January 06, 2006

Since I'm already irritated...

Worst Christmas Gift this year?

Probably one that Reba's mom got for Rebecca. Seems Middle Girl (who already has a VideoNow player) saw something else that sounded cool and just had to have it--the VuGo.

Now, I didn't know she'd asked for this, and hadn't heard about it until she unwrapped it and created intense jealousy on the part of Oldest, who kept screaming about how much it cost. But it seemed that it might indeed be a pretty cool deal, promising as it did to be able to record TV shows, hold digital photos, and digital music. All with a nice screen to look at.

After the hubbub had died down of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, she finally pestered me enough to get me to get it working for her. It comes with a software disc--first ominous clue. It seems that you can't just put digital files on it--you have to first import whatever MP3 or jpeg or mpeg file you want into the special software, and from there it is translated into a proprietary file format only for the VuGo.

That is, if you can get the software to install properly in the first place. Second ominous clue--the install seemed to be crippled, and getting the program to open in a window was nearly impossible. Sometimes you could click on the icon and it would show up, sometimes not. And sometimes it would tell you it was running, but there were no windows open of any sort or button at the bottom of the screen.

I finally, FINALLY got it to open a usable screen, and proceeded to copy some Christmas photos over into the software converter. Seeing as how there was absolutely NO information in the paper that came with the player or anything usable in the Help file on the software, I had no idea how to get the files out of the translator into the player. I had the USB cable hooked up and tried using Windows Explorer, first filling it up with useless jpeg images (this is where I found out that it wouldn't take plain old normal image files) and then found that even if I transferred files with the proper suffix, it wouldn't read those, either. I was, after several hours of struggling, able to figure out how to keep the VuGo software window open AND how to get it to transfer stuff into the device. It was so counterintuitive it could have been Democratic election strategy.

BUT, I got them tranferred, and then it was time to view them. The picture on the box showed a bright, high resolution photo of girls having fun. What showed up on the screen appeared to be a resolution on the order of 5 to 10 pixels per inch. Ghastly--especially considering the VideoNow she has has decent quality. Not great, but sheesh! better than this pile of crap. Oh, and the supplied USB cable required that you hold your mouth in a particular position and wiggle the plug jusssst-so to get it to establish a connection. An ominous clue, no doubt about it.

BUT WAIT, there's more!

I showed Bec the results and she was less than impressed. "Now, let's see if we can record from the television!" I said, trying my best to salvage the present. We went to her room where her (just replaced) television was sitting and I hooked up the supplied video/audio cables to the plugs on the front of the set. Popped in a DVD, hit record. "Recording Music Now" it said. [Yet another ominous clue.]


I figured out that maybe it wouldn't record a copy protected DVD, and the box did say it would record television programs. Stopped the DVD, and turned over to a station, plugged the cables in again to make sure I was doing it right, hit the record button, "Recording Music Now." Huh!? We tried and tried, and never could get it to record anything at all. The sound it did manage to record off of the television was static.

It was at this point I told her that I was going to have to work on it some more to see if I could get it to work, but what I did in fact was to jump online and see what other people were experiencing. As you can see from the About.com reviews (or rather, the ones written by actual humans and not semi-literate droolers), this thing is a stinker of the highest order.

After I had read all that and spoke to Reba about it, I came to the conclusion we'd be much better off with something else--ANYthing else. Not much else of the sort out there, but better to one good thing that might only do pictures or music but would do them well, than one bad thing that won't work at all. I gently told Rebecca that we might need to take it back since it just didn't work right and let her get something else. Thankfully, she wasn't too disappointed. She'd already gotten enough of that when she saw how crappy the pictures looked.

So, we got the receipt from Grandmom, and I proceeded to go back in and try to remove the pictures that were on it. Now, we had not used the batteries at all--it had been plugged into the DC adapter the whole time. On. On. ON. ON! I pushed and pushed the power button and it wouldn't come on. I figured it must have depleted the four AAAs somehow, and so I got the adapter back out. Plugged it in, on. On. On. ON. ON! No amount of pressing would make it come on. GRR. Finally managed to get it to come on by unplugging the power cable, holding down the on-button, and jamming the jack back into the side of it while I had the button down. That made it come on. I deleted the photos, and packed the cheap gimcrack back into the packaging it crawled out of.

Such a waste--poor quality screen resolution (if a GameBoy SP can look so good, why not this?), cheaply made parts, kludgy software, no useful instruction, and unable to operate as advertised--and the boxtop advertising on the packaging was expressly deceptive as to the video quality one could expect.

Thankfully, we were able to get a refund (of course, the predatory return practices of Target meant it wasn't a full refund, but it was better than nothing.)

Short lesson? Don't buy electronic stuff for your grandkids. And don't let your kids beg their grandparents for this rilly kewl electronic doodad they want. And remember, VuGo rhymes with Yugo.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at January 6, 2006 10:46 AM

You let your daughter have a TV of her own? Please don't ever talk to my doughter since she already thinks I was extremely cruel.

Posted by: Larry Anderson at January 6, 2006 11:01 AM

It's part of my plan to make sure they don't learn anything useful, so later they will be able to go out in the world and be high-priced consultants.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at January 6, 2006 11:27 AM

I hate it when things don't work as they should. I'm glad she understood that it had to go back.

Posted by: Sarah G. at January 6, 2006 12:33 PM

Me, too--especially after the episode with Santa bringing her an inoperable television.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at January 6, 2006 12:35 PM