Computer troubles and successes!

Computer issues here in Costa Rica present a “mixed bag” of things we’ll miss and not.  Today was definitely a day that fit into the “things we’ll miss” category! We spent $160 and got back not one but two repaired and perfectly working computers as opposed to the non-functioning borderline-crap we took in.

See these pictures?

David catching up on email

They might not look like much to the casual eye, but the one of David sitting on the sofa catching up on his email is significant since he’s basically been without a computer for the past several weeks.  We think that carrying the laptop in his backpack on our trip to Salt Lake City just resulted in one bump too many and the first time he tried to use it up there the screen was all black with little fringes of light around the corners.  Clearly some type of video display problem, but we were clueless about what type of problem or how reasonable it would be to fix it.

We returned from Utah last week and made the trek almost immediately down to our wonderfully funky little Mac repair place in San Jose and demonstrated David’s blank screen.  We left it with them with instructions that if it wasn’t too expensive, just to go ahead and repair it, but if it were a major problem to call us first since it’s an old laptop that’s already been repaired several times and hardly worthy of a major investment.

My computer, on the other hand, has worked fine for the nearly 4 years I’ve had it (having had to replace my previous one after our tour bus was broken into on a trip over to Manuel Antonio back in ’07) but early this year the screen started acting funny.  I was initially freaked out thinking I had some impending computer meltdown on my hands, but I discovered somewhat bizarrely that if you could put a bit of “pressure” on the screen (like by pulling it slightly forward toward you and putting a bit of tension on it) it would work fine.

But if you have to use one hand to hold the screen in place, that puts a pretty severe crimp in your keyboarding productivity, so I discovered that a nice piece of masking tape stretched from the bottom, up to the top corner of the screen and around to the back would put the necessary tension on the screen and keep it mas-o-menos working.

Now, this method has a number of disadvantages to it, and when we were in Salt Lake City in April, we took the computer to a Macintosh repair place to discuss options.  Their bench charge wasn’t too bad (something like $45, pretty close actually to our guys here in San Jose) but that only got you a repair sometime within a week or so.  For an additional $75 they could move you to the front of the line, although unfortunately the day I was there inquiring was Friday, so it still would mean being without the computer at least all weekend, and then possibly some future days if they had to order parts.

So, after looking at about $120 just for them to look at it, then probably as much as several hundred more for a new screen (the most likely scenario), it just seemed like too much money to put into a 4 year old computer and I figured I could buy a helluva lot of masking tape for several hundred dollars!

Fast forward.  David talked with the repair folks yesterday and discovered that they had, indeed, been able to fix his computer.  The specific problem got a bit lost in the translation but the good news was clear enough — the charge was only $60.

We’d shown them my computer last week when we dropped off David’s and asked if it might be possible to bring it down when we picked up David’s and have them actually look at it and see about a repair all within the few hours we would be able to leave it.  They agreed, although they did say that their regular minimum charge of ¢22,000 ($44) would go up to $60.  We readily agreed and headed to the big city first thing this morning.

Looks like a normal computer, with no tape holding up the screen!

Looks lke a regular computer, without any tape holding up the screen!

Four hours later they called to say it was all set, and with slight apologies said it would have to be $100 total rather than the $60 because they’d had to replace some parts.  Aw shucks, if you insist.

So, while we’ve missed having easy accessibility to computer purchases (and the repair place is definitely somewhat of a hassle to have to drive to), we will very much miss having a great home-grown type of repair place where $160 buys you two complete computer repairs. Before they let us leave the shop today, they even disappeared into the back rooms and came back having replaced several of my keys where I’d actually worn the letters off (!) so that the computer not only worked better, it looked better.

The Costa Rican culture of “figure it out, repair, make-do, make parts, make it work” sure comes in handy.  Yep, definitely on the “we’ll miss” list.


This entry was posted in Cost of Living, Things we won't miss, Things we'll miss. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Computer troubles and successes!

  1. Josette Edwards says:

    Hello Arden,

    Remember Me? You guided us through our “shipping to Costa Rica” experience. We have been here 4 months now, are still very happy with our decision to move, and hope that our feelings will not change.

    Would you mind sharing with us the name and address of the computer repair shop you used in San Jose? We have an old computer we brought along as a back-up but which is no longer updating itself, and I would like to see if there is anything they could do to fix it… Thanks in advance for the continued help.


    • arden says:

      Hi, Josette,

      Yes — of course I remember you! If you have a “PC” (as opposed to a Mac) I suspect that there’s places right there in Atenas that do repairs. Most all towns seem to have some kind of computer tech guy. BUT, if, like us, you have Macintosh computers, well then, not quite so many options. Back when we were first here many years ago, we’d had a problem and put out the word, and found out about a little “hole in the wall” shop in downtown San Jose that dealt with Macs. We’ve now been going there for 5 years and they’re wonderful. The courtly older gentleman who answers the phone and serves as a sort of “reception desk” turns out to speak quite adequate English (after we’ve muddled through our Spanish all these years!) and the seeming proprietor, John Thomas Echeverria, also speaks quite good English, although in a slightly other-worldly “sing-song” sort of voice.

      The shop is located in downtown San Jose in a little scrap of a corner building on the fringes of Barrio Mexico. If you go into town and turn in on Paseo Colón and go to the so-called “Torres Mercedes” (Mercedes Tower) which is actually the mirrored Scotia Bank building, you turn left. But of course you can’t actually turn left there so you go to the next block and turn right, then right again, right again, and on through the light crossing Paseo Colón and go 3 blocks. The road you’re on (which has been one way up until then) will suddenly turn 2-way and you’re facing oncoming traffic. No problem since you want to turn left anyway. That street goes down one short block and dead ends into an industrial complex. The repair shop is at the end of the block, on the near left corner. Should you want to call ahead, their phone is 2221-8709.

      As I say, although I actually think they *do* PC repairs (just based on folks I’ve seen in there) they are definitely Macintosh people and while they can seem alarmingly dense when talking to them about a potential problem, they actually *do* know what they’re doing and have done amazing things for us over the years. If you go in there you should tell them we told you about them. I don’t know that it will help, but it can’t hurt — I think we’re one of their major clients! ;-)

  2. Martha B. Higgins says:

    My grandmother’s phrase was, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Gotta love the inventive, resilient, make-do culture of Maine… and, apparently, Costa Rica!

    • arden says:

      Hi, Martha,

      Yes, that “wisdom of old” is definitely still in play here. We’ve seen ticos *make* an amazing array of “parts” to fix things from cars to computers, usually very inexpensively. It’s just part of the culture. It is totally one of the things we love and will miss. I can already tell we’ll have to really “fight” against the trend once we’re back in the states to just assume the answer is to “buy a new one.” We’ve managed quite nicely here with a 15 year old car, old computers, and a dazzling assortment of out-of-date “stuff” — no reason we need to change that just because we live back within the borders of the U.S.! ;-)

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