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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


For the past two days, I have been in computer/printer hell. It all began when my HP inkjet printer ran out of ink. I should have known something was wrong because it simply abruptly stopped printing anything, rather than slowly fading to white. But I went to Staples and bought a 920 ink cartridge, came home, installed it and -- nothing. I fussed with it, swore at it, actually went back to Staples and exchanged it for another cartridge, but I could not get the printer to print. So I unplugged it [this is actually very hard, because the outlet is behind two large, totally full four drawer file cabinets], lugged it down to my car, and drove to Best Buy, to consult the Geek Squad.

A tall young man with hair down to his waist told me that my printhead was fried, and I might just as well buy a new printer. So I snatched the new $29 ink cartridge out of my dead printer and bought what was essentially an upgraded version of the same HP 6500 printer I had just buried [this one is called HP 6500A plus, undoubtedly a great improvement.]

I hauled the box home, got it upstairs, unpacked it, and plugged into the wall and my computer. I inserted the installation disk, launched the installation wizard, sat twiddling my thumbs while it endlessly and cheerfully reported its progress -- and then, at a screen, it froze. The problem appeared to be that my computer did not recognize that the printer was connected to it. I should have known that, because it did not make that funny little noise it makes whenever anything is plugged in or unplugged, a sort of two-note burp.

Sigh. I checked all the connections, turned everything off and on again, rebooted my computer [who knows? Maybe you have to do that], and got nowhere at all. I uninstalled all the software, unplugged everything, and started all over again. Same problem.

It was now afterhours at Best Buy, so I gave up for the day, played several games of Spider Solitaire, read some more Weber, and called it a night. The next day, I hauled the new printer back to Best Buy and complained to a salesperson. But I had neglected to bring with me the rather recherche power cord, so he airily told me that he could not test the machine. He guessed it was the USB connector cable, and sold me a new one, giving me 10% off an absurd price bacause it had already been opened. Once again [getting rather weary], I drove the forty minutes home, brought the printer upstairs, plugged everything in [I had foresightedly not shoved the file cabinets back where they were supposed to be, so by scrunching down and reaching in backhanded, I could reach the outlet all right], and tried once more. Nothing. The new cable made no difference at all.

I called Best Buy and asked to speak to a manager. I don't think they actually have a manager, just some tweenie whose job it is that day to field calls from irritated customers. With what he apparently considered enormous generosity, he allowed as how if I brought both my computer and my printer into the store, they would undertake to make the damned thing work at no cost!!! [A home visit would, on the other hand, cost $150.]

Not a problem, right? Hardly! To take him up on this once-in-a-lifetime offer, I had to crawl under my desk and unplug the seemingly endless collection of tangled cables that were inserted into various connectors at the back of my tower computer. This is a very high stress operation for me, because I know there is a serious chance that I will never figure out how to put them back correctly. I also had to pull out a third fully loaded file cabinet on the other side of my desk in order to reach the power strip that the computer is plugged into.

Two trips to my car, another forty minute drive, a shopping cart for the hardware, and I presented myself at the help desk for my free tech support. This time, I got lucky. A very nice young African-American man, who actually seemed to know what he was doing, put everything together, did a little magic, and then -- this turned out to be the key to it all -- tapped the digital screen on the face of the printer, which in the new version of the 6500 substitutes for the array of buttons with which I was familiar He told the printer what it was supposed to be doing, and sure enough it worked. Success!

Back to the shopping cart, into the car, forty minutes home, two trips upstairs to get all the hardware into my office, and the re-assembly began. I plugged the printer in, pushed the file cabinets back, plugged in the computer, pushed the other file cabinet back, and crawled under my desk to start the Great Plug-In.

The printer worked perfectly, but for some mysterious reason there was now no sound on my computer. How was I going to listen to last night's Rachel Maddow Show at two a.m.? Back under the desk [this time knocking my chair over when I tried to push it out of the way]. After trying each of the five possible holes into which the sound jack from the Monitor could possibly go, I found the one that makes the sound go on.

I am now essentially back to where I was when my printer gave out, with a new printer [$160], a new ink cartridge [$29], and a USB cable I didn't need [$24 with the 10% discount]. I hope everyone will understand why I won't be posting the next instalment of the Weber mini-tutorial until tomorrow.


Michael said...

When I was in high school, I worked at a Best Buy for a while. For what it's worth, the low-level employees receive almost no training at all. Sure, they learn how to push the right buttons to ring up a transaction, but they're never taught what to do when something out of the ordinary happens. Then, if they try to figure it out, they get chewed out by a manager (and those do exist, but they hate dealing with customers -- in a retail store).

It's really a terrible business. I'll shop there but only for small items that involve no complications.

Jerome Doolittle said...

Unless you have a regular need for color, inkjet printers are a waste of money, due to the ink costs. A year ago I bought a bottom-of-the-line Samsung black and white laser printer for $80 bucks or so, and am still using the introductory toner cartridge that came with the machine. Costs seem to be running about 3 cents a page.