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All posts for the day March 15th, 2012

Every time I hear about a new Used electronics seller offering to buy my old electronics, I check them out and usually find their prices are not very good. I knew the parts alone for my old iPhone were worth more than the pittance they offered over a year ago. The screen alone is worth about $50, and they offered less than that for the entire device with everything but the shrink-wrap. Instead of selling it, I offered it up on Craigslist. It didn’t sell, despite its great condition. So, I held on to it.

About 9 months later my girlfriend’s Blackberry Storm—which was buggy and unusable as a smartphone as hell for the 3 months she had it—decided to take a swim by falling out of her pocket in the restroom after a movie we went to on her birthday. After her friend’s quick thinking, we managed to “save” it using a combination of rice, a blowdryer and the Bernoulli principle. (Though it took an argument where a guy that works with lasers, asserted that because of his laser expertise there was no way someone could use a hairdryer effectively—basically calling me a liar—for me to realize that was why I was taught to aim the air stream over the surface of the submerged device.) Anyway, in the 3 days we let the device dry out in rice after the Blackberry’s styling, I lent her my old iPhone.

She initially purchased the Blackberry Storm because it had a keyboard and she said she always seemed to have problems getting touch screens to recognize her touches. I jokingly told her that’s because you need a soul for the capacitance to be disrupted on the screen. That and most touch screens she tried were probably the old resistive type that mis-registers frequently.

After using the iPhone for a few weeks, and finding the Storm’s touchscreen less responsive (there was a pinhead sized water bubble that managed to survive the 3 day dry off on the screen), she stayed with the iPhone, despite its slower Edge (2.5G) performance. We dubbed the Blackberry Storm “The Toilet Phone”—fitting because it always crashed during web browser usage, even after applying several updates. Though my own codename for it is “Crapberry.” It crashed so often, she gave up trying to use the web browser almost completely eliminating the whole point of a smartphone. At least the slow and pokey Edge network eventually might load if you stood still and sacrificed a few bits and time to the radio frequency gods that control Edge’s band frequencies.

Then the phone finally, after a good 3 years of heavy service, it died a noble death—or so we thought. She called me from her work’s landline, to tell me the touchscreen started glitching out, its home button became non-responsive and then would no longer power up. Because she was very dependent on having a working phone for work, I lent her my iPhone 4 that night and temporarily had all calls forward to it. The next day (December 31), we walking into an AT&T store and devised a plan that got her a new 4S and consolidated phone plans. She was going to just get a 3GS, but I told her friends don’t let friends buy soon-to-be-obsolete (unsupported) tech. I paid for the price differential, and told her to consider it a New Year’s or a Hanukah super 7 day “we don’t need no stink in’ new socks” gift. “Hell, toss in Winter solstice, Kwanza and Flying Spaghetti Monster day while we’re at it,” I told her. A few days after New Year’s, the old iPhone booted up just fine and wanted to know where its sim card was. We hadn’t the heart to tell it it had been retired. Not bad for a 4.5 year old phone.

The point? Well, I have found I get more “value” out of old electronics by handing them down and keeping them as backups. Something has to keel over before I toss it. and even then I might keep it for parts. I hand down my laptops, amps and other devices to my relatives that could use them. Currently, I am trying to find a way to afford a new MBP with a processor that I can’t peg for an hours at a CPU 12.x load (yes, I know I need more RAM). I wasn’t planning on upgrading this year, but my girlfriend’s HP netbook is a flaming pile of slow, buggy and intrusive crap that I keep offering to overhaul. She practically broke out into loud obscenities at the library a few days back when she thought it crashed. It eventually force quit a program, and she lost a few paragraphs of a missive she was working on. Meanwhile, I sat across from her and stared at my CPU’s load hoping it could finish the large audio processing job I gave it before the meter ran out and we had to move the car to avoid a parking ticket.

Incidentally, library WiFi kicks much ass in my experience. At my local library, I had a 1MB/s upload speed and a 200KB/s download speed. Weird, but whatever. I am going there anytime I need to upload a few dozen gigs from now on. Screw fighting for low latency to play an OLRPG at Starbuck’s! “Damn YouTube Hipsters! Soaking up all the bandwidth!” is the new “Hey you kids, get off my digital lawn!” war cry for me. Now If you’ll excuse me I think I see a high gain antenna sticking out of a car crawling by my place… “Slackers!” {ref: Back to the Future 2} It’s not easy living in the future and commuting to the past. ;) Until next rant, may all your bits be in parity.

Apple has really turned the corner in the last 6 months. They finally settled a court case to replace the defective design of the first generation mag-safe adapters.
When one I had was intermittently failing, I took it in (after being forced to make an appointment and wait a week) and was told that because it was currently working, I could not get it replaced, despite the fact that the court case settlement was to do just that.
Next, I tried to find information in their online pages, including their knowledge base and about a particular issue. When all documents lead to a less than helpful landing page, I was seriously discouraged.
Then, my 2 year old MacBook Pro lost a little plastic foot, and I can see the hard drive beneath it. I called Apple requesting a replacement be sent. Even though I have AppleCare the help desk person on the other side didn’t care about the problem and refused to send me a foot. I told him I could install it myself, and it was a 50 cent part at most and to send the laptop in for service was a huge waste of time and money. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, he refused to patch me through. The call ended with him hanging up on me. I haven’t called back, and oddly the usual email that Apple sends out asking how my support experience was, never came.
Now, I found a glitch in iOS that caches passwords even after a person logs out of the iTMS apps section on an iOS device. I tried to report it, and I didn’t hear back for a few days. My only recourse was to pull all my account info. I do not think I will be reentering it. When support finally did get back to me I took the time to explain what happened. The response I got was something other computer companies are infamous for doing: it was a cut and paste set of links to very basic knowledge base articles that did not address my problem. I wrote back and the support rep then copy and pasted the exact same basic “newbie” article into the email. When I wrote back and told “Trina” (no last name to protect horrid service) that none of this addressed the problem, I got another canned response. I didn’t realize Apple was hiring illiterate email support people. Either that or Siri is now handling email parsing: this would explain the lack of human responses and concern.
I have been an Apple Customer for about 25 years, and this is worse than when I had to strong-arm Apple into replacing my friend’s faulty 7200 logic board, that was among a series of defective boards.
Sadly their software is probably the most efficient for getting things done in a GUI environment, and the integration of things like Tapbot’s Pastebot, their own Airplay, and tons of donation-ware—including set and forget backup apps that are better than commercial Windows small network backup apps. Let’s not even mention the apps in my recommended list. I depend on these apps many times a day.
I am not tied into he ecosystem because I ripped virtually all my own media from hard copies. Also, after working with Windows, Linux and Macs for years at various companies, I have no doubt I could fix any problems. But the thing is, I know the added hassle that come with the other 2 platforms. So, I could leave, but where would I go?
If HP hadn’t completely bungled WebOS it might be a potential replacement. Linux is too much of a patchwork OS as is its mobile equivalent: Android. Every year the companies that make Android phones promise to update current models to the new OS when they are released, and many times the companies retract that after the models are discontinued. So, that is out as well, considering timely updates are a crapshoot. I feel I would have better odds breaking even in Vegas.
Windows 8? Not a chance. I know how horrid the underpinnings of the OS are. The second to have to do anything a tech would do the settings to do it are still buried, and some only easily accessible via a command prompt. Also, despite what novices and the unexperienced think, without purchasing subscription software to manage and protect he machine, it would be only a matter of time before I either lost or had data stolen.
Also, the interface to Windows 8 is a joke. Really? Tiles with seemingly arbitrary colors with small thin text in them that updates. I can do the same thing by tiling 8 console windows, changing the background color and tailing the logs of 8 programs. But to make is as unreadable as Windows 8’s tiles, I would have to chose the lightest version of a font with an awkward x-height.
I would probably also have to do what my old roommate did: wipe the HD every 6 months to keep the Windows stable and speedy with the number of programs that I have to test. Unless I missed the memo, Microsoft still relies on a monolithic single point of failure file that is written to all the time and is in control of the entire system.
About testing: I can test Mac, Linux and Windows apps on one machine. This is not the case for either Linux nor Windows boxes (which are identical).
So, I’ll have to wait until a better OS comes out (doubtful, considering all the OSes are getting facelifts to look thrice as stupid as their predecessors, and 9 times less efficient.) It is no wonder browser based OSes are gaining mindshare: all the big OS’s UIs are being driven by Toonces and browsers are great for inefficient local computing paradigms.

UPDATE: Looks like others are cluing in on this as well: Bad Apple
Also, on the 19th, I spoke to a DSL field technician that makes anywhere from 5-10 house calls a day and he commented that people are starting to notice Apple is turning into Microsoft. Sad.