SUICIDE OR CUSTOMER SERVICE? CLOSE CALL – Marilyn Armstrong

Just as I was thinking I finally had it all more or less under control, Garry’s iPad decided to NOT work this morning. This is probably because they put a new operating system on it last night. I know this because I went to use my mini and it was getting a new operating system, so I assumed Garry’s was getting one too if not at that precise moment, then sometime really soon

So, when Garry went to use it this morning, nothing worked. It refused his password, didn’t recognize his email. Basically, it was gone. Garry has zero patience with all things mechanical or electronic. The only reason he no longer kills every vacuum cleaner instantly is because I threatened him with permanent injury if he broke another one.

I don’t care how he feels about dirt. You have to empty it even if it is inconvenient and will make the process take an extra five minutes.

Computers? Oh, that is so much worse. I do not believe he is nearly as technologically inept as he seems. He doesn’t like technology, doesn’t want to deal with it, and has no patience with it. He wants to turn it on and after that, it’s supposed to work. Without any problems, ever.

He handed me his iPad. “I don’t have time for this,” he said. We had no plans for the day. It’s just he wanted to take a shower and watch some baseball. What he meant was “You always have time for this, so fix it. I’ll be back later.”

If there was one thing I didn’t want to do, it was call Apple customer service. My eyes rolled back in my head. I pretended I was dead. That didn’t work, so I looked up the number and called Apple. After bypassing the robot (why do I even try to talk to them?), I got a Person.

I told him that I was not in a good mood, that my recent encounters with his colleagues had not been positive, and I wanted this to get fixed really fast or I was going to stuff it back in the box and send it back and then they could figure out what to do with it. I’d had enough.

It didn’t take the 15 minutes I hoped for, but eventually, with repetitions of doing the same things we’d done before (and before and before), eventually, we got it to work. Without a password and no credit card. Loaded with Chrome. Garry’s iCloud email was deleted and if not deleted, no one will ever use it because the only people who know it exists are me and Garry and we aren’t talking.

Meanwhile, Microsoft tried to insert the broken download again. It failed. I ignored it. When they get it to work, I’m sure someone will let me know. Or it would install. I should mention that that’s the last time I let Microsoft mess with my computer. I had to completely revise my sound and they left all kinds of little applications laying around my desktop. If you’re going to borrow my computer for your research, clean up your junk when you’re done.

The Apple guy on the phone this morning was very nice. It was just that he was maybe the fifth or sixth Apple tech in a couple of days — and I’ve had it. NO tolerance left with anyone saying “I know it’s awkward, but that’s how Apple does it” after which he admitted that personally, he uses a PC and finds Macs annoying. Too many fiddly security things.

I said: “Thank you. So far, nothing I’ve done on a Mac has been easier than it was on the PC and as for photography, it’s at least 50% more difficult to do the simplest stuff. I understand about security, but at some point, most of us will ease up on security with the aim of just sending the email without having to enter one more (“Please make it something you will easily remember”) password.

This was also before I discovered my own little mini 4 was going to need to be fixed, too … but by then I was pretty good at it. I’ve had quite a lot of lessons in Mac management the past week.

I think we got it done. But that’s it. I can’t take any more. I’m finished. Not merely is dealing with these people infuriating, but it is incredibly boring. I may not do much with my days, but sitting on the phone arguing with people who know less than I do about computers is not on my list of choices.

You could drive a gal to suicide this way, you know that? I’d rather get my teeth drilled before I deal with customer service again.

Except my doctor’s office. I love them.

HAVE YOU BEEN EATING TIDE? – Marilyn Armstrong

EATING TIDE? I THINK I’VE BEEN EATING COMPUTERS AND OPERATING SYSTEMS

I was trying to figure out if I was writing about idiot teenagers eating Tide pods, or the endless tides of the ocean, or how one day is total insanity and by the next, everything has completely calmed down. In tide, out tide.

Whoever said that getting a Mac was the easiest thing in the world meant well and probably, that was their experience. But life is what it is and it can be very easy or ridiculously — and needlessly — complicated.

I was supposed to get a call from Mac to help me set up my Mac. I had a few questions I needed answered because it has been a long time since I used a Mac … 25 years, maybe more. The machines have undergone substantial changes during that period. One of the things with any new computer that runs on a different system is “what do you call that thing that does that other thing?”

Me and a camera, two matching Scottish terriers, and sunshine through the picture window.

Mostly, I needed to set up preferences and for some reason, my preference file wouldn’t open. It would bounce like it should, but no menu. Just the empty bar and “customize” as the single drop-down option.

I wanted to change the security settings so I would not be limited to ONLY buying things from the Apple App store. It’s a big wide world and I do not like being told what to do by a computer. Any computer. Especially not MY computer.

I wanted to get rid of the password. I need these machines to be something Garry can access in case I’m not sitting next to him to help. There’s information on here he might need and even though he has my password, probably stored in many places, he is unlikely to find the most recent one anyway. Passwords, like the tide, keep changing. Sometimes they really want that underscore or hyphen … and sometimes, only the birth caul, blood of a newborn plus a full enchantment might do the job.


“But make sure it’s something you will find easy to remember.”

Right. And if we insist you change it, don’t use the one before the last. You need a spanking brand new one which can’t be your birthday. Oh, and don’t use a repeated number. Today, a hyphen is a no-no, but for that one, you need a capital letter. But NOT as the first letter of the sequence. Also, the numbers can’t be your birthday.

Do make sure you can easily remember it. Otherwise, all those sticky notes with your passwords scrawled on them is insecure.

Duh.

Also, I wanted to install Chrome because it has everything in it — contacts and saved emails and all that. Not to mention my calendar and bookmarks. Apple does not approve of Chrome, but it actually isn’t because Chrome is a battery hog (it is and we all know it), but because Apple and Google had a decade long court battle over something nerdy and no one actually remembers what it was, but they spent a gazillion dollars fighting over it and to punish users since they can’t do squat to Google, they make it hard for us to use it.

In the newest version of the Macbook Air (and probably all the other Macbooks), anything that doesn’t come from their App store or have their Official Seal of Approval gets rejected out of hand. No matter HOW many times you say “No, really, I want this application,” each time you try to open it, there’s an exhausting list of requirements just to write yourself a note.

The worst installation was Apache OpenOffice (it’s Microsoft Office via open source software). It does everything MS Office does — better — and it has everything you could possibly want. But it’s not on Apple’s approved list and it doesn’t even have a manufacturer’s name on it because — IT’S OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE.

Apple isn’t really “into” open source. They like getting paid and are paranoid about anything you got free from the Internet.

Normally, I can set this stuff up using whatever widget manages preferences. I’ve done this on at least half a dozen different systems. It’s one of the few things that’s usually the same from computer to computer. The icon might change, but basically, the contents are similar enough to figure it out.

I couldn’t get it to open. At all.

They didn’t call me at four and by 4:30, I figured out that they weren’t going to call, so I rebooked for 7:30 and they didn’t call then, either. So finally, I called them. Of course, she had no record of any of my earlier correspondence which was part of setting up the interviews that never happened.

It doesn’t matter who you talk to or whether or not they record it: they never have ANY notes or for that matter, any record that you exist.

I got a lovely woman who after trying 25 different versions of “start-up,” decided I needed a new operating system. Three hours later, I had a newer new operating system, but sadly, no preference file. At which point she moved me to level 2 help.

The guy came on, he said “Hi.”

I said “Hi.”

He asked me to see what happened if I double-clicked the “customize” icon. Lo and behold, a screen opened and each item on it had a click box. And empty click box. He said “Damn, never seen that screen before. Must be new. Hm. Try clicking all the boxes, then click DONE.”

I did it. And voilà. Everything appeared. It took about 30 seconds. Getting rid of my password took another minute. Settling OpenOffice so it would work took another two, maybe three minutes. He said: “I love OpenOffice. It’s great to have a product that lets you do what you want to do.” As opposed to Microsoft which is always sure they know what you want to do before you do it.

He apologized for the entirely unnecessary hours of reinstalling the operating system and I said “Shit happens.”

He said: “Well, you obviously know your way around a computer, so now that you’ve got preferences, I think you’re good to go,” and I was.

The motto of the story is that if you don’t have an answer, there’s no reason to exhaust two people proving that you don’t know the answer. Get someone who does have the answer. I waste almost an entire day and most of an evening on something I could have dealt with in a few minutes.

It wasn’t that it was hard to set up. It was that the person I talked to — and let’s not get into the people who never bothered to call me after sending me copious offers to “help get me set up” — didn’t understand the problem or where to look for the solution.

Meanwhile, I was sure it was something I was doing wrong because I can usually take pretty much any computer and make it work reasonably well in about 15 minutes. I just didn’t find the screen.

Of course, there were no instructions. I’m pretty sure Apple invented the directionless computer. It’s their way of telling you no help will be required. Thanks guys!

So, that was the Apple/Mac part of the story.

There was nothing wrong with the computer. There was nothing wrong with me. There was something wrong with Apple’s communications … and after a brief, yet somehow intense struggle, I got Chrome to run and all is well on the Apple. Or will be soon enough.

Sheesh. What a long, long, long day!


But today was a completely different, yet oddly similar day. In the middle of yesterday’s Apple experience, I got an update from Microsoft that failed. When I ran through the process, they told me I “had to detach my hybrid laptop from its connection to the monitor.”

Uh, no.

So I called them which apparently everyone with a hybrid computer has been doing as this is not personal — it just FEELS personal — but is actually a problem relating to all hybrid dual hard drive laptops. They couldn’t fix it and the people to whom I was speaking weren’t willing to even give it a try. Danger lurks in the dark chambers where the wires and the boards all live … They said they would call me today around 12:30.

By 2:30, I had given up and I wasn’t calling them again. This was their problem, not mine. I went back to writing this post.


I went to take a few pictures of my new computer to add to this post. I processed a few of them and was about to install them in this file when — the phone rang.


Microsoft calling. I had moved all the way up to tech support 3. Whoa! Serious!

They said they might need a while — like maybe half an hour (hah!) — so could they call me back when they finished whatever they were going to do to my computer? I said oh sure, I have another computer.

And – I do. The very same little Mac from which I cannot process photographs. Perhaps this wasn’t the best possible day for me to try to work this out. Possibly, I’m a bit distracted.

Everything about this Mac is, by the way, at least twice as complicated as doing the same thing on a PC. Especially graphics. At least they let me download my Topaz filters — and I only had to do it three times before it “stuck.” Yay me. At the same time, Microsoft is DOING THINGS to my expensive computer including (futilely) reinstalling Windows 10. Again.

Trying to convince Microsoft Edge to work and good luck with that

All I’m trying to do is fix a couple of photographs and export them to Serendipity. On the Mac. Which is not cooperating.

So, while Microsoft was busy installing another new operating system on my PC, I was on the Mac trying to extract one picture without a battle to end time.

It was about three hours before the tester called me back to say the problem was NOT solved, but they are working on it. It might be a few weeks and in the meantime, just ignore everything.

Everything. Does that include supper?

Yesterday was quite a day and today has been a about the same, thanks. At least Microsoft just did the work and I didn’t have to do anything but try to ignore what was happening “over there” on the big computer. A good day for chomping down Tide pods, don’t you think?

I have two expensive computers.

I hate computers.

DOCUMENTATION WITHOUT WORDS ISN’T DOCUMENTATION – Marilyn Armstrong

A couple of weeks ago I bought myself an iPad Mini. It was $100 less on Walmart because it had iOS 9 on it rather than the current iOS 11. Anyone who knows anything about Apple knows it doesn’t matter what iOS is on it.

The moment you turn it on, it will instantly update to the new iOS — even if you would prefer it not do that.

I bought it. Less than $300 with 128 GB innards. Nice cream color. Brand new and their 4-year support was only $40 instead of the $69 Apple charges. Moreover, it’s local. Our nearest Apple outlet is a long drive from here and has been one of the reasons I’ve been loathe to get involved with Apple.

But it turns out, getting customer service is hopeless anyway. Whether it’s local or in some foreign country, service will be awful. Given the awfulness, you might as well pay less.

So now I have this iPad Mini which I got the next day. Cute little thing. We were on our way to visit Tom and Ellen, so instead of unpacking it, I stowed it in my computer bag and took it with me. Tom set it up in a few minutes and voilà. A functional iPad Mini 4.

I looked at it. “So what’s next?”

The cover (yes, purple)

I have no idea what to do with it. I read and listen to Audiobooks on my Kindle. So what do I do with this? My theory had been that I wanted something small and light that would get me into my email and let me correct typos on my blog without hauling 9 pounds of Dell wherever I go. I love my computer, but it weighs like two cinder blocks.

Tom has an iPad (regular size) and he uses it for almost everything. Almost. He also has a keyboard that also works as a case and a stand.

“Should I get the ridiculously expensive Apple keypad for this?” I ask him.

“God no,” he says. I look at his. It was a Logitech. No problem. I’m good with Logitech.

I go home and look it up on Amazon. Instead of $159, it’s $69.95. Except if I don’t mind getting it in purple, it’s $42.50. Purple is good. Goes well with the lovely cream. I order it. This is my “less than $300 solution to the $2000 problem.” What I really need is a lightweight but powerful computer, but that’s big money and we have home repairs lurking.

Maybe more dark violet than purple

It arrived today. In a nicely padded envelope. I open it. Take out the box. Eventually figure out how to open the box (I hate packaging) and remove the item. I’ve read a lot of angry reviews on how easily it breaks. I look at it. Yeah, I can see if you mistreat it, it would break. But in my entire life, I’ve never broken a computer or a cell phone. I take care of my equipment. If it breaks, it’s something internal, not because I dropped it or stepped on it or abused it.

I did notice a couple of people who suggested if everyone would treat their equipment gently, it would last longer. My sentiments exactly.

On the back of the box, it tells me what’s inside — including documentation, the keyboard case and a charging cord.

“Documentation” with REALLY SHORT cord

The documentation is missing the one thing that means documentation to me. No words. It’s a piece of cardboard with small, incomprehensible pictures. Which I follow until I get to a point where all I can say is “WHAT????” I know they want me to do something, but I have no idea what.

Documentation and the cord. Could they have made it any shorter?

I have no idea how to get it to pair with the iPad. It’s a Bluetooth device and I’ve got other Bluetooth stuff. It’s usually pretty easy, but I’m baffled because nothing is happening.

Finally, I say “Screw it.” I open my computer and look for installation instructions for the keyboard. Online. At Logitech.com.

Logitech says:


LOGITECH

Before you connect your iPad mini to the Focus keyboard case, make sure it’s inserted correctly into the case:

1 – Place your iPad mini so the camera lines up with the camera lens cutout on the Focus case.
2 – Snap the corners of the iPad into the holder to secure it.

To connect for the first time

1 – The Focus case doesn’t have an On/Off switch. To turn on your keyboard case, open it and rest the iPad mini on the strip directly above the keyboard. The status indicator on the top right of the keyboard will glow green.
2 – On first connection, your keyboard enters Bluetooth discovery mode and the status indicator will blink blue rapidly.
3 – Go to the Bluetooth settings on your iPad and select Focus Keyboard Case in the Devices list.
4 – If your iPad mini requests a PIN, enter it using the keyboard (not on your iPad mini).

Once the connection is made, the status indicator will turn solid blue. Your keyboard is ready to use.


There were no illustrations. They didn’t need any.

There were other instructions in case you want to connect the same device to a different iPad, but I only have one. It took me about 3 seconds to connect it once I had WORDS as instructions. Two paragraphs of WORDS.

No tiny pictures. One picture in the original “document” which had words in it, but no amount of squinting and changing angles enabled me to read those teeny tiny 4 point letters.

Now I have a lovely purple keyboard case that types. It’s a bit small, but so is the iPad. If I can figure out what to do with the iPad, that will make me happier.

I could use it to play games, but I can play games on my Kindle and my computer. I could watch Netflix, but … why? This is basically the problem I have always had with iPads — not having any idea why I need one and what it can do for me that isn’t already being done by something else.

Tom says I need to mess around with it and find cool stuff for it to do. Okay. I’ll do that. Whatever cool stuff is. It is possible I’m not really cool enough for devices.

HOW DELL DONE ME IN – Marilyn Armstrong

How a vague idea became real when the company you loved gives you the final boot. Dell, Apple, and why Apple has finally won the endless war.


I have been buying Dell computers for more than 20 years. Not only have I always loved how Dell’s were made, but they lasted a long time.

On the other hand, their customer service which had been great, was on a rapid downhill slide for the past 15 (or more) years. Above and beyond liking Dells because there’s no bloatware on them and they are designed to do a job, was their sturdiness. They were business machines for people who took their work seriously, even if their work was a hobby. I’ve used their equipment for work only, for work and play, for whatever I’m currently doing which you can call whatever you like. Dell did the jobs.

The old 14Z in its youth …

Many Dell’s I bought 10 years ago are still working. Some needed a reinstall of the operating system and a couple needed new hard drives, but that was small stuff, all things considered. I really use my computers. I push them hard, I make them work.

Until the past two — expensive — Alienware — machines. The one Garry has lost its battery after less than 3-years. The only other Dell that ever lost a battery lost it after 7 yeas and it was a cheap machine. I replaced it and it works again, though now it seems to be losing its monitor. It’s old. It doesn’t even have Bluetooth, so it has, I think, hit the end of its road. It doesn’t owe me a thing.

When the little old Dell was beginning to display not having enough video to do what I do, I got a new Dell with the biggest NVIDIA video card I could afford and passed the two-year-old Alienware machine to Garry. After which the battery died. It’s pretty new so the price of getting a new battery is high. The battery replacement was more than most laptops.

The old one works, as long as it’s plugged in, so I suppose you could call it a laptop-shaped desktop. It weighs more than most desktops at a solid 9-pounds including its brick.

My new machine is working fine and does what I bought it to do, but I’m out of service contract. The company got in touch (and back in touch, and back in touch) asking me if I wanted a one-year contract for service on the new machine.

Older Alienware

The price? I kid you not: $850 for a single year of service. I had tried to get service from them during my first two years with the computer and they were useless. No one had a clue how a dual hard drive machine worked and all the advice they gave me was wrong. I eventually doped it out myself, but I’m still not really sure it’s backing up the way it should. There are many things about this computer I love, but also a bunch that I don’t.

One of the problems is weight. The thing feels like two cinder-blocks. I have developed significant upper body strength picking it up and moving it off my lap to a side table. Taking it with me when we travel is just this side of a nightmare.

I’m sure most of the weight are the batteries which basically last for just over two hours. Which means effectively, even WITH a working battery, the machine is still a desktop.

I hate new computers. I hate moving material from machine to machine and moving the material from a PC to a Mac doesn’t sound like fun. I’m sure there’s an app for that and I will have to find it because all my photo and writing backups are for PC and won’t run on a Mac.

I’m not a Mac fancier. The loose style that has been typically Mac/Apple since forever annoyed me. I like orderly computers. I like knowing where stuff is, where it belongs. How to find it. Ironically, the recent changes Mac is making to the operating system is going to make them much more PC-like and PCs are making their OS slightly more Mac-ish. The world comes round and round.

Reality bit. I couldn’t keep hauling the big, brawny, 10-pounds of Alienware and moreover, I didn’t want to. I’m not getting younger. Garry’s machine, now that it has to be plugged in, is developing other signs of flakiness that make me wonder if it will survive.

I knew I could not buy another Dell. I’ve used other bloatware special PCs and I won’t go there. Also, I know what I need, which is a honking big piece of video ram and equipment I can pick up which will not dislocate my shoulder from its joint.

Apple.

Then they offered me the Apple Card. Zero percent interest. 18 months.

I got a Macbook Air — as high-end a version of it as you can buy. It isn’t their top machine but it comes with sufficient USB 3 ports and other connectors, like an SC reader slot. Sometimes, the newest machine on the rack isn’t your best choice.

Meanwhile, Garry needed something. I thought long and hard about what Garry really does. After serious thought, I figured he could live his virtual life on an iPad with a keyboard. And enjoy it, too. Meanwhile, as long as the big Alienware works when plugged in, he has a full-size computer to fall back on.

My only question is why does this iPad have a mouse? You can’t use a mouse on an iPad. Even I know that. Did the photographer just happen to have a new mouse to show off?

In the end, you can’t take two heavy computer users and have only one fully functional computer in the house. It won’t work.

I need to point out to Dell that I was about as loyal a customer as you could find. It took them a decade to get me to where I couldn’t deal with their customer service department again. Ever. They did me in.


Mac/Apple did not win my custom. Dell LOST it. 

I’m pretty sure half of Apple’s new recruits are people who just gave up trying to stay with other companies and were driven screaming into the night.

I am one of them.

THE SAME. BUT LOUDER.

There’s a major kerfuffle about the new iPhone 7. I am not an iPhone fan. We’ve owned them, both the four and the five and were underwhelmed. We were much happier back when we could use a Blackberry, a mobile phone that was designed to be used as an actual telephone. You know, with sound you could hear. Even a real keyboard. Since the end of the Blackberry, it has been downhill. Our current phone, a Samsung Galaxy that we picked entirely based on the quality of its sound, is okay. It works and does what we need to do with it. I’m not in love with it, but I’m satisfied that it was almost worth the ridiculous amount it cost.

72-Mobile and regular Phones_08

Which is less than half what the new iPhone 7 will cost.

So what are the new upgrades that make it so special? They dumped the analog earphone jack which everyone used to listen to music. They have, instead, put in another speaker. Which, my good friend the audio engineer says will make its tinny sound louder, but not better. On a more positive note, it will force buyers of the new iPhone to get those expensive blue-tooth earphones which, at $150 a pop, should add a nice pop to Apple’s bottom line.

They have also (finally) made it water-resistant. You can drop it in the toilet, pull it out and go right back to sticking it on your face. What could possibly go wrong with that?

It is heartwarming to see how corporations “get” us and respond to our needs, isn’t it? Have you ordered your iPhone 7 yet? Don’t forget to buy those new blue-tooth earphones! You’re going to need them.

MARILYN GETS AN IPAD

Between the old router going bad and installing the new one, something caused the troubled laptop in my bedroom to go bonkers. It decided every certificate for every application and website I have ever used, or will use, was fraudulent. Although I did my best to fix it and I sort of did, but editing certificates is delicate and tricky.

Google Chrome went berserk and refused to let me connect. To anything. Even after finally finding a way to uninstall Chrome, it took a lot of coaxing before I could get Internet Explorer to run. In this case, the problem turned out to be IE. Its awful design. A feature, not a bug.

ipad3-image

I tried to use my 7-inch Kindle Fire HD to do everything, but it’s too small. I can’t load my website. Since (I believe this fits into the “irony” category) WordPress has “improved” their software to make it “mobile friendly,” it has become actively hostile. WordPress sites used to automatically resize. Now they won’t load at all. I could buy a cheap PC, but they run Windows 8, which I hate. Microsoft says I should want it, but I don’t.

That left me with three choices: Chrome, Kindle, and Apple. I’ve got an Alienware super laptop which I love, so all I need is something basic. To download and listen to audiobooks, check my blog and email, maybe play a game, and take a peek at Facebook.

My first choice would have been the big brother of my Kindle Fire HD, the 9″ version — about the same size as the iPad. But it has limitations. I need to be able to run multiple Audible accounts, which Kindles can’t do. Something to do with the Kindle OS. After a little research, I knew a Chromebook was too limited. It’s not a computer, just a way to connect to the web. Fine, if that’s all you need, but I need more.

I always thought the iPad was overpriced. I still think so, but I found a brand new 64 GB  iPad 3 for the same price as a big Kindle. I’ve had friends extolling the virtues of the iPad for years. I figured I’d get this thing. It would leap from its box and embrace me. Configure itself (like the Kindle really does), then clean my house and cook dinner.

Not exactly.

The iPad comes nicely boxed without any instructions.

These are ALL the instructions that came with my Apple iPad.

These are ALL the instructions that came with my Apple iPad.

If this is the only piece of Internet capable hardware in your possession, you’re shit out of luck. Everything you need is online … where you can’t get until after you set up the iPad. Not as easy as the lack of instructions would suggest.

Our nearest Apple store is more than 60 miles away and you have to make an appointment. They also need an attitude adjustment. The last time I was there, I wanted to install my iPhone into one of their bodily orifices. The limited service combined with their attitude made me less than eager to invest in their equipment. But Microsoft and Windows 8 had me cornered. I ran out of choices.

ipad3-specs

My new iPad did not leap out to embrace me. It was harder to set up than my laptop and much more difficult than the Kindle which doesn’t need any set up. The iPad lost the first two passwords I set. Unlike my PC, you can’t not have a password. You need layers and layers of passwords for everything. When it decided the password with which I’d replaced the initial password also didn’t exist, it asked for my birth date to confirm that I’m me. It then told me my birthday isn’t my birthday.

I don’t know much, but I know my birthday. I’m not sure what to do about it. Lacking any instructions, I can’t get into the computer to correct the misinformation it locked onto. It’s lucky I’m clever with computers. In the end, all computers are more alike than different. Interfaces vary, but under the hood, they work do the same stuff. Including the iPad.

I worked around its refusal to acknowledge my birthday, though I know I’m going to bump into the problem again. If anyone knows how to deal with this, I’d sure like to know. Meanwhile, on my fourth password, it acknowledged it and I moved on. I don’t understand why everything on an iPad requires a password, but it does. Apparently not every time you use it, but when you activate or install anything, it requires one, two, or three passwords. I swear I entered passwords 100 times or more during setup. It fought me tooth and nail about connecting to this website, but when I was ready to fling it out into a snowdrift and leave it for the dogs, it must have heard me thinking.  It gave up the fight and connected. It took another long battle to convince it to accept multiple Audible account, but eventually, it let me download books from more all my accounts. If I could have done this on Kindle, I wouldn’t have gotten the damned iPad.

I installed the latest operating system (8 point something) and it’s working. It only took most of an afternoon, which these days is rather a lot of configuring for a modern computer.

I was so pissed off with it for giving me a hard time, I didn’t want to use it, but I had to give it a fair try. For the last three days, I’ve logged several hours a day scooting around the Internet, downloading books and audiobooks. Listening to books.  Installing stuff. I’m not thrilled with Safari. It’s a bit clunky, though far better than IE. It’s not hard to be better than IE.

It is a great size. Nice big screen. Amazing battery life. Audio is good, though not loud enough. Graphics are high quality. It resists fingerprints better than a Kindle.  It’s slower than my other devices. Surprisingly sluggish when opening applications, downloading, and connecting to the net. It gets there, but I’m not used to waiting.

My expectations may have been unreasonably high. It’s not entirely my fault. With Apple enthusiasts telling me how fantastic the iPad is, how perfect, I expected fantastic.

What I got is a nice, serviceable tablet. It’ll do the job, though I prefer a keyboard and a mouse. My hands are not what they were. Poking at it puts more stress on my arthritic hands than does a mouse. I don’t like virtual keyboards. My fingernails are always too long, fingers inaccurate, imprecise. And the iPad requires a solid poke to respond.

Do I love it? No, but it has a potential — and it isn’t Windows 8.  I’m sure I will make peace with it, but I wish I liked it more.

Would I recommend an iPad? It depends on what you need. I think I made the right choice, maybe the only choice. But if Microsoft would get their act together, I’d gladly return to the fold.

SORT OF LIKE ENTROPY

I’ve been trying to find a word that describes the process by which an application that used to be great goes downhill. It’s sort of like entropy. But also, sort of not.

Hi-tech venture capital development was my world for more than 30 years. I retired five years ago. Now I watch the process as a consumer. It’s definitely a new angle.

Here’s how it goes. A group of smart computer jocks are hanging out in the garage one day. One of them has a brilliant idea. Another says, “Hey, you know? We could really do that. And sell it. I bet someone would give us money to build it.”

PhotoshopSo they start asking around and eventually find some rich people willing to take a risk (or a tax write-off). Start-up money!

They find affordable quarters, hire a few more people — including me. Now we’re a team. We create a fantastic product, something so forward-thinking and unique, it’s as close to perfect as an application of that kind can be.

After which:

1) They run out of money and everyone regroups — or looks for a new job

2) Against all odds, they sell the product to a couple of big customers and are in business for real.

I’ve been with a lot of start-ups. Too many.

Most of them went under. A couple made enough to keep going but not enough to thrive. A few took off and went on do great things.

Assuming success came and assuming the company only has (so far) one product — what next? How to keep customers coming back and paying more for the same product?

Upgrades.

The initial one or two new versions are free. These usually consist of bug fixes and tweaks to smooth out the interface. Eventually, though, there’s no avoiding it. You need your customers to buy a new version. And the only reason to create a new version is to generate income.

Software companies rely on upgrade income to keep alive, from Apple, to photoshop-CS6Microsoft, to the guys in the cold garage.

The eventual result of this are upgrades which add pointless bells and whistles — without improving the product. Ultimately, though, the upgrades become downgrades. The product’s functionality decreases. The application becomes bloated, overloaded with stuff no one needs or wants.

Look what happened to Microsoft Office. Word was a great text handler, but no longer is. Outlook has noticeably less functionality than it did 8 years ago and it’s harder to use.

You see it happening on WordPress as their “improved, easier blogging experience” isn’t easier and surely is no improvement. There are countless examples, all of which basically demonstrate how companies ruin their own products to create a revenue stream. And of course, also maintaining the image of a forward-moving organization.

Developers get caught between a rock and a hard place. They can’t charge customers for fixing bugs, or at least shouldn’t. And no one is going to pay them more for an unchanged application.

Leasing.

That’s how come Adobe and Microsoft are trying so hard to get us to “rent” our software rather than own it. It’s why Apple’s operating systems become obsolete before you’ve entirely unpacked your new computer.  Everyone is caught in the same loop.

“Leasing” provides a revenue stream. On the positive side, at least companies can stop making destructive “upgrades” to good products (one would hope, anyhow).

Other than leasing, how do you keep money coming in after perfecting your application? You can create ever fancier bells and whistles, but you can’t make people want them.

From the consumer’s point of view, it turns everything into an ongoing expense instead of a final purchase. We find ourselves buying a product again and again — wondering how we got suckered in. Because the latest, greatest version isn’t great. Not even as good.

For some of us, it’s a serious economic issue. We don’t have money to lease everything. We won’t have it in the future. We are stuck. There’s no positive outcome for us.

Is this “software entropy”? Or … what is it? Is there a name for this?