Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Caveat eBay

Earlier, I wrote of my little problem with a no-name thumbdrive I bought on eBay. To summarize, I found a 4GB thumb drive on eBay that checked out fine, and it reported 4GB capacity, but when I started copying files onto it that were greater than or equal to 1GB, the files read back corrupted.

I repeated the experiment with a 2nd no-name thumb drive (also 4GB advertised capacity). This time I found that it flaked out when I tried to write more than 1/2GB to it.

Now, maybe the vendors in question, obscure Hong Kong operators I've never heard of, are honorable and honest businessmen. But I now I have reason to doubt. Two no-name thumb drives each flaked out in roughly the same way and they flaked out in a fashion consistent with the manufacturer fraudulently substituting a cheaper 1/2GB or 1GB chip for the advertised 4GB memory chip and then hiding the fraud via firmware.

So, I thought, maybe this is a problem with WinXP or with my hardware. Easy enough to verify, I stopped by Best Buy and I bought a SanDisk Cruzer 4GB thumb drive. It's pretty cool. It has no cap to get lost, instead the USB socket retracts into the body of the thumb drive.

I repeated the above experiment with this drive, too: I copied 2.39GB worth of large MP3 files to the thumb drive. Then I checked each file for goodness. It was fine.

So, I learned something. Caveat eBay. If a deal on some big of cheap electronic gear seems like it's too good to be true, it is too good to be true.

Could I cause trouble for the two Hong Kong vendors who screwed me out of the difference between a 1GB and a 4GB thumb drive? I don't rightly know how. And I'm not highly motivated to take on the role of avenger of justice.

I am not happy with myself for having been taken. I am also unhappy with eBay for not shutting down these guys. On the other hand, I am quite happy with the 4GB thumb drive I just got from Best Buy.

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