How my artful lodger put paid to the computer rip-off sharks

25 Jan

If, like me, you know precious little about the internal workings of a computer, then I guess you’ll have been ripped off by a computer repair ‘expert’ at least once.

Unless, that is, you have a trusted friend who understands all the technical stuff and can bail you out when your laptop or desktop is sinking under a sea of problems.

When my Dell desktop computer suddenly refused to connect to the internet recently, I tried everything I knew to solve the problem. Like swearing at it – and rebooting. Well, that’s about all I can do when something goes wrong.

Someone once told me that rebooting solves everything. And he was a computer expert – or professed to be. Pillock!

Anyway, computer matters being all Geek to me, I decided to ask around at a couple of the local specialist shops in the Manchester suburb where my UK home is. There was no way I was going to lug the machine to their place, so I made a couple of notes and also armed myself with the message that kept appearing on the screen.

The proxy server is refusing connections.

Firefox is configured to use a proxy server that is refusing connections.

• Check the proxy settings to make sure that they are correct.

• Contact your network administrator to make sure the proxy server is working.

At the first computer shop I went to – a relatively new, well-fitted establishment – I showed the screen message to a smartly-dressed Asian gentleman and asked him if he knew what it meant and how much it would cost to get me back on line.

‘’Your computer has a virus,’’ he assured me. ‘’We will need to remove it, which will involve cleaning the files off your computer so it will be more or less as it was when you bought it. This will cost you £40.

‘’If you would like the files restoring as they are now, this will be an additional £15. We will need to have the computer for about 24 hours.’’

I mentally dubbed him Vikram Virus and told him I would return with the computer. Intending to obtain at least one more estimate before committing myself, I headed for another, smaller computer repair shop in a less salubrious area.

‘’There’s a problem with the settings. I can fix it for £20,’’ asserted the manager.

‘’No virus?’’ I queried.

‘’No, it’s the settings and I can sort it out in about half an hour if you bring me the computer tower.’’

No virus, no need to remove and replace files – and £20 compared to £55  to get me back on line. That will do for me, I thought – and headed home  to collect the computer tower vowing never to go near Vikram Virus’s place again.

When I arrived, my young lodger Anthony had just come home from work. Remembering that he worked in IT, I thought I’d sound him out in the hope he might know what was causing the problem.

Anthony, for some reason I can’t get on the internet,’’ I confided, producing the proxy message from my handbag and plonking it in front of his face.  ‘Do you have any idea what this means?’’

I expected a furrowed brow and a vacant  ‘’Sorry, I don’t know’’ but got the opposite.

‘’Don’t worry, it’s nothing major,’’ he insisted. I can sort it out – it’s a minor thing with the settings.’’

With that he sat down at the computer, called up something or other, tapped a few keys – and bingo, we were back online.

The whole job took little more than 60 seconds – and he refused point blank to take any payment.

From £55, to £20 to a freebie. And they used to say you couldn’t trust car repair shops!

OK, so I should have asked Anthony in the first place – but he wasn’t around at the time I lost my internet connection and I am not the most patient of people.

The big question the whole experience throws up for computer-illiterate people like me  is, ‘When something goes wrong and you consult one of these  ‘experts’, how can you be sure you are given the correct  diagnosis? And then charged an amount in keeping with the work that is done? The answer is, you can’t. You just have to trust your intuition.

Unknown to him, I’ve now got Anthony earmarked to service my car, though I have no idea whether he knows anything about motor mechanics.

But he’s honest and he’s cheap – and that’s  more than can be said for the likes of Vikram Virus.

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One Response to “How my artful lodger put paid to the computer rip-off sharks”

  1. STEVE HOLMES January 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    SO HERE I AM THINKING YOU WANTED ME TO LOOK AT YOUR CAR???

    GLAD YOUI GOT YOUR PC FIXED.

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