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Quality Concerns For Kingston microSD Cards

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the amazing-detective-work dept.

Data Storage 149

Andrew "bunnie" Huang, whom we've discussed before for his book on Xbox hacking and development of the Chumby, has made an interesting blog post about problems he's found with Kingston microSD cards. He first encountered a batch of bad cards during production of the ChumbyOne, and found Kingston initially unhelpful when trying to get them replaced. After noticing some unusual markings on the chips, he decided to investigate for himself, comparing the ID data and dissolving the cards' casings with nitric acid to take a look inside. He found that each of his Kingston-branded samples actually had a Toshiba/SanDisk memory chip inside, and that the batch of low-quality cards he received may not be as uncommon as he thought. "Significantly, Kingston is revealed as simply a vendor that re-marks other people's chips in its own packaging. Every Kingston card surprisingly had a SanDisk/Toshiba memory chip inside, and the only variance or 'value add' that could be found is in the selection of the controller chip. ... This tells me that Kingston must be crushed when it comes to margin, which may explain why irregular cards are finding their way into their supply chain. Kingston is also probably more willing to talk to smaller accounts like me because as a channel brand they can't compete against OEMs like Sandisk or Samsung for the biggest contracts from the likes of Nokia or RIMM. Effectively, Kingston is just a channel trader and is probably seen by SanDisk/Toshiba as a demand buffer for their production output. I also wouldn't be surprised if SanDisk/Toshiba was selling Kingston 'A-' grade parts, i.e., parts with slightly more defective sectors, but otherwise perfectly serviceable. As a result, Kingston plays a significant and important role in stabilizing microSD card prices and improving fab margins, but at some risk to their own brand image."

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All that from a few open chips, eh? (5, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155828)

That's a lot of conjecture based on only two pieces of evidence. That'll never put OJ away, Marcia.

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (4, Funny)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155948)

Only one place in Gotham City produces these kinds of chips!

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156098)

It is, arguably, additionally significant that the Kingston reps went from "Nope, we're not taking them back, you already programmed them, your problem..." to "Oh, goodness no, they definitely aren't fakes; but, um, yeah, we'll replace them for you..." when Bunnie presented his results.

Bunnie definitely knows his stuff hardware wise and(having been Chumby's man-on-the-ground for outsourced Chinese production for a while now) probably knows a thing or two about the dark corners of the supply chain; but his sample size is kind of small, and he could certainly be wrong in this case.

The fact that the vendor folded like a cheap card table when he presented his conclusion, though, makes me rather more inclined to trust it.

(Incidentally, isn't it kind of amazing that slapping a full 32-bit ARM core, with flash controller firmware, onto a flash chip is as cheap as simply testing the flash chip? Having been born early enough to see the tail end of the days when an 8086 box was a several-thousand-substantially-less-inflated-dollars device, that kind of blows my mind.)

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (3, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156214)

It's actually a very common scenario, even with much bigger vendors. Belkin and Netgear both just buy whatever chips are going cheap that month and slap them in plastic case, which is why they have V1, V2, V3, V4v1, V4v2 and so on revisions of their products all of which need different drivers.

It's a way of pushing down costs. In PHB speak it's called being "agile" with supply. Particularly with memory cards which don't need drivers it is impossible to tell what chips you are going to get.

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156644)

It seems like the major issue here isn't so much the chip switching(especially since all MicroSD cards should present exactly the same interface); but the wildly uneven quality. Bunnie didn't start his investigation for giggles, or because he had some moral objection to mixing chips; but because his product started failing validation at alarmingly high rates). If you are shipping memory cards that can't handle having a firmware image written to them, you've arguably crossed the line from an "agile" supply chain to a "downright slapstick" supply chain.

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (2, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157134)

And the sad thing is, they get away with it. Reputation be damned. Sometimes it's more cost effective to purchase three of the same device even if you only use one at a time. Basically, you treat them like fuses. When one blows (malfunctions), you swap them out for another.

Time is money. In the fast paced world of IT, quality control often gets swept under the rug if your a small business. Sure, we all get pissed and swell a red face now and then, but we collectively seem to just except this nasty trend as a fact of life.

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31157222)

Time is money. In the fast paced world of IT, quality control often gets swept under the rug if your a small business.

How much money did you save by not typing the apostrophe and "e" in "you're"?

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31157942)

More than you wasted by typing out your pedantic reply.

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (1)

nweaver (113078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156222)

Far from two pieces of evidence...

a) A full lot (1K+) of identified bad SD cards

b) A detailed forensic examination of 6 cards, including known genuine cards as well as known-fraudulent cards.

c) That Kingston folded like a cheap suit BEFORE this blog posting.

Re:All that from a few open chips, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31157026)

I'm sure that this guy found the two only ones in existence.

Yawn (5, Insightful)

duncanFrance (140184) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155834)

"Significantly, Kingston is revealed as simply a vendor that re-marks other people's chips in its own packaging"

And that is a surprise because? Of course that's what Kingston does - they don't own any fabs.

Re:Yawn (3, Insightful)

Duositex (620105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155888)

I agree with this sentiment. Brands haven't had a 1:1 relationship between their manufacturing facilities for a long time. This seems especially true with the industry in question.

Re:Yawn (3, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156500)

They never have been. That's why they are called "brands" and not "manufacturers".

Re:Yawn (1)

Duositex (620105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157672)

You make an important point...

Somethings things are just too obvious to see them for what they are. Or in this case, sometimes I'm too slow to point it out myself.

Re:Yawn (2, Informative)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155980)

Its probably a surprise to a lot of people who dont investigate brands or dont understand why Kingston flash fails more often than other flash. Every so often we need to be reminded that "you get what you pay for" still works. Everytime I go to a deal site, I see Kingston RAM or flash on sale. I usually avoid them because I know they dont make their own stuff, but sometimes I'll pick some up for an application that doesnt need the best parts like disposable USB drives or RAM for a htpc.

Re:Yawn (4, Insightful)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156180)

Wait, you mean that "ValueRAM" doesn't give the concept of their brands away? I use Kingston stuff because it's bulk and cheap, not because it's performance. Anyone else who does otherwise is amazing me with their concepts of brand recognition.

Re:Yawn (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156924)

Everytime I go to a deal site, I see Kingston RAM or flash on sale. I usually avoid them because I know they dont make their own stuff, but sometimes I'll pick some up for an application that doesnt need the best parts like disposable USB drives or RAM for a htpc.

You're under the impression that the other RAM or flash drives you buy are not rebranded? There are very few companies in the world that make DRAM in quantity: samsung, hynix, toshiba, and elpida. Similarly for NAND flash, it is only made by samsung, hynix, toshiba-sandisk, and intel-micron. Unless you're buying one of these directly, you are purchasing rebranded products.

Re:Yawn (1)

bigdaisy (30400) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157126)

If you take a look at Kingston's "Alliances" page, you can see that they make memory modules that are sold under other brand names such as "Toshiba". The information is scant, but it sounds like for some Toshiba modules, Toshiba supply the wafer and Kingston chop it up and package it into memory modules that are sold under the Toshiba brand. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Toshiba would sell "Toshiba" modules assembled by Kingston using memory supplied by, say, Samsung.

It all boils down to whether or not you can expect the module to die sooner rather than later and whether or not you'll get your money back if it does. Some brands are better than others in this respect and, yes, "you get what you pay for," most of the time. Who makes the chips and who puts them together is anyone's guess these days. The same product could have different chips from different manufacturers in it depending on the batch. It is not worth worrying about...as long as you keep backups.

Re:Yawn (2, Insightful)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155994)

I think its significant because it might actually help consumers make a better choice. In this case if I'm looking at a Kingston SD card and a SanDisk and the Kingston is cheaper, I'll probably buy it knowing its got SanDisk guts in it. It could go the other way, knowing that SanDisk gets A+ parts while Kingston is A-. But knowing that difference is important before dropping coin on something expensive.

SD cards are a cheap commodity, but there are more expensive anecdotal examples like LCD panels. There are only a few fabs in the world, so anything from a Westinghouse store brand to a Bang and Oluffsen uber-TV will have very similar panels. The difference is largely in the controller software, the remotes, the casing, etc. That shifts the decision from the panel quality to the other extras that a more expensive brand may provide.

Re:Yawn (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156248)

I know that in photography it's becoming common knowledge that Kingston cards don't work and SanDisk ones do at the higher speeds. Some of the new Canon cameras that can record HD video and take 3+ RAW photos a second need fast memory, and many Canon sites will warn you away from Kingston. Thus, I think the A+ vs A- is more like A+ versus D- ... it's not QUITE a failing grade but not worth the reduction in price.

Re:Yawn (2, Informative)

Isaac-Lew (623) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156758)

What class of SD cards are you using? The higher the class, the faster the write speed (fastest currently available that I know of is Class 6). See this wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] for more information.

Re:Yawn (3, Informative)

atrus (73476) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157228)

Advertised speed class is different from actual quality. For instance, many off-branch CompactFlash cards do not support DMA - they are supposed to by the specification, but since little end equipment actually used DMA modes until very recently, very few people noticed. This is the same for SPI mode in SD cards (though not a requirement in microSD).

Re:Yawn (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157262)

SD classes are the minimum write speed, but are only guaranteed on a freshly formatted card, and the max speed is all over the place.

Lower class cards can potentially be faster than higher class cards, depending on the manufacturers and usage of the card.

Re:Yawn (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157316)

I always thought those class restrictions were too slow. 6MB/sec, really? It should be advertised as 6+MB - or, they could create "grades" above 6MB, since that's a pretty slow speed anymore for moving data around.

I just saw a review somewhere on a micro SDHC card that had a transfer rate of close to 15MB/s. Still labelled "class 6" but obviously head of the class. How's a consumer to know that the card is faster than 6?

Re:Yawn (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157796)

FWIW, Transcend class 6 16GB cards work great in both my Canon 500D (T1i) at raw burst and full video, and also in my Canon HF100 HD camcorder at full bitrate. Have bought 5 now.

Re:Yawn (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156978)

the other thing to remember is that while this batch had Sandisk parts, another batch with the same product markings might have some other brand, and it might be a better or worse brand as long as it meets the Kingston supplier specs. ValueRAM indeed.

Re:Yawn (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157056)

There are only a few fabs in the world, so anything from a Westinghouse store brand to a Bang and Oluffsen uber-TV will have very similar panels.

Um no. your example comparing Westinghouse to B&O may be accurate as B&O is garbage when it comes to video and their audio stuff is falling out of favor as well, this is NOT the case with know high end lines.

Pioneer Elite plasmas or LCD's are very different from a el-cheapo brand. I've been inside a bunch of different brands and types and yes there are some that are identical except for plastic and label, and there are others that are in fact very different. Panasonic Tv's are far different from Vitzo and other crap brands. Sony as well.

Re:Yawn (2, Interesting)

JoeF (6782) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156052)

Indeed. That has been known for as long as Kingston exists.
They used to have good quality control, though. Apparently not any longer.

Re:Yawn (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156398)

And what's the problem anyway? I've always liked Sandisk media.

Re:Yawn (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156402)

"Significantly, Kingston is revealed as simply a vendor that re-marks other people's chips in its own packaging"

And that is a surprise because? Of course that's what Kingston does - they don't own any fabs.

Oh please.
Next you're gonna tell my my DVD drive isn't made by Sony, or that my Apple RAM isn't made by Apple!

Re:Yawn (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157404)

The message I get from this is never, ever, to buy Kingston products.

Re:Yawn (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157508)

Indeed. The only problem with it is that you sometimes get different products with the same ID. I remember c't (German computer magazine) berating them for doing this with RAM sticks back in the 90's. At least RAM sticks and memory cards don't need drivers...

rtfm? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31155902)

why is this news?

Re:rtfm? (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156890)

Just in - Santa is not real! Neither is the Easter Bunny! Most "branded" PC motherboards are cost-cutting versions of Intel reference designs!! Glass crystal is an oxymoron!!! I did not have sex with your wife TODAY!!!!

Re:rtfm? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31157030)

Santa is not real! Neither is the Easter Bunny! Most "branded" PC motherboards are cost-cutting versions of Intel reference designs!!

Yeah, but that dosen't stop people from believing in an invisible sky-daddy who's just a cost-cutting rebrand of sun-god parental-figure worship...

Oh dear! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31155906)

Linky no worky... maybe the database was stored on a Kingston MicroSD card...?

So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31155908)

As kingston card usually are much cheaper than equivalent Sandisk cards, would it really be a quality issue using sandisk chips?

This just in (2, Insightful)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155914)

Your Kenmore dishwasher is really a Whirlpool and Kirkland jeans are Wranglers. This is news how? Are we supposed to be impressed by this guys over analysis of what everybody already knew went on?

Re:This just in (4, Funny)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155936)

Oh, come on; if you had just used nitric acid for any purpose at all, wouldn't you want to tell the world? That's SO COOOOOOL!

Re:This just in (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31155958)

Actually, the new kenmore's are made by LG ;)

Re:This just in (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156106)

Some but not all. Whirlpool still makes the lions share for them and there probably isn't an actual appliance manufacturer around that doesn't rebrand something as Kenmore for Sears. Of course all this makes this article even more lame than it already is.

Re:This just in (1)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156206)

Well actually I didn't know that Maytag ~ Sears until lately. Would have been nice, but since I didn't make the original purchase, I think that can slide too.

Re:This just in (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156138)

Went looking for the information that that you assume everyone knows.

I guess that since everyone does know that may explain why you can't find a list of who makes generic versions of what.

You may find it for specific items like the ones you listed, and you usually learn this while in the store comparing different models and different brands. Outside of the store that information is hard to come by.

Re:This just in (3, Informative)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156208)

Yup. real hard: http://www.appliance411.com/purchase/sears.shtml [appliance411.com]

Re:This just in (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156238)

Nice resource for appliances. Thanks.

Re:This just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156260)

Your Kenmore dishwasher is really a Whirlpool and Kirkland jeans are Wranglers. This is news how? Are we supposed to be impressed by this guys over analysis of what everybody already knew went on?

Not completely true. Kenmore's a motley collection of various manufacturers. primarily Whirlpool, but also Maytag (not Whirlpool), GE, Electrolux (Frigidaire), and apparently now LG.

Re:This just in (5, Funny)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156684)

>Your Kenmore dishwasher is really a Whirlpool and Kirkland jeans are Wranglers.

It doesnt stop there!

Your wife is really a man named Todd in drag.
Your Saturn coupe is really a Buick sedan with a slick paintjob.
Your artificial heart is really a 1974 pool pump.
Your premium dog food is just low quality Senior Chow.
Your apple pie is really "Industrial Apple Taste #64" with some HFCS.
Your idea of love is really some hormones and neurons going off.
Your college is really just an expensive adult daycare.
Your grandpa was really a drifter named "Smitty" who killed your real grandpa.

Sorry to hear about your grandpa.

Obligatory XKCD (5, Funny)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155922)

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

Whalou (721698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156068)

This xkcd comic goes well with the headline of the previous thread: "This just in".

Re:Obligatory XKCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31157014)

XKCD is never obligatory.

Re:Obligatory XKCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31157946)

Neither is complaining about XKCD posts.

Nothing New Here - It's Common (4, Informative)

loose electron (699583) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155934)

The re-purchase of silicon at many levels is a pretty common thing. Somebody comes out with a good memory chip and the world buys wafers of the chip from the other vendor. Or in a final package, or pays for their name on the outside of the package.

I have had several experiences with foundries taking a design, fabricating it for me, and then 6 months to a year later a "sister organization" comes out with a chip that looks pretty bloody similar. Then, when you do a tear-down of the competitor's chip (nitric acid and a microscope) and you find your design inside the thing. Lawsuit time if you can, but what usually happens is some form of licensing agreement.

What I would question here is what testing of the chip was done after it was assembled. Test time costs a lot of money to do, and anything that can be done to reduce that is a common strategy. Sometimes they do "blind package assembly" (no testing at the wafer level) and do testing just after final assembly.

In this case it sounds like they are doing blind assembly, and shipping out with no final test either. A shoddy way to cut costs.

NAND is getting worse and worse (5, Insightful)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155938)

It's becoming highly unreliable. Advances in error correction are plugging some of the holes, but you can expect to start to see real problems soon, especially with cheap brands where they don't up their controller quality (the controller has the ECC) to compensate for the low-grade NAND they buy.

As to Bunnie, I was pretty sure he'd been around the block already. Of course Kingston just repackages other people's NAND chips. There's only something like 7 manufacturers of NAND, and even that counts Intel and Micron separately even though they both sell the same designs every time. What did Bunnie think was in iPhones and XBox 360s? Apple and Microsoft don't make NAND either!

Re:NAND is getting worse and worse (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156092)

Yeah, I would've expected far better from Bunnie too. Anyone who would be even remotely surprised by this "discovery" simply has no clue about the way the electronics industry works.

Chances are that Kingston isn't buying "SanDisk A-" parts - they're just buying the same flash chip that SanDisk and everyone else buys from Toshiba. Maybe SanDisk had some involvement in the design process with Toshiba, but to see this and assume Kingston is getting the "A-" parts or factory rejects is just plain stupid.

He just had bad luck with a bad batch - it happens to everyone. I bet others have had bad batches of SanDisk parts too.

Re:NAND is getting worse and worse (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156344)

you can expect to start to see real problems soon,

Soon? I've had so many Kingston thumb drives fail, I've stopped buying the brand. I have an NSLU2 hiding in a closet running on a thumb drive that's been running for years. It ate a Kingston thumb drive in a matter of weeks...

Re:NAND is getting worse and worse (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157166)

Most people turn off swap on Flash drives.

Slashdotted (1, Offtopic)

Yuioup (452151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31155982)

Warning: Unknown: failed to open stream: Permission denied in Unknown on line 0

Fatal error: Unknown: Failed opening required '/usr/www/users/xenatera/bunniestudios/blog/index.php' (include_path='.:/usr/local/lib/php') in Unknown on line 0

Re:Slashdotted (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156074)

It's not nice to reveal peoples' root http directories.

Re:Slashdotted (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156144)

Maybe he reverse engineered it. Bunny would be proud.

Re:Slashdotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156220)

It's not smart to use PHP and MySQL to power anything Internet-facing.

Yeah, ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31157834)

It's not smart to use PHP and MySQL to power anything Internet-facing.

Those amateurs at Wikipedia should hire you!

... since you probably won't get the reference, I'll let you in on a little secret: Wikipedia uses PHP and MySQL.

Re:Slashdotted (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156310)

Security through Obscurity never worked.

Re:Slashdotted (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157642)

Tell that to the Atari Slapstick chip.

Anonymous Bravy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31155996)

Same thing with all these tier 2 consumer electronic memory card vendors like transcend etc.

And now bunny's site is /.'ed.

Huh-huh-huh... (0)

pbrooks100 (778828) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156004)

... you said Chumby

Kingston , at least sells SLC-based Flash devices (4, Interesting)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156036)

I really don't care from where they source their NAND Flash. Kingston gets a big plus in my book, because they are the only vendor that sells SLC-based SD and CF cards (also some USB drives). All other manufacturers just put MLC chips in their devices and hide this fact under a lot of meaningless glitz.

FYI, the SLC-based Kingston cards are the Elite Pro line of SD and FC cards. It's the only kind I'd confidently use in my netbook as an additional SSD drive.

Re:Kingston , at least sells SLC-based Flash devic (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156852)

You are no well informed. Many other 'brands' put SLC chips in their cards. SLC is more expensive and marketed to the professional channel. Transcend, AData Sandisk, Lexar and many other brands use SLC. In fact based on the information in this study I would question Kingstons SLC quality, because if they do the same thing with SLC that they do with MLC the controllers are cheap and reduce the performance.

My SD card suddenly accelerated... (0)

yet-another-lobbyist (1276848) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156090)

... and when I hit the brakes, it didn't stop! They were trying to tell me that it's only due to the packaging, but they don't want to admit that there is a much more serious underlying problem! I think we should sue the crap out of them! It's all because of capitalism.

as a IT buyer (1)

Mr.Fork (633378) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156108)

I now will add Kingston to my exclusion list... This is starting to make sense. I think Kingston's quality issues are also prevalent in their regular product line-up. I've had quality issues only on Kingston products come to think of it... this posting now confirms my suspicions. Too bad they didn't repsond to the posters concerns because it tells me they don't deserve my business.

Kingston never made memory (2, Insightful)

GuyFawkes (729054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156164)

All they ever were was a slick rebranding excercise, with a useful online tool to select the correct memory if you were a dumbass.

If you're going to buy rebranded memory at least do so from someone who puts quality first, eg Mushkin.

Re:Kingston never made memory (2, Interesting)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156806)

Muskin

Mushkin is shit.
Corsair is shit.
OCZ is shit.
Your favorite brand is shit.
etc.

"Is that memory shit?" flowchart:

Does it have a rebate?
| - Yes - Shit.
|
|
Does it have a 1337 heat spreader, cooling fans, or LEDs?
| - Yes - Shit.
|
|
Do the specs indicate non-standard voltages?
| - Yes - Shit.
|
|
It may be okay.

The open "secret" in the (system) memory world is that the expensive RAM is the defective RAM. If a batch is slightly defective, crank up the voltages, add a sharp looking heat spreader, sell it as super awesome fast whiz bang RAM, and hope it's stable enough for Johnny Ubersauce to game on. Throw cherry-picked samples at review sites, and offer rebates as you get more batches in. Reserve 5% of your stock for the few users who have a clue and insist you enforce your lifetime warranty.

Sandisk suck (0, Flamebait)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156176)

I totally avoid buying sandisk products since my experiences with sandisk cruzer thumb drives at work.
It doesn't tell you anywere on the packaging that it forces you into a totally horrible marketing idea....

When you plug in a Sandisk Cruzer it appears as two drives. The first drive is a small read-only drive (presumably a rom) that is configured to auto-install unnecessary windows drivers and other miscellaneous bloatware every time you plug the usb drive in. You can't disable or hide this drive at all. The best you can do is turn off autorun in windows (which was always a crappy idea anyway). The drivers/utilities are totally redundant in that if you never install them you can still access the user drive as normal.

Its particularly annoying of Sandisk to make a product that:
a) just assumes you must be using windows.
b) Under widnows, the lower drive letter is the ROM, not the user space.
c) Its downright rude that it just auto-installs drivers with no user confirmation or control.

Re:Sandisk suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156218)

You can't disable or hide this drive at all.

Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management -> Storage -> Disk Management

Re:Sandisk suck (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156278)

I think you're complaining about the annoying U3 program that they use. You are completely WRONG about not being able to disable. In fact, SanDisk provides a tool to remove it completely. I had to do it to my USB thumb drive, as well as a few members of my family.

Just search for "Sandisk U3 removal" and you will find the tool you need.

Re:Sandisk suck (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156910)

"I had to do it to my USB thumb drive, as well as a few members of my family."

I couldn't get the U3 software off my family.

I had to delete their partition tables and reload from scratch.

Re:Sandisk suck (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156280)

I totally avoid buying sandisk products since my experiences with sandisk cruzer thumb drives at work.
It doesn't tell you anywere on the packaging that it forces you into a totally horrible marketing idea....

When you plug in a Sandisk Cruzer it appears as two drives. The first drive is a small read-only drive (presumably a rom) that is configured to auto-install unnecessary windows drivers and other miscellaneous bloatware every time you plug the usb drive in. You can't disable or hide this drive at all. The best you can do is turn off autorun in windows (which was always a crappy idea anyway). The drivers/utilities are totally redundant in that if you never install them you can still access the user drive as normal.

Its particularly annoying of Sandisk to make a product that:
a) just assumes you must be using windows.
b) Under widnows, the lower drive letter is the ROM, not the user space.
c) Its downright rude that it just auto-installs drivers with no user confirmation or control.

You are a moron:

A: The work fine in every OS I've ever tried them with

B: You are worried about the drive letter enumeration here? are you kidding me?

C: Windows auto installs the drivers. Not SanDisk

D: The U3 feature can easily be turned off so the drive looks like any other cheaper flash drives.

you sir need to RTFM before tou bitch about how bad something is you have no business commenting on.

Re:Sandisk suck (4, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156282)

The thing you are referring to is the "U3 [wikipedia.org] " system. It's a portable apps-ish thing.

It's easy to remove with their tool.

http://apac.sandisk.com/Retail/Default.aspx?CatID=1415 [sandisk.com]

Re:Sandisk suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156300)

Yes it is annoying.

Here is the uninstall program
http://u3.com/support/default.aspx#CQ3 [u3.com]

The idea is cool but useless.

Re:Sandisk suck (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156302)

Its not ROM just a partition; if you don't like just go into computer management and remove it.

Re:Sandisk suck (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157982)

Sorry you're wrong, at least on my Cruzer. The U3 part appears as a separate CD drive.

Re:Sandisk suck (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156346)

Your description suggests that you have been bitten by "U3 [u3.com] ". It is, indeed, a thoroughly vile technology, of which Sandisk(among others) is inordinately fond. It essentially does nothing that http://portableapps.com/ [portableapps.com] can't; but with infinitely more suck.

After sufficient user outcry they, at long last, provided a (proprietary, Windows only) uninstaller for this "valuable feature". I'd still encourage you to punish Sandisk for their sins by withholding future purchases; but the uninstaller should at least make the stuff you already own suck a little less.

Re:Sandisk suck (1)

garyok (218493) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156542)

I do anyway after one of their reps took issue with me taking issue over the pulsing led they use on the Cruzer Titanium I bought on the Sandisk Cruzer forum. It's a thoroughly distracting and unecessary "feature" that bugged the hell out of me and I wanted it off. His answer was that, if I didn't like it, I shouldn't have taken it out of its box in the first place and plenty of people like it so why don't I just shut the hell up?

Charmers.

Re:Sandisk suck (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156654)

A nail salon should be able to match up a color with your titanium cruzer so that you can just paint over top of that offending light.

Some people like the light for debugging purposes.

Re:Sandisk suck (2, Insightful)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157880)

His answer was that, if I didn't like it, I shouldn't have taken it out of its box in the first place and plenty of people like it so why don't I just shut the hell up?

Charmers.

Your mistake was calling their UK support line. You're lucky they didn't insult your parentage too.

Re:Sandisk suck (2, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156480)

"It doesn't tell you anywere on the packaging that it forces you into a totally horrible marketing idea...."

That surprises me. U3-enabled drives get HEAVILY marketed as such.

Re:Sandisk suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156812)

The best you can do is turn off autorun in windows (which was always a crappy idea anyway).

Dude, totally not cool. I came up with autorunner way back in '92 for the Amiga (maybe earlier), and it was awesome... although Star Trek really invented it first. I was even contacted by Microsoft lawyers to provide evidence of prior art when they were going to be sued over it.

You set up a bunch of disks to run different programs, then just insert the disk into df1: to load up the app you wanted, loading and saving to that disk. Keep the OS on df0: so you don't have to keep swapping it in all the time. Just slide in one disk and your terminal program loads up, slide in another and it loads up a fancy file browser, slide in another that has your pascal compiler on it. It was an awesome idea back then.

Of course nowadays we have fancy hard drives that can store all of the programs and data at once. Now it's a bad idea, back then it was awesome.

Re:Sandisk suck (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157588)

Several years ago, I bought a used 2-gig U3 Cruzer Micro from a friend. The software annoyed me, so I Googled it and removed it. It required a download from Sandisk, but was a very trouble-free process.

Not too long after, I filled that one up. I bought an 8-gig version of the same thing (I like the form factor). Removing/disabling U3 on that one was dead simple: It was in the menu built into the system.

I like these drives just fine. I carry one everywhere, hanging on my keyring off of a belt loop. It gets thrown, stepped on, washed, dried, and abused on a regular basis, and never fails.

But anyway, your annoyances, in your order:

a) So what? That's the market. Would it really displease you less if it were some gee-whiz multiplatform thing that worked on every device with a USB port, or would you then just complain about the fact that it's too expensive and consumes too much space? Or perhaps you'd prefer that hardware companies stop adding features to their devices to differentiate them from their competition?

b) So, fix it. You're bold enough to concoct legitimate complaints about technical things, but too big of a sissy to be bothered with rearranging drive letters? (Personally, I think the larger abomination here is that anyone is still using drive letters at all...)

c) It does not install anything; Windows does. U3 devices just appear to the OS as a USB hub. Connected to that hub, is a CD-ROM drive and some flash storage. After that, Windows sees this pile of newly-connected hardware and just tries to load drivers for it, just as it would with anything else USB or other hot-pluggable bus. In the case of U3, it succeeds, since Windows already has drivers for these sorts of devices built-in out-of-the-box. (An Ubuntu machine will undergo similar gyrations when presented with a U3 device; it's just quieter about the loading process.) And all of this is for one reason: To allow it to autorun on Windows XP, not to unleash some sort of bizarre and new evil unto the world.

Extremely common (2, Interesting)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156256)

It's extremely common... I've bought 4 Kingston MicroSD cards, all but 1 are dead in a year. A-DATA and other brands work fine, so I'm sure it's a problem with Kingston's quality control.

Putting one badge on the top and having memory from another manufacturer is extremely common, but it's more surprising for a big brand.

Kingston's warranty departmen was meh. I sent in a couple of the cards that were defective and got 2 more cards that died quickly a month after sending them in.

On a side note, Kingston's rebate house sucks and Kingston refused to resolve a properly filled rebate rejection. With Corsair and OCZ using reputable rebate houses, working memory, and good, quick repair, I now ignore Kingston when purchasing.

Re:Extremely common (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157652)

Kingston has never made their own chips. Ever.

They've always been a packager and a PCB maker -- a middleman to assemble the parts and sell them.

It's a perfectly valid thing to be doing, and a useful one: I can get Kingston-packaged RAM for just about bloody anything.

This is just a nasty hit piece (1, Insightful)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156258)

Yes, they use other companies' chips because they don't have a fab. Most companies don't have a fab. They buy from whomever is cheapest, manufacture it, and ship it. Sorry they had a bad batch and had poor customer service, but that's par for the course nowadays. Did you stop buying WD and Seagate drives because they had bad batches? They sure as hell did, as did every other manufacturer.

So I look at this post and see it as a hit piece. Why is slashdot even posting it?

Re:This is just a nasty hit piece (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156452)

Not having a fab does not necessarily mean you are re-badging though. In the memory market this may be largely true, but the fabs still have the potential to create designs from third party masks much like with ASICs.

Re:This is just a nasty hit piece (1)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156680)

I'm not sure why a company would hire another's fab for making memory. Memory margins are usually slim and require massive economies of scale. I can see controllers being custom made, but again, that'd be rare for something as cheap as flash memory.

Sad (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156308)

I recall when i built my first computer in 2000 that Kingston was a reliable brand at a reasonable price. Back in those pre-newegg days, buying computer parts was like the wild west, so brand was very important. The last memory card I bought from Kingston was cheap, but it stopped working within a few months. I read reviews of the card and realized it wasn't a fluke; Kingston had sold out.

I always find it sad when a company that I perceived as dependable and trustworthy sells out. I can understand why it happens: the CEO, in an effort to boost profits, cuts costs and loosens standards, effectively selling their brand name/good will for short-term profits. The CEO looks great; people are buying just as many of the product, but the margins are higher. By the time consumers realize the brand is now worth less (or even worthless), the CEO has cashed his bonus checks and can retire or move to another company.

I'm hoping that Toyota is bringing visibility to this problem. The extra profits Toyota made whoring out its brand will pale in comparison to its losses. Kingston is fortunate to be in an industry where brand name is no longer as important as turning up on the front page of slickdeals.

Um, (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31156566)

"Kingston is revealed as simply a vendor that re-marks other people's chips in its own packaging"

Since when is this news? Isn't this known as Kingston's business model since forever?

At least I've never known any different. I just trusted them to have better than average quality product, execpt for high-end desktop or notebook memory, where they were merely average.

Am I the only one??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31156724)

Am I the only one who hasn't had any of the numerous Kingston products (RAM/SD Card/USB Flash) I own fail???

I am not a warranty expert, but... (3, Funny)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157252)

... I suspect that dissolving the cards with nitric acid probably won't help his efforts to get help from Kingston.

Re:I am not a warranty expert, but... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157626)

Demonstrating your willingness to dissolve things in acid [ninemsn.com.au] can be very persuasive...

Kingston dumping defective unitsS. America market (2, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157632)

It looks like Kensington is dumping their defective parts on the S. American street vendor markets. I took a month long trip through south america this last december/january, and the one thing street vendors were hawking were 4 and 8gb kensington USB thumb drives for between $3 and 4 USD (converted from the local currency. I saw these for sale in Bogota, Colombia, Lima and Cusco, Peru as well as Rio de Janerio Brazil and in every tourist town in Uruguay. I ran into some swedish girls who were having trouble transfering their pictures from their camera to their kensington memory stick (of course I offered to help them). Lo and Behold, they had a Kensington brand thumb drive that couldn't be recognized in either Windows or Linux, bought in La Paz, Bolivia, and another in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.
 
You could claim they didn't dispose of their defective products properly, but clearly someone had the foresight to ship at least two shipping containers worth of these things to South America. No idea about the distribution network, but it must be huge and well run. They were clearly new, still in the plastic packaging, and the LED would light up and blink when plugged in, then stay lit. With a flip around protective cover.

chips (0, Redundant)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157670)

I can't RTFA because it seems to be slashdotted, but what on earth led Mr. Huang to think that Kingston made their own chips? There are only a few companies that make NAND flash chips, Sandisk and Toshiba among them, and ALL of the other vendors of flash memory cards have to buy from those few companies. The same is true of DRAM; Kingston DIMMs use other vendors' DDR memory chips.

The fact that Kingston was using chips from Sandisk and Toshiba would normally make me MORE inclined to buy Kingston cards, as usually the quality of Sandisk and Toshiba chips is quite good, though it doesn't explain why he's having trouble with them.

Seen this before on their DRAM (1)

psnail (1053094) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157684)

I've seen this for years on their DRAM. But where I work is very specific saying they want Kingston modules on the RAM they purchase. I remember about 5 years ago getting Elixir memory from Kingston where they simply ripped off Elixir's sticker and put the Kingston sticker over it. We had received literally the same RAM minus Kingston's sticker from Elixir. It was literally the same RAM, PCB and all, with their sticker on it.
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