Why consultants should leave hardware alone…

Today has not been a good day for me and computer hardware.

It all started a couple of weeks back, when I dropped the bag in which I carry the Dell Latitude D600 that I use for work. When I took the computer out of the bag, I had cracked the case on the edge of the screen, although everything was still working. Of course, this type of damage is not covered by warranty (and I can hardly blame Dell on this one) but when I e-mailed the internal support department they had an identical computer over which a colleague had spilt red wine. So, it should just be a case of swapping over the screens and my laptop will be good as new – or that’s what I thought…

Once I put it all back together, I powered on the computer and… smelt burning electronics, combined with wisps of smoke from the motherboard. So that was the end of laptops 1 and 2.

The guys in internal support are helpful (and do have a sense of humour); luckily they had a spare D600 which was working, although the previous user had reported a problem with the display that no-one had managed to look at yet. I slid my original hard disk into the spare unit and it all fired up. Windows Server 2003 plug and play detected a hardware change (just a different wireless network card) and I was away – except that the display switched off after a few minutes, and attaching an external monitor didn’t make any difference. After half an hour on the phone (during which I reseated the monitor connector and restarted the computer several times, with the screen going blank on each occasion after varying lengths of time) I managed to convince Dell that a new motherboard was required and they are dispatching an engineer in due course. In the meantime, I need a computer to work with and so, on to laptop number 4, on which I am typing this post (it has a dodgy trackpad and the DVD drive makes some funny noises, but I can live with that for a few days).

Now, the combination of my recent iPod purchase (so far I’ve managed to rip about a sixth of my CD collection and I’m up to 11Gb of MP3s) and my hobby as a photographer (over 2000 6-megapixel images in the last 6 months) means that I have run out of hard disk space on my home PC, so this morning I bought a 250Gb Seagate Barracuda hard disk from RL Supplies. I was understandably a bit nervous about installing new hardware after the debacle which destroyed 2 laptops and disabled one more – my IT Manager suggested I look out for at least two pairs of magpies on the way home, hang a horseshoe over the door, get hold of some lucky heather and find a four-leaf clover before even opening the case.

I quickly hooked up the new disk and then, armed only with an MS-DOS boot disk and a copy of Symantec Ghost, I cloned my old disk onto the new one in half an hour. Then I removed the original disk, rebooted and after a quick restart to let Windows XP sort itself out once it had detected the hardware change I was away again with a 625% increase in capacity.

Phew! Now I think I’ll stick to software for a while…

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