I went to Dell's support site (on my own computer, which is working fine), and worked my way through the troubleshooting steps on her machine. We got as far as having it run diagnostics on the drive, which failed with a certain error code. Dell's web site said, "contact technical support" and gave some stuff to tell them. I did so, figuring that it was good to get the support ball rolling and that they'd get back to me in a day or six. By then, it was coming up on four hours before my flight, so I put everything away, went over and checked my bag, then went to the food court and had lunch.
It's a very slow afternoon at PDX, and the terminal is nearly deserted. There was no queue at all for security. I did one lap of Concourse C (about 1.5 km as I recall -- I really should have done three or four laps to make up for the lack of exercise these past couple of days), bought a coffee, and set myself up in the Service Center -- a bunch of cubicles with power outlets and such -- across from my departure gate.
Bringing up my e-mail, I was somewhat surprised to find a non-automated reply from Dell already. Based on the error code and symptoms described, they've concluded that the drive has physically failed and needs to be replaced. It's still under warranty, so they're sending me a new drive. This means I'll have to do a complete reinstall (again), but still, I'm impressed with the quick turnaround and willingness to so readily replace the defective part.
Speaking of parts, I'm now concerned slightly about my own computer. This weekend, I've not needed the CD-ROM, so I've had it its bay the auxiliary battery pack. This gives me something like six or seven hours' battery time when all I'm doing is typing documents and such, even using the wireless. While sitting here in the service center, I decided to put the CD-ROM back in case I wanted to play Locomotion. I pulled the battery out and slid the CD-ROM back in. It wouldn't fully seat. It should be flush with the side of the computer. Instead, it juts out just slightly -- about 1 mm or so. Hm. I pulled it back out and put the battery back. Same thing. I don't recall whether the battery pack was similarly non-flush when I first pulled it out. I powered up the computer, and it said it could see the battery, which had a 99% charge in it. I once again swapped in the CD-ROM, and the machine recognized it. Even though it's not fully flush, the latch is holding it in place, because turning the computer sideways doesn't cause the drive to slide out, which will happen if the latch doesn't catch.
I'll try not to worry too much about this, as it after all is working. But it seems untidy to me, and suggests that the computer's case has gotten slightly deformed.
It looks like it will be about another 90 minutes before my flight boards, assuming no more serious delay than the four minutes it is showing right now. Alaska predicts I will arrive OAK at 10:04, which means I'll probably be home before 11 PM. Unfortunately, I can't sleep in tomorrow, and in fact have to be up early, as the person who will be my director come January 1 has called a meeting at 8 AM tomorrow to discuss the reorganization.