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 friend leaves Paradise (aka Costa Rica)

The person who I am about to write about reads this blog, so let’s hope I don’t tick him off.

Shortly after I moved to Jaco from Quepos in Costa Rica, I met American Jack Ettinger

Jack and Ken have lunch

Jack and Ken have lunch – and a brew – in Nicaragua

playing pool We became good friends and I owe a lot of my Costa Rican (and Nicaraguan) experiences to Jack. He was such a good friend that he drove me the hour and a half to San Jose to catch my flight back to the States in August 2011, much like my friend Curtis did for me when I left the U.S. 14 months before that.

Those of you who have followed this blog since those Costa Rica days have heard about Jack and his mountaintop restaurant, Adventure Dining. What a great concept he had with that place, perched on the

Adventure Dining

Adventure Dining

side of a mountaintop, a waterfall gushing below on one side and the Pacific Coast stretching endlessly on the other, the occasional pair of red macaws floating by. I helped him with repairs and had two great surf and turf dinners there.

Jack lived in Costa Rica for about eight years and had a pretty good living there, with a nice apartment, a vehicle, a great dog and ample female companionship. Jack liked the women. But I think he became bored, even though he only had the restaurant open for 7-8 months and had the rest of the time mostly free to do what he wished.

I cannot fathom why Jack made this move. Maybe the grind with constantly trying to drum up business, which he was excellent at,

Jack and his SUV

Jack and his SUV

became too much trouble. Maybe, as he tells me, he needed a new challenge. Maybe, as he says, it was time for him to contribute something to society in his senior years. I truly hope the reason he abandoned what some consider Paradise was not because of failing health.

Last month, Jack returned to the U.S. He is now living on one of those jagged Arizona mountaintops you might see in photos. He lives rent free in a relative’s empty house, with barely an Internet connection, much less the senoritas he was so enamored with and addicted to.

Jack has decided his next challenge is to help troubled teenage boys straighten out their

Jack helps unload my bags at the airport

Jack helps unload my bags at the airport

lives before it is too late. He is establishing a 501 something or other for funding. He wants to help the kids at the worst age for behavior change to change their behavior. He asked me to serve on his board of advisors, and I, of course, said yes.

Jack is the kind of friend all of us would like to have – someone who will do whatever he can for a friend. I have missed him since I left Costa Rica and have not found a replacement in the two years since. Would be nice to have a Jack here in Batam.

We have promised to visit each other each year. Next year is supposed to be in the Philippines or Thailand. Then, in 2015, I’m to visit him on the mountaintop in Arizona, where many of the crazy right wingers are. Real friends are so hard to come by.

I have wished Jack well in his new venture, his new life, but I tilt my head in wonder as to why he would leave what he had for a new beginning. Sort of like what a lot of people might say about me, I guess.