Thursday, July 12, 2007

Git ‘er Done

I have a confession to make, and I hope you’ll forgive me.

The way it all went down - we got the computer late Monday night.

I know half the fun of something like this is the actual shopping part. Computer people love to compare prices and specs. I apologize for depriving you of that! I didn’t mean to lead you wrong about the timing of the purchase, either. Between me needing 27 hours of sleep, the installation leaving us mostly offline for 2 days, and wanting to tell you all the details, I just couldn’t get it together until now.

For some reason, our internet connection is still very dicey and I'm burning up with the need to comment and read and post. Oh Lord, and to thank several of you individually, already. Ah, patience, k. Patience.

Livey wants you to know she’ll be posting about it too. She’s been very busy learning how to navigate all this new stuff and having trouble getting the printer installed. She wants to wait until she has the time to make sure she says it right. She can write a post in like 30 seconds. This tale won’t be one of them.

Here’s how it all came to pass.

I’ll have to be heading home soon, and there are certain things I wanted to do here before I came. Walter and I had talked over most of them. One was this: We’ve known Livey’s computer was half-dead for a long time. Walter and I, and some of our mutual blogger friends - notably my priceless blogdad Desert Cat - have had this on our minds for some time.

I came here hoping to find some way to convince Livey to accept at least some of the cost of a new computer as a gift, and not just from me and Desert Cat and Walter, but also any of her readers and commenters who’d like to be in on the act. Doing it before the dinosaur died would be good. Ya know. In a planned, non-emergency way, right?

It didn’t turn out that way. Yet…without the silly thing croaking, I don’t know if it would ever have worked.

She’s quite fierce in refusing help for certain things. When it’s financial help for something that involves caring for or about another person, I’ve noticed, she’s more willing to accept it.

The thing blew on Sunday night. Monday was a big day for us. We started the morning delivering Meals on Wheels. Livey’s last trip to the dentist in faraway Antigo was at 1:15 PM. A woman who’d balked at paying a small but important chunk of money Livey had earned finally wrote her a check. That needed to be cashed at the writer’s bank so it wouldn’t go bad. A trip to Fleet Farm was on the list. Fuel up the Saturn for $3.02/gallon, rather than $3.44. Stuff like that.

And…while we were out, we might as well run by Wausau, home to the closest Sam’s Club, where I needed a few things. It’s only another 15 minutes away from Antigo.

Livey hadn’t quite got the cell phone bit down yet. If you lose me in a store ‘cause I scootered off somewhere, just call me on my cell phone.

I zoomed into Sam’s and all the way back to the meat department. Picked up the cell phone and called Walter.

--Walter! I ditched Livey. She may find me any minute. Can you do a little research for me?

--Sure. (He was stuck in a hotel room, waiting for his clutch to get fixed. He had a good internet connection there.)

--Okay. Find the best place here to get a computer.

I’d already checked out the Sam’s computers and Walter said they cost too much.

He called me back. --The closest Comp USA is in Madison. --Nope. Way too far. --Okay. Best Buy?... Found it!

He read me the address and phone number. The closest Best Buy to Livey’s house was in Wausau. What a stroke of luck!

She made it to the meat department and found me, eeek!!! I hung up the phone right quick and said, --You know, someone told me there’s a Best Buy around here? Do you know where? Walter wanted me to go check out something for him.

--Yeah!-- Livey said. --It’s right here in this shopping center, just down from Sam’s.

YESSS!!! (to myself.) --Oh (nonchalantly). Okay. Good. Can we go there, do you have enough energy left?

--(tired sigh…) --Yeah. Okay.

heh heh heh!!!

By then we were both completely bushed. We’d been going and going since 10:30AM and it was around 7PM already. Braindead, both of us.

Good thing too.

Because she might have figured everything out, otherwise.

I ditched her again, hiding out by Dairy Products, and called Walter back. After bringing up Best Buy’s inventory on his laptop, and looking it over, he recommended a Compac SR 5130 NX. With the standard 17" monitor it was $470; upgraded to a 19" monitor, $590. Once you need reading glasses the larger monitor helps a lot. So, roughly, the whole shebang for $600. No big gaming or anything, not fancy, but not the bottom of the barrel either. Moderate. It should last her for a while.

Her old monitor was usable but in really bad shape. Her printer worked, but it was 5 years old. A printer could wait. A new monitor was very close to a Must Have.

We checked out of Sam’s and headed over to Best Buy. Meanwhile, Walter was ready for my next call.

We checked out the Compac. Livey noticed a Gateway that was on special, only $50 more than the Compac. Gateway model GT 5428 (I think)?

Scootering by, I could see that Livey prefers Gateway overall. But the 5428’s specs seemed misleading to Walter. Something about its dual-core processing not really being dual-core? (Sorry. It’s all geek to me!)

I was playing it up still, asking her questions. This woman is NOT helpless around computers.

She wondered why I wanted her opinion when I could just ask Walter. --Hey. Two heads are better than one.

We went back and forth, Compac, Gateway. Walter thought the Gateway was comparable. --That’s more personal taste now. Ask which one she likes better. It’s for her.

So…Pretty soon I said, --Well, everyone’s different, Livey. Pick whichever one you want. Because this one’s not for Walter. It’s for you.


--Livey. If I walk out of this store with NO new computer for you, I will be DEAD MEAT. My life is on the line here. I will get KILLED.

--(suspicious) Okay. Who’s behind this?!

--I can’t tell you yet.


--More than one person.

(Quiet.) --Is Desert Cat one of them? And LL?

--Maybe. Among others. Walter, for sure.

--Oh GOD!!! I can’t pay you guys back! It would take like years or something, I can’t do it.

--Right. We know that. That’s why you don’t have to. This is a gift to you from the blogging community, Livey, and you really must accept it. Because WAY too many of us will go absolutely bonkers if we don’t get our Northwoods Woman fix. Okay?

--Oh my God…Okay. Okay.

I could tell she was about to cry, so I tossed her in the path of the head sales man. That’ll brace ANYONE up in a hurry. Sort of like watching a friendly shark scent you out in the water.

Then we called Walter again. Talked to salespeople. The sales man set up some special discounts, then he palmed us off on a nice, funny, hard-working, but less experienced young sales lady. Walter was on and off the cell phone answering our questions, and we handed it around between Livey and me and the sales lady and me. We worked out deals including an upgraded monitor and an all-in-one HP printer for almost free.

Sales staff was really pushing that old Gateway - *Only 5 left!!!* Free upgrades left and right. Walter, continuing to research the 5428, said it looked like old-style components reworked with new other packaging, dumping near-obsolete parts disguised as near-current. He kept asking me very detailed questions about the specs, carefully checking into them. He didn’t like the GT 5428 and he wanted to know why.

--Ask about the next higher Gateway models-- Walter said. --I’m looking at that particular Best Buy store’s entire inventory online here. Where are those higher models in the store? Go look. Livey likes Gateway. They’re much better Gateways and they don’t cost much more.

--Okay. Give me some model numbers.

He read some off. I relayed them to the sales lady, who looked thoughtful. --Those models seem familiar, but I can’t seem to remember where I saw them.

--Oh, they’re in your store here, somewhere. They’re listed in your store inventory.

That got a double-take from her.

She went to look them up in the Best Buy inventory.

You know where they were?

In the store, yes.

In fact, technically speaking, they were even out on the sales floor.

Not actually on display though. See, they were way high up on a side wall, on forklift-level shelves, still in their boxes. Hidden in plain view.

Probably waiting until the last 5 old GT 5428’s were sold before the better ones went on the display shelves. Satisfying any agreement to have them *IN INVENTORY,* yet not competing with the old clunkers they wanted to sell off first.


This brought out the old negotiator in me. I don’t like underhanded tactics and this seemed underhanded to me. Suddenly I didn’t want any more giggling around.

--Do we want a $150 package to install all sorts of anti-virus anti-spam anti-adware anti-spyware anti-phishing software that really works, as opposed to the usual stuff that really doesn’t, plus we’ll *optimize* your computer too?

--Walter. Do we?

He laughed. --No thank you. You can download all that for free. I’ll help. Now: looking at those Gateways? The 5464 is a true dual core. Go for that one, pricewise it’s your best fit.

--Hey saleslady. Any reason we can’t get a Gateway 5464 with the same upgrades?

Suddenly she didn’t seem quite as happy any more. Her face dropped juuuust a bit.

Got her! HA!

She went around to find a manager.

We were hanging out by the wall with those way high GT 5464’s. Livey, exhausted, lay down on the floor. Her feet and hips and neck were killing her. I guarded her from passersby, sitting on my scooter. I looked her in the face and said, --Okay, Livey, tell me. I know I wore you way way out today. If I had done this first thing in the morning, when you were fresh, would I have been able to talk you into it?

--No. I really don’t think it would have worked.

--I thought so.

(big self-satisfied grin!)

The sales lady came back. --Those Gateway 5464’s? We’d have to get one WAY down from the shelf. They’re still in their packages, haven’t been put out in the store yet, see?

(I’m thinking, --Yeah. BIG hardship, there, get a box down.)

And hey. We’ll have to open it up I think…

(yes, you may have done that once or twice before, too, open up a computer box…)

Walter’s back on the phone.

--This is really important-- he said. --You can upgrade the memory on that model. Ask them how much it would cost to upgrade it now instead of later.


--Hey saleslady. $?

--Upgrade from 1024MG to 2 GB? $40 each, 2 sticks - we have to replace both sticks because they’re each 512’s, it’s not just one stick that’s 1GB. It’s usually $120 per stick for that, installed.


--Do it! It’s way worth it. Buy it now.

Later we found they’d still charge $39 to install that new memory too, but if we installed it ourselves it would void the warranty. They’d only charge the install fee one time. (yeah, such a deal!) A bit of bickering and another call to Walter and we agreed. Still half off, after all; two sticks installed for $120 instead of $240.

Finally, around 9:15 - the store closed at 9 - we were out of there. The final total on our receipt?

One Gateway 5464 computer, reg. $499: $421.99.
One Gateway 19" wide FPD1975W monitor, reg. $219.99: $187.99.
One HP Deskjet F380 all-in-one printer, reg. $79.99: $29.99
Two 1GB memory sticks, installed, reg. $120 each, total $240: $118.98
Geek Squad: Free
Reward Zone membership (discount points for future purchases): Free
Taxes: $41.74

Grand Total: $800.69.

Savings, by their calculation (FWIW!): $280.00.

Computer specs aren’t my field. I’ve been paying more attention than usual to what computer info I read at Desert Cat’s and LL’s and Bane’s and so forth. How well we actually did on the specs here, I’ll bow to you computer lovers out there. My feeling is that we bought a better product than we were heading for at the outset, at about the same cost.

Remember Walter’s original recommendation, that Compac listed at $590? Add in the memory upgrade for $120, and $40 taxes - $590 plus $160 - and that’s $750. Now add the printer at $30.

So. A similar package with the Compac instead of the Gateway would have cost $780. Our grand total for the Gateway package was $800. It looks like the Gateway is a better product. I think that was some pretty good shopping.

The way the timing worked out, I emptied an important personal savings account to do this. But I was prepared for that. I knew there were enough fans out there to help put at least some of the funds back in, and like I said, we’ve wanted to get this together for Livey for quite a while anyway.

I think this was Meant to Be. A storm ate the old geezer computer. Walter and I had enough stashed to front the purchase. Livey and I were already scheduled to go out to that far-away town, which has the closest Best Buy to Livey’s house, the very next day. Livey was so fatigued I was able to browbeat her into accepting our little plan.

This next part was very unusual: Walter was available, comfortable in a hotel room, and had a good internet connection to give us invaluable guidance. Ha! Even this: it was ME that killed off the old computer, plugging it back in after the storm. Hey. It meant I could roll over on my back, expose my throat, and cry --Mea culpa, mea culpa! please, allow me to do SOMETHING to make it up to you!-- (You see, Morris? Devious. Sparingly, and for good.)

Could we have gotten something a little better, a little cheaper? Maybe. A great internet shopper usually can.

Could we have done it and brought it home that night, here in this remote area of the country? And done it together, before I left to go back to Florida? In person, negotiating for the best deal, with Walter there on the other end of the line, paging through the entire inventory of that particular Best Buy?

Nope. No way.

We are satisfied.

Oh…and, BTW, Livey gave Walter the 512MG memory sticks we replaced.

He earned ‘em. Don’tcha think?


Anonymous said...

"You see, Morris? Devious. Sparingly, and for good.

Yep, but as you say it's for a good cause. Great stuff, you guys did good. Walter knows his stuff.

imp said...

Sound like y'all done real good!
I have a gateway, and like mine just fine, although I need to invest in some more memory. Soon, hopefully.

sue said...

Good job! I always find it interesting when the "universe" conspires with us... i.e. Walter being available, etc.

This may be too late to ask, but would Livey have some homeowners' insurance to cover some of the computer replacement cost? I know we had lightening take out a 'puter once (even with a surge protector on it) and they replaced it through our homeowner's insurance. Just a thought.

The more I read your blog the more I realize what a devious (in a good way) woman you can be. What a good friend you are...

Desert Cat said...

I haven't had time to look at the specs in detail, but in general Compaq's are frustratingly incompatible with third-party peripherals, much as Dell has also become lately. I haven't followed Gateway's quality lately, but most brands will be better than a Compaq. I suspect that for that price it has solid specs.

And having that Geek Squad support through Best Buy is a big plus for upgrades and repairs.

Omnibus Driver said...

God bless you, K! Thanks for goosing her into accepting!

Livey said...

Oh she is devious! I wish I had a picture of her face when she pulled that "my life is on the line here" bit! NOBODY could have said no to her!

Thank you all so very much!

imp said...


Desert Cat said...

y'know I'll betcha the graphics card is nothing to sneeze at too badly. I'm thinking any graphics intensive games written with the "last generation" graphics engines ought to run just fine on it too.

I couldn't find the specs for that particular computer anywhere. Was that one with an AMD Athlon or an Intel processor?

kdzu said...

K, you all are just awesome. That is a mighty fine thing. Now Livey has no excuse at all for not blogging.

k said...

Morris! ;-) I don't know enough about computers to say why I know Walter's good at this stuff...but it's one of those basic truths about someone that we really do just know. I'm glad you think so too.

imp, YES!!! And it looks like she got the printer working too. I saw a test page printed out today. How's that for clear and convincing evidence, huh?

Sue - Me too. It took me until I was a grownup to learn to wait and watch for those things. To not push them if they just don't want to go. When they do, you really know it. This was SO much that way, it was almost like a force of its own, gently carrying us along.

I checked with Livey about her insurance and she'll look into it. She thinks no, because it wasn't until the computer was plugged back in that it blew. I told her that would depend on how her insurance company viewed those things. In hurricane country, it would usually be covered.

Here? We'll see. The existing one was so old it was probably zero value, so it would have to be a replacement cost coverage rather than market value.

Thanks for bringing it up, too! Neither one of us thought of it, and we certainly should have. Definitely worth checking with her insurer.

I've noticed that it's one thing to try to explain to people that I have that devious streak - and another, for them to see it in action. It doesn't come out very often so it tends to shock folks sometimes. It's a tool. I'm very conscious of using whatever tools at my disposal carefully and morally. That means a great deal to me. I don't ever want to catch myself doing wrong to others. I'm not perfect - I screw it up sometimes - but I promise you, I try hard.

There are people in this world I love, and Livey is one of them. She's been a wonderful friend to me. I understand the value of that like nobody's business. If there's anything I can give back, I want to. Being disabled, losing many of the avenues we start out with in life, has made me appreciate even more the value of the ability to help someone else. I try not to miss what chances I get to do something for others.

DC, I see you saw the specs now. Cool! And when Walter said Best Buy was the only computer place around, the point you'd already made about their tech support was way high in my mind. That contributed to that sense of everything working out the way it was meant to, you know?

welcome, miss omnibus driver! THANK YOU for the contribution and for the shout out too! You picked up on what was happening so fast it spun my head around. Good on YOU. Livey has told me good things about you, and I'm so glad to see how you appreciate her, too. She's a unique and very worthy person, and has had way too much pain and injustice in her life.

kdzu! Yes. I can't swear there was no ulterior motive here! She may even have to change that *not for entertainment* clause in her profile. heh!

What a wonderful week this has been. You folks have made us both so very happy. Thank you, all.

prettylady said...

Jeez, you people!!! I take a blogging vacation for ONE WEEK, well, two weeks, and you get up to all this devious stuff without me! Sheesh! Can't look away for a minute!

Livey said...

Prettylady, if you wanna get in, you can still hit k's donation button. I feel so damn guilty that she spent so much money on me by draining a personal account! Thanks!

k said...

Welcome home, Pretty Lady! Do NOT listen to Livey. I shall beat her upside the head and she wiill NOT feel guilty any more.

Jean said...

I added what I could. wish it could be more.

Livey said...

Jean, we appreciate every bit! Both k and I are so exhausted that we have not done the proper thank yous yet. Rest is much needed at this point. As soon as we both can we will get it done!
Thank you so much!

Bane said...

Good job, k. Now she needs a $140 UPS so this one doesn't get fried. Plug the printer into it, too.

k said...

Welcome, bane! Would that be a type of surge protector? I'll pass that on to Livey. She understands these things far better than I.

It just wouldn't do to have the new babies fried again, huh?

Putting this all together, your own Computer Experience was very much in our minds. What fun!

Bane said...

Not a cheap-ass surge protector, but an on all the time battery backup that cleans up the electrical signal and keeps it steady.

The best are made by APC, and a good one should cost at least $125-145.

Surge protectors are a joke.

k said...

Okay. Makes sense. That's the sort of thing that comes in handy down in Hurricaneland.

That surge protector joke is precisely why we tend to completely unplug things when the weather gets dramatic in S. Florida. My neighbor across the street was struck by lightning a few years ago. It hit a tree - not a direct strike on the house - then traveled through the ground into the house, wiped out the plumbing and electrical system, and ate pretty much every appliance that was plugged in.

I was up all night and watching the storm. I suddenly saw their garage door pop wide open, and the dog, who stayed in the garage, was loose in the front yard. The lightning strike had opened the garage door, too. It had an electrical opener.

Their surge protectors were just as fried as everything else.