Anyone who knows me knows I would squeeze a penny so hard, it would make ol’ Honest Abe cry. I also usually enjoy messing around with electronics. The perfect marriage of these two preferences is a sort of microhobby of mine: shopping for the cheapest possible electronic modules from the Far East on eBay or Ali Express. It’s often amazing what’s on offer for a pittance, and if prices are low enough, I’ll speculatively purchase a few interesting bits and bobs and throw them in the junk drawer. As often as not, they remain there for years until I have a project and a use occurs to me.
Anyway, so it is with this junk drawer gem. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the “GOOUUU TECH” GPS receiver. Or is that GDDVVV? Whatever. The thing is obviously a rebadged Neo-6M from u-blox, a respectable GPS manufacturer, stuck on a pretty generic carrier board. I bought it because it has Pulse-Per-Second output, which I need for a project that I will eventually get around to, and because it cost $6.50. If I hadn’t wanted the PPS output, it would have been $3.62 including airmail shipping from China. That is actually lower than the list price of the GPS chip alone, not counting the additional components and assembly — how can they DO that? The product description gives some hints when it warns, “Attention, the chip is old.” Given that this thing has a 2017 date code, I’m guessing that is Chinese market-speak for “used,” as in, “this GPS receiver was pulled off of some other failed product and is being foisted upon you, the undiscriminating American shopper, with no quality control or assurance whatsoever.” Or maybe they just mean that the GPS chip is an older style, which it is. And the thing is, that’s OK with me. You can pick up some incredible bargains from factories liquidating “new old stock.” For approximately the price of a crappy quarter pounder at McDonald’s (excluding the fries and soft drink), one can purchase a marvel of the age, a precision navigation and timing device the size of a postage stamp, and have it shipped to you halfway ’round the world. It is an amazing time to be alive. Remember when a GPS receiver was a rare and expensive item? I do.
Part of the fun(?) of this microhobby is determining what, exactly, is wrong with the parts you have received. Sometimes you get lucky and they’re perfect. Sometimes the fancy parts just have a minor fault or manufacturing defect and can be derated and otherwise used successfully. Sometimes, the part is functioning “as designed” but it’s just a piece of crap. And sometimes, there is a glaring assembly error, as with the GOOUUU/GDDVVV TECH module.
Well there’s your problem right there. This chip is attached at an angle and the pins don’t even line up. I’m not going to connect this to power before attempting to remedy the situation, but it proves there could have been zero QC before this thing shipped out. Or, possibly, that this chip has been pre-fried and bricked. An examination of the chip shows that it is labeled 24C32A, and its data sheet reveals that it’s an obsolete serial EEPROM — probably an important part. Also, this is clearly an older generation GPS module but, still, who cares?
I contacted the vendor and they promised to send a replacement. I won’t be holding my breath. In the meantime, I’m going to see if I can fix this thing up. If so, it will be relevant for my upcoming trip.
UPDATE: it’s fixed.