Monthly Archives: June 2016

Love Hate Relationship with Modern Tech

The immediate future of tech looks no pretty bleak from my viewpoint. The move to 4K looks more blundered than the move to 1080p. Microsoft and Sony are both teasing mid-cycle releases of game consoles that will be powerful enough to make the current consoles look under-powered but not powerful enough to start a new console generation. Both mid-cycle releases seem geared toward catching up to the upgrade cycle of iPhones and iPads giving owners of 4K TVs a reason to own a 4K TV. Personally, I don’t like the upgrade cycle of iPhone and iPads. I kept my last iPhone for 3 years and I plan on keeping my current iPhone for 4. My game console was my last refuge against obsolescence,  and I was perfectly happy upgrading once every 6 to 8 years. Plenty of other tech is going in the wrong direction. Google kills more products than it introduces, and I have almost de-Googlified my life as a result. Facebook keeps screwing up my feed, and my visits to Facebook have dropped proportionately. Twitter is promoting tweets almost faster than I can block the sponsors. Ad infected websites are at war with AdBlock, and I gladly avoid all of them. More and more software is sold as a monthly subscription, and I use less and less software as a result. My internet remains as slow as ever. Is there a Moore’s Law to describe the increase in the annoyance of tech over time?

In the past year, most all tech companies have raised my ire. Apple released the wonderful 12.9″ iPad Pro. I ordered one immediately, using my iPhone and Apple Pay. It arrived within a week. Then I waited rather impatiently while the Apple Pencil, Apple’s best accessory ever, was unavailable for more than a month. Worse, Apple charged an abominable $250 for an iPad Pro case and keyboard. Imagine a restaurant charging you $10 for a soda because they charged you $50 for steak and lobster. Instead I paid $140 for Zagg’s keyboard case for iPad Pro. While the Zagg keyboard is fantastic to type on, backlit with multiple colors, and needs recharging only once every two years, the keyboard itself weights more than iPad Pro and makes the iPad as thick as Dell laptop. In the back of my mind, I keep thinking of how the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard cover for my iPad 2 was perfect, and I wonder why I can’t have a bigger one for my new iPad. To add further insult, a few months later, Apple doubled the storage of the iPad Pro for the same price. The price of the keyboard cover remained the same.

My wife has her own Apple problems. If she updates her iPhone’s OS, she will also have to update iTunes on her Mac. To update iTunes on her Mac, she has to update her Mac’s OS. If she updates her Mac’s OS, she might not be able to use her legacy programs. She could buy a new Mac and keep the old Mac for legacy purposes, but then she’d end up spending $1500 to $2200 for the sole purpose of updating her iPhone’s OS. Personally, I never connect the iPhone to iTunes on any computer, or else I am plagued by syncing issues, losing iPhone storage, and those damned songs and TV shows I can’t seem to delete. Running all my updates over the air is risky, but I swear my life is better because I never have to use iTunes. I would gladly pay $250 for a iPad sase and keyboard that fixes iTunes.

Apple remained in my cross-hairs when my wife and I finally unboxed the Apple TV we bought on Black Friday last November. Little did we know that Apple dropped the optical audio output on the new Apple TV. We use our old Apple TV to watch video and listen to audio. We had the same plan for the new Apple TV. I remember reading favorable reviews of the new Apple TV shortly after it launched. None of the reviews mentioned the lack of optical audio. The problem with removing optical audio is that all of our stereo receivers use optical audio and none of them use HDMI. Rather than buy all new audio equipment, we returned the new Apple TV and forgot about any other benefits it may have offered.

You might think all of my tech related ire is directed at Apple. Much of it is because I hold Apple to a higher standard. Yet even the lowest rung of tech companies can fail me. Last fall my kids were watching “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ at a friend’s house. We had recently seen it ourselves on our vintage 2009 Vizio 42” LCD TV. My friend’s LCD TV wasn’t much bigger, but it was much better.My wife and I decided to buy a bigger, better TV (and move the old one to our bedroom because “waste not, want not”). We had only one requirement, the TV would need at least 4 HDMI inputs. We have 4 devices without HDMI output:game console, Blu-Ray player, DVR, and latop computer. Our old Vizio has 4 HDMI inputs. This seems like a no-brainer. Yet, when we looked, none of the 1080p TVs had more than 3 HDMI inputs. Some TVs only had 2. We have a full blown HDMI input crisis.

The plot thickens, because we found plenty of 4K TVs with 4 or more HDMI inputs. These HDMI rich 4K TVs cost about twice as much as a HDMI poor 1080p TVs. Are there advantages to 4K? For us, no. 4K Blu-Ray players cost about $400 and Netflix doesn’t ship 4K Blu-ray discs. Broadcast TV is 1080i (that’s like one eighth of 4K). My local internet provider can barely deliver 1080p content and the only way I could stream 4K content is to move to a city with Google fiber. Disgusted by the choices in TVs, I decided not to buy any of them. Dear TV manufacturers: if you want my money, add another $%#@ HDMI input!

The 4K TV dilemma was another reminder of the lackluster internet provided by my local telecom, Century Link. Upload is a laughable 800kbps. (I have to laugh to keep from crying). Download is a low but steady 20mbps. The ping is good, and I can compete in on-line mulitplayer games that use dedicated servers. (My most played game, Destiny, of course uses peer hosting which overwhelms my paltry upload bandwidth.) My household would switch to cable internet except the local cable provider, Mediacom provides the worst service I have every seen. We switched away from Mediacom because during peak usage, bandwidth would fall to about 1-2mbps for download. We asked our friends and neighbors if Mediacom had improved in the last 6 years. Nope. Mediacom’s internet is usable during the day, when I’m at work, and unusable at night, when I actually need it.

The poor internet in most of ‘Murica means many goods and services are beyond my reach. We’ve mentioned 4k. Data storage and backup on the cloud is just not going happen. My wife’s 1TB of photos and videos would take 167 days straight to upload to the cloud. We could mail the information faster. Even iCloud photo storage on my phone kills our network, and I often have to turn off wifi after a day of heavy camera use. My wife doesn’t even bother with iCloud. Other services we cannot comprehend are streaming video games, video conferencing, and hosting our own servers. Just to keep the poor state of the internet in perspective, you could buy 6mbps download and 3mbps upload in 1996. In 2016, our internet is barely faster. Meanwhile, the size of webpages has increased exponentially.

Tech companies have failed me before. I once owned a phone that ran Windows Mobile 5. Believe me, I have been let down by tech before. Back in those days, we knew products could be better. Everything we bought was always barely powerful enough for the time. Storage was just barely big enough. Now, I look at my iPhone 6 and I can hardly think of a feature that would make it better. I recently installed a 2TB hard drive in my PS4, and I fully expect to never fill all of it. Let me stream shows without having to pause for buffer. Allow me the pleasure of using a phone I don’t want to replace the next year. Give me the satisfaction of owning a fully functioning piece of software before the next update. I have been seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for so long, I want to finally leave the tunnel. Tech companies seem intent on building more tunnel.

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