Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Technology: You Can Bleed To Death If You're On The Cutting Edge - OR - The Rebel vs Technology - OR - This Is Not Walden Pond But We Do Grow Christmas Trees

I don't handle change well.

A few weeks back Leon and I decided to buy a new stove. He says because I like to cook that I should have a decent stove. I'd been putting it off for years because I was turned off by the electronics that are a part of almost all new ranges. My old gas stove was from the Sears Dent-and-Scratch Store.

It had dials. On, Off. Oven On, Set the temperature, Cook, turn Off. Simple. It had pilot lights. When the power was out for a week we were able to use the cooktop and the oven.

The new ones need 110AC to operate the oven.

I used the new stove to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for the family. It was OK. But I have a few observations.

The new stove is a Samsung. Now, don't they make computers? And Smart Phones? My question is why can't they make a smart stove?

The other day I turned on the oven to preheat. Several minutes later, I find the oven cold. Well, Samsung made it so when you push the "Oven" button and set the temperature, you then have to press "Start". Well Duh. If I turn on the oven, I guess I want it ON.

Then, if in the course of cooking you want to change the temperature, you have to turn the oven Off by pressing "Cancel" and then set the new temperature and then press "Start". Way too many steps for a simple task. Why is there no Up/Down button for the temperature? That would make too much sense. Maybe they are afraid someone would "accidentally" change the temp, so they made it fail safe????

Oh, and when you light the burners you have to make sure you stop the dial at the point where the electronic ignition will spark. Now I was used to turning the gas all the way up, waiting for the pilot to fire the burner and then usually start cooking on high anyway. The other day I went through the old motion out of habit, was surprised for a minute that the burner didn't light then remembered to turn the dial back to ignite. Whoosh boom the gas ignited. If I had waited any longer I could have been toast. Ugh!

But OK, I guess I'll get used to it.

Then we decided to got a bit further into the technological world.

My antique cell phone finally bit the dust. Reception had become sketchy, the battery would barely last long enough for one uninterrupted phone call and the window was so scratched up I couldn't make out the display.

So Leon and I went down to the AT&T Store last Saturday and I decided to enter the 21st Century and get an iPhone. The 5c in White plastic. We've been on a family plan or whatever forever and so the upgrade wasn't too outrageous. Especially as I did not opt for any texting and took the lowest data plan. I can use wifi hot spots for free. And we got a "good" 2-year (iks!) contract deal on U-Verse internet and TV -including $100 toward our cancelation of Direct TV, a faster internet connection than the AT&T DSL, a rebate in the amount of the $99 I paid for the phone, waived installation fee and a free phone case. OK, so AT&T is not feeling any pain in this deal but the bottom line for Leon and me is the new deal is less than we were paying for Direct and DSL.

I absolutely love the iPhone. It is a toy that I find fascinating and entertaining. I can speak to Siri and she will find out stuff and dial numbers and write my email and spell it correctly too. I don't have to carry a camera, and there are so many things it can do, I couldn't begin to tell you. I can do blog posts, listen to music, there is a calendar, notes, GPS, Flashlight, Swiss Army Knife. OK, so I'm kidding about the Swiss Army Knife.

So all was well with that.

Yesterday we had U-Verse installed. Let me just say that when the robo-voice at AT&T says, "Thank you for choosing AT&T" my response is always "Yes, most reluctantly". I didn't choose AT&T when they took over our local phone company and now, well I haven't been impressed with them in any respect.

I teach computer courses at the senior center and we use Yahoo mail. They, AT&T Yahoos, changed the interface so many times it is now about as anti-intuitive as you can get. The instructor teaching this round of classes is exasperated and he is a computer professional. The senior center also upgraded (?)  to Windows 7. My frustration with Yahoo is exacerbated by Windows 7 - what Yahoos designed this lame operating system?

Personally my experience with AT&T/Yahoo is just as frustrating when I occasionally go in to check my spam folders. Sign in on Yahoo, sign out and try to sign in again as a different user and each sign-on screen is different. I tried to disable a never used email address and was redirected to three different pages and had to sign in with my user name and password each time. I started at Yahoo and ended up at AT&T; U-Verse got into the act too at some point. AT&T has an identity problem: are they AT&T, Yahoo, U-Verse, or what.

Anyhow, U-Verse is installed; the internet connection is faster (6.0+) but not near the 12.0 ("up to" as AT&T promised).

The TV also does not allow for more than two TV's or one TV and one recording in HD at a time. AT&T NEVER tells you this. They don't exactly address the issue, so they don't directly mislead the consumer. Record up to 4 shows at once - but NOT all in HD. And, Oh it depends on your distance from whatever and the lines, and and and...

We got an error message on the TV that directed us to call AT&T support. We were on the phone for quite some time and she had me registering a new account on the AT&T website, a new user name and temporary password; I had to change password and the passwords I chose were rejected and she didn't know why as they all met the "criteria". Then there were "security questions". Like AT&T website is a Bank and someone might get into my account and withdraw 3 million dollars or something!!!!! What BS.

Well in my opinion, AT&T is good at leading consumers to believe they can deliver more than they are really capable of. "You can watch or record "UP TO" four separate shows" but not necessarily all in HD.  We can piss and moan about the remote, the guide, the way stations are listed, etc. etc.

We just don't do CHANGE well.

Last but not least, when they set up the U-verse, of course the printer couldn't connect wirelessly. I thought I knew how to reset it, but I got off track and deleted then reinstalled the drivers and software. I inadvertently missed one crucial software packet. I called Canon Tech Support.

The tech guy walked me through - actually we ran through at a good pace; once he identified the software that was missing I was a step ahead of him all the way. The printer was up and running in no time. The tech was knowledgeable, clear, logical, anticipated each step, and was above all HELPFUL.

AT&T could use a lesson from Canon on customer service.


And just a little something for the season. We have a hillside full of small evergreen trees that I have planted over the years.

There was a pair of Siamese Twins - two trees fused into a single trunk as seedlings and I decided that one would be cut down to let the other develop fully; the one that I cut will be our Charlie Brown Tree this year.

This Year's Charlie Brown Tree
And today we got our first real snow of the season...not as bad as some places.

So that's my story of cutting edge technology. And Walden Pond looks better and better.  Nature is, when all is said and done, where I feel most at home and at peace.

So Leon and I took a walk in the woods with our dog Benni. It was so quiet with the new snow muffling any sound. It was peaceful and healing to get away from the technology and hassles of modern life... away from the stove, the U-Verse, the TV, the computer...but I did bring my iPhone. Never know when you might encounter a big hungry bear...hum.


  1. How I miss my old Tappan gas stove. Here in the apartment everything is electric and I hate it. I had no idea they made gas stoves now so technical.
    I had Direct TV back at the house and I miss it. Only bad part was when the dish got covered with snow or in summer thunderstorms.
    Now I have Optimum cable and it sucks. Their answer to any problems you have is to "reboot" the box.
    Your hillside of evergreens is so cute. We got the same amount of snow down here in NJ. Now it's cold as you know what.

  2. I'm a bit Luddite with integrating digital technology into home appliances. It's one thing if your crock pot went all digital. A complete other when your range and oven have done so too.

    But here's a hint regards the stove, so long as the gas flows you can light it with a match. How's that for going primitive.

    And that's another thing - why not just use Piezo ignition? Doesn't require a 110V source - and all you do is push the button and it sparks! It's used on pretty much every gas grill out there these days.

    As to the at&t thing - I abhor the old Ma Bell and her children. They still go by the model of employing way too many people which you cannot do today. Which is why the service costs so much.

    I subscribe to Cox here - the service is pretty good. The upgrade went VERY well. But when they rolled out their Contour app for IOS only, I dinged them on Facebook about how Android is now the predominant platform out there. What do you know, finally an Android app!

    But it doesn't work very well.

  3. Stan, I used to have an old Roper gas-on-gas. It cooked and heated the house AND it had a burner that would automatically lower when the coffee pot began to perk so you would never have a boil over! This was way before the new technology.

    TS, Yeah, a match works, for the top burners in a power outage; I knew that...but not for the oven - no can do. You need power to operate because there is no way to turn on the gas otherwise.

    We are an Apple household here; I only put up with Microsoft at the Senior Center where I have no other choice.

  4. Aw Frank, I can't believe you went over to the dark side - joined the Borg - bought an iFart or whatever those demonic things are called. Now you'll be just like all the other zombies lurching around, helpless without directions from the little voice that follows them everywhere.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers scared the shit out of me as a kid. Now it's really happening.

  5. I love change. But, U-Verse... You're way ahead of us. As for AT&T, I'm glad to be rid of them (and my father was Pa Bell... retired from AT&T after 34 years, before the monopoly was broken up and their service became even worse).

    I have to say that's an awfully nice tree for a Charlie Brown tree.

  6. Not sure how to respond to that, Russ, seeing as you do blog, so must be connected to the Borg to some degree. Resistance IS futile, you know.

    I admit that I have a lust/hate relationship with technology and sometimes the attraction is just too much.

    In the scheme of recent events at our house, the iPhone is probably the least offensive new toy.

    I just made blueberry pancakes on the new stove with the alluring middle-burner/griddle and they don't brown well at all (probably because in converting to LP gas you lose enough BTU's of heat output that the griddle doesn't get hot enough, even on "high"). Nothing is perfect.

    The TV remote and channel numbering courtesy AT&T is ridiculously cumbersome. I'd be pleased if only I could control the TV with the iPhone.

    Nothing is perfect. And is becoming more imperfect all the time.

    However, I don't think I've been snatched, not yet, anyhow.



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