Monday, August 20, 2007

OQO: It's broken.

My OQO Model 02 is a door stop at the moment. More or less.

I've talked here very long windedly about the issues I've been having with the integrated Sprint EVDO modem. Every once in a while it flips out and says device not found, and you have to let it rest for a while it'll work again.

I tried a lot of things, some of them under guidance from OQO support. Setting up dialup networking entries, reloading the OS, fiddling switches in the modem configuration stuff. It seemed that ensuring that I never used the device while battery usage was set to “max battery” was the likely culprit. It might still be. After staying away from that mode, I've had significantly fewer issues.

Until late last week. I was using the EVDO while sitting outside my office, at a patio table provided by my friendly neighborhood Starbucks. This was during the great “Skype outtage” on Thursday, so to make a client call, I needed to go outside, where my cell phone reception was better. (Since I couldn't use Skype, which is all I have for my office phone.)

Anyway, I'm in the middle of this very long client call, and the OQO hard freezes. NOT GOOD. OK, I reboot it. It says “device not found” when launching the Sprint app. OK, I think to myself, this is a side effect of the modem misbehaving. I'm at Starbucks, so I figure I've got a good backup in their Wifi. (I have a T-Mobile cell phone, so I'm already paying for T-Mobile Wifi.) So, I disable the modem device in the OQO, and fire up the Wifi. I get online with the T-Mobile hotspot, and surf my way around for about 15 seconds, before the thing HARD FREEZES yet again. Still not good. Even less good. I can't even remember the last time I had a box hard freeze on me. Before today.

So, I think to myself, maybe it's overheating. I let it sleep for a while (this was quite the long call) then crank the performance control panel all the way over to “cooler” (it was previously near the middle). I get online again, and it hard freezes again. OK, I'm getting nowhere, so I turn it off and leave it be.

After the call I need to make another. While on that call, I fire it back up, and get online. It locks up again. I give up, finish my calls, then head back upstairs.

I fire the thing up, disable all the internal radios, and put it into the dock. It connects to the net from my office via ethernet and the dock. I open a browser. After a few seconds? Bam, it locks again. I think, okay, maybe Firefox is hosed. I reboot, run a disk check, reboot again, then try IE. Bam, it locks again.

Yuck. I gave up at that point and switched to my old office computer (the large HP laptop that the OQO is supposed to supplant), and get that one loaded up enough to finish up work for the night.

The next day I turn the OQO on long enough to copy all my work files to my USB flash drive. I keep the ethernet unplugged. After I copy the files, I leave it sit to see what happens, while I work on the other computer. The OQO hard locks again after a few moments. (I don't recall if I had plugged the ethernet cable back in.)

So, that's where we're at. The thing's just about useless, and I've switched to a different computer for the time being. I am not pleased.

I emailed support on Friday and they escalated it to a support engineer. As of right now, he hasn't gotten back to me. I called this morning to find out the status, and they think that somebody will be contacting me by the end of the day, with next steps/RMA info/etc.

I'm bummed. I love the OQO, but I need it to Just Work. I already was slightly unhappy every time the Sprint flaked out, and now I don't know what's up with the thing totally melting down.

Time permitting, I might erase and reload the OS (again) tomorrow. I'm not sure if I want to go through the effort – it takes forever to download applications again, set up drivers, passwords, etc. I really shouldn't have to reload the OS twice since June to keep the it alive.

If anybody has any thoughts as to what could be going on here, I'm all ears.

I'm not running very much on this thing, so I don't know what I could be doing to it. The applications I'm using are primarily just these: Avast (anti-virus), Open Office, Microsoft Outlook, Firefox, IE, PuTTY, Cygwin, and Trillian. None of this stuff has killed any of the other nine computers I've run it on, so I don't get what could be causing it here.

(Update at 4:39 PM central: OQO Support sent me RMA information; the computer is being replaced under warranty. I'll ship it their way tomorrow.)

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