Two interesting (hellish) stories to tell today. First, the story of my wonderful refurbished Dell laptop. I've had this laptop for almost a year, and in general it's been pretty good. It's a very fast system with good battery life. However, it's has a small fault. When highly stressed, it shuts off. I don't mean that it asks me to log off, it just turns off. Some quick searching on Dell's support forums led me to the discovery that this model (SmartStep something or another) has a history of overheating CPUs. I had noticed that the machine never did this when unplugged, which makes sense because the CPU powers down when running on battery.

So.... normally this only affected game playing, but it happened twice while at a client site when running too many applications. I decided it was time to get the CPU replaced, so I called up Dell technical support. We had a good support contract with them (onsite repair), so I figured it wouldn't take long to schedule someone to come out. I had a fan issue with my desktop a month or so ago and they had someone out with 72 hours.

Little did I know what lay ahead. On Friday I spent two hours on the phone with a tech who insisted I remove each piece of hardware and reseat them - then power the machine up and try to force the overheating. I'm a big guy - with big hands - and messing around with a laptop's guts is not easy. Nor is it fun launching thirty or so applications at once in an attempt to make it overheat, but the tech insisted that all of this was necessary. After two hours, I told her I had to leave.

I spent another hour today on the phone with Dell, who once again made me force a shutdown (twice, for a grand total of 7 I think). My "onsite repair" is now me sending the laptop back (sans hard drive) so that they can repair it over 5-25 business days, which means I won't have it for MAX and will need to borrow my wife's.

I've got to say - I'm really surprised. What if a computer novice had called in? Do you really want some newbie removing hard drives, internal modems, RAM, etc?

You know, instead of paying for next day service, I'd like to pay for "Skip the Queue" support. I don't mean the phone queue (lord forbid they employ a simple web app where you enter your phone number and they call you), but the queue of "first do A, reboot, then B, then C, then re-install Windows"

So, as I said, I had two stories to share. Once again I'm continuely shocked at the technology adversion some companies have. I've been having an issue with my insurance company over my wife and daughter's medical bills. The issue was there was something going wrong with the filing. We finally got a straight answer, after months, of what the issue was. Apparently the hospital here in Louisiana only issues invoices in electronic form, whereas BlueCross/BlueShield (hereafter known as Luddites-R-Us) insists on paper bills. Of course, no one was able to figure this out months ago, the hospital just kept sending electronic invoices and BCBC just kept rejecting them.

I swear - I think the only reason we don't have more automation is because someone wants to keep a large set of idio.... paper pushers employed.