Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Tablet PC....dead...and in Kosovo

My posting has been pretty sparse lately and that’s because my fairly new IBM/Lenovo X41 Tablet PC….croaked.  It all started a couple of weeks ago when suddenly the battery wouldn’t charge above 48%.  Then that number began to gradually decrease.  While we were having important leadership meetings last weekend, a 3-day marathon session where my tablet was driving the data projector and taking minutes, the battery died to 0%  Then mysteriously, in the middle of the meeting, it just powered off for no particular reason…and it wasn’t because the municipal power went out, which happens here daily.

After a minute it powered back on and our meeting continued but oh, the embarrassment.  Can’t you feel my pain as for months I’ve been trying to sell everyone on this Tablet only to have it fail during mission critical meetings?  Anyway, we continued with our meetings, but a couple of days later it wouldn’t’ power-on at all.  No AC indicator light, no battery light, nothing.

So what does a IBM/Lenovo owner do with a 6-month old tablet when he lives in Kosovo?  Fortunately, we have an authorized IBM service center in the next country over, in Skopje, Macedonia.  The only problem is it is two hours away.  Except this winter the main road that connects Kosovo with Macedonia was closed due to landslides and it’s still closed.  People now have to travel to the other side of the country to another smaller border crossing.  Anyway, my colleagues were heading to Skopje that very morning for medical reasons and so I had about an hour to get the Tablet ready.

I quickly pulled the hard drive out and put it into an external enclosure.  That let me copy my entire data partition onto my wife’s Thinkpad, ensuring that I had all my stuff while my tablet headed to the doctor.  Since I already had an existing profile on my wife’s computer, all of my current Outlook contacts, calendar and email opened right up.  I was a little surprised at this frankly, and was thankful that I’d been unintentionally clever.  A short time later my tablet was on it’s way to Skopje with my colleagues and I was checking my email.

 So I’m writing this on my wife’s old but reliable T23 Thinkpad.  It’s Pentium III and is without all my critical little tools like ActiveWords, Onenote, MindManager, BibleWorks, etc.  It’s also missing all my Firefox extensions and everything else that puts the “personal” back into the Table PC.  Yesterday I talked to the service guys in Skopje.  The actual tech working on my unit wasn’t in at the moment, but he did know that they’d been able to get it power up again.  Hopefully it will be fixed by the time I head out to a conference in Macedonia next week.

So what’s the moral of the story?  1) Buy quality hardware from a trusted manufacturer.  Know where you can get your unit serviced and have the information available.  2) Have a backup strategy and use it.  I actually hadn’t backed up my data in a month or so…ya, I know, dumb.  3) Know how to pull the drive out of your computer and copy its contents somewhere else.  This is what saved my bacon this time.  Fortunately I had an external drive enclosure laying around that made this pretty easy.  4) Have good friends who are willing to drive many kilometers out of their way to drop your sick PC off at the doctors.

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