Thursday, 15 December 2016

IT frustration

One of the biggest frustrations of modern life is to be found at the human-IT interface; it is particularly noticeable when you live through a software or hardware upgrade. After three years, my Samsung Galaxy S3 has been replaced by a Huawei VNS-L21 mobile phone as part of the corporate contract with T-Mobile. Huawei is not a brand I know. The phone has newer version of the Android operating system (6.0, with 4.0 on my Samsung), and its main benefits over the Samsung are greatly enhanced battery life (36 to 48 hours of normal usage compared to 8 to 12 on the old phone) and far greater download/upload speed.

The Huawei has a built-in camera boasting 13 megapixels, which is 1 MP more than the Nikon D80 DSLR I bought in 2007, and 5MP more than in my old Samsung.

Below: Huawei and Samsung both have a presence on Warsaw's Plac Konstytucji.

The old phone had a replacement battery (which was changed after the original one got so bad that power level drained from 30% to 0% in the time it took to take the bus from Wilanowska to Karczunkowska - around 25 minutes in the evening rush-hour). The new battery promises to be much better (for the record - it was fully charged at 08:10 this morning, and at 20:45, it's down to 66%, which includes a fair amount of Twittering, SMSing and a few phone calls). And it's faster and better connected than the Samsung.

But these days the joys of unboxing a new piece of kit, a glamorous-looking device, is matched by the frustration experienced in getting used to using it.

However... getting used to new equipment is problematic.

I'm typing an SMS or a tweet in Polish, and no sooner have I typed the word than the phone changes it to a completely different English word. I type 'mam nadzieję' and the phone changes this to 'mam Nadine'. Like, thanks. Predictive typing. But where to switch this lunatic feature off? How to teach this phone that I'd like to be able to write in more than one language?

I checked 'settings'. Nowhere could I find anything about keyboard. Frustration. I had to ask Kuba at the office, who explained that the keyboard settings were not with 'settings', but on the keyboard. So we change language to 'more than one language', selected as to 'English UK' and 'Polish'. One problem less. But without Kuba's help it would have been hours of frustration. Plenty more new problems will no doubt arise - using the phone's camera, adding telephone numbers to contacts etc. Many of these functions on a Huawei using Android 6.0 are quite different to a Samsung using Android 4.0.

All of these things I have to learn on the go. No time to have a three-day training course on using the new phone. Again, this leads to frustration. I'm in a hurry, need to make a call - can't retrieve a number I know full well is in the memory, nor can I save a called number.

My father, 93, has similar problems when technology changes. Typically this is software updates on the browser, new security features, which cause obstacles in his getting to where he wants to be online, upsetting well-worn procedures. Now, my father is a very determined man and can sit trying to work out a problem for a lot longer than I have the patience to do. Even so, it's a waste of his time to have to try figure these things out. My father has a long relationship with IT, going back to the 1980s, with an Amstrad 386 running MS DOS. Successive waves of technology change all take getting used to.

In the old days of IT, devices used to come with thick printed manuals. If you couldn't work it out, you'd be told to 'RTFM', in the parlance of the time. Today's devices come with a link to a website from which you can download the full manual. But this comes with little more than advice about how to dispose safely of the battery and not letting children eat your phone. In eight languages. Useless.

In terms of working out how to switch off predictive typing, or operate the voice-controlled assistant -  if you don't have an IT wizard on hand - it's frustrating. A tool as complex as a smartphone has the functions of a phone, a contact book, a calendar, a camera (stills and movie), a map, a voice recorder, a search engine/ dictionary/ encyclopaedia, which have to mesh seamlessly together.

Another issue: my laptop is five years old; it's great. A Samsung with a 12.1" screen, light, fast, with an excellent battery. Nothing wrong with it. However, all things must pass, and I shall at some time have to buy a new one.

Now look.

I DO NOT WANT WINDOWS 10. No. Not ever. I'm entirely satisfied with Windows 7 Home Office Premium. There's nothing wrong with it. Can Windows not get the fact that hundreds of millions of users are happy with Windows 7? Why ram down our throats novelties we neither want nor need?

The developed world is getting older; as we all do so, we will not be expecting added layers of complexity from our IT. Everything should be as simple - as intuitive - as possible. This is the challenge for IT developers - creating devices that are complex but at the same time simple to use yet also secure. One day, many of us will be in our 90s, struggling to keep up with the latest innovations and improvements. Let's hope the engineers can work out how to make it easier for us.

This time last year:
Wałbrzych's Gold Train - the dream ends

This time three years ago:
Kitten football

This time four years ago:
The drainage of Jeziorki

This time five years ago:
The Eurocrisis - what would Jesus do?

This time six years ago:
Orders of magnitude

This time seven years ago:
Jeziorki in the snow

This time eight years ago:
Better news on the commuting front

This time nine years ago:
I no longer recognise the land where I was born


DC said...

Have you tried googling for answers? Seriously - I do it all the time when friends have problems with their phones and I need to quickly find a solution on an unfamiliar device. I bet it would have pointed you toward keyboard settings pretty quickly.

For several reasons I find the Android experience is best when you purchase a phone directly from a manufacturer or from Google, and not from a phone company. But I guess if it's a corporate contract, there's not much you can do.

Agnieszka Wilcock said...

Yep, you tube is where I go first. BTW Nowa Iwiczna is now operating from the new up platform.

Anonymous said...

yes, Google is the way. Whatever the question, you'll have the answer in a second. eg:

dr Marcin said...

Not so bad, Mike. Try English speller-checker, and you intend to write "Yesterday, I lied on a beach near Vistula river", but smarter smartphone knows better and writes "Yesterday, I lied on a b**ch near Vistula river". Zonk. :)

dr Marcin said...

P.S. The other hundreds of millions were happy with Windows XP. Apart to Windows NT, probably the best M$ operating system. Why did they discontinue a support of that system?