Monthly Archives: January 2007

Dealer Courtesy Calls

So, Monday morning, the check engine light in my car was still lit up. Figured rather than blow something up, I’d better go get it checked out again. I left them my car for the day. About 4 o’clock, I gave them a ring, as I hadn’t heard anything from them all day. They said they’d fixed my broken latch and check engine light was a sensor they forget to reset after doing that oil change last week. Other than screwing up my work day, everything was back to normal.

On Wednesday, I got a courtesy call from dealer’s quality control department. They call for most visits. I told them that things that were generally good, but I was kinda annoyed that they forgot to do that reset thing and which required me to drop the car off again. He sounded apologetic (they always do), and said he’d make sure the appropriate persons were notified.

So, I hung up my phone and got back to my work. About an hour or so later, my cell phone rings again. The number was the same as the last time. Hmm, maybe they want some more details or are calling back with an apology. I pick up and its the same guy I talked to previously; starting the same spiel again, oblivious that he talked to me just an hour ago and that I gave him negative feedback. I said, hey, ah, we just talked a hour ago. He said whoops, something about duplicate record, and got off the phone pretty quick.

Hmm, I guess there are two probabilities. First, the guy was just a moron. Second, the only reason the courtesy calls exist is to make the customer feel better. In real life, all the feedback (or at least the bad feedback) goes straight into the circular file.

Everything is Broken…

With the TV still being a problem, now my car is giving me fits. In the background, I hear the Long John Hunter song Everything’s Broken playing over and over again.

Wednesday morning, it was about 4 degrees out when I wanted to leave for work. There was a little snow on the car, so I did my normal routine. I unlock all the doors, open the front passenger door, drop off my gym bag, leave over to start the engine, and grab my snow brush. Nothing out of the ordinary.

After clearing off the snow, I opened the driver’s door. Crrrrrunch. Him, that didn’t sound good. I looked at the door handle and it looked ok, a bunch of ice in the area, so I wasn’t too disturbed. Man its cold. I quickly hop in and pull the door closed. Thud. Hmm, normally its thud, click. Not today. The latch that holds the door closed is stuck in the open position. Wonderful.

I jiggled both the interior and exterior handles to try to free things up. I popped the electric locks a couple of times; I was pretty sure that wouldn’t help, but I had to confirm it. Great, its freaking freezing and I’ve got a door that won’t close. I briefly considered trying to drive off and hold the door closed manually, but visions of the door flying full open on my trip down 81S told me that probably wasn’t a great idea.

So, I cranked up the heat and chattered my teeth for a while hoping that the some heat might free things up. 25 minutes later and some more monkeying around with the inside latch, it freed up and the latch was working again. Annoyed at the lost time, I beat feet down to work.

Thursday morning, it was warmer by a few degrees, so I kept my fingers crossed that it was a fluke. No dice. No crunching noise, but the same thud without a click. Geez, better get that looked at. I’m already obsessive compulsive about my car, not being able to lock it would drive me over the edge.

I headed to my local VW dealer later in that day. I told them I need an oil change and to check out the drivers door latch and trunk struts (the trunk has been getting harder and harder to open and close lately.)

About a half hour later the tech manager came out to tell me that the oil change was done and that the driver’s door latch was toast and would need to be replaced. Similarly, the trunk had problems. It wasn’t the struts that were the problem, but that the hinges were ceasing up. Fortunately, both would be covered under warranty. They’d get back to me when the parts came in. Argh, a few more trips to the dealer.

Friday and Saturday, I had no latch problems. This morning, it was 3 degrees out. Normal routine of clearing off the winter mix. Hop in the drivers door and slam; thud but no click. Crap. So, I let the car warm up for a bit. Wouldn’tcha know it, the check engine flashes, then goes to full on. Lovely…  things are just getting better and better.
Normally, I’d do the right thing to do, and turn the car off at this point. But, the door latch hadn’t yet reached the magic temperature to free things up yet. So, after enjoying another 30 minutes of winter frigidity, it worked itself free.

I was originally headed to McDonalds for a nice fast food breakfast; after the dose of cold, I figured it was best to just go back in the house and make some breakfast myself instead.

I Just Wanna Watch TV (part 31)

Yes, the saga continues. After waiting about a month for parts, I got a call earlier this week that the needed parts for the repair have arrived at the repair center. A few days later, they called back again to confirm a time to come over for the repair.

The repair guy showed up promptly; it was the same guy who came out for the original diagnosis. I could see the excitement in his face when he remember just which TV he was about to have to lift again. A quick 1-2-3 and the TV was on the floor again and he was removing the 17 screws that hold the cabinet together.

He called the part being replaced the ‘d’ board. I’m not quite sure what it was bought it was approximately the size of an ATX computer motherboard and had a good mix of transformers, caps, and ICs. About 25 minutes of disconnecting, unscrewing to get the old part out and doing the reverse with the new part in.

With the back still off, he plugged it back in and fired up. He was a little surprised that it came up without tuning anything. Upon trying to start it up again, it start doing its not fire up the screen shtick. Tweaking he output of the big transformer that connected directly the tube, he kept power cycling until it seemed to fire up reliably. He said Sony tubes are problematic because they have such high tolerances in their settings; if they’re off just a bit there’s no picture for you.

Next, he plugged in the cable box to check out the video quality. It was pretty good except for some red color shift on some white elements. The tech asked if the tube looked like this before it started having the start up problem. I told him prior to the problem, the picture was always rock solid. He messed around with some of the (tech, non-consumer) diagnostic controls for a bit and said he was stumped and that it might be that the tube itself is toast. In a last ditch effort he called another tech he refered to as “Mr. Sony.” He suggested tweaking that same transformer a little more. A couple of delicate twists of a screw driver more and the picture was back to factory fresh.

Woo-hoo. Gonna be so nice to get back to 32″ after living with a measily 10″ screen for the last few months.

The tech put the case back together, helped me hoist it back on to the stand, then hooked up all the various inputs in the back. As he was packing up his tools, I noticed that the little trap door that covers the aux inputs on the front no longer closed. I pointed this out. The tech said something probably got knocked off on the latch mechanism when everything was opened up. He said if I didn’t mind picking up the TV again, he’d try to fix this.

Soon after opening things up again, he found that a little plastic post that holds retains the spring that holds that door closed snapped off. I asked if we could rig it with a paper clip or something and he said he though some superglue might do the trick. I just so happened to have some lying around. He glued it but couldn’t test it with the TV on the carpet. I said, good enough for me, if it doesn’t work, I’m not gonna hold it against him.

Another heave-ho, and the TV was back on the stand. After all the connections were back together, I powered it on. Hmm, the status light was red on bootup. I could have sworn it used to be green. I told the tech, but he said he couldn’t remember what the non-error start up looked like either so we left it at that.
Man, its gonna be nice to watch TV again.

The tech said to keep an eye the color shift problem (it could come back) and not any other problems and to make sure I report any problems before the extended warranty contract expires. I thanked the tech for his time and understanding and walked him to the door.

I started off to my home office to check my email when I heard a click in the living room. I ran back out to see the TV had turned it self off and the dreaded blinking red status light again. Oh fudge. I high tailed it down the hall of my building to catch the tech right as he was stepping out of the door.

“You’re not gonna believe this… the TV already crapped out.”

I could see his brow furrow.

“Ok, I’m gonna call it and get you a replacement set. Some one will be back in touch with you in a few days.”

I thanked him again for his time and valiant repair effort and let him slip away.

I’m now looking forward to another couple of months of phone tag with the extended warranty company again to try to get the new situation resolved. I’m pretty interested in seeing how they’ll handle it.  In terms of direct replacement, Sony doesn’t even make tube based HDTVs any more.  In terms of a cash out arrangement, I not sure how they’d value my existing set.  I’m pretty sure there’s no accepted depreciation schedule for TVs.

So, for now, I’m holding pattern for a few days while the message from the tech makes it back up the chain to the extended warranty provider.  Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

Got My Mac On! Finally…

Me- TeeHeeBeen a little busy with week with work and chores this week so I’ve been kinda quiet on the blogfront (well, except for that iPhone post.)

I finally pulled the trigger and bought an Apple; a nice shiny white MacBook from the refurbished department in the Apple online store. I was watching their offerings for a while and as the stock began to dwindle, and a few of my initial choices blipping off the screen, I was getting nervous that I might miss a good opportunity.

Other than some buyers remorse after seeing the store restocked with more options the day after I purchased mine, I think everything turned out just fine. I’m quite happy with what I got and I would have purchased more machine than I really needed if I would have went with one of the fancier models.

So, this my first extended trial with OSX. I’m collaterally familiar with it from tech support for my in-laws, but I’ve never had my own machine to dial in the way I like. First off, its quite refreshing just for the change of pace. After 5 years of Windows XP its just a little stale.

After completing the initial welcome to your computer walk through (including taking my account picture with the built in webcam), it found my wireless internet network setup but couldn’t connect. That’s a good thing actually, because I have it set up to give access only to certain MAC addresses (hadn’t added the MacBooks yet). After configuring my router, it was a pretty simple matter to type in the access key in network setup. It picked up the wired ethernet with no hassles though.

OSX is pretty slick. Sure, there’s a little trouble every now and again trying to figure out how to do some little task or where to configure something (though Spotlight search seems to help in both cases), but that’s to be expected.

Its amazing to see how much detail Apple puts into their operating system. Seemingly silly little graphical details make the user experience a lot nicer. A couple examples:

  • When you’re using iChat and your dock is set to autohide mode, the iChat icon still bounces into view when a new message arrives. I like that a lot more than incessant blinking of my windows chat program in the task bar.
  • This one is super silly and makes me giggle every time. After you take a picture in Photo Booth, the picture just doesn’t appear in the tray of recent shots, it slides in and drops to the bottom, just like it was sliding out of a real photo processing machine. Geez, I’m such a nerd.

I’m sure I’ll have more little gems like this to post about as I get to mess around more and get a little more comfortable.

So far, I haven’t really enjoyed the portability yet. The MacBook spends most of its time on the desk in my office. It has made a few short trips to the living room and my easy chair. I’m thinking about whiling a few hours in public at a Panera near me that offers free Wi-Fi while enjoying some of their fine baked goods.
That’s a enough rambling for now, I guess. I’m gonna get back to playing.

Apple iPhone Finally Here!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Apple (now just Apple, as opposed to Apple Computer) finally let the cat out of the bag out their new cellphone. 30 months in the making, the iPhone is amazing. Part cellphone, part iPod, part Mac.

The Macworld Keynote reveal of the phone was pretty cool. Steve Jobs did a pretty good job teasing his way the through the introduction. He then proceeded to demo many of its amazing features.

Like the iPod, the phone is all about having a smart interface. There is only 1 mechanical button on the front of the phone. The rest of the interface is driven totally from an advanced touch screen. Its not just pointing either; its a multi-touch interface where you can use multiple fingers to do operations like resizing pictures, and typing. Perhaps the most amazing example was scrolling through your contact list just like it was a rolodex.

Of course, any new, high tech phone has be internet ready. The iPhone is no exception; but, it takes web browsing to a whole new level. Forget minibrowsers and WAP, this thing has scaled down (or phone enhanced, depending how you look at it) version of the Safari web browser. You basically browse the web as normal and then zoom up the specific areas of the page you want to read. I haven’t seen any other phones that doing anything like that yet.

I’d love to have one eventually, but I’m in no particular rush to run out and get one (even though they don’t even go on sale until June.) I just re-upped another 2 years of Sprint service. By the time I’m ready to get my next phone, hopefully they’ll have all the bugs out of this one and maybe the price will be down a bit.