Oh, the hell of technical support. The hell of corporate procedures. The hell of futility in convincing an idiot that I'm not another idiot. Praise be to any/all deities that I've had as few of these encounters as I have, and eternal damnation to every agonizing minute of the process.
A little over a year ago, my wife and I craved a new laptop. I particularly craved one that would play nice under GNU/Linux with its wireless hardware, still more rare than it ought to be. Our search led us to Circuit City of all places, where we got a decent deal on a nice little rig that has treated us pretty well. My wife's paranoia won out over my penny-pinching and we also got an extended 3-year service plan for another $300 or so. This has turned out to be a good thing. Sort of.
The hard drive's going bad. It powers up happily, it reads and writes, but when it arrives at a growing number of troublesome sectors, it fails. A failing hard disk is nothing new to me. Been there and done that many times. Scrape off all the data I can, replace it, restore or reinstall, and move on. But right now I'm stuck at the "replace it" step.
Circuit City does a huge amount of business, apparently mostly with idiots. Their unskippable phone maze starts with a very fake-looking (800) 555- number, and goes on to include this menu: "For troubleshooting with your keyboard, press 1. For troubleshooting with your mouse, press 2. For all other troubleshooting, press 3." I wish I was kidding, because that would be pretty funny if it weren't true. As it is, it's just depressingly sad. So after 5 minutes of maze navigation and 30 minutes of mind-numbing hold music punctuated by ear-scorching reminders of how important I am and how busy everybody is, I spoke with a human being. It's pathetic how little things improved after that point.
It gradually dawned on the rep that I knew what I was talking about, but he was powerless but to go through his script and force me to waste my time and his. Had to rule out the possibility of a boot sector virus, for perhaps the disk isn't going bad at all. Perhaps I've been hallucinating that fsck gave me a list of which sectors were bad, and that the list has been growing. Also, apparently lots of boot viruses manage to install themselves in Lilo, perfectly mimicking my specific multi-boot configuration, 'cause not only would that be worth a virus-writer's time, but viruses can work seamlessly across any operating system. ...That's sarcasm, by the way.
The guy I was talking to didn't catch any of my sarcasm, which is fine I guess. He's just doing his job, and probably doesn't understand that he'd save us both a hell of a lot of time if he'd skip the bullshit and listen to me. 'Course, he wants Microsoft-formatted voodoo output from scandisk or chkdsk or whatever goddamn thing windows uses, and what I have is fsck telling me what's actually going on. To his credit, he called my bluff that I had done a bunch of time-wasting steps he'd told me to do. (Hey, it's worked before.) So he knows how long it takes a Windows recovery console to boot up. Whoop-de-freaking-doo. But, until my time has been thoroughly wasted and their ridiculous steps meticulously followed, Circuit City will remain in stubborn denial that I'm looking at bad hardware.
So I get to call back again tonight after running scandisk or whatever, assuming windows lives long enough on the eroding disk to spit up a magic log file with Microsoft-colored descriptions of which sectors don't work. For the love of God, I already did all this homework. I know empirically that the disk is going bad. I paid good money for extended service, now let me send it in, and give me a new one. It's not hard. Maybe I should play the I'm-an-engineer-at-Novell card or something, I just can't believe they make everybody go through the idiot channels no matter what. Then again, I guess I am an idiot after all, for buying anything at Circuit City to begin with, and for paying out the nose for support that they'll do anything to avoid providing.