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Media Open Source Software Hardware

Customer: Dell Denies Speaker Repair Under Warranty, Blames VLC 526

An anonymous reader writes "VLC is incapable of increasing the actual power past 100%, all that is being done is the waveform is being modified to be louder within the allowed constraints. But, that didn't stop Dell from denying warranty service for speaker damage if the popular VLC Media Player is installed on a Dell laptop. Also we got a report that service was denied because KMPlayer was installed on a laptop. The warranty remains valid on the other parts of the laptop. VLC player developer [Jean-Baptiste Kempf] denied the issue with VLC and further claimed that the player cannot be used to damage speakers. How can I convince Dell to replace my laptop speaker which is still in warranty? Or class action is only my option?"
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Customer: Dell Denies Speaker Repair Under Warranty, Blames VLC

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  • Two options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by synaptik ( 125 ) * on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:38PM (#46203867) Homepage
    Option The First:
    1. Buy Dell Laptop
    2. Do first-use OS initialization, power down, remove HDD, store away in a safe place
    3. Add new harddrive, install OS of choice
    4. If at any time you have warranty service needs, swap original HDD back in

    Option The Second:
    1. Don't buy Dell
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:39PM (#46203881)

    1) for class action you would need other people who had the same problem.

    2) Go see a lawyer and bring the warranty service contract. You can take them to small claims court and possibly get a judgement simply because they aren't likely to show. Just keep track of your lawyer's billing rates, and the filing fees for small claims because you're going to need that info when comparing your time, effort and money against option #4 I list below.

    3) Build a time machine and then go back in time and tell yourself to return the laptop for warranty service, and when they ask what's wrong, say "the speaker quit working, I have no idea why"

    4) Or the real thing you can do hit a pillow and get the anger out. Then grumble about Dell to your friends and let them pat you on the shoulder. Then buy a pair of external speakers that aren't shitty, and don't stop worrying about small potatoes. Really man, it sucks to get screwed on a fine line of a warranty issue.. we've all been there. Let it go.

  • physcial damage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:41PM (#46203899)

    I don't know what VLC player is, but any laptop that allows its speakers to be damage by software has a design flaw. Why is it that companies will try their damnedest to screw their customers over until publicly shamed with a bad-pr article like this?

  • by MpVpRb ( 1423381 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:48PM (#46203951) uses Windows system calls which then call the sound driver

    If the damage was caused by software, it's clearly the fault of the driver

    VLC is too far up the stack to cause anything abnormal

  • Re:Small Claims (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IQGQNAU ( 643228 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:48PM (#46203955)
    You don't need a lawyer for small claims, so not being one isn't a big problem. Filing the claim will also get the attention of some higher ups that the tech support tree will block you from.
  • by arashi no garou ( 699761 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:50PM (#46203973)

    I'm pretty sure Dell doesn't design the actual circuits on their boards, they just pick a chipset and ship off the parts list to their builder in Shenzhen or wherever. I'm willing to bet there was a mismatch between what the speaker could handle and what the audio chipset puts out. Some engineer somewhere cut a corner and didn't test it, and of course at build time all they check for is that sound is produced (this is Dell, not Apple; they don't care if it's great audio quality, just that it works long enough to make it into the shipping box).

    That's all supposition on my part of course, but I'd put money on it being a mismatched speaker and chipset.

  • by ernest.cunningham ( 972490 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:54PM (#46204011) Homepage

    You don't speak for this old timer. Stop bloody ruining every thread with your immature anti-beta posts.
    Beta is not ruining my time on Slashdot, YOU ARE!

    Send your feedback via the email they they have provided and leave it at that. If they do not listen to your feedback, then feel free to vote with your feet, but stop ruining the site for everybody else.

    ps. Why hide behind anonymity?

  • Re:Tell them... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noxxax]> on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:38PM (#46204399) Homepage

    The reason I'm going to leave /. is the fuck beta comments, not the beta itself.

    This is almost as bad as the reddit /r/atheism crap from a while ago.

  • by Oysterville ( 2944937 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:50PM (#46204517)
    Sorry, but the BBB will not help you. It's a front controlled by the businesses that they pretend to police.
  • by aynoknman ( 1071612 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:01PM (#46204593)

    (Would we crash their email server?)

    Not after the beta

  • by mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:26PM (#46205189)

    I personally don't do this sort of engineering, but I can see the reasoning. And if you are trying to push high volumes out of your laptop speaker, you probably should be carrying external speakers. There are physical limitations to systems designed to be portable.

    The trouble is that the audio chipset hardware is by design meant to output arbitrary waveforms, including squarewaves, which is what VLC produces in the most extreme form of clipping.

    A wave file can hold the very same signal.

    Neither the user nor software is responsible for trying to figure out what waveforms are a problem on a system where the built in amp can destroy the built in speaker. It's the responsibility of the maker to limit the output of their own amp so that it doesn't cause damage. They put the amp in there in the first place. There's nothing about putting in a proper amp that in any way would affect portability.

  • by MrBigInThePants ( 624986 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:37PM (#46205653)

    And you forgot the most important piece of advice: Don't buy a Dell next time!

  • by labnet ( 457441 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:48PM (#46205739)

    Well you are getting warmer.(Well warmer than any of the other posts I've read yet)

    There are only two ways to destroy a speaker.
    Overpowering (99%+ of cases), and Mechanical failure due to cone overextension.
    Speakers are rated in Watts (RMS) and appear like a resistor that varies a bit with frequency.
    If you take a 1W(RMS) speaker and match it to a 1W(RMS) amplifier, there is still a chance you can damage the speaker by overdriving it with a square wave which has 1.4 times the energy of a sine wave.
    Thus because VLC has 200% volume function, you could take a peaklimited song and clip it from a 'sine' to a 'square' wave and damage the speaker. Unlikely, but possible and good engineer would take this into account when designing the system.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday February 10, 2014 @12:05AM (#46207555) Homepage Journal

    They absolutely should design for that. For example, by putting a capacitor in series with the coil (common practice) to reject anything too close to DC. It would cost a whole penny. If anything, it would improve the quality of the sound by not allowing infrasonics to sap amplifier power (these are laptop speakers, not sub-woofers).

    The old Apple ][ had a push-pull speaker. You could go from full push to full pull by toggling a bit register. Nothing you could do in software would damage it including driving it at ultrasonic frequency with a variable duty cycle to generate a somewhat scratchy digital audio output.

    When speaker and amp are paired in an integrated unit, they should absolutely be matched so that the speakers cannot be burned out.

    As a side note, vlc outputting above 100% is nothing like a low frequency squarewave. It is very much like what is done in a 'hot mix' on a CD, so if vlc can burn out the speaker, so can playing a modern CD.

  • Slashcott! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LaminatorX ( 410794 ) <sabotage.praecantator@com> on Monday February 10, 2014 @01:37AM (#46207857) Homepage

    This site used to be great. Even in it's latter days, it's been good. That is poised to change. Before long, it will be mediocre, and ordinary.

    I didn't see a problem when Dice Holdings initially bought Slashdot. I figured there would be efforts to drive nerd traffic towards their job listings and such. That was fine. We all need jobs.

    Things have changed now. Beyond the shifts in story choices, the slashvertisements, and so on, something fundamental has changed: Slashdot's owners do not appreciate it.

    Their recent financials show that they have written its value as an asset down to zero. They have legally claimed it to be worthless. That is at the root of what is happening now. They want to fundamentally change the nature of this site in order to remake it into something with big growth potential.

    Beta is just the latest symptom of this disease. It will not be the last. In striving to make it into a site that will bring them a growing user base and growing revenue per user, they have shown a willingness to dumb down the interface in the name of making it more accessible to newcomers, to cast aside essential elements of decade-spanning community culture, and to plow ahead with changes in the face of overwhelmingly negative user feedback.

    This is not going to change. This will not go away. I will not support it.

    I will be gone for this entire week, in protest. While away, I will work to create a new community where things can be run with quality user discussions as the paramount objective.

    Be seeing you.

  • by adolf ( 21054 ) <> on Monday February 10, 2014 @02:02AM (#46207977) Journal

    Given that Dell has full control over the amount of power being used to drive the speakers, they have no excuse for throwing too much at them.

    That's a little bit short-sighted.

    Without knowing the nature of the failure, it's impossible to say what the problem actually is. Were the loudspeakers destroyed through mechanical stress or thermal stress?

    Limiting the power output of an amplifier for the purpose of preventing loudspeaker damage is not a trivial thing to do.

    In terms of damage, loudspeakers don't care (within reason and obvious mechanical limits) about instantaneous power. They care about long-term heating.

    If you just clip the signal, you generate an approximation of a squarewave (which loudspeakers hate): This reduces peak power (which isn't normally a problem), and increases average power (which is always a problem), and reduces cooling, AND it sounds terrible (though some listeners seem to not care). Clipping, therefore, at any stage -- including within software (ala VLC), or even during the recording process -- is a problem.

    If you add a simple limiter, you've got the same problems all over again, although with less harmonic distortion: Peak power goes down, but average power stays high. Voice coils cook.

    If you add a complicated multiband limiter that understands heating, you might have a shot at solving it, but you're into real money in engineering dollars and DSP parts....over some $.50 laptop speakers.

    That all said, companies have been selling and folks have been buying integrated audio systems for well over half a decade. If this is 1949 and I crank up my RCA tube set so I can listen to music in the garden and cook the loudspeaker, that's my fault -- not RCA's fault. The best I can hope is that RCA is willing to sell me a replacement speaker at a reasonable price.

    Same with a 1980s Fisher "rack system," or a wall full of modern Krell and Martin Logan gear. Or any random boombox. And, I dare say, a laptop.

    It is traditionally the job of the listener to ensure that an audio system is performing within its limitations, and not the job of the audio system to protect itself from the listener.

    If I crank VLC up to 120 or 200% or whatever the maximum is, and it starts clipping samples and generating square waves, and I turn the other volume controls up so I can hear that distorted drone over the drone of my hot tub, and something breaks...gosh, I guess I'm going to say that it was my own fault for not hearing the plain and obvious distortion that was occurring, and you know, just turn things down. Just as with any other audio system, big or small.

    Back to legal stuff: The Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act does not protect consumers from their own stupidity. If I drop my Jeep down a 4-foot embankment and break a front control arm, that's my own dumb fault -- it's certainly not the manufacturer's fault for failing to ensure that I would be unable to perform such maneuvers in MY Jeep (yes, emphasis: If I owned a Jeep, it would be MINE).

    HOWEVER, what MMWA does do is ensure that if the manufacturer suspects that a failure is due to end-user modification, that the the onus is on the manufacturer to prove that this is the case. I can be rock-crawling in my Jeep with its trick aftermarket suspension, and if the engine dies from a broken pushrod, it's the manufacturer's responsibility to prove that it's either not a warranted fault OR that my modifications caused the pushrod to break.

    Likewise, the onus is on Dell to prove that some software (such as VLC) caused the failure...or that the speakers aren't warranted to begin with due to signs of abuse. Dismissing a warranty claim out-of-hand because of the software installed on a computer, or the shocks on a Jeep (even IF it might be the case that the software did in fact cause the problem, as VLC might be capable of doing) is illegal in all 50 states.

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