Friday, September 1

The Odyssey of my IBM T42

In the past month or so, I have had the "joy" of working with IBM technical support with regard to my IBM T42 (Model 2378FZU). I should state that I have enjoyed using my IBM since I migrated away from my old Compaq ARMADA from Europe - but there have been weird experiences in using my laptop over the past year or so. The most recent odyssey started with what seemed to be a strange situation - whenever I would move my laptop screen - or even jossle my laptop slightly - the machine would suddenly shutdown, for no apparent reason.

Day 1 - No problem
Now, I did what any self-respecting geek would do - I contacted IBM Customer Support. I should clarify, I had purchased the next day service since my IBM is essentially my business - all of my tools for work exist within. The IBM SERV rep told me that someone would not be able to come to fix the computer until Tuesday, since I was calling on a Friday - and parts would not make it to my home until either Monday or Tuesday. So, I spent the weekend working with my laptop and discovering the joy of the "Save Now" button whenever I could. This was August 11th.

On the 14th, parts arrived at my home and I was told that someone would call me to arrive the next day. I was told I had to be there in the morning, since the person would arrive before 12 noon. So, I cancelled my meetings and settled down to wait.

Day 5 - the trouble just begins
Around 12 noon, an IBM service representative arrived at my home and took apart my laptop. Now, I have been around tech geeks in the past, and I have never seen someone tear apart a machine like this gent did. An hour and half later, the service tech announced the system was not working - and that someone would have to come by and pick it up the following day. He handed me my laptop, which was now not even shutting on it's hinges properly anymore, and left. I was dumbfounded and had to leave for my next meeting - and grabbed my PowerBook to take with me (yes, I am a triple OS guy - Windows, Mac OS and Linux).

Day 6 - waiting for the IBM tech guy
Now, I had to take off the next morning, since I was expecting the IBM rep to return to take my IBM T42 - and began to get annoyed when 10:30am came, and no one called. I called the IBM SERV number and followed up on my case. Turns out that the service tech placed on the call that my T42 was DOA (which I can assure you that it was not) and that I did not give enough time to him to resolve the problem (he was there for 90 minutes). Then, he completely forgot to create a new case to have someone come and fix the system board (again). I was somewhat annoyed, and tried to get someone to advance the issue. The person I spoke to created a new case, and sent me into the labrynth that is IBM SERV trying to find someone to help me - which basically came to nought.

Thursday came and I got not one, but two calls. The first was someone telling me that a rep would be calling me to schedule a call for Friday. Then, I got a call from some woman who left a message telling me that the parts that were needed required more time and would not be available. She gave a new case number and said call her for more information, or they would call back. So now I think - great, I am without a computer for the weekend - kind of annoyed. But, when I arrive home late that evening, I have two boxes at my home - and assume there are some other parts that are causing the delay.

Day 7 - IBM tech guy coming over, but no clue he is coming...
Friday, as I was busy trying to assuage my client who now did not have what he needed because of the site being stuck on my computer (and subsequently lost the project), and it was now dead. In the midst of the meetings, I got two calls, which I did not get until much later - which were from a IBM service tech that "was in the area" and ready to help. Now, I am confused and try to call. No reply. So, I am still without a computer - and now have two boxes with me.

On Monday, I call IBM SERV to find out when someone will be over to fix my box. I am told that the tech who called me on Friday was not able to come Monday (since he was already overbooked), so I would have to wait til Tuesday. I discuss with her - can I have him come in the morning, since I had work in the afternoon. "No problem" she says. "Someone will call you today to confirm a time."

Day 11 - now we are getting into the Twilight Zone
Tuesday morning - no one has called yet - so I call. At 9:30am, I am told - someone will call me by 12 noon, and see me by 5pm. I say, "I was told they would be here before noon." "No sir", I get in the bored reply, "call by noon, solved by five." I now am quite annoyed, since I rearranged my schedule to be home for the IBM tech - but I give in at this time.

11:30am - no call. I call IBM again - and they say they do not understand - they are caling the tech, but he is not answering. I ask to speak to someone who can address this extremely poor service, and spend the next hour going through the labrynth - and finally get a call from a "project manager" who is now taking the case and will keep track of what is happening. She will keep me informed and make sure the tech finds me. But I have to head to work, and ask will he come down and see my at my office in the East Village. "No problem", I am told.

I go down to work, and find myself waiting again. I get a couple of update calls from the PM, and then the tech calls me. Nice guy, Wei, who informs me he will be by my office around 4pm. At this point, I see daylight, but am not sure if it will be resolved.

Then, I get a call near 4pm from someone who wants to ask if I will be available between 5:30pm and 6pm. I ask why, and am told that the tech will be delayed. I am now getting annoyed - but inform him that I will be near the office, though I have a meeting at 5:45pm - and why am I waiting until then, when the guy would be at the office by 4pm? I get off the phone exasperated - and suddenly have another call. It is the tech - outside the office, ready to come up. I quickly authorize him into the building - and he takes my laptop into a private room so he can work on it.

About an hour later, he shows me the system - and asks "Why doesn't the system shut properly?" "Where are all the screws?" "What happened to the hinges?" I tell him that it was fine before - and now I have a dead system with nothing working properly. I aslo notice, as he is taking apart the bottom - where is my 1Gig chip? "Oh no - [the last tech] must have shipped it with the bad board."

He makes some calls - and informs me that the last guy had left the system apart - which caused much of the damage, including damage to the bezel and the hinges and I could work with it, but it might shut down still. He was going to get the parts to fix the issue, but he could not guarantee it would work with any sort of stability.

That night, I tried working with it - and now, without even touching the computer, I suddenly see my system shutdown with nary a whisper. I look forward to getting the new parts.

Day 12 - waiting for the new parts
I am now waiting on when we will meet - and I get a call telling me that the parts went to the wrong place - and that they would need to get them the next day. At this point, I am incredulous. They confused the addresses - my home and my office - and could not reconcile. So they sent it to the depo. I have to wait another day.
By this time, I get a call from another person at IBM - who informs me that he is not the PM on the case and will do his best to make this work out. He shares in my pain (which now has cost me over $7500) and he is very sorry, things like this do not happen on a regular basis with IBM.

The next day, the guys from QualxServ now have the parts - and are going to send the tech to my office - after 2pm. "Okay" I say, "no problem". The tech calls after 4pm and I will wait for him. Then I get a call from the original tech, Wei, who tells me he has the parts - how could the new tech fix my computer without them? Now, the two techs come to my office - and trade war stories - and Fernando comes up to fix the computer. This time, he discovers additional issues (as the QS manager tells me, Fernando is one of the best) and takes apart the system - and replaces almost all of the plastic pieces and the system board. He gives it to me - and there is no problem...oh wait, the AC block on the back of the system board is a separate part that needs to be replaced - that could be what is causing the short. Let's see what happens.

That evening, after Fernando leaves, the system keeps shutting down. I call again - and inform them of this - which now the guys at Qualx Serv will get me a new AC Block for the board.

Day 14 - deja vu?
I get a call, midday, that the system board they ordered will not be in until tomorrow because - the ZIP CODE was not entered (not that it was wrong, it just was not entered!). Now I have to wait until Monday! At this point, the PM calls again, apologizing for the mix-up - can not understand how this is happening - "At IBM, this is rare." But, will I get any help, compensation or support? "Not very likely."

Day 17 - Fernando comes with the new system board and I have the AC component (which was shipped to me) - and he takes apart the system. 30 minutes later, I walk in - and hear him talking on the phone. What happened? The system board has the wrong video chip! So now he has to order the system board - AGAIN!

Day 18 - at this point, the humor is beginning to dawn on me - but I can not help but laugh. Now, I get a call - telling me the board did not get shipped because (get this) the ZIP CODE was not entered AGAIN! Now, I am just laughing when I hear things like this. And I sit back and wait. Al, the PM, calls again - himself incredulous about this comedy of errors.

Day 19 - Fernando shows up with the new board, reattaches the AC block - and pronounces it working. At this time, I am taking bets - and my team of programmers are chortling with every pronouncement of working. I head home and do not have any expectations.

Day 20 - I throw in the towel
As I am trying to catch up on my work, the system shuts down a number of times. I am exhausted. I have all sorts of issues and projects I need to work on - so I call Al, mention that the problem still exists - and then focus on my work. It is not until the next Thursday can I tear myself away from my work that has been piling up to call the IBM SERV number and go though the hours-long rigamarole getting another case opened, describing the issues and being bounced back four different times in this process. But this time, the analyst starts asking some intriguing questions - and we start trying to ascertain the cause of the problem. I note that the system only craps out when the AC adapter is plugged in - and not when it is running on battery power. I assume it is due to some power management driver, he thinks it could be the AC adapter block or the WiFii card (which had been twitchy) or the processor - which had never been replaced.

Day 28 - Fernando shows up - he takes the system into what is becoming his work room - and finishes with the system. Now, my computer only has the original LCD screen, bottom plastic piece, some of the metal pieces for the system board, the hard drive and the wires for the WiFi card/attenna. And now, I am waiting to see if the system will shut down again.

Has it been fixed? Will I get some resolution ot the lost time, money and frustration? Only the people at IBM/Lenovo can tell.

But I learned some valuable lessons:

  • Back up your data regularly! And have a space computer ready if necessary.

  • Macs are not necessarily the "end-all, be-all" as everyone likes to make them out to be - especially when all of your tools are on Windows, and Firefox on OSX has hangups

  • Do not expect that your system will be repaired in a timely fashion - make sure you follow up

  • IBM is a great brand name, but service is somewhat troublesome when they outsource the service to another group - Lenovo is NOT IBM

  • Just like PhD theses, if you think it will take an hour, multiply by 2.5 and make that your estimate for time.

Giving Thanks
Thanks have to go out to Fernando and Wei for having a sense of humor and skills - heck, Fernando could be a staff member based on his frequent trips. And Al, the PM, has done his best in trying to make this all work out for me - but he can only do so much. And I should give a shout out to Sal, who made sure the team was there and taken care of - he was quite embarrassed. And, the original tech? No longer with the company, from my understanding.

Tags: , , ,

No comments: