Computer Issues

For our consulting company, we purchased Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga laptops with three year, next business day warranties and accidental damage protection. For our phones, we don’t carry accidental damage protection, but do generally use decent cases. For my salaried income, I’ve been allocated a junky laptop by corporate that does not meet my needs, but we have corporate VM images, so I do most of my work through virtual machines running in VMware Workstation on my personal machines. I left my corporate laptop on my desk when I was last in the office – probably a year ago.

I cannot travel or be without a laptop for any extended period of time, and that is why I paid extra for the warranty coverage on my Thinkpad, and the Dell Latitude units I have had in the past. I’ve used the warranties a handful of times, and Dell has always delivered as promised, correcting any issues in, at most, three or four days if hard to find parts had to be ordered.

On November 22, my laptop was sitting on the table out in the garage and my friend and I were shuffling around in there working on something. I don’t recall exactly what the surrounding circumstances were, but it ended up falling on the floor and the screen shattered. Long story short, a month later, even with daily calls to check in with Lenovo and multiple [broken] promises, the laptop was [is] still broken.

What it came down to is that, even a month after my initial ticket with them, they were unable to source the correct replacement part. On Dec 22, the night before we were going to head out for East Texas, I still didn’t have a laptop to take with me, despite my clear instructions to Lenovo to have it fixed by that time, starting a month out. I called and complained to a manager, for the nth time, and was promised a refund of $2074.56, the initial purchase price, and emailed a return label.

On a similar note, a couple weeks ago, I was working on my truck and my cell phone slipped out of my pocket and hit the ground. I was up on a topside creeper, and the angle of the creeper was just so that it made everything in my jacket pockets fall forward and out of them. The screen was cracked so I ordered a replacement screen from Amazon. I installed the new screen and it worked fine for a few days, then separated into five layers. At this point I needed a phone immediately so I started using my backup Droid Turbo 2 for a few days, with minimal things I depend on set up (I didn’t even bother adding my email). I overnighted another replacement screen from Amazon and, three or four days later on Dec 22, it finally arrived. I tossed it in the phone, and on this screen, the backlight did not work. I loved my Blackberry Keyone, but needed a proper phone, not my aged and randomly-rebooting Droid 2 to travel with, so I decided to let it go and find a new phone on short notice.

I ended up returning both screens to Amazon, but one one of them I couldn’t get it off the phone without breaking it (used strong adhesive), so they instead credited me half of the price and didn’t require it be returned. I now have a useless Blackberry worth several hundred dollars that I’d like to eventually repair and get some money from.

At this point, it was the day before I was supposed to leave for vacation, and I still didn’t have a trustworthy cell phone or laptop. None of the local stores carry any business-class laptops eligible for 3yr NBD warranties with accidental damage protection, except for [arguably] the Apple Macbooks with AppleCare+. I ended up ordering a Macbook Pro 15 from Best Buy, choosing the same day delivery option, since I had plenty of other things to take care of and having it delivered best fit my schedule. The deadline for the delivery came and went, without a laptop, so I spent an hour on the phone with Best Buy trying to get to the bottom of it. They wouldn’t let me pick it up in store since it had already been dispatched, and processed a refund that I would have to wait another 3-4 days for. I was furious with Best Buy but, given no other choices, went to the local store around 10PM and picked up the next model down, because they didn’t have the one I wanted in stock. It’s the Macbook Pro 15″, with 2GB graphics and 256GB SSD storage. It doesn’t have the amount of storage I need – but more on that later.

While I was in the store I also looked at cell phones. The choices for nicer phones they had in stock were down to the Galaxy S8 and the iPhone 8/ iPhone X, in a few color variations. I was going to go with another Android, the Galaxy S8, but decided to give iPhone another try (haven’t used iPhone in years, because Nagios Push notifications don’t (?) work) since I was going back to a Macbook (something else I haven’t used in years). I ended up buying the iPhone 8, and Kelly the iPhone 8 Plus because she was unhappy with her Galaxy S8. Verizon offered us over $300 for the return of the S8, which we will either do or sell it on Ebay.

A little after 11PM, we left the store with a Macbook Pro 15 with AppleCare+, an iPhone 8 in silver (I would have preferred another color, but they were out of stock in everything), and an iPhone 8 Plus in gold (Kelly’s preferred model/ color). So I had a new laptop and cell phone, and Kelly got a new cell phone, which wasn’t necessary but something she wanted, and it didn’t cost us much to do.

I was up until about 4AM trying to get everything configured the way I needed it, and finally went to bed exhausted and ready to get up in a few hours to drive the RV to East Texas.

Even though we spent a ton of money at Best Buy, I am hoping to break close to even after all of this.

For the phones, we added about $30 to our cell phone bill because mine was out of contract, and replaced Kelly’s Samsung line with this one, which is at least on a monthly basis, a break-even. I will be dropping one of the hot spots we’re not using from our cell phone plan, which will reduce the bill by $20/mo. That brings the net increase of the bill to around $10/mo. Aside from new cases, the cell phones can really be considered a wash. Interesting enough, a mix-up on Verizon’s part had us send in the old Droid Turbo 2 instead of the S8, and pay $100 to upgrade. Not bad. We triple checked with the store and Verizon that this is the case, and it is, so works out in our favor. Once we sell the S8, we should easily cover the cost of the cases, that fee, and year or two of the monthly bill increase.

I paid $2179 for the laptop and $375 for AppleCare+, plus tax. That’s about $2765. Apple is sure proud of their laptops. This one was usually $2399 but I had them price match B&H. Lenovo is sending me a check for $2075, making us upside down $700 on this. Now, the laptop requires new software and miscellaneous cables, adding another $100 or so. So -$800.

It only has 256GB storage, which isn’t enough to put my work VM on, so I need an external SSD to work off of. Samsung makes a USB type-C 500GB SSD, for $169. A case for it is $11, bringing the total for that to $180. So -$980.

But there is an upside here, and a contending factor for my choice to go with the Macbook Pro and 15″ size. It can power two of the 4K displays on my desk with a dock, and replace my desktop. The dock to utilize this runs around $300. That brings the total loss here to $1280.

A conservative estimate of what I can sell my desktop for is $700. It’s a Intel Xeon 1231v3, with 32GB RAM, dual 256GB SSDs, a 1TB magnetic drive, and NVIDIA GeForce 980Ti. I expect to sell it for more, but we can start with that number here. I had to give up one of my 4K displays, and opted for my Phillips BDM4065UC to be the odd man out. It looks like those are going for $400 used on Ebay, so lets assume I can get $300 for it on Craigslist. We’re now only down $280. Finally, I found that the Kinesis Advantage2 QD works far better with OSX than my custom Dactyl, which will clear that $280 easily on the used market. So it looks like I will be able to break more or less even on this fiasco.

In the end I have a new laptop with the warranty and protection plan I need, that will hopefully actually be honored if ever needed. It will replace both my existing laptop and desktop. It will reduce the amount of work I have to put in to keep both my laptop and desktop in sync with all the settings, since they will now be the same machine. It’s not really a performance increase over my desktop (less RAM, if anything, with only 16GB) but is a decent increase over my laptop which would struggle with some VM tasks. I was able to clean up my desk a little bit and hopefully come to break even on it. And it’s kind of nice to be back on OSX and not using Windows anymore. My SecureCRT, Bria, and Office licenses moved right over, and corporate provides licensing for VMware Fusion. For the phone, the iPhone does everything I need and Nagios notifications can be made to work, but they have to go through a third party service. It’s not as clean as aNag on Android, but functions just fine. My other complaint is that none of the SSH software for the phone provides automatic configuration of bastion hosts like JuiceSSH, which is a feature I made heavy use of in the past, but I rarely work on servers from my phone nowdays. That’s what I carry laptops for, so I can probably live without it. The integration between phone and laptop for hotspot use is excellent, and I used it a ton while we were in East Texas.

We’re going to try and sell Kelly’s Lenovo Thinkpad and buy a cheaper Macbook to replace it, for the sake of consistency. We carry tons of spare power adapters, with many of them hardwired (we have hardwired laptop power in both home and RV couches, for instance) and having multiple power requirements has issues with that. She doesn’t need anything nearly as big or as powerful, so we’re going to try and get a Macbook Air, MacBook (non-pro), or MacBook Pro 13″ (used or overstock 2016 model), for whatever we can sell her Thinkpad for.

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