April 4th, 2006


The reed switch in the Dell

(sung, if you like, to "The Farmer in the Dell". It'll annoy your coworkers, so use with caution)

While I was travelling recently, I began having difficulty with my notebook computer. The backlight of the screen would come on, but no video signal would come through. It was a remarkably analog failure mode; it kind of looked like ice that had been poorly scraped off a windshield.

It took me a while to figure out how to report the failure to Dell - I was still (just) under hardware warranty, so I wanted to get a replacement part before the coverage expired. After wandering around their website, I found a way to report a problem (assuming I was using the machine I was having problems with - fortunately my hardware failure didn't interfere with the process of reporting my hardware failure), and around 8am, I got a call from some contracted service guy to see if he could come out and install the part. He was very apologetic that it took so long to get around to me. It really wasn't that long. I think I reported the problem on Wednesday, and to have somebody come to my house to fix it in less than a week? That's plenty fast for me.

When he got to the machine, he opened up the cardboard box that Dell had shipped him, and it contained a fan. Hm, that's not right. Even more apologetic. He got on the phone to the double-secret Dell support line, and described the broken piece that I needed (which didn't sound like what was going to be replaced during the email back-and-forth, so I think we're making progress) to the folks on the other end of the line.

Turns out the "center hinge cover bezel" is a user-installable part, so I should have a new piece arriving on my doorstep tomorrow afternoon without having to wait for a technician. And they're very sorry for the mixup.

Bottom line: my experience with Dell's hardware warranty is unexpectedly good so far. If I were considering buying a new laptop (oh, hm - I actually have been toying with the idea of getting something a little more plane-friendly), I'd strongly consider checking out Dell.