04 April 2008

Customer service follies

Ah, Dell!

The deal is that the reason, and sole reason I buy from Dell, ever, is integrated hardware.  My first Dell Dimension XPS desktop back in... when did that line start... 1996?  1995?... somewhere in there... well, I bought Dell for the integration factor, not for the lovely excess software.  And in no time at all I was quickly stripping things out, doing the DIY bit on system creation and after that left Dell behind for long years.  But when it comes to laptops/notebooks, you are getting out of the easy DIY territory.  Thus, after that initial, one-time buy, I decided to give Dell a try out...

Here is how I approached it:

Hardware - Could I get a decent deal if I stripped all the software off and started with a clean install (and yes that is difficult to do with Dell, but not impossible).

That was it, my only deciding factor was hardware integration.  Dell does that fairly well.

Thus my first Inspiron 1721 suddenly going non-bootable due to a driver update via Win Vista was disconcerting.  The second time I advanced my software replacement schedule by a number of months.  I found all the basic WinXP x64 drivers, did the nLite tango and soon had a *useful* and *stable* notebook computer.  With an OS I can stand, once I take the hedge-trimmers to it.  That system replaced my truly ancient Desknote that was slowly running out of disk space and was finding some software that had everyday use that was choking it.  Software bloat killed it, in other words.  Still trying to figure out what it can be used for, and will hang on to it for awhile yet, as it still has emergency, 'if you have nothing else left', utility to it.

Looking at the home computing situation to replace the absolutely ancient system I had thrown together for my lady way back in... 2002?  2003?... around then, based on an Asus board if memory serves... it is going through hardware death of its drives.  The floppy kicked the bucket a year or so ago and the CD just announced 'I have gone to meet my maker... which is Samsung', I started to realize I was heading into the long-term MTBF of the hard drives.  The boot drive dates back to 1999 or so, and while it still works the overall cruft is starting to get to Win2K.

At that point I was looking at two options.

First - The SuperMicro SC750-A  case is still one of the best cases I have run across, and it housed that system and my non-functioning back-up which had suffered the cosmic-ray death of one of the paired memory sticks.... until I swapped pairs and realized it was the motherboard that had suffered that death.  So I have *two* of the heaviest, roomiest cases sitting here and almost no energy to do any DIY stuff.  I could try to do it with a couple of reputable suppliers from my old days that are still going, and do the down and dirty of 'they test and I install' deal.  Possible, but that would eat my time and energy for anything else.

Second - Shift strategy, go light and modern, junk the cases and, possibly, the old CRT monitors, and do the 'notebook as desktop' deal for my lady and have a reputable screwdriver shop do me a custom back-up.

Astonishingly, the costs were the same.  Moore's Law and all that.

So a same day order: one to Dell for a second Inspiron 1721 and one to my reputable dealer from days gone by for a nice downsized system.

Amazingly, since the Inspiron was pre-made sitting in a warehouse, they arrived within a day of each other.

Thus the Inspiron, by arriving first, got the going over while I did the background software installs on the other system.  And, when it came time to update the firmware in the DVD drive of the Inspiron... Lo!  the drive doth not work as advertised. 

The courageous hero puts off contacting Dell trying to find *any* solution beyond that. 

The only thing worse than the catacombs of the MotherShip Knowledge Base is Dell Tech Support.

So on the screwdriver shop deal, I swapped out the cheapie DVD to allow them to install the OS there, and swapped in a real one pre-bought elsewhere.  Also a wireless network card.  The system runs *perfectly* as ordered.  Good work!

That shop is MWave and I have been dealing with them, off and on for various things, for some years now.  You just choose all the components, throw in the full construct, set-up, test, update for $45 and in a few days you have a well constructed system to your specs.  I went with the maker of my main system case, SilverStone Tek and their cute Evolution case.  Since my last construction for my main system was from MSI, I went with them and their K9AGM3-FIH board.  Went with a retail AMD processor but had the folks at MWave take off the mediocre heatsink/fan of retail box deals and had them put on a decent heatsink/fan combo which they recommended a better one from Thermaltake instead of the Zalman one I had chosen.

That left me, however, with contacting Dell Tech Support which I did through online chat at Dell.  And I was given the webpage to actually unseat and reseat the drive and that should do it!  They would phone me back in an hour....


A day later, after trying 6 times to actually get the DVD drive to *budge* and *no* phone call, I got a bit peeved.

Today, nearly two days later, I was sending lovely messages to Tech and Customer Support.

A couple of hours later and, yes, a phone call from Dell which the nice Tech Support person had me describe the situation, which I had done on each and every message sent to them from two days ago, and finally did the DirectConnect ch-cha to let the remote Dell Tech Support person see that things were as I said they were.  And then promptly forgot that sending me a replacement drive when the current one was stuck in the system was a non-starter.  That took 3-4 times of repeating to finally get the message through.

Drive does not come out to be reseated.  Drive stuck.  Cannot replace drive with everything I have hear unless I start popping the case open and having fun with things.  Drive is fragile and did not want to bend or break it while it sat stuck in the system.

Stuff like that.

That finally got through and a nice little ship-back box will arrive in a couple of days to let it be shipped back.  Take out the power adapter, battery and hard drive because those things head towards sticky-finger land at the factory.

Thank you, to MWave!

And once Dell delivers a *working* system, and I thoroughly check it all out, then Win Vista takes a hike and I put a reliable OS on the thing.


Moral of the story: buy from Dell for hardware and make sure it works.

Find someone trustworthy for making *real* systems if you don't need hand-holding on every little thing that can go wrong on a computer.


I was thinking of putting an ITX system together... but that will await time and energy for a *small* build.

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