Customer Testimonial.

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One of our old CPUs literally caught fire and is no longer with us. The hard drives and CD writer were removed from that machine into the last working computer we had. Nothing worked, of course. It wouldn't even boot despite rescue floppy disks and the whole Win98 CD itself being stuffed into the slots.

We used a neighbor's computer to get online with Dell and order a new machine. I figured we might as well get a Starfleet-class computer so that's what I ordered. What I didn't think of at the time was that any further communication with Dell would be online too. Naturally Dell was sending me information and more requests for info and I could not read them. Confusion reigned. Madness. Strange and cryptic signs in the skies. And I learned that the nice Dell folks who talk on telephones are not always on the same page with the nice Dell folks who type on keyboards.

Finally the new Dell arrived. It sat in a box, unopened, on our living room floor for about a month. By this time I'd lost all ability to connect with the new DSL we'd had installed. The voice telephones worked and that was all. Even they were a bit flaky.

Curiosity got the best of Tess and she finally opened the Dell box. An evil-looking dark grey machine glared back out at us. I took a walk, refusing to even pick it up and put it on the desk. Somehow I had the impression it was already awake and developing a hatred for me. I did manage to flip through one of the 756 manuals that came with it and concluded (in about 30 seconds) that this machine was so far beyond my understanding that it was undoubtedly dangerous to even plug it in. I knew if it got enough power to wake up fully Bad Things Would Happen.

Everyone and his brother told me, "You should let my cousin (father-in-law, brother, son, wife's daughter's neighbor) set it up for you. They're real good with computers."

I ran them all off. The last thing I needed was another wannabe hillbilly techie doing untold damage to this rather pricey new machine and then sitting there, breathing through their mouth, and finally announcing they had to leave and the computer was probably broke and this here computer here hain't like the one I set up for Earl and Bessie and I doan know whut to do now. (Tess and I had already gone that route, allowing a local "expert" to fiddle with one of our CPU's. That was how it caught fire, by the way.) No more Gomers and Goobers would be allowed near our equipment. It's lucky our house is still standing and Goober isn't still in the hospital nursing several bad gunshot wounds.

We needed a real pro. We needed a true genius.

We needed Dave.

Many of you will remember Dave from the old BBS days of the Writer's Conference. Dave does this sort of thing for a living. People pay him big bucks when they realize they're in real trouble and their computers are making noises like a rock grinder and nothing, but NOTHING, will work anymore. Dave, I believe, is a Computer Whisperer. He can speak to them. He carries several neat nylon workbags full of tools and gizmos and programs to the sufferer's home or office and when he leaves people gather about in drop-jawed amazement at what was once a rectangular pile of electronic wreckage now working not only efficiently and properly, but also about three times faster than it ever did before.

I'm positive that at least one of those nylon briefcases is full of bear teeth, special herbs, medicine bags, strange oils, potions, and incenses, and small meteorites gathered by Dave himself under the light of the full moon. Sounds reasonable to me. If your magic box is plagued with a curse you need a magician to fix it. And we were lucky enough to know a genius magician. I don't think Dave got into MENSA by taking their test. I think he simply walked into a meeting and they made him a member on the spot. He's that smart.

I called Dave and babbled my problems to him. My best explanation for the situation was "nothing works and I have no idea what to do." Dave has heard this from many of his clients and it's nothing new to him. And although we've moved far, far, away from Indy and live in the Great Dark Forest now, Dave cheerfully packed all his tools, books, programs, and white magic medicine bags into his car and drove all the way out to our humble abode in the wilderness.

Upon arrival, Dave looked over our old computer (the one that didn't burn up at the hands of Goober's assistance) and announced it was best suited for future use as landfill, a door stop, or perhaps a small boat anchor. Utterly, hopelessly scrambled and out of commission. Then he sat down and began working with it. Dave began speaking in a strange and eerie language, one that I did not understand. It was a mixture of English words and technospeak and God only knows what else, perhaps ancient chants to the very electrons themselves. This sort of thing is unsettling for me. I knew he was trying to explain what he was doing, but the best I could manage was to politely nod my head from time to time. I had no bloodly clue what he was talking about. He might as well have been speaking Bantu or ancient High German. I was a third-grade math student discussing orbital geometery and general relativity with Einstein. "Sure, doc, I follow you. No problem."

I turned to get a badly-needed cigarette and when I turned back the case was off the computer and Dave was merrily re-arranging the innards and whistling a cheerful little tune to himself. From my postition I could not see his hands and I assume he was casting spells inside by shaking small animal bones and making markings with powdered brimstone. The case slipped back on the CPU--he might have levitated it there, I'm not sure--and when he turned it on he sat at the keyboard and started rapid typing. I did not see him refer to any notes or texts. He was doing this on the fly, strictly from memory and/or instinct.

The damn thing woke up. It started working. Then it started responding. Great spirits were at work. The floor vibrated and the furniture shook. The support beams in the living room's cathedral ceiling creaked and groaned ominously. Dave battled the demons inside the box and slayed them one by one. They died hard and fought to the very last, but when he was done this old computer was doing things properly--and doing them far FASTER--than I had ever seen before.

"Fixed. You're okay now." Dave gathered his stuff and headed into the office to set up the new Dell. I stood there mutely for a moment staring at the old computer's screen and knew I'd just seen something that will forever be beyond my ken and understanding. At the end all I could do was simply shake my head and walk away.

Dave loved the Dell and had it jumping through hoops in no time flat. I noticed that with him in the room the new computer no longer radiated those hateful and dangerous vibes at me, like a cobra about to strike. It had met its master and had been subdued.

The phone company's DSL box and my LinkSys router held no mysteries for him either. He poked and prodded, unplugged and replugged, periodically checking the dozens of little activity lights on both boxes. Then he asked me for my user name and password. I gave them and that was the sum total of my assistance for the entire night. He asked my domain number and couple of other things and I could only stand there dumbly with my face hanging out. I had no clue. Dave explained this was important information, since it was needed to reestablish contact with the DSL line. I had no idea what to tell him.

Keep in mind he'd just made what would eventually be over a 170 mile round trip to come help me. A less patient man would have simply drawn a gun and shot me on the spot and I couldn't have blamed him. But Dave just tapped a finger on the desk and said, "Well, let me try a couple of things." I creeped out of the office awash with shame and ignorance. All that driving, all that gasoline, all that time and work...and I did not have the simple numbers to give him.

Tess and I talked quietly in the kitchen for a short while. No sound at all came from the office. I was about to go to the basement to fashion a large sign to hang around my neck saying "BEWARE--IDIOT" when we heard Dave shout from the office "YES! YES! YES!"

That sounded positive, so I gathered up the courage to go back into the office.

The DSL box and router lights were blinking madly, just like the old computer lights you'd see on bad 1960's science fiction movies. Things were reaching out, connecting, communicating, holding the link and establishing full contact. Dave sat there with a huge grin on his face. I blinked at him. "What...how...?" He slipped into that strange language again and explained the whole thing to me, how he had basically taken the few grains of information I gave him and pretty much hacked (or telepathed) the rest. Whatever, he got the numbers he needed and everything was coming together faster than it takes to tell about it.

We went back into the living room. The old computer was online too and waiting for instructions. Whatever Dave typed, it did it obediently and in jig time.

We were back online. Stronger, more dependable, without glitches and hesitation, and much, much faster. This was true lightspeed. Hell, it was better. We were up and running on both machines at Warp Factor Six.

Dave did not charge me a dime.

But I owe that guy a big one. Someday I hope I can repay him.

I'm writing this on the old computer. The new Dell is, well, still a little spooky to me. It does things differently, the screen isn't the same, there are icons that I do not know. When I ordered it I tried to calculate how much faster and how much more it would be capable of doing than this old crate. The math was confusing and I lost count somwhere along the line but it's literally a multigenerational leap in technology from this old warhorse. I have the packing slip here on this desk. I don't know what most of the stuff means. Some of it, a little, I can cipher out and the few scraps I can understand seem fantastic. During our trials and tribulations we found out that our old computers (including the one that ignited) were NOT Pentium Twos as we had been told. They were a form of advanced Pentium Ones technically known as Pentium Pros.

This slip of paper says the dark grey machine sitting quietly in the office is a 2.40GHz/533 Front Side Bus P4 Dell Precision MiniTower. My first computer had a then- respectable 30 meg hard drive. This thing has more than seventeen times that number in RAM memory alone. The hard drive is forty gigabytes.It has some kind of CD burner that will read, handle, and create DVDs. There is some mention here of a decoder being built into it. Don't know what that means but it sounds important. The rest of it reads like that weird language David speaks. One cool thing is a little gizmo that's smaller than a disposable cigarette lighter. You plug this little bugger into the machine and it becomes another drive capable of holding sixteen megs of information. You use it, work with it, then unplug the damn thing and stick it in your shirt pocket and it needs no power source whatsoever. You just tote it around until you find another computer that will accept this technology and plug it in and Ta-Da!--your hard drive is right there with you, all information intact and ready to use. I sat and twiddled this thing between my fingers for a few minutes. I've had ink pens that were heavier. Sixteen megs. No internal power source.

Welcome to the 21st Century, bub. You have some catching up to do.

Anyway, we're back online and the addresses are still the same for me and Tess. We've had many ups and downs since I lost contact with you guys. With over 850 messages in my base there was no way I could play catch-up so I just did a mass delete and will start freshly from here. I hope you have all been well and stayed out of trouble. I'll be back on a regular basis now and we can swap lies, yarns, and important stuff once again.

And God bless Dave. In centuries past they used to round up mutants like him and judge them as witches because they knew too much and were clearly something beyond the norm, a dangerous thing in any age. But here in the future, where we all seem to be stuck now, it's people like him who keep their foot firmly pressed to the accelerator pedal of technology and there is no way of telling what will come out of those magic nylon work bags next. Whatever it may be, Dave will be on top of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are back.

Kent


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