[sf-perl] Belated follow-up (on Lenovo hardware support)

Quinn Weaver quinn at fairpath.com
Fri Oct 5 11:08:29 PDT 2007

Back in February, I mailed the list about repairing my fried Thinkpad
(I'd plugged it into a bad power outlet at a Meetup, and some part of
the circuitry was zapped).  This post describes my experience with
Lenovo tech support.  Read on if you're interested in this kind of

Exgeekutive summary:

1.  Lenovo tech support is very fast and very good.

2.  They'll replace unrelated parts that are just old, not broken.

2.  But they may also replace perfectly good hardware (e.g. your wifi card)
with something that doesn't work under Linux.

3.  Some parts they will overnight to you and let you install yourself,
which is a nice time-saver.

4.  If you do need to ship in your computer, be prepared for an OS
reinstall when it comes back.  They will re-image your hard drive,
even if you ask them not to(!)  To their credit, they did warn me about this.

5.  If you don't want to ship it, on-site warranties are available, for a price.

6.  T-series Thinkpads seem to have some issues with their CD-R/DVD drives.

7.  Despite items 2, 4, and 6, I maintain that Thinkpads are overall
the best laptops for running Linux.  The kernel plays well with the
hardware, as does Xorg, and the keyboard and pointing device
ergonomics are still far ahead of competitors (including, IMO, Apple).
Hardware support for Linux users is a little misguided, but not
totally clueless (e.g. they did warn me about having to reinstall the
OS); probably it's the best that's to be had among laptop vendors.

                        *       *       *

So here's what happened:

To my surprise, my Thinkpad was under warranty, even though I'd bought
it on eBay.  (In retrospect, I see my surprise was naive.)

I called tech support around 3:45 on a weekday.  The next day, a DHL
box arrived.  I packed up my Thinkpad in the box and dropped it off on
a Saturday.  That Wednesday, I received the serviced Thinkpad.

So the turnaround time was very good:  about four business days for a
complete repair.  However, the repair itself was mixed.

On the bright side, they gave me some stuff I hadn't asked for.  They
replaced the keyboard wrist rest (which had a couple of bumps from
overtightened screws) and the CD/DVD drive (which was working fine,
but was a little loose in its "alcove"), and the battery (which was
getting old).  Plus, of course, they opened the case and replaced the
fried power subcard, which was the original problem.

On the not-so-bright side, they also replaced my aftermarket mini-PCI
802.11 A/B/G card, which was working fine, with one that doesn't work
under Linux.  Also, they re-imaged my hard drive and installed Windows
XP (supposedly in order to run some diagnostic software).  Of course,
I'd backed up ~ and /etc before shipping off the box.  Still, it was a
pain to install Ubuntu from scratch.  They had warned me that they
might reimage my hard drive, _even if I checked the box that said not
to_.  Not so good.

Coda:  a few months later, the new CD/DVD drive stopped working.  It wouldn't
eject properly, unless I used the paperclip method, and it wouldn't read
discs at all.  I called Lenovo.  I expressed my desire not to send in my laptop
again.  Instead, they overnighted me a new drive, which I installed myself.

Epilogue:  A few days ago I bought an extended warranty.  I decided to
pay for an upgrade to on-site service.  That means they send a technician
to your place of business--in my case, my house--and they fix things on
the spot.

It was $219 for three years of coverage or $499 for five years,
which I thought was reasonable.  (If I use the on-site service
just once, it will more than pay for itself in billable hours that I
don't lose.)  I opted for the five-year deal; I use Linux, and this box
is plenty fast for everything I do.  I'll probably hang onto it forever.

The only downside of the warranty is that, due to some peculiarity,
in California they don't cover accidental damage.  So if I drop the
laptop I'm out of luck.

Conclusion:  Overall, I give IBM high marks.  With just a standard
warranty, I got very fast service and lots of extra, gratuitous
repairs.  Their treatment of Linux users is a little misguided (cf. my
wifi card), but not wholly clueless.  And they worked with me on the
CD/DVD issue.

I hope all this verbiage is useful to someone. :)

Quinn Weaver, independent contractor  |  President, San Francisco Perl Mongers
http://fairpath.com/quinn/resume/     |  http://sf.pm.org/

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