Well, I called Dell yesterday to figure out where they were in the process of figuring out what was wrong with my computer. (See here and here for the story so far.) The representative who is handling my case couldn't find anything under the case number he had given me and told me he'd have to get back to me. He thought they must have somehow deleted the case file and just had the computer sitting somewhere pending some information on what to do with it.
When he called me back, he said "Well, I've got some bad news for you." I was expecting him to say the computer was irredeemable for some reason and that they were going to have to send me a new one. It turns out they will be giving me a new computer, but it's not because of anything to do with the old one. Indeed, they don't even know where my computer is. It seems to have arrived with a huge shipment of computers. Someone signed for it. But it's nowhere to be found. Now I'm really glad I managed to back everything up. I was expecting to have to reinstall everything anyway, because there seemed to be some corruption on my hard drive. (My Outlook files turned out to be present but in a directory that was renamed with funny characters in the middle of it). If I have to start off anew, I might as well enjoy the fact that it will be a better computer.
Meanwhile, someone from Dell found my blog because of these posts and sent me an apologetic and reassuring email. (His email address was simpler than the standard format Dell uses, which made me wonder if he was higher up in the company or maybe had been with them a longer time than most of the people I've dealt with, but there could be any number of explanations for that). I even managed to get a request in for my new computer to have the trackstick that looks like a pencil eraser in the middle of the keyboard, and he said he'd make sure I got a computer without a trackstick. I absolutely loathe trackpads and turn mine off. Everything J. Jonah Jameson says about Spiderman is true of trackpads. They're a menace!
But I have to say that as annoying as these problems have been, Dell has been very good to me according to what's in their power. This was an old computer that they don't even make anymore whose contract I extended at least twice, and although they couldn't manage to make the next-day service part of the contract really work out they certainly will have made it up to me by the time this is all done, which may be another week or so by the sound of things. When all is said and done, I will probably have been without a computer for almost a month, and much of the rest of that month will be taken up with getting everything installed and set up the way I want it. But I'll have a new computer that's much faster and has much more hard disk space, and all I'll have to pay for is extending the contract if I want to continue to have Dell service it they way they have done with the previous computer.
Given that I was expecting the computer to break down inevitably sometime after the contract expiration in May, and then we'd have had to buy a new computer out of our tax return (since my pay for teaching just one course this semester is barely covering our essential living expenses at this point), I'd say the loss of a month of use of my computer turns out to be worth it in the end. It's also nice that my spring break occurs during that month, so it's probably only going to be at most three weeks of actual teaching time.