Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rage Against Phones

Those who know me will be aware that I seem to go through regular phases where technology fails me entirely. I'm in one of those now. In the last two weeks I've had to replace my xbox 360 (which thought that randomly freezing was more fun than actually playing games), reload nearly all of the drivers on my PC to cure a random problem where the screen would jump around (and the "start" menu button would expand and contract in time with its own persistent beat), run two wireless networks because my wifi printer doesn't speak WPA and my Apple 802.11n gadget doesn't speak WEP. I've been there before with wifi more than once or twice. I've even got a red flashing light on my fridge that apparently means I have to replace something that I'm completely unable to find. But the thing that's driven me most mad has been the phone formerly known as the Treo 750v and now known, simply, as useless. I've been upset with this phone before of course (back in an earlier tech trouble phase). The same problems continued to occur - it would randomly stop ringing or buzzing, battery life got ever shorter requiring intra-day charging, and had started to freeze or reboot at least once a day. Simple inertia had stopped me replacing it - I actually like what the Treo does and am absolutely wedded to threaded text, believing it to be a killer application (such a 90s term). But last week a new phone arrived. It's a Samsung SGH-i600, always with the catchy titles these phone-makers - design aside, you can see why everyone loved Moto's RAZR; who wouldn't want a phone name you can actually pronounce? It'll be interesting to see how Apple branch out with the iphone - will we see iphone Nano, iphone Video, iphone Giga on top of the inevitable multi-coloured offerings? I will lay good money that we certainly won't see the AAPL-S600iVn or anything even close. Although maybe they'll come up with a phone a year or so from now called the St-EvE. First call with a new phone is to backup the old one. I hadn't done this for at least a couple of months but wasn't expecting it to be hard. I was wrong. The Treo wouldn't connect to the PC via its charging cable (it would charge whilst connected, but ActiveSync couldn't find the phone), nor with a second cable that I tried. Endless wiggling and restarts of both phone and PC made no difference. Ah, bluetooth I thought! No, that didn't work either. I left it alone for a few hours until lightning struck with the idea of using infra-red - remember that old-fashioned technology? Remember when the idea was that you'd beam contact details from phone to phone with simple (free) infra-red? Before everyone just switched to sending business cards by text (although, that said, the 750v doesn't support sending cards by text). I dug around in a big box full of old tech looking for my PC infra-red plugin - I can't remember when laptops stopped coming with infra-red capability but it must be at least 3 or 4 years ago. The Treo, however, has an infra-red port (the new Samsung, by contrast, doesn't - but it has Wifi and bluetooth). Infra-red worked just fine - it took a couple of hours though (that's what 2000 contacts, 1000 tasks and 2000 diary entries does for you I guess). Just checking the settings on ActiveSync afterwards, I saw that the "contacts" box was greyed out. And, as you'd expect in that scenario, the phone hadn't transferred any recent contacts to the PC. More restarts, more wiggling, more clicking. No difference. So a couple of hours of sync without 2000 contacts. Uhoh. It turns out this is a common problem. Searching for "treo 750 contacts won't sync" gives nearly 70,000 instances. Various proposed solutions on the web didn't work; there were downloads to try and configuration changes and all sorts of other things. Another lightning strike (imagine that, two in a day) and I downloaded pocketmirror from Chapura. Fortunately it comes with a short trial period for nothing. And it worked perfectly although, again, it took a couple of hours (but at least I knew what to expect this time). So, 69,800 of you Treo users, if you haven't thrown it away by now, that's your answer. Just searching my blog, I've found that I've been here before though, with other phones (like the Nokia 7650. It's staggering really that after 18 years of mobile phone usage, the same problems with transferring from one to another still exist, as my letter to Nokia in February 2003 shows. It's 4 years this month since I stopped being a Nokia user. From about 1993 until 2003 I was a committed Nokia fan - I loved their interface (didn't everyone) and, frankly, there wasn't much competition. But in all those 4 years, the problems that I was having then are no nearer being fixed. It's harder to move from one phone to another with all of your settings intact than it is to move from one PC to another or, heavens above, a PC to a Mac. You could understand this a little if it was easy to move from a phone by the same manufacturer to another in their range, but that isn't easy either. So I left behind, on my Treo 750v, all of my texts, my email account settings, my speed dials, my pictures assigned to contacts (the few that I'd bothered with) and a pile of other things. Some of the things that I used to have I just can't set up on the new Samsung phone but at least it rings, its battery lasts more than a day, it syncs every time and I've only had to reboot on a couple of special occasions. More on the problems it does have another time.


  1. Tsk, isn't this par for the early adopter's course? What did you expect? Your other option is to re-pitch onto Late Majority territory, and enjoy the absence of all that other hassle.

    Do the benefits of having an extra dinkle on your dongle outweigh continuity of service? Plenty of tech design just works til you put it out of its misery. Art is finding it.

  2. how much is a dinkle on my dongle worth indeed? excellent question. it's come to be that i'm wedded to a couple of features in phones - a battery that lasts more than a day *and* threaded text. i could go back to a nokia 6310 etc which certainly had the battery life (funnily enough, the best battery life I see on a complex device today is on the blackberry 8800), but threaded text is the thing that drags me back to newer phones. as to early adopting, i've got another post brewing on that so tell me what you think when you've read that in a day or so.