Friday, May 24, 2013

Sometimes I wish I was teaching with chalk on a blackboard

I have been using computers since about 1965, when I learned to program in Fortran for a possible dissertation topic. (I ended up not using it, though) and then about 15 years later teaching students at a high school in Denmark about computers and how to use our very primitive school computers.

In the years since then, I have learned html, css and java script to make websites, like my own site at and even xml and Visual Basic, which was becoming popular for technical writers (my in-between career.) On my computer I have most of Adobe's products, Microsoft products like Visio, interesting fonts, MathType, SnagIt, Prezi, and numerous educational programs like Sketchpad, Fathom, something called Green Globs, etc. to use in teaching math and science.

But computers don't always work. 

And gone are the days when I can call in a computer-savvy friend to fix what went wrong. I picked my current Dell desktop {which has just crashed 2 times since I wrote those words] because it had lots of USB ports, since almost everything, mouse, keyboard, external drives, scanner, headset, and even webcam and screens, have to plug into the computer through these ports - which is a great improvement, except that now there aren't enough ports for everything we used to use dedicated ports for.

And the big problem is, when it crashes, NO ONE has a clue what's causing it anymore. I know that because I finally got tired of having keyboard and mouse freeze (and scanner and the one screen plugged into the USB port, and the headset while I'm on Skype or Rosetta Stone) one or 2 at a time. Since I currently don't have a job, I don't even have access to my school's tech team, so I'm alone on this one.

It took me a long time to figure out that the problem was the USB ports, after paying the tech from Staples (less than a year after I bought it) $99 to run a test on it after the freezing began to happen with increasing frequency - as just now with about 2 minutes after restarting the computer.

And customer service doesn't work either

But some companies have gotten too big to serve their customers - Staples says the warranty (which has now passed) is with Dell, not them. I have been on the phone or chatted with tech support from Dell in India countless times (actually I have kept a log of the errors and a record of most of the contact with India.) Each person has taken over my computer, fixed something and let me go. After which Windows has decided that it needs to repair what they did and gone back to an earlier time. Twice a local tech has come to install parts - and it froze immediately afterwards.

What I want is a new replacement computer. What they want is to replace the hard-drive, or reinstall the OS, in either case losing all the installed programs, which I would have to spend hours locating and installing. With a new computer, I'd at least be able to transfer the major programs over a cable. Also, there is no way they're just going to take my hard-drive with all my personal information on it before I've wiped it clean. (I worked as a technical writer for a company that produced software to find hidden deleted files on computers, like porn and espionage, so I know that it has to be reformatted before I let it go!)

I have spent hours communicating with them, and waiting for my computer to wake up again; Dell's techs have spent hours communicating with me, and replacing minor parts in my computer. If they had replaced it as I requested at first, we would all have been saved enormous amount of time - which in my book is money. This is bad business practice for Dell, and I certainly will never buy their products again!

I have started a complaint with Better Business Bureau in Austin, but so far Dell holds tight, and is trying to keep correspondence away from BBB.

But my advice is, don't buy Dell. I'm not quite sure who one can trust with decent customer service. Some of my relatives say Apple. But I'm not ready to go there yet. We'll see.