Windows Vista and my new Dell – some thoughts

Blogging this in some frustration.

Ordered a new Dell a few weeks back because my previous “Aldi-Special” (a ‘Gericom’ brand) had died.

As I was going to be sticking the new purchase on the never-never (finance) I decided to pimp my ride a bit and ordered the best spec I could get for the price I’d paid 2 years ago for the venerable Aldi-special. Ever the bastion of customer choice, Dell gave me the option to have either Windows Vista or Windows VISTA, depending on what typeface I preferred.

Spec I ordered was 2.0ghz dual core centrino processor, 2ghz ram, 256mb graphics and a hard-drive the size of Wyoming. After some kerfuffle with Dell’s systems losing my order somewhere on its way to Finance, the paperwork was processed and the machine shipped.

First problem – the courier who was delivering the goods point to point decided that, as I wasn’t in, he’d deliver the €1000+ of computer to a neighbour. I wouldn’t have minded that except I had specifically told him NOT to do that as I wanted to inspect the goods when they arrived so I could be sure that there was no problems or anything missing. Courier obviously felt that doing the job he was being paid to do (ensuring that the purchaser of the expensive things actually got them) was too much hassle and dumped them on a neighbour. I found out the next day (a Friday), when after sitting in for the morning I rang the courier to see when he would (as per my instructions) deliver the goods to me.

Suffice it to say that I was unimpressed.

Laptop seemed to be working fine for the first few days. Vista is beautiful to work with, in my opinion. But you do need the extra oomph of a good processor and ram and a top notch video card with a chunk of V-Ram (more on that in a mo). I used it last week for a presentation in Dublin – worked fine. Due to commuting it stayed home untouched for most of this week however.

One thing however niggled almost from Day 1… Roxio software that Dell bundled with the laptop contain a driver (which I assume is a CD rom driver) that Vista blocks as it might make the machine unstable. No driver updates nor patches can be found, even though it seems that a similar driver issue affected Inspiron laptops under XP prior to Christmas.

Another thing that niggles now is that there appears to be an on-board music critic who decided that my taste in blues/jazz/funk was not suited to this laptop and has managed to switch off the ability of the DVD drive to read any CD media – even the CDROM driver disk that came shipped with the laptop. This kicked in yesterday midway through a listen to a Jools Holland CD my wife got me for my birthday. Also spurned are The Blues Brothers (cheesy but good), Clapton, and Rory Gallagher.

I decided to go on a trawl of the system to identify where the music critic resided. I uninstalled the DVD drive drivers and rebooted the system (to see if that would evict The Critic). No joy. As my machine rebooted for the second cycle of uninstall/reinstall I noticed that the BIOS was registering my Video RAM at 128MB… “hang on a minute”, said me as I reached for my copy of the order specification attached to my finance agreement, “I ordered 256MB Ram”.

Now the installed video Ram is not easy to identify by a physical inspection of the machine. Indeed, unless you actually specifically go looking to find the details under the Display Settings of Vista then you’ll never know if you have 128MB or 256MB – not unless you notice a really severe hang on your machine. Certainly it is not something that the technically unaware would automatically think of checking straight away.

Annnnnnyyyyyhhhhhooooooo…… now I had 3 issues with Dell.

  1. Roxio Drivers not working under Vista (as an Information Quality aside, the error message doesn’t refer to Roxio but to Sonic Systems, who it turns out own Roxio)
  2. DVD no readie de CD – (perhaps this is related to 1 above?)
  3. The sloppy f*ckers hadn’t built my machine to the spec I’d ordered and I probably would never have noticed if the other stuff hadn’t started going wrong

So today (a Saturday) I tried to use Dell’s on-line Customer Service (because their Consumer Call centre doesn’t work Saturdays.. Why not?). Apparently Dell’s email process into Customer Service doesn’t work on Saturdays either. Nor does the email process to Technical support. Apparently their email system is unavailable. Also Dell’s support doesn’t have VISTA listed as an Operating System on their drop down list… so how do I get support for VISTA?

Maybe they have a Literary Critic installed who has tired of reading cranky missives in poorly phrased English?

To summarise:

  1. The Courier failed to meet expectation as he didn’t follow instructions and did not provide me with information as to what he had done with my goods. Given that the evidence of delivery is the signature he captured I could have been left in an awkward position. Couriers are used to ensure delivery to the correct address and person, particularly where the goods are valuable. Otherwise, we’d all just use the post, which is very reliable.
  2. Vista meets expectation – it looks good but has some issues. Hopefully these will shake out as the adoption rate increases
  3. Roxio’s software does not WORK under Vista. Dell should have tested it before bundling it and if there was an issue under XP they should have made sure a patch was available that works under VISTA (the XP patch can’t be installed as it doesn’t recognise Vista as an OS).
  4. The product delivered to me does not meet expectation – Dell’s post-build quality control obviously didn’t catch that the Graphics card installed is not the Graphics Card ordered. Why?

Of course, I’d tell them that if their email systems were available.

The brother bought a laptop in Lidl yesterday morning. It has exactly what was on the specification sheet. It differs only slightly in terms of RAM and CPU speed from mine. It was nearly half the price of mine (it uses an AMD processor, I have an Intel). The brother’s laptop has met, if not exceeded his expectations. I’m left fuming on a Saturday because mine falls short of my expectations.

Lidl or Dell – who has better Quality when it comes to laptops?