What to do when your gear decides to go for a swim
Because we live out here in the middle of the sea, we are often faced with technical problems that most other Americans are not lucky enough to experience. Chief among these is getting your gear wet, especially with salt water.
Sure, there are waterproof variants of just about every gizmo ever made, but we're specifically talking about devices such as PDAs, cell phones or even laptops that are clearly not designed to get wet.
The rules are different for plain water versus just about any other liquid out there. Believe it or not, many experts recommend that if you are faced with a situation where a liquid (other than plain water) has caused your device to stop working, you should submerge it in distilled water. This will help to rid the device of any impurities, especially salt from salt water.
After a soaking, or if your device was damaged simply by plain water, the key is patience. Gently move the unit around to expel as much water as possible. Take off any components that are meant to come off, but don't unscrew anything. Don't try to dry it with a hair dryer, and don't try to freeze it. At most, point a standard fan at it. Then be prepared to wait at least 24 hours, and probably more like 72 hours before even thinking about turning it back on. Examine the device closely, and if you see anything remotely resembling water, restart your clock.
There is of course no guarantee that this will work, and many folks will claim that such an approach damages their gear more than it helps it. If, however, you have devices that don't work, our feeling is that you really don't have much to lose.
If it's a computer that got wet, there is a chance that a disk recovery service can at least save your hard drive. Cowabunga Computers (949-6888) is a good place to start. According to Eric Miyasato, Cowabunga vice president, they are often successful in their shop, at a reasonable cost.
For more difficult situations, the drive may need to be sent to the mainland. We're talking big bucks here, so budget at least $1,000, and be prepared to pay double or triple that. At this point, you really have to decide if your data is worth that kind of money.
Finally, if you are a water person, consider obtaining insurance for your devices. We've seen policies for cell phones and PDA's go for as little as $5 a month, with deductibles around $50. Policies for laptops are pricier, but we've seen some in the $50 a month range with deductibles around $100. Make sure that your insurance policy covers water damage, as the cheaper plans often exclude such coverage.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org