I’m in the high tech business. I’m supposed to like new technology. Usually I do.
I have a high-tech car. It has a dial to change the suspension from Cadillac to Corvette. It has another dial to change the ground clearance from sedan to SUV, and will automatically drop down to sportscar level at higher speeds. There are all kinds of other bells and whistles, mostly to do with safety, and I love all the gadgetry. It’s my sixth car in twelve years, and I’ve upgraded happily each time.
I have a high-tech phone. I can surf the internet. I can read my mail – both home and work. I can even listen to music or watch video on airplanes. If the camera ergonomics were as good as my last cellphone, and it had a normal headphone jack, it would have all its numerous predecessors beat by a mile. It was a little more complicated to set up, but at its heart much the same. Enter phone numbers, set up voicemail, and you’re good to go.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve re-entered phone numbers as I migrate to a new phone — meaningful contact lists don’t travel well between phone manufacturers or network carriers. But it doesn’t take much time, and I can weed out those I don’t like. Kind of like going from summer wardrobe to winter, and filling up bags of clothes for Goodwill in the process.
So why is it, that when it comes to my laptop, I have so much trouble when I upgrade? My old laptop was showing signs of an LCD terminal disease, so I bought a new laptop. As with previous upgrades, it was timeconsuming. What are all the applications I have? Where are their CDs? Where are their download files? Where are my documents? Backing it all up. Setting up the new computer – Windows updates, e-mail server names, app installations, document restoration. It takes for-e-ver. An entire weekend, plus some. And then you get to actually play with your new toy.
My new laptop came with Vista. They all do, nowadays, and at first, I was delighted. The desktop user interface was spiffy, and reminded me of my colleagues’ Apple laptops.
But then, I tried to print. Uh-oh. My tried-and-true HP laser printer/fax/scanner wouldn’t work. Worse than that, the HP site said that it wasn’t ever going to work. Vista compatibility was not planned. Ah well, time to upgrade printers. I’d been looking for a double-sided multi-function printer in a reasonable price range for a couple of years, and lucky for me, there was one that fit the bill. Not lucky for my checkbook, but lucky for some trees somewhere.
At first, the new printer was great. It scanned fabrics much better than the flatbed color printer/scanner, and the double-sided printing was just tickety-boo. But over time, and many, many Vista updates, the honeymoon between my eco-friendly new printer and my sleek new laptop ended.
Towards the end, the printer would always show itself as “offline”, even right after reinstalling the drivers. It would refuse to print any document until I rebooted my laptop, after which it would dutifully print the queued files. Finally, the printer refused to print anything, and the laptop could no longer find the printer on the network. I felt like I was in a technological War of the Roses.
After a couple of weeks of forgetting to call techsupport during their business hours, and getting no help from driver upgrades and techsupport websites, I discovered I could print from the laptop to the printer via an XP machine in the house, going the long way round. Gives a whole new meaning to “workaround”. Or is it marriage counselling?
Whatever. It doesn’t seem right. Consumer technology is supposed to “just work”. I’d like to be tempted by new bells and whistles on my laptop, and yield to that temptation, as I do with my cars and my cellphones. But with software migrations so painful, and hardware migrations soured by new operating systems, upgrading my laptop will seem more like Good Friday, compared to the Easter mornings of phones and cars.
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