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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Return of the Belkin UPS - what an experience!

My disappointing experience with the Belkin F6H650 reported in my previous blog forced me with no choice but to return this to the shop.

That experience clearly demonstrates that in today's world one cannot trust anything a shop assistant, no matter his rank, tells you. Sad. In days gone by, they stand by their statement and they would not say anything without real knowledge backing it.

The dialogue with the supervisor of the shop to which I returned the UPS is a sad indictment of today's society that treats customers with total arrogance and instead of providing real service, they are out to rip you off with no shred of worry.

I decided to go to the shop early to avoid crowd and after mentioning my intention to one of the staff, he summoned his supervisor to deal with me and here is the dialogue:

Me: I want my money back from this UPS because 1) before I bought it, I asked the salesman if this had XP native driver and I found that it did not after I bought it, 2) the software that came with it did not even work in high security settings of my XP (I knew if I mention about LUA they would have no idea.). Hence this UPS is totally useless to me.

Sup: (With an air of authority) OK. But why would you expect the battery backup unit needing any software to talk to your computer?

Me: (Not knowing to laugh or to thump this ignorant soul, I decided to ask him a question in return) Alright. Let's say you go away leaving the computer running with this battery back up unit supplying power to the computer. Then the power goes off for more than 30 minutes (the box says it only can last 20 minutes), what'll happen? Or what should I do?

Sup: Well it would only last 20 minutes (after looking at the box) and of course you had to be there to turn your computer off.

Me: Are you serious? The whole idea of a UPS is to ensure the computer is shutdown gracefully. The native driver and/or software is for the back up unit to tell the computer that the mains power has gone and that the computer should begin to run the shutdown process; like closing the files or to initiate hibernation to take place. The native drive does not need any software and is the preferred way. Want me to show you in an XP machine?

Sup: (Turning to his technician) What do you think?

Me: You know in XP, you have admin account, in which I installed the software, and then there is the users account (the low privilege account), the one all my users use. When I run in the users account, the software fails to run and to talk to the UPS.

Tech: Ok. But can't you grant this software administrators' privilege?

Me: Sorry. No way as that would open up the security and is then vulnerable to attacks. I have other UPS that has native driver and not needing this. This is not the first UPS I have but is the first time I tried Belkin. I can't use this UPS.

Sup: Alright. In that case, can you (the technician) check to see everything is in the box and if everything is in order, we would refund the money. Sorry about all these problems.

I hate to imagine what will happen to a less technically knowledgeable person in this situation. The opening remarks from this supervisor clearly tried to intimidate the customer rather than giving him/her valuable and truthful information to resolve the situation. Making such ignorant remark may sound authoritative and knowledgeable to other but to this old hand, it clearly demonstrates that they know nothing about the stuff they are selling.

I am sure he will sell a donkey for a horse if he is in the animal trading business. Company has a duty to staff their store with people that knows what they are selling and a duty to help to solve their customer's need and not just to take the money off their hands.

This applies equally to Belkin that it should use knowledgeable staff to write a driver to interface their UPS with the Windows UPS framework. It is not good enough to please their accountant to supply some rubbish that fails to run and definitely has not been tested in LUA.

UPS software needs to be more robust than your word processor or web browser. It is your last line of defense in the keeping the machine alive and to ensure the operating system shutdown gracefully.

I personally know software companies routinely do not train their staff preferring to acquire the skill when needed. This is fine if the company knows how to ascertain the person has the skill or just some superficial level of knowledge. But in my experience, when they do not have in house skill, they often do not know how to test if a potential candidate has the required knowledge either.

As a result, it is a blind leading the blind situation and Belkin UPS is the by-product of this kind management style. They are not giving their customer the level of service they rightfully deserve.

If you are after a UPS, looks somewhere else. Always look for one that has XP native driver. This is the one that integrate into the Control Panel | Power Options | UPS facility.

Don't be fooled by the pretty bitmap or animation usually come with those that do not have native driver but relying on their software packages. These packages are often written to suit the producer's bottom line rather than genuinely offering enhanced supports. They are, without failing, written to run in a number of platforms. There is nothing wrong with this well meaning intention provided that they conform to each platform's operating system demands properly and completely.

In the case of Belkin's software, this is definitely not the case in XP and not even in Linux. One should remember the following comment from the driver's author:
As the author of the belkinunv driver, and the maintainer of the Belkin subdriver of newhidups, I usually advise people to avoid Belkin at all cost. They produce crappy hardware that often breaks the USB protocol and should not be allowed to operate. In some cases, even their own software does not work properly with their devices.
Thank God, I got my money back and that will be my last association with Belkin UPS.

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