Tuesday 28 June 2016

The misery of buying a 4K Benq 32" BL3201PT from Amazon

Another story of broken hardware, out of the box. My 2 year old Yamakasi 30” monitor, with a 2560x1600 display, that was about to be listed as hero hardware, died. E-mails to Yamakasi went unanswered, so money down the drain. I decided to go 4k, and after reading a lot of reviews went for a Benq, BL3201PT from Amazon Warehouse Deals, and hence began another wretched episode, that I’ll cover in two parts. From the outset it’s worth mentioning that Amazon censored my review, which wasn’t much of a review but a factual list of how badly I was treated. In fact they had a review cull and removed other reviews too that showed defects in videos etc. Most odd was that one of the older critical reviews had been there for months, and mine was up for over a week before they had their review cull, negative ones only of course. More on that in part two, but here’s what Amazon censored to start with:-

I’ll dispense with opinion, and just list what Benq have ‘done’ to date, bearing in mind that I don’t actually have a monitor that I paid £700 for that they collected 23 days, i.e. over three weeks, ago, i.e. I have the e-mails sat on Google’s Gmail server as proof of their behaviour.

Monitor is just six weeks old and develops a flicker/glitch problem, more on that at the end. 

Day 1: Contact Benq Support. Support ticket issued by e-mail, but then nothing happens.

Day 2: DPD van turns up with a collection request on behalf of RepairTech. The driver has no idea what is to be collected, and does not know anything about Benq, so nothing given. More tickets opened, again no e-mails after support ticket e-mails issued.

Day 8: Benq get in touch, claim I never received e-mails they sent, though ticket acknowledgements came through just fine, and the very e-mail they had sent claiming this had come through. They offer a choice of a repair or a re-furbished unit, the latter is their “normal service term”. I agree to a re-furbished unit.

Day 12: They decide not to provide re-furbished unit claiming that it’s “of easy solution”, and that, “you will have your monitor back in short time.”

Day 15: The monitor is collected by DPD, they (RepairTech is Benq’s UK repair agent) receive it the following day, DPD confirm this in an e-mail when asked.
All e-mails are now not answered.

Day 25, 9 days after it was received, Benq send an e-mail that now claims that it was only received on day 24, although it was signed for having been received the following day, i.e. day 15. The e-mails were not being answered, as sole Benq employee who deals with defective monitors was absent due to being ill.

Day 35, i.e. over three weeks on, all e-mails on requesting a status update are now being ignored, no timescale, no re-refurbished monitor, nothing.

What’s the problem? The whole picture flickers every so often, and very rarely, also produces a crackling sound from its speakers.

Using VLC media player and doing a simple well timed screen grabs, no need to do slow motion, shows what the flicker is, it’s a band that appears across the screen. Graphics cards used:-

Gigabyte AMD Radeon R9 270

.. and finally a brand new graphics card purchased to better cope with games at 4k resolution:-

Sapphire Radeon R9 390 NITRO Tri-X Graphics Card - 8 GB GDDR5 - 512-bit - 1040 MHz

Different display port cables used too, with no difference.
Video flickers at 9 seconds, and then at 15 seconds. The images speak for themselves.

Oh and here's the video.

Saturday 2 January 2016

Another iPad mini dies in its 'sleep'. Hate Apple, warm to Sony.

So another day, another blog entry, one written months ago, and found today. Time to put Apple in my bad book of poor manufacturers. The then bane of my life, an Apple iPad mini. In an older blog entry, I praised Apple for having quickly replaced, on the spot, my younger son’s dead iPad, that had literally died in its sleep. I thought nothing of the fact that it had died after just 8 months of use. However my elder son, who takes even more care of his hardware than his younger sibling had his iPad die on him in identical fashion. He put it on charge overnight, and in the morning it was dead and totally so, no sign of life. Try the usual, different charges, different leads, try hard resetting it by pressing home and off buttons together for ages etc. Nothing, same as before. Well not quite the same, this one was slightly older, it was, shock horror, 15 months old. I might as well start being disparaging from the outset. Yes 15 months, which apparently is three months longer than an Apple device is meant to last, after which it is beyond reasonable economic repair and is destined for landfill. The idea being that you pay for Apple care, which is extortionate (yes I know millions of Apple users love it and it’s obviously only me and few others who find it extortionate), or throw it in the bin and buy a new one.

Well I for one am not made of money, and find it outrageous that a near £250 piece of hardware when purchase was now, dead, and just after 15 months of use. So how did I arrive at this conclusion, i.e. it’s now landfill. Well time to step back in time some two months or so.

How to not get your iPad serviced in 10 easy steps.

A little background, my eldest son is 16, and I’d like him to experience the real world, so sent him on the mission to try to get it repaired. So he goes to the Apple Store in the Trafford Centre (that’s Manchester to the uninitiated) and they quote him a price of £180 to fix, but tell him that he should take to ‘3’ as it was on their contract originally and they will sort this out.

So off he went to ‘3’. ‘3’ said no can do, we need a confirmation from Apple that it’s dead.

Back to Apple. Apple provide the necessary report, all seems to be going well.

Back to ‘3’. They take the report, but now have new requirement, they want some form of proof of purchase.  At this point my son gives up and comes over to me to ask for help.

I suggest he thinks about this a little, but I give in and provide some advice, ask them if they would be happy with the eBay invoice we have for the iPad.

Back to ‘3’. My son goes and asks them if the eBay receipt will be enough. They go, yes that will be fine, bring it over and we’ll sort it out.

So we abandon our iPad repair quest for the day and return home. We printed off the receipt they wanted, and went back again a few days later.

Back to ‘3’. My son gives the Apple report and the receipt over, now different staff there and they tell him a new story. Ring our call centre with details, we can’t do anything here.

Son comes back to me and his mum. Now mum decides to intervene, goes over and states that the staff members my son met previously asked him to come back with documentation. Their response was an expected, “Oh old staff was wrong” and that was that.

So back home again, I now ring ‘3’, or rather the Indian half of ‘3’ that appears to be what ‘3’ is, the shop front is just that, an utterly useless shop front for selling you things. Support? Well the support I had received from their shop is not my idea of support.

After about an hour on the phone, being passed around various departments, the whole things turns into an argument about my pay as you go account with them being useless, and that they will not offer a repair, all that I was told by the shop was irrelevant, it is the Indian half (call centre?) that runs the show from over 4000 miles away and that is that.

Oh yes, why did I declared the iPad to be landfill, well, here goes. A second hand one with a proper one year warranty could be bought for just £150! Which is less than Apple’s repair cost. Apple Care would have cost us £85. So adding 1/3 to the price and only covering it for an extra year. As I am trying to teach my son how to budget, it was not going to be an option for him to pay for that. Then again a used Android tablet would have had a longer warranty and cost less, e.g. a Sony Z Ultra, two years RTB warranty.

So we gave up, and now I have written this.

What am I sorely tempted to do? Waste £50 and take Apple to a small claims court, on the grounds that a £250 iPad should last more than 15 months and that it is their manufacturing process that’s deficient. Problem is have I got the time to do this, wouldn’t it be easier just to spent the £150 or and buy another? Probably. Not only that but if the iOS apps are not that important, my son borrowed my little used iPad 3, then why not go for an Android tablet instead?

If anyone, and it might not even be one person (!), has been following my exploits, then they may be wondering how is it that I am not as Android hostile as I used to be.  Well that should be the subject of another blog entry, one that would describe how Sony included a backup program in their Android build that actually does quite a good job and made an upgrade from an Xperia Z1 to a Z2, quite a lot easier than it used to be.


The above was written quite a few months ago, since then that iPad mini sat propped up near some books, and all it did was remind me of how much it makes me hate Apple every time I see it. Yes I had a trusty local repair chap look at it, and he told me the battery is fine, the logic board is dead, and hence it’s worthless. I sent my son again to the Trafford Centre Apple Store, this time to ask for a corporate address to take them to a small claims court, and they just gave him, now a 17 year old, the URL for Apple UK which he is meant to give to the lawyer he’s meant to hire. Truly obnoxious. No there’s no address there, and on-line I found two, and can’t be sure which one to use.

In the meantime I wasn’t going to make my son suffer, he achieved 2 A*’s, 4 A’s and 4 B ‘s in his GCSE’s (all sciences were A/A*), so he was allowed to select some treats and he chose to upgrade his ageing Sony Xperia T to a (used but pristine) Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. He gave up the iPad 3 he had borrowed from me, which we sold last month. Good riddance, we now have just two iPad mini’s remaining in the household. Oh and the old Mac Mini that’s been replaced by an MXIII 4k media player; need to sell that. Actually I did sell it, to some moron on eBay who decided it was faulty, when it wasn’t, and then forced me to accept the return. Selling on eBay, the stuff of nightmares. Many a story I have to tell, for another time, if ever.

The march of Sony Xperia Android phone is now reaching saturation point in our household, two Z2’s, a Z and that old Xperia T which is behaving a little oddly.

Firefox's session managers strikes again, 50+ open tabs lost!

... but read on for a quick and dirty solution ...

New day, new gripes, but here’s a common one, Firefox’s session manager. Well it has improved a lot over the years, so much so that when my browser was eating 2GB and running like treacle due to what seemed like an extension memory leak, I turned off all extensions and then re-enabled the essentials one, I didn’t turn on the Session Manager extension, and trusted Firefox’s built in one.
Obviously one day the browser crashed and I restarted it as I had done several times, and expected it to offer me the option of opening the previously open tabs. For whatever reason it didn’t happen, I just ended up with a single tab. Restarting the browser again, hoping that it would pick the old session, was a mistake. I now had a backup copy that only had a single tab in it.

So this is point at which restoring old session store files etc. has all failed. Problem was that looking at the session.js file (found in the directory C:\Users\furbian\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\****.default) it appeared all my old tabs and some even older were present as a jumbly.

But no matter what I did, it would not re-open those tabs, maybe if I looked into how the file is structured I could find a way to move the old tab URL’s into the area where it reads those from when opening a new session? So I tried browsing for details on how the session store file is structured, and didn’t come across much, other than this :-


.. and this ...


These forums were useful, but I couldn’t get the HTML code to work, so took a simpler approach.

Loaded Sublime edit, opened the file and replaced all http:// with “\nhttp://” basically just line breaking before each URL, and now it was just gunk with a lot of URL’s on individual lines. Some had extraneous parameters added on, but I had a good list I could whittle down to the 50 odd tabs I had open quite easily, a few further search and replaces to clean it up, and that the job was done.

Oh I’ve now gone back to using Session Manager again, as it stores an excellent frequent history, and has never caused me to loose a single open tab.