This week I seem to be surrounded by dysfunctional electronics, and I am not a happy camper. Or maybe they just are attracted to me, or I to them.
My oven is on its third electronic control panel in as many months. It has very fancy touch-pad controls, and when we first got it everything on the panel worked with the sole exception of the on/off switch. And the fact that it couldn't get beyond 290 degrees — it was a very expensive crock pot. Cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving took the better part of the day. But perhaps the third time will be the charm.
Then my stepson needed help with getting his Xbox connected on his wireless network. I had done him no favors by setting up his wireless router to use WPA2, which is the one security protocol that doesn't work with the Xbox wireless adapter. That was luckily quick work to downgrade him to just regular WPA. Why can't Microsoft support a protocol that is several years old on its equipment is a mystery to me.
How about my home laptop, which for some odd reason won't keep its batteries charged? I guess it is a flaky motherboard power connection, so the laptop needs to be plugged into the wall all the time. That is annoying to say the least, but then it is a aging Dell that is due for replacement, so maybe this a sign. Of course, finding something that runs XP is an exercise in patience these days.
Speaking of Dell, I was looking for an inexpensive machine that I could stuff with oodles of RAM to run in my lab. You would think with all of the machines that they sell that it would be easy to find out what the maximum amount of memory you could install in one of the desktops would be. Not so easy to do on their Web site. So I took the unusual step of calling them and that wasn't much better. I could order a PC with a 64-bit Windows OS and that was the trick to boost the RAM on the order, but a 64-bit OS is almost as much trouble as Vista. I want a machine that will actually run my applications, thank you very much. When I went into the Dell Outlet store to search for used PCs, there was one yesterday that had 8GB for sale.
And I was excited to hear about the latest crop of devices that will accept streaming video from Netflix, including a Samsung Blu-Ray video player. A friend has been having a lot of fun using his Xbox and streaming videos to it (you need to have both subscriptions to Netflix and Xbox Live services though to do this). Trouble is, I bought the cheaper model Samsung that doesn't do the streaming, even though it has an Ethernet jack and runs Windows CE and can be upgraded across the Internet. Another friend has the right model and was singing all of its virtues and how wonderful his streaming videos were. Too bad for me. Now I have one more computing device that can get infected, require periodic care and feeding, and is already obsolete within a few months of its purchase. I sure know how to pick 'em. At least I haven't had to replace the front panel and the on/off switch is still working. But it sure throws off a lot of heat, I guess from all the graphics processing firepower inside.
At least my iPhone is running without any troubles, knock on formica. I think I only have had to reboot it maybe 3 times in the past six months. The fact that I used "only" in that sentence is a sad testimonial to the state of my electronic life. They say the shoemakers' children go barefoot. I would settle for a device that would just operate as intended.
David Strom is an expert on Internet and networking technologies who was the former editor-in-chief at Network Computing, Tom's Hardware.com, and DigitalLanding.com. He currently writes regularly for PC World, Baseline Magazine, and the New York Times and is also a professional speaker, podcaster and blogs at strominator.com and WebInformant.tv