More than just a Ham radio blog.
is an informative, cynical and sometimes humorous look at what is happening in the world of amateur radio.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Buyer beware

About twelve years ago I came into a little money, one of my investments paid off big time. I initially wanted to reinvest the money in a property and rent that property out for a nice little monthly income, but Helen was wary of getting involved with potentially troublesome tenants and the minefield of tax. So instead I bought a Land Rover Discovery Series 1 and Helen got a porch on the front of the house. The porch had been part of our plans when we extended a few years earlier but we had run out of funds at the time. It was only later I found out that she had wanted a Porsche sports car not a covered entrance. There was not enough money left for a sports car so I got a second hand Citroen AX instead.

Surprisingly there were a few pounds left and we decided on a new PC and two new dual band radios for fitting into the cars. At the time the most powerful dual band mobile rigs were the Alinco 610E with 50 watts on 2 metres and 35 watts on 70cms so this is what we bought along with antenna mounts and Diamond 7700 antennas. At the time the Alincos were over £600, which shows how prices have changed over the years. The equivalent today even with recent price rises due to the ‘alleged’ credit crunch and weak pound is less than half what we paid.

The new radios and having two vehicles made our occasional outing with Raynet more fun. No longer did we have to decide who was going to stand in the rain all day with a handheld until the other picked them up. It made us more useful at events too, especially having a 4x4 to get to otherwise unreachable high spots but also because when needed the Alincos could be used as cross-band repeaters and saved many QSPs as the more remote stations could now talk to control. There were other uses too of course and I loved having Helen as an outrider ahead on the road when I was towing the caravan instead of giving me earache from the passenger seat.

Twelve years of use had obviously taken their toll because a couple of days ago I found the radio dropping out of transmit while I still had the microphone keyed. Later that day Helen was travelling home from work and I was on the receiving end of the ‘now you hear me now you don’t’, a certain Norman Collier springs to mind.

Stripping down the microphone revealed the culprit a micro-switch. No problem I thought I must have a spare somewhere, a result of numerous broken joysticks and mice over the years. I was wrong because although I had plenty they were all too big. I wanted to fix it then and there so after checking stock levels on the Internet I shot off to Maplin and purchased two for £1.99 each. I could have got them cheaper via on-line sellers but I was not prepared to wait.

It was literally a ten second fix with most of that ten seconds waiting for the soldering iron to warm up. To be on the safe side I changed the switch in the second microphone even though it appeared okay. It was there that I made my curious discovery; the insides of the two microphones were different. The second microphone had almost twice the components of the first. I found this strange as the two radios were purchased together and have sequential serial numbers.

This in its self was no more than a curiosity but discussion with others has made me realise that this practice of sourcing intermediate components from different suppliers is widespread and can have more serious implications. My son bought a high-end monitor after spending hours checking reviews to make sure he got the best one for his needs. Initially he was delighted but for some reason it did not seem to be able to cope as well as expected with the either the latest games or his graphics work. A little bit of deeper checking revealed that this particular monitor is sold with a screen from any one of twelve different manufacturers. The one in his was the rated worst of the dozen. A month later the monitor detonated with a loud band and filled his bedroom with smoke. A replacement arrived and a quick check revealed this one had the top rated screen in and performed as expected.

Talking to a TV engineer he said the same applies even more to TVs. So you can check out the best picture in the store, read all the reviews and still get a turkey because the screen is from an inferior manufacturer. I have only word of mouth but I am told the only way to ensure you get a good screen is to buy a Sony because they only use there own. I am also told the same does not apply to Sony laptops and that the screens in those can be from other sources. Caveat emptor "Let the buyer beware".

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