Monday, December 6, 2010

Disposable Culture

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The weather took a turn for the worse over the weekend, and Alma and I spent a couple days at the Westfield Culver City Mall. I thought we would have to buy her a new laptop, as it seemed her Toshiba had crashed after only 13 months. But we took the laptop into Best Buy and a member of the Geek Squad determined that Alma's laptop had been attacked by a virus.

This despite the fact that we had purchased Norton software to protect against viruses. So the guy from Best Buy's Geek Squad tells me I can either pay Best Buy $200 to remove the viruses or wipe out everything that was stored on the laptop and restore from system backup disks. He did not tell me to contact Norton and at the time it did not occur to me to do so. Instead, I restored Alma's laptop from the system backup disks. After the restore had completed successfully, I happened to remember that Norton had charged my card $59.99 for 2010-11 just a couple weeks ago. So I said to Alma, "I'm going to contact Norton and get my money back, since they did not protect your computer." Alma had far less polite things to say about Norton.

Well, I contacted Norton today after having located the email receipt they sent me for the credit card charge. I did not actually speak to anyone. I did the whole thing via a chat window online with someone whose patronym suggested he was in India. He tried to save me as a customer but I told him it was too late. So Norton says it is refunding the $59.99 to my card for its non-existant security.

In its place I will install Microsoft Security Essentials on Alma's laptop. It's a free software program from the folks at Microsoft. Word is it is better than Norton and, at $0.00, would have to really suck to be worse than Norton.

But here's the thing: between futzing with Alma's laptop, the two trips to Best Buy and the time required to restore from the backups, I figure I spent at least 4 hours. So while I'm really glad we saved the $350-$400 I thought we would have to shell out for a new laptop, I spent so much time on it that it almost became worth it to replace the computer with a new one and simply scrap the old one.

This is "planned obsolescence" at its most stark and manipulative, when it becomes more expensive in terms of time required to troubleshoot and repair a piece of technology than simply to buy that same piece brand new. It is this contemporary disposable culture that I think would absolutely enrage Thoreau. We inhabit an America fundamentally changed from Thoreau's America and our decadence is nowhere more evident than in this disposable mentality that seems everywhere always.

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