What Do “Regular” People Do? Technology Frustrations

Why is it that computer technology manufacturers get away with a level of incompetence and callousness that we would not tolerate from other participants in the marketplace? The only answer I can think of is that they ALL do it. Which means it’s easy for someone to have a competitive edge: be usable!

[Yes, I’m thinking about switching to Mac. I have so much invested in hardware, software, and especially in learning how to do things in Windows…But…If switching means not having these problems…]

I currently have open trouble tickets with 3 different hard/software manufacturers:

  • I upgraded Reference Manager fro 10 to 11 and now a crucial function doesn’t work
  • I upgraded Atlas ti from 5 to 5.2+ and it failed completely. After much back and forth, including several uninstalls/reinstalls, they sent me a file that seems to have solved the problem. I’m waiting to see if it keeps working.
    • Tech support chided me for not installing the additional updates — but when I installed the first update it failed completely, barring me from further upgrades.
    • My Netgear wifi router, which I bought in October and which worked for a while, has more or less failed. The signal strength, even with my laptop literally right next to the router, shows 2 out or 5 bars, and neither laptop nor cellphone can connect to it (so it’s not the laptop that’s failing, it’s the router).
      • To get tech support from Netgear, I had to register the device. Several times, I put in the serial # and it told me that the number was a dupe (had I already registered it?), but it didn’t recognize any of my three email addresses (so no, I wasn’t in the system). I had to put in several variations on the serial #, capitalizing the letters and alternating between zeros and ohs, and with and without the asterisk at the end of the number. Now I’m not sure which combination of these finally worked. Same thing happened with the password they sent me. How hard can it be to create unambiguous serial numbers and passwords?
      • Ironically, the form that asked me how hard the device was to install offered a dropdown list of several 4 digit numbers — something like 1046, 1047, and 1048. So their usability questionnaire was unusable.

    And I’m actually more technically able than most of my friends and relatives outside of the iSchool. And I have built-in tech support from the iSchool staff and our students. I can’t imagine what most of my friends would do with this level of failure.

    As it is, I’ve spent much of my time over break troubleshooting and working around these problems. I suspect I’ve spent almost as much time on the technical problems as on the work this technology is supposed to support: analyzing my data (Atlas ti) and writing several articles (Ref Mgr).

    And that’s not counting the effort that went into connecting a new 2nd monitor — which worked, but it took a while to get the resolution right. At least I knew that the problem was the resolution — again, what would someone with no tech skills do when they brought home a new monitor and found the image was wonky? Again, I’m not that technically sophisticated, but more so than most of my non-iSchool friends.

    As long as there continue to be such usability problems with hardware and software — including those as completely pointless and unnecessary as the serial number problem — computer technology will come nowhere near the level of adoption that it could have. Not to mention the amount of annoyance and frustration that it generates.

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