Life: March 2007 Archives

Computer Update

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I was going to post something else today, but I've sort of run out of time. The comments have been unusually busy lately in some very old posts, in case you haven't checked the list of recent comments. There's an intense discussion going on here, but several other posts from a while back have had some traffic. But the majority of my time has gone to getting my new computer up and running. It arrived on Tuesday, and I've spent almost all of my free time doing something or other to install applications, copy files, get it working with the printer, and so on.

The email was the biggest problem. Since I can't find my Office discs, I had to install Thunderbird for email and OpenOffice for what's supposed to be the equivalent of Word and Excel (but the difference is huge in terms of functionality). Thunderbird for some reason can't handle an Outlook PST file, which are the nice and convenient way Outlook stores its data all in one place. The only way to convert Outlook files to Thunderbird is to open the Outlook file in a computer with a working Outlook program and then to install Thunderbird on that system. Then you copy the Thunderbird files to the new machine, and you're ok. So I had to get Outlook up and running with my new file (a very large file, by the way, which takes a while to copy from one computer to another via an external hard drive)) on an old computer, install Thunderbird on the old computer, and then copy those files back to the new computer. Wouldn't it be much more effective just to accept the PST file in Thunderbird? It also didn't register which messages I had read and which I had marked as unread or flagged, which means I have a few years of unread messages now that aren't marked as to whether they contain something significant. I'm not impressed by Mozilla with this, even if I've liked a lot of what they've done in the past.

After all this, I think I'm finally up and running on my new computer. I've been a long-time Dell customer, and while I've had lots of problems in the past they've always done their best to fix the problems in a timely manner based on the terms of my contract. In this case, they've gone well beyond what I could have expect, and I have to give them credit for that. Not only did they replace a four year old computer whose contract is up in two months, but they even sent me a free cable to use for printing now that I don't have a parallel port to use with my existing printer. So I think Dell has easily made up for whatever trouble I've had with all this, and this couldn't have come at a better time in terms of finances and what would have been a very soon need to think about getting a new computer.

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.

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