Archive for April 2008

3bTech

April 18, 2008

Imagine my surprise to discover an on-line store sporting low prices and free ground shipping. I was in the market for a new video graphics card, one that had a usable TV/out feature. This new vendor was offering an ATI card with TV/out for $19.99. I placed my order. Only took about four days and the card arrived in a plain cardboard box.

The card was enclosed in an anti-static bag and accompanied by a CD. Both items were stuffed into a priority mail envelope which was stuffed into the plain cardboard box. Nothing in the shipment, except the invoice, indicated this was an ATI card. No manufacturers box or manuals.

The CD turned out to be intended for an NVIDIA product, not the ATI card that was ordered and received. I downloaded the ATI drivers needed from the ATI website and installed the card in my computer, an Athlon +1800 with 2gig memory and 80gig hard drive.

The computer booted up with the new card but the video did a few vertical flip flops before stabilizing. The display setup software showed a second display, the TV/out, but attempts to route the output to the video connection on a TV failed to present anything but diagonal horizontal lines across the face of the screen.

The card was flakey and the TV/out did not work. Since the whole purpose of buying the card was for the TV/out feature, my new purchase had become worthless. Oh it still worked in a flakey way as a main display card but I had one of those that was not flakey before I purchased this new defective card.

My new purchase was obviously used and most likely a reject or second or rescued from a pile of floor sweepings. Certainly not worth the $19.99 purchase price or my time. I filled out an on-line RMA request with 3btech advising them of the situation and my desire for a refund.

That was two days ago.

Since then I have come to the realization that I have absolutely no reason to believe that an outfit that ships junk is going to fix their problem. I have already spent more time on this fiasco than the card is worth. I really don’t want to spend more time and do not want to invest any money is sending the junk back to the vendor.

So, I threw the offending hardware into the trash along with all records of its purchase and consider the time and money I lost as an investment in discovering that 3btech is an unreliable and unsuitable vendor.

Never mind that their prices are good and their shipping is free. Those things do not matter since their merchandise is no good.

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Netflix

April 9, 2008

We tried Netflix some years ago. As I recall the deal was fifteen dollars a month and three movies at a time by mail. The movie selection was so-so and the price was a little high so we let our subscription lapse.

Since then we have been critical customers of all three cable and cable-like services in our area. We started with Direct-TV. Then tried Dish Network to get their ‘deal’ on multiple receivers. Even tried Comcast but unsuccessfully because the installer they sent out was a hopelessly incompetent boob. We sent him packing and told Comcast we could not do business with them. Against company policy.

Now we have ATT U-verse which is a combination broadband internet and cable service at a very reasonable price. Yes, U-verse is okay but it has the same programming content we got with Direct TV, Dish Network, and would have had with Comcast. Hundreds of channels but most of them not worth watching. Lots of infomercials and offers of pay per view. My feeling is that they should be paying me for bringing infomercials to my TV and I already pay to view. I don’t see why I should have to pay more to view.

We recently got an offer to upgrade to the next level of U-verse. Free for the first month and twenty dollars additional per month thereafter. The upgrade would add about 100 stations to our present selection. My wife took a look at those 100 additional stations and concluded that none of them were worth paying an additional twenty dollars per month. What we really need is the ability to be able to select the programming by station or channel. There is lots of trash I would like to get rid of an not be billed for and there are several channels I would like to receive that are not included in my standard, one size fits all, package.

About a week ago we took another look at Netflix. It is hard to ignore their commercials, ‘movies instantly on you pc’. Free trial offers. I finally had to investigate.

Turns out that the Netflix deal is better than anything else out there. They really do provide unlimited movies instantly on my pc. Well, it is not really instantly. It takes a couple of minutes to download the first part to start the movie but it is as fast as any pay-per-view rip off I have ever had the misfortune to be abused by.

The instant Netflix feature is just like cable pay-per-view except you only pay once monthly and can view as many movies as you have time for. For about eight dollars a month you get an unlimited viewing capability of thousands of movies. The price, content, selection, and convenience is far better than anything that cable has to offer.

I have alway wanted the ability to pick and choose the channels in my cable package. Netflix takes this one step further by allowing me to pick and choose an unlimited amount of programming content. It is like having real time access to the HBO movie archives. Well worth the eight dollar a month charge.

You need a fast broadband internet connection and at least a pentium III computer running XP and Microsoft software, but these requirements are not unreasonable.

If you get tired of sitting in front of the computer monitor to watch the movies, you can route the signal to a TV by using a video card that has a TV/out feature.

The Netflix instant movie feature is going to make movie rental stores obsolete. It is also going to take a huge bite out of those pay-per-view ripoffs cable services are famous for.

Consider this: Say you are retired with nothing better to do than watch movies eight hours a day. Each movie runs about two hours so we are talking about viewing at least four movies a day. Lets say we do this every day for a month before getting tired of this. That is four times thirty or 120 movies over the one month period. If we were to go the pay-per-view route it would cost us about three dollars per movie or a total of $360 to watch 120 movies over a one month period. You can do the same through Netflix for a single payment of eight dollars for the month.

So, instead of wasting twenty bucks a month on 100 extra channels devoid of content, we decided to spend eight dollars a month for instant, unlimited pay-per view and access to more movies than we could ever expect to get on HBO, STARZ, and CINEMAX combined.