Sunday, December 27, 2009

WTF Happened to My Weekend?

The universe hates me.

It does.

See, including today, I’ve had four days off over this Christmas weekend.

I figured I’d at least get to spend one day in the shop, and maybe a day writing (just between you and me, I figured I really wouldn’t get much writing done because the family is home too and they’re nothing but constant interruptions. Always demanding attention of some kind, feed us we’re hungry, pay attention to us we’re lonely, let us come inside it’s cold out, blah blah).  Anyway, I thought I’d at least get to spend some time in the shop.

But, see the universe, it hates me.

A couple weeks back we took my wife’s tablet into the geeks at Best Buy to have the power connector fixed.  The machine slid off the couch (one of the damned cats may have been involved) and landed on the power cord connector, damaging both the plug and the socket.  When we bought the machine we’d gotten the Best Buy Black Tie extended warranty, which covers incidental damage. So even though the machine still worked, if you wiggled the power connector, we decided to take it in and have it fixed.

Now we’ve used the Black Tie service at Best Buy several times for my tablet and had excellent results – so we were expecting more of the same.

But see, as I mentioned, the universe hates me.

When we took my tablet in to have the screen repaired, the whole thing (including shipping to the repair center in California and back) took only five days.  Since damaged power ports are a common problem with laptops (apparently a lot of people have cats), we figured it wouldn’t take too long to get this one fixed.  I backed up Becky’s machine to the main server and then sanitized it of all personal information and we took it in to the new store on Muldoon in Anchorage.  No problem, the geeks pulled up our warranty and checked in the machine.  They told us it could take up to three weeks, which we knew, but didn’t expect based on our previous experience. 

Yes, yes, I should have known better - because as I’ve may have may have mentioned, the universe hates me.

See, I can live without my laptop.  I don’t like it, but I can always use the big machine in the den for most of what I need to do (and in fact, I’m writing on that machine right now).  But my wife is massively inconvenienced without her tablet.  She does everything on it, from the family finances to email to chatting with her family online.  She could do some of it on the big machine, but we don’t have some of the programs she uses on this machine and we didn’t feel like paying a couple hundred dollars for additional copies when we were supposed to have the laptop back from Best Buy fairly quickly.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the universe hates me and enjoys nothing better than screwing with me.

The computer didn’t come back…

…and didn’t come back…

and didn’t fucking come back.

We checked online and with the store.

They’re working on it, we were told.

It needed a new motherboard and power supply.  Yep, I agreed. The damaged power connector is soldered to the motherboard. Cheaper and easier to replace the Mobo than to pay somebody to do board work – nobody fixes circuit boards anymore, they just swap them out nowadays. It’s cheaper, faster, and much more reliable.


After two weeks we got a notice.  It’s fixed.  Yay!  It’s on its way back. Yay!

Days went by.

We checked with the store.


It wasn’t fixed. The parts didn’t come in and had to be reordered.  So the repair center cancelled the first order and issued a new one, which the computer system interpreted as a completed repair and sent us the notice that the machine was fixed.

So another week went by.

We checked with the store again.

Finally they told us that it was fixed for sure and on its way back to Alaska. Yay (note the lack of exclamation point this time).

I got a call Christmas Eve, it’s here, come get it.  Great, but well, crap. Because that meant a trip to Anchorage instead of doing what I expected to be doing that day. Nothing for it though, I turned the shop off, we packed up and headed to Anchorage.  The computer looked good.  They booted it up at the customer service desk. It worked fine, though the power supply fan did seem to be running a bit hard.  They apologized for taking so long, we said hey whatever as long as it’s fixed and Merry Christmas to you.

As soon as we got home my son and I headed out to the shop to wrap some presents and my wife, as you might imagine, booted up her computer.  I intended to come in and transfer her data back onto the machine as soon as I was done with the Christmas preparations.

Remember that part where the universe hates me?

I came into the house to find my wife cursing and angry.

This was a unpleasant turn of events, because when my wife is unhappy, nobody is going to be happy. And no matter whose fault the situation is, it’s always somehow my fault (I’m kidding of course, but I like my wife to be happy and somehow I always feel responsible when my wife is unhappy even if it isn’t my fault).

The newly repaired computer had shut down and wouldn’t reboot.


I picked it up…and damned near dropped it on the floor from the unexpected heat.  Christ, the thing was burning up. No wonder it shut down.

I let it cool down and tried booting it.  It booted to Vista, but the fans kicked on right away and were blowing air just shy of plasma temperatures.  It ran for maybe twenty minutes, getting hotter and hotter and finally shut down.

It’s probably unnecessary to mention that the temperature of Becky’s ire was also increasing moment by moment, unfortunately for me, my wife does not have an emergency overheat shutdown safety. 

We called the Best Buy Black Tie Geek Squad service line and got some “expert” in some place where they worship cows and allow them to wonder around in the street (Florida, actually).  I explained my ire, my wife’s ire, the situation, and the symptoms (I didn’t give him my background though, which as many of you know is in, among other things, advanced computer science, engineering, and information systems) and opined that somebody in the repair center had forgotten to hook up the CPU cooler.   Nonsense, says he.  Those tablets always run hot, let’s try a few things – and he proceeded to demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of basic computer systems, laptops, troubleshooting, and any kind of knowledge related to electronics whatsoever. It being Christmas Eve, I assumed that the Service Center didn’t have the A-team on and the guy I was talking to was so low on the totem pole that he couldn’t get out of working on a holiday.  He had me disable automatic updates, he had me adjust the display properties, he had me check internet connectivity – all the while I’m pointing out that the machine is blowing boiling hot air and the power supply fan is running flat out in overdrive and the bottom of the machine is about to melt through the desktop. Nonsense, says he, those machines always run hot.  No, says I, it never did that before and in fact this particular machine (HP TouchSmart tx2) has a reputation for running cool and not melting your balls off when you’ve got it in your lap, it’s one of the advertised features. Look, says I, it’s going to shut down any second, it’s too hot. No no no, says he, it’s software. It does that when it’s trying to update the operating system, go ahead and reboot.  WTF did he just say?  And blip! the machines shuts down and will not restart and in fact is making clicking and pinging noises like a cooling oven. I put the phone next to it, so he can hear it.  OK, he ventures, you might have a heating issue.

No fucking shit, Sherlock, I could bake a potato in the DVD drive bay.

Obviously there is no way around this, we were headed back to Best Buy – but since this took place on Christmas Eve, well after the store closed, we were obviously going to be making that trip on Saturday.  Going to Anchorage is an all day adventure for us, so much for getting a Saturday in the shop.

So I got up early on Saturday, went downstairs, made coffee, and sat down in front of the computer figuring to get an hour of writing time in.  Five minutes later my wife shows up. Uh, says I, what are you doing up so early?  I was informed at that point we’d be leaving for Anchorage early and to get ready.  So, no writing, blogging, or surfing for me. Also no shower, but it didn’t seem wise to argue at that point.

Once at Best Buy we demanded to speak to the customer service manager.

She wasn’t in yet, so we end up with the store manager.

He turned out to be a damned nice chap who knew nothing about computers, but promised to help us out just as soon as his repair manager arrived – which he expected in about fifteen minutes.  Fine, says we, we’ll wait.  Fifteen minutes later the repair department manager arrived, we explained the situation to her, she looked up the repair ticket and I asked her if they could open the machine there and check to see if it was something as simple as the service technician’s failure to hook up a heat sink or a fan connector.  Normally they don’t open laptops in the store service centers, but under the circumstances they agreed to check for us.  They didn’t find anything obviously wrong, so they put the machine back together and booted it up. 

It ran fine.

Just wait, I said.

Twenty minutes later, it overheated and shut down.

Hmmm, that’s not right they said and agreed with my assessment that either the motherboard or the power supply was faulty.

The service manager offered us a number of fixes, none of which were really acceptable and ultimately we all agreed that the only real solution was to send the machine back to the service center – and the service manager promised to expedite the portion of the process she had control over (1 day shipping to CA and back, etc).  Sigh. Well, it wasn’t her fault and she was bending over backwards to help us, so there wasn’t any point in yelling at her. She went in the back to start the paperwork and we resigned ourselves to being without the computer for another couple of weeks.

She came back with the store manager.

He apologized for our trouble and said, look normally the Black Tie process is to replace the machine only after four trips to the repair center, but given the situation and our policy of making the customer happy I will replace the machine with an equivalent right now if that’s what you want.  Well, hell, you can’t ask for better than that. 

Unfortunately they didn’t have an HP tablet. 

In fact they didn’t have a tablet machine of any kind.

My wife has to have a tablet, and she is really really addicted to the advanced HP TouchSmart. 

The service manager told us to hang on a minute, she looked online and found that the other Anchorage store had twenty six Windows 7 HP TouchSmart Tablets.  She wrote us up a full replacement ticket, including the extended warranty, called the store and reserved us a unit, and asked if there was anything else she could do to make us happy.  No, that would just about do it (I thought about asking them to pay for my gas to drive to the other store and maybe wash my windshield but I thought that might be pushing my luck).

We drove across town and picked the new machine up with no trouble whatsoever, it was waiting for us at customer service.

Once home, I started the process of installing my wife’s software, integrating the machine into our network, and transferring her data back from the server.  I fully expected this to be a long and painful process. It wasn’t. Well, it was a long process because there was a lot of data to transfer and because installation of Microsoft Office and a couple other big software packages is long process, but it went better than I’ve ever experienced, Windows 7 is orders of magnitude improved over Windows Vista – especially in boot-up speed.  This makes a huge difference when you’re installing a shitload of new software, because everything wants you to do a reboot to finish up the installation process.  Windows 7 networking is massively improved, which isn’t saying much actually since two cans and a piece of string would be an improvement over Vista. The OS is leaner and faster and much more responsive – which again really isn’t a triumph when compared to Vista.  I love what they’ve done with the Aero interface and somewhat less thrilled with some of the weirdness on the taskbar and the fact that the goobers in Redmond rename the documents folder with every single new version of Windows – it’s now called “the library.”

Windows 7 is probably the best thing Microsoft has come out with in ten years and now that I’ve played around with it, I’ll probably upgrade my other Vista machines to it ASAP. The XP machines are going to stay exactly as they are.

Overall, I think I like Windows 7.

Yes, I know, but my expectations aren’t very high when it comes to Microsoft.

So, that pretty much ate up yesterday.

And today I had a number of other jobs that my wife has been after me to do and I could no longer put off.

And here it is, weekend over, and somehow in four days off I never got one minute to myself.

Damned universe.


Of course, there’s always next weekend.


  1. I also much prefer 7 to Vista.

    Of course, like you , I'm leaving my XP machines alone, but you'll have that.

  2. Geez,

    The Universe. It hates you.

    A little full of yourself this evening, huh? I doubt if anything bigger than our galaxy hates you. The Universe takes no notice of you.

    Gawd Jim. Get over yourself.


  3. Spoken like a true Mac user.

    I have it on good authority that while the universe is indifferent to you, Nathan, the Solar System despises you. Despises.

  4. Geeze, and I only got 6 pieces second-turned, 7 sanded-finished- and delivered, chips cleaned up, sharpened up, did the whole Yule thing with the entire family here, had a Riddick fest last night, and was thinking I'd never catch up to you... Sorry you got the run-around. :(

    My XP Pro machines are staying too - though Win7 is looking pretty good on a few of our work laptops. Soon as they come out with a Win7 service pack I'm going to think about swapping it out at home to upgrade the one XP home version machine.

    Hope you get some turn-time soon...

    legrap - le hook thrown to the top of le wall.

  5. There was a time that hot new fast machine was called a toaster. Someone mixed up and tried to give your wife an actual toaster -- slip the bread in the DVD drive and...

    The universe doesn't hate you. It did, however, conspire to give your wife a better machine. You should thank it some day.

    Dr. Phil

    sustsos -- (1) a sustainable call for help; (2) sustenance for your computer's operating system -- or sustom as we say in the 22nd century.

  6. So you're saying that the Universe and my wife are in cahoots?

    Well that just figures.

  7. Jim

    The Universe and your wife are not in cahoots. Simply the Universe has long since learned it is safer to not cross a wife.

  8. I'm primarily a linux geek myself, but since I do play a lot of games I can't really escape MS, and while I skipped over Vista entirely I find very little in windows 7 to object to -- it gives me access to my games and my data and then stays out of my way until I call on it again.

  9. If the universe really hated you Jim, it would have given your cats opposable thumbs.

  10. Nathan, the Solar System despises you. Despises.

    Well, duh!

  11. If the universe really hated you Jim, it would have given your cats opposable thumbs.

    Let's not be giving the Universe any ideas, OK?

  12. If we're going to one-up, can I nominate my wife, who just came down with flu systems this morning... my first day of a week's vacation?

    supsyls -- Navy Supervisor of pie-throwing. Pronounced "SUP-SALES".

  13. awwww Jim it could be worse you could have had 0500 PT this morning followed by 10 hours of death bby powerpoint then lunch then 5 more hours of powerpoint and a full night of flight ops and GQ :) don't you miss the Navy


Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.