Device Manufacturers and the fleecing of consumers

I’ve recently had cause to wonder if device manufacturers purposely make sure their devices are of limited use to people who buy their products. A few examples:

I recently bought a couple of NAS devices and each one of them failed woefully to do what was advertised.

First is what I actually started calling the Great White Turd. It is the Netgear sc101T. I have come across ridiculous devices before, but this one takes the cake for its total uselessness as a NAS device. What is the point of hard coding a “NAS” to use DHCP and no option of setting a static IP address. What part of “network” was missing during the development of the product? The SC101T forces you to install a client software on all computers that may need access to the device. The software cannot be installed on a server class Operating System like Windows Server 2003 or 2008. You have to mount the drive and share it to be accessible but since it is assigned a DHCP IP address, anytime you restart the computer, the drive mappings are shot to hell and you have to do it all over. For a product that retails for $180, I am almost tempted to start a class action lawsuit so we can recover some lost revenue due to emotional distress caused by this piece of crap.

Next is the Iomega StorCenter ix2. I was actually enthusiastic when I picked up this $300 device – compact case, easily accessible drive compartments, sleek brochure, nice web interface etc. That enthusiasm quickly vanished when I wanted to replace the two 500GB hard drives that came with it with 2 ITB  drives I had lying around. Never happened. It looks like these geniuses installed the free Linux NAS software on the hard drive instead of loading it as a ROM on the device. To make things worse, the software would not work on Windows Server 2000, 2003 and 2008. The EMC Retrospect backup software that is included is crippled because you cannot install it on a server. What am I missing? Since when did network Operating Systems become taboo in managing network devices? This lazy attempt to copy Microsoft by segmenting everything as Home, Road, Workplace, Media, Professional, Ultimate etc. is really annoying. Everyone is jumping into the NAS market with all kinds of totally useless devices with fancy titles and making billions of dollars while cranking out repackaged USB devices that should be retailing for nothing more than $50.

I had the same problem with Buffalo Linkstation TeraStation II a while back and encountered the exact same limitations. I could not use the device in a network environment with Active Directory even though the product was advertised as being compatible with an AD environment. After sending a blistering email to the support team, they offered a  replacement with a $2500 model and I had to pass.

When I was going through a box with old box with old devices, I came across a Franklin eBookman 901. It was still in its original box so I decided to try it out. I can tell you right now that I am seriously praying for that company to go bankrupt. The stupidity of their configuration is inexcusable. For some weird reason, they coded it so you cannot access the device unless it is plugged into a USB port. Totally unnecessary. I should not need a USB port to use the other functions of a “PDA-Like” device. Needless to say, I promptly trashed it.

I strongly believe OEM’s are very calculated in the way they release these products to the public. The mindset is that after buying the “Home/crippled” edition” which will obviously fall short of what you need it for, you will be “encouraged” to buy the next one in line which is ultimately more expensive and is just a re-badged version of the one you currently have with some disabled functions enabled. To me, this is the worst form of deceptive trade practice.

What I ended up doing was buying a 2-port SATA adapter and slapping it on an old PC I had on hand. I added two 1TB hard drives and installed the free Linux software called FreeNAS which many of these vendors and manufacturers use (although they would rather have you not know that) and I had a fully functional NAS  appliance. Total cost, less than $200 ($87 each for the drives, $20 for the SATA card).

This is a very serous problem, especially for small business owners. Not everyone has $2000 – $15000 to spend on network storage. In many cases, a simple 1TB  USB device works great, but there are times when it is helpful to make a device available to network users so they can store files they deem critical on the network.