Rat Poison and Radeons

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A long time ago, I was in some sort of training class that had something to do with working as a team, and we were given this hypothetical problem to solve.

It involved people getting sick, some quite seriously, from eating in the corporate cafeteria, and our job was to figure out why and what to do about it. It was sort of a non-video video game, ask the right question to the God-designate, and you got an additional piece to the puzzle.

During this exercise, I noticed that some members of the team were quite reluctant to get to the bottom of this. Mind you, this was a pure paper exercise.

To make a long story short, we found out that people were getting sick from the coffee, and the reason why was that someone from the company running the cafeteria (btw, an outside company) had mistakenly been cleaning the coffee urns with rat poison.

I will never forget the immediate reaction of one of the participants (admittedly, one of the dimmer bumbs), “How do we cover this up?” And she was not the only one. This entire team of perhaps ten people had to be told that maybe the first thing they ought to do is stop the sale of coffee in the cafeteria.

Let me make this clear. This was a pure paper exercise. Even on paper, nobody in the group could be blamed for what happened. Not even anyone in the company could be blamed for this, this was no weird test of corporate loyalty. Nonetheless, the instinct was, “Cover up.”

What is going on with these Catalyst 3.8 drivers reminds me so much of that experience.

No Kudos Here…

No Kudos Here

I really don’t care what ATI may have issued as a PR release. They played all kinds of games in that statement, and if you didn’t pick up on them, and think ATI said there was no way there’s any problem here, well, they didn’t. PR people get paid good money to fool people.

What I don’t see the reason for is the nasty little spin ATI put on this. If somebody’s lost a monitor, they have a big problem. They may be wrong in identifying the reason for the problem, but there’s no need to personally trash them.

That unnecessary nastiness sets alarms off in my head.

I have too many memories of companies denying problems until they admitted it: Intel with the 820; AMD with Thoroughbred and Hammer, just to name two. Not to mentioning this company doing a little Quacking a while back.

That doesn’t mean that there has to be a problem that is ATI’s fault, either.

But unless you believe that everyone who no longer has a functioning monitor and/or video card is a liar or subject to mass hysteria or delusion, there is some kind of problem here that gets initiated by installing Catalyst 3.8 drivers.

For someone with a dead monitor, that is no rumor. That is no speculation. That’s a fact.

Now why these people have dead monitors, and whose fault that might be, is quite a different matter, and one that is likely to take some time to figure out, certainly much longer than the time it took to write that PR statement.

It is likely that the temperature increases initially reported were unrepresentative of what usually happens (ATI did say they measured some temp increase).

It could well be that the very specific explanation given by some for monitor failure may not be accurate, but please note the ATI statement addressed just that.

It should be noted that Catalyst drivers as of late do set up two monitors at least sometimes even when there’s just one monitor around, which hardly makes any sense and understandably would be suspected of being part of the problem.

In my experience, when people have a problem and report it, there’s a problem. The problem often isn’t is what they think it is, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. You just have to look a little harder to find out what the problem really is.

That count of 183 may have more than a few duplicates, but this is not a matter of one or three people somehow furiously cloning themselves into an army.

That PR statement said that no complaints had been registered about dead monitors with ATI’s Customer Support. This certainly isn’t so now, and the technical people at ATI is continuing to look into this.

There are a lot of possible reasons why this is happening to some (it certainly isn’t happening to everyone). Some very possible reasons wouldn’t be ATI’s fault at all. The drivers may be telling the monitors to do something they’re supposed to be able to do, and the monitors don’t have that “required” feature built in, or built in correctly.

In the meantime, when you see some people getting sick after drinking the coffee, and you don’t know why, don’t drink the coffee. Going without coffee is by no means as bad as taking the chance of getting sick.

I can understand why some folks over at ATI might want to be in denial about this. I do not understand all the people outside of the company doing the same thing. At least no one truly interested in the welfare of fellow users. What’s more important to them, ATI’s feeling about a particular set of drivers, or you? Obviously, a lot of people find ATI more important.

I see people saying there is no “solid” evidence of a problem. These folks have a curious definition of “solid.” A dead monitor is a rumor. A PR release from a company liable for damages is as solid as a rock. Might I suggest that rather naïve? To use a favorite current term, consider the possibility ATI might be biased on the issue?

More have taken the approach, “Well, it’s not happening to me, so they must be lying dogs.” Well, I have news for you. Most computer problems happen to some people, not all people. That’s because people have all different kinds of hardware setups and software setups and interactions between all those.

What Should Be Done Now…

What Should Be Done Now

My suspicion is this actaully is a fairly limited problem which only occurs under a certain set of circumstances.

At this point, it would be best to try to figure out what those circumstances are.

Those with damaged/dead equipment are doing themselves no favors by not gathering information methodically about it to see if there may be any common factors among those who had equipment failure.

Things like the following:

Description of system:
OS Used:
Monitor(s) used. Was it a single or dual-monitor setup?
Speed at which video card was running:
Program/game that triggered the behavior and version:
Resolution/color depth/refresh rate of monitor before going into a game:
Resolution/color depth/refresh rate of game:
What resolution/color depth/number of monitors did the driver set by default?

There may be a few other appropriate questions which should be added.

What I would suggest those who have been hurt do is set up ONE repository for this kind of information, so people (including those at ATI) can get a much clearer picture of what is going on here (including the real number of people affected by this).

Whoever compiled that list of 183 people ought to contract those people and tell them to answer such a series of questions in that one repository.

Let’s see what we have in one place, and try to do something more constructive than what has occurred so far.


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