the whole story

I am lucky enough not to have dealt with Mesh Computers since mid 1997. I hoped that things had changed since then, but a quick Google in 2009 suggested otherwise. I do not understand how Mesh are still trading.

| The Mistake || How Many Parts? || I Am Not Alone || Free From Mesh |

The Beginning
I needed a computer to do my university course at Salford University. Despite what we were told at the open day, the computer facilites provided were a long way from adequate. (Let's not go there. But they did get much better by the time I left.)

The Mistake
After a lot of studying computer magazines, in January 1996 I chose to buy a Mesh Prestige Pro Media. This was the big mistake. Even when phoning up to buy the thing I found it hard to get through; I should have taken the hint then and taken my money elsewhere. What I did not do but should have done was search the web to find if other Mesh buyers had problems - oh the benefits of hindsight...

Complete with Dos 6.22 and Windows 3.11, it was a 486 DX4/120 with 8MB RAM. Including VAT it cost me 1381.80, including 60+VAT extra to upgrade the hard drive from 540MB to 1GB. This was (and still is) a lot of money, but at the time even a basic new PC was at least 700.

First Problems
When it first arrived, it booted only once and then failed. I returned the base unit for repair, and was without it for over 2 weeks. It was returned working (after lots of phone calls), but it didn't stay working for long. The CD software pack was missing and Mesh ignored my requests for this - I got sent it only after my solicitor wrote to Mesh.

Cutting A Long Story Short
When the hardware worked, it was a good computer. BUT when (not if) it went wrong, it took so long to get it fixed that it barely seemed worth the trouble. To be fair, my circumstances didn't help - then being a student, I moved around the country a lot, I didn't have my own phone at University, and Mesh no longer sold the model I bought. But how many bloody times did I have to tell them over the phone that I was not at the address I was last year? And then why did the parts and engineer go home (Kent) rather than to Salford as I asked? Why did the thing seem to almost always have something wrong with it and if not, why did it keep on going wrong?

I learnt never to believe anything that I was told by anyone representing Mesh. Every single time I spoke to a Mesh employee I would be given another excuse. I don't think I have enough digits to count the number of times I was told I would be "called back". Over the 2 years of my warranty (the second given free for the trouble I had gone through) there were three different maintenance engineer companies. Most engineers who visited were OK, but one had no idea what he was doing and needed my help to install the motherboard. The maintenance companies generally were helpful - it was Mesh that was stalling them by not supplying the parts.

Last Problems
Knowing how difficult it was to contact Mesh for support, I'd been ignoring the fact that the CPU fan had sand for bearings, and the CD-ROM skipped when playing audio CDs. But the motherboard had been replaced with an inferior part previously and now had a dodgy system clock (lost and gained time for no reason), and this I could not ignore. I initially attempted to report the problems on 8th January 1997. It took until the 8th May 1997 for it to be fixed, during which time one visiting engineer damaged the hard drive meaning that had to be replaced as well. That's four months. Four Whole Months.

Under warranty the parts are supposed to be replaced by exact or better specification replacements. This was another reason for the final motherboard replacement, as the third board I had was a mini one with less SIMM, ISA and PCI slots than it should have had. The replacement Fujitsu mode 4 hard drive, replacing what was an excellent Seagate mode 4, has an access time of something close to 10 years (I won't repeat here what I call it). Not what I call same specification, but I was so fed up with Mesh by then that I simply accepted it.

How Many Replacement Parts Have I Had?

This is over a period of 17 months; the final seven of my warranty were problem free, although the CD-ROM started to misbehave in early 1998.

I Am Not Alone
My experiences are by no means unique.

Look at the Kelkoo reviews, Dooyoo reviews and Ciao reviews: many people are still having the same old problems. (Watch out for the occasional positive review that is just too positive, and so obviously posted by Mesh staff!)

In 2007 Mesh were investigated by BBC's Watchdog. Despite the MD of Mesh appearing on the show and promising to sort out customers problems, nothing much has changed.

For a recent (but very typical) story have a look here:

Look at this graph from page 37 of May 1998 Computer Shopper UK; the first page of the Dan Computers advert.

Note not only that Mesh are near the bottom (although there are many other manufacturers missing from the graph who may or may not appear lower) but they have the second largest proportion of "No" responses (second only to Tiny) of over 30%! Is it worth around a 1 in 3 chance of having enough trouble with a Mesh PC to not want to buy another one?

Also, I have reproduced an article from the Daily Mail. It was faxed to me at the time and became rather faded, thus the picture is not too good. The date of the fax was 14th March 1996, and the article concerns a Mesh customer who had to use their credit card company to get their money back.

Free From Mesh (Upgrades)
Eventually the 486 based machine became too slow, and when at last the warranty was up it came time to upgrade. I bought parts from Simply Computers (now part of Misco) and in early 1998 wickmesh became an AMD K6/200. The 486 processor, motherboard and RAM were sold at a boot fair for a measly 4...

As time marched on, even the upgraded K6 wickmesh became too slow, and I was faced with a problem. As the best part of wickmesh (the case) was an AT type, and all new motherboards were ATX, for my next upgrade I was forced to buy a new case. My main computers became AMD Athlon XP based - firstly an 1800+ and then a Semperon 2800+. Wickmesh remained in service as my "hack" computer, spending most of its time with its lid off so loose hard drives could be connected and formatted. With its memory maxed and a tiny processor upgrade (to a K6/233) it did this job very well for several years, even running Windows XP!

In December 2007 and January 2008 I twice tried to sell wickmesh on ebay as part of a big lot of old PC parts.

Both auctions ended with successful bidders, but the first ignored all contact and never paid, and second time round the winner decided they did not want what they had won after all.

Fate was not letting me get rid of it...

Case Modding - Media Player
Circumstances forced a big clearout of my computer parts in early 2009. The K6 motherboard had given up the ghost, and I had stripped the machine for parts. The empty case sparked an idea: could I make an ATX board fit? My main machines were now
Acer Altos G330 Servers, so I had spare AMD Athlon XP parts, which would make for a usable machine.

Apart from the lack of ATX fittings in the rear of the case, the biggest problem is that the power supply overlaps the motherboard right where the processor normally sits, severely restricting the height available. Getting the rectangular space for the connectors to fit was relatively easy (just a bit of work with a jigsaw and using a scrap motherboard to check the dimensions) but the processor heatsink and fan were much harder.

The solution came from my parts box and from ebay. With my chosen motherboard, the power supply overlapped the processor by about 1/3 - a bent and cut Zalman flower heatsink would fit partly under the power supply, and thin tin joined with electronics solder made a usable air duct drawing air over the heatsink to a rear mounted fan.

Extra mesh on the front allows more air in, while filters made from old jumpers keep the dust out, and a speed controlled fan attempted (but failed) to keep the noise down. After solving a minor crashing issue caused by a overheating processor (due to a chipped die), for a while wickmesh sat under the TV running XP Media Centre 2005.

Case Modding - Storage Monster
The Media Centre got used less and less so I found another use for wickmesh when a bunch of large SCSI drives came my way. Using a mini-itx motherboard (spare from a carputer project) and an Adaptec SCSI card, with some extra pieces of metalwork the machine now acts as an archiving box. Even more metal mesh and fans push more air across the hard drives. That is at least for now, until I decide to do something else with it!

The first computer in our family was an Amstrad CPC: 128k, 3 inch disc drive, plus games could be loaded from cassette tape. We chose an Amstrad because it was the same machine as my friends had. My parents bought this secondhand, and in hindsight we paid too much for it.

Our next computer was an IBM PS/2 Model 30 286. Bought in late 1994 from my parents work, I soon found how much of a dead end it was: with 8 bit ISA slots and a 20MB ESDI hard drive, it was pretty much impossible to upgrade. Again in hindsight we probably paid too much for it, but it taught me (the hard way) the basics of PCs. I took this to university for my first term (autumn 1995), and although it would do much of what I needed to do, really I needed to be able to use Windows.

I still have the old IBM 286 - which despite being more than 25 years old (made in 1989) still works perfectly! I only wish all the other computers I've owned over the years were as reliable...

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