Happy Hamster Computers Sucks

I bought a computer from Happy Hamster after struggling to maintain an old laptop I use for work years past its sell-by date. When it finally crashed, they managed to scrape some material from the hard drive for me. Windows 10 had recently reared its ugly head and, upon hearing my complaint that I did not want a computer with Windows 10 on it, sold me a business-class laptop with Windows 7. I paid more than I would have for something at Costco or the like, but figured with the warranty from HH and Windows 7, what could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turned out. The thing started crashing nearly immediately. I took it into HH. They blamed my anti-virus software, highly rated anti-virus software a close friend has used without issue for years. I removed the anti-virus software. The issues persisted. Blue screen 2-3 times a day. Crashing constantly. I took it in again. And again. And again. Each time, they blamed something in the software, everything BUT the computer (which turned out to be refurbished, not new, but whatever). They tried to sell me their service to seek out dangerous viruses, because that had to be the problem. It couldn’t possibly be that the computer they sold me was a lemon. They finally said they could send it back to the manufacturer, which would take at least a week. Now, maybe all of this wouldn’t be such a problem for some people. Doubtful, but it’s possible. However, I used this computer for work. My livelihood depended on it. In addition, I was in a master’s program and using it for school too. In no way was it possible to be without it for a week. I didn’t have another computer to use as a backup. I didn’t have $800 to throw at another computer. Never once did they offer a loaner or offer an exchange. They just kept shaking their heads and doing really nothing at all.

Finally I took it to another shop who set up another user and charged me $250 to do so, something HH had done during one of my many visits and had not worked. It didn’t work this time either. They also wanted to reinstall Windows, something I would have done, too. However, since the install disks weren’t given to me by HH, neither of us were able to do so without, you guessed it, sending it back to the manufacturer. One thing they did confirm and determine was that none of this was being caused by some big, bad virus, HH’s go-to answer for all I was experiencing. I finally determined I was going to have to suffer through until I really had a week to send it back to the manufacturer.

Nearly a year later, and close to the year warranty deadline, after dutifully backing everything up 20 different ways, I was able to leave the computer for a week while I went on vacation. I took it into HH, gave them the mile-long list of trouble I had been documenting since minute one. (Every time the thing blue screened on me, I would save the report Windows gave of the problem.) When I returned from vacation, it turned out they had not sent it off to the manufacturer, but had reinstalled Windows. I brought the computer home and the blue screen issues had resolved. Yet immediately upon return, any time I booted up the computer, I was shown yet another warning, that my battery capacity was “dangerously low” and that I needed to do something about it. The one day I took the thing off electric power and ran it on the battery, it died within ten minutes. I dashed off an email to HH asking why the battery suddenly had no capacity. I was told that batteries are notoriously iffy that way and I could get a new one for about 40 bucks. This for a battery I had been using less than a year, and mostly plugged in.

I have no faith in Happy Hamster. They might be able to recover lost data for people, but don’t buy their computers. If the computer you buy from them does not work, they will not fix it or replace it. They will give you the runaround and expect you to figure it out alone. If I were reviewing them, I would give them 2 stars instead of 1 only because the one fellow with whom I mostly interacted was extremely sweet and polite. I really liked him. Happy Hamster I don’t like. Not one bit. Today I spent 35 minutes getting into my computer after another, yet ANOTHER blue screen. What a joke.

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

This piece was published on Huffington Post.

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

I have figured out one possible cure for insomnia.

I started having insomnia in the mid-1990s. Mine is the sort that wakes me up at night, my little brain buzzing like an electrical transmission tower, thoughts of work, thoughts of family, song worms, you name it.

To keep reading, click here.

Tenuous Connection

This article was published on Huffington Post and can be seen here. Regular readers of my blog will recognize it as part of what I wrote yesterday.

Tenuous Connection

How will you and I connect if there is no electricity? How will you and I connect if there are no phones? How will a world made of 9 billion people exist when the only means of communication is the same as that which was available in 1850 (or 1750, when there was no postal service)? What if we no longer have motorized transport in most of the world? We would be stuck with our legs, or bicycles. Where would all of this leave us, back in some-distant-past BC because so few people know how to ride horses or use animals to pull wagons? In this, the third world has already outpaced us. How quickly the strands of our amorphously tangled web of connection would fall away if there was nothing to give us the power to connect with one other as we do in the modern world.

Human “leaders” seem hell bent on war and destruction, and it is not implausible their actions could lead to nuclear war. Fukishima is leaking and we can’t stop it. Weather patterns have changed so drastically it is not just possible, but highly probable that many major catastrophic weather events will occur in the near future.

Finish this article by clicking here.

The only time I will use staples will be in a stapler.

I have been very busy lately. I have to use a PC for work because the software I use in my job is only windows-based. As is the case with PCs, the damn thing started running really sluggy and slow. I knew it needed a cleanup and defrag and all that crap, but I just didn’t have time to sit around and stare at it while it wound its way through all that stuff.

One day while in Staples purchasing my latest round of toner and paper, I saw a circular advertising PC tuneup services for $9.99. Ah, I thought. Good deal. I’ll let them stare at the stupid thing for two hours. It would be worth it not to have to. I called and was told that if I dropped it off on Wednesday I could pick it up on Thursday morning. Even better. Wednesday after work I headed on over to leave my non-trusty-computer at the store.

It should have been clue one to me that there would be problems when, contrary to the information I had been given over the phone, I was informed nearly immediately that it would be three days to get the computer back. Oh no, that won’t work, I told them. If it was going to take three days, I was going to have to do this another time.  The salesman hemmed for a moment then said it could be done the next day.

Clue one, Lara.  Clue one.  You weren’t paying attention…

I then said I had to get going because I had an appointment.

Clue two, Lara. Clue two.  Mr. Computer Fixit guy kind of sauntered over to look at something else another Computer Fixit guy was doing, then went behind the counter and got a little widget to insert into my computer. He inserted it and stood there talking to me, telling me how my computer was the nicest he had seen come through the tune-up station in a while. He looked like Napoleon Dynamite, only without glasses. He kind of sounded like him too. In the end I spent a half an hour in there, in spite of my constant assertions that I needed to get going.

I explained that my computer had been running slowly. I explained that on vacation, my colleague had used the computer and claimed it had been infected with malware, but our office computer guy and she had removed this malware with some program from the web.  I explained that in spite of this, the thing seemed to be running slowly.

Do you use Norton?  No, I don’t like Norton. I have BitDefender. Bit Defender? Never heard of it.  Well, it was top-rated on PC Magazine’s choice for virus protection, and I bought it based on that review, and I haven’t had any problems with it. (Incidentally, since all this went down, I perused the web and saw that PC Magazine had again rated it in their top three.)

Well, I have never heard of it.  Okay, so that makes you a superstar.  Can you just take my computer and let me go now?

They told me they would call me when my computer was done and sent me on my way.  I wasn’t kidding that I needed the thing the next day for work.  It is all I have for work and all my work is on it.  Without it, I can’t do 99% of my job.  Well, more like 85%, but you get the idea.

The next day, Staples had not called me by 7:30 p.m.  I was beginning to worry, because I had a big response due on a file in less than five days and could not afford to be without my computer.

I called Staples and was patched to the computer center. The guy on the phone informed me that he hadn’t been able to get it to update. He had tried two times and it failed at the end each time. Okay, yeah well, I need my computer. I don’t care about the updates. I’ll get to them later. I need my machine. He said I could come pick it up.  It was late and baby was going to bed, so I said it would likely be in the morning. Okay, fine.

The next day I got busy with a bunch of other things and since I didn’t have the computer, I waited to pick it up until after picking Milla up for school. When I went in, I was told it had three viruses, and that if I wanted them removed, I would have to pay $200.  I asked what the viruses were and was told that they didn’t know, but it would cost $200 to have them fixed. The guy told me that the Staples tuneup hadn’t even detected BitDefender (See?  It’s such a horrible program!) He said I should have gotten the Norton antivirus software, and was told that Norton had picked up the three viruses on my computer.

At this point I began to believe this was all a scam to get me to pay Staples 200 more dollars. Whatever, I said to the guy.  I needed my computer yesterday so can I have it now? It was frozen in update land because, in spite of the fact I told them the night before that I was going to come and get it and to forget about the updates, apparently they had tried again multiple times anyway.
That evening I sat down to work. The computer had seemingly passed through its updates, although this proved false. Later when I had to shut down because of the other issues that arose, it turned out the thing still wanted to keep updating. I finally had to go in and manually choose updates, leaving off the last one. It’s still screwed up and every time the thing shuts down, it tries to install the last update and fails, freezing and requiring a hard reboot.
The machine ran slower than it ever had before I took it to Staples. Frustrated and worried I wasn’t going to be able to finish my work, I did something I should have done this in the first place, and called Costco support. Remember though, I was up against a deadline and out of time, so it did not occur to me to call them sooner. In this, please cut me slack for my lack of foresight.
After 45 minutes on the phone, the computer was running speedily again. However, there was one problem that the tech could not figure out.  I now have to log into my wireless by going through the control panel, going into network preferences, and re-entering my security key every single time I log on. I used to be able to right click on the now disabled icon on my taskbar, click my network, and voila!  Logged on. Not any more.

The worst thing though, did not appear until I sat down to finish drafting the response due in five days. My Adobe Acrobat did not work. Every time I opened it I received an error message letting me know the registration had been corrupted and I needed to uninstall and reinstall. I ran an uninstall repair, but this did not fix the problem.

Frantic, I called my office to see if they had a serial number.  The only serial number they had for me was one for Adobe Standard. I had Pro and needed Pro. The Standard would not work. I kept trying to do my job around the error, but it wouldn’t work. I optimize scanned text. I insert and delete pages. I enter in text boxes and rectangles. I used Acrobat. A lot. No more. Finally today, up against the deadline and sobbing in frustration, I uninstalled and reinstalled a trial version. Unfortunately it doesn’t allow the user to do any of the functions I use. In tears, I called my friend Debbie. She took my documents, made them into PDFs, stuck in the Exhibit words, and bundled them all together, then emailed it back to me to file.  I wasted so much time on this problem, the response wasn’t nearly as tight and good as it could have been, and I filed it near 4 in the afternoon.

During this, I called Staples. I have a salesperson online who helps me with purchases. I had written him an email on Sunday after wasting two hours slogging through computer problems. He called me Monday. We played phone tag until today. He said the store had told him I said the computer had viruses. No, I never said that. He wanted to three-way call with the store to get this straightened out, so we made an appointment for tomorrow, after the big monster response was turned in.

Today, during my frustration, I called the store and asked to speak to the manager. He knew my case. He said the techs told him I said the computer had a virus. I never said that. He said my computer was “riddled with viruses.” That’s funny, because that’s not what they said and if their “tune-up” was supposed to clean viruses, why didn’t they do it? Why did they say it would be $200 to do that or give me any information at all? He said the “tune-up” had failed. That’s interesting, because my receipt says it worked just fine, that only one update failed. Well, your computer is riddled with viruses. So you’re telling me that my computer, which worked just fine and dandy until the day I got my computer back from Staples, magically developed viruses that only affected Adobe after I got it back from you? No answer? And are the viruses the reason the internet hookup icon on my taskbar is disabled and that no amount of tech support with Costco will bring it back? Yes, it must be. No apology, only an offer to bring the computer back and let the trolls get their hands on it again. Not on your life. Kick me once, shame on you. Kick me twice, shame on me. I’m not G.W.

What a load of horse pucky. Seriously. These yahoos want me to believe that my computer was riddled with viruses and that these viruses worked their magic only after my computer was left in their store. That, my friends, is a pile of steaming poo, a lie, a foulness, a thing most unclean.

I decided then and there to tell my story. My hope is that even one other person will read my words and decide that staples are for staplers, not a place to shop in. Take your business elsewhere. I’m going to. Office Depot is right across the parking lot.

Personal, Life, Weather

It’s raining again today, but it was sunny for three days in a row even though they said it would only be one, and I got to wear shorts yesterday it was so warm, so I can’t complain about rain today.

Apple took away my brand new MacBook Pro.  I have to say, my apple products are on the shit list right now.  I bought a new MacBook Pro.  Immediately upon bringing it home it started having this issue where the screen would not light up when I opened it.  It did not happen every time I opened the computer, but a lot of the time.  I figured it was brand new and should not do this so I exchanged it for another one.  What a mistake. The new one had the same issue, only it happened every single time I opened the computer, and it was difficult to get it to come on.  So I called Apple.  They said it was a “known issue” and told me some key fix while turning it on.  It didn’t fix it.  Every morning I have a tiny window in which to write before my baby wakes up.  I spend most of that tiny window trying to make the computer wake up, so the other day, in complete frustration, I called Apple again about this issue.  During the conversation with the Apple support representative, my ear touched my iPhone and hung it up.  Ears aren’t supposed to hang up iPhones.  I tell you, at that moment, Apple was at the height of the shit list and I was mad as hell.  While on hold during my call back, the guy I had been talking to called me again.  He apparently used my serial number to get back to me, which is a good thing because it was the only information I had given him before the call hung up.  We spent the next half an hour working through a bunch of repair things behind the scenes in the guts of the computer’s programming.

Didn’t work.  Yesterday I opened up the computer and the damn thing would not come on no matter what I did.  Here I have been touting Apple products to anyone who will listen and I am having all these issues, although I can say I am typing this on my 3-year-old MacBook that still works just fine.  I just wanted a computer with more space and RAM, which is why I bought the Pro.  Maybe I shouldn’t have.

Anyway.  In frustration, I made a Genius Bar appointment between court and my next client.  I took it in there and left it with them.  Of course the piece of shit opened up and worked just fine in front of the Genius Bar guy so I looked like a hysterical female.  However, he looked at some history thingy in the guts and saw something that backed up my story, and agreed that they would do some tests and get back to me.  They had not gotten back to me yet by late afternoon yesterday so I called, and they said it would not be ready until today.  They said they “had not finished looking into the problem,” which means “We have not gotten to your computer yet.”  Duh, I’m not dumb.

My small writing window is rapidly closing here.  Isabel woke me up today, but she has been running around and is now eating the pancakes Milla decided to make for breakfast before school (I wonder who will do THOSE dishes?). It will not be long before I am the only person in the world with whom my baby would like to interact and there are other writing things I need to do that are more important than cheering the sun or complaining about computers.

Spam

I have to wonder, do the originators of the spam selling Penis Enlargement Pills and Best Orgasm Jelly Ever actually ever sell any of their crap?  Seriously.  What is their incentive in continuing to send these ads to our junk mail folders?  Is it cost effective to pay to send the ads and hope one moron in a million will actually click and buy?  I just don’t get it.

Library Thieves

When I signed on to edit books for this small publishing company, the owner convinced me to buy Adobe Indesign.  Because the bundled software with 3 programs gave me way more bang for my buck, I bought that rather than just the individual program.  As part of this bundle, I got Photoshop C4, a program I had long been interested in.  Unfortunately, I have no experience with even the Elements program, so I was pretty useless when it came to trying even basic photo editing with the thing.  I’m like an infant with a space ship.  I went online to find instructions, but mostly ran into those useless advertising sites trying to get me to download “free” teasers that I could replace with a full instruction program if I wanted to pay for it.  Um. No.

I decided then that I would go to the library and look at their instruction manuals.  If I found one that was really good, I would go buy one somewhere.  Well, guess what?  Every single copy of every single instruction manual at the New York Public Library that I looked at was missing.  Some jackasses out there are ruining it for the rest of us.  Gee, thanks.  I called the library and discussed with a helper person.  He confirmed that this is indeed a problem.  He helped me do a more advanced search to sort and ensure certain books were available, but all of them had 15 or 20 holds on them.  I’m thinking maybe Amazon used might be the way to go.