I hate computers

Well, not always — after all, I do make my living doing IT Research at IBM.  But there are days…and today was one of them.

I’ve been on jury duty this week, which had kept me from committing myself to go to a meeting in Somers, New York, next week.  But today was my last day on call; last night, the county’s web page told me to check again at 9am this morning.  Since this was the first time I’d seen a 9am check-in all week (normally, the earliest you’re asked to check the page is 10am), I pretty much expected to be told to come down to the courthouse for possible empanelment.

I got to the office just after 8; the page hadn’t been updated.  So I was having an IM conversation with a colleague on the East Coast about next week’s meeting while checking the page every few minutes, waiting for a 9am phone call.  Suddenly, my laptop froze up — this is unusual, but not unprecedented (I run Windows XP on my laptop — need I say more?).  But that wasn’t all — the display was flickering; it looked almost like a TV whose horizontal hold was misadjusted.  And then the screen went blank.

I tried rebooting; no luck — not even the logo during the boot sequence.  So I called IBM Service, and quickly reached first-line support, who determined that I would have to send the machine back for repair and connected me to the right department.  So far, so good. 

The preferred way to repair a ThinkPad in the field is to replace it — send out one without a hard disk, memory, or CD drive.  The user then swaps in his old parts, sends back the broken machine, and is back on the air with the least possible disruption.  Unfortunately, the service group didn’t have a machine identical to mine.  The best they could do for me was to send out a loaner machine, which would require me to keep track of anything I did outside of the Notes environment and be sure to copy it to my machine when it came back from service.  And, of course, I wouldn’t get the loaner until Monday (by which time I was supposed to be on an airplane to the East Coast).

In the meantime, I’d booted my office desktop, which runs Linux.  In many ways, Linux is a superior environment to Windows — but not when it comes to using Lotus Notes or Microsoft Office, both of which are critical to my life at work.  And I hadn’t ever really gotten around to configuring the desktop to use — it was a place to do some testing of Web stuff and to develop a little code, not to do office tasks.  But I did have a browser on the machine, and I was able to check the juror status page.  Much to my surprise, I didn’t have to go in to the courthouse; in fact, I was now finished with my service and have a one-year exemption from jury duty.

So I had my 9am call; then I settled down to try to get a workable environment.  I was able to borrow an earlier generation ThinkPad and connect my disk to it — I didn’t want to try to boot my own disk because I was worried that Windows would go catatonic when it saw how different the hardware was, but I was willing to make a copy of the disk and try it.  But, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t successfully copy the old disk — you see, I hadn’t cleanly shut down Windows when the display went dead, and so the filesystem was dirty, and the copy programs I had couldn’t deal with that.

But I didn’t make that discovery until after lunch.  And in the meantime, I’d run into a colleague who had a ThinkPad T41p which wasn’t yet in productive use — and he was willing to loan it to me.  But he was leaving for the day, so I’d have to get his manager or security to let me in.

So, after a lunchtime meeting, I called Security for an entry assist.  They (properly) had to verify that it was OK, and then we set out to find the office.  But I’d copied the wrong piece of data from the screen — I had the room number of his mail drop, not his office.  Eventually, however, we found the right office, and I borrowed a brand new ThinkPad T41p.

All I had to do was swap the hard disks — I knew my disk would work perfectly in that machine.  But, try as I might, I couldn’t get the disk out of his machine…nor could any of the friends I asked to try.  And I didn’t want to force things too hard, so, after losing another 30 minutes, I called Security to get back into the office, where I found a second brand new ThinkPad T41p.

And this time, the disk came out — I plugged mine in, and hey presto, I was back on the air, with a day’s worth of e-mail to deal with.

I decided that losing today was all of the fun I could stand, and have made my excuses for the meeting next week; I’ll phone in to the parts that I really need to participate in.  And sometime next week, my machine should return from the shop…I hope.  Though I wouldn’t mind keeping this machine instead; it’s a pleasure having a truly clean display.

Shabbat Shalom!