Monday, April 24, 2023

On laptops and Goldilocks and repair scams

I'm not one of those writers who can write longhand. I live and die by my laptop. If it's not working, I'm not working.

A writer's best friend

Which is why I was devastated a couple months ago when my three-year-old Lenovo died. Or maybe I should say it was wounded. The laptop still powered on. It still let me open Word and stuff. But it wouldn't talk to the internet. It didn't even see my home wifi network.

In fact, just before it broke the little window that pops up showing you what networks are available started freaking out, flashing though all of them, one by one, until in a spectacular display of pixels, it crashed.

Okay, I made that pixel part up. But the laptop was totally incommunicado, at least where the Internet is concerned. I assumed the network card had blown, which could be a very pricey fix. Even just having a technician open a laptop to take a look inside can run into hundreds of dollars.

Did you ever open one up? A long time ago, on another laptop far far away, I thought I could fix a loose power cord socket. Boy, was I wrong. I was able to open the laptop, all right, but as soon as I did, the guts spilled out all over the places: cables and cords and teeny tiny chips. It's crazy how much stuff they cram inside on of those things. And even crazier for me to think that I'd be able to cram it all back in. Spoiler alert: I didn't.

But I digress.

The point is, I had no internet connection. And without the internet, I lost access to Movie Magic Screenwriter, the software I use to write my plays. (Don't get me started on Final Draft.) I needed to do something. 

Trial and (lots of) error

So I started looking for a new one. And like Goldilocks, I tried two before settling on the third. The first one, a 15.6" Lenovo, was too big. The keyboard was just a lot, and when you spend hours a day typing, typing, typing, the feel of the keys are, well, key. So back to Amazon it went.

The second, a 14" Lenovo, was the right size and the keyboard felt good, but it wasn't a touchscreen, even though Amazon said it was. And that was a showstopper. After just an hour of playing around with it, my fingers ached from using the touchpad to move the cursor around. Back that one went as well.

For the third one, I tried something radical. I went to an actual store--my local Best Buy--to try out their selection of laptops before committing to one, and I ended up taking home a 14" HP (apparently, Lenovo no longer offers a 14" laptop with a touchscreen). I'd never had an HP before, and it felt pretty good under my fingers, even though the keys were a little clunky. At the store, I practiced typing for what must have been an hour and it seemed like something I could get used to. I was sure what few typos I made would stop once I got familiar with the layout. So I bought it.

But after two months of daily usage, I was still making a lot of typos--the keyboard just never felt quite right--and I was starting to miss my Lenovo. The keys on that laptop were nearly flush with the surface and required only a very light touch. Seriously, typing on that baby made your me feel like they were gliding across a velvet cloud. 

So I decided to take the Lenovo to my nearest Data Doctors and at least find out what it would cost to fix it.

After the obligatory patronizing advice ("It could be your home network") and then confirming that the problem was in fact with the laptop, the Data Doctors guy said they'd charge me $60 to diagnose it and would offer me a little something they called...


Despite the ominous sound of that, I thought it was a reasonable deal and accepted it.

A day later, the guy calls me and says they don't know what the problem is, but they think it may be the driver and they can fix it for $250 membership which includes one year of repairs, their own cloud service (which I don't know what it is), and their own anti-virus software (ditto). I said no, I just want them to fix problem that, you know, I brought it in for. They said sorry, that was one option they didn't offer. 

So I took my laptop home. And guess what? The problem was gone. As soon as I fired it up, the Lenovo saw my home network and connected to it. Apparently the problem had been the driver, of all things, and Data Doctors happened to fix it while they ran their diagnostics. A potentially serious problem taken care of for a relatively paltry $60.

Which leads to two possibilities: 1) Data Doctors knew they'd already fixed the problem, in which case they were completely shady by attempting to strong-arm me into paying another $250 for essentially nothing, or 2) they didn't know they'd already fixed it, in which case they were completely incompetent.

I don't know which is worse.

But the bottom line is I now have two working laptops: my beloved Lenovo, and a reasonable backup in case that one crashes again.

Eat your heart out, Goldilocks.

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