More frustration with Alienware

Today I come into the office to work, and find that my machine blue-screened overnight. I figured it was Vista acting up (again), so I restarted. Once the machine is back up, I log in, only to discover that I have no network access.

This is only the latest in a continuing series of problems I’ve had with Alienware’s Area 51 machines. If it wasn’t locking up for no apparent reason, the performance of virtual machines (VMware or Virtual PC) was slow. One cause of at least some of the problems turned out to be incorrect voltage settings for the memory (though I’m not sure how they got out of the factory with that wrong).

We spent about an hour uninstalling and reinstalling drivers and rebooting to see if we could solve the problem ourselves. After those efforts failed, I spent 2 hours on the phone with Alienware (1/2 of which were wasted by their tech support person walking me through things I’d already tried). The one really new thing we tried (installing a new BIOS) didn’t solve the problem either. Alienware has concluded that the motherboard has gone bad and needs replacing. This is a stunningly bad result for a PC less than 2 months old.

Two thumbs down on Alienware and Vista. If you must run some version of Windows, you’d be better off doing it on a Mac.

If you’re wondering how I posted this without a machine with Internet access, the answer is, with my iPhone.

XML Schema Gotcha

This is probably old hat to XML experts, but it’s new to me–the default values of the minOccurs and maxOccurs attributes of <xs:element>…</xs:element> in XML schemas are both 1 (one).  I had a schema definition with minOccurs=”0″ and no value for maxOccurs.  In order to get the behavior I assumed was the default, maxOccurs needed to be set to “unbounded”.

My VW Passat and the Check Engine Light

I took mine in for service this week for its regular 5000-mile service, and a check engine light that has been going on and off intermittently for the past month or so. When I got the car back, I found out that the reason for the check engine light coming on was the need for a software update.

This is the first time I can remember that I’ve had to take my car to the shop to get new software. I just wonder how long it will be before car companies can beam us software updates by satellite.