Saturday, January 26, 2008

Technology Gets Your Goat

Computing is now ubiquitous. But who will fix the hassles?

This is an extract from the PCWorld Magazine.

Does technology have to be so complex? This is the most frequent question posed by users when they are let down by the devices they've come to rely upon.

Our globe trotting chairman, visiting from the USA wanted to use his Blackberry in Bangalore. A seasoned traveler, he checked with his service provider before emplaning for
India and was assured that the
device would function at his destination.
Imagine his consternation
when he couldn't get it to fetch email
after he landed in Bangalore.
Patrick Mc Govern, no mean
hand at technology himself, made
a few attempts to get it going—
and then brought in the troops.
We confi rmed that the Blackberry
could identify the local telecom
service provider—but it just
wouldn't get his messages. A
quick check on the local telecom
service provider's web site yielded
no solutions. So, we made a call
to the service provider's technical service
helpdesk. After describing the problem we
prepared to wait. We were pleasantly surprised,
they seemed to be very familiar
with the problem—and the solution was
instantly provided. Obviously we weren't
the first to experience this Blackberry
glitch. Just interrupt power to the device,
and get it to restart, we were told. Yup,
remove the battery and put it right back.
Skeptical that the solution could be so
trivial, we put the technical support engineer
on hold and promptly carried out the
operation. Tens of seconds later, the
Blackberry was back to doing what it does
well. Quite naturally, Patrick was delighted
by the quick fi x, and his anxieties were
instantly banished.

This incident got me wondering why
such a sophisticated device needed a "cold
boot"? Couldn't the designers have foreseen
this situation? Or is there a technology
impediment that necessitates this workaround?
Patrick, on the other hand, didn't
care. He was just happy to know that the
next time around he could fi x the problem
himself—without the assistance from the
technology guys. In some sense, he had
been inducted into a secret sect that knew
the ritual of reviving misbehaving Blackberrys
on foreign networks!

Whilst vendors and software developers
have invested considerable effort in
improving user interfaces and designing
better stuff, the products themselves are
not always foolproof. Either they fail at
inopportune moments in totally unanticipated
ways, or users fail to understand how
to make them work the way they want.
Read the manual you say? Unfortunately,
very often the supplied documentation is
grossly inadequate or totally incomprehensible.
And when the problem arises, you
probably can't locate it. Use customer support?
Well, only if it works 24x7. Many vendors
operate only weekdays, so what
if the problem strikes on weekends
or late evenings?

So, what are the alternatives?
Either fi nd a tech guru who can fi x
your problems, or go to the Internet.
The fi rst is scarce commodity
and may need considerable inducement
and persuasion to do your
deed. And it is possibly a highmaintenance
resource too. (Hint:
This might be a good time to pay
homage to the guru, if you've been
recently slacking).

The second option, the Internet,
could be too much of a good thing.
There are possibly hundreds of
sites, forums and discussion
groups with reams of information.
Which one do you consult? Do you really
have the time and the inclination to
plough through pages of search results
to fi gure out the answers? Then again,
how can you be sure that the information
they give you is correct? When you
want to shop for a new device, is the
advice from the Internet useful and
unbiased? Questions, and more questions.
No simple answer.

Or perhaps there is. A handy expert to
help you fi x problems and assist with buying
decisions. A trusted, authoritative
source of advice that is consulted by millions
of readers around the world. You
have it in your hand—PC World.
Welcome to the India edition.

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