Bilingual technophobia

So I’ve had this boring technology drama going on for a couple of months now that I thought I would share with the world.

I came to Italy with an Acer Aspire laptop I bought in Canada last March, and which I hoped would get me through the course. But our apartments here are not equipped with phones, so most of us rely on skype and email for our communication with the outside world. Although I was enchanted by the ease and economy of skype, I got increasingly frustrated by the sound of the laptop’s fan cutting into my calls. Did you just turn on your hairdryer? my callers asked when it roared spontaneously into life through great chunks of every conversation. Nobody else in the class seemed to be having this problem, and eventually I found some reports online that lead me to conclude Acers just have stupidly loud fans.

So I decided enough was enough, I’d just buy a whole new laptop, which I did immediately before our trip to Puglia, and hallelujah, my shiny new HP Pavilion works much better for phone calls, and is smaller, lighter, faster to boot. But because I had to buy it in Milan, the only operating system on offer was Windows Vista, which is far from trouble-free, it seems, and the only language (and keyboard) the store could supply was, well, Italian. So I am coping with new laptop, new operating system, new keyboard and new language. Yeeps.

I spent some eight hours last weekend attempting in vain to download a Vista driver for my mickey mouse 2 month old printer and finally gave up. All right, I thought, I can just use Old Laptop for printing. And I remapped New Laptop’s Italian keyboard to one I’m more familiar with and thought it would be good discipline for my touch typing skills. A pain, but it could be worse. Meanwhile, since I had given up as well trying to understand error, update and installation messages in Italian, I’d ordered an English language operating system and Office package (just cannot get on with MS Works which won’t read the Word or Excel documents I need to use for coursework and daily life, and I miss Outlook). Life seemed cumbersome – and expensive! – but generally bearable.

Then, literally moments before the food technology exam commenced on Friday, for which I was using Old Laptop, an intermittent problem resurfaced. Old Laptop decided it would no longer recognise its power source and informed me it would give me 2.46 hours of battery life — for a 3.5 hour exam. I scrambled to copy the files I’d need onto a flash drive and then managed (thank you Unisg) to borrow a machine from the university for the exam.

Later that evening, at the end of a nail-biting and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to copy photographs, iTunes and some other brutally large and essential files onto a cd, during which time battery life declined to about 12 minutes, I closed the lid for the last time. Yesterday morning I tucked Old Acer under my arm and took it down to the computer repair shop.

Which was closed, of course, because it was Monday morning. So, back I went on Monday afternoon.

Non parlo molto bene Italiano, I told the guy behind the counter, my ritual opening line here. E non parlo inglese, he replied. So off we sailed into our murky voyage of techno-linguistic discovery. By the merest fluke, I did have my purchase receipt with me, but for some mysterious reason it shows that I bought the laptop on 3-Mar-00 (but luckily the credit card receipt says 06). So I thought the warranty was expired, but guy behind the counter thought it should be a two year deal, and having confirmed it’s the laptop not the power cable that’s at fault, he’s shipped it to Acer in Milan.

At least that’s what I think he said. Two years was mentioned, certainly, and Milan, but I may have invented the rest. Perhaps he said that it would take me two years to get it back from the factory in Milan. Perhaps he said the factory in Milan would be charging me two years’ salary to look at it. Or perhaps he said I have the vocabulary of a two year old and his nephew in Milan speaks better Italian than I do. He declined an email address from me, so I can’t wait for the call on my cell phone where he explains what the deal is…

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