Feeling Stabby

I apologize for not writing more frequently. It’s my annual Halloween Madness combined with my free-time-management inadequacy. You may have notice that I’ve relisted some old items, but haven’t added anything new to the shop in a couple of weeks. I promise, I have a pile of stuff to list! Some housewares, more purses, and a couple of lovely wedding dresses that may get blog posts all of their own.

But right now: I need to vent. Because I am so. Effing. Frustrated.

By October of 2006, I had been with T-Mobile for 8 years. Technically, I started with VoiceStream, and when T-Mob bought them out, well, there I was. And it was good. VoiceStream had the occasional billing issue, but once T-Mob came in, the glitches stopped. The service was good, I only dropped calls in one geographically wonky spot, everything was fine. But in 2006 I wanted a fancy new phone, and the incentives with new carriers were better than the incentives to stay with T-Mob, so I decided to switch. Enter: Verizon Wireless. I signed up for a first-month-free dealio that included a new RAZR phone. I hated the phone, but more importantly, I hated the Web site. This may not be a big deal to some people, but I pay my bills online. I monitor my account online. I download ringtones online. And Verizon’s site seemed to be set up to discourage all of this. My paperwork stated that I wouldn’t be locked into a contract if I canceled within two weeks, so I canceled at 12 days, returned my phone, and switched to Sprint.

Precisely two weeks after initially signing up for a first-month-free, no-contract-yet deal with Verizon, they send me an e-bill for $254.29, my “early cancellation” fee. I remember that the phone maze required to reach a live representative further assured me that leaving had been the right decision, but to Verizon’s credit, the phone call to straighten out that issue was otherwise forgettable. I must have pointed out that I’d canceled before being locked into a contract, they reviewed the paperwork and agreed, and that was that. Done with Verizon forever. Woo!

Fast forward three years: This past Monday, I rec’d in the mail a bill for $21.11 from a collections agency on behalf of Verizon Wireless. This is obviously an error, so I called the number on the letter, which connected me to a recording telling me to either pay or dispute the claim in writing. Well okay, I will, but in the meantime, let me call Verizon. In the three years since my last call to Verizon, they’ve done nothing to eliminate the phone maze. After answering the same set of automated questions twice, I finally reached a human. Who couldn’t find my history in the network until I explained the two-week, no-contract situation. With that, he was able to locate me. And then explained that he isn’t allowed talk to me about my account, because it’s been sent to collections. He offered to give me their phone number. I explained that it’s a recording, but he said no, this is a different phone number. For Verizon’s own internal collections department. That they can talk to me. It then took him four minutes to “find” the phone number, but he finally did. I wrote it down. I called.

It’s a Verizon recording that automatically connects me to the collection agency recording.

Stab stab stabby stab.

Dude, back up your data. Seriously.

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Some of you may have realized that I’ve been (hopefully noticeably) absent for a while. That’s due, in part, to me being plain ol’ busy with regards to my disorganized life, but let me tell you a story:

In August of 2006, I bought myself a brand-spankin’-new MacBook. On the 13th, to be precise. (Yes, I still have my original receipt and all of the packaging. I’m weird like that.) I’ve been using the MacBook every. single. day. for these last three years. I’ve certainly put the machine through its paces… I’m a graphic designer by day, so I work with a lot of print-resolution, multi-MB files in some seriously RAM-sucking programs. And, you know, it’s portable, so it’s going to get knocked around. With those factors in mind, I eventually shelled out for the extra two years of AppleCare, bringing me up to three warranty-covered years.

Recently, my MacBook has been showing some signs of age. Physically it’s fine, and the processor speed is still competitive, but the battery has cycled so many times that it’s lost its oomph, and the hard drive is laughably small by today’s standards. My file sizes are such that I can’t go ANYWHERE without an external drive plugged in, and that kinda defeats the purpose of being PORTABLE, right? Alas, my budget isn’t really upgrade-friendly at the moment, and I especially don’t want to deal with the hassle of swapping hard drives.

Are we all caught up now? To August 21st? I’m on the road, looking forward to getting some work done, when I unexpectedly get the Spinning Beach Ball of Doom in ALL of my programs. Force-quitting via the menu options isn’t working. Force-quitting via the keyboard shortcut isn’t working. Finally, I override everything and shut down with the power button. It’s not recommended, no, but I need to get around this hiccup and get to photo editing.

I give it a few minutes. I start back up.

Um, I start back up.

Hello? It’s greeting me with the blinking “?” folder. I know that this means that my System Folder has been un-blessed. De-blessed. Lost its blessing. Whatever. Okay, not a problem, I’ll restart from the system CD and… I don’t have the system CD with me. I haven’t needed it in three years, why would I bring it on the road? Um, okay. Don’t panic. A friend in the Twitterverse kindly suggests that I restart in “Single User Mode,” which should allow me in to reset the Startup Disk.

It won’t start in Single User Mode.

Oh, for fek’s sake. Okay, well, it’s Friday, and I’ll be back home on Monday night, so I’ll just fix it then. This isn’t a major issue, just an easily fixable hiccup. Easily fixable if I have the system CD, anyway.

Monday night. System CD. Restart, reassign the Startup Disk. Except that no, it doesn’t SEE my hard drive. WTF? I open Disk Utility, but can’t repair because it ALSO doesn’t see my hard drive. Weird. I’m officially in over my head, so I make an appointment at the Genius Bar for Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon at the Genius Bar, I go over my problem with the available Genius. He tells me that it sounds like I’ve done just about everything that he would have, but he’s going to plug in this doohickey here and… yeah, your hard drive is dead.

Um, excuse me?

Yeah, dead. Are you still under warranty?

NONOIAMNOTITEXPIREDTWELVEFEKKINGDAYSAGOWHATDOYOUMEANDEAD?! (That’s what my brain said. My actual response was a much calmer, “No, it ran out earlier this month.”)

“These days, you can get a 500GB drive for about $100 from BestBuy, and don’t let them charge you for an install. You can do it yourself.”

Holy crap, I need to buy a new hard drive, and I need to do it NOW. No time for my usual online bargain hunting. And all of my FILES!!! Okay. Okay. Okay. Deep breath. I have all of my data backed up to an external drive. ALL of my data. I back up both my hard drive and my small external regularly. As in, every hour. I will not have lost anything. This is an astoundingly huge relief. I am literally dazed as I walk out of the Apple Store. I’m not happy about the unexpected expense, or the inevitable hassle, but knowing that my data is safe is keeping me from breaking down entirely.

A trip to the local BestBuy, $90, and a Starbucks run later, I now have a 320GB drive, expertly installed by a techie friend who has the right size (Torx T9) obscure screwdriver, some free time, and a willingness to work for an iced soy chai. As soon as the system software is reinstalled, the startup screen (Startup screen! Woo!) handily asks if I want to transfer anything from a Time Machine backup, and I coincidentally have my Time Machine drive with me, so that is an easy if time-consuming task. I haven’t lost any data.

My monitors (I run two) need recalibrating before I can actually get to work. My Mail app, which I use for all business-related email, needs rebuilding. Each mailbox, individually. (Glad to have found this out, because I originally thought I had somehow lost YEARS of email archives). And now that I have the room, I need to get my files (music, photos, sales, and client files) off of the external and onto my hard drive. Everything, particularly my brain, needs to be remapped to the new locations. This is all taking time. So here I am, as back as can be, until I notice yet another little tiny thing that isn’t quite set as I expect, and have to go fix that. It’s a pain.

But you know what? I haven’t lost a thing. Not a single thing. Back up your files, people. This will happen to you.

Car Alarms

Oh, were you expecting a post about Viva? Instead, you get the following:

My car was broken into again last night. In my previous car, the thieves had to break a window to get in. Kind of a deterrent, but not 100% foolproof. They took a portable CD player that time, and it cost me $200 for a new window. With my current car, though, the window design allows for anyone lacking a sense of ethics to simply slide a hanger or slimjim in between the glass and the gasket, and open her up. It happens about once a year. “Lucky” for me, the sleazebags around here aren’t so bright, and generally take the worthless stuff and leave anything of value behind. Last night, they missed my GPS but took – get this – my reusable shopping bags. (They once left behind a CD wallet, but took an umbrella. I shit you not.)

While nothing of serious value has yet been stolen, there is always some form of physical damage to the car, from the scratches and dents of uninvited entry to the smashed steering column or last night’s forcibly removed sun visor that costs me some amount of money to repair. On top of that, of course, is the icky feeling of being violated; that some stranger (and a jerk, at that) has been in my car.

I’m thinking that a car alarm may be the way to go. Actually, I would like to wire my car in such a way as to provide a taser-like stun to anyone who touches it against my will, but barring that, a blinkie light and a siren will have to do. One friend tells me that an alarm system isn’t much of a deterrent, because when was the last time you saw anyone rushing to protect a car that was blaring an alarm? He has a point. But what else can I do? For $230 I can get a basic alarm system with remote locks, installed. If I spend more money, I get more features, but what good does a 2-way buzzing remote do me unless I sleep with it in my pocket? And the keychain screen that shows me precisely where my car was violated? What good is that? I can already tell from the damage, and it still does me no good to know.

The install should take 3-5 hours. I wish there was a movie theater nearby.