RIP my erratic HP companion

In May 2010, as I worked daily to rid myself of nearly all my belongings before heading off to Costa Rica, where I thought I would be retiring permanently, I purchased a laptop. This was to replace the desktop Mac I had because carrying a desktop on the road was not a viable option (obviously). I had never owned a laptop but it was going to be a necessity in my new life.

I forget if it was Circuit City or Best Buy where I evaluated my choices, becoming totally confused by the options and prices. I finally decided on an HP model, with 15-inch screen. It was perhaps larger than some people would choose, but I envisioned watching a lot of video on this machine and I wanted as big an image for that purpose as possible.

Now I’m not going to give the HP laptop a ringing endorsement. It did have an excellent screen, but it was heavy and there were periodic difficulties with it shutting down for no apparent reason. (I’m using the past tense in this post for reasons that will be known later.)

The first problem I encountered was shortly after my arrival in Quepos, Costa Rica, on the Pacific coast. Quepos is a very small town that was about to become larger due to a massive marina being built on what had been a nice beach. As much as anything, the marina was why I moved to Jaco up the coast after a month.

Anyway, one day without notice the laptop went dark. There was one computer shop in town and, fortunately, the owner was able to get the HP working again.

I did not encounter another problem until I moved to Croatia. On the bus ride from Zagreb to the coastal city of Zadar, where I thought I would be staying for three months, the HP went dark again. Restoring it would be my first priority and was quite the story, already described in this space. When I finally found a computer repair shop in Zadar, they turned the HP on and it magically was working again.

The HP then traveled with me to Rome and to Catania, Sicily, before we both ended up in Batam, Indonesia. It wasn’t long, however, before it went dark again. Apparently, it didn’t like the travel.

Batam has an HP computer shop and they fixed the unexplained problem once again. It was then that a new friend in Batam gave me an extra laptop he had as a substitute, eventually to become a backup. A year later, the HP went dark again and I bought a new laptop. I had hardly broken the new one in, when the HP rebooted. And then a guest stole off in the middle of the night, accompanied by both the new laptop and my Nikon 35mm. There went $1,000. But I still had the now-working HP and the backup.

A few weeks ago, the HP again went dark, was brought in for repair and was working fine. By now, I had spent maybe $200 or so on repairs.

The backup stopped working last week, and then, days later, the HP went dark again and would not turn on. I suspect it will reboot at some future date, but I had had enough of its unreliability and decided to buy another one. And this was fun.

Dewi and I went into Nagoya to the mall, where half the bottom floor is devoted to phone, camera and computer stores. I knew what I wanted inside a laptop and about what I was willing to pay, and just walked into one of the stores randomly. They did not have what I was looking for at the price I was willing to pay (up to $500).

So we tried another store next door. The price was too high by a lot. So to a third store, where I had purchased the computer a year earlier that ended up being stolen. Here I found what I was looking for at the right price (Rp 4.7 million – about $480). I gave them my credit card but they wouldn’t take it – because it is primarily a debit card and they would not take a debit card. Again, this was the same store I bought a laptop from a year earlier. I could have gone to an ATM machine but there was a principal involved here, as I had been using a debit card for four years without a problem. So I said never mind and went to the store right next door.

This next shop also had what I wanted – in fact, the exact same model I was ready to buy in the previous shop. Here, however, they were glad to take my card. And the price was lower by Rp 300,000, or $25, than the previous shop. With the 3% surcharge added for using a credit card, the total came to about the same as the base price of the previous store. A copy of Windows 8 was loaded and I was told they would transfer my data from the HP to the new Lenovo laptop when I brought in the HP (which I forgot to bring with me). They also said they would add a pirated copy of Microsoft Office.

Dewi took both computers to the store this morning and will bring them back this afternoon before she goes to work. Then I will need to spend some time setting up the new laptop. For the geeks, my requirements were 4 megs of RAM, 500 GB of storage, and 2.4 ghtz throughput.

And as for my long-time companion HP laptop, I truly expect one day when I press the start button it will come on again, just like it has in the past. But I will find it a new home anyway. In fact, my taxi guy, Eddie, has already put in a claim for his son, even though it doesn’t work. Dewi would like the backup, which is smaller, if she can find a friend who can fix it for free. And I’m sure there is someone working at Smiling Hill or Goodies who would like the HP if I offer. I’m sure both will find good homes.

I hope, though, that the new Lenovo will not provide me with as much fodder for this blog as the HP did. It’s very disconcerting to have your computer go on the fritz when you are in another country.

A walk and a strudel

It’s another beautiful day in Vodice – clear blue sky, little wind, bright sun and about 60

A typical street in the center of town, Vodice, Croatia

degree high. Time for a walk into town, made easier by the gradual healing of my big toe, which has been infected as the nail makes its way off the skin. Ouch! (Probably more information than anyone needed to know.)

I had two tasks today. First, I needed to use an ATM; second, I needed to print out my travel documents as I’m not traveling with a printer. I didn’t remember seeing anyplace in town where I could do this but thought I’d take another look around. My hope is that Zdravko has a printer in his downstairs office but I wanted to try doing this task on my own. The walk is about a mile, past all the large, stone and cinder block houses, all with their vegetable gardens, rosemary bushes and olive trees.

The ATM was easy. Same process as in the States. English is one of the default languages. Took out what I hope will be enough kunas to make it through Nov. 21, when I leave. However, I could not find anyplace that looked like it did any printing.

My next trip into town will be for a haircut. It’s getting gnarly.

On the way back, I stopped at a pekara for a pastry, opting for a cherry strudel ($1.40). The shop is right across the street from the grocery, Konzum.

A Little History

Since a friend mentioned that she had a completely false impression of this country (backwards, poor farmers, etc.), I thought a little background might be in order.

Croatia covers 21,851 square miles. Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coast is has about 1,200 islands and is characterized by its rocky, mountainous terrain. The population is about 4.3 million; the main religion is Roman Catholicism.

Until 1991, the country was part of Yugoslavia. That year, it declared independence, after which came the 4-year Croatian War of Independence. Even cities on the coast, such as Zadar, were bombarded during the war. Today, Croatia ranks high among Central European nations in terms of education, health, quality of life and economic growth. Per capita income is $15,633.

Croatia is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the WTO, and is waiting for approval to join the European Union. It has had troops in Afghanistan. Tourism is a prime source of income during the summer, with Croatia ranked the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world. The Croatian government has been rapidly building the country’s infrastructure, as evidenced by the new highway from Zagreb to the coast, which includes several tunnels bored through the mountains, one 5 kilometers long. The country has universal healthcare and free education through high school. By all measures, the Croatian health system ranks far above the United States, while costs are far below the U.S.

There is a thriving wine-making industry, with many individuals also growing their own grapes and making their own wines. Olive oil also is produced heavily, and again, many individuals grow their own olive trees and make their own olive oil. Jams made from native cherries and figs also are prevalent. The country also produces several fruit-based brandies and liquors, including several made from local cherries.

At least along the coast, the natural beauty is spectacular. The old towns in almost every coastal city are a must-see for visitors – or at least one or two before it gets monotonous. All the people I’ve met have been friendly and very helpful, although I don’t get much eye contact from strangers on the street. The women working in the grocery never seem to smile, either, but that might just be because it’s not a great job and probably has long hours. Enough edumacation!