Tales of Remote Laptop Repair

Written in 2014 when I had 3 daughters at University, and laptop repair long distance was not an easy thing to do. I muddled through it and at the end I had quite the Laptop Boneyard of spare parts.

Last week my youngest daughter called to say that her laptop computer was in distress, and was not working, due to the batter being dead, and the charging unit unable to charge it. This continues the family tradition of:

By the end of the 2nd University year, all laptops will crash or become  unusable at a time when an important assignment must  be completed, which results in the purchase of a replacement computer either immediately, or shortly after that time.

Big Cajun Man – Rules of Technology – 2014

I kid you not, that is exactly what has happened to all 3 of my daughters. The first two laptops were HP (I wrote about my oldest daughters problems in Student Computer Safety) and this last one is a Dell, all three have had issues with the charging unit, the system overheating and/or hard disk crashes (i.e. the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). The problem is that portable computing is now “table stakes” for most University Students (unfortunately), so (for now) a laptop computer is a necessary (expensive) evil.

Old Laptop
A Rehabilitated formerly dead Laptop from the “Big Cajun Man Laptop Graveyard”

I ended up having to buy another Dell Laptop to send my daughter back to school with, and after some judicious “Dad’s I.T.” wizardry, I was able to extract all the important data from the laptop’s hard drive.

I am now left with a “dead” laptop however Costco is now “fixing” the broken computer (thanks to their Concierge warranty which doubles the normal 1 year warranty for most computers), but the methodology to make the “fix” happen is quite puzzling (to me). I had to call someone, who took down all the details of what transpired (and verified I had in fact bought this PC at Costco). Once it was determined that the computer needed fixing (which seemed obvious to me, but I had to convince the person at the other end of the phone that), the young lady said the PC would be serviced and I would receive a Box very soon.

The Box arrived, shipped via Purolator to the house (naturally left at the front door, without ringing the door bell). This magical Box, was padded with styrofoam, but it had tear aways so that the computer fit in it properly. The box also included a whole bunch of documentation for me to fill in, and finally it included a pre-paid packing label (for Purolator) to put on the box.

I filled in all forms, my wife made sure the computer fit in the box, and we included all the requested documentation(that we could find). We taped the Box shut, put the shipping label on it, and took it to the Purolator drop off site, and away it went. It is now whisking off to a repair place in Toronto, that will hopefully fix the computer, and then ship it back to me (presumably by Purolator).

My only question is, how can this be cost effective?!? I suppose it must be, or Costco wouldn’t do it this way (they seem to be a very smart retailing firm), but it leaves me scratching my head (and hoping to see a Purolator truck showing up at the house soon). Other retailers follow this model, so it must be that they have very cheap rates with the courier companies, and a well negotiated support contract with whoever is fixing the computers.

Assuming the machine can be fixed I now have a 3rd lap top to add to the “Big Cajun Laptop Graveyard”.  I  point out that this piece was actually written on one of those formerly derelict computers (picture above).

Other Back to School Thoughts?


Things to Buy on Black Friday

Black Friday has become Black November, and the orgy of spending being done in the name of Christmas is getting very much out of hand. I never espouse spending for the sake of spending, so keep that in mind this Christmas season (don’t go for the Holiday and end up unable to pay (that rhymes)).

With that in mind here are the kinds of deals you should be looking for on Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, or Black Autumn.

  1. Anti Virus Software for 3 computers for less than $12 , I have seen it in so many places that if you are still renewing your anti-virus stuff auto-magically, you are a fool (there I said it). I have talked about the Anti-Virus Tricks going on, so this shouldn’t be anything new to my regular readers.
  2. If you need memory cards (USB Flash, or SD Memory) or the like, that is a useful thing to get, since you always are going to need more storage for your Digital Camera, Tablet, or for back up. For that matter look for a 1 TB external backup drive for your laptop because backing up your data is really important.
  3. If you can find a copy of Quicken on sale, buy it! No time like now to start working on your Christmas budget and track your spending.
  4. A Christmas Fruitcake, start a new tradition, give a fruitcake to someone you particularly don’t like, but still have to buy a present for, and see if they are any the wiser.
Another Fruit Cake
Oh Joy! Fruitcake!

A really big garbage can if it’s on sale, to put all the crap you will end up accumulating over the holidays. It’s important to be able to deal with the new crap you will be receiving.


TD and Free McAfee

So I kept noticing on the On Line TD Banking home page a mention of protecting your computer with McAfee, and on Saturday I investigated further. The short answer is: yes, it does seem that they are giving away McAfee Anti-Virus if you are a TD client. I haven’t actually installed the “Free” software, but I have registered for it, and it does seem to be a real copy of the software (if anyone has done this, please leave me a comment on your experience).

At first blush this is a bit annoying (for me) if it is a real copy of the software, as I have already updated my software (now I got it very cheap on sale, but I still paid money, for something I could have received for free which always annoys me). No Alanis that is not Ironic, just really annoying.

The second thing that I noticed was that after I registered the software with my existing McAfee account, this “Free” software asked me to update my credit card information (since I let it lapse), and the “Free” subscription would not allow me to continue until I gave a valid credit card number with a valid expiration date. This seems odd to me since I am not paying for this “Free” software, so why do they need a credit card?

Why you may ask indeed, and after I finished the registration process the system noted (in a side column, where I might not have looked) that the “Free” software had Auto-Renewal set to ON, so that I wouldn’t lose my “security experience”. To quote George Costanza, “A HA!!!!!!!“, now I get why they wanted an up to date credit card, so they could auto-renew it some time in the future and charge me $75 for the year (also remember George’s comments about “… sticking it to me!”).

To stop the auto-renewal is a simple matter of finding the auto-renewal page, and turning auto-renewal to OFF, however, I would guess many folks who would not go looking for that (or even notice that auto-renewal was on).

Why does computer security software marketing tricks seem solely based on Used Car Sales and Carnival Games of “Skill” trickery?


The Importance of System Backups

Over the past day or so I have spent a fair amount of time piecing back together my home computer system (at least one of them, I have a veritable cornucopia of systems). This system is very important in that it is the center of my computing universe, in that it holds a great deal of important data, so after resurrecting the system I will dole out a little bit of home spun home computing advice, about the importance of backups.

This is ENIAC the Computer My Dad Programmed. Backups? On this?

First and foremost, ensure you have backups of your data and your system. This is crucial to any and all of your systems, if you don’t have backups (and hopefully they can restore as well) you will have to rebuild a dead system from scratch (and lose your personal settings).

  • Back up your system image onto another disk, on your system (preferably external, but not on the same disk as your operating system is on). Make sure your backups are working as well (check your logs).
  • If you have important data, back this information up or make it safe in some fashion. Copy the data onto another disk, another system, onto a network server or have a home Network Access Storage box (NAS). Make sure your back ups are secure, but again, make sure this back up is running as well.
  • This will also protect you from Virus’ and Ransomware too.

Create an operating system rescue disk (depending on what OS you are running) or keep the original Operating System disks you used to install the system (or the ones that came when you bought the system). These are essential in repairing your system as well. If you threw these out, you will need to find them or recreate them (or simply buy a new system).

Have all the Serial Numbers for your: Operating System, Anti Virus System, and all Software that you bought. These are essential as well if you have to recover after a partial system failure (yes this happens as well).

Ensure your system is running System Optimization is running to defragment your disks and check for errors as well.

What Do You Really Need

Finally, maybe what you need is a Guy (or Gal) who really loves futzing around with technology that can come over and help you set all of this up. I used to be “the Guy” for a few people in terms of helping them with technology, but I think now I am mostly just “the Guy” for my family’s computers, but that is fine as well.

I use Backblaze for off site back up. It has worked well, and if you have a fast enough internet connection, it works nicely.


One Thing You Can Buy on Boxing Day

So a while ago, I spoke about how Anti-Virus software is needed, but the pricing trickery is ridiculous.

On Boxing Day here in Ottawa, pricing games were driven home like a nail from a pneumatic nail gun.

I have noticed that the Boxing Day sales regularly have Anti-Virus software on sale, so I decided I would wait and see what might happen with the sales.

Sure enough, our Amigos at Future Shop delivered and had Norton 360 on sale for $29.99, for three machines and for a 15-month subscription (remember to renew for one device for 12 months was going to cost $79.99), so my patience seems to have paid off. I checked the Norton site and they had a Boxing Day sale for the same product (3 licenses Norton 360) for $69.99 (wow).

I guess we can add Anti-Virus software that you can purchase at the Boxing Day madhouse.

Previous Boxing Days?

I have written on the topic of Boxing Day a few times.


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