Thursday, July 13, 2006

Things break

I've had a streak of bad luck this past week regarding the reliability of some of my most cherished possessions. And these aren't cheap and shoddy possessions. Cheap and shoddy was okay when I was younger and less well-to-do, but now that I have a bit more disposable income I try to buy nice things. Things that look good and perform well and are supposed to last. Supposed to, that's the operative phrase. Let me elaborate.

It all started about a week and a half ago. My cable company pushed a firmware upgrade down to my SA8300HD cable box/DVR, which promptly broke the HDMI connection between the box and my Sony big-screen TV. (Every time I switch inputs on my TV, the cable box video goes blank; it gets confused.) I promptly called my local cable company (after switching boxes on my own; this -- and some Internet research -- is how I determined it was a firmware problem), who sent a friendly enough guy out to take a look. He didn't know any more than I did (and, in fact, knew a little less -- thank you, Internet research), and pretty much said that I'd have to downgrade from HDMI to a component video connection, which I did. It now works okay, but it's not the way I'd like it to be -- nor is it the kind of performance I expect when I'm paying a hundred bucks or so a month to Big Cable.

Then, a few days later, I was up in Minnesota, visiting my girlfriend. The weather was nice, so I pushed the button in my high-performance, overpriced Audi S4 convertible to put the top down. Except it didn't go. The top unlatched, but the motor didn't activate, which left me with a half-up/half-down top that we had to manually put back in place -- something that wasn't intuitive, wasn't easy, and in fact was the exact opposite of how the instruction manual described it. Not cool. A few days later I drove back to Indianapolis, visited my friendly neighborhood Audi dealer, they ordered the proper part (a malfunctioning microswitch), and now everything is back in working order. Still, not something you expect to happen on a $60,000 automobile; I'm just glad I had the spare 15 minutes it took to get things manually latched down, instead of being stuck at a stoplight trying to get the top back up.

Back home again in Indiana, I came home last night and found my expensive and totally silent Bosch dishwasher acting funny. The front panel wouldn't function properly, the door wouldn't latch, and it appears that the electronics are all goobered up. So I put in a call to my friendly neighborhood Bosch repairman, who'll be out in five days to charge me $85 just to walk in the door and say hello. Again, not something you expect to happen with at top-of-the-line $1,000 dishwasher.

And it got worse. Over the past few days my extremely expensive (see a trend?) Niveus Media Center PC had been throwing off odd error messages about a missing CPU fan. (It doesn't have a CPU fan; it's a totally silent design.) I powered it down when I left the house yesterday morning, and when I tried to power it back up last night, nothing happened. Nada. Zilch. Dead dead dead. So I called my friendly not-so-local Niveus technical support line, left my message on their answering machine, and promptly got a call from their VP of Marketing. (That's one of the perks of being a technology writer; personal service when something breaks.) I described my problem, and the current thinking is that while I might just have a bad power supply, it's more likely the motherboard that's gone south. In any case, I'll have to pack up the monster and send it off to California for (free) repairs. Once again, not something you expect to happen with a uber-high-end $5,000 PC.

Like I said, it hasn't been a good week. About the only thing going my way is that I finally got the Windows Vista beta working on my desktop PC so it doesn't crash every 10 minutes. (It took a combination of upgrading to a new video driver, disabling User Account Control, disabling the automatic background hard disk search, and uninstalling the Vista version of Computer Associates' anti-virus program; now it works just fine, thank you.) I guess it goes to show that just because you spend a lot of money to buy nice things, those nice things can still be pieces of crap that break down when it's least convenient. Almost makes me wish for the days when I drove a cheap and shoddy AMC Gremlin; yeah, it broke down all the time, but at least I didn't pay an arm and a leg for it.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.


braingirl said...

It's technology karma, man. You have to pay it back sometimes. It's a cycle -- everything goes haywire all at once, then you're fine again for the next 10 years. Seriously, it's a star alignment thing -- figurative karma anyway.

The Curmudgeon said...

I'd say you're right, except it's not 10 years between episodes. Maybe I have bad karma, but I have bad tech experiences every few months or so. Maybe it's an electromagnetic thing...

Joe said...

Actually, I'd say the problem is you're spending way too much money on silly things! A thousand-dollar dishwasher?! Sheesh! Couldn't you actually pay someone to come to your house and do the dishes for less than that?...

Plus, I think I know you pretty well. Do you really ever eat a meal at home?


The Curmudgeon said...

Joe: I just try to do my part to keep the economy active. As to eating at home, all the time, thanks to carry out; cooking at home, however, is a different issue, and not so much.