Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bugging Out

A few weeks back, I purchased my first smartphone, after spending years swimming against the tide. (Now I too, can be staring a small screen when I should be watching where I'm walking.) It's a nice little piece of technology. But there's one nagging problem. As far as the phone is concerned, the data plan that I signed up for isn't compatible the device. And so, there is an error message that just won't go away.

There's no substantial problem. The phone works when I want it to. I can make and receive calls and text messages, surf the web and use the GPS. The error message, as dire at is sounds, is little more than a persistent glitch in the system. On a computer somewhere, a bit isn't set the way it should be, and it's resulting in my phone constantly telling me that there is a problem. I've called the T-Mobile store that I purchased the device from, and called their technical support line a couple of times, and encountered varying degrees of willingness to address the problem. They've sworn up and down that they've signed me up for a data plan that works with the hardware, and that after they make this or that change the message should go away, or that no changes are needed and things just need time to propagate through the system. But, after I allow them the time that they request, the message sticks around. Sometimes, if I reboot the phone for some reason or another (usually because I'm experimenting with something), it goes away for a while, but within an hour or two, it's back, like the little yellow cat that wouldn't stay gone.

If this is worst problem I ever have, I'm more fortunate than I deserve.
While at first, I found it an irritant, now I've decided that it should stay. Because it's a reminder of the fact that technology isn't always as reliable as we'd like it to be. This persistent message reminds me that somewhere, perhaps in the phone, perhaps in T-Mobile's network or perhaps in the SIM card, there is a bug. And that bug is only one of many. And, sooner or later one of those bugs is going to catch up to me at what I will consider a bad time. So, when I pick up the phone to get me out of jam, and it replies: "I'm sorry, Aaron, but I can't do that," instead of, "Oh, crap! What do I do now?" my response needs to be "No problem, I've got a Plan B." Between the various IHVs that make the individual hardware components, Nokia, the OEM that stacks everything together into a telephone, Microsoft, the OS manufacturer and T-Mobile, the vendor and service provider, there are a lot of cooks in this kitchen. Expecting that none of them have dropped a fly in my soup is a bit too much to ask. Nothing is foolproof. We've become too adept at making better fools.

Technology is wonderful. But we didn't always have it, as remarkable as that seems sometimes. But perhaps more importantly, it's sometimes more fragile than we give it credit for. And so it's worth remembering how we got along without it. Just in case.

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