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COMPUTER TROUBLES, or how to ruin the trip
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2002 1:11 am    Post subject: COMPUTER TROUBLES, or how to ruin the trip Reply with quote

I (Ron) am still fighting with electronics issues. Computer, Laptop, GPS systems (2 different ones). Every night, I am spending 6 or 7 hours trying to get everything working properly. The laptop we purchased at Circuit City died. So we take a trip to Miami (2 and a half hours each way), and they refused to replace the unit because it was an “open box”, and they also refused to honor the additionally purchased extended warranty. When they sold us the policy, they called it a service or replacement policy. Now when we try to get them to honor it, it has become a “Well, if we can’t fix it, we’ll replace it. But first you have to give us a chance to fix it, so we’ll send it out to our service department, and then in a couple of weeks if they can’t fix it, we’ll replace it for you. And if THAT second unit fails, then you’re on your own, because once the unit is replaced on this contract, that completes our obligations” contract.

They also refuse to trade the laptop at a reasonable value towards any other laptop. So we decide that they don’t deserve our business, and we return the laptop, service contract, and the $1000 navigation system. I hope they have to spend lots of money repairing the laptop, that it takes them so long to repair that the retail value of it is nil, that they never again sell a service contract on it, and that they are forced to sell the GPS navigation unit at or below cost, because now it is an “open box” item. Not that I’m vindictive, or that I sabotaged any of the equipment or anything mean like that. I wouldn’t. I’m just very frustrated with the whole debacle, Circuit City in particular.

I just don’t get it. They had the opportunity to make me a customer for life. They could have replaced the laptop with a new unit. They could have given fair value for a trade in. They could have found another open box that wasn’t virtually destroyed. They could have discounted a new laptop, or even sold one at cost while refunding the purchase price of the original. They would have kept the profit on the $1000 GPS, and they would have the profit of the Service Contract, and the laptop case, and power adapters and all the little accessories which we purchased (that actually make them a few profit dollars). Instead they alienate me forever, cause me to disseminate my experiences with them on this website (to at least family and friends) and to every other camper we will meet over the next couple of years who asks about my eventually functioning GPS system. Where’s the profit in their approach? I think that the problem is probably that the manager of the store where I eventually returned everything will simply “charge back” the original purchasing store for the return, so he had no personal stake in the transaction, other than, of course, the good of the company.

Will Circuit City go the way of Lechmere, Highland Sales and Fretter? Will everyone’s purchased service policy then be worthless (worthless more than it is by design, that is)? Things to think about before ever buying something at Circuit City.

So we purchased a $150 software/hardware GPS package at CompUSA. The package is called "NAVMAN". During installation something went wrong, and the computer crashed. This corrupted the Windows XP Registry, rendering the computer completely unable to boot. To our dismay, we realize that we are not carrying our Windows XP installation CD with us. So I decide to find a local shop to restore the operating system. We bring it to a place in Key West (Keys Office Equipment, corner of Eaton and Simonton) that told us over the phone that they could look at it right away, and it would probably take less than an hour. Joan drops me at the store, and heads off to do some necessary shopping and to visit the post office.

The service tech’s name is “Doc” (which IMMEDIATELY gives me a bad feeling… more on that later) writes up the problem and says that he actually does not have the time to look at it today (was the original promise a bait and switch technique perhaps?) but says he’ll look at it in the morning, and give me a call before he does anything. I pay the $50 deposit and begin the wait for Joan to return. After all, she (rightly) thought that the repair was going to consume at least SOME amount of time. I chat with an employee there about the “old days” of computers.. he had been with IBM for a few decades.

1:30PM rolls around the next day – no call. So we take the 15 mile drive into Key West again, and find out that “Doc” just didn’t show up for work this day. I demand and receive my money back, and take the still dead machine back to the Navigation-less-but-still-HappieCamper.
I spend the next day or two getting the computer back to the point where I can boot it to a recovery console, but can’t seem to get anything accomplished from there. Without a computer to log onto to get help, I am helpless. Then inspiration hits! Call Gary and ask him to log onto and walk me through the recovery process! So I call Gary, Gary naively agrees to help, to find that there are 42 steps on 15 pages to recover from this problem. Fortunately, I have some experience with inefficient Microsoft instructions, and do a few things to help reduce the amount of typing required to accomplish the task. Over the course of the next 2 hours or so, they are able to bring the computer back to where it was 9 months ago when I first installed Windows XP. Not much lost, actually, and not a bad result for free (after 9PM… Thanks VerizonWireless!).

(The thing about “Doc”? Well, I once read that there are three rules for a man to follow in life.
1) Never lie down with a woman who has more problems than you do. ‘Nuff said.
2) Never play cards with a man named “Doc”. I repeatedly lost my shirt playing cards with a man named Doc.
3) Well….. I can’t remember the third one!
And I just KNOW that I’m breaking whatever this rule is frequently. If anyone knows the source of this list, or at least the third rule, PLEASE let me know!)

Now armed with a functioning computer, I begin the process of installing that software (that caused all of this) again.
I finally get it hobbling along (Not knowing that they have a driver update on their website), and the GPS system acquires a position very quickly. Then I try to plot a course from “here” to <wherever>. The software complains that there is no internet connection with which to get directions. WHAT??? This thing has to be hooked up to the internet to generate driving instructions??? Are you kidding me???? The box says that this is a “complete navigation solution.” How the heck could that possibly work? What if you are in an area that has no cell service? What if you drive off course in that area? What if you drive off course ANYWHERE? Will you have to pull over, hook up to the internet to download directions? Are they NUTS???

Time to find yet another solution. That $1000 system was really nice, even if it did have a few problems with the tower computer… who needs to be able to navigate in Miami anyway? (That was it’s only problem… The GPS unit is self-contained, but will only hold about 10% of the country (in super detail ) in it at one time. It holds all of the major highways in the US, but the little streets and “place of interest” take up a lot of space. An inconvenience, but something that we can live with – we don’t plan on driving 1000 miles in a day, and you can specify to load the detail maps just for the route you’re traveling. The software would crash anytime Ron tried to load the GPS unit with a Miami map.) But, that’s $1000. Let’s try yet again.

On 12/23 we order the “CoPilot 2003” system for just under $400. It arrives on 12/24. I’m like a kid in a candy store! Install it overnight on 12/24 and 12/25. It crashes the system. It can’t find a satellite. It can’t speak. I fixed speech problem—sorta. I put the antenna outside, now able to acquire satellites. It only crashes itself on exit. Still problem with the speech software, will work on that with their tech support next. But the software looks great. Now we really do need a laptop to keep up front during travel, instead of the tower. One step at a time.

Wake up on 12/26 to find that the computer, which was working fine when shut off, has decided to lose it’s mind. That crash caused by the NAVMAN software has pretty much destroyed my computer. The HappieCamper website is managed through a program called NetObjects Fusion version 4.0. The night before I “previewed” the HappieCamper site (as I do often), and everything was fine. I did this to get a url of the finished website, so I could put the url into some text for this forum. Well, this morning, the website has “lost” all but three pages.

Further investigation shows that all files since 12/18 have disappeared off of the system. ALL files. Data files, documents, and system files. I perform a search “.nod” files across all hard drives, and 20 occurrences are found, but not the HappieCamper website file. I do the same search in a single subdirectory and 54 files are found, including the HappieCamper file, but the 12/18 version.

To make a horrendously long story shorter, I rescued the HappieCamper site by downloading it from the webserver that you all see it on, and then reconstructing it on my machine in NetObjects. We decide that spending this amount of time and aggravation is just not worth it – it’s too distracting from our trip. So, we’ll spend the money necessary to make things easier.

We’ll buy a NEW laptop, we’ll buy a solid navigation system (wait! One more thing to try first!) and if we have to, we’ll invest in another copy of Windows XP ($100) and NetObjects Fusion (or Dreamweaver) ($400) and Office XP. If it makes my life easier, it will have been money well spent.

Last edited by Ron on Mon Dec 30, 2002 5:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2002 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I found the quote -- I got this from a "complete" set of Murphy's Laws, but I still don't know where I originally read it. I guess I never will know.

Algren's Precepts
Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never play cards with a man named Doc. And never lie down with a woman who's got more troubles than you.

Thankfully, Joan and I haven't yet found a place to eat called Mom's. If we do, I'll lobby to bypass it.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2002 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I Joan and Ron.
Remember the days of the picture postcard? Life was simpler then.

Mitch and Spot
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 30, 2002 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Remember when I said something like: "Wait! One more thing to try"? Why didn't anybody try to stop me?

I decided to spend another $50 and get "DeLorme's Street Atlas USA 2003" and hook it up to my NAVMAN antenna. Since NAVMAN's software was so totally inappropriate for people trying to use it for live navigation assistance I figured I would try to use their GPS receiver and hook it up with DeLorme's mapping/navigation software.

Long story short: Bad idea.

The Delorme interface is not user friendly, and seemingly chose inappropriate routing. It made some strange choices when it came to routing from Miami to Sunset Beach, NC, to the tune of 45 minutes of extra driving, about 30 miles. The interface is clumsy and not appropriate for me or for my navigatrix, and CERTAINLY no good for a lone driver.

Not to mention the technical difficulties that I continued to have after buying the laptop trying to get the GPS Receiver's drivers to work.
Turns out that the USB GPS receiver that goes with the software that requires internet access to generate driving directions is incompatible with the USB cell phone!!!!! That would be really funny if I had some sleep to dream about it. I was awake until 630 this morning, then from 2 in the afternon till 730 this evening before I got everything straightened out and reinstalled.

Our solution?
CoPilot 2003 is the big winner here. It's not perfect: The cable to the GPS receiver is way too short, and the searching (for addresses) ability could be better, the driving/navigation interface is clean and consise, and the voice is very understandable. Also, the positioning seems to be a little strange. In the documentation, the software supposedly "snaps" your locatioun to the nearest street. So, as I am parked 200-300 feet from a road, the exact location is a little strange, and it gives our elevation as -60 feet. Given that we are in the Florida Keys, we'd be very wet. I hope my RV's insurance covers water damage. Smile
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