Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Frustrations with Nintendo Continues


One of the main catalysts for the birth of this blog was Nintendo "repairing" my DS lite for a cracked hinge, and sending me back a system with a dead pixel. I called Nintendo's service number and informed them politely of the problem. The best they could do was send me a UPS shipping label and have me send the system back to get repaired - again. So I packaged up the DS lite and sent it back - again; This time, I even included a little note to signify my annoyance. When I got my second repair back today, the first thing I did way turn it on and ensure that there were no dead pixels. I was happy to find no problems with this DS lite. However, my delight was ephemeral...

Nintendo keeps on screwing me.

What I was not expecting was this little gem that Nintendo included with the repair:

The second paragraph of the letter reads:
However, upon examination of your system, our technicians determined that the problem you were experiencing was not due to a manufacturer defect. It appears that the damage to your system was the result of water or some other liquid coming into contact with the circuit board, which caused damage to the internal electronic components. As stated in our warranty text, our one-year hardware warranty does not cover physical damage. Therefore, warranty coverage does not apply.
There are so many things wrong with this letter, it's ridiculous. First of all, the DS lite I had sent back to repair the dead pixel was in the exact same condition as when I had received it. After I had discovered my first "repaired" DS lite had a dead pixel, I did not touch it. It sat on my desk for about a week before I shipped it back. There was no way I could have caused water damage. In addition, I deliberately tried to make it obvious when I shipped it back, that is was just recently "repaired". I shipped in back in the same box that the repair came in. The unit looked new. I even used the same plastic sleeve that Nintendo had put it in. If Nintendo looked up the serial number, they would find that they had sent it to me a week ago. If the circuit board did have indications of "water damage" it would have to be there when Nintendo first sent the unit to me. Either Nintendo missed the "water damage" markings on the circuit board the first time when they sent me the unit, or the "water damage" is completely made up.

A true story.

A few months ago, a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) accidentally dropped his DS lite in the ocean. He tried drying out his DS lite, but it would not turn on at all. He sent it to Nintendo for repair, putting "dead pixels" in the problem description. His repaired unit came back a few days later. It worked fine, looked brand new, and didn't have any dead pixels. Here's the kicker: he never got a "water damage" letter.

So basically, Nintendo diagnoses a unit that's obviously been dropped in the ocean (there was sand embedded in the slots) as a "dead pixel problem", and diagnoses a unit that they had deemed "repaired" that obviously has a dead pixel as a "water damage problem".

Sunday, January 28, 2007


You're looking at a sketch of a revolutionary interface for organizing and playing music. It's still in the early design phase, but a working prototype may come soon once I get some free time.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Beauty and the Geek

I've never gotten into a reality tv show before. That is, until I watched Beauty and the Geek for the first time a few weeks ago. There is something about this show that makes it very appealing. Putting a bunch of geeky guys together with a group of beautiful women and seeing what happens could only be a recipe for success! Forget about Survivor, or Big Brother, or all the or reality tv shows, Beauty and the Geek is the show to watch!

Anyway, after I saw the first two episodes of season three, I went back and watched all of seasons one and two over the course of two nights. You know a tv show is good when you can't watch just one episode. Now, I'm saving up a buffer of unwatched season three episodes. So far there's three new episodes I haven't watched yet. I'll see how long I can resist temptation before I break down and gourge myself in a marathon viewing of Beauty and the Geek.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cleaning Out my Laptop

I like to physically take apart my Inspiron 9300 every few months and clean out all the dust buildup near the fans. It's not hard to do, and really helps keep the CPU and GPU temperatures down.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Cost of Owning a Car While Living On-Campus

I'm thinking about purchasing a car (a black Hyundai Sonata 2007 to be precise). However, I can't decide if I should wait until I graduate or if I should buy one sooner, perhaps right before spring break. To help me decide, I computed all the car related expenses I would need to pay if I got the car sooner rather than later:

Parking Permit (1 quarter) $254.76
Car Insurance (3 months) $160.75
Gas (700mi @ 25mpg, $2.80/gal) $ 80.00
Interest (18k @ 5% for 3 months) $225.00
Total $720.51

So if I buy a car during spring break and keep it on campus for spring quarter, I would pay around $720 more than if I bought it when I graduate. That's a good amount of money, so maybe I shouldn't buy a car just yet...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sending Nintendo a Message

As I blogged earlier, my DS Lite repair was returned with a dead pixel. While I was packaging my DS Lite for shipping today, I wanted to ensure that Nintendo would not make the same mistake twice. I hope they get the message this time.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Japanese Treats

Thanks Colin for bringing a box of tasty treats to share with the lab!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Top Secret Videos

The paper submission deadline for [Organization Name Removed] is just 3 days away now, and people in [Top Secret Location] are hard at work getting their papers written and results put together. I spent most of today working with N. and K. on a video for [Top Secret Research Project]. I recorded the voice over using Audacity, and edited the video using Premiere Pro.

Note: Sensitive information was removed from this blog post.


I just finished making something called GeneVisualizer for an extra credit project in my Computational Biology class. It's a program that lets you explore an organism's genes visually in a very interactive way. You can read more about it at my website.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Camera Finds Faces

My previous ramblings about a strange unknown port on my camera should be ignored, because I've now fallen in love with my new camera. This is probably due in part to the fact the my old camera, a Canon PowerShot S110, is so old and outdated. The most annoying thing about my old camera was that some of its sensors had died, so that on every picture that it took, certain pixels were always white. Combine this with the fact that both batteries I had for it could barely hold enough charge to take a handful of pictures, and you can see why I won't be missing this hunk of junk.

The coolest feature of my new Canon SD800 IS would probably be the face detection. This is a feature that you really have to see to believe. The camera will detect faces in real time and then automatically focus on the faces when you take a picture. It's face detection was even able to find the face of a realistic looking Mark Twain statue.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mystery Port on the Canon SD800 IS

I got a new camera today, the Canon SD800 IS. I haven't even had a chance to use it yet, and something about it is bothering me. On the bottom of the camera, above the battery and to the right of the SD slot, is a tiny hole. There seems to be some kind of port in this hole, but there doesn't seem to be any reference to it anywhere in the manual. Could it be some kind of undocumented troubleshooting port that only Canon technicians know about?

To make matters worse, it seems to be broken. The metal encasing it is bent, and there's pieces of plastic and metal embedded in it. What I want to know is this: does this mystery port serve some kind of purpose, or is it really just a digital appendix?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Anime that I'm Currently Watching

The other day I started watching all four anime series that were still sitting on my hard drive: Scrapped Princess, Bakuretsu Tenshi, Shuffle!, and RahXephon. Some of these have been metaphorically gathering dust since last March, and I can't even remember why I downloaded them. I've only watched the first few episodes, but so far I'm liking Scrapped Princess and Bakuretsu Tenshi the most.

Scrapped Princess is about an innocent eyed girl called Pacifica who has been prophesized will cause the world's destruction when she turns 16. Her older siblings, a brother who wields a sword and a sister who uses magic, are her only guardians, and are devoted to protecting her from the scores of people trying to kill her. The character designs and historical setting reminds me of Fire Emblem.

Bakuretsu Tenshi (aka Burst Angel) is set in a near future where crime is rampant. A scrawny looking culinary student is hired to cook for a group of four young female mercenaries. Jo and Meg are the ones that seem to do most of the grunt work. Sei is older and the leader of the group. Amy is the youngest and the computer wiz. I find it interesting how Jo and Meg's characters look so much like Rei and Asuka from Evangelion, given how their personalities are not the same at all.

Shuffle! seems to be your run-of-the-mill harem anime. Rin, the main character, is a high school student and lives with his childhood friend who takes care of him by waking him up and cooking him breakfast and such. For whatever reason, Rin is chosen by the lord of the gods and by the lord of the demons to marry their respective daughters, who become his new neighbors. I think this series could get boring really fast, especially since the only difference between humans, gods, and demons seem to be the shape of their ears.

RahXephon has been said to be Evangelion without all the angst. Both series have kids piloting giant mecha. I almost laughed when Ayato, RahXephon's version of Shinji, was talking about the quiet girl called Reika being absent from school and the camera zoomed in on her empty desk. The main difference seems to be that RahXephon turns up the "what the hell" quotient right away (i.e. people with blue blood, everyone living in an artificial world, and stuff hatching from giant eggs) whereas Evangelion was fairly normal until about the middle of the series.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I'm Better at Chinese than I Thought

I just found out I had passed the Chinese proficiency exam that I thought I had failed two weeks ago. I guess the graders were fine with my liberal use of pinyin on the translate from English to Chinese part. Now I can graduate on time!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snow Day

It's been freezing for the last couple days in Seattle, and this morning it finally snowed! My only class today was canceled, but I still had to go to the CS building to do a quick errand.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Skype Unlimited Calling comes with $2.10

Last year, I used SkypeOut for free, mainly using it to call my parents in the US. Skype started charging for their service this year and I haven't found a good free alternative, so Skype got exactly what they wanted - a paying customer.

I bit the bullet and paid $14.95 for unlimited calling in the US and Canada for a year. What surprised me though, was that they also gave me $2.10 worth of credit for international calls. Skype advertises that the plan comes with "more than an hour of international calls" on their website, but I don't think that they mention the exact amount anywhere. Skype's international calling rates can be as low as $0.021 for countries like China and Australia, so it turns out to be 200 minutes.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

My DS Lite has a Dead Pixel

I just received my DS lite today after I sent it back to Nintendo because of a cracked hinge. They fixed the hinge, but now there is a dead pixel right in the center of the top screen! I know that Nintendo will replace units with even one dead pixel for free. What makes me angry though, is that Nintendo's repair technicians are incompetent enough to not catch this, or even worse, Nintendo knowingly sends back units with defective screens.