No Magic Wand

A while back, I reviewed the Shuttle AK31 v3.1 and pointed out that the voltage adjustment featured didn’t adjust.

A little bit later, I got a second-hand note from someone indicating that Shuttle was working on it.

Well, it’s been two months since the release of the last BIOS, no word.

If this were something I truly needed and a main reason why I bought the board, pretty long wait, isn’t it?

Maybe they’ll do it tomorrow, maybe next week, or month, or never. In the meantime, my assuming and believing isn’t doing me any good, is it?

Looking around, the equipment manufacturers apparently want you to get religion when it comes to their products.

Oh We Of Little Faith

We’re getting the growing impression from a number of sources that motherboard/memory interfaces are growing increasingly problematic at higher speeds, whether it be use of three or more sticks or performance scaling at high FSB speeds.

We see mobo manufacturers not doing certain things that on the surface it looks like they can do, and we wonder why.

This troubles us. It’s not a good time to assume. It’s not a good time to believe. You may be worshipping false gods.

It’s one thing to look towards the future and talk about future products that may or may not appear. That requires no commitment, at worst, the promise is unfulfilled, but your wallet’s still intact.

It’s quite another to say, “Buy now, then believe.” If the promise is fulfilled, you’re no better off for your belief than if you had simply waited until faith was unnecessary. If the promise doesn’t pan out, you end up with unfulfilled promise and depleted wallet.

The Not-So-Magic Wand

When a mobo doesn’t do something somebody wants, you often hear, “Wait for a BIOS update.” Like it’s a magic wand that can fix anything.

Not so. All a BIOS change can do is enable capacities that are already there in the hardware. It can’t create them.

For example, a BIOS change cannot change the available PCI divisors. It can enable additional PCI divisors if the underlying clock generator supports it, but if the clock generator doesn’t, the BIOS can’t do anything about it. The magic wand duds out.

So don’t assume a BIOS fix can fix your problem unless you have some real reason to think that. If a competing product using the same essential equipment does it, then there’s some reason to think that. If you have no idea, though, that’s not just belief, that’s blind faith.

Even if you have some real reason, you’re still not out of the woods, though.

We have seen too often over the last year or so items which would look to be “easy BIOS fixes” prove not to be. I still get letters from people telling me they can’t get the multipliers on certain motherboards working correctly. There have been plenty of “fixes” out there that just haven’t fixed.

This can make a Doubting Thomas out of anybody.

When you have a situation where the hardware appears to support something, but the BIOS doesn’t: there can be two types of reasons for that.

  • A good one (meaning implementation would mess up the mobo working one way or another) or
  • A bad one (anything else).

    The problem is you usually don’t know which type it is.

    If somebody comes out with a mobo that at least theoretically can run at over 200Mhz FSB, but only has a max PCI divisor of /4, even though the clock generator can do /5 or /6, what does that mean?

  • Does it mean they can’t get the mobo to run stably at, say, 180Mhz, with fast settings even with equipment meant for it?
  • Does it mean that memory that can really handle it isn’t readily available, so there’s no point in allowing realistic 166Mhz speeds until it does?
  • Or does it just mean they want to sell you another mobo three or four months from now?

    We don’t know. It could be any of those three. It might be none of them. Do I or anybody else outside of some engineering labs know the reason right now. No. Maybe they don’t even know yet.

    The Prudent Approach

    If a feature or potential feature that is important to your computing plans doesn’t work in a piece of equipment at the moment, don’t buy it until it does.

    Don’t assume it will. Don’t believe it will. Don’t buy until you know it will. Otherwise, you’re up a creek without a paddle if they don’t.

    I’ve said this before, but if people tell you, “I’m sure they will,” ask them “Will you buy me a new motherboard if they don’t?” If they say “No,” you might ask them why they’re talking the talk but not walking the walk. If they’re so sure, what’s the problem in backing it up?

    Don’t even take the company’s word that they’re going to do it. If this were so easy, why wasn’t it done already? What’s the problem with them doing before you buying? Why the hurry? Why the rush?

    In many cases, I’m sure those promises are being made in good faith at the time. But the company may change its mind. The company may find that they can’t deliver what they promised.

    In any of these cases, they have your money, and you have a piece of equipment that doesn’t do what you want.

    None of this happens if you say “Show me.”

    Just Because It Goes Out The Door Doesn’t Mean It Should Come Into Yours

    Right now, the philosophy of the manufacturers is, “Out the door now, fix it later.”

    Why is that? Because a certain percentage of people have to buy the newest thing now, and will pay more to be first. Call it instant gratification, call it first aid for self-esteem; that’s the buying audience you lose by waiting until you have it right.

    So we have half-baked cookies going out the door, and the marketeers don’t even know how to spell “calm deliberation,” much less encourage it.

    They don’t want you thinking, they want you buying, and want to stampede you into doing so.

    You can hardly get a good stampede going if the marketing cowboys tell the cattle, “Wait until . . . .” You want a stampede, you’d better to get the cattle going right away. You won’t have to sweat the details later, they will.

    Cowboys don’t care much about cattle. All the cowboy wants to do with the cattle is get them to the slaughterhouse and get paid, hardly a “caring” move.

    Nor do the cowboys caringly hang around the slaughterhouse to see how the cattle are faring. They’re soon off to a new stampede.

    In most cases, there is no true rush to buy something. It really boils down to how easily you can be stampeded.

    Outside of those who have no choice but to buy something by X date or have nothing with which to do work, I see no reason why you can’t be a complete atheist when it comes to having faith in these companies and products. There is no need for faith or belief when all you need is patience.

    There’s nothing wrong against updating a review AFTER the article of faith has materialized.

    Not unless you just want a stampede.

    The cowboys aren’t solely to blame, either. You can’t have a stampede without cattle. Think first, then run, not the other way around. Control yourself. It’s good for you.

    Save your belief for things you cannot know, not those you can and should.

    Email Ed

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