Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bah humbug!

No I am not a Scrooge. But you can say that I'm not always in the spirit of the season. Last year I made a purchase that I somewhat later regret getting. Yes, the price is right. But the rule of "you get what you paid for" held true on me when evaluating the product.

The Belkin 802.11g wireless router (model F5D7230-4) was on sale for about $7 to $8 after the mail-in rebates are applied to the initial price. Needing a wireless router to better complement the laptop I have in possession, I took a shot in participating in America's worst nightmare -- Black Friday. The one single day out of the entire year where people do many of their holiday shoppings. At first, I figure it's just some crazy thing. But experience would tell me otherwise. It's more than just hell on earth. The number of people lining up are like those trying to mass-purchase gallons of water in preparation for a Catagory 5 hurricane. It is that bad.

I figure I'd go with a bit of time prior to opening hour to at least guarantee my shot at this router. Little did I know that there are those waiting much longer. And there I stood in line with the rest of the lunatics enduring the cold and bitter air. It felt like death.

Fast forward to this year's Black Friday. This time, no getting up early. It's getting there early in the ungodly hour of the night. The plan was simple -- grab a 19" LCD panel and Battlefield 2 and go. Part 1 of that plan was easy enough. Part 2, the checkout (go) part, wasn't. Long lines, slowly moving, and nothing to make it faster or easier to check out. An opportunity arises and I and 3 others jumped line to get an early checkout. Two hours spent and I later went to bed.

The problem with the Black Friday dealie is that people rush out. Ungodly hours for deals that didn't seem all that interesting, mixed with hordes of unknowing spending buyers grabbing items off the shelves. And for some items, there's never enough of them in stock to meet the demands of all the buyers. At least, that's what I initially thought. Despite that, I loathe the notion of having to deal with mail-in rebates and waiting for 2 months (maybe more) to get your damn money back. It's stupid and I despise it to the extent that it should have been internationally banned like child porn.

Yet here I am, two items purchased, one of which at an interesting price... at that time. In the retail arena, the current price for a 19" LCD panel with a DVI port would run you at least $250 with or without rebates. It doesn't get any lower than that. I usually want to wait until there's one available at a good price to get it. It seem at the time that it wasn't bad of a price. Of course, most of us fail to see what the future may hold for the LCD market. That's always the risk involved when it comes to purchasing a piece of the computer puzzle.

After an hour of cleaning and rearranging, I managed to make enough room (just barely) to squeeze in the LCD panel. Hooking them up was no problem. Plug the power cable in and the test began... The panel glows and I noticed something right away... something I knew would be a problem no matter how many times I have heard about it regarding LCD panels. So I counted. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9... Nine subpixels stuck, each of the three fundamental colors of light: red, green, and blue. In order to ensure that they are indeed stuck, I ran the test of all-white and all-black, filling the entire screen with one or the other for a good 5 seconds or so. And sure enough, they were stuck.

I sighed and unplugged it. Back to the store. But before I did that, I wanted to make sure that what I have is exchangeable. So I called up their tech line and inquired about their pixel policy. This is necessary as I know that for each LCD panel being sold that the policy varies from store to store and from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some won't tolerate a single one and some will tolerate up to an ungodly and unbearable amount. I was then suggested to go to the store and get it exchanged, of which I had mentioned that the store may not have any more in stock due to Black Friday and the possible limited supply of the panels. The person advised me that this is something I will have to contend with the manager for.

Upon arrival, I inquired and then their tech desk brought it to the back to have it looked into. I then inquired that they have any of the panels in stock to ensure I can get a valid exchange. To my surprise and shock, they said they have over 40. Sure enough, I was able to get at least one that should be perfect... or close to one.

The exchange went well as expected and I then returned to the tech desk to have them test for dead and/or stuck pixels. The person said the panel did not show any sign of defect or flaw. I was skeptic at first. So I went back to test it for myself.

The LCD powers on... and the image come into view. Another test of full white and full black, I had it sweep the entire screen... and I found nothing. Nothing. No single red, blue, or green. No single black spot. No single white spot. No single spot of any combination of red, blue, or green. It was devoid of irregularities. The screen was consistent, clean, and... perfect. The panel was flawless. And I was relieved.

Barring from any specification pitfalls when compared to other panels, the monitor was bright. Strangely enough, it's taking me a while to get used to the intense brightness of the LCD, as it sits right next to the 21" CRT monitor. Perhaps the only bad thing about this monitor is the horrendous contrast ratio (the range of whitest white to the blackest black). But that's no big deal to me. The screen works quite well and so far I am satisfied. And I'll be even more satisfied when the rebates are approved, processed, and sent back to me.

Two Black Friday experiences, I have survived both of them. And both times I hated the event. I loathe it in every way and for what it stood for. Of all the goddamn days of the year, why that day? Why not something more traditional? Why not something where everyone can get an equal opportunity shot? But no, the corporations want to take advantage of the twisted mind of the consumers and have them fight over something (and in some cases, that was taken literally). Pathetic and pitiful. Is this what the human race is about too? If there really are intelligent life out there in the far distance of the galaxy, I bet that they are laughing their asses off. I do not want to be a part of it. Yet I had little choice on the matter. I've no inside info as to the amount of stock they have in the inventory room. And I sure as hell do not have any inside info as to how many people are going to purchase a particular item. Had I known, I would have planned appropriately.

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