Ostensibly, technology is supposed to improve our lives by making them easier.
More frequently though, that’s just not the case anymore.
Here’s a quick story. My wife’s old Canon point-and-shoot died last weekend. The button toggling between still and video shots wasn’t working, so we took this as an opportunity to buy a wifi camera, specifically the Samsung SH100, which supports direct uploads to Facebook, Picasa and YouTube.
This is a brilliant feature for a new mother with extended family watching our daughter grow up through pictures and movies we shoot and upload to the intertubes.
The wife was stoked. I was stoked. Baby was stoked or something.
We get the camera home, and immediately, there’s a problem. It won’t connect to my wifi router. The only options were no security or WEP. I use WPA2 and haven’t even seen a WEP-only device since 2004 when TiVo first came out with wifi adapters for their Series 2 DVRs. They updated their software shortly thereafter to support WPA, which makes a ton of sense because WEP is about as secure as no security.
So, I spent a day trying to figure out what to do, tweak my old router, try a camera firmware update, buy a new router, etc. My router is an older one and is the only in its family of devices to be absent from the DD-WRT list. Bummer. I was happy to find that Buffalo now OEMs devices with DD-WRT, but no retail stores in Portland carried the one I wanted. Ordering and waiting wasn’t an option because of the holiday and my wife’s desire to get our daughter’s Independence Day outfit shots up to the internets. While there is a firmware update for the SH100, there’s no change manifest, so I’ve no idea what’s in the update. Too risky.
Finally, I decided to buy a dual-band router which sported a guest network which I could setup to run WEP, while preserving my existing SSID on WPA2. Plus, this new router is on the DD-WRT list, if I ever need to extend its functionality.
Router in place and all existing wifi devices checked, I went to setup the camera and ta-da, suddenly it could do WPA2. WTF.
I’ve no idea why, but at least I’ve seen a bump in speed from the new router. Problem solved.
A few hours later, my wife’s got her I’m-irritated-with-the-computer-but-don’t-want-to-bother-you look on her face. Turns out the video she shot in portrait mode is importing into iPhoto unrotated, i.e. on its side. She used to rotate video in the crummy Canon import software that came with the old camera, but now, she’s only using iPhoto because the software that comes with the Samsung is Win 7 only. Yay.
Sounds like an easy task to handle in one of the many pieces of iSoftware on the Mac, but after an hour, I found I couldn’t rotate the video in iMovie or Quicktime. Grr.
Eventually, I found an iPhoto plugin, with several steps that I’m struggling to remember, that finally got that sucker rotated. Solution found and lesson learned: do no shoot portrait video.
A few days went by, and yesterday, a related issue arose. We took some shots outside and pushed them to Picasa. One was really cute of mother and daughter, and my wife wanted to make it her Facebook profile picture. I found this out after seeing that face again and offering to help.
She had downloaded the photo from Picasa and cropped it, then uploaded to Facebook. However, Facebook was complaining that profile pictures have a minimum pixel size. My wife had no clue what size her cropped photo was, unsurprisingly. I was able to recrop it, upload it and set it as her profile picture.
My wife then said to me “how do they expect people to do all this without someone to help?” She went on to state that if she didn’t have my help, she’d never use any of this junk because it’s just too much effort to get it all working.
A very valid, erm, observation.
These anecdotes I offered are basic tasks that are just too damned hard for the average user. And before you jump on the average user, remember these are the users you want to entice. Early adopters are fine, but they’re a small population. Average users make up the Bell Curve and pay the bills.
I still enjoy nerding around with stuff, but as I age, I just want stuff to work. I don’t have the time or energy to invest time into solving complex problems created by gadgets that are supposed to make my life easier.
As usual, my wife’s right; most technology, consumer electronics, software/hardware and interwebs is just too complicated. This is why people revolt when Facebook changes its look/feel; this is why people buy integrated components (e.g. DVD-VCR players) despite poorer quality; this is why people let their VCR clocks blink 12:00 forever.
It’s too difficult.
So, the view from the street is that technology is more bane than boon.