The devil is in the addenda.
Hardware and software manufacturers have a nasty habit of writing documentation that is less than completely accurate, then covering their corporate tails with "read.me" files or seeming innocuous slips of paper that join the clutter of registration and promotional junk in the box.
There is great peril in missing them.
After a year or so, the 400-megahertz Pentium II at home was getting to seem kind of slow. (Yeah, it's silly calling something that cycles 400 million times a second "slow," but once you are stricken with gigahertz envy, it's hard to recover.)
So when Evergreen Technologies sent a processor upgrade for review, the prospects were bright. Evergreen has made a nice business of selling processor upgrades that allow most users to extend the life of an aging system at minimal expense and effort. In this case, it would put a one-gigahertz Pentium into the Slot One receptacle of an aging AT motherboard, replacing the Pentium II.
Which, for $200, and throwing in a stick of 128-megabyte system RAM, is a heck of a deal. But:
After removing the existing processor, I followed the printed instructions, which said:
"11. Connect the fan's power lead.
"The fan pigtail harness has two large 4-pin connectors (a male and female) and a small 3-pin female connector, providing different options for power hookup. Use only one of the following options:
"The easist method is to attach the 3-pin female connector to a male connector on the motherboard."
Well, since that's the way the old processor was connected, and since the instructions assured me this was the easiest way, that's what I did.
Getting at Slot One meant disconnecting all the peripheral cards and cable, and it took around 10 minutes before I was ready to restart the machine and enjoy the new performance. At power-up, the drive hummed briefly, but the screen remained blank. And then everything quit. Dead.
It was then I noticed a slip of white paper labeled "Addendum." In its third paragraph, it said:
"Do not use the small 3-pin connector on the cooling fan harness. Note the small 3-pin connector that is part of the cooling fan harness. Do not plug this connector into the motherboard. This connector must remain unused."
Wait a minute here. That was just billed as "the easiest method."
It also turned out to be the easiest way to damage the processor and the motherboard to boot. About $400 and a day later, the system was back together with a new motherboard and a one-gigahertz Pentium III.
That is quite a hefty penalty for not noticing the slip of paper's third paragraph that said, in effect, when we told you to use the easiest way, we lied.
Evergreen Technologies is a fine company. I've used their upgrades before, with not one problem. But if they happened to fire the person who made the decision to use an addendum instead of reprinting the instructions to reflect reality, I'd gladly send flowers.
Bottom line from bitter experience: read every scrap and every word before you do anything.
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Questions and comments are welcome. Send them to Larry Blasko, AP, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020-1666. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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