Message to Dell – F*** You!

Message to Dell – Fuck You!

It has been three years since I’ve written a blog post and like Smaug, it would take the promise of a untold amount of Gold to lure me from my blogging sabbatical. Except the gold in this case is the metaphor for me proving a point, this time, by means of the legal system.

Before you judge me to be a “male Karen” or Chad/Evan/Derek, whatever they are called these days, hear me out. Read my tale of woe and make up your own mind!

This begins in mid 2018 when I was working for an unnamed company and had custom built a desktop tower as my primary computer. I also had a secondary laptop – my Dell Precision 5520, which I’m using to write this. My tower was great, but I needed some more oomph and decided I wanted another workstation. It’s important to begin with what a “workstation” is in this context because many of my readers may not know the difference between a workstation and your average desktop or laptop.

A desktop computer, or personal computer, is one that typically runs Windows 10 Home or Pro, or Linux, or MacOS, and is connected to a keyboard, monitor or monitors, a mouse, and the internet, plus the electric.

workstation is a desktop or personal computer in that they are also connected to the same input devices and also the internet, but these machines are engineered with specific hardware and software for use in professional enterprise environments. The hardware differences could be the system is equipped with ECC Memory, an Intel Xeon Processor, and graphics cards designed for rendering complex graphics for applications like AutoCAD, Maya, and Adobe Premiere. These systems are engineered with specific drivers running on specific hardware for maximum performance and stability with these applications. Dell (and other workstation manufacturers) tout this feature as ISV Certification.

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Already in possession of a Dell Precision 5520 and enjoying how rock solid it had been, I figured I’d take a look at Dell’s Precision Desktop offerings and see what tickled my fancy.

Behold, the Dell Precision 5720 All-in-One (center)

The above image is from Dell’s Product Listing page for the Dell Precision 5720 here. (Note, the link I’ve given is for Dell’s Middle East Region, this is because they’ve done a pretty good job of hiding / ridding the internet of the product listings from their American website. The product was the same globally.) Because Dell is crafty and may pull that link, I’ve captured a full page screenshot from 2 different Dell Global markets displaying the entire page and the system’s available specs, including some of it’s highlighted features – several of which were major selling points we’ll touch on in a moment.

Pretty cool system, right?

Lets take a look at the specs!

Dell lists the Precision 5720 All-in-One coming equipped with a 27 inch display, available Intel Core or Xeon Processors, AMD professional graphics, ISV Certification, Dell’s Precision Optimizer application, and a 4K UHD Display.

Another feature Dell was proud to advertise was the speaker and audio setup equipped with the Precision 5720.

The new standard in superior sound.

The Precision 5720 features an incredible sound system with a distinctive integrated sound bar that includes ten front and down firing speakers powered by digital dynamic amplifiers producing 50W per channel for studio-quality production, editing and playback, all in one incredible workstation.

  • Two tweeters produce clean high notes and crystal clear voices with lively, yet accurate stereo imaging.
  • Four full range drivers provide a powerful punch and clear, accurate midrange.
  • Two passive radiators reinforce the lows and provide a rich, deep bass.
  • Two independent, down-firing full range speakers work to augment front-firing speakers for heightened sound ambiance and are tuned to work in conjunction with the stereo drivers to fill the room with immersive sound.

(Quoted from Dell’s website product listing for the Precision 5720 All-in-One Workstation Computer)

Admittedly, the speakers in the computer do sound pretty good for what they are, but the iMac 27 inch still edges out the bass just a little. But this isn’t a review, dammit! 

Let’s take a look at what I ordered:

If the image isn’t loading for you, or it’s difficult to read, here’s a brief breakdown of the internal components of the system which would later become known as Marvin:

  • Dell Precision 5720
  • 27 inch 4K integrated display, all in one, non touch
  • Intel Xeon Processor E3-1275 v6 (Quad Core HT 3.8Ghz, 4.2Ghz Turbo, with 8 MB cache)
  • 32 GB of 2133 MHz DDR4 ECC Memory
  • 512 GB M.2 PCIe SSD Class 50
  • 2x 1 TB 2.5 inch SSHD (5400 RPM with an 8GB SSD Cache)
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100 8 GB video card
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless AC with Bluetooth 4.2
  • Dell Pro Support Plus 3 years, including accidental damage service, next business day onsite, 24×7 and keep your hard drive services.

All for the cool sum of $3,821.18.

My Precision 5520 cost about the same, so bear in mind, for systems with this type of spec, the price isn’t that out of line. Choose a couple extra features on Dell’s Precision workstation laptops or desktops and you’re easily in the $10k range.

Great at first…

The system was great at first, powerful, able to run numerous virtual machines, render out 4K video in Adobe Premiere and allowed me to manipulate art files in Illustrator with thousands of paths like I was cutting thru butter with a lightsaber. In fact, it was so stable, I used it as my Plex server. That was, until things began going wrong.

 

Marvin the Paranoid Android

I’m an avid fan of SciFi and Douglas Adam’s works – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are among my favorite books of all time. To cope with the stress the various technical issues the computer had, I began anthropomorphizing it into Marvin, the bored, depressed, paranoid robot from the Hitchhiker Universe. Perfect naming, in my opinion. Despite the character’s official name, to my knowledge he never exhibits signs of paranoia, but is rather “manically depressed”.

Marvin is the ship’s robot aboard the starship Heart of Gold. Originally built as one of many failed prototypes of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s GPP (Genuine People Personalities) technology, Marvin is afflicted with severe depression and boredom, in part because he has a “brain the size of a planet” which he is seldom, if ever, given the chance to use. Indeed, the true horror of Marvin’s existence is that no task he could be given would occupy even the tiniest fraction of his vast intellect. Marvin claims he is 50,000 times more intelligent than a human, (or 30 billion times more intelligent than a live mattress) though this is, if anything, an underestimation.

Marvin’s persona, even if perfectly fictional, fit the quirky, temperamental nature of this computer like a glove.

About a year into ownership of the system, I began experiencing various technical issues which were all graphic related. In some cases, certain apps would show visual distortions.

Below is a screenshot of this in Slack:

I also began experiencing cursor lag wherein the mouse, whether it was Bluetooth or USB would lag or not update it’s position on my displays except in three second intervals.

The cursor lag issue would only show if my second monitor were connected. It didn’t matter how it was connected, USB-C, HDMI, or DisplayPort, and it didn’t matter who made the additional display, Dell, LG, Sony, Viewsonic, BenQ, Samsung, Acer, Asus, etc. I purchased and returned so many cables and monitors from Amazon and Monoprice (sorry y’all!) I was worried they would ban me or freeze my accounts because of “return abuse”. The video distortions would randomly appear in any application whether the second display was connected or not.

On top of this, I began experiencing blue screens which when ran through the debugger revealed the cause was related to the video card drivers as well as weird Bluetooth issues. With all of the Bluetooth keyboards, mice, and headset/headphone combinations I tried, if you had a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard connected and connected a Bluetooth headset, either the keyboard input would lag or the audio would lag and cut in/out. To stop this, you have to turn off the headset, then turn off the keyboard, then turn them back on one at a time. Sometimes I would have to do this several times before things would work right. Imagine having to get ready for a Zoom or Google Meet (or w/e) call at a moment’s notice and having to deal with this. Insanity!

“Thanks for calling Dell Pro Support, this is…. how can I not help you?”

Having purchased the system with Dell’s Pro Support Plus, which I know from 10+ years of experience in the IT world to be pretty good as tech support for a computer manufacturer goes. I’d have put them right up there with Apple until this.

I will spare readers the 200+ pages of e-mails that went back and forth for part 1 (aka the 2018/2019 saga), plus hours of phone calls, multiple onsite visits to replace video cards, motherboards, and LED panels, plus a system replacement and tell you Dell was unable to resolve the issue.

In trying to troubleshoot this, Dell was unable to produce a system internally with the exact specifications of mine, so they were unable to replicate the issue in their labs. Dell claimed they exhausted all levels of their Engineering support and even offered to open a case with ATI/AMD regarding the issue. Dell also claimed they had no other users reporting any of these issues.

I had spent an untold sum of time and money to entertain their troubleshooting game and decided enough was enough. This system isn’t what I’d call a “workstation” let alone something I’d consider certifying with various ISVs as Dell does. I had been experimenting with Linux for years and figured I’d give it a try. I knew from purchasing the system it was “certified” for Ubuntu, Dell’s preferred Linux distribution and installed Kubuntu.

Surprise, everything worked!

I spent the next year learning how to use arguably one of the most difficult operating systems in the world – Linux. This arduous process wiped away any preconceptions I had about Linux, which would be a surprise to many who know me, and was quite enjoyable. “Marvin” was remarkably stable and for a year + a couple months, happily ran the latest LTS builds of Kubuntu.

Perhaps in another blog article I will write about the experience and how it’s changed my opinion of the future of computing, free and open source software, and has even driven me to contribute to projects I believe in.

Everything changed when my job changed. When you work from home as I do, not all employers are keen on their staff running Linux. Sometimes you have to install specific software that you can’t efficiently virtualize. The ride was over it seemed, and sadly, I formatted & partitioned the system, and reinstalled Windows 10.

Imagine what I found though after running the latest Windows 10 and Dell Command Update / SupportAssist updates! (Begin part 2 of the saga)

For a company who told me repeatedly there were no other users reporting an issue wherein their system would lag when a second display was connected, they sure didn’t mind pushing out a driver update while I was “away” for that very issue.

I guess at least one other person nagged Dell and/or ATI/AMD enough a driver update was pushed out to fix an issue they claimed didn’t exist.

Although I had switched back to Windows due to my new job, the problem seemed resolved. I was so wrong. Randomly, one day the problem with the cursor lag surfaced and suddenly my secondary display, a 27 inch 4K LG monitor would only run at 30Hz, not 60Hz, when connected via HDMI or DisplayPort.

This is a problem.

Imagine trying to edit video at 30Hz, it’s laughable. Just having the display connected to the computer caused this performance slowdown that was unreal.

Back to the drawing board it was. I contacted Dell by live chat and explained the issue. The technician believed the motherboard (which is physically integrated with the video card) may be going bad, sent a replacement part via overnight and dispatched an onsite tech to show the next Monday.

I’ll spare you the details of my tech visit, it wasn’t out of the ordinary, the tech replaced the parts, confirmed the system had a successful POST and went on his way.

Warranty Renewal Cometh

Let’s step back from the technical issues for a moment and turn the eye of Sauron to talk of warranty renewals.

In February, Dell’s sales team proactively emailed me to advise the warranty on Marvin would expire soon and offered options for extension. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to Marvin at the time and despite knowing there were some ongoing technical issues, I had faith they would be resolved and purchased an extended warranty from Dell for another 3 years. The price?

An eye-watering $708.75. 

Back to the present….

Despite the computer having a successful POST, Windows had a panic attack and was upset about the system board change. Having OCD, I decided to wipe the system (again) and imagine my surprise when I learned the USB port on the side of the computer didn’t work and I had to use the rear USB ports (not a big deal, mind you) with my USB Flash Drive. Unsurprisingly, after reinstalling Windows, doing all the updates and what have you, the same issues came back.

Since there was an ongoing e-mail conversation about the future of this system, I advised this fact to the Dell technician.

As I am engaged in legal talks with Dell, their legal counsel and my own, I’m not able to reveal screenshots of the e-mails going back and forth (yet), but suffice to say, it was at this time Dell decided they were going to capture my system and send me something else based on their standard operating procedure. A system capture is what Dell does when something really strange is happening with a specific system and they want to get it in their lab, find out what’s causing it, and ideally – fix the issue.

Amusingly, at one point in the e-mail chain, the Dell representative claimed the system didn’t support an additional 4K display and that was the issue with my 4K display not wanting to run at 60Hz when connected via DisplayPort or HDMI. Mind you – these are Escalations people working alongside actual Computer Engineers (deserving of that title) at Dell’s HQ in Round Rock, Texas, even if the agent I was working with this time in 2020 was working from home due to COVID-19, and this particular agent purports to be A+ Certified. 🤣🤣 I had a good laugh when I read that in this individuals signature because the system supports up to 3 additional 4K displays at 60Hz, which means the system supports 4x 4K displays, including the integrated display.

In fact, Dell advertises that on the product listing page in very specific English. Here’s the image of it:

…end of life…. you can’t help me…? what??

End of Life is a term used in numerous industries and in this context means manufacturing of the product has stopped. Dell End of Life’d my computer in 2019. After offering me to send them the system and they replace it with something else, they rescinded the offer due to the system being at end of life and have essentially declined further assistance with the system and this issue.

But wait, didn’t you extend the warranty on it with a service that includes accidental damage protection? 

Yep! And that’s why I have legal representation because while I can’t write in plain English that “Dell enabling or allowing me to extend the warranty on a system that they no longer manufacture, when said extension includes a system replacement policy” is illegal, I can that it’s deceptive and very devious.

tl ;dr and what is the current status of this issue?

I guess Dell thought I would just go away, despite having given them $708.75 in February to extend the warranty on the computer or just use it with one monitor because that was the end of that. I couldn’t get them to budge on the current set of issues and they had nearly stopped replying to my e-mails.

If you’re here for the tl;dr version, here you go:

  • A $3200+ professional workstation from Dell exhibits visual graphics glitches and system instability on specific drivers while running Windows OS.
  • Bluetooth input devices, like headphones, keyboards, and mice are laggy, studder, and just don’t work well.
  • 20+ hours, 200+ emails, multiple tech visits to swap motherboards, video cards, display panels, etc could not resolve the issue.
  • Problems disappear when running Linux, further indicating the issue is related to drivers under Windows OS.
  • Dell end of life’s the Precision 5720 in 2019.
  • I continue using the system with Kubuntu without issue for 1+ year.
  • In January 2020, a job change requires I switch back to Windows due to software requirements.
  • In February 2020, Dell allows me to purchase a warranty extension for another 3 years, which includes accidental damage protection.
  • The previous problems the computer exhibited in 2018 return in 2020.
  • Dell replaces the system board in 2020. The replaced board still has a bad USB port on the side. The issues with Bluetooth continue.
  • Problems continue ; Dell support offers system capture but then informs me because the system is at end of life, they can’t offer a replacement or capture, leaving me high and dry.

It was at this time I decided to hire legal counsel and pursue legal action against Dell for breach of contract, as well as unfair and deceptive trade practices.

Fuck you if you think I’m going to spend $4000+ on a computer that has had countless problems since I purchased it, none of which your technicians have been able to resolve, then expect me to just sit on my hands while you do nothing, or give up and buy another computer. You are legally required to help me based on the agreement in the warranty through at the very least, July 1, 2020 (which is when the original warranty would have expired) or through August 17, 2023, which is when the extended warranty expires.

What will become of this?

Considering the USB port on the side was faulty with the replacement motherboard they recently installed, it came as no surprise to me when a few days ago I found the computer had failed entirely and wouldn’t stay powered on. Currently, Marvin sits, dead to the world, in my dining room waiting for a proper burial.

As of June 24, 2020, my Attorney and I have extended our final offer to Dell to make this right. We have given 2 weeks for them to respond before suit is filed in court, which is when the real battle will begin. Edited to add, I/we are not asking Dell for money. Just a system replacement with a like system. 

Dell, the ball is in your court and the entire world will have the opportunity to see this play out.

Edit: July 6, 2020 – Dell’s Counsel have continued to ignore our e-mails and we are prepping the paperwork to begin the official lawsuit. When filed, I will link

What’s it gonna be?

Are you going to admit it was wrong to sell me an warranty for a computer you no longer manufacture and replace my Precision 5720 All In One with an equivalent model, or are we going to duke it out via the Court system?

You can contact me via my attorney Chris Waggener, https://waggenerlaw.com/

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