And now a word from our sponsors

Well, they don’t sponsor me yet. But a guy can dream, can’t he?

I know, I said I would likely be more or less offline for the foreseeable future. My primary computer catastrophically failed on Friday, and I was looking forward (in the bad way) to a couple of months of begging and borrowing time online until I could save my pennies to buy a new computer. But I’d forgotten who I’d bought my machine from and just how amazing they are, and here I am, three days later, back up and running only slightly gimped from where I was.

And so, please forgive me as I do something we don’t do often enough, especially online. It’s easy, and enticing, to blast the people and companies who suck…spewing vitriol seemingly requires little effort. But when someone or something exceeds expectations, even really high expectations, it’s too easy for us to sit quiet and happy and enjoy what happened.

This is worth speaking out for.

I bought my computer four years ago from a company called Falcon Northwest. They’re a boutique computer company in Washington. And the best way to describe how amazing they are is to compare what they do to what almost every other company out there does. Or, rather, doesn’t do.

  • When you buy a computer from Dell, or Apple, or whatever, yes, you have the option of customizing it (or at least you do if you buy it from them, and not from Best Buy or some other nationwide chain where some doofus making slightly-above minimum wage pulls a generic box off the shelf for you).
  • But at Falcon Northwest, they custom build the computer specifically for you. As in, for you as a person. The serial number on my machine begins with my name, and the date that I ordered it, engraved into the case.
  • When you buy a computer from Dell, or Apple, or whatever, the specs may look nice, but they’re going to use the absolutely cheapest possible parts for those specs. It might say 4 GB of RAM, but believe me, all RAM is not created equal, and they make their profit by cutting every possible corner.
  • At Falcon Northwest, they source only the best possible parts. The kind of parts they would use in their own computer. The RAM is Corsair, the hard drive is Seagate, and the cooling system is hand built by a little old Italian man who spends his days bent over his workbench, crafting only the finest water-cooling systems. (Well, not really, but you get the metaphor I’m leaning towards there.)
  • When you buy a computer from Dell, or Apple, or whatever, they put it together, install the OS, install all of their “I’m a dummy, please hold my hand” bloat-ware, and drop it in a box, often without an actual human being ever touching it.
  • At Falcon Northwest, they put it together, which takes a day or so. And then a real person, an expert, takes upwards of two weeks to fine tune the fucker within an inch of its life. He installs the OS, and then all upgrades available. He updates all your drivers, and makes sure everything’s working the way it should. He overclocks the hardware, and then spends day after day testing it against a wide variety of benchmarking programs and games, making sure it’s performing at its peak without risking damage to the parts. And you know all those annoying things that pop up at you, messages in the OS and other annoying bits? They disable all of them. And I have a feeling they keep a stack of discs with bloat-ware on them at their desk just so they can wave one at each new machine, and then ritually smash that disc to pieces, that’s how much they hate the concept.

It’s like the difference between buying a random Toyota off the lot after looking around for 15 minutes and having Shelby himself build you a fucking Cobra.

And I haven’t even gotten to the support they offer. For the first year, they will pay for shipping to overnight your machine to them, all parts and labor, and to overnight it back to you, whatever the issue. For three years, they cover ground shipping and all parts and labor. And they provide free phone support, 7 days a week, for as long as you’re alive and they’re in business. And this isn’t India outsourced shit, it’s a real smart person who knows exactly what’s in your machine (they’re looking at the diagrams and pictures used when your machine was custom built), and isn’t reading off an internal FAQ. If you tell them you already fucking turned it off and turned it back on, they’re not going to fucking ask you to turn it off and turn it back on.

I should note now that the price of their machines is a bit high, more than you’re used to. Four years ago I spent approximately $4.5k on my computer…and here’s what I got:

  • A machine that was, at the time, bleeding edge fast, tuned (as described above) with exceptional precision, and made from the absolute best parts available.
  • About 18 months after I received it, I started to have problems with the machine shutting off suddenly. I called tech support, told them when I was available to be called back, and they did, right when I asked. And they led me through troubleshooting tasks to try to diagnose the problem over the phone. And as I said, I don’t mean “Please turn it off, wait 30 seconds, and turn it on again” bullshit, I mean, “Alright, I want you to pop out the memory DIMs and reconfigure them like this, and then when you boot it up, hold the phone up to the machine so I can hear exactly what happens,” and “Okay, look at the processor, and about 1 inch right and 2 inches down from there are two BUS’s; I want you to reconfigure them thusly, which will reset your motherboard, and then put them back thusly; now let’s see what happens.”
  • When they couldn’t fix it over the phone, they overnighted a shipping label to me, and I sent the machine back to them in its original box. They found the problem (corrupted memory), and when they went to replace the memory (free of charge), decided that I needed a new motherboard to better handle the new memory (free of charge)…and really, if I was upgrading the motherboard, my old (still pretty powerful) videocards would look all old and ugly, so they replaced them with two new nVidia cards running SLI (free of charge)…and I really ought to have a new power supply to handle all the new gear (free of charge)…and then updated the OS and drivers and tweaked it within an inch of its life (free of charge)…and then shipped it back to me (free of charge).
  • And on Friday, when my machine died what I thought was a horrible death, I called their support again. And they called me back on Saturday afternoon. And I wasn’t home, so they called again. On a Sunday. And walked me through enough troubleshooting steps to identify a bad video card. And got me back up and rolling again.
  • After which, I saw what I thought was an issue with my RAM (we’d fussed with it a bit when troubleshooting the earlier issue), so I called them back and left them a message that I needed more help.

Remember, this is four years after I bought the computer.

  • A support guy called me back at six-fucking-thirty on a Sunday evening and walked me through the issue and set me happily on my way.

And today, I have a computer that’s still worth close to what I paid for it.  How many of you still have the Dell/HP/Apple/etc. you bought back in 2006?  And can still use that piece of crap?

Swear to god, if every company and organization (especially governments) provided this level of service to the people who depended on them, people would be so happy we’d have world peace.

So…no, they haven’t paid me for this message. Except they have by being the absolute ideal of what a good company should be. If they were public, I’d buy stock. If I lived nearby and needed a job, I’d beg them to hire me. This is what happens when good people commit themselves to doing their best. And they have a customer for life, who will write obscenely-glowing blog posts about how awesome they are and tell all their friends about them.

And should they someday want to sponsor me, send me free shit in exchange for wearing their logo on my shirt and telling everyone I know about them, I’d do it in a heartbeat, with nary a taint on my soul.

And, so, I’m back, much sooner than expected. There will be less corporate evangelism (however deserved) next time, I promise. Chapter 10 is moving along slowly and steadily…just hang in there a little longer.


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