Click Here for previous A Guru's World columns.
Sometimes I’ve got to wonder why some people buy things just because of a certain brand name.
“Yo, man. You know those Nikes aren’t made any better but they cost three times as much, right?” Yeah, but they “trust” the name.
I’ll call them shoe-newbies because I’ve only had Vans for the last five years; each pair last me over a year and none of them cost me $50.
Most Comp-USA/AOL/eBay type of computer users don’t know the seethe underbelly of the typical [H]ard user’s world. Who’s Microstar? Who’s Abit? Overcock? Did you say overcock?
Fortunately, or not, the more typical user is familiar with who Intel is a brand name. Better or not is not an issue here, but it is a brand that is recognized.
AMD? Curse thy name! Dell would never use AMD!
Now actually, I like Intel's motherboards.
They're a good quality with a low RMA rate. They're not too expensive, and they're stable.
We started carrying Intel branded boards at work. Specifically, we started carrying the Intel i815 "Easton" motherboard.
This week was the first week we had the board and this week was a doozy!
All of the sudden, we started seeing more folks that were newer to the “do-it-yourself” aspect of PCs, coming in to buy components to build a machine.
As I’ve been seeing it, it seems that some people that would not ordinarily step foot into a store to buy computer “parts” instead of whole computers, have now done so attracted by the Intel branding of this particular motherboard. The idea of Intel making a motherboard is certainly not a “new concept”, but definitely more available then ever thanks to Intel farming out its server board line to overseas manufacturers this year.
Your typical System Logic, Torture Test, Anandtech, Ars or OCP reader would opt for an Asus or MSI product for sure, but not the utter newbie. They’ve never heard of these brands. None of these brands advertise during Prime Time!
One would think, or at least hope, that someone interested in building their own machine would have built a machine once before, have someone that had built a machine once before present, or have had taken a machine apart, before pursuing this endeavor.
This was not the case with the three people I met this week.
One gentleman came in Wednesday after calling complaining that the board would not even power up. Over the phone we had tested the power supply and make sure that no jumpers on the board that didn’t need to be moved had been moved. I asked him to bring the PC in since everything I could do without seeing the machine had been done.
Upon inspection of the inside of the PC, I noticed the fan on the CPU, but the CPU was not in the socket! He had merely placed the CPU on top of the socket and snapped the fan on top of that. The spring clip's tension that was holding the fan down was so tight that I had to bust out pliers to get it off. I hoped that he didn’t destroy the CPU by doing this.
I gave him sort of an evil eye and said, "It's not going to post if the CPU is not in the socket."
He said, "Nobody had told me about that!"
Of course, we sort of take for granted that most people know that the interface between the CPU and motherboard is a bit more than osmosis. So I respond, "I can't imagine what you thought this little lever was for."
As for his remark of not being told about putting the CPU into the socket, I took the liberty of looking in the Easton's manual. For CPU insertion it says to review CPU's documentation. I grabbed a retail boxed Intel CPU (which is what he had) manual and sure enough, it says "lift the lever, install the CPU.... yadda yadda yadda"
Maybe in the future we will have TALKING manuals so the manual CAN “tell” him about this.
Yesterday, a different gentleman came in with his PC complaining that it did not work. Again, it was an Intel Easton board.
The employee at the counter was too busy to look at the whole PC, but handed the customer a screwdriver and told him to pull the board out of the case since that is the only component he had bought from us.
He pulled the board out of the case and handed it to the employee. It was then passed off to on me in the tech room. "It doesn't boot. Can you check it?"
I take the board and put it on the test bench. It fired right up. I asked the counter guy, "No POST or no boot?"
"Hmm...." I walked up to the counter and take a look at the case for signs of the not so obvious. Voltage on the power supply set to 220? Is there a broken wire on the power switch? I then notice that there are no stand offs in the case. For the life of me, I refuse to believe that he mounted this board without the stand offs, but I'm compelled to ask,
"Where are all of your stand offs?"
"Stand off? What's a stand off?"
Today was probably the most irritating of the three customers I wish to discuss today. He put the PC together properly, but it did not boot. It POST, but it did not boot.
We took the PC into the back room and took the two sticks of RAM out. “Where did you get this RAM from?”
“Circuit City.” The customer responded.
Circuit City? Hmm... Didn’t my mom go there to by a refrigerator last week?
“Do you mind if I try this with my RAM first?” I ask. I put my two PC133 Micron sticks from my test bench in the computer and the PC fired right up. “It works!”
“What?!? All you did was pull the RAM out? I just bought that stuff at Circuit City!”
Circuit City? Hmm... Didn’t I get the latest Collective Soul CD there last week?
“Well sir,” I said, “I saw the RAM in there and the first thing that came in mind was… well… remember back in the 1980s we had aisles in the grocery stores of food products that came in black and white packages and they were very inexpensive?”
“You mean generic?”
“Yes, this RAM would fit right in one of those grocery store aisles. But it’s not just that it’s generic, but rather it is so generic that if generic was an odor, we would both need to be wearing clothes pins on our noses to be able to discuss this in the same room as the RAM.”
“But I bought it at Circuit City.”
So what brand does he think this is? Emerson? Whirlpool?
I decide to humor the guy and try his RAM one more time, one stick at a time.
“OK sir, we have a bit more information now. Put one stick of the Maytag stuff in and the machine doesn’t boot. Put the other stick in and it boots, but locks up when you hit the desktop. Put my RAM in and it fires right up and runs perfectly.”
“Well then”, the customer says, “just give me my money back on the motherboard.”
“What?!?”, I’m confused, “The problem is the RAM. Why would you return the motherboard when your problem is the RAM?”
“Well, I just bought the RAM from Circuit City last week.”