The components are 1K series resistors. You can solder to the other side of them (away from the board edge). I soldered fine enamel wire to them (taken from the coil in a dead CFL bulb). I taped that wire down for strain relief, then soldered my larger serial cable wires to the free end of the enamel wires.
What are you using for your 1.8v serial adapter?
Because the PW has no keys, there was speculation that the "magic key" may be internal jumper or test points.
Regarding the garbled text, it may be a grounding issue. Try leaving the USB cable attached between the kindle and the same computer as the USB serial adapter. Also, check out the "serial level shifter" thread: