11/21/2008 8:59PM

Compuhell

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Computerhell

I'm slowly emerging from a day and a half of computer hell that began when I installed the new PC game Fallout 3 on my laptop yesterday and settled in to play it. The game launched flawlessly, the scene-setting movie looked spectacular on the screen, and I was quickly drawn into a story where it was the year 2070 and I was a resident of Vault 101, a post-apocalyptic fallout shelter and....suddenly the screen froze. I waited and waited, then tried to shut the program down. No response. I turned off the computer, then restarted it and...nothing. Power on, but a blank screen and no boot.

I spent the next four hours on the phone with Dell Technical Support, a lot of it on hold, and agreed to pay $49.95 for a diagnosis from a technician. This involved my learning more about how to disassemble a laptop than I ever wanted to know, as piece by piece I removed possible problem-causers, including the memory cards, hard drive and optical disk. Nothing did the trick. Finally the technician said the culprit had to be my video card, so now my only option was to ship the machine to Dell to be repaired. He switched me to the Repair Department, which had to process the order for an Official Return Box I needed. After 15 minutes on hold, there was an announcement that the Repair Department was now closed for the night and to try back tomorrow.

I spent today trying to find third-party help. I've been using the laptop exclusively since Saratoga and not backing things up (I know, I know), so was getting panicky about possibly losing four months of files and data. I was quoted prices of anywhere from $300 to $600 to attempt to rescue my data, along with warnings that it sounded like my laptop was "fried" and the data might be lost. Finally I ran across an ad for a local one-man shop, a guy named Mitch who told me to relax and bring my laptop over to his basement. He took the hard drive out of the laptop, put it in an case with a USB cable attached to it, and sent me home to copy any files I needed on to the old desktop I reconnected and am now using. It worked perfectly and tomorrow he'll start working on repairing the laptop.

So long story short, that's why there's no Sunday column this week and that's why I didn't play the little $29k carry at Aqueduct today, where the results looked juicy enough (parlay was $64k) to double-carry into Saturday, but there was one winner at $92,444. A pity, especially because Aqueduct's Saturday card looks like about the best one so far at the meet, with three allowance races, four maiden-specials and the G3 Discovery. I think I'm still too singed from compuhell to attack that $251k carry at Hollywood later tonight, but if I rally I might take a look. Hmm, still two hours until the pick-6 starts.

Oh, and I'm giving up on PC gaming and getting an Xbox or a Playstation at the mall this weekend.