getting hot.   The damper is the little door that lets in cold air from the freezer.   We have a suspect!

Another likely suspect in the same neighborhood is the thermostat Part Number AP3192951.   It might be wise to order that at the same time.

Just to cover my bases I need to find the evaporator fan and see if it is working.
This picture is totally not clear.   The evaporator and far are shown floating in front of the freezer section.   A cover is shown near some lights.  ugh makes no sense.  This is somewhere in the freezer compartment that I will have to dig out.

Some price research before I head over to look at the thing again
Part Number:AP3775595
Made by:GE
they want $165

Amazon has this for $97, but it is not clear if it is the same part, or even compatible.

GE WR49X10091. My model is not listed, but search takes me here.

ebay gets me NOTHING when searching AP3775595.  Aha, i see that the AP number is a bogus appliance parts website number  the WR49X10091 is correct

Cross Reference Information
Part Number WR49X10091 (AP3775595) replaces 1055112, AH966602, EA966602, PS966602, WR02X11254, WR02X11255, WR14X10070, WR14X10071, WR14X10166, WR17X10869, WR17X10870, WR17X10871, WR17X10896, WR17X11508, WR2X11254, WR49X10101, WR49X10149, WR49X10150, WR49X10155, WR60X10051, WR60X10052, WR60X10070, WR60X10132, WR60X10174, WR60X10226.
Prices on ebay range from 85 to 120.
A few outliers cheaper.  Maybe worth doing the Amazon to get it fast.

I'm going to pull the unit from the fridge and see if I can jimmy it before I pull the trigger.
stay tuned..

Some quality time looking at the fridge. Cold air blows nicely out of the hole if i remove the damper assembly in the top of the fresh food section. So the evaporator and fan are working. The flapper door was shut, i poked it open with a screwdriver and put it back in. The fridge started getting cold. But after a time i went back and the door was shut again and it was warm again.

The hotness i felt before i think was just the lamp getting hot. There is nothing else in that area that could be overheating. So that was a red herring.

Alright, either the damper assembly is bad, the thermistor, or the main control board. I will start with the cheap components first. Ordering a damper unit....

The new damper came. Swapped it in. Waited. FAIL. The fridge did not get cold. $97.34 wasted. OK i also bought a $9.80 thermistor. I will swap that in next and see if that works. If not we are going to have to also get a main board. I'll still save money over a service call, but not as much as I'd hope. I can think about selling back the damper unit on ebay.

I panicked and order a new main board, figuring the thermistor can't possibly be the problem. It came and i swapped the new main board in. FAIL. The fridge runs just fine but nothing is different. The food side stays hot and the freezer is cold.

Looks like i will be selling the main board on ebay to get my money back, and I'll try replacing the thermistors.  I finally figured out where they are, the pictures on the web are useless.  There are two small oval grilles on the left side of the food compartment.  they snap out, and under the cover is the thermistor.  Was that so hard?

The misery continues.  I installed two new thermistors in the food compartment.  Snap out the oval grill, cut the wires, and use wire nuts to connect the new one.   Strangely the refrigerator is no slightly cooler but definitely still not working.   I feel only a wisp of cool air coming out of the damper.   Back to the drawing board.   My technique of part swapping is having one of it's worst runs ever.

I need to reevaluate how much cold air is coming from the freezer.  Maybe my original conclusion that the evaporator fan was working was wrong.   I will also look at the damper and see if it is open, since the fridge brain must be telling it to open up when it is so hot inside.

The only part left I haven't bought is the evaporator motor

The evaporator fan came.   Wow it is a pain to replace this thing.  You have to take the back panel off the refrigerator, take out the ice maker, the unit under the icemaker that turns the ice.   Several screws and jockeying around.   A youtube video makes it look easier than it was.

Finally I get the whole assembly open, and before I replaced the fan I plugged the unit back in to see if the fan motor was working.   Whirrrrr it was spinning like a champ.  So the evaporator fan motor was perfectly fine, no need to put in the new unit.  

Aaaaaaaarrrrgggggh!   Total frustration.  I've now replaced the damper unit, the thermistors, the main board, and stopped short of replacing the evaporator fan.  Everything is working but the fridge is still warm inside.

In debugging you arrive at this point for a couple reasons.   Either you replaced a bad part with another bad part.   Two things are wrong and you only swapped out one thing.  Or something incredibly stupid and simple is wrong that you are too blind to see.

OK it is not two things wrong, since all the parts are new at once.  It could be a bad replacement part but that is pretty unlikely and expensive and time consuming to check.  So lets look for something else stupid that is wrong.

I connected the old damper and looked at the flapper door.  Shut.  The new damper does seem to behave differently, the fan whirrs and the flapper door opens.  I ran the fridge for a while and checked it again.  Flapper door had shut!  Why would it shut when the fridge is obviously warm?  Unplugged and tried again.  Same thing.  Flap opens on restart, but shortly closes again.   Repeat with old damper.  Now i see it is doing the same thing.   Is the main board confused?

Lightening finally strikes me, small at first but then it builds.   While I'm checking the damper, the door is open.  Maybe the fridge shuts the damper when you open the fresh food door to keep the freezer from getting warm air in it.   So I decide to find the door switch and trick the fridge into thinking the door is shut so I can see what the damper does.

I look at the door switch and it looks weird.  I see a small microswitch that is too small to ever touch the door.   At this point all the pieces fall into place and I understand completely everything that has been happening.    Like the drawing room scene at the end of a mystery novel.

The little plastic lever on the door open switch had been knocked off.    I failed to mention that I had cleaned out the fridge the day before this happened and likely knocked it off then.  It just took a while to manifest.   The fridge thought the door was open all the time.  Thus the light was on solid, and heated up the fridge like an easy bake oven, making it hot, and making the light fixture burning hot.   The fridge thought the door was open and shut the damper to save the freezer and so none of the cool air made it to the fresh food section.    I looked around the floor and found the plastic wedge shaped piece under the edge of the cabinet.  I popped it back on and suddenly everything was right again.

There was nothing wrong with the damper, main board, thermistors or evaporator fan.   Why didn't I see the obvious before I began this process?   I was in a panic to fix this thing and parts take time to come, so I pulled the trigger without doing a thorough investigation.

Oh My God.  Bleepity bleep.  This was an epic fail of a repair job.  I bought $250 worth of parts and it took nearly two weeks with a broken fridge right at Christmas time.   All because of a stupid little piece of plastic knocked loose.   I will sell back the parts I pulled on ebay and try to get some of the money back.

Geez..  At least it is fixed now!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Logic Friday

Logic Friday

This is a tool for creating logic from a truth table you enter.  Very cool.  Free.  Wish I wrote it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Epic Fail - Samsung Galaxy S4 swimming in salt water

This summer I went swimming at the beach. Played in the waves about half and hour. At one point I realized my Samsung Galaxy S4, less than a year old, was in my pocket. Nooooooooooo! I didn't think I had it with me, but I'm so used to carrying it that it has become invisible. It was inside a huge rubbery Otterbox Defender case.   Thank goodness I didn't lose it, I would have gone nuts combing the beach for it.

On the outside the phone looked fine. I immediately popped off the back and took out the battery. I had no tools with me on vacation so I couldn't do much more. I dried it out with a paper towel and put it in a bag of rice and left it. It had a few drops of water inside around the battery but didn't look too bad. Between the case and the phone, it seems pretty tight. Maybe it will be OK? Some people suggested I should rinse it with fresh water to get the salt water out, but that seemed like I'd be destroying it more, when it didn't seem terribly wet inside.

 I left it in for 24 hours and tried to power it up.  Nothing. Totally dead.   I left it to charge a while.  Still dead.   I took the battery out and tried to power it up, thinking maybe the battery was shorted.  Nothing.  Dead.

A voltmeter on the terminals circled in the picture yields 1.8V when the phone is plugged in, and goes away when it is unplugged.  This is the input for the wireless charging.  This gives me some hope that the phone is not a brick.  But it still doesn't power up.

I'm out of state with no phone and no tools.   I need a phone to live, so I sucked it up and went to the local Best Buy and used an upgrade to replace it with a slight newer Samsung Galaxy S5.  Ended up costing $100 and two more years.  But at least the pain of stupidity faded a bit with a shiny new phone.   Now I was free to try some more extreme measures to fix the phone.

When I get home two days later, and have my tools I open it up.  The phone has been in rice the whole time.

 Standard youtube video shows you how to open it.  It is surprisingly easy for a phone to get apart.  Once the screws are out, I used my fingernail.

Things look OK at first glance, but close inspection and YUCK!  Maybe you can't see from the pictures but it looks like a friggin salt mine.  Salt is conductive and if it is not corroded, it is probably shorted in all kinds of places.

 There is salt everywhere, caked on the components.   I popped out the motherboard by lifting the connectors and rinsed it in alcohol.  I poured alcohol all over the exposed boards.  Wiped what I could and let it evaporate.   Once it dries it looks better, but there is still salt caked everywhere.  Can't figure out how to make it better.

I re-assmbled and plugged it in.  Still nothing.  Totally dead.  This phone may be a lost cause.
I'll add more if I think of a way to clean it better.   Maybe a fresh water bath will dissolve it better than water.

At this point a week has passed since it got submerged in salt water.  In hindsight I should have done this immediately.   The damage may have already been done.  I just didn't have the nerve.

I can't believe I did this, it felt so wrong!   I disassembled the phone and gave it a bath in fresh water.   I took off the cover and removed the connectors to the motherboard so that water could get underneath.  I did not totally take it apart. I rinsed the boards each a couple times and changed the water a couple times to get the salt off.  Never have I treated electronics this way!

Back in the rice while still disassembled.  I will let it sit for a day and dry out.

After it dried out I looked at it, and it is still full of salt.  This photo is bad but you can see salt caked around between the components.

I put the phone under running warm water for 10 minutes, and back into the rice.  Not looking good.

After the phone dryed, the boards don't look much better.  There is still salt caked in between the components.   Dang.   This needs some aggressive cleaning.

Strangely there is some minor improvement.  The terminals on the back of the phone circled above, now read 5V instead of 1.8V!!  So I have removed some of the shorting material.   However the phone is still totally DOA and won't turn on and no LEDs light.  I'll try charging for a bit but I should see a charging screen even with a dead battery.

Stay tuned.. but if this happens to you, don't expect to ever use your phone again  :).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fixing Acer Aspire One AO756 Laptop w/Intermittent Screen

Quick post on a successful laptop fix.  I was in a hurry and didn't take pictures, so this post may be less helpful than average.   However this was an easy fix that anyone with a small screwdriver can do.

This laptop had an intermittent screen.  As the user manipulated the laptop the video would flicker, tear, invert, lose colors, etc.  Problem happened enough that it was really irritating.  Wiggling and re positioning made it work again briefly.   This was not just the backlight turning on and off, the video was being corrupted.  Backlight stayed on the whole time.   There were no obvious cracks or sections of the screen acting differently, so it didn't look like LCD trauma.

I thought the LCD panel was probably cracked internally or the video cable was broken at the hinge, as the video cables usually go through the hinges and this machine had a rough life.   My first thought was I'd being buying a replacement LCD but I was wrong.

To rule out the possibility that the video chip is coming loose/desoldered from the motherboard, I plugged in an external monitor.  Video was fine.  So the motherboard and graphics are working.

First I pried around the screen bezel and it pops right off.  No screws at all.  Four screws hold down the panel.  Flip it over and the video connector is on the back.  Removed and reseated it.  Wiggled and flexed the panel, cable and connector.   There really seemed to be no correlation to wiggling something around the screen, hinges, connector and the screen flickering.   More manipulation and I decided that the loose wire must be the other end of the video cable.   Snapped the screen and bezel back together.

Flipped it over and began removing screws.  Removed the battery. Several screws on the back surface, remove the hard drive cover and there are about 10 more sprinkled around.  You must remove them ALL.  None are hidden, thank goodness.  (actually one is next to the wifi module and was partially under a sticker)  They are little black Philips head.  Once they are all out you can pry around the perimeter and the keyboard and top cover pops off without much resistance.   If you miss one screw, the keyboard and top cover won't come off.  Pry it a bit and you will quickly find the one you missed.  Left the keyboard cable connected and folded top cover out of the way.   Underneath is another video connector like the one on the back of the LCD.   Follow the black wire bundle from the screen to find it.  Unseated and reseated and the problem went away!  W00t!

A bit of finagling and popping to put the cover back on and putting in all the screws. Good as new.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Installed custom taillights on the 2007 Honda Accord.

Backed into another car that backed up the same time as me.  Ended up with a scuffed bumper and a busted taillight.   Boo!  Wiped off the bumper, i'm gonna live with the scratches.  Need to fix the taillight.

My car is a 4 cylinder 4DR EX sedan.

Looked around on the web and found some custom tail lights for not a lot more than an OEM replacement.  Perfect excuse for some low key bling.   I like the look of clear taillights on a silver car.  Smoke ones won't look good on a light colored car.   I never liked the monocrome plain tail lights this car came with anyway.

Bought these.  They don't come with the LEDs, luckily the old ones were still working, only the cover got broken.   I was concerned these were cheaper by $50 than others I found on the web.  They came and they look very nice, the picture doesn't do justice.

2006-2008 Honda Accord Tail Light - Pair (Both Driver and Passenger Sides)

(LED Chrome) - Sedan

  • Reference #
  • Partslink #
  • Position (Side)
    Both Driver (Left) and Passenger (Right)
DescriptionUnit priceQtyAmount
Tail Light (Pair (One Set Packing))
Item# K1107282
$105.95 USD1$105.95 USD

Subtotal$105.95 USD
Total$105.95 USD
Payment$105.95 USD
Payment sent to

Here is what they look like.  Sweet.

Also bought some yellow LED turn signal bulbs.  When I go clear I don't want the turn signals to be white.   Plus I like yellow turn signals better.   Paid $9.99 for two.
2x Amber Yellow 24-SMD 7440 7443 LED Bulbs For Turn Signal Lights 7440 7441 #S1A

I did decide after the fact that I need load resistors to slow down the flashing with the LED bulbs. Should have bought bulbs that came with them.

Watched this youtube video, which gave me the confidence to take off the bumper cover.

I won't attempt to go through the procedure, because the video does that just fine. This post is just to document that what I did worked, and was no trouble at all. Anybody could do this. The whole thing took about 2 hours and required screwdrivers and a socket wrench. Some of the screws and bolts are a little tricky to get your tools on, but not too bad as auto repairs go.

The key lesson I learned when the lights came, is that you have to take the bumper cover off to remove the tail lights.  It is probably possible to get them off without doing so, if you reach up into the bumper really far and loosen the bolts.  However taking the bumper cover off is ridiculously easy.   Two bolts, six screws (3 per wheel well) and two pins under the bumper and it just pops off.  Putting it back on is easy, just line it up and pop it back into place.    

I transferred the LED light bars from the old lights to the new and didn't need to buy new ones, that saved a lot of money.

The yellow LED turn signal bulbs took some tinkering.  Had to bend the wires out a bit and wiggle them a lot to get them to fit in the socket.  It took two or three tries to get them to light up.   The wires have to be just right, and I think the bulbs only work in one way, and they can be inserted in either polarity.  Keep tinkering and trying and they will work.

The bumper cover is off.  Easy as pie.  Don't let the wife see the car like this!  She'd freak.

Tail light come off.  Two bolts under the bumper and 4 nuts inside to remove.

Transferred the LED array.  Four screws and it comes right out.   Had to pop it open and unplug the one marker light lead and plug in the one built into the new taillight assembly.

Plugging in the new wire inside the LED cover.

Back together with the bumper cover back on.   Took me just under two hours to do the whole job.

Together and looking good just as the sun was going down.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

"Err 3" - Clearing Honda radio error code 3

This is for a 1997 Honda Accord, but I'd guess that it holds true for a wide variety of Honda's of comparable vintages.   It involves the stock combo radio and CD player that came with the car.

This information is out there already, but I had to search several blogs and the information was not clear, and the posters were "like you oughta try this dude, might work".  Here is what actually happened and the simple fix.

What happened
My son left his lights on and killed his battery.  I charged the battery but neglected to check the radio and it had gone into theft protection mode and was displaying "Code".

When it displays "Code" you are supposed to pull out the paperwork you got when you bought the car, and there is a white card like a credit card with a 5 digit number (each digit below 3) that you type into the preset buttons to unlock it.   This is to discourage theft of radios.  (Must have worked because nobody does this lame crime anymore).  Many owners write this number on the user manual, which I had done.

However, I wasn't around and he and his teenage friend tried entering random numbers, not knowing what was going on.   The radio went into lockdown mode after several repeated failed tries.  Now the radio displays "Err 3" and wont accept a code.  It is a doorstop.

What didn't work
Several posts suggested going to the dealer, or pulling the radio and getting the serial number off the back and calling Honda, and all kinds of other garbage that involved hours of work and dealing with customer service people.  All for a teenagers 15 year old car. Ugh.

One post suggested turning off the car, pressing 1 and 6 simultaneously and holding, and turning the car back on.  This sounded like the sort of automobile trick that would work, but it did not.   You could try it but it didn't work for me.

The easy fix
Fix was easier than I imagined.

Simply open the hood, with the car off, and disconnect the negative (black) terminal of the battery. Takes a wrench and the nut was pretty rusted on this old car.    Leave it off for a few minutes.  I got in the car and turned the ignition on and back off as an extra step to be sure I drained any residual charge that might be keeping the radio alive.

Reconnect the battery, tighten the nut and turn the car on.  The radio is back to saying "Code".  Hooray! Err 3 message is gone and it accepts input.  Entered the code from the radio card and all is good now.  Teenagers can listen to the radio again instead of trying to play music from their phones while driving.

Now, later I thought, I could probably have just pulled the fuse for the radio from the fuse panel under the dash instead of disconnecting the battery.  I did not try that.  Sometimes it is hard to know which fuse to pull and if that fuse will remove the standby power as well.  But I recommend trying this if you don't have tools or don't want to mess with the battery.  It will probably work if you pull the right fuse.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hex to Decimal to Binary to Gray Code Converter Tool

I expanded the little windows/linux PC Java widget I made to decode bits while programming JTAG registers.  It was proving very useful.  Now it also includes Gray code.   This is a live tool that as soon as you enter a number in one format, it instantly updates the value in the others.   This saves a ton of time when you read a register and the individual bits are used set switches or report values and it is all glommed together into a big word.  A minimal amount of button clicking and typing decodes a hex value into it's bits, allows you to click one on or off, and tells you the new hex value.

I also added a big display of the hex and binary at the top.  Now this wastes a bit of screen space so it might get canned.  The tool is getting a bit big.

I used the rules here:

I checked it against this gray code converter (which only goes one way)

I've tested it pretty thoroughly and it seems to be totally solid.

Download the executable java here:

All you have to do is doubleclick on the .jar file and it will run on your computer if you have java jre installed!  Most everybody does, but in case you don't you have to download from here:

Complete source files in netbeans are also here:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hex to Binary JTAG Register Decoder tool

While programming JTAG registers I frequently have to fill out binary bit maps to select settings, and then convert the pattern into a hex number to enter in the JTAG programming tool, or decode a register I read into the component bit pattern to see what mode is set.  There are certainly a lot of ways to get this job done, including the windows calculator and excel.   However most of them clip leading zeros and require counting and grouping the bits..

I wrote a quickie Java program to do the conversions in a clear way that I can just click the 16 bits, all numbered, and view the hex code and vice versa.  I threw in the decimal value readout because that often comes up too.   For example, read a register value and flip bit 10 from 0 to 1 and write the result back in.  This is the tool for that job!

I'm posting the tool on google drive, now that is dead.  This is trial mostly to see if it will work:

Just download and click on it and it should run without any setup, assuming you have basic java JRE installed on your computer, which I think everybody does.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ubuntu computer on a USB 3 drive

With the advent of USB3.0 5Gbps thumb drives, it now makes sense to install Ubuntu onto a USB stick and carry it with you.    This is different from putting a live CD install onto a stick, this is actually installing the OS to the stick as if it were a hard drive, and expecting the computer to not be slow as a pig.   Files and settings are all preserved from boot to boot and you can plug it into most computers you encounter and have your stuff with you.

This is valuable to me on business travel.  My company locks down our PCs hard and fills them with corporate spyware.  If I want to do personal business, side business or coding in my spare time I don't want to do it on my work laptop.

However to make this work, there are a couple requirements

  • Need a windows FAT32 partition that is readable by both windows and linux boot.  This is so I can transfer files back and forth when the host machine is booted in windows.   Windows can't read linux file systems.

  • Linux files should be encrypted so that if I lose the stick, all my personal information is not at risk

    This is the USB3.0 stick that I bought.  32Gb is more than enough to have a 16G FAT32 partition for general use and 16G for Ubuntu apps and OS.




Downloaded the Ubuntu Live CD install .iso

Burned it on a regular 4GB USB2.0 stick, since my computer doesn't have a CD drive using

Booted the computer from the install USB.  This requires pressing F11 on my Sony VAIO laptop

Inserted the USB stick and used gpart to partition as follows
First 16GB as FAT32 for windows
Next 2GB as linux-swap
Final 14GB as /ext2

When installing Ubuntu 12 pick "something else" when it asks where to install it.  Chose the USB drive, in my machine it was /sdc.  Name the /ext2 partition / and the linux-swap partition swap


Shut down and remove the USB stick with the install .iso on it, and put in only the new USB3.0 stick.  Boot and press F11.

Ba da bing.  Comes up in Ubuntu with a handy USB stick drive to put files on that a windows machine will be able to see.