Fixing Things

In 2009 I started doing something called "business travel." I bought a piece of dependable luggage: the Travelpro WalkAbout Lite 2 22" Rollaboard Suiter. The reality was that this wasn't proper business travel. First, it'd only be two or three round-trip flights a year. Second, suits were not a thing with which I needed to concern myself. Still, I did my research, was told "look at all of the flight staff – they're using Travelpro," and I spent accordingly.

For some reason I got into my head that expensive meant "buy it for life," but it was just a decently-built suitcase. At any moment it could get slammed to the runway pavement and that would be the end of the suitcase's lifetime for which I had bought the thing.

This spring when I traveled to California for a nephew's graduation I was reminded that my rollaboard had a bum wheel. The rubber cover was peeling off, revealing a metal wheel below. On day one of this trip to California, I peeled off the rubber "outsole" of this wheel and lived with the wobbly, clanky result. I was sure some sort of "handler damage" caused this to happen.

When I rolled away from the hotel to the car at the end of the trip, the other wheel started peeling away. It turns out I'd just arrived at the end of life for this luggage's rubber wheels! I got a little excited as it was now time to buy an actual "buy it for life" piece.

Then I was reminded not to bank on a product lasting forever when it is susceptible to such rough treatment. As I sat down to start online shopping, something in the back of my head said, "Hey, maybe you can replace the wheels?" A visit to YouTube helped me discover that I could, and a visit to various Internet comments pages led me to Crew Outfitters.

The new wheels worked (and not bad at $21)! They are much better than the old wheels ever were. Yay! There are other parts of this luggage that are degrading as well, like the handles, but I think I will get another five years out of the thing.

Meanwhile I also had an old LG LCD TV collecting dust in my basement. It's a decent TV, and at 47" it is big enough to retain some value in the modern age of big, big TVs. Unfortunately a couple of years ago it stopped displaying color. A bit of research led me to believe that replacing the motherboard would fix this problem. Even though the end result of a fixed TV would probably be me then giving it away, I just couldn't bring myself to throwing it out.

I found the board listed at ShopJimmy. It was out of stock, and I put my email in the "Product Alert" form. Not trusting the Internet, I also set a reminder for myself to occasionally check if the item was in stock.

A mere 18 months later I found the item available. (And, no, I never received a "Product Alert.") Ordered, the item arrived in early July while I was on vacation. A month later I took the time to install the board, find a device to hook to the TV, awkwardly lean a large TV with exposed internals against a wall, and fired it up. Sadly I've removed $88 from my pocket and the TV is still displaying black and white.

Sometimes fixing things works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sadly these days it's generally not worth the cost and effort to fix most things, or to find someone who can fix them.

That's why I feel fortunate to work in software. Most of the things you can imagine in software can be figured. Most things you find broken in software can be fixed. Yes, sometimes the cost still means the fixing doesn't make sense, but most times…

Fix it! animated GIF from SNL sketch