Technology is great, technology grates

Melvyn Magree

Technology is great!  Using my computer and the Internet, I can write and submit this column.  I can pay bills online rather than write and mail a check.  I can order a large assortment of goods online and sometimes even track their shipping.
Technology helps me research without buying lots of books and magazines or making many visits to the library.  But unless you make to-do lists on paper or on a computer, it doesn’t help you remember all you plan.  One website I forgot to include in last week’s column, “Hunter, know your ground,” is the 2014 Minnesota DNR hunting regulations:
Technology lets me carry in my shirt pocket symphonies, the Bible, the Constitution and commentaries, Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations,” manuals for all kinds of tools and gadgets, hundreds of notes to myself, and many of my Party of One columns.
Technology grates!  It seems the more things I can do on my computer and gadgets, the more things go wrong.
Rather than paying bills, reading books, or listening to music, I am spending an inordinate amount of time trying to resolve computer and other gadget problems.  In this month I have had a keyboard whose return key might not work, Bluetooth earbuds that wouldn’t charge, lots of software that doesn’t work (properly or at all), and a smoke alarm that went off when there was no smoke.
I wrote about some of these problems in “Programmer, heal thyself”; let me tell you about the resolution (or non-resolution) of some of these.
Whenever a smoke detector ceases to work properly, I try to buy the same model again.  Because there is no standardization for mounting that I know of, I buy the same model again so I don’t have to drill more holes in the ceiling.  The model of detector that we use in the cabin has a seven-year warranty.
Frustrated with the smoke detector that gave false alarms, I contacted the online store I bought it from.  I thought it was the manufacturer because of the name similarity.  Nope, I have to contact the manufacturer for the warranty.  The manufacturer, First Alert, had no email address for U.S. residents.  OK, forget the warranty because I’ll never get a replacement in time for our next stay at the cabin.  I ordered another one from the online store with three-day delivery.  Yay!  It came the afternoon before we planned to go to our cabin.
I should take some of the blame, as the directions do have a warranty procedure.  The address isn’t even the same name as the manufacturer label.  I still have the malfunctioning alarm on my desk.  But why bother making a warranty claim?  If the new one I had already bought works for its warrantied life, then the warranty on the replacement would have also expired.
I have a Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio for my iPad.  It functions as a keyboard, stand, and cover.  I finally set aside some time to research the non-functioning return key.
The Logitech website would not take my email address and password, and I never received an email to reset the password.  I sent an email to the address I used for same problem in February/March and received a form that I should go to the website.  I eventually called the non-800 number and reached a non-native speaker of English.  It was more corporate bureaucracy; she was a level-one filter. We just went around in circles with no technical help
I went back to the friendlier email I got earlier in the year for the same problem that had a set of steps that would supposedly resolve the problem.  I followed them, but the return key didn’t work!  But as I had done before, I repeatedly pressed the return key, and it eventually worked.  Was that all I needed to do in the first place?  But the return key didn’t work again a few days later!  I pressed it less than a dozen times and it worked again.  To be a computer user, you really have to believe in magic.
I had a much friendlier set of email exchanges with Jaybird.  I bought a set of their wireless earbuds the same time as I bought the iPad keyboard.  Just after the warranty period expired, my earbuds couldn’t be recharged.  Jaybird offered me 50 percent credit for a new set.  I did need to send the device back before getting credit.  Once they had the tracking number for my package, they told me I could place my order.
I worked on balancing my wife’s checkbook this week.  To help me, I printed out a bank statement.  I couldn’t find a transaction that she had in her register.  I finally found it lost between pages on the bank statement copy I printed.  The bank statement saved as a PDF was okay—Adobe or Apple lost the item in printing!
I printed out a website form for a mail order, and the result had two pictures that were not on my screen.  Both pictures on the printout covered text!  At least it wasn’t on the part with my information.
I still believe we ain’t seen nothin’ yet on the benefits of technology, but whatever happened to WYSIWYG?  What you see is what you get!

Even with over fifty years of computer experience, Mel feels he is falling farther and farther behind.