Still no Dell

I got mail from the “escalation” people from Dell’s technical support. They were going to try to reach a solution in a reasonable time frame, a solution that should be acceptable to both parties. But that was a week ago, and no acceptable solution has been forthcoming.

So I mailed the people from the television show that had gotten Dell to open the special phone number, and they told me they were to mail Dell for me…

Let’s see whether that will make things happen. In the meantime, my Thinkpad z60m should be delivered today. Again, having had experience with Dutch resellers, I’m thinking it won’t happen today, but I might be surprised yet.

But why does Lenovo make it so hard to buy their products? Most resellers don’t stock more than a small fraction of the Lenovo product range, and it seems that what they stock are the anemic bottom-of-the-range models. The first company silently canceled my order; the second company hasn’t let me know anything.

Ring ring!

Someone from Kassa mailed Dell yesterday afternoon and today, within half an hour of me arriving at work I was phoned by Dell. Apparently you need a television show on your side to get service from Dell. The friendly man was simply dripping with obsequiousness and my 5150 is going to be collected tomorrow for repairs and will be returned to me in a week, and they will expedite fixing Irina’s 5150 with all due celerity, or so I was promised.

But what does Dell think they have achieved here? I cannot be the only customer they have royally pissed off by holding off on the fulfillment of their duties for as long as possible, instead of simply contacting all people who have purchased a 5150 and offering a repair.

Incompetent Dell?

Dell is really amazingly incompetent as a company…

Right, they have admitted in public that the Inspiron 5150 is broken by design. They have even instituted a special phone number for people with a broken inspiron. Right — everything should go swimmingly now, shouldn’t it? People phone, give their service tag, and the next day a van comes to collect the broken systems. Customers happy, Dell’s reputation salvaged.

But no, the very friendly Michael from the special phone number told me the phone number is only for prevention — i.e., sending replacement parts to people with inspirons that haven’t broken yet. He doesn’t know when the parts will be sent out, perhaps only when they’ve got a large enough order of them. Which will lead to many more broken inspirons in the meantime.

If your inspiron is already broken, he cannot do anything for you and transfers you to the regular technical service. One hour later… Just like yesterday, on hearing that you’ve got a broken 5150, they want you to phone the special number again… The only thing they can do is take notes and have someone, perhaps, can’t say when, phone me back. Back to square one. We’re exactly where we were yesterday!

Come on, Dell! This your chance to do one better than Acer.

Misery loves company

One of my colleagues brought this article to my attention. Dutch only, I’m afraid, but I’m linking anyway in the interest of getting as wide as possible a dissemination of it. Apparently, Dell has admitted to at least one construction problem with their Inspiron 5150 laptops (of which we have two), and has offered to replace motherboards for free.

Or so I thought… I called Dell on the special number this morning and was connected to a friendly man who, on hearing I had a broken 5150 connected me through to technical service, all the while reassuring me that everything would be fixed, no hassle, no problems.

But the young man at the technical service desk, a certain Yussef or a least his name sounded a lot like that, told me he couldn’t do anything for me since I couldn’t perform his diagnostic tests. Well, I’m in Amsterdam at the moment, and the laptop is in Deventer, and besides, I know what’s wrong with it. But no, no tests, no replacement. And when he heard that the computer wouldn’t start at all, replacement was out of the question. He’d decided that the
wrong thing was wrong with my laptop, so I would have to pay for it myself.

Couldn’t help me, couldn’t connect me to his boss, and if I wanted replacement parts for Irina’s 5150 I would have to call the special phone number again. The only thing he could do for me was to have someone call me back within a few days.

I don’t understand Dell: they have blundered already, and instead of doing some damage control by replacing all motherboards, no questions asked, they tell people they won’t replace a broken motherboard because it’s broken for the wrong reason. Apparently they don’t realize that if they have to do replacement for one design error, they will have to do it for all faults caused by all design blunders in this misbegotten chunk of plastic.

So, I called again, the replacement parts should be sent out today for Irina’s laptop — the man who answered the phone told me he could only deal with laptops that are not broken yet — and I’ll be called within half an hour about the broken laptop. We’ll see… To be updated soon, I hope.

Broken again

My Dell Inspiron 5150 is broken again… This time, the blasted thing won’t even start up nine times out of ten attempts, and the tenth time it shuts down after very short while — I’d be able to login, but nothing more. The eleventh time, I thought I was lucky: it didn’t shutdown until KMail had downloaded all my mail from my mailserver. Then it halted again, the only sign of life was the whirring of the fan, but even the little blinkenlights were off.

Which means that I cannot hack on Krita for the time being; that I cannot answer any mail I’ve been sent this weekend and haven’t answered yet; that I will have to try and do my work on this six-year-old Powerbook that’s curiously enough still working; and that I will have to try to convince Dell that a laptop that’s broken down six times in two years is bad product that they under Dutch consumer law need to replace or repair for a very nominal sum if not completely free.


Can wifi pcmcia cards actually break? Like, not from actual physical abuse, but with age? I’ve got a wireless lan at home that used to work pretty well. Six laptops, six wifi pcmcia cards. Four are Lucent Technologies Silver Wavelan cards, two are a different brand. But all of a sudden, the Lucent cards only give us a very intermittent connection.

About as bad as I had in Malaga, in fact — and this time it’s my own fault and I don’t know what to do! Are the cards broken? Should the access point be dusted more often? Why do three out of six cards exhibit the broken behavior, but two others never?

Hardware, I’ll never understand it. Especially when it works with funny invisible waves.

Calling the score

Two Dell Inspiron 5150 laptops, bought in February 2004. In one year and six months:

Within warranty:

  • 1 broken keyboard
  • 2 broken power supplies
  • 2 broken hard disks
  • 1 broken fan
  • 3 little rubber feet lost
  • 2 cases of overheating due to bad design

Outside warranty:

  • 1 broken hard disk — one week after warranty expiration 🙁
  • 1 broken keyboard

I admit that these machines see a lot use; about twelve hours a day — but not much abuse. But for my next laptop, Dell is not in the running. Perhaps Asus, or IBM — if they still have the same reputation for quality next year or so.

I hate hardware

I truly, intensely, hate hardware. Hardware breaks, is expensive and doesn’t cooperate. The two Dell Inspiron laptops we bought February last year have had the following wrong with them within the warranty period:

  • Two broken power bricks.
  • Broken keyboard
  • Two broken hard disks
  • Processor and fan replacement
  • Little rubber feet that melt off because they are placed directly under the cpu
  • A design blunder that makes the fan suck up dust and coat the processor with it, making it necessary to blow the fan aperture through regularly.

And then, Sunday night, two bloody weeks out of warranty, the hard disk of my laptop breaks again. Nothing doing with Dell, no replacements, so I had to buy a new one. Paradigit (an excellent shop, at least in Deventer, where we buy our supplies and parts regularly) had a replacement drive of the right type, so Irina went and bought one, and I spent the night building it in. I’m no hero with those fiddly little screws that are always tightened way too hard in the factory, but I finally succeeded.

Only to discover while moving my music collection from the server that’s bringing you this blog page that calcifer’s hard drive is failing too. I hate hardware.


We were in need of a new printer. Our HP Deskjet 500 was still in relatively fine fettle, considering its decade and a half of service, but the output isn’t good enough for today’s agents and editors.

So we went and bought a new printer. A real laser printer — if you’d asked me ten years ago that in 2005 I’d own a laser printer I’d have ridiculed you with all the sarcasm that I could muster. But now we have on of the little (yes, they’re small, nowadays) beasts.

And it’s boring… Really, utterly boring. A Brother HL-5150D, and it just works. Copy the ppd file from the CD, feed it to cups, tell cups everyone in the house is allowed to print, and there we are. Everything works. No challenge at all, it’s not fair. I’d counted on an interesting Friday evening messing with drivers, googling, testing and then proudly presenting the slain animal to my wife, like my forebears presented their hunk of dinosaur to their wives. But no scope for my hunterly instincts, no, with thanks to Peggy Seeger, mighty restored hunter. It just works.

Except for printing pdf’s with two pages to the sheet from KGhostview. Maybe I can salvage my honor! Here’s luck, let’s crack some skulls and give a toast!

Today is a good day

For making backups. No, it’s an excellent day. Trust me on this. I had been intending to make a backup for, and I hardly dare admit it, three months. So, Friday afternoon Irina’s laptop crashed when noatun tried to read its config file — a config file that happened to be located on a bad block. And our last set of backups was from September

You can easily determine when we have had a major system crash by looking at the dates on the backups. A period where there is a cd for every two weeks means a crash has happened prior to that period. And when the backups become less and less frequent, you can bet that we have forgotten about that crash and that a new one is imminent…

Fortunately, I found the instructions at Namesys quite clear. First, I needed to create a list with bad blocks using /sbin/badblocks, and then feed that list to reiserfsck: reiserfsck --rebuild-tree --badblocks badblocks.txt /dev/hdc1, and everything went swimmingly. Once I had disabled DMA because using DMA on a broken hard disk made the computer hang.

So now we have backups again… And Dell is going to deliver a new hard disk today or tomorrow.