Mon, 19 Apr 2010

Edgeless // at 14:00

Another wonderful example of built-in obsolescence. My current GPS, a Garmin Edge 705 bought in January 2009 stopped working last Friday. As with most consumer electronics, it came with a 12 month warranty. As with a suspiciously large number of consumer electronics, it failed shortly after the warranty had expired.

  Product name: Edge® 705
  Registration date: Jan 20, 2009
  Serial number: 192078322
  Unit Id: 3510640141

The power switch had been getting more and more indeterminate over the last few months — but never enough to make me realise and send it off to Garmin for repair while it still had a warranty. Then on Friday it wouldn't turn on and it was obvious from the lack of resistance that the switch had vanished from under the rubber waterproof cap. I've read a few reports of the switches in the Edge 305s and 705s being prone to failure and it seems mine decided to join them. Pretty bloody annoying that I have a couple of almost ten year old $30 bike computers that still work, but a $600 GPS is built to fall apart in twelve months as soon as the warranty runs out.

Over the weekend I discovered a strange workaround that would let me continue to use the Edge; plugging in to the USB charger would turn it on, then disconnecting from the charger left it on so I could take it outside and use it. Plugging it in to the USB cable on the laptop also turning it on if it was off, or had no effect if it was already on, however, unplugging it from the laptop made it turn itself off!

Lunchtime today saw me hunting madly around for a sufficiently tiny torx driver, after ransacking all the repair kits we could find we ended using a tiny flat-blade jewellers screwdriver that fit perfectly.

Once the screws were undone and the back removed problem became obvious: Garmin Edge 705 with broken power switch - seems to be a common problem

The on/off switch and the four other switches are all mounted directly onto the circuit board, the solder connections also provide the physical strength to hold them on. Switching it on and off by pressing on the button results in the switch being ripped off the circuit board — hardly a robust design, but probably a nice little earner for Garmin, who charge $US110 to repair (i.e. replace) out-of-warranty units in the states, or $AU186 here in Australia.

After twenty minutes on the phone on hold Garmin technical support told me to parcel it all up, quote the repair number they gave me, post it off to their repair shop in Sydney and they would then examine it and ring me back to let me know if it was to be repaired under the recently-expired warranty or if it would cost $186. No guarantees one way or the other. Garmin Edge 705 power switch broken off the PCB under normal use

A couple of phone calls found me a friend of a friend with adequate surface-mount soldering skills, and half an hour later he'd soldered the switch back on the board and the Edge is back in operation.

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Fri, 24 Oct 2008

My GPS is lost! // at 18:00

Sadly, although a GPS can tell where it is, it can't tell you where it is if you haven't got it... Stupidly I think I left mine lying on the ground next to the bike when I was leaving work one day this week. The usual routine is to walk outside, turn on the Edge, place the Edge on the top of the sign next to the bike, unlock the bike, put on my helmet and gloves, pick up the Edge and ride off. Since the Edge isn't at home, and isn't at work, and doesn't seem to be in any of my myriad pockets and bags, I'm assuming that I missed that vitally important second-last step and left it sitting on top of the sign outside building 28.

Annoyed that I haven't got it, but over the years it seemed to cause more headaches than it solved; eternally crap USB software, data that seemed to always be half held hostage by Garmin and/or Motionbased, dodgy hardware, faulty buttons, misleading warranty conditions. The amusing thing is that only last week I'd finally managed to convince Garmin that there was a problem with the timezones since they still don't cater for the new Australian daylight savings time!

March 23, 2006 to October 23, 2008, I'd only had it three days when I hit the first of many faults. Thirty-one months, $506.30, one replacement unit at ten months, a second replacement due at another ten months only I found that the warranty wouldn't cover me! I guess that's $16 per month for the fun of tracking most of my bike rides.

Anyway, if you happen to find a Garmin Edge 305 kicking around in a second-hand store or garage sale, serial #37465581, its mine and I guess I wouldn't mind it back.

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Thu, 20 Mar 2008

A second broken Garmin Edge GPS, no repair, no warranty // at 12:00

Now that definitely leaves a bad taste in the mouth Mr Garmin.

You purchase a GPS in good faith, one that comes with a 12 month warranty and so when it breaks you send it back to be repaired. You can't send it to Garmin since they don't have a presence in Australia, instead you have to send it to GME, who are the “sole repair and distribution centre.”

When it comes back you assume that the replacement one has a warranty, then nine or ten months later that one breaks too... that's when you discover that according to GME “they're not real reliable,” but since its a repair unit it only has a 3 month warranty and it'll cost you $AU209 to have your unrepairable GPS replaced! Staff at GME claim to be "only a repair shop" and that I have to discuss it with "Garmin Australia" if I'm not happy with the warranty, or that fact that two out of two Garmin devices have failed in under a year.

Searching about shows that there is no such entity as "Garmin Australia", all references to a Garmin presence in Australia are directed straight back to GME! Garmin's "international office" in the US won't help, since I'm not in the US, and helpfully directed me to contact Garmin South-East Asia, which have a website in Taiwan that is solely in Chinese characters.

So two years of endless firmware hangs and two broken Edge 305 GPSs can be summarised as: nice concept, crap product, crap firmware, crap warranty and crap support.

Thanks Garmin.

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Thu, 21 Feb 2008

Entropy eaten Edge // at 13:00

I'd love to believe that Garmin's Edge 305 is a great piece of equipment, but unfortunately my experiences with the device — two so far — have left me unconvinced.

From day one it has been subject to battery draining hangs if you don't switch it off and disconnect it from the PC in precisely the right order, and even then sometimes it'll just hang. You get into the habit of switching off, unplugging, then switching it back on briefly just to check. A number of firmware updates haven't cured the problem, perhaps lessening the frequency though. Its the only USB device I've ever heard of that has this problem.

Another design flaw seems to be a loose mounting bracket and a mount almost at one end — it always seemed wobbly and eventually my first one fell out when I hit a bump and smashed the display. Just under ten months life for that one.

Four weeks later I received a replacement, still subject to the software hangs.

Nearly ten months into the life of the second unit, in early December 2007, and I noticed that one of the buttons didn't work anymore, but I don't tend to use the up/down arrows so I've no idea how long that was the case, then a few weeks later it started to randomly turn itself off if I hit a bump in the road. I resisted sending it back to GME until after the Alpine Classic in late January, then today posted it off for repair or replacement.

Now the wait, hopefully not another four weeks, until I get it back. A dodgy product or just bad luck and two bad items?

Updated: Ah damn, I guess I should have read all the data off it before I shipped it off, I think it unlikely that they'll send it back with the memory still full, especially if it gets replaced. Oh no, I've lost all records of my commutes since Feb. 8!

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Wed, 07 Feb 2007

Regaining my Edge // at 23:59

A courier arrived this morning and brought me a shiny new replacement Edge 305 GPS to replace the one that broke back in January.

At one month and one day Garmin are twice as responsive as Canon for repairs — last year's warranty headache — but I'm still not really impressed that it takes that long for them to send a replacement unit, I would have thought they would keep them in stock. Apparently not, I was told that they order them in when a faulty one comes in for repair. I'll be keeping track of the dates since I'm fairly sure that Australian law says I get my warranty period extended if I'm without it for more than a week. Here's hoping I don't need the warranty though!

All excited at the new arrival, I powered it on, got it synchronised with the satellites, then put it in my pocket and rode to work — no replacement mounting bracket was sent. Unfortunately I was too excited, forgetting that unlike a normal bike speedometer I was supposed to press the Start button, so when I got to work I discovered that I had travelled exactly zero (duh!) miles (ugh!). At least I've set it up now so that it reads in metric like the rest of the civilised world.

Another phone call to GME and I can get a replacement bracket, but I have to post in the damaged one. They'll also find out if I can buy a third one to put on the third bicycle....

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Fri, 05 Jan 2007

Life on the Edge // at 23:59

[2007-Jan-23]: Rang up the Melbourne office of GME to get the phone number for the Sydney office of GME to find out what has happened to my Edge. "It couldn't be repaired so we're waiting for a replacement unit." Nice of them to call me and tell me, but that would be customer service and apparently that just isn't done! At least when I asked about the broken mounting bracket that I'd forgotten to send she promised to send one.

[2007-Feb-07]: One month and two days later a new Edge 305 (serial #37465581) appears at the door. A single sheet of paper with the text "repairs quoted more than replacement value". Sadly, despite the verbal promise, there is no replacement mounting bracket so I now have three bikes, one Edge and only one mounting bracket.

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Mon, 03 Jul 2006

Another Garmin update // at 00:00

After only a week, another update from Garmin for the Edge305, Software Version: 2.70 and GPS: 2.60, up from 2.60 and 2.40 respectively. Fingers crossed, but I haven't had the device hang or flatten the battery overnight since the last upgrade....

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Thu, 22 Jun 2006

Update headache // at 23:59

Musing on the methods of software updates under Windows. Seems that the assorted linuxes are well ahead here; Debian's apt-get upgrade, SuSE's rug update, not just the operating system but application packages too.

Windows has Windows Update, but every other application has its own mechanism — perhaps. Monitor the mailing lists, read the web page, click “check for update” in the application....

Today's updates were for the Edge 305, GPS firmware update to 2.60, Motionbased agent updated to 2.3.0.0, Garmin Training Centre updated to 3.1.4. All performed differently, all initiated manually.

I think Windows needs an API where applications can register an update URL, a time frequency (eg monthly, weekly, daily, manually), and an update behaviour. A single "check for updates" tool could then find everything that you have installed.

Back to the Garmin Edge. Hopefully the Edge 305 2.60 firmware will be better than the bad 2.40 and the appalling 2.20, there are shocking bugs in all of them — this is not a product that's is ready for release! Twice this week I've gone to turn the unit on in the morning only to be told that it has a flat battery, and I know that I turned it off the night before.... Plug it into the charger and the damn thing turns itself on after a while, then complains that it can't see the satellites. Turn it off and a while later it does it again! Firmware version 2.60 can't possibly be any worse....

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Fri, 31 Mar 2006

Garmin Edge headaches // at 23:59

It hung again today. Once is annoying, twice a coincidence, three times... four times — a product released before it is ready!

2006-03-24 13:00-16:00 on charger until it reported "fully charged"
2006-03-24 17:30-17:45 cycled home with it.

2006-03-25 10:00 plugged into the PC, downloaded data and restarted PC. Edge goes off and will no longer power on. Windows now reports "Replace device."
2006-03-25 18:3 Edge finally turns on, but the battery is now flat and it turns itself off in under a second.

2006-03-27 09:00-12:00 on charger until it reports "fully charged". Edge was completely flat and took 3 hours after fifteen minutes use last Friday!
2006-03-27 00:30 use at lunch time (00:30 total)
2006-03-27 00:15 use riding home (00:45 total)
2006-03-28 00:15 use riding to work (01:00 total)
2006-03-28 10:00 succesful upload
2006-03-28 00:15 use riding home (01:15 total)
2006-03-29 00:15 use riding to work (01:30 total)
2006-03-29 10:00 succesful upload
2006-03-29 00:15 use riding home (01:15 total)
2006-03-30 00:15 use riding to work (01:30 total)
2006-03-30 10:00 succesful upload. I believe the PC was then restarted with the Edge connected to the USB cable.
2006-03-30 18:00 Edge no longer powers on, no "charging" message or other display when plugged into the charger. Pressing "mode" and "reset" brings it back to life.
2006-03-31 00:15 use riding to work (01:45 total)
2006-03-31 10:00 succesful upload, power now down to 3 bars.
2006-03-31 14:00 sent off support email to Garmin in the US.
2006-03-31 18:00 Edge won't power on. Reset via "mode" and "reset" buttons, only one bar of power left and device cannot lock onto satellites.
2006-04-01 approx. two hours on the charger to recover from a supposed 1hr 45 minutes use (from a quoted 12hour battery life).

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Tue, 28 Mar 2006

New toy redux // at 00:00

Yesterday's suspicions confirmed — at least partially. Browsing through the user forums for the Garmin Edge shows that quite a few people have managed to either permanently or temporarily kill their devices. Also found useful things such as how to perform a hard or soft reset — information that seems to be missing from the manual. In fact the manual contains no fault-finding information of any kind!

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Mon, 27 Mar 2006

New toy // at 00:00

After that I found I couldn't switch it on at all, and plugging it in to the laptop results in a Windows message telling me that the device is faulty and needs to be either unplugged and plugged back in, or replaced.

Later in the evening I could switch it on, but it promptly turned itself off again. Dead flat battery? I fully charged it Friday afternoon and it was only on for twenty minutes or so! Annoyingly, I'd left the charger at work so I couldn't investigate further.

Today I plugged the Edge into the charger at 9am and left it on until it said fully charged, noon, three hours later! No idea how it can have completely flattened the battery on Saturday, although I have my suspicions that a software bug killed it when it was disconnected from the USB cable.

Photos

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