[xplorer˛] — Rage against the machine
home » blog » 21 December 2008 [rant]

Rushing products to market is never a good idea. It has become de facto for software; stick a beta tag to it and may the force be with the brave users that test it. I do it with xplorer˛, microsoft does it, that's life. Increasingly I have noticed this trend leaking to physical products, like phones and computer peripherals. Beta hardware? what were they thinking?

Take mobile phones for example. I have lost all hope having a new phone connect properly to a PC. Many times the installers won't work, or the drivers crash straight away, or the phone is connected but "cannot be found". All the marketing hype, phones with megapixel cameras, playing music and video, and you can't make the damn thing exchange data with the computer. How do manufacturers get away with it? Because almost noone is like me and you and never even try to use the CDROM that came with the phone.

But do they think that I won't install software for wifi repeaters too? I wanted to extend the range of my wireless internet in our large house. The free ADSL router that came with the connection isn't good enough to cover all rooms, so after some research I ended up buying this Belkin Wireless Universal Range Extender, despite the bad reviews — it served me right in the end!

Immediately when I opened the box I realized this would be hard work. There were no instructions in greek (where I bought it) or even in english! — just some leaflets in swedish and finnish (santa must have dropped it en route). The CDROM had an english PDF (100 page long) so I kind of moved along, using its "automatic setup" button on the back of the device. But no matter what I tried it wouldn't connect to the main wifi router properly. I connected to the repeater with a network cable for the "advanced setup" — even more frustration!

Every small change resulted in a reboot of the device, which managed to end up in access point mode (instead of the repeater/extender). It just couldn't cooperate with the simple WEP encryption of the main router. Take a look at this snapshot and notice the lame error message: just one network found, clearly selected and when I clicked connect it said "please select a network to connect". I was foaming at the mouth.

What about after sales customer support? All the support phone numbers were clearly invalid, someone copy/pasted them for fun. I wrote them an angry email and their reply a couple of days later was that I had to disable the main router security and that should do it. Yeah, thanks!

If this was beta software, I'd just uninstall the trial and bin it. With a physical unit it isn't that easy. Fortunately consumer protection laws are beginning to half-work in greece so I returned that piece of rubbish for a refund. And now that I've ranted about it I feel much better <g> Belkin management board should have shoes thrown at them!

Btw happy xmas folks. I hope your festive shopping experience is much better — how can it be worse? :)

ps. Now that I remember it's coal for christmas for HP too. The printer installer added a ton of services that just drag down my laptop without apparent gain — other than pushing unwanted HP ink sales and updates. Arr!

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