Monday, October 5, 2015

Self-service technical support

Happy Monday, everyone.  The sun reappeared over central Kentucky yesterday after an absence of more than five days.  About time, in my humble opinion!

Sadness here in the Smith house today--the baseball season is over.  Oh, there are multiple rounds of playoffs yet to occur, but for me, the season is over, as the Cincinnati Reds played their last game of the 2015 season yesterday afternoon and lost, again.  It was a difficult season for a dyed-in-the-wool fan such as myself, but we always have the comfort of knowing that next April, the Reds (and everyone else) will be in first place.  For at least a day!

The Kentucky Wildcats eked out a win Saturday night against a seemingly overmatched team from Eastern Kentucky University.  If you're interested, EKU is located in Richmond, a scant 20 miles away.  They were a football power in the 70s and have remained competitive at their level for years.  Anyway, this was one of those games that should have been a laughter for the homestanding Cats, but they managed to fall behind by two scores before awakening and tying the game and then winning in overtime.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering about the subject of today's post.  Here's my story....

Regular visitors to this space know that I am a fan of most everything Apple (still not sure about that watch...) and a little more than a week ago, I made an impulse decision and bought a new Macbook.  Weighs about two pounds, had twice the onboard storage and random access memory of the larger item it replaced, and a Retina display (code for "really clear"), like my old one.  Bought it, brought it home, set it up and off I went.

I advertised the former Macbook (a Pro model, again, with Retina display) on Craigslist and located a buyer who was interested.  Turns out he's a sometime professional photographer, does weddings and such and said that he was looking for a really good computer to display on-site slide shows.  So he has what he needs, and I recouped about 87% of my original purchase price.  Good, right?

I knew that Apple was on the verge of releasing their latest Mac operating system, which is called El Capitan.  A side note:  after many years of using big cats (Tiger, Lion and so forth) as the "code" name of their operating systems, Apple diverted into California landmarks a couple of years ago, starting with Mavericks (a surf destination, I'm told) and most recently Yosemite.  El Capitan was designed to be a refinement of Yosemite, and contained some really nice features.  I'm all in, so I downloaded the software to each of my Macs and got to work.

Except I couldn't get to work the way I was accustomed to doing.  Apparently there's a major incompatibility between El Capitan and Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac, which contains Outlook, which I use for my work.  I contacted my personal IT resource, a former coworker who's been a good friend for many years, and he assured me that Office 2016 was on the horizon soon and that he would help me obtain a copy.

OK, I thought, as I found a workaround for my e-mail, calendar and contacts on the native Apple applications.  Then on Friday I read that Office 2016 and El Capitan also did not play well together, at least not yet.  So then I began to wonder if I should restore my old operating system via backup copies that I had made before upgrading.

So I began that process Friday afternoon.  The new computer handled the process nicely, took a bit less than an hour.  My desktop iMac, though, was a tougher customer, and I was able to clear off the new version, but could not restore the old.  The process did not recognize my internal hard drive.

I hit the Internet, found a variety of potential fixes, but none worked.  I finally clicked an icon in OS X Recovery entitled "support" and the system analyzed my iMac and determined that I was entitled to support.  I opted for phone support, and had my first conversation with an Apple online tech support person around 7:00 PM Friday.  What she had me do did not work, so her last instruction was to download something and she set me up for a callback in about an hour.  The call came, from a different technician, and what Tech #1 was trying didn't work, nor did the next four or five things Tech #2 suggested.  So he escalated my ticket to Senior Tech #1 and we spent some time working on things over two phone calls.  All three were pleasant, helpful and apologetic that I was having problems, but the consensus was that I needed to visit my local Apple Store to have them examine and repair the machine.  So that was disappointing, and wasn't going to happen until late this afternoon.

When I awoke on Saturday, I picked up my iPad and as I was going to look something up online I saw the last potential solution that I had spotted but not acted upon.  Since I was already going to have to take the iMac in for repairs anyway, I decided, what the heck, and embarked on this particular possibility (it involved deleting the name of the internal drive, then using the system software to rename and "fix" it).  Amazingly, it worked, and about 90 minutes later, my computer was exactly as I had left it before I upgraded last Wednesday!

The moral(s) of the story?  Don't give up, and don't discount any possibility when you're trying to make a computer work as you want.  You never know when a good idea will present itself!

Have a good week.

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