We've moved to Facebook! Follow us there!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dell Hell Drama and Saga - A Working Laptop, Finally

Last November, we made the decision to buy a new laptop for me for the voyage. After sharing the decision, about a week later we went online to Dell computers and ordered a custom built machine. This isn't your daddys machine, this is an i7 with 8 gigs of RAM, 1 TB Harddrive, a separate video driver with 1 gig, an HD screen, Bluray, etc. etc. About 10 days after ordering it, the machine arrived.

That night, our little apartment was energized with excitement and wonder. KJ helped unpack the box, the new machine smell permeated the living room, bits and bytes were flying as software was purchased on line and installed. It was a geeks nirvana ... a glorious night.

As Roman soldiers after a mighty conquest, we headed to bed with computing dreams. Oh, the power!

After returning home from work the next day, KJ asked if we could start the new machine. Why sure. Even grandpa had come over from Alabama and he wanted to see the new digital wonder.

Chest high, chin up, I depressed the on button with my nose of superiority perched high.

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

Eye brows now dropped down.

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

Oh f*!k.

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

Being sure KJ must have had her tiny hand on some key, I asked her to step back (because somehow that would make a difference).


"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

"Leave me be everyone" I said.

Into geek mode I went. I've spent the past 20 years as an IT professional and I will be damned if this machine from Dell computers is going to die on me. Hell, I build and architect systems for $20+ billion dollar companies.

Grandpa and KJ went off to play dolls, while I began my job. Diagnosis.

Quick search on Google. Hmmm, someone else on this very same day posted that they also had the exact same issue. The first day their computer work, the second day it beeped 7 times. Ugh.
Checking the bios codes, 7 beeps means the CPU died. Oh crap.

I went on line and engaged the Dell chat line. After a few minutes, the chat window opened and I was engaged. I explained the situation, and even shared what I found on line. That meant nothing to the help desk chat person as it wasn't part of their pre-arranged script.

Knowing full well that my machine was royally hosed and that the binary gods have taken the computers soul, I obligingly did what the mystery chat person said to do. I removed the hard drives, replaced them. I removed the wifi card, and replaced it. I removed the memory, and replaced them. "Try it now sir", the text came across.

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!"

Imagine that. So, I asked the chat person if I should start to cry. Humor doesn't translate well. He replied I should call in. I did. Ugh. This begat hours and hours and hours of pain.

After 5 transfers and 72 minutes on line, someone finally said, "You should send the machine back." Really? Well, these people were just doing their job and I knew it. I know plenty about call centers (again, professionally I've designed contact center technical systems). I was told that a new machine would be out right away.

5 days later, a call came in .... the new machine was on its way. Wahoo!!

5 days later, no new machine. Ugh.

Call back in, 30 minutes of hold, guess what, the new machine wasn't on the way. It wasn't even built yet. But don't worry, it will be.

Calls, more calls, more days, more calls. The Dell voice system and auto dialing system really stinks by the way. It would call us, and within 1 ring, hang up!

days turned into weeks. More calls. More being put off.

Okay, now I'm thinking about using my connections and contacting the COO of Dell.

Then a email comes in asking me to provide a survey of my experience with Dell. Ahh, talk about an opportunity. I filled out the form and used words of theft by false advertising, etc.

Well well well .... now the phone rings from a different center. Alas, we still had the 1 ring hang up, but Val called this new number back.

After talking with whomever, we were assured that the new machine would be on its way. I've heard that before.

A few days later, the new machine arrived!! Wahooo! 45 days of saga. Dell had my money, I didn't have a working machine, but now I do.

With shaking fingers, I loaded 1 piece of software that first night. KJ helping as always. Only 1 piece. No more investing time.

The next day, the family gathered around for the big moment. Will this machine work after 1 day? Everyone's chest filled with air, and expectation mounted as I pressed the button.

No beeps!!

Praise the binary digital gods! We have a computer that works more than a day.

But the saga still didn't end.

Dell gave me 10 days to return the non-working one, otherwise they were going to charge us for it too.

After 5 days of proving the new machine worked, Val took the machine to an authorized FedEx center for drop off. Val gave them the machine on a Tuesday.

Wednesday, Val checked. The machine wasn't in FedEx's system. Hmmm.
Thursday, Val checked. The machine wasn't in FedEx's system. Hmmm.
Friday, Val checked. The machine wasn't in FedEx's system. Hmmm.
Call to the authorized center. "Oh, yeah, we have your package here... FedEx hasn't picked it up yet" What?

Not wanting to get stuck into another Dell washing machine cycle, lost into process ambiguity land due to violating the 10 day thing, Saturday we resolved to go pick up the package from the Authorized center and physically take it to a FedEx hub.

According to the voice system at the Authorized center, they would be open at 10AM. So, Saturday morning we headed over to the center to find that they are closed on Saturday.

Sunday Val emails Dell the situation.

Monday, we're now at the 10 day threshold, a Dell rep calls Val and collects our story. They say that they need to see it in the system today, but acknowledged the extenuating circumstances and provisions can be made. Wow. How nice.

Val goes over to the Authorized center and retrieves the package. According to the Authorized centers owner, "The package was in the UPS pile, so neither FedEx or UPS would pick it up." Val's response, "So how is that my fault?" Val and I owned one of these centers for 3 years, so we know the deal. In any case, she got the package, took it to the hub and the damned computer made its way back to its home.

Whew! I feel better now. :)


  1. Sounds like quite an awful ordeal. Hopefully you will not be charged for the broken one (without having to put up a fight) and the working laptop continues to work for you all through your grand voyage!

  2. Very surprising.... for someone who posts regularly about not inventing drama and keeping perspective on what really counts in life, this laptop "event" is overflowing with invented drama and self centered ego. Relax... it's only a laptop now isn't it? And it's not like you were without computing power over this time span. Simple lessons learned... 1) No longer buy Dell, and 2) If a package doesn't show up in the Fedex or UPS system within 1 day you have a problem and need to fix it immediately. Simple enough in both cases. In both cases you already knew better - so doubtful it helps to try and blame others. yes they were at fault, but you really did know better. Let it go - you will feel better.

  3. @Anonymous 2: lol. Thanks for your reply. Sorry my tongue and cheek didn't translate well in the blog post. Of course this is absurd! That is the point of the post. :) This is one of lifes incidents that is a nothing on the radar. I thought the lines about Roman soldiers, chest filling with air, shaking fingers, and such would make that more clear. Maybe you're having fun too, or my blog posts strike a nerve within you, ... not sure. Be that as it may, thanks for posting your reply. Feel free to post up your thoughts anytime. They are quite entertaining!

  4. As an I.T. professional who has designed high dollar systems, you leave me wondering. Why would you buy a Dell anything? Your family is embarking on something that shouldn't be taken lightly. And a Dell laptop wouldn't even make my list if I were doing your trip. You need something rugged and dependable, a Dell is neither. I would have ordered a Mac Pro and put VM Fusion on it if you need $Micro$oft.

  5. @Jon and Lisa: Thank you for your comments and questions. We've been so busy out on the boat this 4th of July weekend that I've not had a chance to write up a thoughtful reply. As I considered your questions and sentiment, I could easily imagine writing up pages of stuff. Your comments bring up a million potential aspects to be considered/shared. A separate blog post may be warranted as the large scale computer system architecture I do has application here that someone may find of value.

    Why Dell? Because I got exactly the components I wanted and a superb price. Also, in the years of using a Dell, I've personally never had a problem with them. Val's laptop, for example, continues to chug on with zero issues. There may be a sentimental aspect here too as I still recall the first time I saw a double digit clock speed computer (12MHz) while at a computer show in Austin Texas. It was a Dell. No other computer at the show was going this fast. Cool stuff. (technically, it is a chip and bus speed achievement, but still only the Dell was going this fast and coming from a 4.77 MHz speed world (plus the turbo button push to just around 8) this was impressive.)

    I've actively chosen that a laptop will not be a life dependent system. That is, I will not rely on a laptop for the life and safety of my family. The laptop is an additive pleasure source. If I were building a life critical system for a marine environment, at this time it wouldn't be a Dell (nor would it be anything Apple for that matter).

    You are so right that this trip shouldn't be taken lightly. It was the full weight and measure of the trip that made it clear that I should not depend upon a laptop for our safety. There are other systems built and designed for the harsh marine environment that are far better suited for this. That is the key, knowing the systems, their limitations, and the scope of their usage.

    Gosh, I still have more to say! A separate blog is needed.

    Again, thanks for posting.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.