Tuesday, April 15, 2003

When the Five Second Rule Doesn't Work

When the Five Second Rule Doesn’t Work
April, 2003

You know the five second rule, don’t you? Food that lands on the floor and stays there for five seconds (more or less) is fine to pick up and eat. I tried to apply that rule in another setting, but it does not translate. After cleaning the stalls this morning, I filled the dogs’ water bucket, a nice stainless steel one, and carried it out to their pen. Upon setting it down, I heard splash, clunk. Looking down, there was my mobile phone at the bottom of the bucket fully submerged under six inches of water. I quickly snatched it out of there, ran inside and dried it off, but it was giving wacky messages on its LCD.

Time for the emergency room for wet electronics. I got out Marian’s hair dryer, took the phone battery off, dried everything I could, and blew hot air on it until everything that I could see was dry. Well, the triage was to no avail. When turned on, nothing happened at all. When plugged into the charger, it went through several berserk things like wailing, telling me that the phone was out of range, and other not-very-helpful messages all cycling without me doing anything but watching in horror. So, it was toasted, so to speak (drowned?).

Luckily, I had bought a service policy from BestComputerCircuit when I got the sucker a little under three years ago. I gathered up the original box, manual, charger, and the phone and took all of this stuff with my service policy to my local branch of the store. No problemo, they told me. After filling out some paperwork, I was told that I would get credit on any new phone in the amount I had paid on the old phone.

The young woman at the Sprint counter told me that the phone I had originally bought (which I had replaced due to breaking off its antenna about a year or so ago with a totally different phone) cost $200. Boy, howdy. Phone prices have come down, so I could get a goody. Options that met my needs for something that can stand up to barn and outside work meant that there were two choices: $130 or $299. The only difference, really, was the higher-price phone had a color screen. I told her that the $129 one would be fine since I did not want to pay the extra $99 if I bought the other phone.

Now comes the strange part, and it’s all good. I told her I needed a leather case and a car charger. She told me that if one bought two accessories when buying a phone, the cost of the phone was cut in half. Thus, I could get the $299 phone and not pay anything extra. Fine. She also sold me a two-year service plan for $40.

So, I went to the register with her with a $299 phone, service plan $40, car charger $30, and case $25. Got that? I fully expected to pay for all the extra stuff, just get the credit for the phone. Total bill was $34. I didn’t ask for an explanation, just left the store. Love those service plans!

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

I Surinder

I Surinder
April, 2003

This is one of those new computer stories. Lots of fun to get a new computer, right? I started to have an odd problem: sometimes, and only sometimes, when my computer comes out of its standby mode, the monitor doesn’t—it just stays blank and black with its little on/off button blinking at me. So, I pushed the “?” on the new and expanded proprietary keyboard on my ComDellGateP computer to get online support from the manufacturer. I was immediately connected to a service bureau in India. I say this since all three of the people I ended up dealing with had Indian first names (Arvind, Surinder, and Sanjay).

It’s like AOL Instant Mail—you type in something, someone on the other side of the world responds. Except today, they were experiencing “network difficulties” and sometimes each response took 10 minutes to come. I started off with Arvind who asked me some basic questions, but offered no solutions. After about 45 minutes this morning, I had to leave and was told to come back online when I could. So, this afternoon I went back and told them I was ready to rock and roll. My new case manager was Surinder. After the usual exchanges of “Did you mean…?” and “Yes, that’s what I meant” or “No, this is what I meant…,” Surinder told me that this was a normal thing that could happen if a program was running in the background. Huh?

And then he told me that the only thing I could do was to shut down the computer when this happened and do a cold reboot. What?

Then he told me how to improve system performance, which was not the issue here. Whether QuickBooks starts up when the system starts would seem to have nothing to do with whether the monitor remains blank, black after the computer wakes up from its standby nap. Right? Darn tootin’.

After an hour and a half of meaningless blather and frustration, I asked Surinder to please answer two basic questions I had asked: (1) is there any cure, (2) what does changing my startup menu have to do with the monitor? I had asked these questions twice before and never had gotten a response.

At this point, Surinder passed the case over to Sanjay. Sanjay then proceeded to ask me the same basic questions that Arvind had asked this morning when all this fun started. (They say they are going to read the file of all the correspondence to date on the matter, but I guess they don’t. Easier to ask the same question again.) So, Sanjay said that what he wanted me to do was the same thing Surinder did: uncheck some stuff that starts up when I start up my computer to improve performance. He told me that if I wanted this stuff, I could just open it manually. Say what!? Manually? Is that why they have a way to open programs automatically? Perhaps I should do my math on an abacus instead of using a spreadsheet program.

Now two hours into this cross-world acrostic, I asked my question again: What does this have to do with my problem? Guess what, no answer. I tried again saying that perhaps he wanted me to experiment with start-up programs to see if anything was interfering with the monitor. Was that true? Could I just do this on my own without this online conference? Guess what, no answer. Instead, I received a response telling me to try for a BIOS upgrade. BIOS upgrade? Isn’t that like your doctor saying, “Well, you have a case of the sniffles so let’s do a heart transplant?” I nicely thanked Sanjay, hang up, put my computer in the standby mode, and scream.