Hardware Mozilla

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.

General Mozilla Personal

Should be the last few days offline

I’m expecting a fixed laptop this week, I think every possible delay has run it’s course, so I can’t imagine how anything else can delay it now. So once again, I’ll be somewhat offline and slow on pretty much everything. Next weekend a bit limited as I test the laptop out a bit, and hopefully I’ll be kicking some butt again next Monday. I’ll give a more detailed account of my experience when it’s all done, explaining the good and the bad (it’s a long story, trust me).


The weekly routine

As is now sadly routine, I’ll be a little slower in replies over the next couple of days, while waiting for my laptop to be repaired. I do expect it to be done this week as it’s in what should be competent hands (though Hurricane Ophelia is the latest thing threatening to delay it as it’s being repaired in North Carolina). My goal is to have a 100% working laptop on my desk at the latest by Friday morning. We’ll see how that goes. All I know is this is going on way to long.

Oh yea, DHL stinks. Instead of NEXTDAY service as the label suggests, they decided to ground ship it anyway (costing me an extra day). On the phone I was asked “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Yea… deliver my laptop! Between that and Labor Day on Monday, that basically wasted last week. This week a hurricane threatens it. Already had 2 failed attempts to repair it. Seems there’s a bipartisan conspiracy against me. I’ll detail this whole ordeal more when it’s done.

Tip: good customer support is worth it’s weight in gold. Having a good product, and poor support really lowers the value of the product. We’ll see how this ultimately pans out, but I’m starting to loose the little patience I have left.

Cross posting to Mozilla so this gives the heads up to those wondering why I’m not reading bugmail as often as I should.

General Personal

Yet another week

Yet another week with no laptop (though hope to have it back fixed shortly… perhaps more details on that later). So it’s lab only until Thursday. I’ll be checking in, but don’t count on speedy email replies until then.

Mozilla Personal

Away Message

Just a quick heads up that I won’t be around much the next few days (until about Thurs evening) as I’m moving back to school, and don’t have a working laptop (IBM didn’t really repair it, just said they did). Hopefully IBM will redeem themselves by providing good customer service and getting it back quick. Phone support has been great, but this last “depot repair” experience was a bummer. I left a nice long letter in the “Inventory Control Sheet” for the tech who gets it. I’m shipping it tomorrow, meaning they have it Thursday morning, so hopefully by Friday they finish and ship so Saturday it’s at my door. I’m not holding my breath, but do hope it happens. Between school and catching up on some coding… it’s a system that I rely on.

So hopefully someone at IBM ‘s Depot repair will ensure my laptop comes back in working order (for real this time), and quickly.

I do like my Thinkpad (despite being a Mac Zealot) it’s a hearty laptop, well constructed as typical of IBM’s quality and craftsmanship, but I don’t really like sending it for service, and getting it back without it being fixed correctly. I don’t think that’s such a high standard I’m holding them to is it? Phone support is very helpful though. They did go the extra mile trying to help me out, giving me the info I need and everything. It’s just getting the machine physically repaired.


IBM: Help Wanted

Inquire Within


IBM sold the PC Group

IBM confirms. reports. It will be interesting to see what happens. How all the branding will work, how it will transition etc.

Tech (General)

My age in computer Years

Thought it would be fun to spend a few minutes looking at what technology I’ve ‘experienced’ over my years. Considering I’m a college student, I’ve had a chance to play with some old toys:

First Computers

IBM PC 5150Well, my first computer to the surprise of most was a the IBM 5150. Yes, shocking isn’t it? It was my father’s old computer he had from work, and served the family well until about 1995. Can you imagine being in 3rd or 4th grade pecking away on a spring-loaded keyboard? Oh the fun. And it wasn’t Microsoft Word, or Word Perfect, it was Professional Write. DOS Version? You had a choice. 2.0 or 3.11. It shipped with dual 5 1/4 inch single sided double density floppy disk drives. And there was still significant flipping disks when using programs. Lotus 1-2-3.

If you go to the Smithsonian, they have one of these bad boys sitting around. When I was there it was resting on a stack of books. Had them all. That IBM Basic book is sitting around somewhere as well (those hardcover books with 3 ring binding that come with a cardboard container).Oh yea, and with the monochrome display, you can delete characters and still see them burnt into the display for several seconds. Also had a wonderful Epson dot matrix printer that always got jammed.

I also started programming on this system using BASIC. It was bliss.

It also had a ridiculous excuse it called ‘games’. Written in BASIC they were so bad, they made Lotus 1-2-3 seem much more fun.

School had some Apple II, Apple IIe, Apple IIgs system. And an occasional Apple SE.

Performa 6220

Performa 6220Machine #2 was a Performa 6220. This 75MHz machine was a real ‘blast’. With it’s extremely slow graphics, and unusable PDS slot, it wasn’t going anywhere quick. It still got tons of use. On this machine I spent hours learning AppleScript, and the Mac OS 7-9 versions like the back of my hand.

Also the first computer to go online. AOL 2.7 was an interesting way to browse the internet. And I still have that 3.5″ disk hanging around somewhere. With it’s 14.4bps modem, it was blazing. This was back when AOL took 40 minutes to get a connection (I assume it’s improved since then). Not to mention constant disconnections. As a result of this, I wrote Keep Me Online. It also had video input allowing me to watch TV on the computer. Not sure what value it really had. But it was cool.

I wasn’t just starting to look at web development at this point. My primary interest was learning about operating systems, and client-side development. ResEdit was my best friend.

PowerMac G3

Power Mac G3 B&WDamn, I still love this thing, and it’s still my primary Mac. Ordered a few days after they started shipping. 400MHz, and just a beauty. This thing just keeps going. I’ve added an extra HD, more RAM, and a Zip 250, but other than that, it’s pretty original. Runs Mac OS 9.2.2, and 10.2 Jaguar. I learned shell scripting, PHP, and some C++ on this machine. It may be outdated by today’s standards, but it’s still going.

A few days after getting this system, Comcast HSI (then Comcast@Home), was setup. A blazing 400MHz system with a Cable modem. Imagine what that felt like after so long using a 75MHz system on 14.4bps dialup. This was 1999, so it was from worst-case scenario to best-case.

During this point I started learning about client side development, continuing with several small Mac Utilities, but eventually fell in love with web development. My ultimate pet-peeve was how different every end-user system was. The idea of a client-server application was much more appealing to me. Still is today. Web Development always has in my mind been the premier platform to develop. You know what you’re dealing with. The downside of course being some browsers suck 😉


Today, I’m mainly a web developer, and student. My laptop is an IBM Thinkpad A31, and it’s almost always with an SSH connection to a UNIX server. I guess that’s because I’m a Mac OS X fan, not a Windows Nut. My Mac(s) still get a considerable amount of use. Acquired a Power Mac G3 Beige system, now known as Bender, a fileserver/dev server. PowerMac G3 is also still going strong.

Over the years I’ve went from programming in BASIC on a processor less than 10MHz, to designing web applications that run on multiple processor Web Servers and tinkering with Mozilla.

So don’t think just because a guy’s still in school he hasn’t played with old technology. I had my hands on some of the old gear as well. 😉


IBM Sales Stink

Just FYI, never expect anything you order from IBM to ship in a timely manner. Thursday morning aprox. 8:00 AM, I placed an order. 24 hours of Credit card processing, and it ships right? Well, it’s Monday, and they hope to ship today, or “at the latest” tomorrow. Then 3-5 day shipping.

Thankfully I didn’t waste money speeding up shipping, would still take forever.

My laptop was the same way, took forever just to get through credit card processing. It’s like they have 1 15 year old “cash intake engineer” sitting there doing all the billing.

You would think a computer company could get this done FAST?


Still Waiting

Still waiting for a new drive. Should arrive tomorrow, should be home to install it Wednesday Evening. Won’t have the IBM Adapter so I can get my data over for another few days though (perhaps Friday). So we shall see.

Let the silence begin again… warning, it may be harmful to your hearing.