When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!

Computer Malfunction

Why no updates to our travel pages after the middle of August???  We had a computer malfunction that escalated into a full blown disaster because of the lousy work done by a computer shop in Bath, Maine!

This all started when I wrote the New Hampshire update at our campsite in Arundel, Maine.  We were staying at a place called Bentley's Saloon.  In their campground there was no wifi so I walked up to the office/saloon, where there was supposed to be wifi, to use it to send the update and check my emails.  The only problem was that the wifi was down.  No wifi at all!  So I went back to our campsite and put the computer away.  When I had walked up to the office I had just put the computer into sleep mode; I had not shut it all the way down.  We were there for three days and then we moved on north up the coast of Maine.

In sleep mode the battery went completely dead.  So, four days later, when I tried to use it I had to plug the power cord in and let it charge for a while.  Then when I tried to boot it up the screen would come up with a message that said there was a file error and to click on the button below to fix the problem.  So I clicked on the button and the computer churned and hummed and came up with a second message that said to click to restart.  So I did and then I got the exact same message again about the file error and click to fix it.  This went on for several loops before I gave up and shut it down.

I used my phone to look up and call some computer shops in nearby Bath, Maine.  To the ones that answered (several numbers were disconnected) I explained my problem.  The second shop said he had time if I brought it in to him.  So I did and he said he would look at it and get back to me.  Later he called and said it would be the next day and I told him we had reservations on up the coast and we would need to have it done by mid-day.  He said it would be ready.  The next morning we packed up and about 11:00 the next morning I stopped in to see him.  He said he had put a new hard drive in and was transferring my files and that it would be ready later that afternoon.  I again emphasized our need to get on the road.  After lunch, about 2:00, I was back and he was not done,  He said I had a lot of documents, especially pictures, to transfer.  I asked if they were still on the old hard drive and he said yes, so I told him to forget the pictures and get the computer ready to go.  While I waited he said he had had to replace the drive and put a new operating system on it.  A little before 4:00 it was ready to go and he wanted $355.46.  I tried to pay him with a credit card but he only took cash or check.  I told him we did not have the cash and checks went through our bank's echeck system.  I said I would send him a check when I got to camp and booted up the computer.  We then left and got to our campsite a little after 7:00 that night.

The next day I booted the computer up and it ran, but I only had a operating system and some of my documents, NOTHING MORE!!  All my programming WAS GONE!!  The computer WAS USELESS!!  No email, no web builder, no mapping, no word processing, NO NOTHING!!  All I had was a new hard drive with an operating system.  Now I'm not a completely ignorant computer user.  In fact, back in the days before Windows I was considered the computer tech at work and travelled to other offices to fix computers.  This was not my primary job but something I had gotten interested in and sort of fell into it at work when people found out I could do these things.  When Windows and then networks came along and the extra load helping others with their computers became too much I got out of it (and they hired a full-time IT person to take over what I had been doing).  So back to the current situation, I took the computer and shut it down and put it away.  I didn't touch it again until we got home about three weeks ago.  Oh yeah, his check, without a running computer I couldn't access my bank so I called my mother and had her send him a check.

After getting home I booted up the computer and opened the file manager, a part of the operating system that will show the files and programs on a hard drive.  I hooked up the old hard drive to the computer with an adapter cable and looked at the files on it.  There were only my documents on it!  No other files at all!  The computer tech in Maine had deleted everything, INCLUDING THE OPERATING SYSTEM!!!  No wonder he had put in a new hard drive and installed, and charged me for it and an operating system.  He had deleted my old one!  I wasn't in fear of losing all our documents because we carry a separate 500 Gig external hard drive where we keep a copy of all our documents, including pictures.  The pictures alone are 246 Gig, about 49,000 pictures including over 10,000 from our European travels.  And we have another hard drive of two terabytes at home, in the fire safe, with the documents and pictures current as of our leaving home in February.

Well now that we are home again I have access to the "Recovery Disks" that I had made after I had bought the computer.  I put the first one in the CD drive and it hums and whirs and then tells me the BIOS has been changed and it cannot restore the files.  The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is the bottom, most basic, level of the various commands that control a computer.  Changing it is very serious and can easily screw everything up, as it did.

So I contact SONY and they tell me that "Geek Squad" at "BestBuy" is their authorized service agent.  I take the computer and the original hard drive down there and tell them my tale of woe and that I want my old hard drive up and working.  For $200 they get it running and I take it home.  Now comes the big job, re-installing everything that came on the computer.  I start by accessing the SONY support website and after entering my model number I download all the drivers and controllers for my computer.  Then the various diagnostic and help files and programs and all the rest of the files in SONY's long list.  This takes me several days and after installing all these I now have a computer the same as when I bought it over a year ago.  This is an immense improvement over what the tech in Maine gave me but is still not what I want.  But now I can proceed to install all the programming I have that makes the computer useful in my life.  Just like I did when I bought the computer.  This includes programs to make our business cards, do word processing, build these web pages, plan travels and update the GPS with waypoints, make and read PDF files, and all the other programs we use on a daily or intermittent basis.  Then I have to reinstall all my documents, including pictures.  

It has taken me three weeks to get the computer back to a useful state.  It has cost me over $500 and out of that all I have gotten a second hard drive.  It is the bare drive.  If I buy an enclosure for it (only another $20) I will have a 1 terabyte external drive to replace my 500 gigabyte external drive.  But this is a very expensive, hard way to get another drive.

I am not happy with the shop in Bath, Maine.  I asked him to boot up the computer but instead he deleted the operating system, changed the BIOS, and deleted all my programming.  I could have done that!  If he was unable to meet my request he should have said so and left the computer the way it was.  Then I would not have been any worse off.  I could have waited until we got home and then used my "Recovery Disks".  I was trying to get the computer back up and useful BEFORE we got home.   That was why I had taken it to him.

The shop name is "Com Plus LLC" and is at 112 Front St. in Bath, Maine, 04530.  It sits above the pharmacy and the owner/tech is Tom Harper.  I highly suggest you avoid him if you ever need computer help in New England.

Now on with our travels