Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life is Two and a Half Hours with a Dell Rep

Two or three weeks ago our new laptop (Dec 2011) experienced a problem. I was looking at websites, either as research for The Candy Store Generation or looking into places to try to promote Documenting America. Suddenly all sorts of things popped up on the screen. A whole bunch of error messages about being unable to read-write data. A box saying we had some major errors, including boot sector stuff and various 0x000... addresses. And a box saying our protection software was a trial version.
Needless to say I didn't click on either the offer to clean the computer or the offer to purchase some software. I figured it was either a virus or something seriously wrong with hardware or the operating system. I rebooted the computer and the same thing happened on the restart. This time I clicked off all the error message screens, about 50 of them, rebooted, and everything appeared again.

I then set it aside, and put on my mental to-do list that I needed to call Dell and see what happened, and what to do about it.

Tuesday night this week, thinking I might do that, I pulled the computer out of hibernation. The error messages and the other pop-ups were still there. I wrote some of the error messages, both in one repeated in the 50 message boxes and the one in the pop-up, preparatory to calling Dell. As I was doing that, they all suddenly disappeared. The computer looked normal. However, I tried to open a program, and saw that all the programs had disappeared.

Alas, I had not mojo to call Dell that night. But last night Lynda did. With the second number we got to the right place, were transferred once, and wound up talking with Fraser. No telling where he was based, but his accent made his English almost undecipherable. Even though I lived among non-English speakers for a number of years, I had to ask him to repeat himself many times.

Also alas, we learned it was a software problem, a virus that is fairly new and for which most virus protection programs had no definitions. And, we didn't have a software warranty on this computer. Naturally, since we bought it from QVC (I won't say why we did that, except to say I have always hated QVC and it's competitors and never watch them), we didn't have that warranty.

So some out of pocket money later, we had the warranty, and Fraser fixed the problem. I think it was 7:30 p.m. when we first called, and it was all over at 10:00 p.m. All systems appeared to be go, everything working.

Last night seems to be a microcosm of my life, maybe of life itself. Decisions we make have consequences way down the road. We have a Dell account; why buy a computer from QVC? Was it really any cheaper? It appears not. What website did I visit—an apparently safe site—that resulted in the virus attacking our new machine?

It makes me gun-shy about visiting any other websites, about purchasing anything electronic from a third-party vendor.

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