Discussion:
Slightly OT: Bad Cap Saga
(too old to reply)
Curious George
2008-08-17 16:11:58 UTC
Permalink
Hi,

I'm seeing a *lot* of "broken devices" that *just* have
bad electrolytics somewhere in the power supply, etc.

So far, I've fixed motherboards, PC power supplies,
DVD recorders, LCD monitors, etc. *just* by replacing bad
caps. (in one case, it was fairly obvious that the
problem was a design error -- e.g., 10V devices on
a 12V line)

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it
is distressing to see so much stuff discarded as "bad"
when it has such simple problems. It also is scary as
it makes me wonder what of *my* devices will suffer from
this same fate!

On the other hand, it's a bit of a "boon" since I can take
a "worthless" device and, for a dollar or two in components
end up with a perfectly functioning item!

I know there is talk of "capacitor plague" and some legend
about industrial espionage gone wrong, etc. (though none
of that explains the 10V devices on the 12V line! :> )
But, the variety of manufacturers that I have been finding
really has me doubting that -- did *10* companies share this
stolen secret? Are all 10 companies really the same single
company? Etc.

Of course, the cap names that *I* grew up with (Sprague, Mallory,
etc.) are nowhere to be found. I'm sure most of these parts
are made in the Far East, etc.

Anyone have similar experiences to share? Or, other insights
as to this problem? I've always known caps and connectors to
be the weakest parts of any design but this is getting to be
ridiculous! :<
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-17 16:21:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
I know there is talk of "capacitor plague" and some legend
about industrial espionage gone wrong, etc. (though none
of that explains the 10V devices on the 12V line! :> )
But, the variety of manufacturers that I have been finding
really has me doubting that -- did *10* companies share this
stolen secret? Are all 10 companies really the same single
company? Etc.
It's not a legend, it's documented fact. There have been links
to it posted on this list in the past, check the archives.

As for how wide spead it is, the capacitors found their way into almost
all consumer electronics. The company seriously undercut the compettion.

It's also common to manufacture unmarked components to be rebranded
and sold by other companies, often the competition. It makes the
whole "competative bidding process" work.

I won't say every, but most Tiwanese companies bought capacitors
from them.


As for 10v capacitors on the 12v line, it's not unusual. They are
often sold with a 20% "safety" rating, e.g. a 10v cap will withstand
12 volts, and quite possibly, 12.5 or 13. Since there is a big difference
in price and the units are sold from the manufacturer without warranties,
it's worth the chance.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Ethan O'Toole
2008-08-17 16:53:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
I'm seeing a *lot* of "broken devices" that *just* have
bad electrolytics somewhere in the power supply, etc.
AFAIK electrolytic caps will *always* dry out, correct?

I mess with classic video games, and the first thing you always do on a
machine you just got is recap the monitor. Just did a donkey kong, and she
came out beautiful! Recapped the audio amp board, that fixed audio.
Recapped the monitor, that fixed picture. *shrug*
der Mouse
2008-08-17 17:01:58 UTC
Permalink
I know there is talk of "capacitor plague" and some legend about
industrial espionage gone wrong, etc. [...] But, the variety of
manufacturers that I have been finding really has me doubting that --
did *10* companies share this stolen secret?
The "industrial espionage gone wrong" applied not to a consumer
electronics maker, but to a capacitor maker. The resulting caps were
sold to _everybody_, so, yes, it's not a bit surprising to see ten
different brands, or even ten different assembly houses, affected.

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Curious George
2008-08-17 18:53:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by der Mouse
I know there is talk of "capacitor plague" and some legend about
industrial espionage gone wrong, etc. [...] But, the variety of
manufacturers that I have been finding really has me doubting that --
did *10* companies share this stolen secret?
The "industrial espionage gone wrong" applied not
to a consumer
electronics maker, but to a capacitor maker. The resulting
caps were
sold to _everybody_, so, yes, it's not a bit surprising
to see ten
different brands, or even ten different assembly houses,
affected.
Perhaps I was not clear. I am seeing *capacitors* with
10 (or more) different "brands" -- the number of different
"equipment manufacturers is far more than that!

So, my comment is:

"Did capacitor manufacturer A 'steal' a formulation, *share* that
stolen secret with 9+ of *their* competitors -- capacitor manufacturers
B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I and J -- who, in sum, sold those 10 different
*brands* of capacitors (Susumi, Luxon, Hermei, Samxon, Su'scon, etc.)
to M different board houses working for N different 'consumer
equipment manufacturers' producing P different affected products..."

I'd be far more likely to buy the story if all of the "bad" caps
were from "Company A" (regardless of how many different OEM's
ended up *using* them)...
Jay Monkman
2008-08-17 19:31:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Perhaps I was not clear. I am seeing *capacitors* with
10 (or more) different "brands" -- the number of different
"equipment manufacturers is far more than that!
As I understand it, a lot of capacitors have different labels, but
come from the same manufacturer. In other words, a capacitor with a
Susumi label and one with a Hermei label could have come from the same
manufacturer.
Phil Stracchino
2008-08-17 19:37:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Post by der Mouse
I know there is talk of "capacitor plague" and some legend about
industrial espionage gone wrong, etc. [...] But, the variety of
manufacturers that I have been finding really has me doubting that --
did *10* companies share this stolen secret?
The "industrial espionage gone wrong" applied not
to a consumer
electronics maker, but to a capacitor maker. The resulting
caps were
sold to _everybody_, so, yes, it's not a bit surprising
to see ten
different brands, or even ten different assembly houses,
affected.
Perhaps I was not clear. I am seeing *capacitors* with
10 (or more) different "brands" -- the number of different
"equipment manufacturers is far more than that!
"Did capacitor manufacturer A 'steal' a formulation, *share* that
stolen secret with 9+ of *their* competitors -- capacitor manufacturers
B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I and J -- who, in sum, sold those 10 different
*brands* of capacitors (Susumi, Luxon, Hermei, Samxon, Su'scon, etc.)
to M different board houses working for N different 'consumer
equipment manufacturers' producing P different affected products..."
I'd be far more likely to buy the story if all of the "bad" caps
were from "Company A" (regardless of how many different OEM's
ended up *using* them)...
As previously pointed out, it is common practice for component OEMs to
sell unmarked components to a dozen or more different resellers, who
then put their own brand markings on them. All the bad caps WERE from
"Company A", Lien Yan Electronics in Taichung, Taiwan. It's just that
by the time the consumer market got to see them, they were branded
Susumi, Hankyo, Lelon, Luxon, Tayeh, JPCON, and a dozen other brands -
all of whom bought them unmarked from Lien Yan and put their own brands
on them before reselling them to electronics and computer manufacturers.


But then, as has also been previously pointed out, it's well documented
and all the facts are out there on public record. If you want to ignore
that and disbelieve because it seems too much of a vast conspiracy to
you, well, that's your choice. But it happened. It's not just an
Internet myth.
--
Phil Stracchino, CDK#2 DoD#299792458 ICBM: 43.5607, -71.355
***@caerllewys.net ***@metrocast.net ***@co.ordinate.org
Renaissance Man, Unix ronin, Perl hacker, Free Stater
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-17 19:58:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Stracchino
all of whom bought them unmarked from Lien Yan and put their own brands
on them before reselling them to electronics and computer manufacturers.
Assuming that they have a working life of around 6 months, then there is
little or no reason for the vendors to recall them. Computer motherboards
where they first appeared usually have a one year or greater warranty,
so it's worth getting them out of production quickly, but things like
DVD players, cheap MP3's, etc are sold with no warranty by the manufacturer,
and a 90 day warranty by the importer/dealer.

So there was no reason to stop selling what they had, or even fix the
problem immeditely, in fact some manufacturers would gladly sell you a
cheap DVD player today and another in 6 months.

I remember someone I worked with telling me about a $1 toy that was part
of a $10 set. The importer knew that they would fail after 3-6 months of
use, so they sold them with a one year warranty and a $2.50 replacement
fee.

We had planned to sell the ill-fated "gizmo" with a one year no-questions-asked
warranty. Just return enough of the unit that we could recreate the serial
number (for DRM'ed games) and $75 plus postage and we send you a replacement.
It just so happened that $75 was the cost of a replacement unit. :-)

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
w***@att.net
2008-08-17 21:35:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
I'd be far more likely to buy the story if all of the "bad" caps
were from "Company A" (regardless of how many different OEM's
ended up *using* them)...
Maybe Company A sold the caps to Companies B-F who rebadged them and sold them as their own. As an example, you'd be surprised how many camera lenses and filters are actually (or at least the "glass" is) made by Hoya.

Bob
Curious George
2008-08-17 18:55:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ethan O'Toole
Post by Curious George
I'm seeing a *lot* of "broken devices" that *just* have
bad electrolytics somewhere in the power supply, etc.
AFAIK electrolytic caps will *always* dry out, correct?
I mess with classic video games, and the first thing you always do on a
machine you just got is recap the monitor. Just did a donkey kong, and she
came out beautiful! Recapped the audio amp board, that fixed audio.
Recapped the monitor, that fixed picture. *shrug*
But those are 20 - 30 year old machines! I'm looking at devices
with manufacturing dates of 2004, 2006, etc.

Also, you'll note that most arcade pieces use 85C components
(whereas all of these are 105C)
Brian Deloria
2008-08-17 19:08:14 UTC
Permalink
The rash of bad caps a few years back would fail within months of use.
It was a short period of time before it was discovered and corrected.

Amusingly enough a local college I had worked at had purchased around
1000 desktops that the motherboards were affected. The VP/bean
counters wisdom decided not to opt for first year onsite as they had
in the past but instead go simply depot for the duration. This took
months to rectify.
Post by Curious George
Post by Ethan O'Toole
Post by Curious George
I'm seeing a *lot* of "broken devices" that *just* have
bad electrolytics somewhere in the power supply, etc.
AFAIK electrolytic caps will *always* dry out, correct?
I mess with classic video games, and the first thing you always do on a
machine you just got is recap the monitor. Just did a donkey kong, and she
came out beautiful! Recapped the audio amp board, that fixed audio.
Recapped the monitor, that fixed picture. *shrug*
But those are 20 - 30 year old machines! I'm looking at devices
with manufacturing dates of 2004, 2006, etc.
Also, you'll note that most arcade pieces use 85C components
(whereas all of these are 105C)
_______________________________________________
rescue list - http://www.sunhelp.org/mailman/listinfo/rescue
Lionel Peterson
2008-08-17 21:42:10 UTC
Permalink
Date: 2008/08/17 Sun PM 03:08:14 EDT
Subject: Re: [rescue] Slightly OT: Bad Cap Saga
The rash of bad caps a few years back would fail within months of use.
It was a short period of time before it was discovered and corrected.
Amusingly enough a local college I had worked at had purchased around
1000 desktops that the motherboards were affected. The VP/bean
counters wisdom decided not to opt for first year onsite as they had
in the past but instead go simply depot for the duration. This took
months to rectify.
At $WORK we have a stack of *about* 100 Dell GX240-era machines (pretty decent P4 machines with a single on-board SATA connector) lying in wait for similar models to die with bad capacitors around campus. I wonder if the ones sitting idle are just as likely to fail as are simialr machines in-service?

Lionel
Curious George
2008-08-17 21:48:36 UTC
Permalink
Hi,
On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 09:11:58AM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
I know there is talk of "capacitor plague" and some legend
about industrial espionage gone wrong, etc. (though none
of that explains the 10V devices on the 12V line! :> )
But, the variety of manufacturers that I have been finding
really has me doubting that -- did *10* companies share this
stolen secret? Are all 10 companies really the same single
company? Etc.
It's not a legend, it's documented fact. There have
been links to it posted on this list in the past, check the archives.
<grin> I suspect if you grep the archives, you'll find *my* name
on the post! :>
As for how wide spead it is, the capacitors found their way
into almost all consumer electronics. The company seriously undercut
the compettion.
It's also common to manufacture unmarked components to be rebranded
and sold by other companies, often the competition. It makes the
whole "competative bidding process" work.
It seems a more likely cause would have been wholesale of the
defective electrolyte.
I won't say every, but most Tiwanese companies bought
capacitors from them.
As for 10v capacitors on the 12v line, it's not unusual.
I've never (before) encountered this! :<
They are often sold with a 20% "safety" rating, e.g. a 10v
cap will withstand 12 volts, and quite possibly, 12.5 or 13.
I've never seen such a margin *published* by a vendor. Instead,
WVDC was always the "rated specification" for the component
(e.g., unlike something like TTL that you *can* run on 7VDC
despite it being designed for a nominal 5V supply). "Best
practices" always have you seriously derating the specs on
things like caps for exactly this reason. (of course, the
things I design/build are intended for longer service lives
so I can't play fast and loose with choice of components :-/ )
Since there is a big difference
in price and the units are sold from the manufacturer
without warranties, it's worth the chance.
I don't know how one could even *try* to design that way!

I.e., you would have to spend considerable effort characterizing
the parts you buy (you being the actual manufacturer) so you
could be sure the units would pass *your* outgoing inspection!
Or, are you saying that the original manufacturer (*not* the
company who's name is on the OUTSIDE of the piece of equipment)
makes no warranties to *its* customer (i.e., the company who
will ultimately sell to John Doe)?

Or, do these folks operate in an environment where they never
have to "pay" for their mistakes (i.e., through repairs and/or
lost business due to bad reputation, etc.)
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 06:05:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
I've never seen such a margin *published* by a vendor. Instead,
WVDC was always the "rated specification" for the component
(e.g., unlike something like TTL that you *can* run on 7VDC
despite it being designed for a nominal 5V supply). "Best
practices" always have you seriously derating the specs on
things like caps for exactly this reason. (of course, the
things I design/build are intended for longer service lives
so I can't play fast and loose with choice of components :-/ )
Published by a vendor, or told to you by the manufacturer if you asked.
Without meaning to sound racist, I doubt that if YOU asked the question,
you would get an answer. Things told over a meal with the guy down the
street are very different to customers on the phone or in the conference
room.

I don't know about the Chinese, but I had a very expensive lesson in
"the deal is not really signed until we get drunk together" with the
president of a Korean company, you probably have 20-30 products of
in your home, or items containing parts made by them.
Post by Curious George
I don't know how one could even *try* to design that way!
Oh come off it. You do it every day. I'm sure that you have design
limitations and you try to minimize cost by staying at the edge of
those limitiations. You just have a different understanding of those
limitations.
Post by Curious George
I.e., you would have to spend considerable effort characterizing
the parts you buy (you being the actual manufacturer) so you
could be sure the units would pass *your* outgoing inspection!
Or, are you saying that the original manufacturer (*not* the
company who's name is on the OUTSIDE of the piece of equipment)
makes no warranties to *its* customer (i.e., the company who
will ultimately sell to John Doe)?
Yes. The price for untested items is significant lower than the
cost of tested ones. Statistical testing (testing every 5th, 100th,
1000th) raises the price less, but still costs as if a unit fails,
you either toss the ones since the previous test, or test each one.

If you buy a consumer item, let's say a DVD player from Wal-Mart, you
have no idea of where or how it was made, the working conditions and
age of the workers who made it, and so on. You have no more desire to
know about it than to know that hambuger you ate for lunch used to walk
around and moo.

If this DVD player dies in the first 90 days, you take it back to Wal-Mart
and they trash it. Trashing 1 out of 1000 or whatever the expected rate
is was included in their cost calculation. It's probably cheaper than
having a local technician look at it, let alone repair it, and far cheaper
than shipping it back to Long March and having them examine it to determine
why it failed.

If it fails afer 90 days, you buy another one. If you were upset by the
short life, you buy another brand, or go to another store. If you do, I'll
bet you never look far enough to find out they all say Long March DVD
player company in small print on the circuit boards in Chinese, or even
could read it if you looked.
Post by Curious George
Or, do these folks operate in an environment where they never
have to "pay" for their mistakes (i.e., through repairs and/or
lost business due to bad reputation, etc.)
Do you know anyone that shops at Wal-Mart? Ask them what they think
of the store, the service, the products, and so on. Does a negative
opinion stop them?

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Curious George
2008-08-17 21:52:44 UTC
Permalink
Hi,
Post by Brian Deloria
The rash of bad caps a few years back would fail within
months of use. It was a short period of time before it was
discovered and corrected.
My point is we are now almost 10 years after the "spy event"
and I'm still seeing "cap problems". While it is *possible*
that there is a big pile of "old stock" someplace(s) that
folks are still pulling from (to avoid having to eat their
losses on those components and/or subassemblies), I wonder if
there aren't *other* issues at play, here. I.e., when do
we *stop* blaming capacitor problems on *this* particular
cause?
Post by Brian Deloria
Amusingly enough a local college I had worked at had purchased around
1000 desktops that the motherboards were affected. The VP/bean
counters wisdom decided not to opt for first year onsite as they had
in the past but instead go simply depot for the duration. This took
months to rectify.
And, the VP no doubt was promoted in the process (cf. "Peter Principle")

:>
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 06:19:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
My point is we are now almost 10 years after the "spy event"
and I'm still seeing "cap problems". While it is *possible*
that there is a big pile of "old stock" someplace(s) that
folks are still pulling from (to avoid having to eat their
losses on those components and/or subassemblies), I wonder if
there aren't *other* issues at play, here. I.e., when do
we *stop* blaming capacitor problems on *this* particular
cause?
Well, you are assuming it was corrected. First of all, if it turns
out that these capacitors work fine for 91 days without any changes,
most consumer manufacturers would not touch them, but many would.

Second what if it was partially fixed? Lacking the critical ingredient,
and the knowledge of what it was, why wouldn't the Tiwanese company
find a substitute. If it extends the working life of their units
to a year, or two or three, but costs less than the one the Japanese
company uses, why not?

I must be missing something here, I think you are the only person on
the planet that thinks that cheap consumer electronics should last
several years. The whole "cheaper to toss it and buy a new one"
mentality has unfortunately taken over and is the conerstone of
many country's economies (US, Japan, the EU) and so on.

The US has outgrown the "when the ashtray is full, it's time to
trade in the car" mentality of the 1960's, but it's IMHO shifted to
consumer goods.

That's how this list got started, there was a generation of SUN computers
being scrapped because they were obsolete. It expanded to other manufacturer's
computers, but things have not changed and the mentality expanded to
the general public and consumer electronics in general.

As an example, cheap DVD players. If they were to be used everyday for
three years before the capacitors leak, will they still work? Have
the laser diodes degraded to the point they no longer put out enough power?
Did the plastic assemblies that hold the disk in place degrade to the
point they no longer hold the disk in a readable position?

They both happen to cheap DVD players and often in less than three years,
so why buy capacitors that last "forever"?

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
der Mouse
2008-08-18 07:14:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
I must be missing something here, I think you are the only person on
the planet that thinks that cheap consumer electronics should last
several years.
You think wrong. I'm another one, so the count is at least two.

I feel fairly sure Tony, over on classiccmp, is a third.

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Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 08:30:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by der Mouse
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
I must be missing something here, I think you are the only person on
the planet that thinks that cheap consumer electronics should last
several years.
You think wrong. I'm another one, so the count is at least two.
I feel fairly sure Tony, over on classiccmp, is a third.
I was being sarcastic, after all if that really was the case, this would
have been the "SUN Scrap List". :-)

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Joshua Boyd
2008-08-18 16:59:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
As an example, cheap DVD players. If they were to be used everyday for
three years before the capacitors leak, will they still work? Have
the laser diodes degraded to the point they no longer put out enough power?
Did the plastic assemblies that hold the disk in place degrade to the
point they no longer hold the disk in a readable position?
At work I'm lucky to have a DVD player last 1 year.
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
They both happen to cheap DVD players and often in less than three years,
so why buy capacitors that last "forever"?
Nonw of the DVD players I've bought have lasted 3 years, and in two of
the cases I was trying to spend more for a better unit. In the first
case, I had one that was repairable (PSU was a seperate board, used a
regular IDE drive) and I should have just kept it and repaired it, but
it wasn't progressive scan and I thought I wanted that.
Curious George
2008-08-17 22:05:55 UTC
Permalink
Hi,
Post by Phil Stracchino
Post by Curious George
Perhaps I was not clear. I am seeing *capacitors* with
10 (or more) different "brands" -- the number of different
"equipment manufacturers is far more than that!
"Did capacitor manufacturer A 'steal' a formulation, *share* that
stolen secret with 9+ of *their* competitors -- capacitor manufacturers
B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I and J -- who, in sum, sold those 10 different
*brands* of capacitors (Susumi, Luxon, Hermei, Samxon, Su'scon, etc.)
to M different board houses working for N different 'consumer
equipment manufacturers' producing P different affected products..."
I'd be far more likely to buy the story if all of the "bad" caps
were from "Company A" (regardless of how many different OEM's
ended up *using* them)...
As previously pointed out, it is common practice for component OEMs to
sell unmarked components to a dozen or more different resellers, who
then put their own brand markings on them. All the bad caps WERE from
"Company A", Lien Yan Electronics in Taichung,
If you read the industry coverage of the issue, you'll note that
this is still unclear. It is equally likely that LienYan sold
bulk electrolyte to different vendors who, in turn, made caps
with the same "defect".

Of course, you have to be careful as many of the references out there
cite each other, etc. (i.e., are not independant -- just the same
"unidentified reference" restated)
Post by Phil Stracchino
Taiwan. It's just that
by the time the consumer market got to see them, they were
branded Susumi, Hankyo, Lelon, Luxon, Tayeh, JPCON, and a dozen
other brands - all of whom bought them unmarked from Lien Yan and put
their own brands on them before reselling them to electronics and
computer manufacturers.
But then, as has also been previously pointed out, it's well documented
and all the facts are out there on public record. If you want to ignore
that and disbelieve because it seems too much of a vast conspiracy to
you, well, that's your choice. But it happened. It's not just an
Internet myth.
It doesn't matter to me *what* the "cause" -- for all I care, some
extraterrestrial visitors flew over the factory and discharged their
"biological waste container" :> into the electrolyte processing
facility when no one was looking! :>

But, if you read my original post, I'm concerned there aren't *other*
issues at work here that are hiding behind this "convenient" story
(true or otherwise!).

I.e., the problem has been around for almost 10 years. Are folks
*really* still shipping bad product in spite of this knowledge?
I could understand products from "Phly-Buy-Nyte Elektronigs"...
but, hard to believe the folks at Dell, IBM, etc. are just turning
a blind eye on their suppliers after taking such a $$$ hit dealing
with this problem.

So, I wonder if, instead, some of these problems are due to changes
in operating conditions (e.g., do "sleep modes" stress devices in
ways that "always on" operation did not)? Circuit topologies (e.g.,
switching power supplies introduced issues that had never faced
linear designs)? Manufacturing quality (i.e., moving production
to different countries/facilites in a race to the bottom)?
Manufacturing procedures (e.g., bad washes)? Manufacturing
technologies (e.g., RoHS)?

When do we consider this "issue" over with and start opening
our minds to *other* possible causes of "new problems"?

I use Panny caps in all of my designs and, SO FAR, have never had
a problem. But, I derate *heavily*. OTOH, if the problem is
*not* related to a "component manufacturer" (see above), then
I should, perhaps, not sleep as well... :-/
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 06:29:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
I.e., the problem has been around for almost 10 years. Are folks
*really* still shipping bad product in spite of this knowledge?
I could understand products from "Phly-Buy-Nyte Elektronigs"...
but, hard to believe the folks at Dell, IBM, etc. are just turning
a blind eye on their suppliers after taking such a $$$ hit dealing
with this problem.
Sure, Dell has been rumored to be on the edge of financial failure for
years. I'm sure they buy their componnets to the specification that they
last as long as their warranties. How close is a matter of speculation.

Besides, do you know anyone who buys a Dell computer because it is
a high quality item? People buy them for their price.
Post by Curious George
I use Panny caps in all of my designs and, SO FAR, have never had
a problem. But, I derate *heavily*. OTOH, if the problem is
*not* related to a "component manufacturer" (see above), then
I should, perhaps, not sleep as well... :-/
This is starting to become silly IMHO. While I'm sure you do a wonderful
job of designing your devices, how much control do you have over the
ultimate manufacture of them? If you do control what gets put into them
and how they are manufacturered and tested then good for you, worry
about it.

If you just design them, and the designs are sold to (or stolen by)
little factories in China who do what they can to cheapen them, then don't
worry, it's totaly beyond your control.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Patrick Giagnocavo
2008-08-18 12:44:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Post by Curious George
I.e., the problem has been around for almost 10 years. Are folks
*really* still shipping bad product in spite of this knowledge?
I could understand products from "Phly-Buy-Nyte Elektronigs"...
but, hard to believe the folks at Dell, IBM, etc. are just turning
a blind eye on their suppliers after taking such a $$$ hit dealing
with this problem.
Sure, Dell has been rumored to be on the edge of financial failure for
years. I'm sure they buy their componnets to the specification that they
last as long as their warranties. How close is a matter of speculation.
Edge of financial failure, huh?

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=DELL

They sell $60B a year, have EBITDA of 4.29B . I wish I was on the edge
of financial failure the way they are :-)
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Besides, do you know anyone who buys a Dell computer because it is
a high quality item? People buy them for their price.
True enough. They are engineered to a price point, and are a "known
quantity" in that you know that if you buy a Dell, it will work out of
the box, and if it doesn't they will either send someone out to fix it
or ship you another one.

Cordially

Patrick
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 13:06:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=DELL
They sell $60B a year, have EBITDA of 4.29B . I wish I was on the edge
of financial failure the way they are :-)
That's why I said it was a rumor. However, look at GM,

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=gm

with a negative EBITDA,

or Ford
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=f

with an EBITDA of 7.86B

or Chrysler
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=DCX.BA

all three of which ARE on the verge of bankruptcy. :-(
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
True enough. They are engineered to a price point, and are a "known
quantity" in that you know that if you buy a Dell, it will work out of
the box, and if it doesn't they will either send someone out to fix it
or ship you another one.
And at what point does having capacitors that fail make them no longer
desirable to people who have bought them? 91 days? 6 months? 1,2,3,5 years?

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Curious George
2008-08-17 22:22:07 UTC
Permalink
Hi,
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Assuming that they have a working life of around 6 months, then there is
little or no reason for the vendors to recall them. Computer motherboards
where they first appeared usually have a one year or greater warranty,
so it's worth getting them out of production quickly, but things like
DVD players, cheap MP3's, etc are sold with no warranty by the manufacturer,
and a 90 day warranty by the importer/dealer.
Can we get terms straight? Who's the "manufacturer" in your descriptions?
I see many manufacturers in a typical product -- most of the board
assemblies are manufactured by one of more *vendors*. The mechanical
assembly may be done by yet another house. It may then be rebranded
and sold to the "Manufacturer" from which the consumer buys (note that
a consumer need not be John Q Public).

At some point, "you" (whichever of these "manufacturers" you happen
to be!) have to have som efaith in the quality of "your" product.
Or, are you saying their are manufacturers who just slap things
together and never bother to see *if* they work?? :-/

I've seen PC power supplies (covered by the PC's warranty), motherboards,
LCD monitors, "flat screen" TV's, etc. all with the same sorts of problems.
Note that none of these are "disposable" consumer kit. Most have
price tags high enough that the end user *will* be annoyed by "early
failures". (e.g., the three LCD monitors I fixed today were from an
institution user -- if they are seeing large numbers of failures
you can bet that information gets back to the manufacturer... in none
too pleasing terms!)
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
So there was no reason to stop selling what they had, or even fix the
problem immeditely, in fact some manufacturers would gladly sell you a
cheap DVD player today and another in 6 months.
And I am sure they would gladly sell you a *PC* today and again
in 6 months! Problem is, would *you* be willing to buy it *and*
accept the fact that the 6-month-old unit was just "worn out"?
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
I remember someone I worked with telling me about a $1 toy that was part
of a $10 set. The importer knew that they would fail after 3-6 months of
use, so they sold them with a one year warranty and a $2.50 replacement
fee.
We had planned to sell the ill-fated "gizmo" with a one year
no-questions-asked warranty. Just return enough of the unit that
we could recreate the serial number (for DRM'ed games) and $75 plus
postage and we send you a replacement.
It just so happened that $75 was the cost of a replacement
unit. :-)
Sure, that's common practice! It's still a losing proposition for
the "manufacturer" if "enough" units are returned. (there are costs
involved in handling the return, complaint, etc. -- many of those
can't be contained... e.g., a lawsuit pops up and you suddenly
can't factor the cost of *that* into your $75 fee! :> )

And, it depends a lot on who your customer is and what your
relationship with them happens to be. For "consumer" (John Doe)
product, you can afford to screw the user as, for most companies,
you'll probably never do business with him, again. Or, he won't
remember/know he's doing business with the company who previously
screwed him, etc. (or, he may be naive enough to believe the
product was *supposed* to only last N months... )

OTOH, if you have long term relationships with your customer
(recall, customer may be a *company* -- even one that remarkets
your product or incorporates it into something of their own),
then you really want to make sure that relationship sours as
a result of them thinking they *were* screwed. :<

<shrug> In my market, it's easier just to Do The Right Thing and
not chase customers who follow the low-ballers around...
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 06:45:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Can we get terms straight? Who's the "manufacturer" in your descriptions?
I see many manufacturers in a typical product -- most of the board
assemblies are manufactured by one of more *vendors*. The mechanical
assembly may be done by yet another house. It may then be rebranded
and sold to the "Manufacturer" from which the consumer buys (note that
a consumer need not be John Q Public).
Each one is a manufacturer, they do something to put it together. They buy
a raw material, whether it's aluminum foil to make the capacitors, or
the assembled boards and wire them together. Each step along the way,
someone builds, and possibly tests each unit.

Generally no one sells their product with a warranty. It's too costly to
sell a mass produced item with one and expect them to come back for repair.
They either provide extra components, or a "reduced" price based upon
the anticipated failure rate, or tell you "what you get is what you get",
and plan accordingly.
Post by Curious George
At some point, "you" (whichever of these "manufacturers" you happen
to be!) have to have som efaith in the quality of "your" product.
Or, are you saying their are manufacturers who just slap things
together and never bother to see *if* they work?? :-/
Exactly, the cost is too high. Some companies do it, for example
Tandy did it with the original TRS-80 (and it may have been the
last time too), and Ten-Tec still does it with their radios.

I see articles in Tele-Satelite magazine showing manufacturers in the
far east who check their units, some every one. But that's a different
market than the 10 UKP DVD players ASDA had for Christmas last year (or was
it 2006?),
Post by Curious George
I've seen PC power supplies (covered by the PC's warranty), motherboards,
LCD monitors, "flat screen" TV's, etc. all with the same sorts of problems.
Note that none of these are "disposable" consumer kit. Most have
price tags high enough that the end user *will* be annoyed by "early
failures". (e.g., the three LCD monitors I fixed today were from an
institution user -- if they are seeing large numbers of failures
you can bet that information gets back to the manufacturer... in none
too pleasing terms!)
Sure, what do they do? They complain to the board manufacturer who
might do something or not. Most likely they will give them a few
extra boards for free, or promise not to do it in the next batch,
or most likely, since they stopped making those boards a year ago or
longer, just smile and say "sorry".
Post by Curious George
And I am sure they would gladly sell you a *PC* today and again
in 6 months! Problem is, would *you* be willing to buy it *and*
accept the fact that the 6-month-old unit was just "worn out"?
Some people do that. Often not in PC's, but in consumer electronics,
all the time. Look at the public relations disaster Apple had when the
first generation iPods failed after a year due to battery problems.

Now how many people keep their iPods for a year? What about the cheap
MP3 or "MP4" players that are everywhere? Does anyone care if they die
in a year? It's cheaper to go to Wal-Mart and buy a new one with more
memory, more features, etc and toss the old one.
Post by Curious George
Sure, that's common practice! It's still a losing proposition for
the "manufacturer" if "enough" units are returned. (there are costs
involved in handling the return, complaint, etc. -- many of those
can't be contained... e.g., a lawsuit pops up and you suddenly
can't factor the cost of *that* into your $75 fee! :> )
And exactly what do people sue you for? It's hard to sue someone because
a gaming device failed out of warranty. Look at all the threats Apple
got after the iPod battery fiasco. How did they resolve it? You could
return your iPod for battery replacement for $99. How much did that cost
them? How much money did they make on each of those repairs?

How many people did not bother and bought new iPods, or replaced the
battery themselves, absolving Apple of all guilt.
Post by Curious George
And, it depends a lot on who your customer is and what your
relationship with them happens to be. For "consumer" (John Doe)
product, you can afford to screw the user as, for most companies,
you'll probably never do business with him, again. Or, he won't
remember/know he's doing business with the company who previously
screwed him, etc. (or, he may be naive enough to believe the
product was *supposed* to only last N months... )
Well, with cheap consumer goods, it's exactly that.
Post by Curious George
OTOH, if you have long term relationships with your customer
(recall, customer may be a *company* -- even one that remarkets
your product or incorporates it into something of their own),
then you really want to make sure that relationship sours as
a result of them thinking they *were* screwed. :<
<shrug> In my market, it's easier just to Do The Right Thing and
not chase customers who follow the low-ballers around...
I assume you are not a member of the Walton family. :-)

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
w***@att.net
2008-08-19 02:29:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Post by Curious George
At some point, "you" (whichever of these "manufacturers" you happen
to be!) have to have som efaith in the quality of "your" product.
Or, are you saying their are manufacturers who just slap things
together and never bother to see *if* they work?? :-/
Exactly, the cost is too high. Some companies do it, for example
Tandy did it with the original TRS-80 (and it may have been the
last time too), and Ten-Tec still does it with their radios.
Tandy used to "burn in" their computers for 24 hours before they boxed them up. That lasted until they got a new guy from IBM who dumped all of the non-PC machines. A lot of their other products were all individually tested. Of course I'm talking over twenty years ago. Now, who knows.
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
I see articles in Tele-Satelite magazine showing manufacturers in the
far east who check their units, some every one. But that's a different
market than the 10 UKP DVD players ASDA had for Christmas last year (or was
it 2006?),
Post by Curious George
I've seen PC power supplies (covered by the PC's warranty), motherboards,
LCD monitors, "flat screen" TV's, etc. all with the same sorts of problems.
Note that none of these are "disposable" consumer kit. Most have
price tags high enough that the end user *will* be annoyed by "early
failures". (e.g., the three LCD monitors I fixed today were from an
institution user -- if they are seeing large numbers of failures
you can bet that information gets back to the manufacturer... in none
too pleasing terms!)
Sure, what do they do? They complain to the board manufacturer who
might do something or not. Most likely they will give them a few
extra boards for free, or promise not to do it in the next batch,
or most likely, since they stopped making those boards a year ago or
longer, just smile and say "sorry".
Post by Curious George
And I am sure they would gladly sell you a *PC* today and again
in 6 months! Problem is, would *you* be willing to buy it *and*
accept the fact that the 6-month-old unit was just "worn out"?
Some people do that. Often not in PC's, but in consumer electronics,
all the time. Look at the public relations disaster Apple had when the
first generation iPods failed after a year due to battery problems.
Now how many people keep their iPods for a year? What about the cheap
MP3 or "MP4" players that are everywhere? Does anyone care if they die
in a year? It's cheaper to go to Wal-Mart and buy a new one with more
memory, more features, etc and toss the old one.
I gave that same response when I bought a point-and-shoot digital camera this past weekend for $99 and was asked if I want to buy a service plan.
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Post by Curious George
Sure, that's common practice! It's still a losing proposition for
the "manufacturer" if "enough" units are returned. (there are costs
involved in handling the return, complaint, etc. -- many of those
can't be contained... e.g., a lawsuit pops up and you suddenly
can't factor the cost of *that* into your $75 fee! :> )
And exactly what do people sue you for? It's hard to sue someone because
a gaming device failed out of warranty. Look at all the threats Apple
got after the iPod battery fiasco. How did they resolve it? You could
return your iPod for battery replacement for $99. How much did that cost
them? How much money did they make on each of those repairs?
How many people did not bother and bought new iPods, or replaced the
battery themselves, absolving Apple of all guilt.
You never got your iPod back. They gave you some one else's "referbished" one and never transferred your music over. Some techies could replace your battery for about $60 and you got yours back. Which would you do?
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Post by Curious George
And, it depends a lot on who your customer is and what your
relationship with them happens to be. For "consumer" (John Doe)
product, you can afford to screw the user as, for most companies,
you'll probably never do business with him, again. Or, he won't
remember/know he's doing business with the company who previously
screwed him, etc. (or, he may be naive enough to believe the
product was *supposed* to only last N months... )
Well, with cheap consumer goods, it's exactly that.
For 99.9% of them. Look at Vista.
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Post by Curious George
OTOH, if you have long term relationships with your customer
(recall, customer may be a *company* -- even one that remarkets
your product or incorporates it into something of their own),
then you really want to make sure that relationship sours as
a result of them thinking they *were* screwed. :<
<shrug> In my market, it's easier just to Do The Right Thing and
not chase customers who follow the low-ballers around...
Nice to know that still exists.

Bob
Curious George
2008-08-17 22:29:30 UTC
Permalink
Hi,
Post by Lionel Peterson
At $WORK we have a stack of *about* 100 Dell GX240-era
machines (pretty decent P4 machines with a single on-board
SATA connector) lying in wait for similar models to die with
bad capacitors around campus. I wonder if the ones sitting
idle are just as likely to fail as are simialr machines
in-service?
What makes you think they *wouldn't*? I.e., were they supplied by
Dell *explicitly* as replacements for machines with "problems"?
Or, did someone just run out and order an extra hundred to have
on hand "just in case"?

I *think* most of the capacitor failures that I have seen are
brought about by *use*. I.e., sitting idle (unpowered) doesn't
harm the devices.

But, I can't be sure of that! E.g., if the problem was caused
by something in the manufacturing process that *contaminates*
the components (e.g., a bad wash), then it's possible that
their actual service life *is* shortened despite being in storage
for that time...

(sigh) This is just too complex an issue to dismiss as being
*all* tied to an "espionage event"...
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 06:52:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
What makes you think they *wouldn't*? I.e., were they supplied by
Dell *explicitly* as replacements for machines with "problems"?
Or, did someone just run out and order an extra hundred to have
on hand "just in case"?
Does it matter. If Dell sold them thousands of computers, giving them
an extra hundred is a lot cheaper than fixing the ones that fail anyway.

Instead of the customer calling India and getting an RMA, having the
machine shipped to them, paying a tech to look at it and so on,
the CUSTOMER takes a replacement out of the box, puts it in service
and trashes the broken computer. Not only has the labor been absorbed
by the customer, they think they are getting a good deal out of it.
Post by Curious George
I *think* most of the capacitor failures that I have seen are
brought about by *use*. I.e., sitting idle (unpowered) doesn't
harm the devices.
Obivously you are a modern design engineer with no experience in older
electronics. Ask on any of the older radio mailing lists about what
to do with a radio that has sat unused for many years. Many of them
have capacitor failure due to aging, and they were made before
any of this happened.
Post by Curious George
But, I can't be sure of that! E.g., if the problem was caused
by something in the manufacturing process that *contaminates*
the components (e.g., a bad wash), then it's possible that
their actual service life *is* shortened despite being in storage
for that time...
No, it wasn't a bad wash, it was a missing preservative.

As I said in a previous reply which you should have seen by now, they
probably replaced it with something that extended the life of their
product, but not as long as the original one.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Bill Bradford
2008-08-18 03:01:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
I'm seeing a *lot* of "broken devices" that *just* have
bad electrolytics somewhere in the power supply, etc.
A number of companies got hit by the "bad cap" problem a few years ago.
Apple had a documented recall on the first iMac G5 system boards; I had to
replace mine due to this problem. Here's pictures:

http://www.mrbill.net/photos/imacmidplane/

Bulged caps:
Loading Image....html

My Dell Precision 360 at work lasted longer - it took 4.5 years for it to
finally blow some of the VRM caps after a power outage.

Bill
--
Bill Bradford
Houston, Texas
Erie Patsellis
2008-08-18 03:05:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bill Bradford
Post by Curious George
I'm seeing a *lot* of "broken devices" that *just* have
bad electrolytics somewhere in the power supply, etc.
A number of companies got hit by the "bad cap" problem a few years ago.
Apple had a documented recall on the first iMac G5 system boards; I had to
http://www.mrbill.net/photos/imacmidplane/
http://www.mrbill.net/photos/imacmidplane/tn/IMG_0744.jpg.html
My Dell Precision 360 at work lasted longer - it took 4.5 years for it to
finally blow some of the VRM caps after a power outage.
Bill
ewww, not good, my 360 is getting close to that age now, time to take a
peek next time I have it open and plan on replacing a pile of caps.


erie
Brian Deloria
2008-08-18 03:08:32 UTC
Permalink
crap. I've got about 15 p360's in use at work now. I think I will try
expediting the replacement of them with T7400's. Just the VRM or were there
other areas? I know we had a p370 with some caps on the board swollen.
Post by Erie Patsellis
Post by Bill Bradford
Post by Curious George
I'm seeing a *lot* of "broken devices" that *just* have
bad electrolytics somewhere in the power supply, etc.
A number of companies got hit by the "bad cap" problem a few years ago.
Apple had a documented recall on the first iMac G5 system boards; I had to
http://www.mrbill.net/photos/imacmidplane/
http://www.mrbill.net/photos/imacmidplane/tn/IMG_0744.jpg.html
My Dell Precision 360 at work lasted longer - it took 4.5 years for it to
finally blow some of the VRM caps after a power outage.
Bill
ewww, not good, my 360 is getting close to that age now, time to take a
peek next time I have it open and plan on replacing a pile of caps.
erie
_______________________________________________
rescue list - http://www.sunhelp.org/mailman/listinfo/rescue
Bill Bradford
2008-08-18 04:54:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by Brian Deloria
crap. I've got about 15 p360's in use at work now. I think I will try
expediting the replacement of them with T7400's. Just the VRM or were there
other areas? I know we had a p370 with some caps on the board swollen.
Before I scrapped the machine, all I saw bulged on the motherboard was
directly around the CPU.

Bill
--
Bill Bradford
Houston, Texas
Nadine Miller
2008-08-18 16:00:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bill Bradford
Post by Brian Deloria
crap. I've got about 15 p360's in use at work now. I think I will try
expediting the replacement of them with T7400's. Just the VRM or were there
other areas? I know we had a p370 with some caps on the board swollen.
Before I scrapped the machine, all I saw bulged on the motherboard was
directly around the CPU.
Same here on the Asus board that died on me recently. It was vintage
'01-ish, iirc. I wonder if it's exacerbated by heat?

=Nadine=
Luke Goembel
2008-08-18 14:45:38 UTC
Permalink
I build electronic devices that are
meant for use in space. In a vacuum
environment, electrolytic caps are
not allowed because they leak/explode
when in vacuum. I suspect they wouldn't
be allowed because of their notoriously
short lifetime even if they didn't
explode in vacuum.

It turns out when I try to get an
electrical engineer to design
a circuit and then give the guidelines
for building space flight hardware,
the "no electrolytic caps" guideline
can be very hard to follow. Electrolytic
tend to have a huge capacitance per
unit volume. Substitutes, if a
substitute is even available, tend
to be much bulkier and more expensive
than the equivelent capacitance
electrolytic. In my experience,
there just isn't an off-the-shelf
non-electrolytic for high capacitances.

By all accounts electrolytics suck!
They are a short-lived component.
All this talk about planned obsolescence
or lack of ethics in electronics
manufacture aside, there is a gold
mine to be made for anyone that comes
up with a workable substitute for
electrolytic caps. The demand for
such caps in space flight hardware
alone would be significant. As it
is now, we go to great trouble to
work around the 'no electrolytic'
rule. Hopefully we will see some
improvement in large value capacitors
someday. I hate them. When I have
laboratory electronics built, I
demand "no electrolytics" even though
they won't be in a vacuum. I've
restored a number of old electronics
[see, for instance, my post
http://www.nextcomputers.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=145
] simply be replacing the electrolytics.
Clearly, electrolytics are the week
link in many consumer electronics
and have been for decades. In fact,
I recall that in restoring old
television sets from the 40's it
is reported that replacing all the
old 'paper' capacitors with new ones
is often all it takes to get 60-year
old electronics running again!

The bits posted about the bad formula
for the electrolyte are very interesting.
Even with the 'good formula' electrolytics
are amazingly sucky! What irony that
someone has made a sucky product even
suckier!
Bill Bradford
2008-08-18 15:30:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Luke Goembel
I build electronic devices that are
meant for use in space. In a vacuum
environment, electrolytic caps are
not allowed because they leak/explode
when in vacuum. I suspect they wouldn't
be allowed because of their notoriously
short lifetime even if they didn't
explode in vacuum.
are you posting this, say, by chance,
from something with a 40-column display
like a commodore 64? 8-)

Bill
--
Bill Bradford
Houston, Texas
Jonathan Groll
2008-08-18 19:40:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bill Bradford
Post by Luke Goembel
I build electronic devices that are
meant for use in space. In a vacuum
environment, electrolytic caps are
not allowed because they leak/explode
when in vacuum. I suspect they wouldn't
be allowed because of their notoriously
short lifetime even if they didn't
explode in vacuum.
are you posting this, say, by chance,
from something with a 40-column display
like a commodore 64? 8-)
Ah! The anti-Lionel!

-JJG
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 15:33:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Luke Goembel
I build electronic devices that are
meant for use in space.
I love to read posts like this, because while I understand that there
really is a space program of some sort left (I was at Cape Kennedy to
see Apollo 14 lift off), and a lot of commercial use of space, it's
good to hear from people who are actively working on it.
Post by Luke Goembel
Clearly, electrolytics are the week
link in many consumer electronics
and have been for decades. In fact,
I recall that in restoring old
television sets from the 40's it
is reported that replacing all the
old 'paper' capacitors with new ones
is often all it takes to get 60-year
old electronics running again!
Not to contradict you, but most of those capacitors are not electrolytic at
all. Most of the electrolytic capacitors of that era are in steel cans.
They also explode when subject to full voltage after long periods of
disuse, but the explosions are, due to the steel cans, more like a vent popping.

The worst offenders are Sprague "Black Beauty" capacitors which were coated
with some sort of black plastic and supposed to be better than anything on
the market at the time. The black plastic decomposed rapidly and some
of them failed to last. In some cases, the equipment was still being
manufactured when the first ones failed.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Luke Goembel
2008-08-18 16:17:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Not to contradict you, but most of those capacitors are not
electrolytic at
all. Most of the electrolytic capacitors of that era are in
steel cans.
They also explode when subject to full voltage after long
periods of
disuse, but the explosions are, due to the steel cans, more
like a vent popping.
The worst offenders are Sprague "Black Beauty"
capacitors which were coated
with some sort of black plastic and supposed to be better
than anything on
the market at the time. The black plastic decomposed
rapidly and some
of them failed to last. In some cases, the equipment was
still being
manufactured when the first ones failed.
Geoff.
Thanks for the information! I did some reading on
'paper' caps and read they are not classified
as electrolytic, as you said.
http://antiqueradio.org/recap.htm

Also, the "black beauty" story reminds me that
sometimes 'improvements' should be taken with
a grain of salt! Surely the inferior electrolyte
that has been plaguing caps (since 2000?) was
marketed as an 'improvement', even if only as
a cheaper equivalent!
n***@portents.com
2008-08-18 16:31:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Luke Goembel
Thanks for the information! I did some reading on
'paper' caps and read they are not classified
as electrolytic, as you said.
http://antiqueradio.org/recap.htm
Here's more on capacitors, specifically pertaining to computer
motherboards, covering electrolytic, polyester, and ceramic - "How to
Identify Japanese Electrolytic Capacitors":

http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/595

- Nate
Luke Goembel
2008-08-18 16:32:24 UTC
Permalink
Bill wrote-
Post by Bill Bradford
are you posting this, say, by chance,
from something with a 40-column display
like a commodore 64? 8-)
LOL! I do a <CR> fairly frequently when
writing because I send email to posts
from Yahoomail and their tiny text entry
and display box needs hard carriage returns
or things don't display right (well, I guess
I could fuss around with things but nobody
ever wondered about my column width before).

I'll have you know the computer I use is
pretty state-of-the-art compared to a
Commodore 64: it's my handy-dandy eMac running
OS 10.4.11!
Curious George
2008-08-18 17:33:20 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 03:22:07PM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
Can we get terms straight? Who's the "manufacturer" in
your descriptions? I see many manufacturers in a typical
product -- most of the board assemblies are manufactured
by one of more *vendors*. The mechanical assembly may be
done by yet another house. It may then be rebranded and
sold to the "Manufacturer" from which the consumer buys (note that
a consumer need not be John Q Public).
Each one is a manufacturer, they do something to put it
together. They buy a raw material, whether it's aluminum
foil to make the capacitors, or
the assembled boards and wire them together.
Each step along the way, someone builds, and possibly tests each unit.
Yes, that was my point...
Generally no one sells their product with a warranty.
Well, we know the *final* manufacturer who sells to John Q Public
does! Are you saying that the rest of the chain is all "caveat
emptor"? So, the poor fool who walks into a Wal-Mart and "takes
a chance" on some cheap piece of kit is actually getting a
*better* "deal" than the rest of the folks in the chain? :-<
It's too costly to sell a mass produced item with one and
expect them to come back for repair.
You don't have to "take it back for repair". E.g., most
of the items that I've designed are *examined* when they
fail "under warranty" (i.e., to figure out *why* so we can
determine if there are component or design issues to be
remedied to reduce those costs in the future)
They either provide extra components, or a "reduced" price
based upon the anticipated failure rate, or tell you "what you
get is what you get", and plan accordingly.
How (seriously) do you come up with an "anticipated failure
rate" when you are using components outside their specs?
Rely on past similar "abuses"? :-/ It would seem too costly
to *test* a marginal design too try to come up with a reasonable
confidence interval for this figure -- especially with the short
product development cycles nowadays...
Post by Curious George
At some point, "you" (whichever of these "manufacturers" you happen
to be!) have to have some faith in the quality of "your" product.
Or, are you saying their are manufacturers who just slap things
together and never bother to see *if* they work?? :-/
Exactly, the cost is too high.
OK, I can buy that for "cheap" consumer kit. (e.g., $100).
But, are you saying LCD monitors are just "produced" with
no testing or other means of quantifying your quality?
Ditto for PC's? (I'll have to start looking at some of the
"failed" medical instruments and see if they are suffering
the same sorts of "bad cap" failures!)
Some companies do it, for example
Tandy did it with the original TRS-80 (and it may have been the
last time too), and Ten-Tec still does it with their radios.
The common thread in your examples seems to be "cheap" (as in
"inexpensive" and "not generally thought of as high quality")
I see articles in Tele-Satelite magazine showing
manufacturers in the far east who check their units,
some every one. But that's a different
market than the 10 UKP DVD players ASDA had for Christmas
last year (or was it 2006?),
But $20 DVD players are different than $200 LCD monitors
or $500-1K computers! People almost *expect* the failure
("Well, it was only a $20 player, anyway... let's go buy
*another*..."). I'm not sure that extends to *everything*
made "for the (John Q Public) consumer".
Post by Curious George
I've seen PC power supplies (covered by the PC's warranty),
motherboards, LCD monitors, "flat screen" TV's, etc.
all with the same sorts of problems.
Note that none of these are "disposable" consumer kit. Most have
price tags high enough that the end user *will* be annoyed by "early
failures". (e.g., the three LCD monitors I fixed today were from an
institution user -- if they are seeing large number of failures
you can bet that information gets back to the manufacturer... in none
too pleasing terms!)
Sure, what do they do? They complain to the board manufacturer who
might do something or not. Most likely they will give them a few
extra boards for free, or promise not to do it in the next batch,
or most likely, since they stopped making those boards a year ago or
longer, just smile and say "sorry".
So, in effect, these folks (the people who ultimately sell the
items to you) have placed their company's fate almost entirely
in thehands of these suppliers -- and are *comfortable* with
that relationship? :-(

Every time I've had to meet with a Japanese supplier there have
been *lots* of reassurances ($$) exchanged prior to beginning
any sort of serious relationship (since this was potentially
a significant "dependancy" being established... if the Japanese
company just saw us as "one of many customers", we weren't
very reassured since an entire product line could end up
depending on how faithfully that Japanese company held up
its end of the arrangement!)
Post by Curious George
And I am sure they would gladly sell you a *PC* today and again
in 6 months! Problem is, would *you* be willing to buy it *and*
accept the fact that the 6-month-old unit was just "worn out"?
Some people do that. Often not in PC's, but in consumer
electronics, all the time.
But, these same problems are manifesting *in* PC's. So, why
is it OK (to the cheap DVD seller) to one seller and *still*
OK (to the PC vendor)?
Look at the public relations disaster Apple had when the
first generation iPods failed after a year due to battery
problems.
Now how many people keep their iPods for a year? What about
the cheap MP3 or "MP4" players that are everywhere? Does
anyone care if they die in a year? It's cheaper to go to
Wal-Mart and buy a new one with more
memory, more features, etc and toss the old one.
Again, these are inexpensive devices. What happens if the same
quality issue presents with large LCD TV's? Or, PC's?
I wonder how that sort of problem would be met here in the
US if it afflicted these new "HDTV converter boxes"?
(imagine 1 out of 5 ATV user losing their TV reception because
of a flaw in that design... (I'm told several boxes have
noticeable firmware bugs))
Post by Curious George
Sure, that's common practice! It's still a losing proposition for
the "manufacturer" if "enough" units are returned. (there are costs
involved in handling the return, complaint, etc. -- many of those
can't be contained... e.g., a lawsuit pops up and you suddenly
can't factor the cost of *that* into your $75 fee!
:> )
And exactly what do people sue you for? It's hard to
sue someone because a gaming device failed out of warranty.
Look at all the threats Apple got after the iPod battery
fiasco. How did they resolve it? You could return your iPod
for battery replacement for $99. How much did that cost
them? How much money did they make on each of those
repairs?
I seem to recall Gateway having a big problem with Plasma
screen TV's -- clearly a "consumer item". Yet, *they* were
sued for failures that were "out of warranty". And, I
believe it was probably a big issue in their demise.
I think this reinforces my "what is 'cheap'" notion as
a threshold for pain for most consumers.

Perhaps if iPods cost a few kilobucks, Apple's response
would have been less palatable (for all parties).
How many people did not bother and bought new iPods, or
replaced the battery themselves, absolving Apple of all guilt.
Post by Curious George
And, it depends a lot on who your customer is and what your
relationship with them happens to be. For "consumer" (John Doe)
product, you can afford to screw the user as, for most companies,
you'll probably never do business with him, again. Or, he won't
remember/know he's doing business with the company who previously
screwed him, etc. (or, he may be naive enough to believe the
product was *supposed* to only last N months... )
Well, with cheap consumer goods, it's exactly that.
Post by Curious George
OTOH, if you have long term relationships with your customer
(recall, customer may be a *company* -- even one that remarkets
your product or incorporates it into something of their own),
then you really want to make sure that relationship sours as
a result of them thinking they *were* screwed. :<
<shrug> In my market, it's easier just to Do The Right Thing and
not chase customers who follow the low-ballers around...
I assume you are not a member of the Walton family. :-)
No. I just don't like threats of lawsuits when a device fails
and a customer's production line goes down for several *hours*
(note: not *days* or weeks!) and he's looking at how he's
going to recover those losses -- and *you* (me) are the only
likely candidate! :<
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 18:10:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Well, we know the *final* manufacturer who sells to John Q Public
does! Are you saying that the rest of the chain is all "caveat
emptor"? So, the poor fool who walks into a Wal-Mart and "takes
a chance" on some cheap piece of kit is actually getting a
*better* "deal" than the rest of the folks in the chain? :-<
Yes. But they are paying a higher price because of it. The companies
who buy a component, whether it's a capacitor, or a board, or a complete
unit, don't get warranties anymore, they just figure a certain failure rate
and pay accordingly.
Post by Curious George
You don't have to "take it back for repair". E.g., most
of the items that I've designed are *examined* when they
fail "under warranty" (i.e., to figure out *why* so we can
determine if there are component or design issues to be
remedied to reduce those costs in the future)
First of all, who examines them? Is Wal-Mart going to box up each broken
DVD player and send it to the "Long March DVD company" in China?
Is anyone at the Long March DVD company going to care? The batch that
went to Wal-Mart and is on sale today, was finished, boxed up and shipped
six months ago. They've gone on to three or four new batches, with different
designs, different components, etc.
Post by Curious George
How (seriously) do you come up with an "anticipated failure
rate" when you are using components outside their specs?
Rely on past similar "abuses"? :-/ It would seem too costly
to *test* a marginal design too try to come up with a reasonable
confidence interval for this figure -- especially with the short
product development cycles nowadays...
It's a gamble. But engineers who are used to building things at the edge
of their specs, are used to it. As much as you are used to knowing how
much to overspec something so that you don't have to "beam down" a
satellite for a quick repair. :-)
Post by Curious George
OK, I can buy that for "cheap" consumer kit. (e.g., $100).
But, are you saying LCD monitors are just "produced" with
no testing or other means of quantifying your quality?
Yes, especially the $200 ones.
Post by Curious George
Ditto for PC's? (I'll have to start looking at some of the
"failed" medical instruments and see if they are suffering
the same sorts of "bad cap" failures!)
Yes, especially the $200 ones.
Post by Curious George
The common thread in your examples seems to be "cheap" (as in
"inexpensive" and "not generally thought of as high quality")
Yes, that was my point from the begining.
Post by Curious George
But $20 DVD players are different than $200 LCD monitors
or $500-1K computers! People almost *expect* the failure
("Well, it was only a $20 player, anyway... let's go buy
*another*..."). I'm not sure that extends to *everything*
made "for the (John Q Public) consumer".
No, but it's close in $200 LCD monitors and TV sets, and
$200-$300 computers.
Post by Curious George
So, in effect, these folks (the people who ultimately sell the
items to you) have placed their company's fate almost entirely
in thehands of these suppliers -- and are *comfortable* with
that relationship? :-(
Yes, they know what to expect. They live on small margins already, and
if they can get a lower price, it matters. If they sell devices with
a 90 day warranty and all of them fail on the 89th day, they are really
pissed off, but if they fail on the 91st, they smile and sell you another
one.
Post by Curious George
Every time I've had to meet with a Japanese supplier there have
been *lots* of reassurances ($$) exchanged prior to beginning
any sort of serious relationship (since this was potentially
a significant "dependancy" being established... if the Japanese
company just saw us as "one of many customers", we weren't
very reassured since an entire product line could end up
depending on how faithfully that Japanese company held up
its end of the arrangement!)
But that's a different class of device. Just the fact you are talking with
the Japanese puts you in a class above the Koreans and Tiwanese, and two
classes above the PRC. (and three classes above India, but they don't
export much yet.)
Post by Curious George
But, these same problems are manifesting *in* PC's. So, why
is it OK (to the cheap DVD seller) to one seller and *still*
OK (to the PC vendor)?
Same thing, different device. People learn to expect the same reliability
from all devices from cheap PC's to cheap DVD player's to cheap MP3
players, telephones, etc.

Look at Kitchen Aid mixers. Hobart sold the brand name in 1993 or 1994
and they are made "in the USA" with Chinese made junk inside. Yet people
insist on spending $1,000 for one that sells in the U.S. for $300, while
an equivalent Kenwood, made in the EU, has 3 times the power,
works much better and lasts as long as the old Hobart ones.

BTW, Hobart still makes the same mixer as the KA, it's now about $2,000.
Post by Curious George
Again, these are inexpensive devices. What happens if the same
quality issue presents with large LCD TV's? Or, PC's?
I wonder how that sort of problem would be met here in the
US if it afflicted these new "HDTV converter boxes"?
(imagine 1 out of 5 ATV user losing their TV reception because
of a flaw in that design... (I'm told several boxes have
noticeable firmware bugs))
They won't care. They will just go to Wallyworld and buy a cheap HDTV
and say it was the problem with the old TV anyway, and it was old, and
I'm not going to spend another $40 to keep that POS going.......
Post by Curious George
I seem to recall Gateway having a big problem with Plasma
screen TV's -- clearly a "consumer item". Yet, *they* were
sued for failures that were "out of warranty". And, I
believe it was probably a big issue in their demise.
I think this reinforces my "what is 'cheap'" notion as
a threshold for pain for most consumers.
It depends, Plasma TV's IMHO stink anyway. But they just got stuck on
the wrong end of a product liability suit. IMHO the suits all should
have been dismissed, but you can get away with a lot in the U.S.
Post by Curious George
Perhaps if iPods cost a few kilobucks, Apple's response
would have been less palatable (for all parties).
Of course. They replaced the batteries on dying powerbooks.
Post by Curious George
No. I just don't like threats of lawsuits when a device fails
and a customer's production line goes down for several *hours*
(note: not *days* or weeks!) and he's looking at how he's
going to recover those losses -- and *you* (me) are the only
likely candidate! :<
That's a different issue. You are selling to a different market.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Phil Stracchino
2008-08-18 18:17:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Each one is a manufacturer, they do something to put it
together. They buy a raw material, whether it's aluminum
foil to make the capacitors, or
the assembled boards and wire them together.
Each step along the way, someone builds, and possibly tests each unit.
Yes, that was my point...
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Generally no one sells their product with a warranty.
Well, we know the *final* manufacturer who sells to John Q Public
does! Are you saying that the rest of the chain is all "caveat
emptor"? So, the poor fool who walks into a Wal-Mart and "takes
a chance" on some cheap piece of kit is actually getting a
*better* "deal" than the rest of the folks in the chain? :-<
There is a relevant true story from a vanished age ....

Back when IBM first started contracting with Japanese suppliers, they
gave one such supplier a spec which included a clause requiring a
maximum of ten defective parts per thousand (or some such number, I
don't recall the precise number). When the shipment arrived, they
opened it up and found, on top of all the packaged parts, a small
separate package and a letter.

The letter read,
"We do not understand why you wish to have ten defective parts per
thousand, but they are included per your request. For your convenience,
we have packaged them separately."
--
Phil Stracchino, CDK#2 DoD#299792458 ICBM: 43.5607, -71.355
***@caerllewys.net ***@metrocast.net ***@co.ordinate.org
Renaissance Man, Unix ronin, Perl hacker, Free Stater
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
Curious George
2008-08-18 17:52:25 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 03:05:55PM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
I.e., the problem has been around for almost 10 years. Are folks
*really* still shipping bad product in spite of this knowledge?
I could understand products from "Phly-Buy-Nyte Elektronigs"...
but, hard to believe the folks at Dell, IBM, etc. are just turning
a blind eye on their suppliers after taking such a $$$ hit dealing
with this problem.
Sure, Dell has been rumored to be on the edge of financial failure for
years. I'm sure they buy their componnets to the specification that they
last as long as their warranties. How close is a matter of
speculation.
Hence my point. They can NOT be "turning a blind eye" to this.
They can't afford to. Especially since the press has wind of the
issue for many years...
Besides, do you know anyone who buys a Dell computer because it is
a high quality item? People buy them for their price.
I think most Dell sales (and HP, etc.) are just because there are
no practical alternatives (in the Wintel world)
Post by Curious George
I use Panny caps in all of my designs and, SO FAR, have never had
a problem. But, I derate *heavily*. OTOH, if the problem is
*not* related to a "component manufacturer" (see above), then
I should, perhaps, not sleep as well... :-/
This is starting to become silly IMHO.
I guess because we service different sorts of industries. :>
It appears you deal with "(inexpensive) consumer goods". So,
for you, a short product life doesn't *cost* you anything
*and* may, in fact, *help* your overall sales!

OTOH, I have to deal with products that folks *don't* expect
to fail. And, that tend to cost a fair bit more ($1K - $1M)
so the cost of those potential failures are significant (to
vendor *and* consumer). Were *I* my own customer, I would
gladly pony up another $10K, $50K, $100K, etc. to have a "hot spare"
available "just in case". But, that eats into *their* operating
margins. So, they just insist/expect devices *not* to fail.
And, they're big enough firms that they can use their financial
and legal clout to "encourage" that :-/

So, if there is "something happening" in teh electronics
industry that could *potentially* affect the quality of these
things, it is in my best interest to be on top of it.

*If* it's just a "bad component manufacturer", then it won't
affect me -- just avoid components from that manufacturer.
OTOH, if there is something inherently changed in the
technology, etc. that is manifecting itself in a type of
product/component failure (e.g., ever shrinking device
geometries), then it can have a huge impact on how well
I could respond to that "failure" (e.g., if we start seeing
processor failures as a consequence of electromigration and
can reasonably anticipate devices of larger geometries to
be harder to find in the future, then it's time to come
up with a design that doesn't rely on those parts *before*
they become unobtainium)
While I'm sure you do a wonderful
job of designing your devices, how much control do you have
over the ultimate manufacture of them? If you do control what gets
put into them and how they are manufacturered and tested then good for
you, worry about it.
If you just design them, and the designs are sold to (or
stolen by) little factories in China who do what they can to cheapen
them, then don't worry, it's totaly beyond your control.
Almost everything is made under our direct supervision (either *by*
us or *for* us). There's just too much at stake. Even the items
that are outsourced are heavily inspected before being used. This
increases the overall cost of those assemblies but is necessary
in certain cases where the technologies involved aren't cost
effective to bring in house.

As I said, we'd *really* have to be in bed with a vendor to trust
an entire product line (or, corporate future) to their commitment.
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 18:14:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
As I said, we'd *really* have to be in bed with a vendor to trust
an entire product line (or, corporate future) to their commitment.
But a company like Wal-Mart does not care. They sell cheap junk at low
prices. When this batch runs out, they sell a new cheap product under
a new name. By the time the 90 day warranty runs out, they don't even
have any more of the units in the stores.

The bottom line in this case, is that people pay less to get less and are
happy with it.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Patrick Giagnocavo
2008-08-18 20:57:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Post by Curious George
As I said, we'd *really* have to be in bed with a vendor to trust
an entire product line (or, corporate future) to their commitment.
But a company like Wal-Mart does not care. They sell cheap junk at low
prices. When this batch runs out, they sell a new cheap product under
a new name. By the time the 90 day warranty runs out, they don't even
have any more of the units in the stores.
What they will do is go to a reputable manufacturer and say "we will buy
a line from you of your products, but, make it to THIS price point; we
don't care if it has cheap Chinese crap inside".

So they will make a custom line for WalMart only, which is crappy even
though the regular products are good.

Then the sales of the good stuff go down because "I can buy almost the
same thing at WalMart for half the price", and they are forced to put
cheap Chinese crap in their entire line in order to stay afloat.

--Patrick
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 21:21:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
Then the sales of the good stuff go down because "I can buy almost the
same thing at WalMart for half the price", and they are forced to put
cheap Chinese crap in their entire line in order to stay afloat.
The (south) Korean TV industry was created because Sears wanted to sell
a black and white televison set and no Japanese manufacturer would make
them.

Now that North Korea is no longer the "bad guys", I look forward to a
new crop of even cheaper crap. :-)

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
der Mouse
2008-08-19 00:27:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
So they will make a custom line for WalMart only, which is crappy
even though the regular products are good.
...and that's their mistake. Well, their first mistake.
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
Then the sales of the good stuff go down because "I can buy almost
the same thing at WalMart for half the price", and they are forced to
put cheap Chinese crap in their entire line in order to stay afloat.
And that's their second; the right thing for them to have done would be
to have told walmart "sorry, we can't afford to build to your price
point any longer; go buy from someone else".

It constantly depresses me how many organizations are willing to trash
a good reputation for the sake of some very short-term profit.

/~\ The ASCII der Mouse
\ / Ribbon Campaign
X Against HTML ***@rodents-montreal.org
/ \ Email! 7D C8 61 52 5D E7 2D 39 4E F1 31 3E E8 B3 27 4B
Joshua Boyd
2008-08-19 03:08:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by der Mouse
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
So they will make a custom line for WalMart only, which is crappy
even though the regular products are good.
...and that's their mistake. Well, their first mistake.
I'm not sure that that is the first mistake. Quite likely the first
mistake was going public, or putting the company in a place where short
term share holder value is more important than long term viability.
Phil Stracchino
2008-08-19 12:49:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by Joshua Boyd
Post by der Mouse
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
So they will make a custom line for WalMart only, which is crappy
even though the regular products are good.
...and that's their mistake. Well, their first mistake.
I'm not sure that that is the first mistake. Quite likely the first
mistake was going public, or putting the company in a place where short
term share holder value is more important than long term viability.
I've thought that myself for a long time now. The day you put the
future of a company in the hands of modern-day stockbrokers,
shareholders and stockholders, it's doomed. Just like HP, which didn't
take a year after Bill and Dave died to make a dive for the drain. It's
just a matter of time. If you want a company to last, build it slowly
and keep it privately held.
--
Phil Stracchino, CDK#2 DoD#299792458 ICBM: 43.5607, -71.355
***@caerllewys.net ***@metrocast.net ***@co.ordinate.org
Renaissance Man, Unix ronin, Perl hacker, Free Stater
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-19 13:07:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Stracchino
I've thought that myself for a long time now. The day you put the
future of a company in the hands of modern-day stockbrokers,
shareholders and stockholders, it's doomed. Just like HP, which didn't
take a year after Bill and Dave died to make a dive for the drain. It's
just a matter of time. If you want a company to last, build it slowly
and keep it privately held.
Not really.
Phil Stracchino
2008-08-19 13:27:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Post by Phil Stracchino
I've thought that myself for a long time now. The day you put the
future of a company in the hands of modern-day stockbrokers,
shareholders and stockholders, it's doomed. Just like HP, which didn't
take a year after Bill and Dave died to make a dive for the drain. It's
just a matter of time. If you want a company to last, build it slowly
and keep it privately held.
Not really.
Scott Newell
2008-08-19 15:06:49 UTC
Permalink
It's the whole point of this discussion. I was presenting the point of
view (which I don't really believe in BTW) of building products the
post Fiorina HP way, versus Aligent which continued doing things
the "Bill and Dave" HP way.
Aren't some of the Agilent low-end digital scopes actually rebranded
chinese (Rigol) scopes? That doesn't seem like the "Bill & Dave" HP way.
--
newell
Joshua Boyd
2008-08-19 01:56:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Besides, do you know anyone who buys a Dell computer because it is
a high quality item? People buy them for their price.
I think most Dell sales (and HP, etc.) are just because there are
no practical alternatives (in the Wintel world)
No practical alternatives? How are iMacs, IBMs, HPs, or BOXX machines
not practical alternatives?
Scott Newell
2008-08-19 02:40:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Joshua Boyd
Post by Curious George
I think most Dell sales (and HP, etc.) are just because there are
no practical alternatives (in the Wintel world)
No practical alternatives? How are iMacs, IBMs, HPs, or BOXX machines
not practical alternatives?
Can you even get a Mac with a true parallel port? Dell workstations
still have them (last time I checked), but I'm not sure about HP or IBM.
--
newell
Joshua Boyd
2008-08-19 04:42:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by Scott Newell
Post by Joshua Boyd
Post by Curious George
I think most Dell sales (and HP, etc.) are just because there are
no practical alternatives (in the Wintel world)
No practical alternatives? How are iMacs, IBMs, HPs, or BOXX machines
not practical alternatives?
Can you even get a Mac with a true parallel port? Dell workstations
still have them (last time I checked), but I'm not sure about HP or IBM.
The vast majority of people have no reasonable need of a true parallel
port. Keeping parallel because of a specialty piece of equipment may be
OK. Keeping it to use a Canon BJC-600 is insanity. Keeping it to use a
parallel port scanner is a crime. Keeping it to use a Xilinx JTAG cable
is also pretty sad.

For those who do, there are PCI-E parallel ports (only good for MacPros,
obviously), or they can switch to any number of non Dell brand machines.
Scott Newell
2008-08-19 05:09:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Joshua Boyd
Post by Scott Newell
Can you even get a Mac with a true parallel port? Dell workstations
still have them (last time I checked), but I'm not sure about HP or IBM.
The vast majority of people have no reasonable need of a true parallel
I'm concerned with satisfying my (admittedly specialized)
requirements, not the majority's.
--
newell
Ethan O'Toole
2008-08-19 05:12:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Joshua Boyd
The vast majority of people have no reasonable need of a true parallel
port. Keeping parallel because of a specialty piece of equipment may be
Parallel ports and serial ports are useful!

We used one for our internet connected crane game:

Loading Image...



--
05 REM Signature
10 PRINT " Ethan O'Toole "
20 PRINT " FLICKR ", " http://www.flickr.com/photos/ethanotoole "
30 PRINT " YOUTUBE ", " www.youtube.com/user/telmnstr "
40 PRINT " HOMEPAGE ", " users.757.org/~ethan "
RUN
Jonathan C. Patschke
2008-08-19 05:24:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Joshua Boyd
I think most Dell sales (and HP, etc.) are just because there are no
practical alternatives (in the Wintel world)
No practical alternatives? How are iMacs, IBMs, HPs, or BOXX machines
not practical alternatives?
IBM PCs (xSeries only, as they've discontinued the IntelliStation) are
overpriced garbage with fantastically inept tech support. I have a
whopper of a horror story from the last three xSeries systems we picked
up[0]. I will never, Never, NEVER buy another PC system from IBM.

BOXX, apart from their silly name, don't appear to make business desktop
systems--or anything apart from machines targeted at digital video folks.

HPs were mentioned, and, provided you buy their business-class or
workstation-class hardware, they are very respectable PCs. HP's low-end
junk is even worse than Dell's low-end junk.

A lot of businesses aren't ready to commit to Macs yet. Buying an
equivalently priced Mac over a PC for the purpose of running Windows is
seen as "a waste". I'd agree, but I don't see it as "a waste" in exactly
the same way many IT managers do.

I'd like to see Apple make inroads on the business desktop, but it'll take
a while to overcome the perception that Macs are for graphics folks and
clueless end-users only.

All that said, Dell make a perfectly reasonable PC, provided you know what
to buy. The Optiplex, Precision, and Latitude systems are generally quite
good, if you can deal with crap audio, loud fans, and so-so display
quality (somewhat less of an issue in these DVI days). For most business
desktop users, a small Optiplex system is perfect.

Personally, I like having clean audio and quiet fans and video that
doesn't flicker blue static on the black areas of the display, so I'll
stick with my Mac. If my employer didn't cater to their programmers'
whims (happy programmers are productive programmers), and I were forced to
deal with an Optiplex 745 or Precision 390 instead of a Mac Pro, I
wouldn't mind much. I might pick up a USB audio interface at Fry's so
that I could listen to music without CPU PLL noise, but it wouldn't be
enough for me to throw a tantrum over.


[0] Sadly, I personally made (and had to fight for) the decision to go
with IBM over Dell[1], as the machines were to be installed in Taiwan.
My previous experience with IBM RS/6000 and S/390 hardware (thereby
reclassifying my previous experience with IBM PCs as being a fluke)
was that you pay a massive wad of cash up front in exchange for a
reliable machine that doesn't give much trouble, backed by unmatched
support. What I got was egg on my face over unreliable crap backed by
hardheaded idiots.
[1] $ork was, at the time, a Dell shop. If you didn't need-to run
PA-RISC or SPARC code, and you didn't make enough noise to get
something else, you got a Dell.
--
Jonathan Patschke | "There is more to life than increasing its speed."
Elgin, TX | --Mahatma Gandhi
USA |
Curious George
2008-08-18 18:22:41 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 03:29:30PM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
I *think* most of the capacitor failures that I have seen are
brought about by *use*. I.e., sitting idle (unpowered) doesn't
harm the devices.
Obivously you are a modern design engineer with no experience in older
electronics.
You're right. I started my career in the mid 70's (with the i4004)
and have *no* experience with "valves", etc. :>
Ask on any of the older radio mailing lists about what
to do with a radio that has sat unused for many years. Many
of them have capacitor failure due to aging, and they were made
before any of this happened.
What *relative* timescales are you talking about?
The poster was talking about some "spare PC's" that are
sitting around waiting to replace units that are in service.
Are you claiming that those *sitting* unpowered will exhibit the
same failure rate as those that have been *running* for the
past couple of years (note the model he cited is not a 30 year
old tube radio! :> )
Post by Curious George
But, I can't be sure of that! E.g., if the problem was caused
by something in the manufacturing process that *contaminates*
the components (e.g., a bad wash), then it's possible that
their actual service life *is* shortened despite being
in storage for that time...
No, it wasn't a bad wash, it was a missing preservative.
***IT*** wasn't a bad wash. The point of my post was "are there
any *other* things going on, here?" Stop fixating on this one
incident. 50 years hence, will you still be blaming all e-cap
failurews on some botched industrial espionage attempt in
Taiwan? When do you start wondering if, perhaps, something
*else* has come into play?

I make it a point to look at "failed devices". I want to
understand *why* they failed. And, if there is anything that I,
as a designer, can do to reduce the likelihood of failure in
the future (and what the tradeoffs to do so might be).

I'm not only interested in how the electronics failed but how
mechanically something may have died. How long that item
*should* last is a separate issue to me. Should a Cadillac
last longer than a Chevy or a Yugo? <shrug> Understanding
how they fail is a skillset I actively develop as it lets me
add value to the things I work on.

Likewise, I routinely evaluate the firmware and software in
products. Especially products that I don't use. It helps me
figure out what's good about a design vs. bad. E.g., this
past week I played with a dozen LCD monitors. While the
"front panel controls" on most were similar, some were
designed in a clearly inferior manner that made using them
very unintuitive (and, since I suspect very *few* people
read the user manual for their monitor, having an intuitive
interface is *essential*).

The point of this thread was to ellicit any observations people
had over what types of failure modes they might be experiencing
in various bits of kit.
As I said in a previous reply which you should have seen by
now, they probably replaced it with something that extended
the life of their product, but not as long as the original one.
So, your summary contribution is "(still) bad components"
akin to making 0.245W resistors to save a few micropennies
per unit (resistor). OK, then I just avoid Taiwanese
components and vendors and all is well! :>
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 20:10:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
You're right. I started my career in the mid 70's (with the i4004)
and have *no* experience with "valves", etc. :>
Actually the i4004 came pretty late in the game. There were all sorts
of computers before that.
Post by Curious George
What *relative* timescales are you talking about?
The poster was talking about some "spare PC's" that are
sitting around waiting to replace units that are in service.
Are you claiming that those *sitting* unpowered will exhibit the
same failure rate as those that have been *running* for the
past couple of years (note the model he cited is not a 30 year
old tube radio! :> )
Beats me. Since the original problem was a preservative in the electrolyte
(something to keep the goo inside from going bad for the nontechical),
they may just as easily have gone bad sitting around, or not. I have no
information.

Since I assume the "correction" was to include a presevative that worked
better than nothing, but not as well as the original missing item, I'm
even more clueless. Better than nothing and good are far apart, and I
don't know where they decided to stop, or how many attempts were along
the way.

There are also many different unrelated problems with cheap components
and again, in use or not, such as lubricants drying out or solidifying,
heat sink transfer paste drying out, lithum batteries failing or leaking,
and so on.

A couple of years ago Office Depot brand batteries sold here would in a matter
of months swell to the point they would no longer fit in the device, leak or
both. They have since upgraded from PRC batteries to Singapore ones, and
now they are just short lived crap.

If the same company that made their batteries made the lithum batteries
that xxxx brand used, they could have the same problem. The electrolyte
in litium batteries is very caustic and could destroy a motherboard.

Cheap PRC battery companies are not the only ones with problems, Sony batteries
used in Apple and Dell laptops had the same problem.
Post by Curious George
***IT*** wasn't a bad wash. The point of my post was "are there
any *other* things going on, here?" Stop fixating on this one
incident. 50 years hence, will you still be blaming all e-cap
failurews on some botched industrial espionage attempt in
Taiwan? When do you start wondering if, perhaps, something
*else* has come into play?
It's the root cause of the fall of the capacitor industry in Tiawan. It
taught them to improve their product to a point and leave it there. Something
the Koreans, Indians, North Koreans, etc will follow.

My wife likes to tell the story of a brand of tomato sauce with mushrooms.
Every month they removed a small amount of mushrooms until their sales
slowed down. That's where they kept it.

The capacitor problem just taught that lesson to the Tiwanese and it will
spread. I'm sure that in 5 years your Japanese vendors will ask you when
you spec a component, "how long should it last"?
Post by Curious George
I make it a point to look at "failed devices". I want to
understand *why* they failed. And, if there is anything that I,
as a designer, can do to reduce the likelihood of failure in
the future (and what the tradeoffs to do so might be).
That's a noble idea, and you will do well as long as you stay away
from the "lowest possible price" consumer goods.
Post by Curious George
I'm not only interested in how the electronics failed but how
mechanically something may have died. How long that item
*should* last is a separate issue to me. Should a Cadillac
last longer than a Chevy or a Yugo? <shrug> Understanding
how they fail is a skillset I actively develop as it lets me
add value to the things I work on.
There always will be a niche market for high end items. :-)
Post by Curious George
Likewise, I routinely evaluate the firmware and software in
products. Especially products that I don't use. It helps me
figure out what's good about a design vs. bad. E.g., this
past week I played with a dozen LCD monitors. While the
"front panel controls" on most were similar, some were
designed in a clearly inferior manner that made using them
very unintuitive (and, since I suspect very *few* people
read the user manual for their monitor, having an intuitive
interface is *essential*).
Is it? Seriously, how many people buy using price as their sole critera?
Post by Curious George
The point of this thread was to ellicit any observations people
had over what types of failure modes they might be experiencing
in various bits of kit.
Was it? I thought it was more about busting the urban legend of the bad
capacitors, which it was not.
Post by Curious George
So, your summary contribution is "(still) bad components"
akin to making 0.245W resistors to save a few micropennies
per unit (resistor). OK, then I just avoid Taiwanese
components and vendors and all is well! :>
I would not characterize it as a particular ethnic group or country.
Greed and stupidity are universal.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Curious George
2008-08-18 18:50:36 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 02:52:44PM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
My point is we are now almost 10 years after the "spy event"
and I'm still seeing "cap problems". While it is *possible*
that there is a big pile of "old stock" someplace(s) that
folks are still pulling from (to avoid having to eat their
losses on those components and/or subassemblies), I wonder if
there aren't *other* issues at play, here. I.e., when do
we *stop* blaming capacitor problems on *this* particular
cause?
Well, you are assuming it was corrected.
Yes, I am! I don't understand why a vendor -- caught with
his pants down -- would NOT strive to fix the problem. It
obviously hasn't taken long for The Industry to realize there
is a "real problem" *and* for news of that to have spilled
over into outside venues.
First of all, if it turns
out that these capacitors work fine for 91 days without any
changes, most consumer manufacturers would not touch them, but many
would.
Second what if it was partially fixed? Lacking the critical
ingredient, and the knowledge of what it was, why wouldn't the
Tiwanese company find a substitute.
Exactly. And, while there is undoubtedly some *art* involved in
the manufacture of reliable components, even if it was "rocket
science", there *are* rocket scientists out there that can be
hired to fix the problem!
If it extends the working life of their units
to a year, or two or three, but costs less than the one the
Japanese company uses, why not?
This is already true even of Japanese components. You'll note
that caps have several ratings: WVDC, capacitance, temperature,
etc. But, those also have *temporal* aspects (e.g., 1000 hrs
at 105C vs. 5000 hours at 105C, etc.)
I must be missing something here, I think you are the only person on
the planet that thinks that cheap consumer electronics should last
several years.
You seem to be lumping *everything* that John Q Public purchases
into the category of "cheap consumer electronics". Are there
any things that you *dont* put in this category that John Q
Public (I assume we are using "consumer" to refer *to* John
Q Public and *not* in the more generic sense -- where every
purchaser, including instutions, are technically "consumers")
would purchase? Is there a dollar amount involved? Or, some
abstract sense of "quality"?

E.g., I can buy a crappy microwave oven from WalMart that I
*know* won't give many any serviceable life. Or, I can buy a
*quality* microwave oven from another vendor that *will*.
Both are consumer electronics. Both are "cheap" (inexpensive).

OTOH, I can buy a "quality" $300 TV that will last me many
years. Or, a crappy $5000 plasma unit that won't last *two*!

Which should I, as a consumer, consider "cheap consumer electronics"?

I don't consider cell phones to be long-lived items because "new
and imporved" models keep coming out yearly. And, they are so
intimately tied to service plans that the service providers
change just as frequently. *Should* they last more than a
year? <shrug> Probably not given the way they are marketed.

OTOH, should your TV last more than a year? Even a *crappy* one?
I think people would be annoyed if they had to replace their TV
every year -- whereas they have no problems doing this with
their cell phones!

What about computers? In the corporate market, 1-3 years of
"untainted service" would be hailed as a miracle -- since most
corporations are stuck in a < 3 year cycle of replacing everything.

[Hmmm... did we decide to consider corporations "consumers"?]

OTOH, a home user (which I suspect to be a sizeable portion
of that market) is a bit less pleased with the idea of having
to buy new every 2 or 3 years. *Especially* if it is due to a
hardware failure (people seem quite tolerant of SOFTWARE failures!)

And, what about more generic items like an LCD monitor? OK,
maybe I have to upgrade my PC because it isn't fast enough for
the newest bloatware out of Redmond. But, why should I have
to replace my monitor? I.e., a hardware failure there is
considered more of a *real* loss since there is no inherent
need to replace it periodically.
The whole "cheaper to toss it and buy a new one"
mentality has unfortunately taken over and is the
conerstone of many country's economies (US, Japan, the EU) and so on.
Of course! But, at what level does that rise to "cause
perceivable pain"? E.g., it's one thing to discard some
trivial piece of kit -- an MP3 player, handheld game, iPod,
etc. -- that you could easily replace and probably would
*welcome* replacing (since handheld devices get grungy
pretty quickly). But, would you want to replace your TV
that often? Or, your microwave? Or, washing machine?
The US has outgrown the "when the ashtray is full,
it's time to trade in the car" mentality of the 1960's, but
it's IMHO shifted to consumer goods.
That's how this list got started, there was a
generation of SUN computers
being scrapped because they were obsolete. It expanded to
other manufacturer's
computers, but things have not changed and the mentality
expanded to
the general public and consumer electronics in general.
As an example, cheap DVD players. If they were to be used
everyday for
three years before the capacitors leak, will they still
work? Have
the laser diodes degraded to the point they no longer put
out enough power?
Did the plastic assemblies that hold the disk in place
degrade to the
point they no longer hold the disk in a readable position?
I don;t think of service life in terms of time for all devices.
If, for example, I only watch a DVD every month -- maybe *two* -- and
that player craps out in 6 months, then I see that as a very expensive
purchase! (this is pertinent as most of the DVD players that
I have seen have power on 24/7 for the power supply itself -- so
the caps *will* fry in a fixed time).

OTOH, folks who do use it very little may not be concerned when
it does crap out: "Oh, well... we don't watch many DVD's
anyways..."
They both happen to cheap DVD players and often in less
than three years, so why buy capacitors that last "forever"?
I'm not saying there isn't a market for crappy products.
What I am saying is that it appears that the sorts of things
that one would expect to encounter in a crappy product seem
to be affecting products that *I* wouldn't tend to put in
that same class! I don't know where society draws that line.
But, I *do* know what side of the line my products are expected
to be. I don't see customers throwing away 3, 5, or 10 year
old products "just to have new". In fact, there are some
products that I have to work real hard to chase down replacement
parts for 20 years after the sale! :<

So, I am concerned any time I see some phenomenon that looks
like it could challenge our ability to meet those requirements.
As I said, if *ALL* of these failures can be attributed to
crappy components from offshore producers, I can smile contented
in the knowledge that I have nothing to worry about... (but,
I'm not naive enough to settle for that)
Rick Hamell
2008-08-18 19:17:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
You seem to be lumping *everything* that John Q Public purchases
into the category of "cheap consumer electronics". Are there
any things that you *dont* put in this category that John Q
Public (I assume we are using "consumer" to refer *to* John
Q Public and *not* in the more generic sense -- where every
purchaser, including instutions, are technically "consumers")
would purchase? Is there a dollar amount involved? Or, some
abstract sense of "quality"?
Ladies and Gentlemen! This years reward for most gratuitous use of the
asterisk is the Sun-rescue list. Not since 1985's blatant exploitation
in ANSI porn have we seen such masterful use!

Keep up the good work and here's to another year of the asterisk!
--
Rick Hamell
Tech Blog - http://www.1nova.com/blog
Pacific Northwest Photo Blog - http://www.1nova.com/photoblog
Linkedin Profile - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/6/946/27
Carl R. Friend
2008-08-18 19:33:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
OTOH, I can buy a "quality" $300 TV that will last me many
years. Or, a crappy $5000 plasma unit that won't last *two*!
Which should I, as a consumer, consider "cheap consumer electronics"?
Well, in my case, you're dealing with a bloke who, in 1983
dropped three grand on a 40" 3-CRT rear-projection television
set, and I was massively ticked off when it died earlier this
year and was pronounced "unrepairable" (likely because there's
no talent left that can troubleshoot to the component level).
I am unamused enough that my wife and I are getting by on an
even *older* 12-incher. If I were to drop five grand on a
television and have it conk out in two years' time I would be
positively *furious*.

I can see failures that have a distict *cause* (e.g. the
cat threw up on it and it dripped through the vents), but I
do not appreciate failures on a micro-timeline (and I, for
one, do not adhere to the current view of "three years and
it's obsolete -- go buy another one) whether it's in the
consumer sector or the business/industrial sector that are
due solely to "planned obsolescence"; the "build it as cheaply
as possible and the consumer (whomever that may be) be damned
borders on, if not outright intrudes into, theft.

I routinely run computers that are older than many of my
friends, and they run just as faithfully today as they did
when originally manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s. How
is this possible, the modern mind will, of necessity, ask
(for the modern mind is not accustomed to having anything
last more than three to five years)? It's possible due to
two little things known as "good engineering" and "quality
control".
Curious George
2008-08-18 19:17:51 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 02:48:36PM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
I've never seen such a margin *published* by a vendor. Instead,
WVDC was always the "rated specification" for the component
(e.g., unlike something like TTL that you *can* run on 7VDC
despite it being designed for a nominal 5V supply). "Best
practices" always have you seriously derating the specs on
things like caps for exactly this reason. (of course, the
things I design/build are intended for longer service lives
so I can't play fast and loose with choice of components :-/ )
Published by a vendor, or told to you by the manufacturer
if you asked.
I don;'t care *where* the number comes from -- as long as
the vendor stands behind it (and we have recourse as to
how to respond when/if this ever becomes untrue).
When we meet with Japanese vendors, it is very unnerving
trying to get them to give you specifics about design
limits. They always want to know what we "want it to be".
Perhaps this is a cultural issue -- I think Americans are
used to working to specifications whereas the Japanese
seem to be geared to working to *your* specifications!
Without meaning to sound racist, I doubt that if YOU asked
the question,
Not sure why I should consider that "racist"... are you
oriental?
you would get an answer. Things told over a meal with the
guy down the
street are very different to customers on the phone or in
the conference room.
I don't know about the Chinese, but I had a very
expensive lesson in
"the deal is not really signed until we get drunk
together" with the
The worse (IMHO) experience is sharing "big meals"
(since my decidedly American palate finds many of their
foodstuffs quite unappealing :< ) Getting drunk is
the same regardless of whether its Saki, Ouzo, Grappa,
or Budweiser! :>
president of a Korean company, you probably have 20-30
products of
in your home, or items containing parts made by them.
Post by Curious George
I don't know how one could even *try* to design that way!
Oh come off it. You do it every day. I'm sure that you have design
limitations and you try to minimize cost by staying at the edge of
those limitiations. You just have a different understanding of those
limitations.
Yes. Exactly! Now, what *are* the limitations in these cases
where you don't test product, can't rely on whether or not
your vendor has given you a product that conforms to a (dubious)
specification, etc.? Please look at the context of my reply.

I *really* don't know how (without lots of historical
data to rely upon) to tell my boss "we can make these products
and expect no more than N% scrap (which we'll have to eat)
for a cost of $X". I have *no* experience in that sort of
manufacturing environment.

When I started designing products, I used to factor in a 3%
warranty cost (i.e. 3% of DM+DL -- so the actual factor
was fairly less than this). Over the years, experience has
taught me how to work that down to a fraction of a percent.

I don't have that experience when the components, labor,
assemblies, etc. I am given are of unknown quality. Given
time (years?), I imagine I could apply the same statistical
processes to *learn* what those new factors would be -- but,
in your scenario, it seems likely that they could vary
widely from vendor (supplier) to vendor.
Post by Curious George
I.e., you would have to spend considerable effort characterizing
the parts you buy (you being the actual manufacturer) so you
could be sure the units would pass *your* outgoing inspection!
Or, are you saying that the original manufacturer (*not* the
company who's name is on the OUTSIDE of the piece of equipment)
makes no warranties to *its* customer (i.e., the company who
will ultimately sell to John Doe)?
Yes. The price for untested items is significant lower than
the cost of tested ones. Statistical testing (testing every
5th, 100th, 1000th) raises the price less, but still costs as if a unit
fails, you either toss the ones since the previous test, or test
each one.
So, presumably, people (actuaries?) at these firms have developed
their own characterizations for *their* products using *their*
vendors/suppliers. Are they wed to key suppliers? Or, do
they take a (statistical) gamble each time they opt to
purchase a subassembly from some new/other firm?
If you buy a consumer item, let's say a DVD player from
Wal-Mart, you have no idea of where or how it was made, the working
conditions and age of the workers who made it, and so on. You have
no more desire to know about it than to know
that hambuger you ate for lunch used to walk around and moo.
Of course! But, if my role as consumer is one of VAR, OEM, etc.,
then I am *very* concerned about where that subassembly I just
purchased for use in my product came from! And, the likelihood
of it being able to meet its specifications (performance and
reliability) necessary for *my* product to meet likewise!
(since *I* have to give a warranty as I am selling to an
"end user" -- or, VAR who will hold me accountable for same)
If this DVD player dies in the first 90 days, you take it
back to Wal-Mart
and they trash it. Trashing 1 out of 1000 or whatever the
expected rate
is was included in their cost calculation. It's
probably cheaper than
having a local technician look at it, let alone repair it,
Of course. But, where did they get their numbers?
If you're WalMart, you probably have a deal with your vendor
whereby you just *tell* them how many you trashed and are
compensated. *Or*, threaten to stop doing business with them
(and, since you have lots of clout, they comply!)
and far cheaper
than shipping it back to Long March and having them examine
it to determine why it failed.
If it fails afer 90 days, you buy another one. If you were
upset by the short life, you buy another brand, or go to another store.
If you do, I'll bet you never look far enough to find out they
all say Long March DVD player company in small print on the
circuit boards in Chinese, or even
could read it if you looked.
Or, if you are like me, you find a product/brand that has given you
satisfactory performance and stick to that. Conversely, avoid
products that give you *poor* performance (or, perhaps, poor
customer service, etc.)
Post by Curious George
Or, do these folks operate in an environment where they never
have to "pay" for their mistakes (i.e., through repairs and/or
lost business due to bad reputation, etc.)
Do you know anyone that shops at Wal-Mart? Ask them what
they think of the store, the service, the products, and so on.
Does a negative opinion stop them?
Remember, all consumers are not John Q Public.

I approach a Taiwanese vendor to outsource some aspect -- perhaps
the entire product -- of a product. I am a consumer/customer in
the eyes of said company.

By your comment, they don't test their work before they sell it
to me. I pay real money for their products and then resell
or integrate them into my own products. *I*, dealing with the
end user, give a warranty (since that is expected, even if
a silly 90 day wonder).

I then discover that this company has produced total crap!
I see 10% failure rates. *I* eat that cost (or go belly up).

Now, I reask my question:

"Or, do these folks operate in an environment
where they never have to "pay" for their mistakes
(i.e., through repairs and/or lost business due to
bad reputation, etc.)"

When I go to said Taiwanese firm, do they just smile and
say, "So sorry..."? Do they never have to pay for their
problems? Sure, *I* will stop using them as a supplier
and will probably gladly recount my less than wonderful
experiences with them... are you saying life just goes
on for them without any repurcusions?

I.e., they *have* to somehow factor this experience into
their business model/pricing/methodology *or* just hope
there's another sucker qaiting behind me...
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 20:36:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
I don;'t care *where* the number comes from -- as long as
the vendor stands behind it (and we have recourse as to
how to respond when/if this ever becomes untrue).
When we meet with Japanese vendors, it is very unnerving
trying to get them to give you specifics about design
limits. They always want to know what we "want it to be".
Perhaps this is a cultural issue -- I think Americans are
used to working to specifications whereas the Japanese
seem to be geared to working to *your* specifications!
Not at all. They are following the time honored system of
selling to spec. They make an item and sell it to you based upon
your specs.

For example, let's say capacitor A has a failure rate of 100% at 50c,
10% at 40c, 1% at 35C and .01% (1 in 10k) at 25C or lower. That's
all they make.

However, they know you will pay 10 cents for a 25C unit, $1 for a 35c unit
and $10 for a 40c unit. They will sell you the same capacitor with different
ratings and different warranties.

Everyone used to do that with memory chips. At one particular time, no
one made 200ms memory chips, they made 150ms ones. The ones that passed
testing at 150ms were sold as 150's., the ones that passed at 175 were
sold as 175's, the ones that passed at 200 were sold as 200's, and the
rest were sold as 225's.
Post by Curious George
Not sure why I should consider that "racist"... are you
oriental?
Not, but I was just told that there is some Mongul blood in me. :-)
Post by Curious George
Yes. Exactly! Now, what *are* the limitations in these cases
where you don't test product, can't rely on whether or not
your vendor has given you a product that conforms to a (dubious)
specification, etc.? Please look at the context of my reply.
I *really* don't know how (without lots of historical
data to rely upon) to tell my boss "we can make these products
and expect no more than N% scrap (which we'll have to eat)
for a cost of $X". I have *no* experience in that sort of
manufacturing environment.
Sure, but it's something you learn in the consumer business. You
can always ask what their projected failure rate is. If you are
smart, you double it, and if you know what you are doing, you tripple
it. :-)
Post by Curious George
When I started designing products, I used to factor in a 3%
warranty cost (i.e. 3% of DM+DL -- so the actual factor
was fairly less than this). Over the years, experience has
taught me how to work that down to a fraction of a percent.
But at what cost? If you are buying Matsushita components, you are
paying a lot more for them than entire boards from the "Long March DVD
Player and Hoisin Sauce Company".
Post by Curious George
I don't have that experience when the components, labor,
assemblies, etc. I am given are of unknown quality. Given
time (years?), I imagine I could apply the same statistical
processes to *learn* what those new factors would be -- but,
in your scenario, it seems likely that they could vary
widely from vendor (supplier) to vendor.
Usually not as much as you think. Unless it is defective, cheap crap
has the same failure rate world over. However most people don't even
bother, they find someone to manufacture it for them, and often they
design it for you.

I prefer Flextronics (the world's largest manufacturer of cell phones)
personally, but obviously companies like the "Long March DVD Player and
Hoisin Sauce" company exist and do well.
Post by Curious George
So, presumably, people (actuaries?) at these firms have developed
their own characterizations for *their* products using *their*
vendors/suppliers. Are they wed to key suppliers? Or, do
they take a (statistical) gamble each time they opt to
purchase a subassembly from some new/other firm?
Pretty much. So does the consumer. One of the things you find out living here
is that there are many subcontractors designing and manufacturing laptops.
If you buy a Dell or HP in the U.S., it may come from any one of them.
When you bring it here, you find that submodel was never imported here and
there are no parts for it. :-(

Obviously parts which are subcontracted out, e.g. hard disks, RAM, batteries,
chargers, etc are all the same, but internally they are very different.

However spreading out your manufacturing spreads out you risk.
Post by Curious George
Of course! But, if my role as consumer is one of VAR, OEM, etc.,
then I am *very* concerned about where that subassembly I just
purchased for use in my product came from! And, the likelihood
of it being able to meet its specifications (performance and
reliability) necessary for *my* product to meet likewise!
(since *I* have to give a warranty as I am selling to an
"end user" -- or, VAR who will hold me accountable for same)
But in the low end business you would not even be in the loop.
The units are boxed in China and put out for sale by Wal-Mart. No
one touches them in between, except in case lots.
Post by Curious George
Of course. But, where did they get their numbers?
If you're WalMart, you probably have a deal with your vendor
whereby you just *tell* them how many you trashed and are
compensated. *Or*, threaten to stop doing business with them
(and, since you have lots of clout, they comply!)
Yes.
Post by Curious George
Or, if you are like me, you find a product/brand that has given you
satisfactory performance and stick to that. Conversely, avoid
products that give you *poor* performance (or, perhaps, poor
customer service, etc.)
It only works if you care about quality and not about price. In the
100,000 unit game $1 per unit is a lot of money. In the 10m game,
1 cent is a lot of money.
Post by Curious George
Remember, all consumers are not John Q Public.
True. But most are.
Post by Curious George
I approach a Taiwanese vendor to outsource some aspect -- perhaps
the entire product -- of a product. I am a consumer/customer in
the eyes of said company.
Sure, but there is a good chance in the consumer market, you never
touch the unit.
Post by Curious George
By your comment, they don't test their work before they sell it
to me. I pay real money for their products and then resell
or integrate them into my own products. *I*, dealing with the
end user, give a warranty (since that is expected, even if
a silly 90 day wonder).
Well I'm sure they would gladly test each unit if you wanted them to.
How much are you willing to pay for the service? You might even find
someone who would actually test them instead of writing a computer
program that fakes the test reports. :-)
Post by Curious George
I then discover that this company has produced total crap!
I see 10% failure rates. *I* eat that cost (or go belly up).
"Or, do these folks operate in an environment
where they never have to "pay" for their mistakes
(i.e., through repairs and/or lost business due to
bad reputation, etc.)"
When I go to said Taiwanese firm, do they just smile and
say, "So sorry..."? Do they never have to pay for their
problems? Sure, *I* will stop using them as a supplier
and will probably gladly recount my less than wonderful
experiences with them... are you saying life just goes
on for them without any repurcusions?
And who would you tell? Are you going to call the buyer at the competition?
Are you going to call the buyer at Wall-Mart, or Costco?
Post by Curious George
I.e., they *have* to somehow factor this experience into
their business model/pricing/methodology *or* just hope
there's another sucker qaiting behind me...
Well, you said it, I didn't.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Phil Stracchino
2008-08-18 22:51:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Everyone used to do that with memory chips. At one particular time, no
one made 200ms memory chips, they made 150ms ones. The ones that passed
testing at 150ms were sold as 150's., the ones that passed at 175 were
sold as 175's, the ones that passed at 200 were sold as 200's, and the
rest were sold as 225's.
Seagate used to test all their hard disks as RLL. The ones that passed
were sold as RLL disks; those that failed were sold as MFM.
--
Phil Stracchino, CDK#2 DoD#299792458 ICBM: 43.5607, -71.355
***@caerllewys.net ***@metrocast.net ***@co.ordinate.org
Renaissance Man, Unix ronin, Perl hacker, Free Stater
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
Carl R. Friend
2008-08-19 00:18:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Stracchino
Everyone used to [test] memory chips. At one particular time, no
one made 200ms memory chips, they made 150ms ones. The ones that passed
testing at 150ms were sold as 150's., the ones that passed at 175 were
sold as 175's, the ones that passed at 200 were sold as 200's, and the
rest were sold as 225's.
Seagate used to test all their hard disks as RLL. The ones that passed
were sold as RLL disks; those that failed were sold as MFM.
This is normal procedure, but it depends on one thing that seems
to be missing today -- testing. I have it on good authority that
Intergraph did this with the Clipper chipset -- chips that passed
the tests were sold as 10 MHz kit; those that fared worse were sold
as 9 MHz. I'm not sure what happened with ones that may have passed
at lower clock speeds. I have a 9 MHz specimen in my personal
collection.

+------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
| Carl Richard Friend (UNIX Sysadmin) | West Boylston |
| Minicomputer Collector / Enthusiast | Massachusetts, USA |
| mailto:***@rcn.com +---------------------+
| http://users.rcn.com/crfriend/museum | ICBM: 42:22N 71:47W |
+------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
Curious George
2008-08-18 19:54:04 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 10:33:20AM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
Well, we know the *final* manufacturer who sells to John Q Public
does! Are you saying that the rest of the chain is all "caveat
emptor"? So, the poor fool who walks into a Wal-Mart and "takes
a chance" on some cheap piece of kit is actually getting a
*better* "deal" than the rest of the folks in the chain? :-<
Yes. But they are paying a higher price because of it. The
companies who buy a component, whether it's a capacitor, or a
board, or a complete unit, don't get warranties anymore, they
just figure a certain failure rate and pay accordingly.
And that rate is determined historically? Or, just "wishful
thinking"? I.e., if you don't have any recourse with your
supplier, how can you come up with a practical business
plan? "Well, *hopefully* we won't have too many defects
and then we'll make X% profit..."
Post by Curious George
You don't have to "take it back for repair". E.g., most
of the items that I've designed are *examined* when they
fail "under warranty" (i.e., to figure out *why* so we can
determine if there are component or design issues to be
remedied to reduce those costs in the future)
First of all, who examines them? Is Wal-Mart going to box
up each broken DVD player and send it to the "Long March DVD
company" in China? Is anyone at the Long March DVD company
going to care? The batch that went to Wal-Mart and is on sale
today, was finished, boxed up and shipped six months ago.
They've gone on to three or four new batches, with different
designs, different components, etc.
Remember, this isn't just about WalMart!

I.e, does Dell not care what's going on inside their "warranty
failure" machines? (I've never dealt with a Dell machine
that had to be returned under warranty so I don't know if
they expect you to return the unit or just ship you a new
one, etc.) How do they refine their statistics to decide
which of their vendors are giving them problems (i.e. warranty
costs) if they don't examine the product to determine *where*
the failure was? (I assume Dell contracts a given machine out
to several different suppliers) Don't they care about their
*process*?? Or, are you saying the nature of the business is
such that they *can't* care (i.e., that it is largely out of
their hands -- they are just MARKETERS)
Post by Curious George
How (seriously) do you come up with an "anticipated failure
rate" when you are using components outside their specs?
Rely on past similar "abuses"? :-/ It would seem too costly
to *test* a marginal design too try to come up with a reasonable
confidence interval for this figure -- especially with the short
product development cycles nowadays...
It's a gamble. But engineers who are used to building things at
the edge of their specs, are used to it.
So, you're saying they rely on their *art*, instead. :-/
As much as you are used to knowing how
much to overspec something so that you don't have to
"beam down" a satellite for a quick repair. :-)
<frown> I *guess* it's a different side of the same coin...
but, it really doesn't *feel* that way (any more than a guy
wearing *two* condoms feels he's "playing the odds" vs.
a guy wearing *none* is! :-/ )

[apologies to list if that is off-color]
Post by Curious George
OK, I can buy that for "cheap" consumer kit. (e.g., $100).
But, are you saying LCD monitors are just "produced" with
no testing or other means of quantifying your quality?
Yes, especially the $200 ones.
<frown> So, where is the magic number? $300? $500?
When does it make sense to vendor to check his hole card
before placing his bet?
Post by Curious George
Ditto for PC's? (I'll have to start looking at some of the
"failed" medical instruments and see if they are suffering
the same sorts of "bad cap" failures!)
Yes, especially the $200 ones.
That I would probably concede. A $200 PC is really pretty
cheap (i.e. crappy).
Post by Curious George
The common thread in your examples seems to be "cheap" (as in
"inexpensive" and "not generally thought of as high quality")
Yes, that was my point from the begining.
But, these same vendors are making all sorts of kit. Does
Dell use *radically* different suppliers for its high end machines?
(I'll concede they bottom feed on their low end machines but
is there much of a difference between the middle and upper ends?)
Post by Curious George
But $20 DVD players are different than $200 LCD monitors
or $500-1K computers! People almost *expect* the failure
("Well, it was only a $20 player, anyway... let's go buy
*another*..."). I'm not sure that extends to *everything*
made "for the (John Q Public) consumer".
No, but it's close in $200 LCD monitors and TV sets, and
$200-$300 computers.
So, how does a vendor like Dell decide where to care? Is it
driven by cost? Sell price? Quantity? Or, just "margin"?
I.e., when does Detroit get concerned about the ECU's in their
automobiles?
Post by Curious George
So, in effect, these folks (the people who ultimately sell the
items to you) have placed their company's fate almost entirely
in thehands of these suppliers -- and are *comfortable* with
that relationship? :-(
Yes, they know what to expect. They live on small margins already, and
if they can get a lower price, it matters. If they sell devices with
a 90 day warranty and all of them fail on the 89th day, they are really
pissed off, but if they fail on the 91st, they smile and sell you
another one.
So, they operate like a Bank Robber, Confidence Man, etc. -- i.e.,
reaping whatever gains they can *while* they can yet, all the
time *expecting* to get bit sooner or later?
Post by Curious George
Every time I've had to meet with a Japanese supplier there have
been *lots* of reassurances ($$) exchanged prior to beginning
any sort of serious relationship (since this was potentially
a significant "dependancy" being established... if the Japanese
company just saw us as "one of many customers", we weren't
very reassured since an entire product line could end up
depending on how faithfully that Japanese company held up
its end of the arrangement!)
But that's a different class of device. Just the fact you are
talking with the Japanese puts you in a class above the Koreans
and Tiwanese, and two classes above the PRC. (and three classes
above India, but they don't export much yet.)
That assumes their is something inherent in each of these classes
of suppliers that is immutable. I am not sure the Cynic in me
believes that. E.g., there was a time when American quality meant
something. Now, americans are just as happy to produce crap as
anyone else. What's to say the Japanese won't follow the same
pattern?
Post by Curious George
But, these same problems are manifesting *in* PC's. So, why
is it OK (to the cheap DVD seller) to one seller and *still*
OK (to the PC vendor)?
Same thing, different device. People learn to expect the
same reliability
from all devices from cheap PC's to cheap DVD
player's to cheap MP3 players, telephones, etc.
Look at Kitchen Aid mixers. Hobart sold the brand name in 1993 or 1994
and they are made "in the USA" with Chinese made junk inside. Yet people
insist on spending $1,000 for one that sells in the U.S. for $300, while
an equivalent Kenwood, made in the EU, has 3 times the power,
works much better and lasts as long as the old Hobart ones.
Hobart obviously has a "good brand (name)". An asset to a firm
but one that can quickly be lost and *slowly* recovered. So,
the trick (?) is to ride the name *down* the curve for as long
as you can... then hope it is someone else's problem. (cf the
US car industry)
BTW, Hobart still makes the same mixer as the KA, it's
now about $2,000.
Post by Curious George
Again, these are inexpensive devices. What happens if the same
quality issue presents with large LCD TV's? Or, PC's?
I wonder how that sort of problem would be met here in the
US if it afflicted these new "HDTV converter boxes"?
(imagine 1 out of 5 ATV user losing their TV reception because
of a flaw in that design... (I'm told several boxes have
noticeable firmware bugs))
They won't care. They will just go to Wallyworld and buy a cheap HDTV
and say it was the problem with the old TV anyway, and it was old, and
I'm not going to spend another $40 to keep that POS going.......
Yes. A less than ideal example -- except for the *magnitude* of
the sales volume in a small time window.
Post by Curious George
I seem to recall Gateway having a big problem with Plasma
screen TV's -- clearly a "consumer item". Yet, *they* were
sued for failures that were "out of warranty". And, I
believe it was probably a big issue in their demise.
I think this reinforces my "what is 'cheap'" notion as
a threshold for pain for most consumers.
It depends, Plasma TV's IMHO stink anyway. But they just got stuck on
the wrong end of a product liability suit.
IMO, here is no "right side" of such a suit -- both sides get
screwed (though the lawyers always get paid!)
IMHO the suits all should
have been dismissed, but you can get away with a lot in the U.S.
And, you have to reflect that in how you approach your business.
If you don't care if you are DBA <name> two years from now, you
can probably make a killing screwing over customers. That may,
in fact, be what's hqappening currently as there are lots of
new brands in the marketplace now -- many of which I suspect
will not be around for very long (either by design or by lack
of concern)
Post by Curious George
Perhaps if iPods cost a few kilobucks, Apple's response
would have been less palatable (for all parties).
Of course. They replaced the batteries on dying powerbooks.
Post by Curious George
No. I just don't like threats of lawsuits when a device fails
and a customer's production line goes down for several *hours*
(note: not *days* or weeks!) and he's looking at how he's
going to recover those losses -- and *you* (me) are the only
likely candidate! :<
That's a different issue. You are selling to a different market.
Yes. But I don't want my inattention to what's happening in
The Industry to leave me any more exposed than I need to be...
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 21:07:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
And that rate is determined historically? Or, just "wishful
thinking"? I.e., if you don't have any recourse with your
supplier, how can you come up with a practical business
plan? "Well, *hopefully* we won't have too many defects
and then we'll make X% profit..."
It's often historical data, but how do you rate a new product, or
a new company? How many companies had big problems because they
assumed the new company's caps would fail at x% per year, and it
turned out they were way off, it was 100%. :-)
Post by Curious George
I.e, does Dell not care what's going on inside their "warranty
failure" machines? (I've never dealt with a Dell machine
that had to be returned under warranty so I don't know if
they expect you to return the unit or just ship you a new
one, etc.) How do they refine their statistics to decide
which of their vendors are giving them problems (i.e. warranty
costs) if they don't examine the product to determine *where*
the failure was? (I assume Dell contracts a given machine out
to several different suppliers) Don't they care about their
*process*?? Or, are you saying the nature of the business is
such that they *can't* care (i.e., that it is largely out of
their hands -- they are just MARKETERS)
I don't know. I think that Dell would get statistical reports on computers
sold in the U.S., but I have no idea of how detailed they would be.
It may just be main board failure, or video sub board failure, or so on.

Do they troubleshoot each one to let's say go down to "c47 failure"?

My guess is that they have a limit. If a particular model goes beyond that
limit they start to look at them. Or maybe not, they just close them out on
their website. :-)

How long do they actually sell a particular model? How long do they warranty
items? If it's a year, it's not very likely they have any left to sell
anyway. If it's 90 days. they may have some.
Curious George
2008-08-18 19:55:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rick Hamell
Ladies and Gentlemen! This years reward for most gratuitous use of the
asterisk is the Sun-rescue list. Not since 1985's blatant exploitation
in ANSI porn have we seen such masterful use!
Keep up the good work and here's to another year of the asterisk!
(sigh) Sorry, the italics and bold keys on my keyboard are broke...
:>
Curious George
2008-08-18 20:10:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Carl R. Friend
Post by Curious George
Which should I, as a consumer, consider "cheap consumer electronics"?
Well, in my case, you're dealing with a bloke who, in 1983
dropped three grand on a 40" 3-CRT rear-projection television
set, and I was massively ticked off when it died earlier this
year and was pronounced "unrepairable" (likely because there's
no talent left that can troubleshoot to the component level).
<grin> Yup. I had a similar vintage JVC TV that died last year.
Amusingly, it was a direct result of *my* replacing some bad
electrolytics (I put one in backwards :< my eyes aren't as
good as they used to be!)
Post by Carl R. Friend
I am unamused enough that my wife and I are getting by on an
even *older* 12-incher. If I were to drop five grand on a
television and have it conk out in two years' time I would be
positively *furious*.
My set was just about $1k. I was *sad* to see it go but was
delighted with the service I had from it and couldn't really
blame the manufacturer for *my* repair error. :<
Post by Carl R. Friend
I can see failures that have a distict *cause* (e.g. the
cat threw up on it and it dripped through the vents), but I
do not appreciate failures on a micro-timeline (and I, for
one, do not adhere to the current view of "three years and
it's obsolete -- go buy another one) whether it's in the
consumer sector or the business/industrial sector that are
due solely to "planned obsolescence"; the "build it as cheaply
as possible and the consumer (whomever that may be) be damned
borders on, if not outright intrudes into, theft.
<shrug> I think the Market should make that decision.
I am, however, dismayed that *my* voice in the market doesn't
seem to be addressed. E.g., it doesn;t seem like it is possible
to buy "quality" at *any* price!

I once exclaimed that I would easily pay *double* (triple?)
for an item if I *knew* it would not fail. No, not a
lifetime warranty.... I mean it WON'T FAIL, PERIOD!

[of course, that's highly naive thinking but it reflects my
frustration at encountering so many failed bits of kit]
Post by Carl R. Friend
I routinely run computers that are older than many of my
friends, and they run just as faithfully today as they did
when originally manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s. How
is this possible, the modern mind will, of necessity, ask
(for the modern mind is not accustomed to having anything
last more than three to five years)? It's possible due to
two little things known as "good engineering" and "quality
control".
I think that a bad example since so much of what people
consider to be a part of the computer is the "software"...
And, people are easily distracted by blinkenlights...
Curious George
2008-08-18 20:33:51 UTC
Permalink
Speaking of things that are way past their expiry date, does
anybody here happen to know what internal voltages are used in
Pioneer CLD-3090 Laserdisk players? I've got one that the logic
and display turns on, but there's precisely no actuator motion.
That sounds like power to me, and I'd like to get the thing
working again even if it does mean an external supply.
I'd also like to rescue the Tangerine Dream CD that's stuck in
it... On the television -- does an analogue the old "Sam's
Photofact" series still exist? If I can find a schematic for the thing
I'll likely be able to fix it.
(sgh) Unfortunately, my manuals are for the 3030 and 3070.
Assuming the 3090 is similar, I see the loading motor is
powered by ~13-14V (the motor probably only sees 12V as it
is driven through an H bridge). I'm not sure this is the
motor that you are concerned with (?).

If you can trace foils, you should be able to come up
with a rough idea of what the *maximum* voltage it is
likely to see (by looking at the components in the
driving ciruit).

You can also often manually rotate the gears in the
mechanism (often with a bit of effort due to the
mechanical gain you'll be fighting).

And, are you sure there isn't a bad belt someplace
(that's often a $1 fix)?
Carl R. Friend
2008-08-18 22:11:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Speaking of things that are way past their expiry date, does
anybody here happen to know what internal voltages are used in
Pioneer CLD-3090 Laserdisk players? [...]
(sgh) Unfortunately, my manuals are for the 3030 and 3070.
Assuming the 3090 is similar, I see the loading motor is
powered by ~13-14V (the motor probably only sees 12V as it
is driven through an H bridge). I'm not sure this is the
motor that you are concerned with (?).
Nah, it's also the all of the *other* little servos that
exist in the thing. Put honestly, I've not taken it fully
apart, but in quiet moments (what few I can find in a noisy
house) I can state with authority that there is precisely no
mechanical sound from the innards on power-up or down (there
was a slight whirr on each before the failure). This indicates
to me that there is no motor action whatsoever.
Post by Curious George
If you can trace foils, you should be able to come up
with a rough idea of what the *maximum* voltage it is
likely to see (by looking at the components in the
driving ciruit).
See above. ;-) It's in a fairly inaccessible place at
the moment (mainly because I need to move 500+ pounds of
cabinet to reach behind to get all the cords unplugged.
(My back is not what it used to be in my prime.)
Post by Curious George
And, are you sure there isn't a bad belt someplace
(that's often a $1 fix)?
No motor noise; I would have heard that and jumped to that
very conclusion.

Thanks anyway!!!!

+------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
| Carl Richard Friend (UNIX Sysadmin) | West Boylston |
| Minicomputer Collector / Enthusiast | Massachusetts, USA |
| mailto:***@rcn.com +---------------------+
| http://users.rcn.com/crfriend/museum | ICBM: 42:22N 71:47W |
+------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-19 06:59:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Carl R. Friend
No motor noise; I would have heard that and jumped to that
very conclusion.
Without getting into a large discusion I have a neighbor who is a musician
who is prohibited from owning a home computer by the religous organization
his family belongs to. He instead spent $5,000 on a Yahama "studio", which
needed an IDE drive installed to make digital recordings and an external
Yamaha SCSI CD-ROM burner to make CD's.

The thing only worked with a very specific set of CD burners and he had
to buy one used to get it. It lasted about a month before it would no
longer load a disk. I traced it down to the spindle motor refusing to
spin, and carefully squirted it with contact cleaner to get it to spin.

It's still working AFAIK.

It could just be "sticktion".

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Curious George
2008-08-18 20:50:00 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 11:22:41AM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
You're right. I started my career in the mid 70's (with the i4004)
and have *no* experience with "valves", etc. :>
Actually the i4004 came pretty late in the game. There were
all sorts of computers before that.
Yes, but very few of those coulod be incorporated into products
sold to lobstermen to take on their *boats* with them! :>
There are also many different unrelated problems with cheap components
and again, in use or not, such as lubricants drying out or solidifying,
heat sink transfer paste drying out, lithum batteries failing or
leaking, and so on.
Yes. But, I can identify bad components. Granted, if I change
vendors on a part, I run the risk of finding my "tenders" exposed.
*But*, once the problem is identified, it goes away (along with
the vendor!)
A couple of years ago Office Depot brand batteries sold here would
in a matter of months swell to the point they would no longer fit in
the device, leak or both. They have since upgraded from PRC batteries
to Singapore ones, and now they are just short lived crap.
Yes, this seems to be true of "Chicago Electric" rechargeables
here. But, they are clearly marked as such (on the price tag!)
If the same company that made their batteries made the lithum batteries
that xxxx brand used, they could have the same problem. The electrolyte
in litium batteries is very caustic and could destroy a motherboard.
Cheap PRC battery companies are not the only ones with problems, Sony
batteries used in Apple and Dell laptops had the same problem.
Post by Curious George
***IT*** wasn't a bad wash. The point of my post was "are there
any *other* things going on, here?" Stop fixating on this one
incident. 50 years hence, will you still be blaming all e-cap
failurews on some botched industrial espionage attempt in
Taiwan? When do you start wondering if, perhaps, something
*else* has come into play?
It's the root cause of the fall of the capacitor industry in Tiawan.
It taught them to improve their product to a point and leave
it there. Something the Koreans, Indians, North Koreans, etc
will follow.
But, it's just a *component* (vendor) issue, right?
E.g., not like the consequences of moving away from Pb based
solders, etc. (which would be industry-wide)
My wife likes to tell the story of a brand of tomato sauce with
mushrooms. Every month they removed a small amount of mushrooms
until their sales slowed down. That's where they kept it.
Yes. I have a friend who is a big shot at a multinational
<.....> company. He makes no bones about telling me:
"We cut staff in a particular department until it stops
working. Then we start adding back." I *guess* they
can rationalize this as a valid way of doing things.
But, it ignores the people (customers) they screw-over
in the process!
The capacitor problem just taught that lesson to the Tiwanese
and it will spread. I'm sure that in 5 years your Japanese vendors
will ask you when you spec a component, "how long should it last"?
This is unfortunate as we have very long product lifetimes.
Post by Curious George
I make it a point to look at "failed devices". I want to
understand *why* they failed. And, if there is anything that I,
as a designer, can do to reduce the likelihood of failure in
the future (and what the tradeoffs to do so might be).
That's a noble idea, and you will do well as long as you stay away
from the "lowest possible price" consumer goods.
Post by Curious George
I'm not only interested in how the electronics failed but how
mechanically something may have died. How long that item
*should* last is a separate issue to me. Should a Cadillac
last longer than a Chevy or a Yugo? <shrug> Understanding
how they fail is a skillset I actively develop as it lets me
add value to the things I work on.
There always will be a niche market for high end items. :-)
Yes, but the niche gets smaller and, from a consumer's point of
view, *higher*! :<
Post by Curious George
Likewise, I routinely evaluate the firmware and software in
products. Especially products that I don't use. It helps me
figure out what's good about a design vs. bad. E.g., this
past week I played with a dozen LCD monitors. While the
"front panel controls" on most were similar, some were
designed in a clearly inferior manner that made using them
very unintuitive (and, since I suspect very *few* people
read the user manual for their monitor, having an intuitive
interface is *essential*).
Is it? Seriously, how many people buy using price as their
sole critera?
I don't doubt that! My point is, the controls on an LCD monitor
*should* be intuitive to use. Just like changing the channel
on a TV. So, presumably, you would think that whoever designed the
device would give as much consideration to this as they did to
the *color* of the plastic case, etc.

Regardless of how well they did/didn't do this, I can learn by
looking at their efforts and trying to decide how intuitive *I*
consider the interface and what aspects of it I find annoying.

E.g., I found myself quite annoyed with monitorss that had
two power switches. I.e., a front panel pushbutton and a
"power disconnect" elsewhere on the unit. Granted, I can
understand how/why thiws might be the case. But, as a user,
I would find myself pushing the front panel button and wondering
why it didn't power up. ("Why doesn't this LCD work like the
last one I played with?")

Of course, in my case, it is possible the monitor was *fried*
(these are not "new" units -- which is why I am tinkering with them)
so I never know if it was *supposed* to power up which means I
have to be a bit more persistent in hunting down other sources
of "no power".
Post by Curious George
The point of this thread was to ellicit any
observations people
Post by Curious George
had over what types of failure modes they might be
experiencing
Post by Curious George
in various bits of kit.
Was it? I thought it was more about busting the urban
legend of the bad
capacitors, which it was not.
Post by Curious George
So, your summary contribution is "(still) bad
components"
Post by Curious George
akin to making 0.245W resistors to save a few
micropennies
Post by Curious George
per unit (resistor). OK, then I just avoid Taiwanese
components and vendors and all is well! :>
I would not characterize it as a particular ethnic group or
country.
Greed and stupidity are universal.
Geoff.
--
N3OWJ/4X1GM
_______________________________________________
rescue list -
http://www.sunhelp.org/mailman/listinfo/rescue
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-18 21:18:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Yes, but very few of those coulod be incorporated into products
sold to lobstermen to take on their *boats* with them! :>
I don't know. You could get an HP2114 (ca 1967)on a boat. It wasn't much bigger
than the radio they would of had.
Post by Curious George
Yes. But, I can identify bad components. Granted, if I change
vendors on a part, I run the risk of finding my "tenders" exposed.
*But*, once the problem is identified, it goes away (along with
the vendor!)
One would hope. But you are assuming that the manufacturer of the item
is the vendor. You could find out for example, that every motherboard
made in a country at a specific time had the same bad capacitors in it.
Post by Curious George
Yes, this seems to be true of "Chicago Electric" rechargeables
here. But, they are clearly marked as such (on the price tag!)
If you buy for price, you are stuck. What about OEM batteries, which are
sold unmarked in case lots?
Post by Curious George
But, it's just a *component* (vendor) issue, right?
E.g., not like the consequences of moving away from Pb based
solders, etc. (which would be industry-wide)
Yes, that's a different problem.
Sandwich Maker
2008-08-19 02:30:05 UTC
Permalink
" From: der Mouse <***@Rodents-Montreal.ORG>
"
" > So they will make a custom line for WalMart only, which is crappy
" > even though the regular products are good.
"
" ...and that's their mistake. Well, their first mistake.
"
" > Then the sales of the good stuff go down because "I can buy almost
" > the same thing at WalMart for half the price", and they are forced to
" > put cheap Chinese crap in their entire line in order to stay afloat.
"
" And that's their second; the right thing for them to have done would be
" to have told walmart "sorry, we can't afford to build to your price
" point any longer; go buy from someone else".

i used to think that 'snapper' was a silly name for a lawn mower
company, but that's exactly what they did to walmart when they came
calling. they refused to dilute their brand by making a cheap model
just for walmart and they refused to reduce costs by offshoring
production, both because they felt loyalty to their workers and
because in their very seasonal business short supply lines and rapid
response are essential. they understood their business. they knew
they couldn't do it on walmart's terms.

" It constantly depresses me how many organizations are willing to trash
" a good reputation for the sake of some very short-term profit.

imho it comes from mgmt who know only the dollars and cents of their
business and not the actual business.

if there's one upside to the recent explosion in oil prices, it's that
spiraling transportation costs cut into walmart's business model. and
it couldn't happen to a more deserving company.
________________________________________________________________________
Andrew Hay the genius nature
internet rambler is to see what all have seen
***@an.bradford.ma.us and think what none thought
Joshua Boyd
2008-08-19 04:46:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sandwich Maker
i used to think that 'snapper' was a silly name for a lawn mower
company, but that's exactly what they did to walmart when they came
calling. they refused to dilute their brand by making a cheap model
just for walmart and they refused to reduce costs by offshoring
production, both because they felt loyalty to their workers and
because in their very seasonal business short supply lines and rapid
response are essential. they understood their business. they knew
they couldn't do it on walmart's terms.
Simplicity (the owner of Snapper) was bought by Briggs and Stratton, who
does sell to Walmart. It is probably only a matter of time until
Walmart carries Snapper in addition to Sears.
Curious George
2008-08-19 02:36:08 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 10:52:25AM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
Post by Geoffrey S. Mendelson
Besides, do you know anyone who buys a Dell computer because it is
a high quality item? People buy them for their price.
I think most Dell sales (and HP, etc.) are just because there are
-----------------------------^^^^^^^
Post by Curious George
no practical alternatives (in the Wintel world)
No practical alternatives? How are iMacs, IBMs, HPs, or
BOXX machines not practical alternatives?
I see these machines having the same sorts of failures
(actually, I've never seen a BOXX machine so...). As such,
s/Dell/HP/g and repeat the same (previous) discussion.
Then, s/HP/IBM/g, etc.

N.B. the *first* machine that I ever saw with bad
caps was from Big Blue...

There is a "price point" that IBM, Dell, HP, etc. have
*all* targeted. And, all of their machines seem to suffer
the same sorts of quality problems. No doubt because the
economics (and remedies there for) are the same for all of them!

(at least IBM replaced the faulty machine I found without
any questions)
Jonathan C. Patschke
2008-08-19 05:33:55 UTC
Permalink
N.B. the *first* machine that I ever saw with bad caps was from Big
Blue...
The pSeries 660 (7026-6H1 for you RS/6000 geeks) power supplies were
affected with the bad capacitor problem. They "let the magic smoke out"
in particularly impressive ways.

The first one I saw just quit working, so we called out the FE. He
swapped it, and we were good to go.

The second one smoked for a while, so we called out the FE. He swapped
it, and we were good to go.

The third one belched flames and a shower of sparks out of the front of
the unit (which was six inches to my right). I literally lept about six
feet backwards and three feet up onto the worktable we kept in the machine
room.

We called out the FE, and he swapped all the power supplies in the rack
after that. The p660? It merely logged the fault in errpt and kept on
running.

I *HEART* IBM pSeries hardware.
--
Jonathan Patschke | "There is more to life than increasing its speed."
Elgin, TX | --Mahatma Gandhi
USA |
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-19 07:50:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jonathan C. Patschke
We called out the FE, and he swapped all the power supplies in the rack
after that. The p660? It merely logged the fault in errpt and kept on
running.
I *HEART* IBM pSeries hardware.
That's why IBM sold their PC divison to Lenovo. IBM was just remarketing
them anyway, and why have their reputation (and profits) suffer because
a Chinese subcontractor was making products that were not up to IBM
standards in either quality or markup.

Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Curious George
2008-08-19 02:37:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by der Mouse
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
So they will make a custom line for WalMart only, which is crappy
even though the regular products are good.
...and that's their mistake. Well, their first
mistake.
Post by Patrick Giagnocavo
Then the sales of the good stuff go down because "I can buy almost
the same thing at WalMart for half the price", and they are forced to
put cheap Chinese crap in their entire line in order to stay afloat.
And that's their second; the right thing for them to have done would be
to have told walmart "sorry, we can't afford to build to your price
point any longer; go buy from someone else".
It constantly depresses me how many organizations are willing to trash
a good reputation for the sake of some very short-term profit.
Short answer: "stock holders" :<
Curious George
2008-08-19 02:45:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Carl R. Friend
Post by Phil Stracchino
Everyone used to [test] memory chips. At one particular time, no
one made 200ms memory chips, they made 150ms ones. The ones that
passed testing at 150ms were sold as 150's., the ones that passed
at 175 were sold as 175's, the ones that passed at 200
were sold as 200's, and the rest were sold as 225's.
Seagate used to test all their hard disks as RLL. The
ones that passed were sold as RLL disks; those that failed
were sold as MFM.
This is normal procedure, but it depends on one thing that seems
to be missing today -- testing.
Exactly. How do you "qualify" a device if you don't know *what*
it's characteristics are?
Post by Carl R. Friend
I have it on good authority that
Intergraph did this with the Clipper chipset -- chips that
passed the tests were sold as 10 MHz kit; those that fared worse
were sold as 9 MHz. I'm not sure what happened with ones that
may have passed at lower clock speeds. I have a 9 MHz specimen in my
personal collection.
This *had* been true of most "integrated" components. You'd test
devices and qualify them (or, their "lots") and then brand (and
sell) them accordingly. As your process improved, the "lower
grades" would inevitably become scarcer. So, as a customer, you
could often buy a "substandard" part and get virtually the
same performance as the higher priced part.

Of course, it eventually becomes impractical to sort out the
(diminishing numbers of) lower performing chips so you just
drop that grade from your line *or* adjust the pricing so
the differential between "Grade 1" and "Grade 2" is negligible
(since you end up selling the same devices as both grades!)

I can recall Motogorilla (?) testing 64Kb DRAMs as *32Kb* devices
(two different flavors -- one that you used with the MS address
line *hi* and the other with it *low* -- obviously telling you which
half of the die had the defects in it!)

Of course, that was soon impractical as yields improved. But,
when the technology was new, you (as end user) would take whatever
you could get!
Curious George
2008-08-19 02:57:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Carl R. Friend
Post by Curious George
Pioneer CLD-3090 Laserdisk players? [...]
(sgh) Unfortunately, my manuals are for the 3030 and 3070.
Assuming the 3090 is similar, I see the loading motor is
powered by ~13-14V (the motor probably only sees 12V as it
is driven through an H bridge). I'm not sure this is the
motor that you are concerned with (?).
Nah, it's also the all of the *other* little servos that
exist in the thing.
Theree are *lots* of those! :>
Post by Carl R. Friend
Put honestly, I've not taken it fully
apart, but in quiet moments (what few I can find in a noisy
house) I can state with authority that there is precisely no
mechanical sound from the innards on power-up or down (there
was a slight whirr on each before the failure). This indicates
to me that there is no motor action whatsoever.
Post by Curious George
If you can trace foils, you should be able to come up
with a rough idea of what the *maximum* voltage it is
likely to see (by looking at the components in the
driving ciruit).
See above. ;-) It's in a fairly inaccessible place at
the moment (mainly because I need to move 500+ pounds of
cabinet to reach behind to get all the cords unplugged.
(My back is not what it used to be in my prime.)
*Really*? You mean backs get worse with age??? :-/ ;)
Post by Carl R. Friend
Post by Curious George
And, are you sure there isn't a bad belt someplace
(that's often a $1 fix)?
No motor noise; I would have heard that and jumped to
that very conclusion.
Thanks anyway!!!!
Curious George
2008-08-19 17:02:17 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 12:17:51PM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
I don;'t care *where* the number comes from -- as long as
the vendor stands behind it (and we have recourse as to
how to respond when/if this ever becomes untrue).
When we meet with Japanese vendors, it is very unnerving
trying to get them to give you specifics about design
limits. They always want to know what we "want it to be".
Perhaps this is a cultural issue -- I think Americans are
used to working to specifications whereas the Japanese
seem to be geared to working to *your* specifications!
Not at all. They are following the time honored system of
selling to spec. They make an item and sell it to you based
upon your specs.
No, different issue entirely. The device didn't exist -- we
wanted them to make one for us. Since we were unfamiliar with the
tradeoffs involved in *that* design process, we couldn't on our
own come up with specs that would have ensured an economical design.

By way of an arbitrary (and fictional!) example: imagine you're
asking them to design a thermal printhead assembly. This is
little more than a bunch of resistors with digital switches
controlling each individually.
Sheldon T. Hall
2008-08-19 17:24:31 UTC
Permalink
Quoth Curious George ...
For those devices that you can't just place in a cardboard
box and *mail* complete replacements, you *really* don't want
to have to put someone on a plane, etc. to troubleshoot and
repair.
Like software, in my case.

I know we have real backup software now, some of which actually works, but
do you remember the original BACKUP command in DOS, along about version 2.0?
Those early versions of BACKUP wrote the data out in separate files, with
their original names, but with modified, and longer, contents. When you
RESTORED the data you got the unmodified contents back.

Would you be suprised to know that I have a great fondness for those early
versions of BACKUP? I like them because one of them boosted me into
consulting Nirvana, earning me a consulting rate of in excess of $37,000 an
hour. That's the rate I occasionally quote, even today. When folks ask "How
much do you charge?" I can honestly reply "Up to $37,500 an hour, but
usually less."

In those long-ago days I worked for a small outfit called "Solid Software,"
a misnomer if ever there was one. I was brought in to re-develop their
accounting software and develop a marketing plan once we got the
functionality in and the bugs out. Meanwhile, they were selling what they
had to keep the business going. It was slow, ugly, hard-to-use crap, but it
generally worked as advertised.

Lots of software was sold through computer dealers back then, and one of our
dealers had some problems on a customer site. He kept backing up his
customer's hard disk and sending the backup disks to us for analysis; the
stuff all worked fine at our shop, but it wouldn't do diddley when we sent
the disks back to him. Finally, propelled by frustration and the threat of a
lawsuit by his customer, he _demanded_ that we send someone out to
California to fix the problem.

The president of our company turned the call over to me.

"Fine," said I, "$2,500 plus expenses, cashier's check only."

"I don't give a flying **** what it costs, if we can't fix this ********
that ******* is going to sue the **** out of me, so get your *** out here
and fix this ************," quoth he, waxing wroth. That was our dealer's
name, Waxroth.

So I went. All the way across the USA. Waxroth met me at the airport,
handed me the check, and drove me to the
customer site. I walked over to the computer, typed "DIR" and saw that the
file sizes were wrong. The tell-tale "BACKUP.@@@" file was there, too,
indicating that he had COPYed the files back to the disk, rather than
RESTORing them. I asked for the backup diskettes, RESTOREd the files, gave
the usual startup command, and it worked.

Elapsed time on-site, four minutes. 60 * (2500/4) = $37,500.

Was he grateful that I'd kept "that *******" from suing him? Not on your
life. He was livid. I had made the fix look "too easy" and thus lessened
its perceived value. He would probably have been delighted if it had taken
me a day and a half, but a four-minute fix just p!ssed him off.

-Shel
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-19 17:29:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
No, different issue entirely. The device didn't exist -- we
wanted them to make one for us. Since we were unfamiliar with the
tradeoffs involved in *that* design process, we couldn't on our
own come up with specs that would have ensured an economical design.
Ok, now that really confuses me. Following your example below:
(to avoid more confusion, I'll wait for others to read it)
Post by Curious George
By way of an arbitrary (and fictional!) example: imagine you're
asking them to design a thermal printhead assembly. This is
little more than a bunch of resistors with digital switches
controlling each individually.
Curious George
2008-08-19 17:46:25 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 12:54:04PM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
And that rate is determined historically? Or, just "wishful
thinking"? I.e., if you don't have any recourse with your
supplier, how can you come up with a practical business
plan? "Well, *hopefully* we won't have too many defects
and then we'll make X% profit..."
It's often historical data, but how do you rate a new product, or
a new company? How many companies had big problems because they
assumed the new company's caps would fail at x% per year, and it
turned out they were way off, it was 100%. :-)
Exactly. That was the issue I was alluding to when I said
I wouldn't know how to design in an environment like this.
Post by Curious George
I.e, does Dell not care what's going on inside their "warranty
failure" machines? (I've never dealt with a Dell machine
that had to be returned under warranty so I don't know if
they expect you to return the unit or just ship you a new
one, etc.) How do they refine their statistics to decide
which of their vendors are giving them problems (i.e. warranty
costs) if they don't examine the product to determine *where*
the failure was? (I assume Dell contracts a given machine out
to several different suppliers) Don't they care about their
*process*?? Or, are you saying the nature of the business is
such that they *can't* care (i.e., that it is largely out of
their hands -- they are just MARKETERS)
I don't know. I think that Dell would get statistical reports
on computers sold in the U.S.,
So, "they" take back warranty repair machines and don't just
"discard" them?

E.g., I think HP "fixes" many of its crapjet printers by just
removing the electronics assembly at the rear and dumping the
rest in a box of (hopefully recycled) plastic parts. If so,
they have no idea what sorts of mechanical failures they are
trashing.
but I have no idea of how detailed the would be.
It may just be main board failure, or video sub board
failure, or so on.
Do they troubleshoot each one to let's say go down to
"c47 failure"?
My guess is that they have a limit. If a particular model
goes beyond that
limit they start to look at them. Or maybe not, they just
close them out on their website. :-)
<frown>

My first job was with a company that, among other things, did
some subcontracted manufacturing for an IBM division (who, in turn,
was working for someone elese, etc.).

The design was only "nominally" complete... a bit beyond the
"prototyping in foil" stage. So, troubleshooting failures
was a bit above the skill level for a technician so that job
fell to Engineering.

Each time I "fixed"/found something, I had to fill out a 4-part
carbon (NCR) form on which I listed the symptoms, justification
for the action I took (reasoning) and the action itself. The
last "page" of the form was actually an envelope into which
any replaced (defective) components were placed.

I also had to record the time to identify the problem, determine
the repair and *implement* the repair -- to the tenth of an hour.

<frown>

As a youngster, this seemed a colossal waste of time to me!
It didn't take long to figure out what sorts of things would
go wrong and just go fix them! All this (needless?) paperwork...

One day my boss relieved me of the form-filling duty -- had
someone else do that for me. Apparently, someone at IBM had
been a bit annoyed seeing my pencilled in addition to the form:
"Time to fill out this DAMN form: 0.1hrs" and commented on it.

<grin>

Of course, in hindsight, it made perfect sense!
Post by Curious George
So, they operate like a Bank Robber, Confidence Man, etc. -- i.e.,
reaping whatever gains they can *while* they can yet, all the
time *expecting* to get bit sooner or later?
It's called self insured risk analysis. If you figure that in the
end 10% of the units you sell are going to have to be replaced,
you charge 10% more to break even. If you can cut that down to 5%,
you charge 5% more.
Yes, but that only *really* works when you have a good idea of
what your actual exposure will be. If you don't have reliable
historical data to base those assumptions...
Post by Curious George
And, you have to reflect that in how you approach your business.
If you don't care if you are DBA <name> two years from now, you
can probably make a killing screwing over customers. That may,
in fact, be what's hqappening currently as there are lots of
new brands in the marketplace now -- many of which I suspect
will not be around for very long (either by design or by lack
of concern)
You should see it here. DVD players change brands and due
to the falling dollar, prices each week. :-)
So, there is no effort made to defend your "brand" -- just
pick a new name and start over... (?)
Post by Curious George
Yes. But I don't want my inattention to what's happening in
The Industry to leave me any more exposed than I need to be...
True, but as a design engineer, you should leave that to
the business people. :-)
For the most part, I have found those folks to be quite
ignorant of technical issues. I let them "educate" me as to
the needs of the user/consumer/market. But, they rely on
engineering (and manufacturing, etc.) to educate them
to the realities of our respective fields/capabilities.

<shrug>
Geoffrey S. Mendelson
2008-08-19 18:08:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Curious George
Exactly. That was the issue I was alluding to when I said
I wouldn't know how to design in an environment like this.
Neither does anyone else. That's why a big company will spread their
suppliers around.
Post by Curious George
So, "they" take back warranty repair machines and don't just
"discard" them?
No, I think they keep records of in warranty repairs and look at that.
Post by Curious George
E.g., I think HP "fixes" many of its crapjet printers by just
removing the electronics assembly at the rear and dumping the
rest in a box of (hopefully recycled) plastic parts. If so,
they have no idea what sorts of mechanical failures they are
trashing.
Nor do they care.
Post by Curious George
So, there is no effort made to defend your "brand" -- just
pick a new name and start over... (?)
I just said that. The same brand may never be used twice by the same company.
If it is a local brand (to that country), they just fix the things under
warranty, and people say, how nice, they gave me a new one when the old one
broke. :-)


Geoff.
--
Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel ***@mendelson.com N3OWJ/4X1GM
Curious George
2008-08-19 18:12:39 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, Aug 19, 2008 at 10:02:17AM -0700, Curious George
Post by Curious George
No, different issue entirely. The device didn't exist -- we
wanted them to make one for us. Since we were unfamiliar with the
tradeoffs involved in *that* design process, we couldn't on our
own come up with specs that would have ensured an economical design.
(to avoid more confusion, I'll wait for others to read it)
Post by Curious George
By way of an arbitrary (and fictional!) example: imagine you're
asking them to design a thermal printhead assembly. This is
little more than a bunch of resistors with digital switches
controlling each individually.
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