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Scott's Column
pcAnywhere, Laptop, Semi New Format

September 1, 2003
By Scott Lewis

This month marks the passing of my monthly Feature Article. I finally installed pcAnywhere to access my server, and I have a few more tid-bits for you.

Farewell

It's time. Time to stop trying to write about a feature topic every month. I am retiring my Feature Article. I will now maintain only two articles a month, Scott's Column and Car Corner. I love cars so much I can never get enough, so that has to stay even though I know it is getting the least amount of traffic of my three articles.

I talk about technology enough in Scott's Column that I can still write about the same topics I put in my Feature Article, I will just use this column to do it.

I want to try and spend more time working on my writing skills. I have been letting that slide for too long. Just writing, without striving for improvement, is not doing enough for my overall skills. Hopefully you will see an improvement over the next few months as I allocate the time spent on the Feature Article to polishing my remaining two articles.

Regardless, I am also trying to reduce my work load. I do this as much for myself as I do it for you, but my time seems to be more and more limited these days.

Please feel free to pass on any comments you may have regarding the change.

pcAnywhere

I finally found my copy of pcAnywhere. It has been a long time since I setup pcAnywhere from scratch. And, since I don't do it often, I didn't bother taking notes. I installed the host component on my server (450MHz Celeron, 384MB Memory, 80GB over 2 hard drives), and I installed the client component (remote) on my desktop.

Since I didn't take notes I don't remember everything it takes to get it working, but I do remember I had to create a special account on the server for pcAnywhere. Part of this is the way pcAnywhere works. It requires full access to some things, and I needed to create a user ID and password to connect to while using pcAnywhere.

I input that information into the client configuration so I can just connect quickly. Unfortunately I did not write down the information, so I don't know if I will be able to remember it when I have to setup my wife's laptop.

All in all I am pleased. I have a single icon I can double-click and in a few seconds I am presented with the "desktop" of my server. On that desktop is WinAmp, and an open folder with playlists. This makes it very easy to log on and change what's playing. I highly recommend an approach similar to this if you have an old computer you want to use to serve up music in your house.

The Laptop Returns

Speaking of my wife's laptop... we finally have it back... sort of.

It was a royal pain in the butt. After endless calls to Best Buy's store, their Dallas Service Center and their corporate office, we finally received some quality service.

Let's start from the beginning. On June 21st I brought our Sony laptop to Best Buy because it would no longer accept power. I learned this with 2% of the battery left, and was left unable to backup the laptop. Our biggest fear at this point was what we would do if they replaced the laptop.

By June 26th the laptop was in "vendor repair." That vendor was ADR. Apparently Best Buy contracts with them to do certain repairs, and ours was one of them. I do not know Best Buy's actual relationship with ADR.

We called each week and was told the same thing, "it's in vendor repair." They did add one item, "it's waiting for a part." And so it began that we were given this same information until we went past the "estimated return date" of July 17th on the service order. Best Buy claims (in all their fine print) that they do not guarantee that date, but will strive to reach it.

When they did not make the July 17th date, I started called every day to try and get some kind of update on when we could expect the laptop returned. My wife and I would called again and again every couple of days. Many (and I mean MANY) people told us they would call us back. None did. Eventually we got hold of a manager at the store and he did call back... only to tell us he could not find out anything that day, and would call back the next day. He didn't, of course.

Finally on Aug 7th I was put on the phone with a manager at Best Buy's Dallas Service Center and he actually took my plea to heart. He did call back. He called back and told me the laptop was waiting for a motherboard that was on backorder. He also told me that it was too long and he would authorize a replacement. However, I explained our data problem (remember, we were hoping for a repair because we did have the ability to backup the laptop) and he told me he would contact the vendor the next day and let me know if there was anything they could do to try and retrieve our data.

That night I did my best to retrieve old data, and found that I had quite a bit of success backing up my wife's e-mails. It didn't occur to me that the date of those files was the same as the date we brought in the laptop. Then I remembered... At the 2% battery mark I quickly grabbed the directory Outlook Express uses and dragged it to the server. The laptop went black in the middle of the copy, but apparently it did copy the bulk of the e-mails. In fact, we haven't noticed anything missing. I proceeded to copy those e-mail files to my desktop and opened them. All was well.

I was less lucky with the "My Documents" directory, having backed that up sometime around October 2002. We figured we would bite the bullet and start over. We were charged up to get a new laptop.

The next day (Aug 8th) I did indeed get a call. A representative told me that they were fixing our laptop that day. Wow, all of a sudden they got the part in... yeah, right! They told me that the laptop would be returned to the Dallas center on the following Monday or Tuesday, and they would ship it overnight to the store I originally brought it to. I would have it either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Tuesday rolled around and we tried to call the Best Buy store, but they didn't even answer the phone. It was already too late to call the Dallas center, so my wife tried calling another store to see if they could look it up. They told my wife that our laptop was set to be replaced, and that our case was being handled by the corporate office. Ooh!

I called the Dallas center on Wed, August 13th. I was told I would be called by the representative handling my case. Sure enough he called me back and found that my laptop was indeed returned to the Dallas Service Center from ADR. However, when they tested the laptop it still didn't work. Oops! They were officially going to "junk it out," and authorized me to get a replacement. I asked if there was any way they could send me the hard drive from the old computer, since they were junking it out anyway. The representative was very helpful and took the hard drive out of the computer and had it shipped to the store for me to pick up.

So... I get a new laptop and my data back. That night I went to Best Buy and picked out a new laptop. They did not have any Sony models in stock. We had such incredibly bad luck with a Compaq, that left Toshiba and Hewlett Packard. My wife had a co-worker tell her he had great luck with his HP laptop. However, the best HP laptop they had in stock was $1600. I had a $2000 credit, so I picked up a Toshiba laptop that was priced at $1899.99

For those of you that have not been following this column, this is the 4th (yes, I said fourth) laptop we have had... all on one purchase. We started out with an HP laptop. It was a 700 MHz P3 with 14.1" screen, 10GB hard drive and 128MB of memory. It also had a DVD drive and some other basic stuff. That was $1999 back in January of 2001. We bought an extended warrantee for that laptop for $199. And that was the best 200 bucks I have ever spent.

The HP had a few problems requiring us to take it in. They immediately replaced it... without even trying to repair it. It was replaced with a Compaq with a 750MHz P3, 128 MB Memory, 20 GB drive and 15" screen. We got a small boost in speed along with a bigger screen and twice the drive space. That was in June 2001. The Compaq failed after 5 days, but this time they made us go through the trouble of getting it repaired. The short of it was that they had to repair that Compaq 5 times before they finally "junked it out." So we got the Sony VIAO laptop in January 2002. The Sony was equipped with a 1.2 GHz CPU, 30 GB hard drive (in 2 15 GB partitions, yuck!), 256 MB Memory and a 15" screen.

But now we are the proud owners of a Toshiba laptop. The basic specs for the Toshiba A25-S307 are: 2.8GHz P4, 512 MB Memory, 60 GB drive (in one partition, thank you), 15" screen, built in 802.11a/b wireless (more next month), and a DVD "burner." I believe I read somewhere that it is a DVD-RW, as opposed to DVD+RW. I must admit, I have been playing the "let's wait and see that they do with the specs before buying anything" game. I did pickup a 5 pack of DVD-R discs, but I will have to leave that for another time.

Overall I am pleased with the Toshiba. My wife seems to think the screen was brighter on the Sony, but I can't see it. She did set the display in Windows to the "classic" look. Windows XP's classic look is the same as Windows 2000, which I am running on my desktop. In other words, my wife got used to the clean look of Windows 2000 during the 8 weeks she was without her laptop and now she she is turned off to XP's fancy colors.

One thing that is vastly better with the Toshiba are the speakers. Once my wife got into burning CDs herself, she found the Sony's speakers to be terrible. I tried everything I could to get them to sound their best, but at any decent volume they distorted badly. The Toshiba's speakers don't get loud enough for listening to music for pleasure, but they sound very nice at the volume levels it does have. And this is more than enough volume for listening to music tracks while sitting in front of it for the purpose of composing a playlists prior to burning CDs.

Well, that is enough for now. I have plenty more for next month.

Conclusion

Well, it was a busy month. But next month should be fun. I expect to play with the DVD burner that came with the new laptop. I also need to spend some time trying to figure out how I am getting 54Mbps out of a 802.11a/b laptop connected to a 802.11b/g router. I also want to get pcAnywhere on the laptop and have fun changing music on the back porch... from the back porch.

Come back for all that next month.
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