Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Long and Winding Road Towards Computer Functionality

Pardon the extended time away from updating our doings here in the ever lovely city of Cuenca, Ecuador.  We have been experiencing (ahem) technical difficulties of a repeating nature that are hopefully on the way towards staying resolved and being resolved.  Life's no fun when you cannot communicate with those you love, and for that we largely rely on the Internet and our home computers.  When those fail. . . well, it gets tough and takes time away from the tasks we really would rather do, like say "hello" to friends overseas in the States, for instance. 

How it all began: Windows 10 - the self installs on both our computers.  At first I thought I was saving some money by doing it myself - after all, I am self taught at home computers and have been doing several regular maintenance tasks for years without any serious negative consequences.  I did both installs of Windows 10 at different times and even different weeks, and both were quite a snap.  Easy to do from all appearances, and the computers seemed to work well after the new install of the new operating system. 

But then I noticed that one Internet site I frequented was with what turned out to be a bug of some sort: when I wanted to return to the previous page, it took several clicks of the mouse to get to where I wanted to go.  Actually, I overshot my goal, and ended up on the search engine page instead.  I did that for weeks, saying it's just peculiar to that one website. 

I had after the Windows 10 self install also installed Apache Open Office document software.  It appeared on screen, and I had used Open Office previously without any bad effects.  I said "yes" to the install, and away it uploaded effortlessly on my part.  Little did I know that this new version somehow would not let me edit my documents, which previous to Open Office were Windows document software.  I should have considered what the free "gift" of Open Office might mean in terms of consequences that would cause me more problems.  Shareware - free software - often isn't as good as it is made out to be, I have learned.  I couldn't even open and start a new office document with Open Office.  Not good!

Then I couldn't use my mouse on my desktop computer.  It wouldn't function any longer.  That did it. . . I had to get a computer tech to look at my 'puter and get it working again.  First I had already purchased a new mouse, which didn't fix the problem.  Off I went with the computer to the computer shop, which I found out about using the laptop computer that still worked. 

The technician found out that I had some loose connections inside the computer that prevented communication via the mouse.  Once those were resolved, the computer worked fine.  We talked some more and he recommended getting a "clean install" of Windows 10 that would allow my computer to have the speed and functionality it was supposed to have, but didn't.  So I let him have it for more time.  Clean Windows 10 install completed, things looked good at that point.  Still didn't have my document software working correctly, but he had run out of time for the day to look at my problems.  So it was put off for another day. 

In the meantime, the Internet service here from TVCable was going on the fritz.  Later on, I found out it was not the fault of the Internet Service Provider - TVCable in this case - but an issue of how to properly disconnect and reconnect the wires from the router (a white box here from TVCable with two small antennas) and the modem (which is a black box affair similar to what I was previously used to from TimeWarner Cable in the USA).  After several false tries, reboots of the computer(s) involved, and - prayer - which needed to be foremost in mind, not something done approaching desperation - forgive me, Lord - I had connection again with the Internet.  Sometimes I had to get a computer technician (second supplier, different from my first supplier) here at the residence to fix the Internet connectivity problem, sometimes it was resolved on my own.  But it has proved vexing for several weeks continuously. Several times we have had only one computer up and running with Internet working, and sometimes it's been both computers not able to connect to the Internet.  Frustrating to say the least!

In the midst of dealing with the ever vexing Internet connectivity issue, I found I could not contact via telephone my second computer technician shop.  Movistar , their cell phone provider, said in perfectly good Spanish that their account was suspended.  Suspended?  For cryin' out loud!  So I contacted a third computer tech guy, and got him to take a looksee. 

His advice was good, especially on how to use the Internet router and modem and do the connections and disconnections to ensure the computer(s) were connected to the Internet.  However, he mentioned that my laptop seemed slow.  Had I done a self install on Windows 10 lately, he asked?  Of course.  I answered in the affirmative, of course. . . and so away the laptop computer went with this third tech to his residence for a clean install of Windows 10.  So back to only one computer available for the next three days. 

All this time, we were harder pressed to keep up on new emails, Facebook - if we really had the time, which depended on the person on the other end and the message they left - and most importantly on our Duolingo Spanish lessons on their Internet site.  With only one computer working for weeks at a time, and sometimes not any of them working at all or with no Internet service for any of them, life got tough.  We somehow managed to keep our Duolingo daily practice streaks alive. Mine's at over 150 days currently and Carolyn Anne's at about 80 days now - I sometimes sign in for her and do an easy refresher lesson to keep her streak alive, taking maybe 3 to 5 minutes to do so.  She appreciates that, of course. 

After tech guy number three comes back with the laptop computer, I notice he did a number of significant and unasked for changes.  He set up the computer so that one no longer has to type in a password - if you ask me, that's a safeguard for our laptop that we once lost in a rental car in California last year.  The way the new rental car customer found out how to contact us was by the email address on the beginning start up page, right above the password entry slot location.  It turned out to be a film studio in the Los Angeles area that emailed us.  Thank God for honest people like that studio, which was a smaller one run out of someone's house in the El Sereno neighborhood of LA.  The way it was set up by tech guy #3 was to press a button, and whoever had it - friend or foe, rightful owner or not - could use the laptop to their hearts content, not to mention possibly find out personal info about us.  Not good.  That has to change immediately. 

Tech guy #3 also got rid of a lot of the Lenovo icons and such that were never used and actually "fluff" that wasn't ever used, or wanted.  Not a bad idea, but again, he never asked me first.  He also disconnected our AVG antivirus software, saying to me that AVG was known to be inferior in Ecuador (that will come as a shock to my computer tech shop guy in Lancaster, California who installed the AVG antivirus software *and* charged me for doing so!) and he had installed a free antivirus software instead.  Again, I let him know of my displeasure. 

Icing on the cake for tech guy #3: he had also not reinstalled and uploaded the Skype software for the laptop.  We bought the laptop expressly for that very purpose - to use and communicate via Skype.  The reinstall was taking too long on the laptop for the Skype reinstall, and likewise an install of a Windows Suite for Office on the desktop computer was not installing at a fast enough rate - it hadn't finished downloading just yet.  So tech guy #3 told me that he had an appointment with another client to fix their computer, and that I could do the work from here. 

Nice try.  I later found out from getting ahold of computer tech guys #2 that he possibly was installing a $300 version of Windows Office 2016. . . or I had not known which version (true, that) he was trying to install, likely a free version that *still* needed a competent tech to supervise the complete installation.  Either way, he was going to get me for an extra $300 for the Microsoft officially licensed software suite for Office (which I doubt since he never mentioned the extra cost to me) or do half the job needed to be done by cutting short the time spend supervising the install of the Microsoft "pirate" software, which was free to me.  Computer shop guys #2 did the MS "pirate" Office Suite software installation and ensured that I could edit my existing document pages. 

By the way, the reason why I had to contact computer shop guys #3 *again* was due to computer tech guy #2 taking out my RAM in my desktop computer, and putting it in again. . . in a different slot, apparently.  After a day, the computer ran, but nothing appeared on the screen from the data from the computer.  Computer tech guys #3 took out the RAM and reinstalled it properly.  The desktop computer has been running fine ever since. 

Lessons learned through all of this: *don't* install Windows 10 yourself.  Get a competent computer tech to do the job instead.  Be willing to admit what you don't know, and get help where and when needed.  Be very specific and upfront in telling specifically what you want done, as well as what you don't want done in terms of changes to how the computer operates.  Don't use computer technicians who also advertise on their business card that they drive customers around and are Facilitators (personal assistants).  "And more. . . " is a dead giveaway phrase on a business card that the provider doesn't care what kind of job they do, they just want to work. . . and most of all, get paid.  Once you find a competent computer technician, keep using them.  

The reason why computer tech guy #1 didn't get further work from me was that he was out of town the next time I needed him.  Besides that, he almost always wanted the work to be done at his shop.  With the Internet issues at hand, it was important to check things out where I was using the computer(s), not where it was convenient for the technician.  He only came one time to my residence, due to there being an issue connecting to the Internet and him being available that time and day to check it out.  So off to computer tech guys #2 I went.  I think I have found a reliable shop in #2, and have confidence in them that they will continue to diagnose and correct the issues at hand correctly.  

As you can see, we have several backlogged issues relating to computer operation that needs to be dealt with ASAP, no thanks to computer tech guy #3, who actually through all of this ended up costing us more money that what we paid him.  Expensive lessons, to be sure.  Not to mention at the very beginning of all of this trouble, we had to get the laptop cleaned up inside and get some loose wires reconnected due to - you guessed it - the inability to use the internal touchpad mouse.  Tech guy #1 did that job, and quite well at that.  Total costs currently for computer service calls and repairs are around $200 of late.  That would be $600 or more if the same work was done in the United States.

Here in Ecuador, quality of work isn't always reliable or uniform, and there are people who don't perform the way you want them to.  It *is* the Wild Wild West here in Ecuador, and you really have to practice the saying Caveat Emptor (buyer beware).  We're living proof of that!  Learn from our experience if you choose. . . but only if you choose.      

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