iPhone 5suck

Or, “Apple Doesn’t Have a Customer Loyalty Program”

So, if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you’ve probably noticed that I go through cell phones like most people go through bags of chips. What can I say? I have relatively realistic requirements. One of those requirements, for example, is that any phone that I spend $1,000 on should last more than a year and a month, unless I drop it or get it wet, etc. Hardware-wise, a $1,000 device should last at least a year and change — preferably a minimum of the 2 years that most phones are on contract.

The reason I’m writing today is because that was absolutely not my experience with Apple’s old ‘flagship’ phone, the iPhone 5S.

I bought an iPhone 5S on launch day — switching from AT&T to Sprint in the process (something that has not been without its own caveats, but that’s for another day). That was September 20th, 2013.

In November 2014, I upgrade to iOS 8.1.1 (the day it came out), and my iPhone 5S started behaving somewhat erratically — it started rebooting itself randomly, with a blank blue screen beforehand. It threw some errors in the diagnostic logs about the NAND read/writes timing out. Sometimes it would reboot 6-7 times in a row before it would be usable again, sometimes it would reboot once and work. I figured it was just a bad flash, re-flashed the phone to 8.1.1, configured the device as new (didn’t restore from backup), but the problem persisted.

In December it got notably worse — now the phone was reliably rebooting at least 4-5 times a day, sometimes bootlooping for as much as 10-15 minutes before it was usable again. So, I set a reservation at the “genius” bar nearby and went to go meet some hipster idiot who didn’t give a crap about my problem. It rebooted in front of him, he said “oh, yeah, this. It’s a hardware problem, $270 to replace out of warranty”. I was pretty bothered by this — the phone was about 1-2 months outside of the 1 year included warranty, the problem only began when I upgraded to iOS 8.1.1, and I had already spent >$1,000 on the phone throughout the life of the contract. I talked with the genius for a few minutes before it was apparent he couldn’t really help even if he wanted to, they are seemingly not empowered to do anything other than parrot back policy to you. Nevermind the fact that his comment, “oh, yeah, this,” made me think this was a more widespread issue, which I then confirmed reading through dozens of exactly the same story on the Apple support forums. People with the same phone as me having the same behavior, right after upgrading to iOS 8.1.1. What a shocking coincidence.

So, I did what I do best — I escalated. I wrote Tim Cook an e-mail telling him that as a customer who bought a $1,000 device, I shouldn’t feel like I drew a “short straw”, and that I felt that Apple had a responsibility to ensure that their hardware actually functioned for a legitimate period of time. In contrast, my launch iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4 all still function with no issues as of this posting.

Less than 24 hours later, I received a phone call from a woman who worked in Apple’s corporate customer care department who was interested in working with me to have one of their higher level technicians in Texas do some diagnostics on the phone to validate whether or not it truly was a hardware issue.

Flash forward two weeks of me taking logs and e-mailing them and uploading them and following up, etc., etc., etc., and I finally get the call back from corporate that they have confirmed it was a hardware issue (that could not have been caused by me whatsoever), and that they’re very sorry but it’ll be $270 to replace the device out of warranty. I offer to buy AppleCare for $100 retroactively, which would allow for the replacement of the phone damaged due to hardware problems, but they decline as I can only buy AppleCare during the first 30 days or so after I have the phone. Appreciably, it likely doesn’t make sense for them to sell insurance after the device you’re insuring already breaks, but I figured it was a realistic attempt to meet them halfway, after their expensive piece of crap broke itself for absolutely no reason. They offer no solution other than $270 to replace the phone out of warranty — the replacement phone would only carry a 90 day warranty as well.

I explain to the person that I’m dealing with that I’ve been an Apple customer for *years* and that I have never seen a piece of their hardware spontaneously break itself so soon after purchase. I tell them that I’ve been using the iPhone since the 3G model all the way up through the 5S, and that every previous one of their phones is still functional. I tell them that I’ve been using Macs and Macbooks and MacBook Pros as my personal laptops for quite some time as well — and she cuts me off to tell me “I’m sorry, but Apple doesn’t have a customer loyalty program”.

That pretty much sealed the deal. I was already frustrated that a $1,000 device had failed less than 45 days outside of its included warranty, but the fact that the woman I was on the phone with was so blatant in her response stopped me dead in my tracks.

I told her I was going to dedicate my life to ensuring that everyone I possibly could share the story with would hear it, and that if even one person didn’t buy an iPhone because of it, I’d feel solidly victorious. I’m pleased to say that my father ended up buying a Windows phone instead of an iPhone 6 based on my story.

Anyways, the long and short of it is that Apple doesn’t give a shit about you or me. They don’t give a shit about any potential sale they may lose because of me. They honestly and earnestly give absolutely 0 fucks about the quality of their product, or their brand, or their customers. So, keep that in your mind when you blindly go spending $600 on a terrible watch, $1,000 on your next vendor-locked app ecosystem that they call a phone, or 30% more on your laptop because of a unibody aluminum enclosure. Apple would pretty much prefer you just fuck the fuck right off after giving them your money, and it’s apparent in how they treat their customers.

Me? I spent $200 and bought an HTC One E8 out of contract (which comes with a better warranty than Apple and a replacement guarantee) and haven’t looked back. Removing iTunes caused my computer to breathe a notable sigh of relief.

Sorry, Apple — you may not have a customer loyalty program, but your customers have loyalty to companies that don’t treat them like shit. I’m pleased that I now no longer own a single one of your products that I paid any money for, and I am no longer tied to your eco-system.

If you have an iPhone, I hope you never have to experience what they classify as “support”. It’s frustrating and poorly executed, and engaging with them will make it readily apparent that they truly, honestly, and without a shadow of a doubt do not give one tug of a dead dog’s dick about your problem.

My iPhone 5S? I shattered it into about a thousand pieces in my driveway. Pretty excellent catharsis. In its defense, it took 3 or 4 pretty solid throws straight at the concrete before it truly exploded into components. Sweeping it up was like sweeping away my entire Apple past, which fell into the electronic recycling box with the pieces of my phone.

Fuck you, Apple, and goodbye. Enjoy your sheep, I’m just not one of them any more.

Surface Support Rocks

Or, How Microsoft Decimates Nokia in Customer Service

I mentioned previously that I have a Surface Pro (1st edition model).  I also mentioned that at some point I would post a full review of it — but I’ve been exceedingly lazy about that in the recent past.  Don’t expect that to change today.  I will pass along quickly that I think the device is awesome, I use it as my daily driver for all of my work, and short of a slightly underpowered GPU and less battery life than I’d really prefer (about 6 hours), it’s an awesome device.

In any case, last week I was noodling with it and opened up the Camera app to find that my Surface Pro did not recognize the front-facing camera.  Having had the device for 7-8 months at this point, I was surprised I hadn’t noticed sooner.  I went to Microsoft’s Surface Pro support site (which is really, really well done) and within 5 minutes was able to create an RMA with an Advanced Replacement device being shipped overnight, a package to return the defective one, and a shipping label to make the entire process $0.00 for me.

As expected, the following day, a brand new Surface Pro arrived and I spent an hour or so with a tool called Reflect to image it with the content from my previous device.  It worked like a charm and when it booted off of my new image, the front facing camera worked.  I wiped my old Surface Pro back to factory, stuck it in the box, taped it up, slapped the included label on it and dropped it in a drop-off box.  Total turn-around time from me opening RMA to having a replacement device that was imaged and ready to go was less than 36 hours.

I’m mentioning this solely to point out the difference in behavior between Microsoft and Nokia.  You may remember in my previous Nokia rant that all they offered was for me to pay to ship my obviously defective device to them, wait 2-3 weeks, and then perhaps maybe if they decided that my battery life really was not as good as it had been promised (judging by the reaction on their forums, they seem to believe 3 hours of idle time on a fully charged battery to full discharge is OK), and maybe — JUST MAYBE — replace the phone.

The devices are closer in ‘true’ cost than you’d think.  Buying a Lumia 920 out of contract when it was new is a $500+tax+tag+title ordeal, and buying a Surface Pro (depending on model) is $700.

In short, fuck you again Nokia.  Dealing with (nearly) every other company in the world continually reminds me of how shitty your customer service is.  I hope you all rot and your stupid shitty phones don’t sell.  Dicks.

Ocubook Facerift

Or, watching the neckbeards collectively shit a house.

Last week, the tech world was upended as Mark Zuckerberg announced that he had purchased Oculus Rift for $2Bn in company stock and cash.  Pretty much every neckbeard on the internet (myself included) reacted via knee-jerk, talking about how Oculus was dead now, how the product was going to be covered in like and share buttons, and how the upcoming CV1 Rift would be saddled with Facebook login limitations, etc.

Unlike a lot of the internet, I went to bed that night and woke up the following day with an entirely different take on it.  My viewpoint on the matter isn’t extremely unique, nor is this article going to shed any additional light onto the topic, so I’ll be brief:

  1. $2.4M was never enough to get the CV1 hardware out the door.  If you’re one of the people involved in the intial kickstarter, thank you for proving the viability of the market — but you’re deluded if you ever thought that $2.4M was going to be enough to produce quality hardware at an affordable price.  Also, those of you who somehow think that kickstarting earned you equity in the company, you’re fucking idiots.  You were promised a DK1, you got it, that was it.  You are not a partner in the company because you gave them $350.  Just shut up with that nonsense.
  2. If you think Oculus taking money was selling out, then at least get your facts straight — by that logic, they sold out last year when they took the $90M in venture capital.  You remember last year, when you were all grassroots VR’ing all over the place and everyone was up in arms over the $90M of VC, right?  Wait…  No, you don’t, because it didn’t happen, because you’re not upset with this based on principle, you’re upset with this because of the word Facebook.
  3. VR is not a cheap thing.  It is not cheap to get the hardware working.  It is not cheap to get the right types of displays.  Until the Facebook acquisition, the Oculus Rift was a hodgepodge of cell phone parts craftily duct taped together to form a rudimentary VR device.  The acquisition by Facebook gives Oculus the capital required to custom manufacture new equipment (e.g., low persistence, low latency displays outside of standard cell phone pixel count or aspect ratio as one example) which will ultimately cause the production versions of the product to be notably better than they could have been if they were still built on hand me down hardware.
  4. Every single person involved has claimed that the specifics of the deal clearly indicate that Oculus maintains full control over the Oculus hardware and CV1, and that Facebook will be acting as an almost angel investor — seeding money into the project, knowing that the first launch will not be profitable, and accepting of that fact.  Yes, it’s true, companies will PR all over things like this and say these sorts of things when their userbase is shocked by news of this type — but I don’t think they’re blowing smoke here.  Facebook knows that if they want to tap into that sweet, sweet advertising revenue and gather all of those great use metrics about you using their product, you actually have to OWN the product first.  So, their comment that they were leaving the hardware alone and focusing on software does not seem to fall flat for me.

Anyways, my DK2 is on pre-order, so if you still think Facebook is “TEH GREAT EVIL OF OUR TIM3!!111!!111oneoneone!!!eleventyone”, don’t order one (or cancel your pre-order so mine ships sooner), and we will all have a good laugh when the CV1 comes out and Palmer and the Oculus team are proven to be telling the truth.

eCig Upgrades!

It has officially been 120 days since I smoked my last ‘analog’ cigarette, and boy oh boy do I feel a lot better because of it.

During the last 4 months, I’ve expanded my juice horizons, replaced my battery, and switched tanks — so here’s some new data!

The new battery is the iTazte VTR. I love my stick-style iTazte VV 3, but the 800mah capacity in it was sorely limiting. When I started vaping primarily at 11W, I could extinguish the battery in about 4-5 hours at best. It was a passthrough device, so I could just throw it on the charger, but that got to be a liability — now that I feel better, can breathe better, etc., I’m looking at doing some climbing camping trips in the near future and I will need to go more than a few days without access to USB or power. I wanted more capacity, but did not want the device to look like the huge boxes with an atomizer sticking out the top (like, say, the iTazte MVP2). The VTR met all of those requirements.

The iTazte VTR is effectively the same circuitry as the iTazte VV 3, including the variable voltage and wattage functionality (though it provides an increase in the available voltage and wattage range), but in a bigger, heftier package and built around replaceable, rechargeable 18650 cells. FastTech (aka SlowShip) had a deal on the device for about $70. I picked it up with 2x Panasonic 3400mAh 18650 cells and a Nitecore i2 charger for just at $100 shipped.

Another change with the VTR is that the primary threading on it is 510 threading — not eGo threading like the Kanger MT3S tanks and other tanks used. Instead of attaching to the external threads on the outside of the center post, it attaches to the center stalk and threading. As such, in order to use the Kanger MT3S tanks, I would need to use the extender tube included with the VTR which would make it the same form factor as the MVP2 — a large box with an atomizer sticking out of the top.

To address this, I purchased several of the Aspire Vivi Nova-S BDC Tanks. These are strikingly similar to the Aspire ET-S BDC tanks that I had been using (which are in turn strikingly similar to the Kanger MT3S tanks I had previously recommended), but are 510 threaded and have an ever so slightly increased capacity — about 3.5ml. They work almost identically to the previous tanks I had been using, they just socket right in to the VTR and the only thing exposed past the top of the battery is the drip tip.

Last but not least, due to a notable increase in shipping times from Ms. T’s bakery (20-30 business days, eek), I started shopping around for new juices and found a few that I really liked.

First is a replacement for Ms T’s Snickerdoodle — it’s by a company called Seduce Juice, and it goes by the name of Snickerdoodledoo. It’s not quite 100% as good as Ms T’s, but it’s half the price and ships the same day. That’s worth a lot when you’re fighting addiction, as far as I’m concerned.

Second was a new fruity vape I had tried. Historically I’ve liked blueberry and strawberry and such, and also had good luck with an orange juice flavor — but I wanted something a little lighter and preferably citrus-y. I found Mt. Baker Vapor’s Arnold Palmer flavoring and bought a small bottle with 2x flavor shots and was immediately impressed when I received it. As such, I bought 236ml of it the next week.

All in all, it’s been an interesting 4 months of vaping — I feel a whole lot better, my heart rate and blood pressure are WELL within healthy ranges, and this one time two weeks ago I had a dream where I smoked a real cigarette, and woke up in a cold sweat feeling like I had cheated on my wife or something.

Good times.

Talking from both sides of the mouth

Or, Nokia’s customer disservice team.

So, I had previously mentioned on my blog during a rant about iPhones and Podcasts and such that I had previously used a Lumia 920.  This becomes somewhat important to me again because Nokia was in the news this past week for offering a Samsung Galaxy S4 customer whose phone had caught fire a free Lumia as a replacement.  This struck an unhappy chord for me, because I had a pretty damning experience with Nokia customer support that put me off of using their products pretty much forever.  Yes, I will carry a grudge like you read about.  I will boycott products and companies that I don’t feel deserve my money, and I will be loud and obnoxiously outspoken to anyone who will listen when I do.

Let’s flash back to November of 2012, I’ve switched from an iPhone 4 to a Galaxy S3 (and am not liking it very much), and Nokia’s new flagship phone (The Lumia 920) is about to be released.  A buddy of mine is going to the AT&T store to pick one up, and I tag along in the interest of seeing the phone (and contemplating a purchase).  We get to the store and I get a chance to hold on to the phone, and aside from the plastic back that feels a little bit loose, the phone is pretty well built, I really enjoyed the UI, and ended up purchasing one of them out of contract for about $450.  On the ride home from the store, I’m setting e-mail up on the phone and it hard locks, gets really hot, and eats through about 20% battery in something like 10 minutes.  I hard reboot the phone and it starts behaving.

Over the next few weeks, I am introduced to the absolute worst battery life in any device I have ever, EVER experienced.  The absolute best that I ever got out of that phone (and only ONE TIME), I got 12 hours of idle time and absolutely no usage.  Mind you, after having battery life issues initially I turned every single turn-offable thing in the phone off.  I didn’t multitask apps (hell, I even forgot it was capable of doing it because I was so diligent about force closing apps in effort to keep my battery going), bluetooth was turned off, NFC was turned off, every single thing in the phone that I could turn off to enhance battery life was turned off.  I turned on their battery saver utility, never ran Nokia Drive (apparently a culprit for sucking battery life out of these things), and still managed to on average get 6-8 hours of idle.  Other times, the phone would randomly overheat in my pocket and eat about 30%-50% of battery in 15-20 minutes.  A quick search of Nokia’s forums showed many, many people having this problem.  Matter of fact, the Forbes reviewer that reviewed the Lumia 920 had the exact same problem.

I went back to the AT&T store in effort to have them replace the phone, but they were unable because the phone was a new phone, yada yada, I had to contact Nokia to arrange a replacement.  So, I did — and this was just a bad idea.  I should have just sold the phone at this point and called it a day.  BUT ALAS, I did not, and now you have something to read.

I call Nokia and their support is pretty useless — they parrot back to me everything I tell them I’ve done as though I haven’t done it, they ask me to reset the phone the way I already told them I had, they tell me to turn off bluetooth, etc. etc. etc.  Of course, I have already told them I’ve done this, but whatever, I do it again as a show for the idiot on the phone with me.  A few days later (they wouldn’t believe me that this didn’t fix the problem, I had to get off the phone with them and wait for time to elapse before re-calling them about the issue to explain that the troubleshooting didn’t work), and when I finally convinced them that I (and hundreds of other people) weren’t making this up, their only available solution was for me to ship the phone to them for a minimum of 2 weeks (they claimed it could take as long as 6 weeks!) for ‘warranty review’.  On a brand new phone, less than 1 month old.  I explained to the technician that he had his head jammed up his ass if he believed that in 2013 he could ask for someone to ship their primary cellular phone in for review for 2 weeks, and I expressed my surprise that Nokia did not have any sort of advanced replacement program.  They couldn’t even charge me full price for a replacement phone and then credit it back when they received mine.  They pretty much have the worst possible warranty support that could exist in 2013 short of not actually offering to look at the product.  I escalated the issue to Nokia’s executive office and unsurprisingly got the same bullshit back — no advanced replacement plan exists, you need to ship the phone in for 2 weeks minimum for us to review it.

So, fuck that.  I sold the piece of shit on craigslist at a loss ($200 loss, because no one wanted that terrible phone), and went back to my iPhone 4.

The reason I’m talking about this today is to point out Nokia’s inconsistent behavior:

1) Forbes reviewer got a Lumia 920 phone.  Their phone had the exact same battery life issue, and Nokia overnighted them a replacement.  I’d like to remind you, this was NOT a customer.  They paid $0 for the Lumia 920, and they got a free overnight replacement.  My guess is they didn’t have to return either of the phones they received to Nokia.

2) Samsung Galaxy S4 customer’s phone catches fire (allegedly).  Nokia’s twitter account reaches out to him and offers him a free Lumia.  Again, this is not a paying customer.  He paid Nokia $0, and is being offered a free phone.

3) User on twitter complains about their blackberry not working.  Nokia’s twitter account reaches out to them and offers a 2 week trial of a Lumia 1020.  Again, not a paying customer.  He paid Nokia $0, and is being offered a two week trial of the flagship Lumia phone at present.  (A solution, I might add, that would have been great for, oh, say a PAYING FUCKING CUSTOMER WITH A BROKEN DEVICE)

Through all this, Nokia’s support and the idiots managing their twitter account had absolutely no idea why I was upset — they just don’t understand why giving non-customers free phones while completely shafting paying customers is a problem.  A fact they have drilled in by continuing to offer non-customers free phones and phone trials, even after acknowledging (via the VERY SAME TWITTER ACCOUNT) that paying customers have to ship phones into a black hole for service.

So, in short, fuck you Nokia.  Your service is terrible and terribly inconsistent.  You obviously are more concerned with expanding your market share than taking care of any of your customers.  I’m not the only person you’ve screwed, and I’m 100% certain I won’t be the last customer your screw.  I will, however, make it my life’s mission to ensure that no one I ever have a greater than 5 minute conversation with will ever consider your shit brand of phones in the future.

Bad service pays in spades.  Even if 1/100th of the people I bicker to about this never buy Nokia again, I win.  Your lack of support has already cost you one customer, and I will do everything in my power (minimal though it may be) to ensure that as many people don’t buy from you as well in the future.


UPDATE: I fixed most of the math, added the average cost of smoking an e-cigarette, totaled some numbers, and changed some of the wording because I felt like it.

So, I smoke cigarettes. I have for a lot of years, it’s a nasty habit, and I don’t like doing it. When the e-cigarette revolution occurred, I tried early on to get onto the bandwagon with the blucigs brand, but didn’t really like it. Flash forward something like 2.5 years and I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out a good e-cigarette setup that works for me. I’ll spare you the lengthy diatribe about it, but will quickly drop my current parts list:

eGo C v2 Upgrade 900mah Pass-through

Kangertech MT3s 3.0ml Steel Bottom Wick w/ 1.8ohm Atomizer

MsT’s Bakery Snickerdoodle or Cappuccino

In any case, to help me see the direct result of the good choice of never smoking real cigarettes again, I’ve thrown together a quick javascript function to show how many days it’s been since my last cigarette, how many cigarettes I have not smoked, and how much money I’ve saved in doing so. It’s only mostly accurate — I smoked about a pack and a half or so a day on average, and the easiest way to make this work was just to assume one cigarette per hour throughout the day. If I really get pedantic about it, I’ll fix the math up to handle awake hours and asleep hours (at least an average period), and then do additional math to figure out exactly how many cigarettes I was smoking per hour I was awake. I’ll get there one of these days. I’m also actually going to be honest about it since it only really means anything if I don’t lie to you or myself about it. Funny how that works.

I’m pretty certain no one else cares about this, but fuck you anyways because I do — and I want it public on the webbertubes.

Why are you still here? Go away.

Sprint, Siri, and Why I Miss Windows Phone 8

So, I recently switched from AT&T (god damn do they suck) to Sprint (god damn does their coverage suck), and in doing so, upgraded from my iPhone 4 to a 5S.  One of the ‘benefits’ of this upgrade was that I now have access to Apple’s idea of a personal assistant, Siri.  As I was previously a Windows Phone 8 user (fuck you Nokia, and your shitty fucking battery life, and your shitty fucking support, and your shitty treatment of your customers — no wonder your phone business is failing, you’re a company of assholes), I had been looking forward to replacing one of the nicest Windows Phone 8 features finally in my iPhone — voice dictation for SMS.

As previously mentioned, I have a fairly lengthy commute.  I classify myself as a fairly safe driver, and as such I do not use my phone while driving unless it is just for conversation over bluetooth.  I do not text and drive under any circumstance — it’s exceedingly dangerous.  If you do it, you’re an asshole and I hope that when you inevitably crash, you only manage to hurt yourself.  Dick.  In any case, Windows Phone 8 had a really well written feature where if you received an SMS while the phone was connected to a bluetooth hands free set, it would come over the set and say “Text message from (contact name) received.  Read it or ignore?”.  I’d say “Read it”, and it would read the text message for me.  It would then ask if I wanted to reply, and if I said yes, it would take voice dictation for my reply, read what it received back to me, and ask me for confirmation to send.  The voice recognition itself was extremely good, I wasn’t ever able to throw it for a loop.  Beyond that, all of this was handled 100% by the phone.  I did not need internet access in order for it to transcribe my voice to text, I only needed cell coverage to send the SMS itself.

I received my 5S on launch day (surprisingly, no one was in line at Sprint for one of these things.  I suppose that’s because it actually requires you to have customers in order for them to queue up outside.  I digress.) and was surprised to find that Siri does not automatically ask you if you want her to read an incoming text message when you’re connected over bluetooth.  Well, no big deal, all I have to do is hold the home button to get Siri up and then tell her to “Read SMS”.  The first time I tried this, Siri chugged for about 10 seconds and then said “I’m very sorry about this, but I’m afraid I can’t take any requests right now.”  I didn’t know at the time how frequently I would hear that in the coming days.  Turns out (and this isn’t really news to anyone in the know about these things), Siri requires internet connectivity to do fucking *anything*.  There is list of about 3 things Siri can do without being connected to the internet, and they are all entirely useless.

I’ve now had the 5S for a month and then some, and I have given up on Siri entirely.  Perhaps it’s a Sprint network coverage issue, but 75% of the time I ask Siri to do anything, I just get a shitty response about how she can’t fucking do anything right now.  I could be stationary with 5 bars of LTE coverage, and Siri will still refuse to do shit for shit complaining that “Something has gone wrong” or “I’m very sorry about this …”.  What a fucking joke.  Every time someone tells me know that they think Siri is cool, I immediately think they’re a fucking moron.

The end, go away.

It’s CRUCIAL you read this …

Or, The Data Loss Rollercoaster

So, I bought an mSATA SSD a year or so ago to go into a laptop I purchased that (obviously) had an mSATA port in it.  The manufacturer had elected to include a microscopic mSATA drive and to use it for cache acceleration only, but I wanted to get a big enough drive to toss the entire OS on it and have the laptop boot from it.  I did some research and at the time, the most cost effective drive for me was a Crucial m4 120GB mSATA SSD, which I got for something like $120 from Amazon.  Not a bad price.

I’ll divert here to complain about the laptop I have, which is nobody’s fault but my own, but I’m going to complain anyways.  I bought a Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition for about $1,050 a little while ago — decently spec’d laptop, and surprisingly good build quality for both a Dell and their much maligned Inspiron line.  All in all, I’m pleased with the purchase — it was cheap, the device is well built, used pretty decent materials, etc.  I do have the problem where it’s got both an AMD 7730M and an Intel GPU in it, and of course only Dell’s (horrendously fucking outdated) drivers will properly support both GPUs and switching between them by application, but I digress.

Bringing it back to the main thread here, I bought an mSATA SSD to put into my laptop.  Once Amazon delivered my shiny new SSD, disassembly of the Inspiron had to occur.  I cannot express to you in words how poorly designed the internal of the Inspiron 15R is SOLELY from the perspective of someone trying to replace the mSATA drive.  I shit you not, by the time I had the mSATA drive exposed, there was not a single screw in the chassis or screen left.  It seriously was the absolute last piece of equipment in the entire laptop by the time it was free.  Every. Single. Piece. Other. Than. The. mSATA. Had. To. Be. Removed.

FUCK that was a pain in the ass.  I’m pretty good about shit like that too, and it still took me about 90 minutes to take everything apart, get the mSATA SSD put back in, then another 20-30 minutes to put it all back together again.

In short, Dell, I hate your hardware designer.

ANYWAY, so I replaced the tiny cache SSD with my 120GB Crucial M4 SSD, installed my OS, and was off and running.  Performance was spectacular as you’d expect from an SSD, all is right with the world.

Flash forward about 7-8 months — I’ve gotten a Surface Pro at this point (I’ll post about how much I fucking love that device some other time), and as such haven’t been using the laptop very much.  I go to turn it on without being plugged in and apparently it had been long enough that there was just enough battery left to turn it on, but not enough battery to do anything else.  Screen lights up, Dell logo, then battery kicks and machine cuts off.

This is where things start getting stupid.

I plug the laptop back in and turn it on and am greeted by a blue screen from Windows 8, effectively the Windows 8 equivalent of the “INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE” BSOD.  I reboot and check in bios and it tells me “mSATA:  Not Installed”.  GODDAMNIT.  Thankfully, I only had my OS on that drive and all my data was safe, but I really didn’t want to open the machine back up to get that mSATA out to send back to Crucial.  Digging around in forums, I find that the Crucial M4 series of mSATA SSDs has a SERIOUS and glaring fault — if the SSD loses power unexpectedly, it will fail to be recognized by the BIOS again until you perform a lengthy power cycle (that they recommend involve physically unplugging the mSATA drive from power/data, which in my case WAS NOT A FUCKING OPTION).  So, per their instructions, I turn on the laptop and bring it into BIOS and let it sit for 20 minutes, after which I unplug the battery, power down the laptop and unplug the power cord from it for 30 seconds while holding the power button to ensure the entire main board fully discharged.  Power the machine back on and my SSD has magically reappeared, my system boots, all is good.  Following direction from Crucial support, I update the drive to the latest firmware (which is supposed to address the power loss / faux-brick behavior) with no issues and turn the laptop back off again.

Flash forward another 3 months and my Surface Pro was in another room and I was too lazy to go get it, so I powered on my laptop and decided it was time to upgrade it to Windows 8.1 as well.  Well, (and this is on me) I made the same mistake twice — I didn’t plug it into power, turned it on, it showed the Dell logo, immediately cut off, and as expected my Crucial M4 SSD was no longer visible to the BIOS.  CURSES.  Completed the 20 minute power cycle and got the drive back, booted into Windows, went to Crucial’s website and noted there was a new firmware, highly recommended update, it directly addresses this power loss / power cycle issue.  Downloaded the Windows firmware installer and ran it.


System stops.  SSD has disappeared while the OS is running, the entire system hard locks.  Reboot, SSD is gone from BIOS, INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE BSOD.  Mother fucking god damnit.

Download Crucial’s linux .ISO and spend 15 minutes trying to turn it into a bootable USB drive before realizing that even though it’s 2013, I do still actually have a spindle of CD-Rs somewhere, spend 45s burning the stupid ISO and boot it —

No eligible SSD found.

GAH.  Fuck this stupid SSD.  I still really don’t want to take the fucking laptop apart again, so I’m willing to try anything to make it work.  I decide to give it one last power cycle to see if I can get the drive recognized in BIOS again and booting.  20 minutes later, and much to my surprise, the drive reappears.  I take the opportunity to boot off the ISO and attempt to flash the drive and am greeted with yet another error message:

SSD is already running the current version of firmware.

Let me get this straight — your poorly designed SSD (that crashes any time it loses power unexpectedly) crashed itself immediately following a firmware update (to the point that it errored out and took the entire running OS with it as it was dropped by BIOS and unresponsive), a firmware update that was designed solely to resolve the power loss / power cycle issue, and had to be power cycled in order to be brought back to working.  I’m not even going to get into the complete and utter bullshit oversight by a company who thinks that it’s OK for a drive to completely lose its mind when it loses power abruptly (I mean, has Crucial ever heard of a laptop before in their entire lives?)

So in closing, don’t buy a Crucial M4 SSD unless you want to play Six Flags over Your Data and spend time power cycling shit over and over again.  This drive will absolutely die on you, but the good news is that in most cases it dies, all it wants is a little attention to get back to booting.

Fuck you, Crucial.

Now go away.