Sharing my unvaluable opinions with the woruld.
October 2012: Say something nice.
Here's a list of online shops that I've had good experiences with:
- LEDsales - LEDs, laser diodes, electronics - very fast response!
- Siyond Technologies (via AliExpress) - lots of stuff at OEM prices
- PlayAsia - Console and Jap-gaming fun - large variety of stock
- in2amusements - Arcade parts and acessories - fast well stocked
- Arcadebits - More arcade parts and acessories - Dreamcast stuff and more
- Booktopia - Books that are hard to get in bricks and mortar shops
- Androidgadgets - selection of Android based handhelds - knowlegable advice
- Ausxmods - Stepper motor fun & electronics - good variety, quick
- Elcotronics - Data recovery - can do the seemingly impossible
July 2012: Brand anti-advocacy.
There's not much a lowly consumer can do about under performing, annoying products except try to return them to the shop (for store-credit if you're lucky). You could send the manufacturer some polite feedback but it will probably go into some sort of informational black hole (which sort of defines black holes in general).
I use a variety of computer platforms and gadgets every day and have a background in product design and hardware hacking. I think this is why I get especially annoyed when something doesn't behave the way it should? I know it's usually down to sloppy product development and very likely avoidable with a bit of playtesting and tweaking. Many companies seem to do the bare minimum of testing before they release their stuff to the consumer. When your selling complicated technology, this isn't enough.
For example, my old external backup Seagate drive used to run a scan for new files and back them up once a day for a few minutes then spin down and be silent until the next day. It just worked! The new one (same brand) spins up randomly many times throughout the day and sometimes doesn't spin down when the computer is switched off. I've heard it spinning away, grinding its bearings in the middle of the night, and it annoys the crap out of me. It uses the same backup software with the same settings, plugged into the same port yet behaves in an unpredictable way. I should've got the hint the first time I tried to set it up and found the wall-wart PSU was dead. After a trip back to the shop to replace it, I could install the crappy bundled Memeo (another brand to avoid) backup software, try it for fifteen horrible minutes before uninstalling and reverting back to the old backup app'.
I have ever dwindling patience with technology, I don't want to waste my time being nanny and nurse-maid to the technology. I've had enough positive experiences with solid, reliable devices to have developed a personal hassle-threshold with technology. So it's no wonder that when something is said to be "better" but turns out to be junk, I get a little bit peeved. When I was younger I might have bothered to get to the bottom of the issue, spend hours researching the problem online and maybe eventually solve it. Doing the manufacturer's play testing and problem solving for them. It was nearly always something annoyingly trivial that would make you wonder why they didn't fix it during the design phase or at least write some useful troubleshooting tips, instead of the waste of half a page in the back of the manual that is the usual troubleshooting "guide".
These days I can't be bothered. If it doesn't work right, I'll generally put up with it for a while then replace it with something else. The brand gets a mental black-mark against it and I might stubbornly avoid buying anything made by that company for years (or even decades if I'm feeling particularly spiteful).
It is kind of satisfying when other people do the same thing and a brand starts to lose marketshare. Damage to the bottom line seems to be the only way to get some brands to lift their game. I encourage everyone to develop and stick to a personal blacklist. Occasionally a brand will redeem themselves by doing what they should have all along and release something actually worthwhile. Given enough positive news I may even be coaxed back into the fold of loyal customerage, but this is very rare situation and is unlikely to last beyond a single product.
As time passes and I become more like a cranky old git, more and more brands make it on to my personal blacklist, so my options reduce but so (in theory) does the chance of getting stung. For various reasons, I avoid giving money to the manufacturers listed below. Some of these are common and predictable hate-magnets, not without reason. My list is based on personal experience with multiple products from each manufacturer but sometimes there's one "special" product or experience that gets them the insta-ban-hammer.
Banned for lyffe:
More sort-of-greyish-black list:
Tales from the Tree of Woe:
My Microsoft wireless keyboard/mouse set has some sort of lag that makes password logging on to Windows 7 a bit random. Sometimes it seems to drop a key press. Oddly the same set works reliably with my Mac. I assume it's something to do with how Windows wakes up and communicates with wireless keyboards? After half an hour of net research (don't bother with the built in help feature) I decided I don't care enough to try to fix it. Odd that a Microsoft hardware product works better with an Apple OS than MS's own. After about a year the grippy elastomer coating on the mouse degraded and became sticky. I used some turpentine and cotton cloth to remove the coating back to the raw ABS beneath. Nice example of planned obsolescence or just another MS screw up? My experience with the Xbox 360 only solidifies the decision to avoid MS products where possible.
As for Windows, like many people I have to use Windows. I sympathise with many of our corporate clients who continue to use Windows XP in 2013. Towards the end of its life MS managed to get XP working fairly ok. Why would anyone deliberately switch from XP's relatively stable environment to Vista or even Win-7? I'm avoiding Windows 8, it's not just more-of-the-same now it comes packed with un-intuitive "features" that confuse the uninitiated and squash productivity. I already find some of windows 7's quirks annoying. Small wonder Microsoft are in decline, they make software that is arguably "good enough" instead of anything you'd actually enjoy using.
Nokia gets a special mention not because any product I've owned was particularly bad (as a phone) but because of their practice of hobbling certain models. I had a phone with a USB port that was deliberately disabled in the firmware to prevent the user from up/downloading media to and from the device. The only way to do so was through 2G using some awful Nokia app thing at expensive data rates. This is an obvious example of business economics damaging product development. It's no wonder consumers have fled Nokia in droves.
One of Sony's repeated tactics is to force the consumer to use expensive proprietary media formats then later abandon both. I don't like having to pay twice as much for half as much flash storage just because it's a different and bulkier shape. Nevermind the whole PS3/Linux feature stripping fiasco and general disdain they seem to have for early adopters. What are the SDF defending?
Dell is a bit like a fast food place that costs the same as fine dining. The thing in the bag you get handed, never looks the same as the photo and tastes like plastic. We bought an expensive "enterprise level" laptop which has the build quality of something from a thrift shop. Seriously, the two halves of the plastic body were warped and uneven and creaked when you handled it. Within 6 months the battery had failed and the call-out "tech support" guy that came to our workplace told us; "if you overcharge the battery it will swell up like a balloon." Overcharge? Isn't it up to the laptop's charging hardware to prevent the dreaded "balloon effect" and decide when to charge the battery? His words didn't inspire much confidence yet were apparently worth the $1000+ premium added to the purchase price. I bet Michael Dell doesn't eat at MuckDonalds? We also have some Dell monitors including the 2709W with it's annoyingly "clever" touch-sensor non-buttons (that yell BEEP! at you to compensate for lack of tactile feedback) that are laggy and don't read your input more than half the time, there's an internet cafe in the Unterwelt populated with these things.
Garmin do the old trick of selling you something then pumping your wallet for updates, services and accessories. I bought an eTrex GPS to use when hiking, it was inexpensive and I didn't expect much. The device is ok but when I wanted to get data off the device on to a PC, Garmin want me to pay $50 for a passive cable with a proprietary connector. No way! I got a connector from here and made my own. Garmin are kind screwed in the handheld GPS market because everyone has an iPhone (or Android) which do the job better, cheaper and easier. They recently started giving "lifetime" maps with their products because too many people got sick of the expensive map updates they push. I think the job of consumer enmity has probably already gained some momentum?
RIM are the classic example of an expensive, feature-poor, closed system in competition with a more developer friendly, popular, feature-rich system. They were complacent and got left behind when their not-so-captive audience noticed a new shinier thing over there.
I shouldn't single out Canon for their dubious printer cartridge value, all printer manufacturers go the "razor and blades" profit gouging technique on printer carts. But I'm most familiar with Canon having owned several of their machines. They waste ink when you switch them on or off and our newest one powers down automatically unless you tell it not to. Ink waste seems to have gotten more extreme with each model I've owned while cartridge capacity has dwindled, no wonder people get annoyed and start using 3rd party cartridges. Another annoyance was when my 6 month old Canon scanner was made obsolete by switching to Windows 7. I could blame Microsoft for this, but they're already well down in the 10th level (the blackest part of the blacklist) along with various notorious entities from history such as this guy, Shane Warne, Smallpox, Eddie McGuire, Headcheese and Shane Warne.
At Uni' our Product Design group participated in an international design competition run by LG, I didn't win - so I hate them! Not really, LG (and Teac) both tend to aim for the low-end market and I've had after sales service/warranty hassles with both. Sometimes you do get what you pay for.
Note to the Blacklisted:
- Play-test your frikken products then play-test your troubleshooting guides (see point four).
- K.I.S.S. or K.I.F.S.Y.F.S.C. whichever works.
- Quality isn't just skin deep.
- Management, try using your own products.
An alternative to a brand blacklist is to research and buy individual products based on individual merit, but where's the fun?
I do actually like some things, kittens are nice as are sunshine and lollipops (not the green ones, which are an abomination and should be wiped out).
Green kittens are no good either.