AT high noon on a recent Monday, I leaped up from my desk vowing to commit the most sensational attack of revenge in the history of the personal computer industry. Just 72 hours earlier, I had taken delivery on a Dell Inspiron 1720 laptop loaded with Microsoft Windows Vista. It was already on the blink. I couldn’t open a Word document. I couldn’t run a Google search. I couldn’t even send e-mail. I vowed to shave Michael Dell and Bill Gates with a broken beer bottle.
Thankfully, I heard tires crunching on my gravel driveway. I opened the door of my home office in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and I saw John Charde, 47, the trim, balding proprietor of Computer Professionals, a technical support services firm based in nearby Wainscott. He climbed out of his taxicab-yellow S.U.V. and declared, “I’m here to get out the evil spirits.”
John marched into my office and hunkered over my brand-new Dell.
I watched hopefully as John fiddled with the laptop. But after half an hour, he seemed to be almost as frustrated as I was. He asked if I had done anything unusual to the machine since taking it out of the box. I said that another local technician had transferred the files in my five-year-old Toshiba laptop into the Dell. I had subsequently received a message to subscribe to the same Symantec Norton Anti-Virus protection program I’d had on the Toshiba.
John guessed that the problems might have been caused by resubscribing to the antivirus program. He told me he needed to take the computer to his shop to exorcise the evil spirits. I would have to go back to my worn-out old Toshiba, which had a nasty tendency to overheat and shut down without warning.
John and his two-man staff spent an entire week working on my Dell. “You fell prey to a cutting-edge disaster by subscribing to Norton Anti-Virus twice,” he informed me over the phone near week’s end. “That caused the computer to spit up a general error message. We all scratched our heads and glared threateningly at the machine for hours. Then we figured out that instead of two or three potential remedies, there were about 25. We decided it was time to cut our losses, and start from scratch.”
John ultimately had to remove the data on the hard drive, wipe it clean, and then reinstall all the data and Vista. The total cost of these surgical procedures was about $800, over half of what I had originally paid for the Dell. But I was so happy to hear the crunch of S.U.V. tires on my driveway when John returned with my newly repaired machine, I told him I didn’t begrudge paying the tab.
Well, I would have.
I called John C. Dvorak, a prominent columnist for PC Magazine and a podcaster on the Podshow network. “I advise everybody to buy a Macintosh because Apple products are the easiest to use,” he said. “If you own a PC, you have to find a local nerd, a kid, maybe a relative. Every family has one unless they’ve just moved here from a foreign country. That’s the only solution.”
It's the old argument about cost of ownership, you see. PCs are cheaper initially, but quite often the amount of time that you, or someone else, spend attempting to fix the problems actually adds a considerable amount of money "spent" on the machine.
I have owned, since I bought my first computer in 1997, seven Apple Macs. The amount that I have spent on tech support amounts to £0.00p. Sure, I have spent some time tuning and fixing bits and pieces, but much of the time this was for my own pleasure as much as anything else.
Anyway, I don't want this to turn into a Mac/Windows/Linux big dick contest (we have had enough of those) but it does seem to me that Vista has been something of a disaster.
Or, perhaps, it is only that Vista's insane defects have disproportionately affected those who work in the media...?