May 5, 2005

Well, well, Dell.

Speaking of Dell, I have a few things to say about them.  I have been without a computer for almost a month, thanks to them.  I have spent night after night, hours upon hours, on the phone with them.  It has been a trip that diverted through hell (hmmm...rhymes with Dell), that drove me nearly to the point of insanity, that frustrated me to the point of wanting to strangle someone and that finally ended (I pray it has ended!) okay.

You see, everything was working wonderfully.  Then I clicked on something and my PC was no more.  Just one little click.  Poof!

I rebooted.  The Windows XP screen was there, and then it wasn't.  I found myself looking at a black screen and the message I have come to hate:  "Power Save Mode..."  How I LOATHE those words!

Pressing a key or moving the mouse did nothing to wake the sleeping giant.  Rebooting garnered the same results.  I watched as my computer cycled from displaying those hateful words with a green light to a totally black screen with an amber light.  Over and over and over and over and over.  Nothing I tried would break the cycle.

I know quite a bit about computers...or I should say, even before my journey began, I knew a fair amount about computer.  I'm not a guru, but I can generally get around pretty well.  Even if I'm not totally familiar with a problem, I can usually figure things out.  I know a WHOLE BUNCH MORE now than I did a month ago, but I knew how to troubleshoot a good many problems and that's what I did.  Troubleshoot.  I spent every evening for over a week troubleshooting.  I did things like boot to the utility partition and run all the diagnostics.  I reinstalled drivers.  In fact, I did everything I could think of and when I ran out of ideas, I called Dell.

Their technical support people are trained quite thoroughly to make sure you completely understand that DELL DOESN'T DO SOFTWARE ISSUES.  If you have any doubt about that, let me assure you, I heard this from Manila to some country where asking a question resulted in them hanging up on me to Canada to Nashville, to Texas, to India and more places than I have ever been in my entire life.  They ALL let me know that Dell doesn't DO software issues.

By the time I called them, I knew I wasn't dealing with a software issue.  I wasn't sure what I WAS dealing with, but when you can't even boot in safe mode, you know it's bad.  I was relieved about one thing; I could, via some of the utility programs, run some of the available DOS commands and I could access my hard drive and my data was intact. 

I spent my first night with Dell Technical Support in Manila (I'm trying to unclench my jaw as I type).  The "technician" was confident he would have me back up and running in no time.  By the way, he started almost every sentence with "By the way."  "By the way, what is it doing now?"  "By the way, what do you see on the screen now?"  "By the way, is it doing anything now?"  "By the way, what's happening now?"  "By the way, is it still in power save mode?"  By the way, about 2 hours into this lovely experience, I was having fantasies of slapping him every time he said "by the way."  At hour 3, I was wondering how much a plane ticket to Manila would cost, because I wanted to hurt him.  And by the time we had spent the entire evening together going through script after script after script (you know, the ones he was reading from, by the way), I was ready to hunt him down and so some serious damage!

You see, when I bought my PC two years ago, I bought a high end system.  I bought a Dimension 8250 with a 3.02 GIG processor and a 200 GIG hard drive.  I got the biggest and best I could afford and this was a top-of-the-line computer at that time.  Though I have never done so before, I decided to purchase the "next business day on-site parts and labor" extended warranty.  So the saving grace of this saga is that, except for software issues, which Dell DOESN'T DO, by the way, I was covered at the 2 year mark.  Had I not purchased this warranty, I would have spent $4400 for a 2 year old paperweight.

He ended our conversation that evening having completely exhausted all scripts, having read them all, by the way.  He instructed me to run all the diagnostics again and wanted me to call him back at 10:30 my time.  This meant taking off work.  The job that pays my bills and allows me to buy beads and silver so I can make jewelry.  My REAL job.  Where I work.  And so, I repeated the tests (for the umpteenth time, by the way) and explained to my boss what was going on and asked if I could take off.  I do get to work before 6:00 a.m. and I didn't get out of the office until 11:30 because I had REAL WORK to do.  But I rushed home, grabbed the phone...and then stopped just before I punched in the first number.

It dawned on me that I was CALLING Mr. "By The Way" in Manila.  The mere thought of having to hear him say that putrid phrase again caused me to freeze with dread and trepidation.  I COULDN'T DO IT!!!  So instead of contacting him, I called the general tech support number again.  I decided to gamble a bit and take my chances.

Oh, by the way, it's getting late now.  I have to get up at 4:00 a.m. to make it to work before 6:00, so if you would like to hear more of "My Adventure to Hell with Dell," tune in tomorrow evening or Saturday morning.  There's MUCH MORE to the story, by the way, in spite of the fact that Dell doesn't DO software issues.  By the way...


May 7, 2005

Let me see, where was I?  I know I was somewhere in hell, but it's hard to remember exactly where I was in telling you what I have been through with Dell.

Oh, yeah, I remember.  I couldn't call Mr. "By The Way."  I just couldn't make myself do it.  Not that he wasn't nice.  He wanted to be helpful.  But we had clearly reached the end of all he knew to do and I knew I would snap if I heard him ask me ONE MORE TIME..."By the way, what is it doing now?" So I called the general number again and prayed I would get someone who didn't have a similar annoying habit.

If I remember correctly, on this call, I reached someone in Spain.  I went through the "20 Qualifying Questions" you are asked every time you call Dell (name, case number, address, phone they can't see any information on my account, even though I went through their interrogation the night before) and then started to explain the results of the diagnostics, the woman I was speaking with cut me off and said she would have to transfer me.  Click.

Then I was in India.  Same questions (I think this is when this little ritual started to become annoying).  As I started to explain the diagnostics results once again, the guy hung up on me!

Now I'm REALLY getting ticked off!  But I am tenacious.  I called back. And I was in Canada!

The woman who answered the phone was very nice and I once again started to explain the diagnostic results.  She diligently informed me that Dell doesn't handle software issues.  You see, their standard diagnostic program didn't pinpoint the problem.  And since it didn't draw them a map, I began to realize I was on my own unless I could prove my problem wasn't software related.

So I made a decision.  I would buy a small hard drive (yes, a 40 GIG drive is now considered very small) and I would install the operating system on that drive.  Since I was convinced that my 200 GIG hard drive was intact, or mostly so, considering the many times the techs had required me to attempt to reinstall Windows.  If this worked, whoopee!  But if not, it would be positive proof that I was NOT dealing with a SOFTWARE issue because there wouldn't be ANY software installed on the drive!

I told the tech support person in Canada that I supposed this would be my only option.  She agreed, so I asked to be transferred to sales.

The next person I talked with was in TEXAS!!!!  It felt good to be back in the US.  But as I start explaining my plan, he finally asks me why I have called government sales, which was where he worked.  I am gritting my teeth, because, as you know, I didn't call government sales.  I had been transferred there.  I told Mr. Texas this and asked if he could transfer me to the correct location.

My next stop was Nashville, TN.  I was helped by a very nice sales representative who went through the standard Dell 24 Questions.  She pulled up my system, told me what I needed, said it cost $60 and how would I like to have my new hard drive shipped?  I asked to have it shipped overnight - I still foolishly hoped I could get my computer up and running over the weekend.  I verified that the drive would come with all the cables, etc. I would need to hook it up and we were off and running...almost.  You see, it was after 5:00 p.m. by this time, so my order wouldn't ship until the next day, which meant I wouldn't get it until Friday.  Oh, and she told me I had to be there to sign for the package! 

My frustration clogged brain wasn't thinking so clearly by this point or I would have had it shipped to my work.  But all I could think at the moment was how much Dell was costing me and how much they were putting me through.  I mean, I PURCHASED the next business day parts and labor warranty!  I stupidly expected that meant someone would actually come and figure out what was wrong with my PC and fix it.  But instead, I had already spent hours and hours of my time, had to take off work once and then told that Dell doesn't DO software issues, which left me having to spend a total of $80 just to prove I didn't have a software problem and then I find out I'm going to be required to take off work again!  Surely they could just leave the package at my door! 

Not according to Ms. Nashville.  I HAD to be there.  Though she was very apologetic, she assured me there was no other option.

The next day, I hung my head and crawled back to my boss to see if I could take a vacation day on Friday.  I explained the situation and he graciously granted me the day off.   I really do have a great boss!

Friday morning, I called the air freight company to verify my package would be delivered that day.  It will be (sigh of relief) and I can expect it between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.  Now, all I have to do is wait.

I'm hopeful at 8:30 a.m.  Maybe I will be lucky and my package will be delivered near the front of the route.  My noon, the hope is draining from me.  My 2:00 p.m. I'm pacing with my Schnauzer at my heels.  At 5 minutes until 3, I call to check deliver status.  The recording tells me the package has been 1:00 p.m.  It was left at the door.  They didn't even ring the door bell.  I took a vacation day...for NOTHING!!!!!!

Then I open the box.  It contains one Seagate hard drive with NO CABLES.  Zilch.  Zero.  Nada.  None. 

So I called.  You'll have to forgive me because I can't remember the location of the person I talked to next since I was just a tad angry.  I know I was swallowing a lot during our conversation.  My speech was somewhat clipped.  I explained what had happened and after playing 24 questions, they pulled up all of my information.  At which point, I was placed on hold.  And this time, I hung up.  I had experienced enough of Dell for one day.  I decided not to think about computers for least until I could start breathing more normally.


May 8, 2005

Before I continue telling you how much I've enjoyed playing with Dell this past month, I want to wish you mothers a very happy Mothers Day!  Being a mother is not an easy job if you do it right.  It takes a tremendous amount of work, patience, love and time.  You don't get to go home after a hard day at work and kick back with your feet up.  There is not a "stop" button for those times when you are so tired or sick, you don't think you can make it another minute.  But, oh, what a difference a good mother makes in the life of her child!  To those of you who are dedicated to building in your children the best possible foundation you can build, who give selflessly, love unconditionally, discipline with love, who lead by example and who teach their children how to make decisions, say they are sorry, to be strong, to be whole, to be you, we give tribute.  You change the world one child at a time!

And then, there's Dell.  By the next day, I had recovered to the point that I was able to summon the strength to at least pop in the new hard drive and install the operating system.  It was a nice day, the sun was shining, I was refreshed, renewed...what could go wrong?

Everything, as it turned out.  But I now had proof that the problem was not a software problem.  (Please forgive me if I can't get the exact time-line during the next ordeal...I'm going to have to scrunch a week of stuff together because it has all run together into one nightmarish glob.)

You see, I couldn't even install the operating system.  It was doing exactly what it had done when the techs had me try to reinstall the operating system on the old drive, but this was a brand new freshly formatted drive.  It had no reason to be causing problems.  And there was NO SOFTWARE AT ALL on the drive, so even Dell couldn't blame the problem on software.  Right?

Well, sort of right.  They did try.  The operating system itself is, technically, software.  I was back in Canada and when the tech support person told me that Dell doesn't DO software issues, I distinctly remember seeing red!  I said, "And just what software would that be?"  Silence.  No problem.  I had plenty of stored up anger and frustration to express.  "You see, there ISN'T ANY SOFTWARE ON THE DRIVE!!!!  That's part of the PROBLEM.  So I'm trying to understand which software you are talking about.  Are you suggesting that for some unknown and mysterious reason, this computer, of all the computers in the world running Windows XP, has decided to reject the installation of the operating system?  Is the software resisting installation?  I'm just trying to understand how you can POSSIBLY believe this is a software issue when I have a computer with NO SOFTWARE ON IT!  NONE!  So, I need you to explain to me how a software issue is preventing the installation of Windows XP.  Please.  Tell me how this makes sense?"

More silence. No explanation was forthcoming. 

I was transferred.  More diagnostics were required.  Eventually, I was connected to someone in some country who would at least try to help.  I still had to go through all the questions I had been asked before.   I had to go through yet more diagnostics.  Finally, the last in a string of technicians agreed it didn't seem likely that we were dealing with a software issue (duh!) and he decided I needed a new hard drive.

I don't suppose I am the most patient person on earth, but honestly, I think even Mother Teresa would have been pushed to the limit on this one.  I mean, HELLO!  I BOUGHT A NEW HARD DRIVE!  I ALREADY HAVE ONE!  IT'S STILL NOT WORKING...  I wanted to scream and beat the phone against the counter, but I clenched my teeth even harder and explained this particular point as nicely as I could.

Well, maybe I needed a new mother board too, he replied.

Fine.  Whatever.  Maybe so.  I would have voted for the video card, but I would just be guessing.  I suggested he might want to send a mother board and a video card, just in case the mother board didn't fix the problem.  He said that was a good idea and so, the plan was in place.

Now, lest you think this all happened in one conversation, like I said earlier, it kind of all blurred together in my mind.  It actually took an entire week to get this much accomplished.  I had to deal with a slew of people until someone finally made the logical connection and agreed I did, indeed, have a hardware problem.  So my "next business day parts and labor warranty response" was delayed until Monday.  I had a whole weekend to twiddle my thumbs and think about what Dell had put me through and still didn't have a working PC.  I was not pleased that had taken almost two weeks to get Dell to agree to respond on site.  Surely now, having a technical person troubleshoot the problem, it wouldn't be much longer until I was up and running again.


Monday morning, I was told to expect a call from the service who would have the mother board and video card.  They would set up a time to meet me at my house.  I was optimistic right up until I received the call from Smart-Tech.  "Joe Dispatcher" informed me all the technicians were already booked on assignments that day.  They would call me tomorrow or the next day to set up an appointment.  Best they could do, lady.  Not good enough, says I.

I called Dell back.  I kindly explained that I had purchased that stupid next business day warranty.  I had waited TWO WEEKS to get it and I was supposed to get it TODAY!  I paid EXTRA for this warranty and if Smart (ha) Tech couldn't come, they needed to honor the warranty and find someone who COULD.

Two hours later, "Joe Dispatcher" called to inform me that a technician would be at my house that afternoon.  I would have to take off work again, but maybe this will be the last time. They would call me when they were about 25 minutes away.

Which they did.  And when I arrived home, a guy was pulling sitting in a beat up vehicle in front of my house.

Evidently this technician resented the fact that I had disrupted his schedule with a Dell warranty issue.  He barely spoke.  He pulled my computer out from under my desk, almost slammed it onto its side, opened it up and proceeded to yank all the cards out so he could replace the mother board.  He had his fingers all over the circuitry, a no-no for sure, and he was very rough.  I told him to start treating my property with more respect or get out.  So he was a little more gentle pulling out boards with his fingers all over the circuitry.  Lovely.

He slammed in the mother board and slapped the cards back in.  Then he pulled out a hard drive.  I asked about the drive, since I thought it was agreed that Dell would send a mother board and a video card.  But he didn't have a video card.  Evidently the tech support person at Dell had just wanted to get me off the phone and hadn't cared enough to think this through after all.  So the unneeded hard drive was installed, the case was snapped back together, the cables were hooked up, the PC was turned on with the installation CD in the CD Drive...and the guy starts walking to the door!

I asked him where he was going and he said he had other calls to make.  I pointed out that we didn't know if my problem was fixed (stupid me, thinking he was supposed to fix my computer!).  He continued walking toward the door as he shot over his shoulder, "We don't do software..."  And he was gone.  He had been on site for all of 10 minutes, if that.

Stunned, I stood staring at the door.  I just couldn't believe it and probably wouldn't have if it hadn't actually happened to me!  Eventually, I walked back into my office and began the formatting and installation process once again.

By this time, I can do this in my sleep.  So an unoccupied part of my brain is thinking through what has just happened.  I'm a person who takes very good care of my stuff.  I work hard for everything I have and I know it's going to have to last me because I don't have the kind of money to replace things or buy whatever I want.  I have to plan and save up, so I tend to appreciate it when I can get something and I pamper it.  In less than 10 minutes, the *#@%+ !$$ from "Smart Tech" has totally compromised every board in my PC, has manhandled the memory and has demonstrated a complete indifference about what he has done.   I'm feeling sick to my stomach and I'm tired of having to fight for what I paid for.  But I have no other alternative, you see, because as it turned out, the problem remained unchanged.  I still didn't have a working PC.


May 9, 2005

I had one of those days at work that has drained me to the point, I can't even begin to add another segment to the Dell saga.  So I thought I would share some pictures with you that I took right after my PC crashed. 

People tend to think of Oklahoma as a desolate wasteland...and there are parts of it that are.  But Tulsa is located in "Green Country" and these pictures will give you an idea of why the Northeastern part of the state has been endowed with this name.

These pictures were taken from my back yard early in April.  The woods behind my house are full of Redbud trees.



I have always loved Lilac, so this year, I bought a little Lilac bush.  I'm thrilled to report it is still alive and doing well, in spite of my not so green thumb!  Maybe it has something to do with all the help Maddie is giving me with watering...

 I love the smell and they are so beautiful when they are in bloom.


The next sunny afternoon, I'll take some pictures of the way things look now, which would be roughly 4 weeks later.  You won't BELIEVE how green everything is.  It looks like a jungle! 

Hope you enjoyed this little break.  Sometimes it's nice to stop and smell the flowers.


  May 12, 2005

I guess it's time to wander back to the Dell saga.   You can probably tell by now, if you aren't so tired of it you've stopped reading, that this saga kind of goes on and on and on.  In fact, it occupied most of my off-work time during the month of April and caused me to miss several partial days of work...

I called Dell and let them know that I was very unhappy with the "service" I received from Smart-Tech.  I was frustrated that Dell hadn't sent a new video card like they said they would.  And I also explained that the initial problem remained unsolved.   The only good thing I can report about this encounter is that I didn't get the "don't do software" line, though I was asked to "try a few more things."  By the time I finished "trying" and the technician agreed the video card was certainly suspect, it was a few minutes before 5.  This is the precise moment each day that Dell turns back into a pumpkin.  Nothing happens after 5:00 p.m.

But it was still a couple of minutes before the magic wore off.  I told the Dell employee that I had already waited a very long time for help and asked if they would PLEASE make sure the card shipped that day.  But, no, no, there can be no guarantees now that it is 1 minute after 5!  At which time, I pointed out,  if they had not put me through yet another round of over-done diagnostics, it would have been well before 5 o'clock.  So it appeared that I was going to be penalized - AGAIN - for cooperating.  Couldn't they at least TRY to expedite the order?

At some point after this, my case was "elevated" and I was assigned a real technician.  Not only was he a technician, HE COULD READ!  He read through my case notes...honestly!  I told him about my concern with Smart-Tech, but  he said he wouldn't be able to send someone else. He would, however, at least make sure I didn't get the same technician.  Not much of a concession, considering, but it was a concession.  He was going to call when Smart-Tech was at my home and ready to work on my PC.  He said he had instructed them to stay to determine whether or not the card fixed the problem.  When they called to set up a time to meet me, I was to e-mail him.  He would call about 30 minutes later.  So far, so good.

But the Dell tech didn't call.  And the "different" Smart-Tech employee was "Joe Dispatcher."  He was not happy with me.  I had caused problems and I was a pain in the butt.  Hope fizzled like the air rushing out of a balloon.

He came in and was not as rough as the last person.  But he was far from a professional level in that he didn't make sure he was grounded and he, like his predecessor, fingered the cards.  Perhaps I am too picky...I don't know.  But this bothered me at the time and it still does.

The new video card secured, he closed the case, plugged the necessary items back in and started it up.  The Windows XP disc in the CD drive began to spin.  He wasn't leaving yet.  This was good.

He decided to reformat the drive, which was a 15 minute process.  Trust me...I had done it so many times by now, I KNEW!   But what was this?  I turned around because I suddenly realized he was closing up boxes and heading for the door.

I asked him to stay; several times, in fact.  I told him what the Dell technician had said.  He snorted and said he had other calls.  And besides, they don't handle SOFTWARE ISSUES...

Truly, I wanted to scream.  Instead, I watched stupidly as he ambled out the door.  So I waited until the drive formatted, watched the installation program copy files to the drive and then my computer rebooted.

The Windows XP logo appeared, then disappeared.  The "Power Save Mode.  Press Any Key or Move the Mouse..." nasty message blazed across the screen.

Resigned to having to deal with more trouble, I called Dell.  Asked for the person who had gotten stuck with my case.  But you can't actually reach a specific individual unless they like you enough to give you their direct line number.  I, apparently, was NOT well liked.  I left a message.

When C. Dell called back, he told me he would resolve my case one way or another.  The first step?  You guessed.  More diagnostics.  But he was very nice and told me he wouldn't have me go through many more.  And at least the things he had me do were not the same things I had been required to perform so many times before.  So I spent another evening crawling under and out from under my desk, checking lights and checking them again until he was satisfied that there weren't many courses of action remaining.  He said he would contact me the next day with a plan of action.

And he did.  Contact me, that is.  He told me - gasp - that Dell was going to replace my PC!!!  I was stunned, to say the least!  But I was SO relieved!!!!  After all the careless handling by the people that had been dispatched to "fix" my PC, I no longer had any faith in the integrity of the components.  And this whole thing had been so drawn out, the stress (not to mention the sore muscles from all of my "on-hands-and-knees activity under my desk) was beginning to take a toll. Perhaps I am a wimp, but I didn't know how much more "fun" I could take, nor did I know how much longer my boss would be gracious enough to allow me to take off work for what was beginning to seem like a never-ending project!

But then he called back.  To tell me that they couldn't replace my computer because Dell doesn't make the Dimension 8250 any more.  Instead, Smart-Tech was coming to call again.  With another mother board.  At which point, I kind of came unglued.  I remember saying, "No.  No, they are never coming in my house or touching my property again.  And I cannot continue to take off work like this so they can pop in a board and leave, not knowing if the problem has been resolved. They have already, in all probability, degraded the performance or life of the memory and boards. No, no, no!"   C. Dell, perhaps shocked at my outburst, quickly excused himself, saying he would call me back again. Later.

Which he did.  He told me he had cancelled Smart-Tech.  He told me he had full authorization to replace my computer with a model that was comparable to what I had and that was what would be done.  He would get to work on it and let me know when to expect my new computer.  After all the up's and down's, it was hard to get too excited.  But at least I didn't have to deal with the "service-is-not-us" S-T guys.  I didn't have to hang my head and go back to my boss to ask for more time off.  He is a wonderful boss, but there are limits to everyone's patience.  And he is the president of the company.  He was depending on me to handle several important projects.  I didn't want to let him down.

But I still didn't have a working PC...


May 14, 2005

 I promise you, I am nearing the end of this ordeal.  There are a few more twists...Dell didn't make this nightmare any easier.  But they did come through.  I guess they want to make sure you "pay" for what you way or the other.

So, I'm getting a new computer!  It was just a question of when.  Waiting is always hard when you needed your computer 3 weeks ago and are still doing without.  But when the end of the week came and went without a word, I grew concerned.  So I sent C. Dell an e-mail and asked if he had been able to find out when my replacement PC would ship.

I didn't get a response that day, but the next day, the Dell computers we ordered at work began to arrive.  Boxes and boxes of Dell computers were stacked along hallways.  The following day, even more were added to the pile.  And somewhere in all the excitement, my replacement PC came in also.  A sharp guy in shipping and receiving noticed it was addressed to me instead of to the company.  So I got a new computer at work and my replacement for home almost at the same time.

I drive a Honda Prelude and getting the Dell box in my car was a challenge and I'm sure anyone watching me got a good laugh.  Getting it back out again was also comical, but at least I was sheltered in the privacy of my garage!  I lugged it in, opened the box and strained and tugged until I finally had it out.  And I discovered it had only 1 CD drive and 1 hard drive.  Not to panic though.  I would remove the other components from my old system.  It would be fine!

I gently laid the computer on its side and this is when I discovered the "new" system was actually "refurbished," which means used.  That bothered me somewhat, but then, my old PC was 2 years old, so maybe that was O.K.  Guess I would have felt better if they told me that was what they were doing.   I opened the case and connected the floppy drive.  Then I pulled one of the CD drives and connected it.  But, hmmm, what is this?  There are no other connections for my ZIP drive or for the old hard drive (needed to recover my data!) and the hard drive connection was...different.  Looks like I was going to have to call Dell again.  Sigh.

Though I had read some articles about SATA (Serial ATA), I had never actually seen what the connections looked like.  But when I called C. Dell back the next day to ask him how I was supposed to hook up the ZIP drive, he told me that I had received a Dimension 8400 with SATA technology.  Because of that, he said, I would only be able to use one hard drive and one CD drive in the new system.

At first, I'm thinking to myself, but wait...I installed the 2nd CD drive and the floppy drive.  No, I didn't boot it up to see if it worked.  I didn't want to accept the system until I knew what I had so I had stopped everything the evening before.  But it seemed reasonable to me that if there was a bay for the drive and connections, they should work...right?  I asked, "What do you mean I can only have one hard drive and one CD drive?"  His response: that's all the board will support.

I was totally confused.  SATA was good.  But there was no way I was going to accept a system that didn't allow me to have the same configuration I purchased.  I couldn't even believe I was expected to compromise to this extent!  I must have asked the question at least 5 or 6 times; only one CD drive and one hard drive?  How can you expect me to accept that?

C. Dell told me he thought I would be happy with the "new" system.  He asked why I needed two CD drives anyway and I found myself at the point of total exasperation.  He said he would escalate my case...yes, they have levels of escalation...and either he or the new person assigned to my case would be in contact with me.  And it was Friday again, so I was facing another weekend without a computer.

I was so upset, I didn't even touch the PC until Sunday evening.  I decided to take a look inside to see if I could understand why the 2nd CD drive could be hooked up, but not used.  I also want to look again at the SATA connection, now that I knew what it was.

When I opened up the case, I suddenly understood.  I could only have two IDE devices.  So I could only hook up one CD drive and one hard drive assuming I was going to recover the data from my old drive!  But there were four SATA connections on the board.  I could have two IDE devices and four SATA devices!!!!  C. Dell hadn't clarified this, maybe because he didn't know.  The information I had received with the computer was sketchy.  Perhaps what he accessed in the system was also somewhat lacking.

I sent an e-mail telling him that I thought we had just had a misunderstanding and explained what I saw inside the case.  The solution now was simple: let me trade in the 40 GIG IDE hard drive I just purchased, send me a SATA compatible ZIP drive and we were in business! 

I received an e-mail from A. Dell Monday morning telling my case had been escalated again and assigned to him.  I forwarded the message I had sent to C. Dell on Sunday evening.  He replied later that day telling me very firmly that Dell doesn't exchange 3rd party hardware.  No response to the ZIP drive issue.

If playing a hard game of tennis comes to mind at this point, I fully understand.  I slammed the ball back over the net, explaining the hard drive was purchased to prove I was having a hardware issue and it was purchased from Dell, order number #####.  He meekly returned, "...didn't realize you purchased the drive from is approved...don't make ZIP drives that are SATA compatible."  We were making progress.  The next day: How about a couple of 256K memory keys to compensate for loss of ZIP?  "How about an external USB ZIP drive?" was his response.  We shook hands and walked off the court.

The hard drive arrived the following day and the ZIP drive arrived a few days later.  I recovered my data and this past Friday 13th, I shipped all the old hardware back to Dell, may it rest in peace.  It took over a month, but they did finally make it right.  Most of my software has been reinstalled now and most settings have been restored.  I am still a bit gun-shy, but the "new" refurbished system seems to be running well.  But I do wonder how many customers are tenacious enough to go through what I went through without throwing their hands in the air and giving up.  And that makes me wonder if that is why warranty issues are handled the way they are.

Which brings me to the next point.  Dell has advised me to purchase the extended warranty on the refurbished replacement system.  And I can't decide if I really want to buy myself another ride on this Merry-Go-Round ride from hell.  What do you think?



May 16, 2005

I am finished talking about Dell.  The story has been told and it's time to move on to better things.  I have some more pictures taken from my back yard that I want to share with you tonight.  It will let you see how much has changed in the past 5 weeks.

One of the things I always look forward to is the honeysuckle.  You can see it in the foreground just above the fence line in the picture to the left and near the top of the picture below.  The scent bequeaths the breeze with a sweet perfume and it smells so incredibly good!






























These pictures give you an idea of the dense greenery I have behind my house.  I have a lot of privacy, which I love.  And it's very peaceful sitting out in the back yard listening to the birds singing and watching the squirrels playing.



It also provides a sanctuary for rabbits, a family of big horned owls, some raccoons, an opossum or two, a pack of coyotes, frogs and even a family of hawks.  The crickets will almost drown out the constant drone of the nearby of those city sounds I've never quite gotten used to.  I enjoy hearing the silence upon occasion, but it's a rare event here.


There are so many different kinds of birds that take refuge here.  Their songs in the morning are incredible!  Literally hundreds of birds suddenly begin singing a multitude of different songs and the astounding chorus swells as more and more join in to welcome the morning.  It is enough to fill even the most jaded person with a sense of amazement and wonder.  Then in the evening, the calipee is repeated, fading as the sun dips below the horizon.


Though I hear a random song here and there during the day, it is only in the early morning and early evening that they all come together at once, singing with abandon and joy and hope.  I always wonder what mysterious instinct calls them to this ritual each day.  And what meaning does it have for them?  Perhaps it is their gift to anyone who will listen.  Or maybe it is just the joy of singing that causes them to lift their voices in song.




May 22, 2005

Have you ever had friends over for dinner and wanted everything to be perfect for them to let them know how special they are to you?  And then, nothing works out?  So you feel like a fool?  And as far as letting them know they are special realize they were so busy being polite, acting as if everything was fine, the only message they got was that you are a disaster?  Sigh.  This is what happened to me on Saturday evening.

This couple is very special to me.  I love them both; they are intelligent, fun, thoughtful, depthy, funny, creative, wonderful people.  I liked them the first time I met them and I have only come to like and appreciate them more over time.  They are also very good being a host and hostess; and this is something I am NOT good at.  I always feel as if I'm off beat and can never quite get it together.  But when you care about people and you realize socializing is an important ingredient in their lives, you try to "speak their language" to tell them you care, right?

So I decided to be brave and ask them over for dinner.  They, in turn, were brave (they know I don't cook often) and accepted.  I decided I would do a shrimp Alfredo dish with a Caesar salad and a loaf of garlic and herb bread.  I can cook noodles!  I can cook shrimp, add fresh mushrooms, sauté them in butter and herbs.  Mix the linguini with the three cheese Alfredo sauce, add the shrimp and mushrooms, and Walla!  Or not.

Everything was going according to plan.  My timing was would all be ready about 6:40.  They were due between 6:30 and 7:00, so I figured they would arrive around 6:45 or 6:50.  But by 7:00, when they still hadn't made it, I started to worry.  I put the pasta in the oven to try to keep it warm.  The bread was starting to get really hard, so I took it out of the oven.  By 7:10, I took the pasta out of the oven too, fearing it was going to be gummy from overcooking.  They arrived at 7:15.

By the time we sat down to eat 10 minutes later, the pasta was seriously cold and horribly gummy.  The bread was still soft inside, but the crust was quite a challenge.  Only the Caesar salad survived.  And I felt like I was about 2 inches high. 

They were very kind and gracious and we had a good time talking and laughing in spite of the disastrous meal.  She brought a killer strawberry shortcake for dessert and it was incredibly delicious.  But I don't think they got the message that I think they're great and I continue to be a socially awkward, out of step doofus.  I am embarrassed and I feel like an idiot for trying to do something so out of my element.  And they are probably embarrassed for me. 

Life doesn't always turn out the way you want it to, you know.  In fact, sometimes it seems like it goes every way except the way you planned.  I just wish I didn't always come out looking like an idiot...


May 24, 2005

Whew!  What a DAY!  Sometimes I think it just can't get any more crazy...I mean, how much more can a person do?  How many more hats can you wear?  How many more projects can you handle before you become totally ineffective?  The work keeps piling up and most of it is urgent. After 20 interruptions, can you remember what you were starting to do an hour ago?  You know, that really important "whatever it was" that HAD to be done NOW?  By the time I get home most evenings, I can't even hold a conversation with my dog!

I guess this is the way life is.  But somehow, it doesn't seem like this could be what really living is all about.

Ah, well...speaking of my dog, she has learned a new trick!  I have been working very hard to train her not to run over to the fence and bark at the dog next door when he starts barking at her, I have somehow created a "candy" monster.  You see, you train a dog by rewarding them for their good behavior.  So when she comes to me instead of running over to the fence where "dumb dog" is barking, I give her a treat.  I always tell her, "You are sooooo you want a candy???"  And she dances and jumps at the door to get inside.  She then peels off to the kitchen, via the long way, going full speed and she bounces up and down until I finally produce a treat.  At first, this worked fabulously.   But then, I began to notice she was wanting to go outside more and more frequently, but not particularly to do her "business."  She would sniff a few weeds, then gaze wistfully across the yard at the fence.  Like this...

If I got tired of waiting and called her inside, she would LEAP to obey me, running "obediently" to the door, where she dances in delight!!  When I let her in, she high-tails it to the kitchen just like she does when she really earns a special treat!

Now, about half of the time when she is desperate to go out, all she wants to do is get a treat.  So we go through this comical routine where she casts a wistful gaze toward the fence, waiting for me to call her back inside.  I'm trying to figure out how to train her, but not let her get the wrong message or out-smart me at my own game!   The only thing I have come up with so far is to not give her a candy every time she pulls this particular stunt.  But you know what?  If I do that a couple of times, the next time the neighbor's dog starts barking, she tears across the yard with her neck arched and starts adding to the altercation!

Anyway, I now have living proof that you CAN  teach an old dog new tricks.  Maddie will be 12 in October and she learned this particular game in no time flat.  So you have to be careful what you teach them because everything can be used against you.  All's fair when it comes to getting a "candy!"  Right now, she has me trained very well indeed...


May 28, 2005

It was a beautiful, cool, misty morning this morning.  Maddie and I took advantage of the cool and the quiet; we spent some time sitting outside enjoying the seclusion of the back yard.  Oops!  I should have said "...enjoying the seclusion of Maddie's yard."  For it is hers.  In its entirety.  And she will challenge any squirrel, rabbit, bird, 'possum, raccoon, bug, toad or butterfly that thinks differently!

Luckily, the rabbit scooted quickly through the fence when I opened the door and the squirrels took to the trees.  The birds were still singing in the woods, having just awakened.  So instead of shooting from the back door like a race horse released from the gate, she slowly sauntered out and began making her rounds.

This is the world that greeted us; kind of magical, really.  I'm one of those weird people who likes fog.  Maybe I wouldn't like it if it was always foggy here.  But it isn't, so I like it and I thought I would share it with you.

It's still very nice out...not too hot, though the cool of the morning is long gone. Traditionally, this is the first big "lake" weekend and I'm sure everyone who headed out of town with their boats and jet skis was a little disappointed.  Not that it won't be pleasant.  But a person can only feel totally superior to others while at the lake if the weather is 100 degrees with 90% humidity.  Then they can think about all the lowly people (like me) who aren't enjoying the breeze off the water and periodic refreshing dips. 

Magic moments don't last.  That's the sad part.  And later this morning when I took Maddie to the vet (she has been losing weight), they told me she has dropped two pounds.  That's a huge amount when you only weighed 20 lbs. to begin with.  So they're doing a full blood work-up.  But she has developed a heart murmur...a mild one so far.  Two on a scale of one to six.  The vet said one day I will wake up and she will not be doing well at all, though she was fine when we went to bed.  She told me the fluid will suddenly have become too much for her heart to deal with and it will back up in her lungs, causing congestive heart failure.  There are things that can be done to help her even then - for awhile.  And right now, her lungs are clear.  But her time with me is nearing the end.  She will be 12 in October, after all.  She could live another year or only another month.  I pray it will be at least another year, as long as she is doing well.  She will take the all the magic with her when she goes.


May 29, 2005

Maddie met her first turtle today...a box turtle and a pretty big one!  She is SO BRAVE!  I noticed her creeping up on something, then bounding backwards at hyper speed.  This is always a good indication she has found SOMETHING that's alive, either toad or bird or bug.  This time, she hit pay dirt.  This was something quite new!

The turtle was as frightened of her as she was of him.  As I approached, what little of his head had been showing was quickly withdrawn, leaving only a small slit through which he could check me out.  Of course, now Maddie was feeling more brave and she wanted to sniff him over.  But even then, she kept her nose a good 10 inches away.  Once satisfied, she snorted, barked at him a couple of times (warning him to get out of her yard, I'm sure) and felt compelled to distance herself in half way across the yard.

I was left to figure out what to do with him.  My yard is fenced...privacy fence across the front and down both sides and a picket fence across the back.  I couldn't figure out how he even got in, considering the pickets are too close together to allow him to go through.  Believe me, I tried every angle.  I didn't want to drop him over the top.  That would be a 4 ft. drop!  Might hurt him.  And I didn't want to carry him (peeing) through the house to get him outside the confines of the fence either.  Hmmmm...

Then I remembered the gate in the front.  It's kept locked, but there is a space between the gate and fence and I was sure it would be big enough to stuff him through if I turned him on edge.  Which worked.  Except he landed on his back.  So I ran through the house and around to the gate where he was laying with all appendages extended to their maximum range in a vain attempt to right himself. 

I picked him up and carried him on back toward the woods, leaving him in a secluded shady spot.  When I looked back, he had poked his head out and was watching me walk away.  I could be wrong, but he looked bewildered.


  May 30, 2005

I had an adventure last night.  It isn't the kind of adventure I have ever wanted to have and I hope to never have one like it again.  Yet, I am certain it could have been much worse had it not been for some people who were faithfully doing their job.

I received a call last night at 8:40 p.m. and my caller I.D. identified the caller as "toll free number."  I am on the state and national "do not call" list, but there are those who persist in making solicitation calls to me in spite of this fact.  I find it to be very annoying, disrespectful and rude.  So when I see these calls come in, I don't answer the call.  They never leave a message, which further confirms the nature of the call.  So I was a bit surprised to hear someone talking when the answering machine went off.  It was turned down enough that I couldn't hear what they were saying, so I decided I would check it once I finished what I was working on. 

After taking Maddie out for her final bathroom break for the evening, I remembered the call and checked the machine.  It was Discover, calling about some unusual activity on my credit card.  They were calling to verify the purchases.

They've done this before...for example, when I bought my Dell computer a couple of years ago.  The charges were much larger than I normally charge, so they checked it out.  I have always appreciated the fact that they do this.  It's certainly in their best interest, but it also protects me.  In the 6 or 8 times they have called over the years, the charges have always been legitimate.  This time, they weren't.

I wasn't unduly concerned when I called back.  I had paid for an oil change on Friday afternoon and I had spent a good amount with the vet on Saturday morning.  Those weren't normal routine charges and I thought they might have caused the computer to raise a red flag.  But that wasn't what they were calling about.  They were calling about an almost $400 charge at Office Max and an over $500 charge at The Sport Hut.  The purchases were made Sunday evening.  But not by me!

I had just received my statement.  So there is no question that, had they not called, I would not have discovered the charges for 30 days. By that time, there would have probably been more to go with the two that had already been made.  I have a feeling the Discover Security Center employees routinely make hundreds of these calls to to customers and rarely find a problem.  I say this because the person helping me sounded as surprised as I was when I told her I hadn't made the purchases.  She said, "No?!?"  To which I replied, "No."  And we both sat silent for a moment.

She closed my account and said they would be investigating.  They will send me a report as to their findings in approximately 30 days.  But I am grateful they caught this so quickly, though totally mystified as to how the information was obtained.  What could have been a major problem is just a minor inconvenience thanks to some employees somewhere at Discover who did their job well.  They certainly have my appreciation!


May 31, 2005

Hard to believe we are already at the end of May!  My final thought for the month as we welcome June and summer is this:


"We all get heavier as we get older because there's a lot more information in our brains."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!!