Jan 20, 2015

The Geek Squad and a Stroke Survivor: It's Like Apples Communicating with an Orange

I was desperate. The whole building had a wi-fi outage, meaning that FIOS knocked out my triple play: the television, the Internet, and the phone. And when it came back on, the television, the Internet, and the phone all worked, but the printer was off the network, aka offline. I knew because the blue light was blinking. I had a speech to give in 3 days at a local hospital and I had to key-in my notes and, consequently, print them. So I, in the current vernacular, was fucked.

I texted my son in Boston who works for Google as a network admin.

"How do I get printer back online," I whined.

"Um, who is this?" my son inquired. I thought he was joking. He was not.

"It's your mother, damn it. How could I get my printer to work? It went offline in the wi-fi outage." Frustration comes to me so easily, now that I'm a stroke survivor. 

"Nothing I can do. Call your Internet provider. Or Google it." Google it. He always ends the conversation that way.

So I texted my other son who works for IBM, here in my city, as a programmer with the same question.

"Everybody thinks [and by everybody he meant me] that I'm supposed to know everything about computers," he lamented.

"I just thought--." I couldn't even finish the sentence.

"I'll take a look when I come over on Sunday," he said because he knew that I really, really needed that printout for my speech.

One son in Google. One son at IBM. All 3 of us in IT, and nobody knew how to fix the wireless printer. Huh.

So Sunday rolled around and he took a look at the printer,  sitting himself down on the rocking chair placed strategically, for my benefit, in front of the printer that was 30 feet away from the laptop. He got the password from the router, yet no luck. He left and I called the Geek Squad.

The Geek Squad, originally independently-owned, was bought by Best Buy in 2008, and fixes your technical what-have-you--computers, printers, home theaters, for example--starting at $250 if you're interested in a one-time home repair and in a bind, emergently speaking, less if you could wait longer. They also have phone support which you could pay an initial fee of pennies short of $100 and $10.95 a month. You could cancel the monthly service fee at any time, but the $100 is theirs. They call themselves agents, like the CIA or FBI.

So I elected for the phone support. I mean, how hard would it be to get the printer online, you know? I called, and just so I wouldn't get anyone in trouble who's probably making close to minimum wage, the names I'm using have no connection to reality. Having said that, Richard was my agent.

"Hello. My name is Agent Richard. I know that problems with technology can be frustrating. [C'mon. He was reading off the script]. What kind of problems are you having?" the agent said in a monotonous tone, as if one problem a day was all that he could handle. I told him the story.

He didn't have to tell me that he was a member of the Geek Squad. I could just picture him. You know the kind, where if his house is on fire and flames are shooting through the roof, he might ask you to wait a minute because he has to finish the algorithm. And that ho-hum, flat voice slayed me.

"I'll have to charge you a fee first." [Of course].

After he accepted my card and the initial subscription fee, he took over my computer, after I approved, by his moving the cursor around. I carefully watched, but these guys were good. After he opened ten windows quickly, including 2 with code, I was lost. 

"You need to get a secret code," he said, adding a little intrigue to the mix, "and I'll type it in for you." A bunch more windows opened, and by now, we were thirty minutes in. "I'll transfer you to an engineer who knows about printers."

"Wait  a minute! I thought you were going to fix my printer," I implored, ready to explode from the passive voice. 

"You'll have to wait for the engineer," he said. So besides agents, they now had engineers, too. "You really shouldn't wait more than 40 minutes."

"Forty minutes," I screamed and I was exploding. "Do I have to be on the phone or can he call me back? Do I sit at the printer or the computer?" I was running out of power, on my cell phone, I mean. Two bars. But he had already gone and left me asking the questions to myself and listening to promos for the Geek Squad, over and over, that were playing in the background.

Richard returned 15 minutes later. "It should take a little longer."

"How much is a little?" I asked.

"Well, you don't need to be on the phone. He'll call you back."

I gritted my teeth and hung up. Three hours passed and I needed to get my mail in the lobby. So I stood up, left, and in the distance as I was halfway down the hall, my phone rang in my apartment. When I returned, I got the message the engineer left.

"Hello. This is Myron. I heard you wanted your printer fixed. I won't be here any longer today, but I'll pass the message on." I never got a return call. So the next day, I decided to write to the Geek Squad about the blue, blinking light. Here is the response I got from Phil:

"Sorry to hear that.  The blinking light indicates that the printer is no longer connected to the network – this can be due to a change in the network (a new router or Wi-Fi password), or increased network traffic causing a conflict with the printer’s IP.   Generally, the easiest way of getting a printer back on the network is through a temporary USB connection.  If you don’t have a USB cable, there should be other options for getting the printer online if the printer has a screen with menu options.  If you are available, please let me know so we can create a new session to get your printer back on the network and working with your computer."

I understood the message, but I just couldn't do a new session. Now, I was out of power, but I agreed to the session anyway because I am tenacious. My speech is tomorrow, but I haven't heard from Phil yet. I sent the text of the speech to my son and he's going to print it for me. 

The Geek Squad didn't come through, but geeks are like everybody else. It doesn't take much to just fuck up. And my printer? Don't ask.

Jan 1, 2015

Why I Still Have a Flip Phone, aka How I Missed the Smart Phone Era

"I want to put a ding in the universe." ~ Steve Jobs

And ding it was, partly because of the I-Phone which Jobs helped create, which led to more Smart phones manufactured by a slew of companies. I'll give you a visual history of cell phones leading to the Smart phone, beginning with the first cell by AT&T in 1946:

(that's the kind I have)


And finally....the Smart phone pictured with the genius, the  smug Jobs.

I don't have an I-Phone or any other kind of Smart phone and here's the reason why: When the Smart phones became really hot in 2007, I changed jobs and ended up at Cozen O'Connor international law firm in Philadelphia with a Blackberry which is a kind of Smart phone, but it belonged to the firm and I didn't mess around with it by learning how to install apps. It simply wasn't mine and I didn't want to rock the boat.

Then I had the stroke in April, 2009, and I had to return the Blackberry by mail in exchange for my shoes and make-up that were in my cubicle. I got a flip phone that served as my lifeline in case anything happened--a fall, a slip, a seizure. But post-stroke, after the first year, I didn't bother to change it. The flip phone was good enough.

But now, 6 years later, I want more. Here's a rundown of the highlights:
--By the 2nd year,  I started to write a book and this blog, both named "The Tales of a Stroke Patient."
--By the 3rd year, I started to go shopping in my wheelchair or walking with my quad cane, depending on my mood which wasn't great. 
--By the 4th year, I wanted braces because the medics, at the time of my stroke, shoved an endotracheal intubation tube  down my throat so I could breath, and in the process, knocked some teeth out. 
--By the 5th year, I was searching for support groups to invite me to their meetings as a public speaker about strokes.
--And now, I desperately want a Smart phone.

So I got in touch with four manufacturers of devices that could help stroke survivors use a Smart phone with only one, operable hand or anybody who drops or loses or uses the phone constantly. For survivors, the phone or case with device could go on your bad hand which leaves your good hand to do all the work. Or the phone with device could go on your good hand leaving your thumb to do all the work. You'll  just have to judge for yourself.  

The ratings of the devices were done on the following: ease of use, comfort, durability, and cost, with 5 being the highest. I refer to the devices as they are known: the FLYGRIP, the goStrap, the LAZY-HANDS Phone Grip, and the Universal ring, all available on Amazon. The search term I used on Amazon was "cell phone [name of device]".

They all come with very strong adhesive backing to stick directly on your Smart phone or the case that encloses it. And you can buy extra adhesive in case the adhesive wears out. Clean your cell phone or case with a dry eraser like Mr. Clean before applying the adhesive backing. Or you can use an antiseptic towelette like Lysol, but leave it dry before applying the device. If your case is the glossy kind, the adhesive stick is "iffy." If you decide you don't want the device, use a credit card to break the seal. 

I had four used cases that were donated by providers and affixed them each with magnetic weights to equal an average 6 ounces for each phone. I used each device for 2 weeks, 2 hours each a day. Now, I was ready to evaluate.

Ease of use--5
The FLYGRIP was the best rated in every category. After 5 minutes, I couldn't even detect it on my fingers. It comes in 3 sizes and the only one of the 4 devices that comes with a 60-day, money-back guarantee! It's the most costly, but the guarantee makes it worth it. 

The goStrap:
Ease of use--5
I found the goStrap the second best. It accommodates everybody because you fit only two fingers through the strap. During 2 hours each day, I was aware of the strap the whole time. It's do-able, but again, I was aware.

The LAZY-HANDS Phone Grip:
Ease of use--5
The finger grips were easy to put on, but I was aware of them the whole time. My fingers are slender and they just about fit. So if you have exceptionally fat fingers, this product may not be for you.

The Universal Ring:
Ease of use--2
Cost--$3.92 reduced from $21.99
This ring doesn't have the stability of the other 3. It's awkward in only having one finger through the ring. And if it's really cold weather, the ring would be equally cold because it's the only one I reviewed made of metal. The ring serves as a stand for your Smart phone. But seriously. Is that necessary? It's no wonder it was reduced in price!

So there you have it. At last, I'm going to get a Smart phone with the FLYGRIP! And I'll enter the Smart phone generation quietly, as if I didn't miss anything. Shhh.
Postnote: I obtained an iPhone after this post was written. I use the FLYGRIP, too. The only thing I'm wondering is, how did I manage without the iPhone for so long!?! Aah. At last, I join the millions of people sitting round-shouldered over the  iPhone, texting, calling, weathering, cnn'ing, and shopping online!