The laptop saga

Many have noticed I’ve been a bit slow in the past month, and that’s because of the ongoing laptop saga. Here’s the readers digest™ version:

My laptop had 2 problems. The primary (big) problem is that it was corrupting known good hard drives within hours. In addition to that (as if that wasn’t bad enough) the LCD having a grayish area in the lower left corner and several dead pixels scattered on the lower part of the display. A quick call to Lenovo (formerly IBM’s PC Division), and they sent a box and took my laptop for repairs. It came back unrepaired. The hard drive still corrupted quickly and bluescreened on first boot. The LCD was fixed, but now lighter on lower half than upper half making it awkward in DOS like environments, and impossible for any real graphic work). Obviously another computers faulty display thrown in my laptop.

I called within an hour of receiving the unit, and another box was sent out and it was taken back again (can I collect frequent flyer miles for my laptop?), and came a few days later still crashing, but this time, the LCD wasn’t working at all (nothing at all). The only way I found it crashing was by hooking up my external display to it. I called them back (again within minutes of opening the box) and they agreed to send another box out to me, and take the system for a third repair (in a little over a weeks time I should note). I’m assured this is an isolated incident and it will be resolved promptly. I then sent an email IBM’s CEO Sam Palmisano (yea I know he doesn’t really read them, but it made me feel better) explaining the situation:

I’m writing to express my extreme displeasure in your warranty repair service. I own a IBM Thinkpad A31 (2652m5u). It was sent in the first time (case xxxxxxx) because it was continuously corrupting multiple known good hard drives and the LCD had a faded grayish appearance in the lower left corner. Phone support was helpful and sent a box. A few days later it arrived. The hard drive problem persisted, and the LCD was replaced, but with an obvious refurbished unit likely returned for being faulty. The lower half of the display was lighter than the top half, making it unusable for any form of graphical work. I called the same day and told them that this was unacceptable. I was sent a new box which arrived the next day, and sent the system back for repairs (case xxxxxxx).

Today my computer came back yet again. The hard drive was replaced with something that sounds like it’s on it’s death bed. Rather than the slick IBM/Hitachi 7200RPM 60GB drive it’s likely some refurbished unit. In addition I now have no functioning LCD! It appears the solution to the distorted color is simply to disable the display.

I have been a big fan of IBM products, learning to use computers on my father’s IBM PC (I believe IBM 5150). Though my experience these past few weeks has significantly changed my confidence.

I was hoping only to go a day or two back at college with no working laptop, but now I have at least one more week as it goes in for more repairs, and hopefully a fix.

I really hope some reevaluates the warranty repair service as it’s Quality Assurance is clearly nonexistent. My laptop is now going in for the 3rd time for what should be routine repairs. It only took me a minute or two to find problems each time.

A rather unsatisfied customer,
Robert Accettura

This is the Friday of Labor Day weekend. I get a call a few hours later (about 4:30 PM EST on that Friday of a holiday weekend, Lenovo is also in EST) from someone at Executive Relations regarding my email (she quoted it and noted the sarcasm in their repair strategy, so I know she read it). She immediately emailed me new DHL labels to send it to her facility (not Lenovo’s contractor Solectron), but DHL was done with pickups for the weekend. So on Tuesday it went away yet again. DHL screws up shipping and instead of overnight they ground ship it instead, further wasting my time. A few days later I get a call with the diagnosis from the technician, the finding was it had some bad RAM, and the video inverter card needed to be replaced. They were also going to replace the system board which could be faulty (IDE controller most likely would be my guess). As soon as that’s fixed, it should be good to go! Well, they replaced those as soon as they got the parts (overnight), but the display still wasn’t working reliably. So a new LCD was needed. No dice on getting it shipped back to me that week. A day or so later, that was decided to be back-ordered for a while, indefinitely.

So I’ve been offered a brand new laptop under warranty (rather cool), but unfortunately it’s a little back-ordered. I was initially told about 10 days, but it’s now looking more like 20. So I’ve got a little more to go before expecting my new laptop to arrive.

Because I have no laptop, I’ve been only online at home, and computer labs, not at school. My laptop was also my primary development system. Keyboard time needs to be used a little more carefully than usual since it’s more limited. I’m hoping the estimated shipping time is overestimated and it ships out early, so I can get back to normal quickly.

Moral of the story is repair centers really do stink, but at least in this case Lenovo picked up the pieces and is trying to make things right (despite the never ending complications). I think this case has encountered all the bad luck it could (back-orders, shipping issues, holiday weekends delaying things, cell phone reception problems, you name it). So hopefully soon I’ll get my new system and things will go back to normal. I’ve got a feeling my case is rather unique because of these factors, and not likely representative of a typical experience (and no this isn’t some disclaimer, it’s an honest opinion).

Overall, I loved my old Thinkpad, almost like a Mac. It was very well built, a bit heavy, but the quality was excellent. From what I’ve read my new laptop continues that tradition, and will hopefully serve me well for years.

So yes, I still read email, keep an eye on things, read bugmail (well some of it). Just a bit slow right now. It’s been a pain, but at least Lenovo is taking care of it. I’ll be back and working 100% hopefully in the near future. Hopefully that (briefly) explains what’s been going on in recent weeks.

Update: Zach is having a strikingly similar problem with Apple. I guess laptops repair/replacement just doesn’t happen very promptly lately.

Update 2: Zach is resolved. As of yesterday, mine hasn’t even shipped. 🙁

Update 3: resolved!

Update 6/12/2006: Added some clarification to a few things, as well as the note and some wording adjustments.

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