The PC Case I Bought At CompUSA - A Cautionary Tale
Despite what I consider some overwhelming evidence to the contrary, my family seems to think IÃ‚'m technologically adept.Ã‚Â I think to the average man of the street, a group to which IÃ‚'d ascribe much of my family, anyone possessed of technical knowledge enough to program a universal remote is a kind of god.Ã‚Â Not a god of the capital G variety, but the flawed and campy ancient Greek kind.Ã‚Â And, though I may be of this divine caliber to family, IÃ‚'m simply not a major god.Ã‚Â Definitely not theÃ‚Â kindÃ‚Â invited to fancy parties high atop Olympos wearing chic togas and ogling Aphrodite, that hip-wiggling temptress!Ã‚Â Where many of you are probably metaphorical kin of Hera, Apollo, or Poseidon, I find myself more like Eubolos Ã‚– Greek God of well ploughed earth planted with grain Ã‚– or on my better days Aristaios Ã‚– Greek God of bee keeping, olive growing, and cheese making.Ã‚Â In short, though I may have the ability to program a universal remote control, it will be with unsteady hands and a gnawing self-doubt.
Nonetheless I have somehow become the computer guy of the family.Ã‚Â In part this is certainly because I helped conceive GWJ and thus participate in an online endeavor that can be described as Ã‚"˜not a miserable failureÃ‚'.Ã‚Â Add to this my functional knowledge of the difference between a hard drive and RAM, and this serves as proof enough that any question remotely technical, ridiculous though it may seem, should be deferred to my unbounded knowledge.Ã‚Â Compound that with the fact that I build my own systems and my deific position is inaccurately solidified.Ã‚Â I say inaccurately because, much like universal remote programming, the whole process of putting a system together leaves me shaken for days.Ã‚Â
The inescapable fact is that IÃ‚'m getting older.Ã‚Â I donÃ‚'t exactly feel it in my bones yet, though fleshy curves where once I was flat and taut have been whispering at me in the mirror for the past year or so.Ã‚Â I donÃ‚'t feel like IÃ‚'m experiencing any degree of mental atrophy yet, though that may be a product of blissful ignorance.Ã‚Â Still, I have a gnawing sense of maturity, not of the emotional, but of the kind that means youÃ‚'re not as good at keeping up with technology as you used to be.Ã‚Â Maturity not in that I have a wizened sagacity about me, but maturity in that I realize itÃ‚'s much easier to complain about technological advances than to keep up with them.Ã‚Â IÃ‚'m increasingly becoming the guy who says, Ã‚"bah, my word processor still works on this machine, so itÃ‚'s still good!Ã‚"Ã‚Â Fortunately every few years I have a concurrent event of youthful epiphany and fiscal solvency and in these times I become absorbed with updating my system.Ã‚Â This has been such a time.
With that in mind I recently ordered from Newegg a fancy AMD 64 processor, some PC 3200 Corsair RAM, and the motherboard on which to mount these sleek new parts.Ã‚Â As the idea of gutting my system and rebuilding it festered upon my mind, I uncovered a desire to affix everything into a new case.Ã‚Â Of all the tasks set before me, purchasing and setting up a case seem so rudimentary that I barely considered it at all.Ã‚Â I figured that I should just run up to CompUSA, pick a decent enough case, bring it home, and plug my new equipment into it.Ã‚Â In much the same way that you barely consider the bread upon which you are building a sandwich, but instead put the loving care into spreading just the right volume of condiments, picking a crisp leaf of lettuce, or cutting the tomato just so, I discarded the purchase of my case as the fundamentally easy step in the process..
If IÃ‚'ve learned anything from my experience, itÃ‚'s this: when you get your new case home and think Ã‚"˜that power supply doesnÃ‚'t look rightÃ‚', you should probably act on the assumption that it isnÃ‚'t.
The case, an Antec Lanboy, is nothing particularly notable, an aluminum gray box with a perfectly satisfactory 350 Watt power supply and an average number of drive mounts.Ã‚Â Unlike my now six year old case, missing a number of screws and with a side that sloughs off randomly like a snake trying to shed its skin, it is both functional and not an eye sore.Ã‚Â It cost me some seventy dollars at CompUSA, and should have fulfilled my case needs nicely.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
As I hinted above, once I opened the case I noticed that the power supply looked suspicious.Ã‚Â It had no brand or power information printed on the exterior, and the little piece of tape that says Ã‚"˜warranty void if brokenÃ‚' was in fact broken.Ã‚Â Next to it was a little red sticker that said something along the lines of Ã‚"˜burn in test: OKÃ‚'.Ã‚Â I was uneasy, and with any degree of good sense would have taken the case promptly back.Ã‚Â Unfortunately, like many consumers, the degree of common sense I possess on consumer goods is inversely proportional to how inconvenient it would be to have that common sense.Ã‚Â Add the fact that IÃ‚'m about as certain on computer equipment purchases as I am spending money on car repair, and IÃ‚'m the kind of person who might pay $700 for emergency muffler belt repair.Ã‚Â The case stayed.
Once my Newegg equipment arrived I cleared a space on the dining room table, set out all the equipment I needed, and promptly procrastinated for five days.Ã‚Â Occasionally I would pass through the room and the voices in my head would taunt me for my obvious cowardice in the face of naked computer equipment, but IÃ‚'d rush past as if in a hurry to do some important work in the kitchen, and that was that.Ã‚Â With the arrival of the weekend, I finally admitted that despite my deepest wishes computer elves were not coming to my house to put my computer together.Ã‚Â I got to work.
First I put the processor on board, clamped it down, and then set a heat sink large enough for several smurfs to take up residence on top.Ã‚Â After snapping the RAM into place I was ready to mount the board in the case.Ã‚Â Carefully I placed the board onto the four pre-installed mounting standoffs and determined where IÃ‚'d need to put the rest of the supports.Ã‚Â I took the board back out and went for the six standoffs IÃ‚'d need along with the screws IÃ‚'d need to affix the board to those standoffs.Ã‚Â This was the point when I noticed there were neither standoffs, nor screws, nor hardware of any kind.Ã‚Â
For the next half hour or so I was not unlike a Golden Retriever searching in vein for a favorite chew toy that has, unbeknownst to the canine, been soundly discarded.Ã‚Â I looked for this hardware not only in the places it was likely to be Ã‚– the case, the box for the case, on the table under some papers, on the floor Ã‚– but also in places the screws simply could never have reached without willful locomotion.Ã‚Â These screws were not in the fridge, nor had they fallen into duct work, nor had they ended up in the dishwasher.Ã‚Â It began to dawn on me that they had not even come with the case at all.Ã‚Â The proportionality clause now stretched beyond its limits, I returned to CompUSA.
It is at this point where I have to be honest and say that, with only one exception, the treatment and dedication I received from the staff at CompUSA in trying to help me resolve my problem was outstanding.Ã‚Â For the complaints I will levy against the equipment given to me, it can not be overstated that I was treated as a customer wants to be treated, with respect and with a desire to make my purchase satisfactory.Ã‚Â Credit where credit is due and all that.
I explained my issue to the associate, but it was revealed that I could not simply exchange my case for another as they were discontinuing that model.Ã‚Â I was ok with that as long as they could provide me with some standoffs and screws.Ã‚Â The associate went back to the tech department and brought forth a man to whom I had the opportunity to explain my troubles all over again.Ã‚Â He helpfully noted that there were four standoffs already installed.Ã‚Â I pointed out that I had noticed this, but not only did I need six more standoffs to properly mount the board, but I had no screws for either the standoffs I needed or already had.Ã‚Â Missing the point he asked why I needed more standoffs than had been provided.Ã‚Â I pointed out that no standoffs had been provided at all.Ã‚Â He looked at the four pre-installed standoffs and seemed skeptical but began searching for standoffs.
Eventually he pulled a small package of hardware out of another display Antec case, and asked if I were looking for more of this equipment.Ã‚Â I pointed out that that package was exactly what I should have received with my case, but Ã‚– and this is the important part Ã‚– hadnÃ‚'t.Ã‚Â Finally, he got it.Ã‚Â I knew this because he made a very big oooooooh sound, and then handed me the package.Ã‚Â Before leaving I showed him the power supply and mentioned my concerns.Ã‚Â He assured me the Ã‚"˜do not break this tapeÃ‚' tape had broken from some kind of vibration.Ã‚Â I concluded that he was missing any number of clues.
Home again with the motherboard mounted I began moving equipment and plugging things in.Ã‚Â The twenty pin connector to the main board, the case lights, some fans, two cd-drives, two hard drives.Ã‚Â I noted with some distress that I managed to use up all the plug-ins from my suspect power supply, and wondered what I would ever do if I wanted to install something else that needed power.Ã‚Â YouÃ‚'d think a 350 watt new power supply would have more than a half dozen outlets: or whatever the hell you tech gods call them.Ã‚Â
After an embarrassing number of hours of chopping my old system down and installation into the new system I was ready with some trepidation to press the power button.Ã‚Â I plugged everything in, sat down before the screen and turned the machine on.Ã‚Â After several seconds of confirming that nothing had happened I pressed the power button again, and again, and then set myself to an hour of checking connections, plugging, unplugging, making frustrated grunts, and fruitlessly pressing the power button.Ã‚Â Eventually I came across a plug IÃ‚'d not seen before, a four pin slot below the processor and its towering heat sink; a plug not unlike the main 20 pin power slot only smaller. Upon looking closely at the directions I discovered that this 12 V plug powered the processor.Ã‚Â It should not surprise you to discover that the power supply had no appropriate outlet, despite the case instructionÃ‚'s multiple assurances that it did.Ã‚Â I sighed heavily, cursed once, twice, thrice, and returned to CompUSA.
When I spoke with the tech guy, a different but no less suspicious one, about the 12V connector he assured me that my AMD chip didnÃ‚'t use that plug, and it was purely for Pentium 4s.Ã‚Â This despite the fact that I was actually showing him the plug diagram in an instruction manual for an AMD 64 board.Ã‚Â Still not convinced he opened a nearby display unit running an AMD 64 and showed me how that machine didnÃ‚'t use that plug.Ã‚Â Or, he would have except that it was using that 12 V plug.Ã‚Â Ã‚"Oh,Ã‚" he said.Ã‚Â Then he proceeded to assure me that power supply that came with my case didnÃ‚'t come with that plug.Ã‚Â Having brought the manual that came with my case I showed that, though he was right it hadnÃ‚'t, it really should have.Ã‚Â Again he muttered an Ã‚"˜ohÃ‚' sound and went to retrieve a manager, someone entirely new to whom I could vomit the sordid details of my trials.Ã‚Â When the manager approached I opened my case, still brimming with unused equipment, to illustrate my problem.Ã‚Â The first words out of his mouth Ã‚"…
Ã‚"ThatÃ‚'s not the right power supply for that case.Ã‚"
It was as though someone had come and lifted a weight of violent uncertainty from my chest.Ã‚Â
In time the manager retrieved an $80 400 Watt Antec power supply Ã‚– an even better supply than I should have received Ã‚– from the storeÃ‚'s shelf.Ã‚Â This piece of equipment looked like a power supply should, great tangles of cords and plugs thrusting forth, a glut of power options at my disposal.Ã‚Â And there among the snaking twists of cord, my 12 Volt four prong processor power plug.Ã‚Â I looked upon it the way I look upon my child when he is sleeping, with love and anticipation.Ã‚Â
The manager instructed the tech department to give me the power supply, install it, and make sure my computer got to a POST and BIOS screen before I left, all free of additional charge.Ã‚Â When they finally pulled the questionable power supply free of my case, I discovered with some dismay not only that the power supply was not the right model, it wasnÃ‚'t even the right wattage.Ã‚Â Here was an old, obviously dismantled at some point, 300 watt power supply for my new AMD 64 machine where a 350 watt supply should have been.Ã‚Â IÃ‚'m, in the end, thankful the machine didnÃ‚'t start, that I needed this strange new plug.
And so, everything was fine in the end.Ã‚Â I had my case, my equipment, and a better power supply Ã‚– one more appropriate to my powering needs Ã‚– than IÃ‚'d expected.Ã‚Â Except Ã‚"… I canÃ‚'t help but wonder how my case ended up in the condition it had in the first place.Ã‚Â How had this generic power supply ended up in an Antec case when Antec even makes the equipment themselves?Ã‚Â Certainly if this had been a factory issue, and the wrong supply had accidentally been installed at Antec, it would have at least been their own product.Ã‚Â And where had my standoffs and screws gone?
And then I wondered about what will happen when that other case, the one from which the tech guy had taken the bag of hardware to give to me earlier, when the display unit is sold?Ã‚Â Will it be sold as a display unit?Ã‚Â Will they make it known that there is hardware missing?Ã‚Â Or will it be put in a box, taped up, and sold as new?Ã‚Â Does anyone even know that there is a bag of screws and standoffs that should be in that case, but arenÃ‚'t?Ã‚Â Ã‚Â I canÃ‚'t help but wonder if something similar happened some months ago; that someone had come in needing a replacement power supply and so they just snatched one out of a display case, an Antec Lanboy perhaps with a nice 350 watt supply, and thrown some trash supply from the back in the gaping wound?Ã‚Â Was this what happened to me, a repackaged display case sold as new missing some notable equipment that no one else noticed was even gone?
Fact is, I canÃ‚'t say for sure.Ã‚Â And, while IÃ‚'m glad that the staff at CompUSA took a real effort in solving my problem, IÃ‚'m no less upset about the equipment I received.Ã‚Â In the end my new system works beautifully, but what boat would I be in had I not needed that 12 V plug?Ã‚Â