“Arrrgh!”: The Rest Of The Story

I am finally typing at my desktop, and therein lies a tale.

As I briefly documented here, I spent much of the day failing to get my computer to work, though it was fine late last night, and it is less than six months old. The initial problem was that I had no WiFi connection and “no networks available.”

I spent almost three hours with three different Verizon techs who made me check connections and wires, reboot the modem, restart the computer at least 15 times, uninstall and reinstall programs and updates, and some other things I didn’t understand.

We changed settings and the date, to no avail. Then the last Verizon tech put my desktop in safe mode, whereupon my password suddenly wouldn’t work. She couldn’t explain why. I could connect turn my WiFi on, which represented progress, but I was locked out of my computer and stuck in safe mode. I also couldn’t reset my password. At one point she had me working off of two Microsoft websites on my laptop to find a way to  reset it, while also using my cellphone.

Verizon’s best being officially stymied, they put me in touch with a Microsoft tech, though I had to wait on hold for about 20 minutes, and I had to ask him to repeat, slowly, literally every statement he made because his accent was impenetrable, and he spoke faster than an auctioneer. I tried his various fixes, many of which I recalled fron hours earlier, for another two hours—no, I never had lunch— until he gave up too, and made an appointment for me to talk to a super-duper tech tomorrow at 1 pm. At that point, having dealt with this disaster from a little after 10 am to a bit before 4 pm, with a perid in there when my computer was supposedly taking one hour to regain WiFi, but didn’t, I couldn’t access anything on my computer, and was locked out, stuck in safe mode, and contemplating driving nails into my face, just to lighten my mood.

At 5 o’clock, my son Grant stopped by as he had promised to do after work, and had everything fixed in about 30 minutes.

Ethics observations:

  • The Verizon employees were professional, dedicated and patient. They were helping me with my computer free of charge, even though we established that their system was not at fault: our internet connections worked everywhere but on my desktop.
  • The prompts and options in the bowels of Windows are so obscure it almost makes you wonder if it’s intentional. Surely it doesn’t have to be this complicated for reasonably intelligent non-technicians to follow. Sure, as Mike Bloomberg points out, a farmer couldn’t be expected to understand it, but I’m a lawyer
  • At least my son didn’t embarrass me, as he has at other times, by fixing a device by just looking at it. He has had the power to fix anything mechanical by intuition, instinct and chutzpa since he was about 9. I regard the fact that some people are born with this ability as cosmic injustice, and I want to know what Democrats propose to do to address the inequality of results it causes.
  • I know my Microsoft tech was speaking to me from Sri Lanka or the Black Hole of Calcutta, but if a major corporation is going to outsource customer service jobs abroad, the ability to speak English clearly ought to be mandatory.  Yes, this principle also applies to McDonalds staff handling Drive-thru orders. Last week one such employee was such a mush-mouth that I said, despite the growing line of cars behind me, “I’m not ordering until I understand what you’re saying, so speak slowly, and distinctly.” She actually brought a supervisor to the mic, and that worked just fine.

11 thoughts on ““Arrrgh!”: The Rest Of The Story

      • I had repeated display failures with the last iteration of the Arthur in Maine official this-machine-is-how-I-make-money laptop. Because I had the foresight to buy extended warranty coverage (and because I flip machines every three to four years as a safety precaution), the techs came to my office – the machine would still work through an attached monitor, just not the display screen in the laptop.

        The techs are subcontractors to Lenovo. They are all ex-military. Fabulous bunch of guys. They’re very open about the process: they don’t diagnose the failure – that would take time and add cost. Instead, they replace the suspect part – though it’s worth noting that each “part,” as they call it, consists of dozens, even hundreds or thousands, of individual components attached to a circuit board.

        If it works, after the swap, great. If it doesn’t, they pull out another part, and if that doesn’t work, they put the apparently failed piece back and replace the next suspect part down the line – and if that doesn’t work, they assume that the replacement parts failed. If they don’t have spares of those, they go get more and come back in a day or two.

        Oh, yeah – so you know, when they DO actually identify the suspect part that failed, they send that entire part back to China for diagnosis and and replacement of the component on that part that failed – it could be something as dumb as a single resistor. There, the failed component is replaced, and then the entire assembly is sent back to the States and stuffed back into the replacement-part inventory in a van driven by a subcontracted ex-military tech. A warranty replacement part could have several years on it, with other components ready to fail.

        Anyway, after nearly a week of false starts and failures, my previous this-machine-is-how-I-make-money was working like a champ. I asked the tech what was different this time. Why does it work NOW, after five or six visits?

        “PFM,” he told me.

        “PFM…? What does PFM mean?” I asked.

        “It’s an Air Force term,” he said. “PFM means Pure Fucking Magic.”

    • There is plenty of stories that Microsoft itself does not understand how much of its operating system works. They were unable to have Windows machines print postscript and pdf for years and it was rumored that no one at Microsoft understood how DOS printed (why do you still print to a parallel port which is then translated to a network or USB port?)

      From what I remember, Microsoft did not write DOS. They sold IBM on a theoretical OS that didn’t exist, but which had fantastic features. They delayed delivery so that IBM would have no choice but to accept whatever Microsoft gave them. Then, Bill Gates bought a discarded OS for $64,000 called QDOS (quick and dirty operating system) with none of those cool features, and made IBM take it. For their next OS, they hired the same team that developed VMS at DEC to create Windows NT. Again, Microsoft didn’t write the OS. Windows 3.1, 95,98, and ME were based on QDOS. Windows 2000 to today are based on Windows NT.

  1. At least my son didn’t embarrass me, as he has at other times, by fixing a device by just looking at it. He has had the power to fix anything mechanical by intuition, instinct and chutzpa since he was about 9. I regard the fact that some people are born with this ability as cosmic injustice, and I want to know what Democrats propose to do to address the inequality of results it causes.

    We call that the “IT Aura”. It is a real phenomenon, and even though I haven’t been in IT for almost 7 years, I still possess a residual field that will still occasionally allow me to fix a problem just by walking into the room.

    As to how to acquire that aura, have you tried identifying as an IT expert?

    • 5 years away from IT here

      This is a real thing. I have waved screwdrivers at vending machines, threatening to dismantle them if they did not take a dollar that had been rejected many times… until I walked up. It worked too many times for statistical probability to account for it.

      Last month my wife was driven to tears by an iPad and app misbehaving. She actually left the house to clear her head… it worked for me within 2 minutes.

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