Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fiddling with consumer technology

Exercise display

I returned to a regular exercise program this week – it’s been too long since I did the regular daily regimen of aerobics and weights that my PT recommends, and I’m feeling both slothful and sloshy.

The regular array of machines was rearranged…no, replaced, with all new equipment, filling the exercise room.   The new machines had pointlessly added a reclining back and taken away a dish behind the seat for keys and pens, but the interesting change was the display screen (above).  TV, iPod link, standard, but now, also, …Web Surfing?

Game on!

Okay, I usually go to the fitness center with a book and music specifically as a break from work.  But the draw of having a keyboard and web browser is pretty strong.  I pedaled hard and dialed up my Live Mail: nothing new, but I dashed of a couple of messages because I could.  Fishing around the politics of Washington Post and the BBC produced some dead ends that reset the browser.  I finally found happiness pulling up essays from the Atlantic Monthly and Economist that I hadn’t had time to read.

40 minutes flew by – but the surfing took 20% off my productivity: 335 calories rather than my usual 400.  I’d also lost the feeling of being disconnected from the office, so I’m not sure that I like the overall experience.  Still, if I can connect to the inburgering lessons, this could be a wonderful way to keep up with the Dutch, otherwise being squeezed out of my day.

Across town, I presented a dead home-handset to the electronics guru at Tesco. Just over a year old, it had stopped recharging.  The batteries were clearly replaceable, despite the bold warnings in the user manual against attempting anything of the sort.  Still, there was a special connector, so Tesco was the only recourse for a repair.

The specialist looked doubtful, mumbled regret that it was out of one-year warranty, thumbed doubtfully through displays and catalogs, and reluctantly picked up the phone.  The main office gave him, one, two, then three non-working numbers to call.  He wrote down the last one and pushed it across to me.  “Call this number in the morning, they might be open? If not, then there’s nothing more we can do for you.”

Increasingly, simple things don’t seem to work.  I felt this at JFK where I joined a throng wandering the terminal at 11 pm trying to find the alternative to a disabled SkyTram to the rental car lot.  (It turned out to be an unmarked bus stop).  My web services provider revealed that my hosting plan had been orphaned a year ago with no migration path forward.  With regrets, I’d have to lose the email accounts and take-down my company site in order to purchase a new package.

“We regret any inconvenience caused by our actions”, as National Rail hollowly intones as daily indignity is heaped onto rising costs.

In this case, Tesco successfully sold me a new phone, ideal for them inevitable for me.  I still fly into JFK, upgrade to the new hosting package, rumble on dismal trains to London.  What choice do I have?  But, in each case, the “Yes, it’s our product, but it’s your problem.” outcome is increasingly unacceptable.

I just don’t know what I can do about it.  Yet.

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