[ Home | Library | Contents | Prev | Next ]

President's Letter

by Andrew Welch

[Andrew on Harley]

As some of you may already know, I have a Power Computing MacOS clone (a PowerWave) that I'm quite happy with. What you may not know is that the machine died the other week.

I left my computer on all night, and came in early in the morning to find the machine crashed (dumped into MacsBug). Odd, I thought (the machine has been incredibly stable for me), but not a big deal. A 3-fingered salute later, and I heard the familiar startup chime. And then nothing.

I stared blankly into the void of my blackened monitor. My initial annoyance at this little inconvenience turned into concern after I tried powering up the machine a half-dozen times or so.

Time to play doctor. I knelt down, put my ear next to the machine, and tried rebooting it. I could hear the hard drive calibrate, but after that, nothing. I inserted a floppy disk and restarted the machine -- to see if it got far along enough in the boot process to read the disk. No dice.

Time to play surgeon. I took the machine apart, and proceeded to check all of the cables to make sure they hadn't come lose somehow. Nope, everything looked fine there. Then I reseated all of the RAM, expansion cards, etc. Nothing.

It looked like the machine was truly toast. The irony of the whole situation is that I had just placed an order for another Power Computing clone, not a few days before this fateful one. It almost seemed like Hyperion's final act of defiance and jealousy.

Time for that phone call we all dread: tech support. Being savvy of the customer service situation at Power Computing, I dialed the number, punched the right buttons, put the phone on speakerphone, and immediately went back to work.

About 20-30 minutes later, I was speaking to a live person, who was leading me through a number of tests that I'd already done. We gave it one final hail Mary by hitting a little red zapper button on the motherboard, and came to the inevitable conclusion that the machine would need to be packed up and sent to Power Computing to be fixed.

"2-3 weeks??" was my response to her response about my inquiry. Seemed like a rather long time to be without a machine to work on, given what I do for a living. Ah well, at least my PowerBook was back from being repaired (my cats decided it would be a fun thing to play with). I could hobble along on that for a bit.

The main problem was that there was information on that machine's hard drive -- eMail, source code, projects, etc. -- that was rather vital to my business. I guess it could wait two weeks, but some people I work with wouldn't be too happy about it. There was no way for me to get at the information on the drive.

The machine wouldn't start up at all, so hooking another drive up to it was not an option. The System software that was on the hard drive also wouldn't work on any of the other machines we have in the office. The only alternative would have been to shell out yet more money to get a drive enclosure, turn the internal drive into an external one, and copy the data over that way.

Seemed rather excessive to me -- after all, my PowerBook had just returned from repairs with everything intact on the hard drive, and the customer service person I arranged the delivery of my PowerWave with made no cautions or warnings about the drive.

Heck, the only way I'd lose information on the drive would be if there was something catastrophically wrong with the drive (in which case, the information would have been hosed anyway), or if something nasty happened in the shipping of the machine (we insured it).

I've had machines repaired before -- the only time they even bother to do anything with the hard drive is if they find something wrong with it. In those cases, they always try to back it up and restore it for you anyway; people realize the importance of the data in your machine. All of these rationalizations reassured me that all would be well; what could possibly happen?

The repair technicians at Power Computing could decide to gratuitously reformat my hard drive, for one thing. In fact, this is exactly what they did.

The machine came back in under a week (commendable), and started up like a champ the first time I tried to power it up. However I got a strange feeling as soon as I saw the Extensions start to march under the "MacOS" loading screen. After a brief but anxiety-ridden time, I was greeted with my desktop. Only it wasn't mine.

Horror-stricken, I began immediately plumbing around on the hard drive looking for my hopefully backed up data. Nothing. Grrrrrrr. I sat slack-jawed for a moment, as all of the information I had on that drive flashed in front of my eyes. Vital eMail. Current projects. Source code.

Yes, I do back up my drive -- however, when I am working on a project such as Snapz Pro, the current versions are kept locally on my drive. Fact is, the information that was on that drive was worth more than the computer itself. It was then that I recalled reading about horror stories where folks shipped their machine to Power Computing for repairs, only to have it returned to them with someone else's hard drive -- and data.

I frantically glanced over the repair order to see what the problem had been with the machine. The only thing that was marked was the Level 2 Cache -- it was defective, and had finally gone south. The machine wouldn't even start up until it was replaced, so in order to reformat my hard drive, they would have had to have fixed the machine already. So why the hell did they reformat my drive? And why the hell didn't they at least back it up and restore it first?

The answer to the first question, I learned after the fact, is that "...oh, they sometimes do that." The second question was left unanswered, but presumably because it's faster to just wipe out people's vital data than be respectful and careful with it.

The point I tried to drive home was that no one had warned me about this "policy," and worse, in this case, there was absolutely no reason to reformat the drive. The machine had to have been fixed before they could possibly have done it in any event. There's just no excuse for costing a customer valuable time and money for no reason other than shoddy repair procedures.

There's no way to get my data back. However, there is a way to get my confidence back: I have a message from Jeff King at Power Computing (their customer service head honcho, it seems) that I will be returning tomorrow. I damn well expect some kind of compensation for this whole fiasco, but more importantly, Power Computing needs to change their "policy" in regard to gratuitously wiping away people's vital data as a normal repair procedure.

I'd like to be able to purchase more Power Computing machines in the future, but this kind of "support" is ludicrous. If you agree, writing them at PowerCC@aol.com wouldn't be a bad idea.

[Andrew's Signature]

Andrew Welch
Ambrosia Software, Inc.

Ed Note -- After this incident, Andrew went into a deep depressed state. We didn't see him for a long time (except for those trips to the software library). Hector took the brunt of the pain, offering kind and loving "Hey Buddy's" and "Hi There's," only to receive silence in return. All was not lost, Andrew took this opportunity to get to know the customer support staff at Power Computing a little better.

[ Home | Library | Contents | Prev | Next ]