The prodigal son returns

This is all my fault. I take full responsibility for it; it happened because I was lazy.

I usually do repairs myself. It’s not a point of pride; I am neither trained in computer repairs, nor do I have any kind of background in electronics. I just feel labor prices are too high, particularly since the guy behind the counter sometimes has as little, if not less, expertise or qualifications than me.

But I do get lazy. I do occasionally think that the tradeoff in time and money for me to do the job is worth not having to think about it, add it to my action-priority list, or wait for all the little details to fall together.

Laptop LCD screens, in my experience, are some of the easiest repairs to make, and I’ve done at least a dozen if not more in the past. It depends on the model of course, but generally speaking it’s not anything hard to do. If you take your time and look up the service manual and find that one little screw that’s hiding, it’s no worse than changing the oil in your car.

So why I sat on a laptop with a busted screen for a year (not literally 😉 ) without doing anything about it is, in retrospect, kind of strange. It worked fine, all the parts were there, it was actually an exceptionally agreeable machine … but for some reason I let it sit in the corner and play torrent slave for most of a year, while I kept delaying and delaying a repair.

To my credit, I did try once to replace the screen on my own, but ended up with the wrong part. I guess really, it was a year after that, I decided to let someone else do the dirty work.

And so two months ago I delivered an erstwhile functional laptop to a local repair shop, with a blank hard drive and enough ancillaries to allow someone to test it.

And now it’s back. Sort of.

You see, it’s not the same machine. It’s the same model, and the same brand, and even the same specifics … generally speaking. But the first clue that the computer hadn’t been repaired so much as replaced was the sticker on the palmrest.

As a matter of course I carefully remove all the “Designed for Windows” emblems that festoon the planet’s machines like squashed bugs on a windscreen. I consider it an act of environmental courtesy, sort of like picking up after your dog makes a mess in the park. (Yes, I did just equate Windows stickers to dog feces. Roll with it. 😈 )

So you can imagine the sort of look I had on my face when the repairman opened the clamshell on 97-546L8 and there was a rather worn and faded-looking “Made for Windows 2000” sticker on the left palmrest.

In that split second I knew first of all that this was not the same machine I asked for repairs two months ago. I suppose I could have made a scene at that point, but in the same fraction of time, I ran through some important background information.

First, the original machine was free. It was literally dug out of a garbage heap and handed to me gratis, as sometimes happens.

Second, the machine in front of me was in good condition, or at least as good a condition as the machine I surrendered. A cursory look showed no obvious physical flaws, no obvious dissimilarities to the other.

And it was likewise an obvious sister to the original machine, so I felt I could be somewhat comfortable in assuming it was an identical model with identical guts.

So the question I posed to myself at this time was, do I make a stink, or do I play along and take the chance that this is actually a more valuable machine?

I made my decision after the technician on hand powered up the machine, then plugged in the AC adapter. Obviously the battery was holding a charge. The screen was beautiful and clear. Color was good. And it booted cleanly into Windows 2000. (This is the part where I remind you that I delivered my old machine with a blank hard drive. I don’t trust computer technicians not to go digging through my stuff, and neither should you.)

Once Windows 2000 started, the technician dug out the repair invoice and I quickly found a system profile. I couldn’t find a processor speed, but I could see that there was 256Mb of memory in this machine. That’s twice what the old one had.

So in review I was looking at a relative of the old garbage-heap machine, with twice as much memory, a free installation of Windows 2000 (which is worth nothing to me), and a clean, scratch-free LCD, all for the price of a screen “repair.”

What can I say? I took it home.

Maybe I got the better half of the deal, maybe not. It turns out that the CPU is only 700Mhz; the old one was 750Mhz. Both are/were Celerons. The hard drive is the original one I brought in — the Samsung MP0402H, although it wasn’t blank any more. There’s a hairline crack on one corner, but it’s definitely no worse than the dumpster-dweller I brought home: It doesn’t smell like a pile of rusted oil filters.

And I got a free stick of memory and a free installation of Win2K, as well as a valuable lesson on cultural interpretations of “How long will the repair take?” to a native English speaker, and to a native Japanese speaker. Education is priceless.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you … 97-201v7, the newest member of the K.Mandla family.


Overall I’m happy. Yes, it was overpriced — all “professional” repairs are overpriced. But I can hardly complain about getting an almost new old computer to “replace” the screen in an old one … considering I got a few little bonuses on the side too.

All the same, no more lazy. Next time, I do the repair myself. 🙂


12 thoughts on “The prodigal son returns

  1. Luca

    Interesting… You seem to have got a good deal, but there are always two sides to the coin. The real question is what happened to the machine you took in?

    1. Michael Douglas

      It’s obvious isn’t it?

      It’s back where it was first found:

      The dump again!

      I’d go searching for it if I were you 😉

      Realistically though, they probably grabbed any usable spares from it before dumping it, so it’s probably not in a usable state anymore.

  2. Sam Weston

    I’m thinking that the repair guy saw the cost of a new screen and realised that if he went on ebay he could get a laptop in good condition and still make a profit with no work.

  3. fuxter

    what a sad story! i really tend to attach to my own globally you got two pieces of hardware as a gift, but the first one is again in dumpster. i’m gonna miss it. you could have the small ibm family already. this little kid feels alone over there…

  4. Mulenmar

    Oh, man that’s sad. 8~(

    Well, look at it this way: more memory, better torrenting, right? 😀

    As for Windows 2000, since it’s a fresh install of what is supposedly the second-best OS Meechosucks made, perhaps you could do a side-by-side benchmarking comparision of performance and resource usage for the same capabilities. ::biggrin::

  5. fuxter

    oh, i forgot to mention. when i got one of my eee-pc’s harddrive broken for the second time(!) they installed me some harddisk from another eee-pc with WinXP on it! when i said “i didn’n have any WinXP when i was giving it to you”, he said, “well, you know…”. i quickly ensured him that i will erase it since i don’t need it, and he was happy not to bother with it. i still got winxp image somewhere.
    yeap, as you might know, ‘in today’s Russia…’

  6. Tony

    I think you came out good. I’ve seen where the tech accidently dropped a unit in for repair and built a replacement unit from the parts bin. If this is the case, the replacement is usually build to a higher specification if at possible. This is the way the tech says “I’m sorry!” Yes – believe it or not, there are some honest and worthwhile technicians!

    If the unit sent in for repair had been new, then a new unit or a cash refund is called for.

    I’ve seen the factory try to pass damaged units back to the customer by saying it was the customer’s fault. I recommend the customer to look at the original repair ticket and see if there were any remarks about damages when the unit was originally turned in for repair.

    You got a good deal.

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