The Writings of Ingrid Pitt

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Ingrid's Obituary


Sorry. Don’t do Macs!

Whatever you choose there will always be someone to tell you that you have made the wrong choice. And that could even be the bloke who sold it to you.
Computers

Computers!

I sometimes feel that I am walking around with a flashing neon on my forehead saying ‘Muggins’. It is obviously hi-tech because I can’t see it in the mirror but every time I want to do something, however vaguely connected with electronic devices, they never seem to work. Broadband took 5 weeks to install, a simple Zip disk drove me mad for months. Sometimes it offered up the dark secrets stored within its electronic depths, sometimes it just refused to make an iconic appearance on the desktop screen. Then there is the iMac. I love it. Maybe ‘loved it’ would be a better way to describe our relationship. Once something goes slightly off-key the trouble starts. You ring a name in the Yellow Pages which purports to be that of a name of someone to banish the IT blues. A friendly voice answers, you unload your woes, no trouble the voice quoths. Then it asks the killer question. “ What PC do you have”. I am forced to admit, abjectly, that I have a Mac. Silence - then. “Sorry. I don’t do Macs” You feel as if you have said something rude or belong to the wrong religious cult. But everything was sprossy and me and Mac were getting along famously. I had found a company, Honeylight in Wandsworth who had taken pity on my poor ailing iMac, spruced it up, given it some more muscle and declared it fit to rebuff an Alien invasion from Pluto if called upon to save the human race. Then I got a billet doux from my valiant little C80 Epson printer. It said succinctly that it was on its last legs. I tried to talk it out of the high dudgeon into which it had sunk but I finally had to admit that I needed another printer.

All my troubles in the past streamed before my eyes like an endless loop of film. I wasn’t prepared to put my soul through the torture of trying to get some rapport with another electronic gadget. So I summoned my man Tonio, thrust a wad of banknotes in his palm and told him to get me a new printer. My niece, Simone, had been singing the praises of her Laser printer so I suggested he looked at a Laser printer. I warned him not to be taken in by a smarmy salesman who was willing to do anything for a quick sale. I wanted something that I could slam on the desk, connect up and - heigh-ho Silver.Tonio promised to follow instructions to the letter. And zoomed off to confront the sales people at Computer Warehouse in Brentford. After negotiating their electronic door, (a sign of insecurity?) he waited patiently for a chance to display his knowledge of modern IT technology. He told the bloke who finally got around to serving him that he had an up-graded iMac, bought from them, running an OS 9.2.2 system and he wanted a laser printer that he could plug in and start printing on immediately. The date was 20th October 2005. The time 2.20pm. A date that should be written large in the annals of disasters. The Salesman looked up the relevant details on his computer and declared that the Minolta Magicolour 2450 was the beast most suited to our requirements. Perfectly happy to be wedded to an iMac of a good vintage and could be relied upon to ecstatically deliver up prints of an above standard quality until the crows needed milking. Just connect up the mains, slap in the USB cable and if Bob isn’t your uncle you should have a word with your Granny. Tonio decided it was made for us. He was a bit suspicious when they insisted on carrying the heavy box out to the car. They seemed a mite glad to get rid of it. When I saw Tonio stagger in through the door with this huge box I was impressed. Everything went like clockwork. Tonio connected it up, switch on, slipped in the instructional CD, followed said instructions and stood back with a smug smile. Perfect! I tried a print. One of my favourites from Vampire Lovers with all us girls camping it up. It slid sinuously out of the dark intestines of the printer in a mini storm of grunts and shakes. The noisy gestation period was only of a seconds’ duration. The paper was blank. For a moment I thought it had failed at the first fence. But it was just the paper upside down. The resultant picture was stunning. On ordinary paper of indifferent quality it looked just great. I wanted more. So I called up a page from an old catalogue. It was in colour and I was sure that based on what I had already seen, the Laser printed page was going to revolutionise business. But....... The sheet of paper came out with the picture printed in black and white. Disappointed I never the less decided that it was my own fault. I hadn’t commanded my new slave to expectorate in colour. With the help of Tonio I scratched around until I found how to alter the setting from b/w to colour. I jabbed the ‘print’ command and waited expectantly. The machine blew a raspberry and delivered up another monochrome print. I had that sinking feeling I get when I have to deal with computers. But I refused to let it go. I gave pole position to Tonio and went and watched Holby City. The staff there always knew what to do in an emergency and I could feel one building. An hour later, at a critical moment when the green clad surgeon was removing a particularly nasty piece of fencing from a bisected abdomen, Tonio slumped in a chair and admitted defeat. He was going to have to ring the Warehouse and confess that he wasn’t up to it. Galvanising the printer that is - he could probably have removed the offending fence post easily. A bright young man at Computer Warehouse went through the settings with him and announced that it wasn’t the printer that was making the day dismal but the computer. Perhaps one of the later G5’s? It wasn’t what Tonio wanted to hear. We had just had the computer updated, expensively, so that it could cope with the new printer and the thought of wasting all that good money was not to be contemplated. After a little verbal scuffling it was decided by the owner of the bright telephone voice that only the boffins at Konica Minolta themselves could get to the root of the problem. So Tonio phoned and went through the problem once again. They jealously asserted that it was not their printer that was at fault but all blame should be laid at the feet of Quark. I had already had a brief word with a Quark expert and he had said that if it was on the screen in colour Quark Xpress would print it in colour. ‘How was it connected’ the boffin asked. Tonio explained that he had followed the setting up instructions to the letter. There was a gurgle of delight on the phone. Had he used a USB connection? Yes! Minolta man could hardly contain his delight. That was it, it should be connected by Ethernet. How anyone was supposed to know that I’m not sure. Anyway he promised to put one in the post right away and the next day it arrived.

After much fumbling and swearing the printer stubbornly refused to offer up a colour print. So it was back to the bright telephone voice at Computer Warehouse. He didn’t want to hear our problems recounted yet again and quickly said that one with greater technical knowledge than his would bring his experience to the problem. When? Aye, there’s the rub. There was a queue of anxious Magicolor 2450 novice owners waiting in line - presumably. So we waited. Zilch! Next morning the problem at Computer Warehouse was the same. But someone would be in touch as soon as..... Afternoon. No contact. Another call to the Warehouse. The guru was still guruing with another but would be in touch before stumps were drawn that day. Next morning another call ascertained that the queue was still in place but our place in it was favourable. At 11 am Tonio got a bit of a wobbly on, packed the printer back in its box and dumped it on the floor of the shop at Computer Warehouse. With remarkable restraint he told the counter jockey that he wanted them to take the Minolta back and replace it with one that worked. After a while another man emerged from a side door and ran through the problem again. Tonio explained that even with the Ethernet cable connected as Minolta had suggested the machine could still only manage Quark Xpress in b/w. CW’s guru steadfastly refused to believe it and refused to take back the printer. He said if it didn’t print in one of the applications we were using that wasn’t his fault. And this was supposed to be Customer Support? After more verbal wrangling he agreed that he would take the printer back but would charge an administration fee. And this was only seven days after the purchase date and they had advised us to buy this item? So the printer was back in the car and back in the office. I phoned a bloke I had dealt with before in Oxford and asked him to come in and give me his opinion. He spent all day working on the problem and at the end of the day had to confess that it was beyond him. He had, momentarily, managed to get the printer to accept Quark as a contributing partner but the union had been brief and unrepeatable. And, somehow or another the Internet had gone walkabout. After a lot more muttering and shaking of the head the Internet was restored by switching off the printer. Howzat then? A mystery to all. So at the end of the day things were as at dawn. Except I was £150 lighter.

Next morning Tonio was in a throat gripping mood when he called Computer Warehouse and managed to get through to the sales manager. The SM was in a more amenable frame of mind and said he would get in touch with Minolta. So we waited - and we waited. Two days later Tonio again rang the Sales Manager at Computer Warehouse and demanded that he came and picked up the offending machine immediately. He was mollified by the promise that either Mr. Konica or Mr. Minolta himself was on the job and I should expect a phone call very soon - if not sooner. The call came and I spoke to Paul. Paul said he had been briefed on the problem and would be with us immediately. That was more like it. Unfortunately immediately didn’t suit so he appeared as good as his word a few days later. That was 23rd November. Over a month since the purchase date and squabbling commenced. Initially he ran into all the problems our man from Oxford had hit. But Minolta Man is nothing if not persistent. It seems that there are two possible settings for the Magicolor 2450. One ends in EN and the other doesn’t. (don’t ask!). Naturally we had the setting without. Suddenly the printer was spewing out Quark based documents as if to make up for a month of stubborn refusal. Happiness was unalloyed. Tonio fed in some caution. How about turning it off and then on again. It was done. A test run started - and b/w prints came out instead of the more desirable colour. A little panic entered the proceedings. But it was all Choosers fault evidently. It wasn’t keeping the new settings. This was soon sorted and we were back on colour. “How about the Internet?.’ I ventured. I got a superior smile from Minolta Man and Tonio. The Internet had nothing to do with the printer. I shrugged but mindful of the previous occasion asked them to humour me. No Internet!. The brightening atmosphere vanished. Minolta Man tried to explain it as coincidence but he went back to the mouse. At first he could find nothing to account for the non-functioning Internet. Then he had a sudden inspiration and had a stir through the Menu Select thingy on the Minolta. It seems that the Customer ID in the printer and on the Internet were at odds with each other. A few deft strokes and we were back on the air. Sighs of relief all round.

I was otherwise engaged for the next couple of days but Saturday morning sat back at the computer, called up a document and tried to print in colour. You’ve guessed it. Black and White. I fiddled futilely for a few minutes then called Minolta Man. Now fully genned up on the quirks of my individual machine he was able to put it right on the telephone. A huge sigh of relief.

But what can we learn from this? For one thing never accept the assurance that the item you buy will be that unique specimen, the one that you connect up and away you go. It is ALWAYS more complicated than that. Also be very suspicious of the deal you are being offered. Does it include a ‘take back’ within a certain time. Seven days must be the minimum. Hold the shop which sold you the goods responsible for any problems that you may come up with. We’re not all supposed to be IT aces. My personal feeling is that I have been massively let down by Computer Warehouse who spent all their time blaming Apple, Quark, Minolta and various bits of ancillary equipment but refused to do anything tangible about my problem. Minolta, a little reluctantly, did come through in the end although I’m still not to keen on the way the enticer in the Computer Warehouse catalogue was dealt with. If you are promised toner cartridges worth £250 when you buy a product you expect to have the mooted Freebee slapped in your hand as you leave the shop. Not at Computer Warehouse it seems. If you want to have a chance of picking up the inducement you are means tested - and then it is by no means certain that you will get what you were promised. So be warned.

I’ve just gone digital. Camera-wise that is, I was assured by the young man at Dixons that it was just a matter of aiming the camera, clicking the button, whopping it onto the computer, down-loading the pix and you are up and running. I wonder what happened to those 56 I downloaded? Can’t find them anywhere and the camera is telling me there is nothing on file. Is that neon light flashing again?

Micro Mart

The Writings of Ingrid Pitt