This story I wrote for the Herald this week about problems with one of the Freeview satellite receivers sparked a big email response. Interestingly, the email isn't really coming from consumers who are having problems with the new Zinwell set-top box. It is coming from people in the industry who actually want to sell and install the box but fear a backlash because they know it is faulty. Usually the tech industry covers things up until consumers get so annoyed with dodgy products that they go to the press, then you have try and extract the truth from the industry while it scrambles to fix the problem, while playing it down to the media. I like the inversion of things in this case. Take the letter below that was written by an installer to the managing director of Zinwell.

Also included is another email which claims the radio frequency interference is "just the tip of the ice berg". I'm interested in hearing the experiences of consumers who have been early into Freeview. Anyone bought the Zinwell box? Any problem encountered?

UPDATE: Sam has written to me saying:
I had your NZ Herald article pointed out to me by a friend who I'd been discussing my Zinwell set top box decoder issues with. I picked mine up from Harvey Norman a few weeks back - I think it was the weekend they became available. It picks up 3 and C4 with no issues, but I haven't been able to get 1 or 2. I went back to Harvey Norman today and they said that Freeview are going to be pushing out an update over the air in the next few days which should address some of the problems. Hopefully that'll get me (and others) working - dunno ... I'll see what happens I guess.

Dear Peter -- I write to ask if you were aware of all the problems with the Freeview
platform. As someone involved I can tell you that there have been a lot of mistakes
and the "scene" at the moment is deathly quiet.

Below is a copy of an Email I sent yest to the CEO of Zinwell Aust. They are having
major problems but the real story is that we have cracked it all -
completely - offered a solution for a cost and have had zero response. Things are
not good. Was wondering if you had any new info or would like to discuss the
problems further.

Yours sincerely .....

TO: Whaddon Selby-Adams

Dear Whaddon - I am compelled to write and ask if you have any idea of the damage
currently being done to the name "Zinwell."? Daily, we are almost beseiged by
frustrated Techs unable to get boxes to function correctly and swearing to never try
a Zinwell product again. Same goes for store managers. I understand you are
continuing with software updates but, as at 3pm, boxes were not functioning
Late this afternoon I had a call from a frustrated lawyer without 3, 4 etc. He
quoted the Fair Trading Act and wanted to know why a recall had not been announced.

This is affecting all of us in the industry and I hear comments like "Freeview is a
I fear the damage done to the Zinwell name is almost irretrievable with NEXT running
a very HOT second, but there is an immediate solution. As you know, we can tell you
precisely how to fix all known issues and I would strongly, strenuously urge you to
phone Alf and negotiate something with him. He has my total backing and support.

An immediate solution could recover lost ground handled the right way and, be done
before Hills have boxes for sale late this week.

I cannot stress how urgent all this from the view out here in the field. It is
compromising the whole initiation of the Freeview platform.

Check all the sales figures! The cheap Chinese boxes with a poor picture will take

This is a time when immediate action is needed before the Press get hold of what is
happening. Questions are being asked.

I urge you to contact Alf.

I hate writing this ---------- Yours sincerely

Dear Peter,
I read your article on the Zinwell box and I feel that you have been
hoodwinked by Freeview and Zinwell.

The problems that you have pointed out are only the tip of the iceberg.
There has been two major problems since the launch date 2nd May, and they

1. The receiver will not tune into transponder freq 12456 which is the
Canwest/National Radio carrier. Next Electronics (Zinwell Distributor) has
been telling installers, retailers and customers that it is a transmission
problem, that is a load of bunkum. Every other receiver on the market is
working fine, even on so called Old Sky dishes. There is no issue with dish
alignment as you have been lead to believe.
2. There is also a problem with picture freezing which can only be remedied
by disconnecting the power from the box for thirty seconds and they will
tell you that it is a result of the remote buttons being pushed too fast,
another load of rubbish as they will freeze up without going anywhere near
the remote. With some customers it is regularly happening every half hour or

The RF problem is one of the minor problems that are not mentioned above.
the frustrating part of it all is the denial from Next Electronics and
Zinwell. They have continued to allow these boxes to be sold knowing that
there are many problems with the box.

A full product recall is still not out of the question as I firmly believe
that they have not got any further in a result from when the problems were
discovered. They need to stop selling the boxes immediately, they are just a
very inferior product.

I am an experienced installer of many years and like others in the industry
will not attend a job where it involves a Zinwell box.

They need to take ownership of the problem and sort it out.

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