Tag Archives: Amazon

Device Fatigue

I think I’ve posted about this before, but it’s time for a new rant!  I thought technology was supposed to make our lives easier.  Instead, I feel enslaved by it.  But I don’t know what to do about it.  In some ways it does make my life easier.  In some ways, it wouldn’t matter how I felt about it…I have no choice but to use it.  So here are a few of my complaints.

Hey!  There’s a new model out!  I will specifically rant here about Microsoft.  Because Windows 8 just came out.  Oh nooooo.  That means that very soon, Windows 7 will be obsolete.  I am barely used to Windows 7, and hate it.  No telling what fresh hell Windows 8 has in store for us.  All in the name of “helping” us.  Microsoft is the only tech company I know of that forces you to buy its new product by withdrawing “support” for its older models.

Amazon just came out with the new Kindle Fire HD.  At first they said they would no longer sell the original, but apparently they re-thought that strategy.  Not only will they still sell it, but they dropped the price by $40 to $159.  My original Fire is not quite a year old.  (That must be one of the fastest beta tests in tech history).  Allegedly, the HD improves on the original in some ways, but not enough to make me want one.  Or “have” to have one. People with iphones kill me.  Every time a new one comes out, they gotta have it.  But what Amazon did NOT do is threaten to withdraw support from the original.  So ask me whether or not I like Amazon better than Microsoft.

I need to be charged!  Something I have always needs charging.  This is the prime example of my having to serve these things rather than the other way around.  And the devices give you messages.  The Kindle is very polite.  It suddenly vibrates (very startling sensation) and a message pops up that says “15% battery power remaining.  Continue reading?”  My smart phone (NOT an iPhone!) says, “Connect your charger NOW”.  It’s so rude.  If you don’t heed its orders, it will promptly turn itself off.  At least the Kindle gives you some lead time to wrap up whatever you’re doing.

Lessee.  I have a smart phone, a Bluetooth, a digital camera, and a Kindle.  Which is probably fewer than some people.  Although they don’t need to be charged, I have 3 computers at work and one at home.  And the charging indicators vary.  The cell phone has no lights.  You just have to keep peeking at the screen to see whether it’s done or not.  When it is, it says, “Disconnect from charger now to save energy”.  I told you it was rude.  Thank you, cell phone, but I don’t need your help to be environmentally conscious.  The Bluetooth has a light that turns from red to green when charged.  Except that when you first plug it in, the light is green for about 10 seconds first, then it turns red.  Totally confusing.  Are you dead, or not?  The camera has a red light that comes on when you plug it up, then it goes out when it’s charged.  Speaking of confusing.  The Kindle is the most sensible.  It has a red light that comes on when it first charges, and a green light when it’s done.  And no rude messages.  It doesn’t say, I’m through, you dummy.  I think I’m smart enough to grasp the symbolism, from learning to drive.  Red means stop.  Green means go.

Passwords. I am overwhelmed by passwords.  I don’t have one on the cell (though I could) or the Kindle (not sure I could) and the camera and the Bluetooth don’t give you that option.  But of the four computers I use, there is a different password for every one.  Not to mention that every program I use has another password.  If I died and had an autopsy, all they would find in my brain is…passwords. For me, it’s like a game of chicken, to see how long I can remember all these passwords.  So far, so good.  But I’m pushing my luck.  I need one of those password saving programs, except I would have to have a password for it.

People I know are afraid of technology, particularly how it will be in the future.  We will be able to have brain implants connected to our optic nerves.  Glasses like the ones Google is already making. Cars that drive themselves.  Personally, I don’t think it can come soon enough.  Unless you have to use passwords.  Maybe with the brain implants you can just think the password.



An Ode To Amazon.com

When I wrote the post “You Should Read This Book”, about where I get book suggestions, I can’t believe I left out Amazon.  This probably hurts their feelings, since they go to the trouble of sending me an email Every. Single. Day.  You too can have this pleasure by ordering anything, ever, from them.  After that, all you have to do is LOOK at an item and you will occasionally receive an email that says, “People who liked this item also liked…”  For instance, I once looked at toaster ovens on Amazon, so I will occasionally get an email about other kitchen appliances I might like.

The thing is, if it were any company other than Amazon, that daily email would have become annoying very quickly, and I would long ago have unsubscribed.  But I actually like these emails.  I’ve gotten some great ideas from them.  I find their suggestions are often eerily right.  What’s funny is that when I get one that says, “You might like….”, some of the suggestions are in fact books I’ve already read.

Once a month they send out an email that tells you 100 books you can get for $3.99 or less (for Kindle).  I’m not often interested in these books, but this month’s included two I intend to buy.  One of the reasons I was so intrigued is that one of the books listed is Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Hard Time”.  That book is a history of the Dust Bowl and is in my top three of the best non-fiction books I ever read.  (The other two are “In The Heart of the Sea” and “The Tiger”.)  “In the Heart of the Sea” (Nathaniel Philbrick) is the true story of the sinking of the whaleship Essex in the Pacific Ocean–by a whale.  It’s also a fascinating history of whaling in the U.S., out of Nantucket, once arguably the premier whaling location in the world.  I found that book by one of my typical methods–cruising the library.  “The Tiger” (John Vaillant) is the story of a particular man-eating tiger in the Primorye region of Russia.  I learned of that book from a friend (one of my other preferred methods), actually a close friend of my sister’s.

The first of the books I intend to buy is “Already Gone” ($1.99) by John Rector, from the “mystery and thriller” category.  The second is “John Dies At The End” ($3.99) by David Wong, because, after all, how can you resist that title?

Meanwhile, I have waiting for me “The Story of Beautiful Girl” (on Kindle), which my sister gave me as a gift.  Since she rarely makes recommendations, the fact that she gave this one to me makes me think it must be a fantastic book.  I also have three library books waiting, which I have now renewed for the third and final time.  The chances of my getting around to them in time are somewhere between slim and none.

Speaking of Amazon and Kindle, a few words about the Kindle Fire.  I’ve had one since they first came out in December 2011, again, a gift from my sister.  And I love it for a multitude of reasons.  Last week, Amazon announced that the Fire is officially sold out.  What?  How could that happen?  I should have been smarter–the only way Amazon would let that happen is if they intend to come out with a new model.  In fact, this week it seems they are making an announcement which is expected to be the intro to what people are calling (in the absence of any real info) the Kindle Fire 2.  (A very funny comment I saw was, so what will they call this one?  The Blaze?)  They are also expected to intro an update to Kindle Touch which will make it more competitive with the Nook.

Here are a couple of things I hope they will improve:  first, the sound.  Sound on the Kindle Fire sucks, as in, you can’t hear it.  I bought a cheapo (abour $15) external speaker, which helps, but the speaker is too cheap to be as much help as the Fire needs.   Mostly I buy books, so that doesn’t seem important, but I’ve also bought music.  I likely will not buy more unless I get a better external speaker, and forget movies.  Who wants to watch movies on a 7″ screen anyway?  Maybe on an airplane, or some other really confined space.

Second, I hope they add 3G or 4G.  Unlike some other Kindle models, the Fire only has Wifi.  Which is annoying and inconvenient for me personally.  Which poses a problem for the aforementioned airplane scenario.  Unless you specifically make an effort to download it to your device, your music and movies are stored in the Amazon Cloud–which you have to have Wifi to access.  And music and movies eat up memory very quickly.  The good news is that you can download from the Cloud to your device, and then send it back to the Cloud when you’re done.

These are my two complaints.  It’s also true that you can access the Internet, but not well.  That might be more important to other people.  I don’t really want or need to access the Internet via Kindle. But I suppose if they really want to compete with the iPad, that would also be a necessary improvement.

I love books, and Kindle, and Amazon, although they are all imperfect.  But I think that’s the very definition of love.

Where Is The Charger For This Thing?

One of my favorite books ever is Enslaved by Ducks.  If I wrote a book, I would call it Chained to Chargers.  I am forever charging one thing or another, or looking for the charger, or the USB cable that connects it to the computer.  Or the User Manual–not that that would help.  User manuals are written by people who already understand very well how a thing works, and have forgotten the first 57 steps they took to get there.  Those are the steps you need to know.

Or I can’t figure out how to do something and have to chat online with someone from India about it.  These are the people who Value My Business, Strive For Excellence in customer service, and are Very Sorry that I have a problem.  All cynicism aside, online chat is my preferred method.  I hate talking on the phone to them, and since the user manuals are no help, what’s the alternative?  Plus, I have a certain sympathy for the position they’re in.  This is partly due to knowing people in the call center business, and partly due to seeing the movie Slumdog Millionaire.  But it’s mostly due to being in a customer service business myself.  It always amazes me how people unload on the powerless.  Had a bad day?  I’ve seen people scream at a cashier for five minutes because the prices were too high, then say, I know it isn’t your fault.  Oh that makes it all better now.

But I digress.  Recently I had the occasion to make three new best friends from Amazon.com, and on Thursday, I got to know my new best friend Jayjay at Sony.com.  The occasion was that I have lost the USB cable to my Sony digital camera and wanted to order a new one.  Good luck finding that on your own on the Sony website.  Lucky for me, Jayjay popped up and offered to help.

But this is not the perfect marriage between me and all my new best friends.  Jayjay told me I would receive an order confirmation within 24 hours.  Did I?  Nope.  Kind of like my last new best friend Joan, who said she would waive shipping charges for the USB cable (!) I bought for the Kindle, and then charged my credit card anyway.  So every problem seems to require at least two contacts.  One to get it fixed, and one to follow up on whether or not it really is fixed.

So, armed with the order number Jayjay gave me, I went on Sony.com to see if I could track my order.  Very, very funny, Fakename.  Do you also see dead people?

So I called them.  On the phone, even.  When I gave my order number, my helper said, Oh.  That’s a Sony Store order number from the Parts and Accessories department.  (Duh.)  Unfortunately, you need to talk to them about it and they are closed this weekend.

Is that classic or what?  It’s not my department.  Anyhow, I started laughing.  Helper Woman said, The thing is, they are usually open all weekend (I’ll bet they are.  Miss an opportunity to sell stuff?  I don’t think so.)  But they are doing a major software upgrade.  I laughed harder.  Really! she said (somewhat offended), it’s a really big deal.   I tried to calm down a bit.  I know, I said, I’m laughing because this is just my luck–I’m trying to check an order on the only weekend the Sony Store has shut down.

So she gave me the direct number to that department and said I should call on Monday.  On second thought, she said, it might be better to call on Tuesday.  That did it.  I was laughing helplessly by that time, because…I know how that goes, and I know she’s right.

I thought these devices were supposed to make my life easier and more rewarding.  Instead, the care and feeding of them is like trying to raise a child or an orchid.  Fakesister, always cutting brilliantly to the heart of a matter, says this:  some devices are truly labor-saving.  Like dishwashers and vacuum cleaners.  But yours are not.  Oh.  My.  Is that ever true.

But some days, you just wish that the Kindle, the smart phone, and the digital camera would just go to their rooms and play quietly.

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.