Thursday 7 June 2007

Bleeding Edge: One time we got bloody ...

Working on a couple of different projects brought me to stumble across something I haven't seen in a very long time (image is freely available on the Web):

The above is an image of the ATI Rage Fury MAXX. A dual GPU card with 32 MB of DDR RAM dedicated to each GPU. It was released in approximately 1999.

In its day, it was truly bleeding edge. It was competing with VooDoo (remember them?), and nVidia's high end cards. We had a client who insisted on having it in a box we put together for him. Bleeding edge is always expensive, so this box was no different.

We made sure to let him know in writing and verbally that the card was not returnable, and that the system may not perform as he expected. He understood what he was getting himself into! ;)

Guess what? It didn't perform as he expected! 8*O

Those were the days that ATI had a bad rap for their drivers. And this card was a prime example of that situation.

It took less than a week for him to come back with the system to show us some absolutely wacky artifacts, and strange video breaking - the game would all of a sudden be missing the bottom corner and you could see the desktop behind. Sometimes it would be the top right corner or any of the corners.

We were on the phone with ATI support quite a bit in those days, and we paid for it.

Subsequent driver releases helped, but in the end the product was essentially discontinued (read abandoned) by ATI. :(

Our client was pretty good about the whole situation knowing to some degree what he was getting into. We made good on the situation by providing hours of free support time in shop.

Why bring this up?

Because, even today, the Bleeding Edge can hurt us.

From driver immaturity, or even the lack of drivers for bleeding edge products, we sometimes cannot provide a requested product to a client. Sometimes initial manufacturing deficiencies will show up in the first products of a production line. There are many reasons why first generation can be painful. ;)

How do we find that out today?

We research other people's experience with the product via the Internet. If there is very little information out there due to the newness of the product, depending on our client, we would then purchase the product and test it.

We pay the price in time investigating the product. We try and take the risk for our client. If things don't work out as in the above situation, we try and make sure that we make it right as best as we can.

It is the part of client service that we deem the cost of doing business.

It also provides us with the knowledge we need to advise our clients on what products and solutions will work best for their given needs and network infrastructure.

If something doesn't work as advertised, then we avoid it! :D

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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