Dell Shipping Faulty Computers

There should be an image here!Dell is not the company that it was in the ’90s. There is really no question of this considering the poor customer service, subpar products provided, and apparent lack of interest in what its customers want.

Then, as if to drive the point further, we see an article like this. Dell allegedly sold faulty computers to a multitude of outlets and customers. It seems that there were faulty capacitors involved and the talk on the street is Dell knew of this all along.

Clearly this is not the kind of PR Dell needs at the moment; it should be interesting to see if it makes like Toyota and deals with this head on or, instead, hides behind excuses. I expect that it will eventually have to deal with this head on.

[Photo above by ammanteufel / CC BY-ND 2.0]

iPad Mania Home Style

This article cracked me up on a number of levels. Actually suggesting that an iPad is a replacement for a laptop/desktop, is hog wash. While I agree that for those who are able to forgo a tactile keyboard (out of the box), sure, it works well enough.  And more power to you, if that is how you roll.

But speaking as a guy who is about a day away from eBay’ing his iPhone due to growing frustration with the craptastic touch screen keypad usage, I am skeptical as to the iPad replacing ANYTHING for “Joe America”.

Having tried an iPad recently, I found it to be cool…but hardly something that is going to replace anything PC or Mac based (we own both) in my household. I would suggest though, that it would be a neat supplement to my existing tech products.

iPads do indeed provide a compelling experience and are most certainly a game changing device that has yet to be matched by ANYTHING in the PC market. And I can think of 10 different industries that would benefit from using the iPad over a typical notebook.The form factor is fantastic, bundled with apps and battery life. It’s a great product.

But a netbook/notebook replacement? Hardly – I’d need the Apple keyboard edition, which Apple does sell. And to those folks who say this will replace paper products are…needing to step outside and try talking to non-geeks. Most people are not going to buy an iPad, Kindle or anything else in this economy to replace paper books. Sure, once  paper book prices shoot up to $500+ apiece, this will happen immediately I am sure. But until then, not so much.

The iPad is a very neat tool, but not the invention of the light bulb…

Just my honest option based on my experience with the product. Again, good product, but nothing worth changing a lifestyle over. This is not anti-iPad, this is simply a reality check.

Tiny Walls In China

People have always questioned me about why I am so adamant about using the platform I have chosen for myself. Well, here is one example. It seems that China’s government is taking some delight in the prospect of making it law that all new PCs shipped new must have special proprietary access control software included.

Now despite this being software designed to run on Windows, I am sure that Microsoft has nothing to do with this. While it does tend to embrace DRM rather easily, I just don’t see Redmond’s software giant being interested in this type of thing. It would be a PR nightmare, so I am sure that this is something that has come about from the software company listed in the above linked piece.

But my initial point stands. Even if something like this were bundled on Linux boxes, it would not last as people would simply stop using the distribution that allowed it. And this brings up a question that just hit me. What about Red Flag Linux? How will it meet with these new requirements? I am certain that Red Flag is not immune to the coming changes in Chinese software/hardware policy, so I can only speculate if we will see a quick software port of this access control app to the Linux platform. Should prove interesting, to say the least.


Act Now, We’ll Throw In The Malware!

It’s rather sad that all we can expect is to see malware on brand new computers. But as this report has indicated, it is becoming something of a regular occurrence it would seem. The sad truth of the matter is that malware showing up on new PCs is not as rare as we might have been led to believe.

Where things become truly scary is when malware starts showing up on consumer devices like camera memory cards and digital picture frames. Again, this has been happening slowly but surely in recent months. With some consumers finding themselves falling victim to malware, through no fault of their own, it leaves me wondering where things will end up in the future should this type of thing not be corrected?

At the end of the day, I find it unfortunate that the best advice that the above linked article above has is for consumers to install security software in hopes that it will block whatever ails them. Seriously, this does little to help when such an event happens in consumer made stuff like memory cards. But that is just my own take on the matter.


Just How Critical Is Gaming Support To PCs?

Despite the economic slowdown, it seems like nothing is going to even encroach on PC gaming sales no matter how bad things get. As you can see from Google Trends, PC gaming remains a hot search item which leads me to believe that it is still doing strong in the marketplace.

But despite this, I have to ask – is gaming really driving the notebook market? My gut tells me no and I see no indication of this changing. I believe that gamers will want a full desktop system with a notebook for what a notebook does best. Bringing the web with them when they are on the go.

So considering the fact that notebooks seem to be out pacing desktop machines, does PC gaming dictate the future of the desktop PC as we know it? This is the question that has been on my mind for sometime. There is still a lingering feeling that as notebooks and now, netbooks, continue to gain market share, the desktop PC is going to largely be left to geeks and gamers.

Am I wrong on this? Are there other strong indicators showing that new desktop purchases are going to make a rebound sometime soon? Hit the comments, would love some feedback on this line of thought.

Dell Has An Image Problem

Not even considering the circus of events I went through when I foolishly believed Dell was capable of selecting a shipping agency with a clue, it seems that overall, their choice of shipping companies has really begun to further erode the Dell image. What is interesting is when I speak with Dell users on the enterprise side of thing, it’s all roses. Helpful tech support, competent deliveries of new items, the works.

Yet somehow the ball is dropped when it comes to Dell non-enterprise customers. Why? That is a great question – because honestly, some of the PC products are pretty good. Truth be told, if you buy a Dell product from Costco, I have found that the buyer ends up with a fairly good product. Best of all, they do not end up with the nightmare of hoping that ordering it through the mail/online will translate into a lot of wasted time waiting for a machine that may or may not make it to the destination!

What say you? When building it is not really an option, order the PC/Mac online or buy it local? Hit the comments, let’s hear the verdict.

Refurbished Computers – There Is A Growing Market Here

Regardless of the hype and glamor that comes with the purchase of a brand new PC, there is still something to be said for being able to make functional use out of a refurbished one instead. Whether the motivation stem from perceived financial savings or environmental based on another PC that will not be in a landfill, at the end of the day it does seem that refurbished PC sales are going strong.

To be honest, I believe the most complex decision for most people is deciding how much they wish to spend, what the PC is to be used for and whether or not there is an operating preference.

On the Windows front, Microsoft has been kind enough to provide a certification process for OEMs looking to selling “refurb’ed” PCs. Once the OEM has achieved Microsoft’s MAR status, then they can proceed with selling refurbished PCs installed with an appropriate version of Windows. Based on my own refurbishing experiences, I would be shocked if the MAR was using anything beyond Windows XP as Vista has hardware requirements that mean newer hardware.

As for Linux as a refurbisher’s OS of choice, things are a bit simpler from a licensing perspective. Regardless of the selected Linux distribution, there is no need for any sort of status. As a matter of fact, some nonprofits have found Linux to more than meet their needs for refurbishing PCs. FreeGeek of Portland, OR is a stellar example of this.

So which option is best for you? Ah, well if you are looking to refurbish PCs for your own home, then I would simply consider gathering the hardware you need together, selecting either an OEM copy of XP (license rules apply) or a distribution of Linux, then get to building!

Those looking to do this sort of thing as a business with Windows however need to make sure that they check in and get themselves qualified with Microsoft so they can gain MAR status. This said, those looking to do this with Windows can simply go for it as the licensing is much more lax. You do not need to gain any sort of status to pre-bundle Linux. Just follow the rules of the GPL and make sure you understand that while no one is going to jump on you for installing restricted codecs on your home machine, distribution is an entirely different matter here in the US. Get yourself over to and buy them! While I do not need them myself as all of my music is converted to OGG Vorbis, it is a good idea if you are planning on distributing PCs with Linux installed.

It Is Eating Power Supplies For Breakfast

Today Linda,

My computer keeps burning up power supplies. I’m going on my 4th one in 3 months. The really weird thing is that the computer that I replaced this one with did the same thing. I’ve had an electrician to my house to check things twice – the house is only 4 years old – and I’ve run extension cords to other rooms in the house to be sure it wasn’t the outlet the computer was plugged into. I bought a brand new ups power back up approx 2 months ago to make sure the power was clean. Me and my tech guy are at our wits ends trying to figure out what’s going on. I have two other computers in my house in different rooms and no problems with them. Anybody got any ideas?

That is odd, as you did have an electrician check things out. If it was me, I would get a new motherboard myself as  clearly this is the only culprit coming to my mind without actually seeing what is taking place. It sure seems to be the common denominator in this instance.

If you think about it, there is a certain logic to it. All PCs in the home  are fine, it is only this one having problems. The wiring has been checked and the only thing coming to my mind is a short along the way someplace. I must admit, it is a lot more common to see a power supply causing damage vs the other way around. Maybe the community has some additional thoughts for you?

Do you have an IT-related question? Perhaps you are just burnt out on writing on the walls with crayons? Whatever the comments may be, drop me a line, and you too can “Just Ask Matt!”

Crap-tacular PCs Of Yesterday

When I happened upon this today, I knew instantly that I had to share my findings with each of you. Rather than list all of the PCs listed from PC World’s March 2007 article, I will instead highlight the most ‘crap-tacular’ in my mind. Remember, I used to work in PC Repair, so with some of these models, I have firsthand experience dealing with these PCs.

  • eMachines eTower 366c: Man, I could tell you horror stories about these little underpowered pieces of junk. In every sense of the word, consumers quite literally got what they paid for.
  • New Internet Computer: Not had any experience with these first hand, but the idea was a bit before its time. The biggest problem with the idea of this network PC was its dependence on dial-up Internet.
  • Texas Instruments TI-99/4: Now my very first PC – ever, the one that had me programming in BASIC onto cassette tapes was a TI99/4A. Mine was tan vs black and unlike this model, actually worked. I was known to play a mean game of Parsec! Seriously, I LOVED this machine and I believe my mom still has most of it in the attic to this day.

[tags]TI99, Texas instruments, pcs [/tags]

Dell Making A Comeback

Not saying that there are not more bumps in the road to come from HP, among others, yet it does feel like Dell has begun to regain its “landlegs” again. According to this recent CNET piece, Dell has seen an increase in earnings, which is certainly promising. Apparently its grassroots efforts and notebook push have been paying off.

Frankly, I think that if it does well this holiday season, Dell could be in line for a healthy recovery from the woes it had not too long back. So now the question is whether or not it can keep this momentum. With Costco selling Dell PCs and now it looks like Best Buy is getting into the mix, one has to wonder if Dell is rethinking its original business model? Sure, it still pushes on with its made to order structure, but is this changing?

What do you think? Is it time for Dell to rethink things and just go all out retail? Hit the comments; tell it what you would like to see from the company.

Dell Puts The WoW Into Notebook Computing

I have to admit, Dell may be onto something here. By taking the Netflix approach and appealing to a smaller, yet fiercely dedicated crew of 9 million plus users all ready to take their game to the next level, I see a new micro-market developing. My own brother would happily cut off and sell his own arm for one of these notebooks, I am sure. But in all seriousness, I think Dell might be entering something more than the micro-market that are WoW users. Possibly bigger than gaming users even.

Dell needs to enter the idiot proof PC market where Zonbu, gOS and the ASUS Eee have already made a name for themselves and two out of three of these have already seen the headlines “sold out” at least once. My advice – work out a deal with Zonbu. Dell would do quite well to see the words “sold out” next to their company logo. So again Dell, you have the right idea, but you are going to need to loosen the dependency on Microsoft and get serious if you intend to become a long tail company. Think about it – Dell’s marketing reach, Zonbu’s idiot proof platform – it could make a nice complement for their existing business.

And being as I still have to use a magnifying glass to locate the small text ‘Open-Source PCs” from the Dell Home/Home Office front page, it seems fairly apparent to me that the Ubuntu deal is ready for a little something extra – marketing perhaps.? Make it idiot proof. I am telling you, after using both Zonbu products myself, Dell is very foolish to not examine this micro-market as well.

[tags]Dell, PCs, notebooks, desktop PCs[/tags]

Is Your Multi-Core CPU Being Utilized?

Are you one of those lucky folks who own a computer with dual-core CPU technology? Think you are getting your money’s worth? Think again. The simple fact of the matter is that many software developers are ill-equipped to provide apps that will run using all of the CPU resources now available.

What do you think? Does any of this even matter with the possible exception of CPU intensive applications? Hit the comments and share your thoughts. Speaking for myself, I have found the need for applications using two cores to rather limited, but perhaps I am all wet here.


Dell, It's Time To Reinvent Yourself

Far be it for me to say that I know more about PC marketing than the great Michael Dell, but obviously something had better change and it had better change fast. Because whether Dell cares to admit it or not, Apple is obviously offering something that Dell is not. Therefore, may I be so bold as to point out the following:

Sell an experience and product usability, not a “PC.”

Thanks to the Apple commercials, regardless of the truth to them or not, PCs are simply not as sought after as they once were. Apple has managed to clearly show its potential customers exactly why they should want a Mac and what they can then do with it once it’s been purchased.

What has Dell been able to show its customers?

“Here are the latest specs. Sure, most of you have no idea why you would need this information. But it’s faster, although we cannot clearly communicate why this matters to you, the end user. Still, come and buy it!”

The above approach is where Dell’s current ads and mailings are today. I personally feel that too much emphasis has been placed on the power user, while the bulk of its target market is not seeing any reason to bother upgrading to another Dell machine.

Dell needs to better communicate, through traditional media, why potential users should care. I realize this is hard to do as it does not have any control over the bugs and benefits of the new Windows OS. However, it needs to be looking into bundling freeware or Open Source applications in order to begin the slow process of undoing the damage of unwanted trialware and lackluster support from people who clearly have no idea what they are talking about.

It’s Like Microsoft Vista launch ads all over again.

When I first discovered the new Dell TV ad, I almost cried out of pity for the soon-to-be unemployed person who came up with it. So lame in fact, I cannot find it anywhere else except on the Dell site – not so with Apple commercials. Dell’s piece was trying to attract the same age crowd.

Go to this link and look at this new TV ad. It’s off-topic and it takes an entire minute of women prancing around like fools to get the point made! Now to be clear, it would have been a cool commercial for the Gap or even Best Buy. But this commercial only shares one benefit of the notebook with me – it’s flat and small. Wow, where do I rush out to buy one of these flat and small notebooks? Oh yeah, at the Apple store…

Subtly insinuating that dropping a rather attractive engine into the notebook makes this computer fast still provides little sustaining value for the gamers it is trying to attract.

Crisis with an OS it has no control over.

Dell’s Linux efforts have been, at best, grassroots. Dell has strong feelings that it’s simply best to keep the target market at the migrating power user and this is a strong argument, be it one I still do not agree with should the right support be in place.

Regardless, Windows Vista has proven to be a disaster for Dell – that’s a simple fact. Despite the fact that Vista does, indeed, have way better security features than that of its XP cousin, people have simply grown tired of Vista’s growing pains.

Apple is handing Dell’s butt back to it in a bag because Apple has real control over the quality of the OS used on its products, pure and simple. OS X is a solid product. Even if I do not care for the UI myself, I have been recommending it over Vista left and right.

Short of the questionable use of restricted media formats on Ubuntu, if Dell provided peripherals for the end user using components that do work with Linux itself, there would absolutely no excuse not to take this to the mass user market – none. For the casual family, with the understanding that this is not Windows, which means that DRM goods are not happening here, Dell could finally recreate itself into something unique.

At this stage in the game, I am not going to say that it should try going exclusively Open Source. After all, it would lose millions, despite sagging sales figures. It’s a Windows world and there is nothing wrong with supporting that OS so long as customers are willing to purchase these goods from you. That said, things are coming to a head where Dell is going to have to rethink everything about itself – it’s already starting to happen. HP, among others, have them stomped thanks to the big box stores, as PC brand loyalty has little meaning to the average consumer.

It’s about immediate availability without shipping, offering a good price and providing the temptation to buy. If Dell hopes to have a snowball’s chance of future success, it will be embracing Ubuntu and developing better driver support for its products set to run on the distro as it will have no choice.

Vista has been a laughing fit for Windows, Linux, and OS X users alike. The entire release should have been a security-based Service Pack for XP as I have used it and can honestly say I do not see any appeal there whatsoever. I have heard some good things about Windows 7. Then again, that is assuming the word ‘bloat’ is finally being left at the door, real applications are bundled with it, and a clear vision of ‘why we want this’ has been given to us.

Windows XP was a success as it had the best from Win 2K and Windows 98SE. It rose from the ashes of Windows Me and with hope for Dell, Windows 7 had better do the same. Because thus far, Vista is not doing Dell or any other PC manufacturer any favors.

Oh, and to the folks who will (and it’s going to happen) point to Microsoft’s fantastic sales numbers, I would remind you that once you open that glossy looking Vista box from a retailer, you cannot return it. Fantastic sales, my eye! Try a monopoly bundled onto the distribution of most computers.

[tags]Windows, dell, PCs[/tags]

Hard Drive Hangups

Today, Dan writes:

I use a lot of USB Storage (to name some, Kingston DataTraveler II and Toshiba External HDD) and I have major driver issues. I know in XP it would show as the ‘DataTraveler’ for example but would still recognize it as a USB Mass Storage Device. In Vista it doesn’t and it can’t find the driver. I tell it to search the Internet for it but can’t find anything, I tell it to search for drivers on the PC but it can’t find any and asks for a disc for the device, I even try to point it to C:\Windows\System32\drivers\USBSTOR.SYS but it says no to that too.

How do I make it see that USBSTOR.SYS is the driver or is their another way?

What I also noticed is when I try “add new hardware” from the Control Panel and tell it that I will find the drivers myself and click “show all devices” without telling it a specific device their is a extremely limited amount of generic drivers. In XP “USB Mass Storage Device” was already their, as a generic but no longer is.

Well, after doing a little bit of poking around, it appears that there may be some new driver options for the DataTraveler II. As for the other device, I am not really sure what else you could do – short of reformatting the drive in Vista itself, then trying again.

I’ll say this much for you. Feeling your pain here as I am still trying to get my own Bluetooth dongle working with its own “Vista driver”. The driver install took over an hour and only yielded partial results with a non-functional dongle device. In the end, it was not a big deal as I only user Bluetooth in Ubuntu Feisty for file transfers, where hardware support has proven vastly superior to that of Vista (overall).

Now, coming back to that final hard drive. Perhaps some of the other Gnomies out there have some thoughts on how to get this working for you. And with that, I am turning this over to the readers, to submit their own helpful answers through the comments area.

Do you have an IT-related question? Perhaps you are just burnt out on writing on the walls with crayons? Whatever the comments may be, drop me a line and you, too, can “Just Ask Matt!”

Also, don’t forget to check out “Just Ask Matt,” Linux Edition!

[tags]hard drive, Vista, PCs[/tags]

Desktop Versus The Notebook?

Which is most important in your household – desktop machines or your notebook computer? For the computer power user, it is likely that the desktop is th “box” of choice, with their notebook coming in at a close second. But what about for the casual home user? Well, speaking from my own experiences here, I would suggest that for the most part the casual home user is going to be rolling with notebook with its portability.

That said, I believe most people will not be doing much in the way of networking however. Why? Because no matter how simple it seems to us, it remains out of reach for most users. This means more people connecting to printers locally, which will actually help to drive in more desktop sales – because this is all most people know. Seriously, I have seen this for years. Because most users stick to what they know (Windows, anyone?), we see people actually short-changing themselves and not even realizing it.

What are your experiences here? Are you witnessing first hand, casual users sticking with a desktop PC because they do not understand that wireless networking make printing without a direct connection nearly flawless? Love to hear your experiences, hit up the comments area, let’s explore them together.