Hard to get good help

When your computer packs up, and you’re not a techie type, you’re stuck with taking it to someone who’ll charge you an arm and a leg. Many quite simple repairs take so long that the cost of repair (at $100 an hour and counting) comes to more than your old beige box is worth. And if it’s a printer, forget it: to the recycling centre, go.

It’s not necessarily the fault of the repair person. Often a problem may be easy to repair, but difficult and time-consuming to identify. If it involves reinstalling Windows, your data, and your software it’s going to take a while.

And I just know you don’t have backups.

If it’s a compatibility problem or an intermittent fault, the techie may, justifiably, take the easy route and tell you that you need a new motherboard, and a complete re0installation of Windows. That may not be totally true, but it’s a cheaper option than spending hours locating an obscure fault.

If your computer’s more than 5 years old, even replacing the motherboard may cost more than your machine is worth unless you’re willing and able to do your own Windows re-installation. On top of that, your old memory and video card may be incompatible with the new motherboard.

“What the fuck’s a motherboard!” I hear you cry.

The $1000 router repair

I had problems with my Belkin wireless router a while back. It wouldn’t play nicely with a Windows upgrade on my desktop. It took me several days and a lot of stress to sort out.

In the navy we gave such pestilential devices the always effective “float test”; but with current laws on pollution of the ocean, that’s probably not a goer anymore. :o)

Ask the experts

So I asked the maker for help. I’d have had more joy asking my maker.

Firstly, Belkin suggested updating the firmware. I’d already thought of that, but couldn’t find it on the Net. Unfortunately the experts at Belkin couldn’t either: they gave me the wrong link for it. Following their incorrect advice and loading the wrong firmware graduated me from a medium level problem to a total catastrophe.

If I hadn’t been on a tight budget, at that stage I’d have bought a new router, but I persevered and the nice Indian lady at their help desk (I use the term help loosely) told me that I had to change the router from automatic to a specific DNS address.

Which, of course, was totally incorrect. I wasn’t absolutely sure that she was wrong so I went off on another wild goose chase.

Finally finding the right firmware fixed the problem, no thanks to Belkin, but it took me days to get to that point. Google to the rescue. If I’d been charging the job out at commercial rates the fix would’ve been several times the cost of a new router. That wouldn’t be acceptable to a client so I’d have taken a big loss or, knowing that this compatibility issue wasn’t going to be straightforward, I’d have recommended a new router early on in the drama.

Life is fraught.