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.

Talk to the American

Life often offers up its little nuggets.

Sunday is often a “down” day for me here at Smiling Hill (unless there’s some exploring to do). I’ll sleep late (9am), have a big breakfast after my workout, work on my tan a bit, take a dip in the pool and spend the rest of the day surfing the Web or watching TV. Same as in any country, right? (But at least I have a pretty good premium TV program in the apartment.) Today was a typical Sunday.


The Smiling Hill pool at the Goodies Restaurant complex.

It was obviously going to be a hot one, I figured as I scaled the hill a few times before breakfast. Lots of sun, good for the tan. It doesn’t take long here, almost on the equator, for the sun to fry you. Then, Sumatran coffee, pancakes, Canadien bacon, fresh-squeezed OJ and cold milk. Fast forward to sitting at the pool and on the Web.

There were a couple of local families around the pool, and a few expats in the restaurant. Some stray kids were swimming. I was stting at a table poolside, listening to some music and reading the news.

Out of nowhere, one of the teen boys swimming came over and asked in very halting English if he could speak to me. Actually, he wanted to have a conversation with me – because he was taking a course in English and wanted to practice. He said he was 16 and had been in Batam a year (I think). He told me where he was from but I didn’t understand.

I offered him a seat at the table. He had trouble starting so I tried a couple of easy questions. Finally, I told him I was a journalist, and he understood and became more animated. Actually, he kind of smiled when I told him. Don’t know if that was good or bad. So when he showed interest in that I called my blog up on my laptop. He knew what the word blog meant. I figured the pictures there might be of interest and create some conversation.

Navigating the blog was too slow, though, and about this time his friend showed up. Wish I had taken pictures (I had my camera with me) but these were just two normal teenage boys, nice smiles, friendly and interested. Oh, courteous, too. I started showing pictures of Croatia, and then a third person showed up.

This guy was a little older, and spoke good English. He had been to Sweden and Paris, but was impressed with all the countries I have on my blog as having been visited. Turns out he was helping the younger two learn English and had encouraged them to approach me so they could practice. “Go talk to the American.”

I went through some of my Croatia photo files but thought they would be more interested in Rome, so we went through a bunch of those before my battery died. The boys thanked me, we shook hands and touched our hearts, and they went back to swimming.

You never know what life will throw at you.