My Technology Nightmare

Holy oozing maggot cheese have I been wading through the molasses-in-December quagmire of a technology nightmare lately.

My printer suddenly started complaining about a phantom paper jam even though there’s no paper even near it. At first I thought it was simply faking it to garner attention since I haven’t been printing much lately. I checked to make sure that none of the cats puked in the paper feed. I cleaned, cleared, examined, prodded, poked, pleaded and yelled. I am now utterly convinced that, like the expensive ink cartridges that leak and smudge and ruin about twenty prints every time you print if you don’t use it every other day, this is just some hidden code built in to my Canon Pixma MP210 so that, if I don’t print at least 20 pages a month, it breaks itself. At the very least, I’ve wasted a brand new print cartridge and have to send this hunk of cursed plastic to the demons at the service center so they can charge me to reset a dip-switch. At most, I’m forced to buy a whole new printer. I’m thinking Epson.

Soon after that, my new Bluetooth headphones arrived from Newegg. I got the LG HBS-200s which are comfortable, cheap and sound pretty damn good. I didn’t know that until about thirty minutes ago since I couldn’t get the damn things to work with my phone, which was the main reason I had bought them. See, my old phone recently started acting like that guy at the party with the fake tan, gold chains and C. Everett Douche chinstrap beard, which is to say, an asshole. This was my T-Mobile Shadow, a phone that was touted as a cross between HAL 2000 and a Star Trek Communicator. Since my somewhat recent ‘upgrade’ to Vista I shouldn’t have been shocked to learn that any device running a flavor of Windows would be problematic. I didn’t think it would take three separate in-warranty replacements due to some of the weirdest, screwed up software failures before I decided to get a different phone. I won’t go into it here since I have a new phone to bitch about but let me just say that if you have the choice between a phone running Windows Mobile, like the Shadow, and a dung rimmed Dixie cup with a string in the end, I’d invest in some Q-Tips and Listerine.

I was then talked into the G1. I showed interest and immediately was pounced on by T-Mobile reps at both the Call Center and the Corporate Sales kiosk at the mall.

I really, really liked T-Mobile until now. I have had nothing but great things to say about them. This most recent experience has left a foul taste in my mouth, and like enjoying a blueberry pie but getting a fat chunk of mold in the last bite, I feel that my years of trust and loyalty have been betrayed.

“It’s open source so anyone can develop for it!”, they said and that’s true. The open source nature of this phone has attracted hordes of bad programmers and scammers who have rewritten thousands of versions of Solitaire, Minesweeper, Sudoku and hundreds of crappy versions of the kind of games you can find, done better, via a cheap Tiger Handheld in the clearance bin at Walgreens.

“3G is super fast! You will be so amazed by 3G! Wow. Fast. Really. Um… woot. “ 3G is very, very fast compared to EDGE, which is T-Mobile’s standard data plan. I learned this from web sites of the four or five people in areas that have T-Mobile 3G and not from personal experience. Let me explain: 3G is a data network that is used by iPhone as well as the G1. AT&T, the iPhone’s service provider, has a coverage map that is so inclusive it looks like Walt Disney’s last chest X-Ray. T-Mobile’s map, on the other hand, isn’t even the inverse of the AT&T map as there is less coverage than there is blackout areas of AT&T’s network. They are selling a phone that’s supposed to be an iPhone killer and that has the Amazing 3G, but they won’t tell you that it only works if you live in about three cities in the entire country.

The left shows the immediate area and AT&T's massive coverage. I had to zoom out to get even a tiny splotch of dark blue, which is T-Mobile's 3G coverage, or lack thereof.
The left shows my immediate area and the massive coverage provided to iPhone users via AT&T. On the right is the T-Mobile coverage map. 3G is the dark blue. If you can’t see it, it’s because you aren’t using a magnifying glass.

It would have been nice for either the Call Center people or the guy at the kiosk in the area of purchase to mention that there is no 3G and there is little plan for there to be 3G in the area. As a matter of fact, T-Mobile has publicly mocked my big city as not being a ‘growth’ area. Well, asshat, it’s hard to promote ‘growth’ when you don’t offer any services. Double edged sword, you say? I say don’t insult my town if you are going to push crippled phones, charge for 3G service and then tell early adopters that they live in a shit hole and won’t get what they paid for because there aren’t any early adopters. Jerks.

So I get pushed to the G1 and only after signing a new 2 year contract do I realize that there’s no Video recorder, no streaming video from my Orb setup, crippled Bluetooth profiles, no Flash, etcetera, ad nauseum. Wait, scratch having no streaming video since there is support for Google’s streaming video service on the Google phone: Youtube, natch. Mind you, there is absolutely no support for some of the more vital Google services that one would expect on their own phone. Google Docs is read only and there’s only negligible editing capabilities on the phone itself which is odd for a phone with a full QWERTY keyboard. Google Notebook is an unmitigated mess. On top of that the Bluetooth stack is severely crippled.

On the Bluetooth problems, they said that they didn’t want to release an unfinished Bluetooth stack and be locked into it for years. They didn’t want to release a broken phone…

Then don’t release the goddamn phone at all! I’m not paying hundreds of dollars to beta test your failed pet project. How the hell were you able release this as a finished product and not get a giant class-action suit thrown at them? Oh yeah, it’s easy to bury reviews and complaints when you own the worlds largest search engine.

If you don’t want to be evil, don’t ignore the shrieks of users for over 6 months who are begging for simple applications and functionality that has existed in lesser phones for over six years. Don’t expect developers to fill in the spaces you left. Finally, don’t pretend that Google’s multibillion dollar R&D department is so small, underfunded, slow or busy that they can’t fix these problems. I call bullshit. I’ll still be wishing for simple Bluetooth and streaming video support as they release the G2 and the G3, all the while ‘suggesting’ the schmucks who got the G1 pay for another ‘upgrade’.

It all came to a head this last weekend. All of this crap quickly stoked my rage, which is already at a baseline level that could anneal titanium. I felt myself began to lose it. I tried to switch my monitor over to play a nice relaxing video game, something where I could ‘splode heads and hand out sucking chest wounds like party favors. My monitor, quite suddenly, lost its ability to switch inputs or even turn off. I could hear a metallic clicking sound like a car with a bad catalytic converter after a cross country trip and realized it was coming from my head. My hands began to shake. A small bead of sweat formed on my forehead but quickly boiled away into a puff of steam. I quickly grabbed the power cord from the wall and pulled, not realizing in my blind anger that I was pulling the plug on the whole power strip. A sudden silence as all of my electronics went dark, their fans still. I caught my breath and tried to calm down. I plugged the strip back in. The monitor came up fine. I pushed the small switch on the side of my computer case. The BIOS identifying screen came up… and stayed there. The power button: useless. The keyboard: wireless and ineffective. I ran to the boys room and pulled their keyboard, brought it back and plugged it in. PS2 keyboard: also useless. My computer was fried.

I don’t remember the next twenty minutes or so very well. I think that I actually scratched lines in the drywall with a clawed right hand while forcing my left hand, which was wrapped around all of the wires coming out of the back of the machine, into obeying the tiny little voice of reason ineffectually screaming ‘STOP’ from a dusty, forgotten corner of my brain. Uncharacteristically, I was able to stop myself from ripping anything apart, putting holes in any walls, screaming, kicking or otherwise venting my anger in my normal and truly horrible way which, to anyone who grew up with me, it a pretty big step in my budding maturity. To paraphrase Swingers, it looks like our baby’s all grown up.

I decided to give the computer, the headphones and even the G1 a rest for a few days and focused on some Xbox 360, reading ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss for the second time, laundry and making a phenomenal pot roast.

It’s now been a few days. My computer suddenly started working again after a day or so powered down. My G1 still fails miserably at a few key things, but it does a lot of other things very well, plus there’s that ‘cupcake’ update coming soon (they’ve been saying that since last November) that should fix a few of these problems. I figured out how to get Vista’s crippled Bluetooth driver to accept my headphones (even though it knocks out my music when my chat alert goes off ). I’m starting to relax my sudden inclination to go Amish or start some kind of Luddite cult. Part of this is my inherent geekiness and love of gadgets. Part of this is my hatred of hard labor. Also, if I started a cult that enjoyed destroying technology in this day and age, I would probably end up with cancer from inhaling burning plastic fumes. Maybe I’ll extract my revenge instead by half learning Java and writing crappy apps for the Android Marketplace that, like a transvestite hooker, AIG broker or G1 Smartphone, make promises that they could never really keep.

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