Category Archives: smart phones

The New York Times, And Newspapers In General

I subscribe to the New York Times Premium Puzzles, and it isn’t free, but it isn’t expensive either.  I do their puzzles every day, which you can do for free as long as it’s the same day.  Premium allows you to access previous days’ puzzles, plus access to what they call their Second Sunday puzzle, which includes the Acrostics.  I am addicted to Acrostics!  It also allows you access to Play With A Friend, so you can interactively solve the puzzle with another person or more than one person.  My sister and I do this together every Saturday (Saturday being the hardest puzzle and requiring two brains), so it’s very important to me to be able to access it.  My sister and I use it as our weekly catch-up time.

I remember a friend who used to call his mother every weekend, and he dreaded it.  This is never a dreaded contact, I look forward to it.  If we have nothing to say beyond doing the puzzle together, that’s fine too.  We don’t have to scramble to find a topic if there really isn’t one.   We touched base.  We had fun.  We know we are each okay.  Mission accomplished.

It’s a fixed appointment.  If either of us did not show up without prior notice, we would know something was wrong.

So this week…it would not allow me to type in either the Acrostic or Play With A Friend.  I discovered that Friday night and did everything I could do on my end to try to fix it.  Logged off the NYT and logged back on (about a hundred times).  Restarted the computer (about a hundred times).  Emptied the cache.  Cleared everything I know how to clear.  And it still didn’t work.

So, in desperation, I contacted the NY Times Help.  And…Arrgh. I’ve done this before, and should have remembered.  I got back an automated response suggesting I do all the things I’d already done.  I just wanted to scream.  I am so frustrated!  But what can I do?  Well, I replied, I already did that.  Could a real person look into this?

It does make me a little sad, because I’m well aware of the issues that newpapers are going through.  (Like, death.)  But if I have a problem with my Kindle or with my cell phone, I can get customer service help 24 hours a day from Amazon or Sprint. (Of course they will be from India or Uzbekistan, but…that’s another discussion.)  Sometimes while I’m searching for the answer to my problem, someone will pop up on chat and offer to help.  Or I can choose the chat option to begin with.

Not so with the NYT.  Apparently their people work Monday through Friday and have pre-set automated responses for when they are not there.  This seems like a scheduling problem to me.  You could have shifts that go from Tuesday through Saturday, or Wednesday through Sunday.  That way you would cover every day of the week….even if they were all 8 to 5 shifts.  Inquiries after that time would be answered the next day.  They need a manager.

I am sad about newspapers though.  Every weekday, I read the paper and ink version of my local paper.  I won’t subscribe to the online version, because the fees are more than the fees for the New York Times, which just seems wrong to me.  And the NYT lets you read 10 articles a month for free.  But I don’t see that lasting long.  I like newspapers.  I like real books.  I like libraries, and the smell of old paper.

And yet, as I mentioned, I have a Kindle, a cell phone, a Bluetooth.  I have Windows 7 and more than one email address (some of which I have to remember to check.)  I have a foot in both worlds, so to speak.  I know people who are steadfast in refusing to give up the “old ways”.  For instance.  I’m on the Board of an organization and there are various ways to notify us of meetings.  When that task falls to the former president of the organization, he calls you on the phone.  You will never get me that way.  He has an email address, but he doesn’t like it and doesn’t trust it.  Sad.   If you don’t change with the times, you will become very isolated.  I don’t know what he’ll do if they ever stop publishing the paper and ink version of the local newspaper.   Which has happened in other cities (Seattle).

However, it can also get out of hand.  I, for example, don’t have and never will have a Twitter account.  I think the whole concept is laughable and useless.  That said, apologies to Twitter fans. I once said a similar thing to a blogger friend and he was highly insulted.  I’ll leave it at, this is a bit too much connectivity for me.  The best thing about technology for me is that it has allowed me to become more disconnected, rather than less.  I need lots of down time.  To read in the back yard.  To contemplate how annoying and yet clever squirrels are.  To get stung by fire ants (or some other unknown critter)and take myself to the ER.  I don’t think sending a Tweet about it would be helpful.

Having said this about newspapers, next month I will be a somewhat reluctant “star” in the local newspaper.  They are participating in a campaign called Go Pink! Which is apparently a national endeavor by newspapers. Each day they are highlighting one local woman who has survived breast cancer.  I have very mixed feelings about the whole pink stuff thing.  But overall, I think this is a good idea.  This is the face of cancer:  someone who is your neighbor or co-worker.  And there were things I wanted to say.  When the article comes out, I will let you know, and provide a link to the online video of the interview (which I will probably have to pay for, Ha!)  The reporter did the video using an iPhone!  I am still amazed!

I love newspapers and I am prematurely mourning their deaths.  But I also love new ways to communicate too.  Like iPhones.

Luddites

It’s rather easy to see how people could be that way.  Originally, it was a very painful time, the very cusp of history so to speak, when industrialization was a life or death matter.  I can’t help but have some admiration for those feeble attempts to fight it, but it was always a losing battle.

And there are many parallels to today.  It isn’t industrialization, it’s globalization, and that has been painful too.  But without any evil biases involved, the history of all species on earth is Adapt or Die, and always has been.  Whether it’s a machine (like a mechanized loom) or a computer, you have to learn to understand it and work with it, or it will defeat you.

On a smaller, not yet life-or-death scale (notice I say, not yet), it’s similar.  I know people who don’t have smartphones, Kindles or IPads, Bluetooths, and in some cases, not even computers.  Think about that.  And if you don’t have a TV (I know some of them too, or at least I’ve read about them), how do you get news?  Word of mouth?  The newspaper?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the main reason people don’t have any of these devices is not because they think we’ve lost contact with nature.  It’s because they’re scared of them.  They’re afraid they won’t understand how they work, and will be too embarassed to ask.  Pride is truly a Deadly Sin.

Just as one example, I’ve been having a problem with my smartphone, and emailed Sprint.  About the time I was ready to hit send, it said don’t email us if one of your problems is an inability to connect to the Internet.  Which was my exact problem.  What the hell.  I sent it anyway.  And to my complete astonishment, they replied in less than 24 hours and I fixed it.

So.  When I have a problem like this, I think, I thought technology was supposed to make my life easier.  Instead, I feel like I’m spending a lot of time in the care and feeding of my devices.  And don’t get me started on chargers.  I am forever charging something, or having to remember to charge something.

But when they are charged and happy and not malfunctioning (ha!), they actually do make my life easier and they enrich it.  If I want a book I can’t find at the library, I can have it in one minute on the Kindle.  Usually.

As frustrating as it can get, I am not going back to pencils and legal pads.  And I have a funny story about pencils and legal pads I’ll tell later.

My New Best Friend Joan…from Amazon.com

Right.  Hi Joan, Goodbye Joan.  It’s not like you can ask for a particular person again…But for this particular instant in the space/time continuum, I like Joan.

Needless to say, I had a technology woe again, namely, the Kindle Fire died yesterday afternoon.  I mean really died.  It just sort of froze in the middle of things.  So I decided I would be smart and turn it off, and turn it back on.  Except it wouldn’t come back on.  Then I plugged it into the charger…and the LED light wouldn’t even come on.  (It’s red when it’s charging, green when it’s charged, and nothing when it’s dead.)

I was at work.  I tried plugging it into a different outlet.  No response.  So my employee Kitty said, “See, that’s the advantage of a real book.  You don’t have to charge them.”  I raised my eyes to the heavens.  Lord, I prayed, When will you change the U.S. employment laws so that I can legally smite her?  Just kidding, of course, especially because she was right.

So when I got home, I plugged up the Kindle and at least I got a light…a green one even, which would stay on for about 10 seconds and go out again.  After 8 hours of charging…same thing.  Visions of nightmares, rather than sugarplums, were dancing in my head.  I would have to send it back.  It’s amazing how attached you can become to an inanimate object.  So I decided this morning that I would take the plunge and chat with whoever I got on Amazon.com chat.  Ergo, Joan.

Joan said, do you have a USB cable?  Well, yes I do.  I bought one.  They don’t give you one, because it takes a geologic era to charge your Kindle Fire with a USB cable.  All the other Kindle versions come with a USB cable.  But it turns out you can download stuff onto the Kindle Fire with the USB in the absence of WiFi, which is why I got it.  So Joan says, plug it up to the USB and just see if the LED comes on.  Yes.  I said, are you suggesting the charger is bad?

Then she says, I’m not sure yet.  Do you have a cell phone charger that will fit the Kindle?  What? What about all those warnings that say that absolutely under no circumstances are you supposed to try to charge your device with an unapproved charger, otherwise you will void your warranty, the Kindle will blow up, and all your children will be born deformed?  She was like, you have my permission.

And guess what.  That worked too.  Another icon shattered–so it really DOESN’T matter what charger you use?  As long as it fits?  Boy, do I feel stupid.

So the end result is, they are sending me another charger, free.  When it quits working, next time I know what to do without calling on Amazon.  Or, well, I will still have to call them so I can get it free.

But I still like Joan.  She took me through the steps to figure out if it was the charger or the Kindle itself (its battery, actually, or so I figured.)

I generally hate it when I have to talk to Customer Service for any big company…mostly Sprint or Comcast.  I have a Sprint cellphone, and I used to tell my employees they might want to go home for the day because I was about to have to call Sprint.  They would be like, Oh Nooooo.  But Sprint has completely changed direction.  It’s no longer an ordeal to call them.  And Amazon has never been that way, so they didn’t have anything to overcome.

There is an internal culture in every company I know of which values everything but customer service.  The smart people are the ones who get the business–the engineers, the software designers, the marketers, etc.  But the customer service people are the people who keep the business for you.  In the long run, failing to value that will kill you.  So…thanks, Joan.

Being An Idiot In The Age of the Internet

Well, I’m not a complete idiot, but it has been challenging to learn how to work my new Android phone.  To the great amusement of my Blackberry/IPhone-wielding friends and acquaintances. 

Last week’s challenge:  how to make a capital letter.  I could not log in to my personal email account, because my password has a capital in it.  Naturally, the user manual(s) that came with the phone don’t concern themselves with such basic stuff.  They figure you must already know that kind of thing. Otherwise, you should just turn in the phone and go back to sending smoke signals. 

So I went to my friend Google, and pretty much typed in, “How do I make a capital letter on an Android keyboard?”  The answer was so simple.  You tap the shift key twice, rapidly.  But how could I have known that if someone didn’t tell me? I felt like a lot less of an idiot at that point. 

I shared this story with my Assistant Manager, who is a recent Blackberry to IPhone convert.  She sort of sheepishly admitted that she went to a website for tips about the use of the IPhone.  Then I felt like a LOT less of an idiot. That’s one of the things I like least about the whole technology thing. The frontrunners are so frigging smug about it. 

So today’s challenge was downloading Kindle for PC, which is free.  Of course you have to buy the books for it, which is against my religion.  I’m trying to figure out whether or not I can stand a “real” Kindle, because I don’t like reading things on a computer screen.  But I do that because of the weight issue.  I have absolutely killed my shoulders by carrying an oversized bag which usually contains at least one (!) hardback library book.  I’ve tried to let my shoulders rest and then resume my same MO.  Guess what?  That doesn’t work.  Within 24 hours I am right back where I started.  In pain. 

I’ve had to face it:  I’ve done permanent damage to my shoulders.  And I’ve had to face the fact that I am too small to carry 2o pounds or so around on a regular basis.  And that just pisses me off.  I still carry a (smaller) bag, but only from the car to the office and back.  The new smaller bag at least does not set off the warning light in the car, which says “Airbag not on!”  That’s to tell you that if you have a child in the passenger seat, they don’t weigh enough and should be in the back seat.

Next week’s challenge:  learn to use the camera in the phone.  And learn to transfer them to the computer.  The camera in the phone is damn close to my actual digital camera, which has 14-something pixels, and the phone camera has 11-something.  Fun stuff! 

Also…P.S. I love my Bluetooth!  Who would ever have guessed?