A curious birthday indeed

It’s official. I’m an old fart.

My family is out of town celebrating the birth of our grandson, so I’d planned to spend a relaxing day at home Saturday writing. I know it’s technically “work,” but it’s also my passion, so it sounded like a good idea. We had planned a Skype session from the hospital later on, and I was looking forward to that.

I fired up my HP dv6t, and Microsoft informed me that it was downloading and installing Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which is a bunch of little things put together in one package. Fine. It happens all the time. My day began its torture after the restart. I could not access the Internet. I could send and receive email, but I couldn’t access the Web to save my life.

I called Time Warner first and spent some quality time with a fine man from Manila who spoke perfect English. We tried everything. He tried everything. I got out my HP netbook and tried that. Bingo, it worked. “It must be a problem with HP,” was the conclusion. He gave me their number. Alan, another nice guy from the Philippines took my call. Before I could speak with him, though, he had to check my warranty and told me it had already expired. I would have to buy a service contract before he could even talk to me. I explained that the computer was purchased by my employer with the stipulation that I bought an extended warranty, and that I had certainly done that. Nope. No record. “If you can give me the order number, I can verify it,” Alan said.

I’m now starting to get angry, because my wife is the only person who could find such a document, and she’s in Vir-fucking-ginia. I’d have to find the receipt later and ask for a refund.

After some unkind comments, I spent $100, and Alan began walking me through things. He asked if I had a back up of my important stuff, which didn’t sound good. Our efforts took forever and accomplished nothing. At one point, however, after some background Windows program had run, Microsoft informed me that it needed to reload SP1. Fine. Maybe they screwed something up the first time, so I thanked Alan and got down to business.

The reinstall went smoothly and the two error messages I’d received after the original restart disappeared. I was joyful and suddenly able to get online. Victory!

But it was slow as molasses! I mean dail-up slow. I did Speakeasy tests and determined I was getting about 4 megs down and a half a meg up. It seemed much slower, however. Everything on the computer seemed slow. I grew impatient, so I went back to the netbook and repeated the Speakeasy tests. Same results, so I called Time Warner back.

This time, it was Rose in Manila. It took forever. I had to put my phone on the charger. She did some tests and finally found something. Then, she told me she’d have somebody out to fix it on Wednesday. That’s right, Wednesday, as in 5 days away.

I got a little more angry. How a company like Time Warner — whose very lifeblood is its customers — can treat people like this is all the evidence you need in order to accept that something is terribly wrong with our culture and its economy. I yelled at her and demanded to speak to a supervisor.

She said I should speak with the “local” office, which made my eyes light up. Then, she transferred me. I was now speaking with Mae in El Paso (hardly local). May felt compelled to have me start at the beginning, which really infuriated me. She was a sweet thing, but she kept wanting me to try things I’d already been through, including hardwiring to the modem. That bloody well didn’t work. She insisted that Time Warner was sending a signal to me, something I already knew.

She apologized but said Wednesday was the soonest. I hung up and yelled at the dogs.

My wife called. I yelled at her.

Then I called my friend Richard Andrews, a computer repair guy who has helped me out in the past. He could sense my anxiety and said he’d be over as soon as he could. The guy lives in Keller. I live in Frisco. It’s about an hour’s drive.

Richard arrived about 7:30 p.m. and said he’d never seen such a thing. His first thought was to uninstall SP1, which took about 30 minutes. Bingo, everything went back to normal. He then hid the update, so that I would never install it again, and went his way. It cost me a few bills, but I was happy to pay. Richard went above and beyond with me, and I couldn’t help think that this is the way all those who service the industry need to behave. I guess that’s why his business is booming. If you live in the DFW area, you simply won’t find anybody better.
Geek friends reading this will say, “I’d have uninstalled SP1 right away.” Good for you. I was simply unable to put 2 and 2 together and come up with that solution. After I got back online, I researched the problem, and, lo and behold, I’m not alone.

Windows 7 is a great improvement beyond its predecessors, but Microsoft is still Microsoft. Damn them!

So I’m 65 now, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this particular birthday. Maybe that’s what this was all about anyway: Life tapping me on the shoulder to remind me of my own powerlessness in the overall scheme of things. The most important thing about my birthday, after all, was that the circle of life twitched, and new life came into mine just one day earlier. I missed my Skype session, but that’s tiny in comparison.

Kinda puts things in perspective, eh?


  1. Other than THAT Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? Sorry for your headaches, happy for your birthday. (-8

  2. re this: “How a company like Time Warner — whose very lifeblood is its customers…” — who ever told you that? I’ve been working in cable mostly since leaving Virginia and one thing is for sure — customers are hardly ever right nor all that important. Over the last few years, AT&T and all the big cable boys have lobbied hard enough to get control of cable moved to the State Leg. level — one of the things they were able to change were call centers. Good luck on the local thing. We just happen to have a call center here for our cable provider because we are a bigger market for them.

  3. Monique Leich says

    I use casper and i love it.. i have like 3 hard drives full of backup from my main pc! also i do a online backup as well! great job joe we love the info..

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