Everything happens for the best.

by francine Hardaway on August 23, 2005

Everything happens for the best. In the continuing saga of my life, I have begun to replace things that were stolen in the robbery. To replace the bedspread, made of old sarees, I will have to go to India again. That will happen in late November.

Don’t worry; I haven’t lost my mind or my sense of proportion; I’m not going to India just to buy a bedspread. That would be a Paris Hilton maneuver.

I am actually going to see an “eye camp” at an ashram in Bodh Gaya, the place where Buddha received enlightenment. This eye camp, run by 83-year-old Dwarko Sundrani, one of the last active disciples of Mahatma Ghandi, takes place every November. Doctors from all over the world come to donate their services, operating on rural Indian children who have been born blind due to improper prenatal nutrition.

I had planned to go before the robbery, so now I will look for another bedspread while I am there. Everything I need comes to me, so I am sure I will come home with a beauty.

Like my new tech toy.

Although I haven’t gotten the insurance check yet, I had to replace my PC, so I started casting about for good deals. (Yes, I use a Mac for most of my business and personal life, but not for my financials. The Mac version of Quicken is far inferior to the one I use for my business and does not upload data directly to TurboTax so I can do my taxes in an hour.)

That’s when I learned about refurbished equipment.

Apparently, when someone buys a computer online and sends it back, it is more thoroughly checked than it was before it went out the first time, to see if there is really something wrong with it. Many times, the returned equipment is really fine, or can easily be repaired. But once it’s out of the original box, it must be sold as refurbished. So a refurbished computer might be one that never did have a problem, or one that could be easily fixed by changing out a part.

I found this out when I went to the electronics store in Half Moon Bay, where I’m spending the summer, to replace a wireless router that died a premature death. The owner of the store buys all refurbished equipment and sells it “for cheap” in his store so he can keep his local clientele against the onslaught of the Circuit Cities and Best Buys that are just “over the hill” on Route 92. This is a clever marketing ploy, especially since gas prices up here are $3.00/gal.

But I don’t drive here unless I have to. Despite my recent HP experience, I decided to shop online.

Surfing around on the Dell refurbished equipment site, I found a Dell 9100 desktop system with a huge hard drive, a gigabyte of RAM, and a lot of other fancy stuff. It was no more expensive than one of the sub-$1000 systems Dell is offering for back-to-school (the $299 back-to-school special you hear so much about doesn’t have enough RAM and doesn’t come with a monitor, which can substantially alter the cost. Anything worth having for back-to-school really costs about a grand).

The coolest thing about this Dell, other than that it can work with photos, music and video quickly because of the RAM, is the new Microsoft MediaCenter operating system.

The Media Center operating system, which somehow got released without my knowledge (I guess I’m not on top of these technologies anymore) lets you control your media from across the room, project it on to a different display, or use your computer in its off hours as a TV.

Mine came with a TV tuner, a remote, and a remote sensor.

I installed it in my dining room, where I office while in Half Moon Bay. From the kitchen, I can change it from computer mode to TV mode, set the channel, adjust the volume, and even record programs without paying a monthly fee. It works just like a TV. But it’s better, because I can then burn the recorded program to a DVD and play it anywhere, including the TV in the media room, which also has a DVD player built into it, and the Mac (on airplanes).

The guy who returned this system was a real fool. He’s probably related to my robber.

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