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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Plug and Play? I think not...

Yes, another rant about computing, this time, peripherals.
I am at present in Paris, staying for a few days with my copine. By virtue of her work she is a consummate computer user. For the business she is starting she has bought a laptop and of course decided that this should be provided with a "Wi-fi" facility. To this end she has bought a pair of USB devices which are supposed to provide wireless functionality.
We installed these yesterday, and of course they don't work; "plug and play" - one of the greatest all-time lies. Typically for this kind of thing, Windows says "the device is functioning correctly". No it isn't: it doesn't work!
Many of you might remember Bill Gates's boast that had cars progressed the way computers had over the same period, we would have cars that would do 1000 miles on a gallon of fuel etc.
This sort of thing makes my blood boil: as far as I know only the computer industry seems able to get away with murder: imagine if you bought eggs that were merely empty shells, a new car with no engine, a washing machine that did not wash. What about a surgeon who sewed you up leaving your brain on the floor of the operating theatre? How long would the purveyors of such goods and services stay in business?
And yet so much rubbish is sold for computers and computing. I can recall several such experiences myself: a new printer that wouldn't work at all, another that worked for two months (both were EPSONS - I should have remembered Barry Waterhouse's famous dictum "you don't learn anything from the second kick of the mule") and of course Bluetooth, which doesn't work full stop. Another instance: according to the blurb in WIndows "help" all I have to do is plug in an Ethernet cable and my computers will "talk to each other". No they won't...
And yes, I have heard the computer experts' jokes about "problem lies between keyboard and chair", but I shouldn't have any problems: the suppliers are to blame, not me.
With the honourable exception of HP, whose support service is excellent, most of the help offered or provided is pathetic. Especially bad in this respect is Open Office; the support facilty is crammed with questions in esoteric technical language. Register a problem in simple language, with examples provided as I did, and get a shirty message back saying one did not formulate the problem correctly. Thanks Open Office - for nothing.
To summarise, my grievance is that if an organisation supplies goods then they should work - immediately without the presence of a highly-trained, experienced and expensive specialist. I do not want to hear e.g. "well, these are complex matters". This is NOT my problem, it is THEIR problem: if they supply goods to the public then they should work, period.
Cars are complex; they work, so computer industry do your job properly and stop supplying rubbish.

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