Projector a no-go. =(

Last night, I attempted to set up my new projector. The presence of the word “attempted” should clue you in that this story doesn’t have a happy ending.

On the way home, I picked up a ceiling mount for the projector, since I knew from my research that the throw angle is fairly limited, and that for it to work up high, the projector would need to be upside-down. Ceiling mounts aren’t cheap, this one was $150.

I got home and unpacked the projector. The day before, piles of cardboard fresh in my mind, I broke down the shipping box it came in (though not the product box). I set up the projector on the shelf for starters, just to confirm, yeah, I was gonna need to mount it upside-down. I got out the mount and started to assemble it.

Before I finished, though, I thought “I could get an idea of the image quality if I just put the projector upside-down on the shelf, with some shims under it.” A rickety setup, but good enough that I could see what the image would look like.

Here I discovered the fatal flaw of this projector. The throw distance is not adjustable enough. Throw distance is the size of the image on the wall relative to the size of your screen. There is a lens adjustment that lets you make the image bigger or smaller, but there are upper and lower bounds of the adjustment, that is the range of your throw distance.

In my case, I was outside that range. At the lower limit of the size, the image was still way too big. Meaning for it to work with my screen, the projector would have to be physically closer to the screen. Not possible in my room, it would either have to dangle from the ceiling from a long pole (from the approximate spot currently occupied by a ceiling fan), or sit on a pedestal directly behind the couch.

Alternatively, I could completely rearrange the room, but moving everything 90º has additional issues besides the manual labor, making it unfeasible.

So I have to return the projector and continue researching a suitable replacement. I requested a return from Amazon, but of course I disposed of the shipping box (and all the other boxes in my house). Maybe I can ship it in the product box, or buy a suitable box at the post office.

I did do more research on the condition of my current projector, and I’m pretty sure it’s the blue LCD panel that needs replacing, not the blue polarizer. The optical block is around a $600 part, with $100+ of labor to have it replaced (I’ve heard it compared to heart surgery on the forums, not a user-serviceable part). So at $700 or more to fix, getting a new projector is definitely the way to go.

There is an Epson 1080p projector that has gotten rave reviews, but it’s $2500, kind of above my price range. Hopefully I can find a suitable 720p projector for under $1000.

Tonight I’ll return the projector mount. Hopefully Best Buy won’t charge me a 15% restocking fee because I opened it. =(

UPS Pickup

So this time, I leave work a little early, and get to UPS at 5:40pm.

I wait in line. There are two lines normally, one for pickup, and one for dropoff.
However, the young woman working the dropoff register is obviously new, probably her first day, so the guy who is supposed to handle pickup (I am not sure, but I think the same guy who shook his head at me yesterday) is walking her though everything. The guy ahead of me is getting a couple packages shipped, but the process is taking so long, he’s not really paying attention, and instead is talking on the phone. Possibly he would be talking on the phone even if it wasn’t taking forever, people are like that these days.

“Chicken. Yeah. Breast, I like the breast,” the man says to his phone.

“Now enter the width,” the older black man says to the young woman.

“Where, here?” she asks.

I look around the place. UPS is a dump. It’s hard to pin down exactly why it’s such a dump compared to FedEx, I think it’s everything just lacks that level of polish, everything is worn, broken, or out of place.

A cardboard sign for shipping costs has some pop-up elements, pictures of packages. Two of them are torn off, probably someone brushed against them, tearing them off the sign, and didn’t bother to fix them. The carpet is old and stained. The facing on the counter is peeling. The light seems dim in places, harsh in others. A few old computers are set up over to the side, I guess so customers can do searches or print labels or something. There aren’t any signs explaining what they are for. Dollies stacked with packages stand unattended in the middle of the room.

The whole place has the feel of a loading dock. It reminds me of VB interfaces by programmers – functional, but unattractive. My belief is that Usability is the correct merging of Form and Function. Some people think that you have to choose between the two, but the truth is if you do it right, you get them both right, and they compliment one another.

UPS : FedEx :: Wal-Mart : Target :: Home Depot : Lowes

UPS, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot all get the job done.
FedEx, Target, and Lowes get the job done, with style.
Until recently, I’d put Microsoft : Apple in there too, but Microsoft is starting to add some style to their substance as of late.

Finally, the pickup guy reaches his hand out to me, wordlessly. I hand him my Pickup Slip.

He goes into the back and comes back with my projector box.

As he hands me the ruggedized handheld barcode-scanner/inventory computer to sign, I comment, in as casual a way as I can, “You know, I came here yesterday at around 6:08, and you were closed.”

“Yup,” he says, “we close at 6pm.”

“Well,” I say, signing the computer, “that’s not what it said when I called to have the package held. They said you were open till 8pm.”

“Nope,” he says dismissively, “6pm. They must have meant another place, maybe the UPS store.”

I raise my voice, almost imperceptively, “This is the address they gave me. I was very upset when I got here just after 6 and you were closed.”

“As long as we’ve been here, it’s been 6pm. This is 315 Hartford Turnpike,” he states, as if to indicate that indisputable facts mean the conversation is over. He takes the handheld computer back from me.

“I know, this is the address they gave me. On the phone, and on the website, it says you guys are open from 12pm to 8pm.”

He grunts dismissively.

Suddenly, a woman in line behind the guy on the phone says loudly, “he’s right, you know! I called and they said 8pm. Not just on the automated message, it says 8pm there, but I talked to someone in person and they said you were open till 8 also!”

Confronted thus by 2 of 3 of the customers present, he begrudgingly said “well, I don’t know why they would be telling people that. We’re open till 6.”

“Well, you should get them to fix that,” I say over my shoulder as I walk out, carrying my projector.

Projector Crossroads

So I’m at a decision point for my projector.

The blue is messed up on it.

It could be the blue polarizer, in which case it’s a $100 part.
It also could be the blue LCD panel, in which case the entire optical block needs replacing. A new optical block is prolly around $1000.

It would cost $100 to bring it to a shop to find out which thing is wrong.

On the other hand, a new DLP projector is around $900.

Do I bring my projector in for $100 and find out what’s wrong, or do I sell it for $100 (it still has some life in it), and buy a new one?