At this point I decided enough was enough. The owners of the computer were getting increasingly upset, not to mention the fact they'd been charged an additional £20 to "fix" the computer that hadn't worked since day one - but the "fixing" had evidently been ineffectual since the computer still didn't work.
So at their request, I took over things, and phoned the shop and asked to speak to the owner/manager/director by name. After all, I considered him to be a reasonable bloke, someone I and my friends had done business with in a very happy manner for a number of years. Perhaps all these problems were simply bad luck, the expansion of the business, maybe understaffing or staff sickness, the run up to Christmas, whatever. This was about my birthday, so I figured the Christmas stuff should have all been dealt with and we would be able to get a result.
The manager was as apologetic to me as I would have expected. As I detailed the catalogue of problems - and just kept going, and going, and going - he kept expressing how very sorry he was, how he didn't want to lose a customer, how he would like it if the owners of the computer could come in so he could apologise in person... we agreed that Steve and I would bring the computer into the shop, and he would test every individual component and then the whole system, at no charge. The thoroughness of testing necessary would mean the computer would have to stay in the shop a couple of days and he hoped that would be alright. Steve and I brought him the computer and all the driver disks, etc, that went with it, left my contact details and went on our way.
Two weeks passed and we were all starting to wonder why none of us had heard from the shop. Eventually, the owners of the computer phoned the shop to ask how things were going.
Owner #1 was told on the phone that the computer was ready for collection, that it had been tested "more than any other computer we've had in here before" and that no problems had been found.
Owner #2 then drove to the shop to pick up the machine. He was told that they had found a couple of problems with things that had been installed but it was all sorted out now.
I do not know which of these is the truth.
Upon being asked what would happen if it still didn't work, the manager suggested to the owners that "maybe it just doesn't like your wallpaper or something". He said that if there was a problem, he would send an engineer round, and if it was the shop's fault, this would be free, and if it was the computer owners' fault, he would charge them.
In other words, this computer that they paid £450 for (it didn't work), then paid £20 to have it repaired (and it didn't work), they may well have to pay even more for (and will it work then?).
This is turning out to be a very expensive doorstop.
With that in mind, the owners didn't plug it in straight away, but waited a couple of days until Steve (eg a qualified person) could set up and test the computer for them at their own home. That was today. Steve approached the problem from the beginning. He plugged in the bare essentials of monitor, speakers, keyboard and mouse (so no printer, no internet, no USB add-ons of any sort that could be blamed) and started up the machine.
First test, he ran the antivirus scan. It worked! It completed the scan! That's the best performance we've had out of this machine so far! Things were looking hopeful... did the owners, almost three months after paying for it, finally have a working computer? Next he started up Windows Media Player, playing one of the sample songs that is preloaded on any Windows machine. The music played! How encouraging! He clicked the visualisation to go full-screen... and that's when it crashed, Blue Screen Of Death, approximately twenty minutes after being started up.
Off and on again, and then more playing about with the things that had already been put on the computer at the shop, eg Paint. This time it lasted very nearly an hour before BSODing.
Finally, Steve decided to have a look at the system spec. That was when we discovered more discrepancies.
1. The owners had requested, and paid for, a gig of RAM. The computer contained 512mb.
2. The owners are really into their music and had specifically asked for a good sound card. However the machine was using onboard sound.
3. That said, there was a spangly 256mb graphics card in there. Which I am sure lots of people would appreciate, however, the owners of the computer don't play any games beyond Freecell and Solitaire. A nice graphics card was not on their specification and is frankly no use to them.
We did wonder briefly if we had picked up the wrong machine - but no, the owners' names and so on were all on there correctly. We phoned the shop to confirm the spec that had been asked for, and sure enough, the machine we had plugged in did not match the spec. That was enough. In no way could it be "our fault" that the machine wasn't as per spec, so the shop could bloody well sort it out. One of their engineers was dispatched to the house.
After an insistence that the router had been set up wrong (funny how every other computer can use it, and anyway, we haven't even tried to connect to the router yet this time) and a brave attempt to insist that the computer had booted up fine and therefore was "working perfectly", the engineer realised that Steve was keeping up with all the techno-bull-sh*t he was trying to confound us with and not swallowing any of it, and asked if Steve did this for a living?
His face went... interesting... when Steve responded "actually I'm a [company] network engineer." He made some more efforts to blag his way out of it but ended up by putting a "burn in test" onto the computer from his own USB stick. It was agreed to leave this test running overnight - he started it up and then with his approval the screen was turned off. The machine is being left on overnight, exactly according to his instructions.
He will return to the house tomorrow morning, to see the results of the test and fit the missing RAM. We will be there too. It will be interesting to see what the result is.
How much coffee should we allow Steve before the showdown tomorrow morning?
Should we videotape it?