I bought a Samsung SMX-F34BN camcorder on eBay. It came without a software or driver CD, cables, or power supply. This was not quite the condition I had bargained for; but now that I had it, I proceeded to see what I could make of it. I already had the cables, but it was a hassle to find the powers supply and software. I decided to record these notes for the aid of anyone else encountering a similar situation.
I figured that the manufacturer would charge a fortune for a replacement power supply. Their support webpage was hard to find: their camcorders product page did not link to the SMX-F34BN (indeed, it led only to two standard camcorder models), and a search for SMX-F34BN yielded exactly one hit. That was a link to the User Manual download webpage. The User Manual was helpful, but that was the only help I got: there was no link, on that webpage, to any hardware or accessories information.
I ran a search on Radio Shack's webpage. I wasn't able to verify, from the pictures and descriptions, whether they would have what I needed. The User's Guide said the power requirements were 8.4V, 2.0W, but Radio Shack's pictures didn't make clear whether the plug would fit. I called their 800 number, but their recording told me that they provided technical guidance only through their individual stores. I called the nearest Radio Shack, located about nine miles away, but the guy said he couldn't advise without seeing the unit.
I went on eBay and bought a power supply for $14. I didn't think of running a Google Shopping search for the needed product until I had already made that purchase, but it looked like I would have paid about the same price if I had gone that route. When the power supply arrived, I plugged it in, and it worked. End of problem.
Software and Drivers
To find the necessary software, I want back to Samsung's download webpage. The Support Overview tab on that page yielded a list of questions about SC-X105L and other models unrelated to the SMX-F34BN. That tab also contained a guide on "How to Edit Video with Intelli-Studio." The Community Q&A tab on that webpage contained a number of questions, including several about how or where to get a power supply; virtually all of these questions were unanswered. The FAQs & How-Tos tab did contain links for, among other things, Hardware, Power, and Software/Applications, but none of these led anywhere helpful and, again, many had to do with other models. This was frustrating because, as one of those FAQs warned,
Before transferring digital images through the USB connection, you must install your camcorder's driver and software onto your computer. The driver and software are on the disc that came with your camcorder.One FAQ did contain a reference to CyberLink MediaShow 4 software. I guessed that MediaShow might be included in the software provided with the camcorder. MediaShow was apparently a media management program, list price around $50. A search, in response to the foregoing reference to Intell-Studio, suggested that Intelli-Studio was Samsung's own "play-edit" product, and that it did come with the SMX-F34BN. I already had satisfactory software for these purposes, but didn't have the drivers. Also, even if I didn't get a free copy of MediaShow out of the deal, at least I would want Intelli-Studio and any other utilities that Samsung could have provided.
On Samsung's download webpage, I clicked the Chat link. This led to the following exchange:
Please wait for a Samsung Agent to respond.
You are now chatting with 'Rosemary'. There will be a brief survey at the end of our chat to share feedback on my performance today.Your Issue ID for this chat is LTK56401073602XRosemary: Hi, thanks for reaching out to Samsung tech support. How can I help you today?Visitor: Hi, Rosemary. I have acquired a Samsung SMX-F34BN camcorder. I didn't get a CD or other software with it. I'm surprised that there's no option to download software from the Support downloads page that has the user's manual. Can you point me toward a download location?Rosemary: Hello.Rosemary: I understand that you wish to download the driver or software for the camcorder.Rosemary: Would you mind holding a few minutes while I gather the required information for your request?Visitor: OK.Rosemary: Thank you.Rosemary: Thanks for holding.Rosemary: Was that an open box purchase?Visitor: eBay.
I wasn't sure why Rosemary asked twice whether it was an open box purchase, when I told her I bought it on eBay. Maybe she was thinking that there are traditional retail merchants selling unopened products on eBay. Maybe she would have given me a CD without charge if I had said I had bought from one of those. I can't say. At any rate, the website she pointed me toward seemed willing to send me a copy of MediaShow (version 4, not the current version 6) for only $7.60 ($1.85 purchase + $5.75 shipping), plus whatever (if anything) else that might be on that CD. This was better than other prices I found. But, as I say, I didn't really need it.Visitor: Normally, a manufacturer's support page will provide software downloads and, where applicable, updates.Rosemary: I understand your concern.Rosemary: But for few camcorders, the software and drivers are not provided on the support page.Visitor: I don't understand. For camcorders as for other electronic devices, manufacturers normally supply downloads on their support pages. I am surprised that Samsung does not. Regardless, could you please tell me where I can download the software?Rosemary: I apologize; the only place for the download of the software and driver is the support page. If the downloads are not provided on the support page, it is not possible to download the software online.Visitor: Then where can I get the software?Rosemary: Shall I provide the link to purchase the software CD?Visitor: OK.Rosemary: Before that could you please confirm if the camcorder is an open box purchase or a sealed purchase?Visitor: Open box.Rosemary: Thanks for confirming.Rosemary: Please click on the link below to order the software CD for your camcorder:Rosemary: You can even order it through phone by contacting J&J parts dealer at 1-800-627-4368. Hours of operation :Mon - Fri from 9:00 A.M to 8:30 P.M EST. They are the genuine Samsung parts dealers.Rosemary: Are you able to access the above link?Visitor: Yes. That webpage seems to offer only a CD containing "Mediashow" software. Is that the complete set of software that comes with a new camcorder?Rosemary: Yes, I see that is the only CD included with a new camcorder,Visitor: That website indicates that the shipping cost will be $5.75 minimum. $5.75 to mail a CD seems very expensive.Visitor: I am disappointed that Samsung does not allow users to download the necessary software. This is unusual.Visitor: That's $5.75 in addition to the purchase price of the CD.Rosemary: I understand your frustration.Rosemary: I will forward your concern to the webmaster.Rosemary: I apologize for all the inconvenience.Visitor: Thank you for your help, Rosemary. Have a good day.
I tried a search to see whether someone else might have the drivers and essential utilities available for download, but found nothing immediately obvious. I sent an email to the people at the SamsungParts.com webpage to which Rosemary had directed me, asking if they could verify what was on the CD before I spent $7.60 and a week buying and waiting for it. Their automated reply said I might have to wait a day for a reply, so I called them (800-627-4368). She wasn't able to confirm exactly what was on the CD, but she said (a) this was not the CD with the user manual, and that was good (I had gathered, from a quick start page included with the camera, that there were actually two CDs, and the user manual CD was not the one containing the drivers), and (b) her company, SamsungParts.com, provided exactly the same accessories as would have been included with a new camera. So despite their cryptic indication that this was the "MediaShow4" CD, it appeared likely that the CD contained more than just MediaShow. So I went ahead and tried to buy it. But now they wanted to charge me $8.25 for USPS Priority Mail. I had to change from a PO Box to a street address to get it back down to $5.75, still via Priority Mail Odd. And then, when the order was nearly complete, here they are -- welcome to New Jersey! -- adding on another $4.15 handling charge. So now we're up to $11.75 for a CD that cost $1.85.
I killed that and called Samsung (800-726-7864). I explained to the lady that I didn't need or want a software CD; I just wanted a little driver program. She confirmed that they could not help me with this -- that I would have to buy the CD and wait for it to be delivered. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She put me on hold for what would be, she said, just a minute or two. That was at 1:33 PM. The supervisor came on, ten minutes later, and after I explained the situation again, she put me back on hold while she checked it out. When she came back, she said that it was an old item, which I found, again, to be an odd statement: my impression was that the camera had come out within the past two to three years. I appreciated that it was no longer within its brief one-year warranty, but I doubted that most people would buy a camcorder expecting it to last only one year. That is, people are going to need support for products for several years at least.
She was ultimately unable to help me obtain the driver program. In fact, she tried to steer me to CyberLink, where she said I could download a trial copy of MediaShow. I explained again that I didn't need that, or Intelli-Studio either; I just needed the driver. She apologized that she was unable to help me with this. I asked to speak with her boss. She said she would transfer me to the executive customer relations office. She warned me, however, that this person would give me the same information that she had given me. That was at 1:54 PM. A few minutes later, someone else came on and listened as I explained the situation. This individual said that the camera was plug-and-play and, as such, did not need any drivers. This contradicted the language quoted above, wherein Samsung's FAQ had warned that it was necessary to install drivers first. It also meant that, if this guy was right, Samsung's customer service representatives had repeatedly given me incorrect advice, to the effect that I had to buy the CD if I wanted to address the driver problem.
I had wondered if perhaps Windows 7 would detect and install the drivers automatically. I could have just waited until the power supply arrived, a week or so later, and then I could have plugged in the USB cable and watched to see what happened. One problem with this approach was that, if it didn't work, I would then have another wait of a week or so, until a CD or some other software source came through at last with the drivers. Another problem was that users are often warned not to connect USB cables until drivers have already been installed. There was, in other words, the possibility that waiting and then simply plugging would have made things worse.
I asked this individual if he would kindly pass along a suggestion to their webmaster, so as to include this information on the product webpage, along with FAQs that would relate to this model. He said he would be submitting a report on this conversation. At best, we seemed to be in a situation where Samsung would not think of this without someone like me to suggest it. But anyway, the conversation was finally done at 2:01 PM. So it took about a half-hour to get to him and get what was, I hoped, the correct information.
The upshot was that the software CD contained only (as this last person put it) editing software. So if I wanted, I (or anyone else) could obtain MediaShow and Samsung's own Intelli-Studio for only $12, along with whatever else might be on that CD. But I could not obtain a list of what was on that CD. I wondered whether I could at least obtain a free copy of Intelli-Studio. It didn't seem to be available in either CNET or Softpedia. Posts in a CNET forum pointed me toward webpages from Software Informer and RapidShare, but someone seemed to have problems with the RapidShare approach and I distrusted Software Informer. Another page -- a Samsung.com webpage, believe it or not -- said that, actually, Intelli-Studio was preloaded on the camera and could be installed onto the PC from there via USB cable. That webpage pertained to the Samsung MV800, a still camera. I would apparently not know, until the power supply arrived, whether the SMX-F34BN had the same capability. There did not seem to be a download location on Samsung's own website for Samsung's own software. (But let us not think too harshly of the Samsung webmaster. I did find a Samsung webpage that, in exchange for the opportunity to keep resizing my browser window, was willing to tell me how to prevent Intelli-Studio from installing automatically on an unspecified Samsung camera model.)
When the power supply arrived, I did as advised: I simply plugged in the USB cable. It worked. So the last guy's view was correct: I didn't need drivers after all. Unlike the MV800, there didn't seem to be an option to install Intelli-Studio from the camera to the computer; no menu option along those lines came up when I connected the USB cable. So at this point, almost despite Samsung's best efforts, I was able to get the camera working.