Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, September 19, 2011

On the perversity of electronic equipment

I probably hold some kind of record for geekyness over the age of 65, but that doesn't stop me from having every kind of electronic problem imaginable. The perversity of electronics is magnified when the devices are coupled with programs. I am struggling to make this post a cautionary tale rather than a rant, but at the moment ranting is winning. Sometimes the issue is something annoying like Apple OS X Lion's propensity to clean up all my desktop icons. I DON'T WANT MY ICONS CLEANED UP.  I want them exactly where I put them. If I wanted them cleaned up, I can do that anytime by simply selecting the arrange icon option, but Lion seems to ignore me. I went online, as usual, and found out that this is a problem with some users but not necessarily one that can be solved.

Using my Canon SLR, while I was taking my last series of 360 degree panoramas, I began to notice a spot on the pictures (in what you might refer to as the upper right hand corner) that seemed to get darker as time went by. So using my geeky abilities, I cleaned the lenses and the sensor according to strict manufacturer directions and specifications. The spot got worse. Because it was a light spot and then a dark spot, I concluded that the spot was a defect on the sensor. Yes, the camera was under warranty. So I spend an hour and half waiting in line at BestBuy to get the camera looked at by their Geeks. Guess what? They don't fix cameras, they send them off to camera land to get fixed. Guess what? BestBuy camera land doesn't fix cameras, they send them off to the manufacturer. Guess what? The manufacturer agrees with me, the sensor is bad. So the manufacturer sends the camera back to the BestBuy fix it chappies, then they send the camera back to the store. How long did this take? Would you believe over two weeks, so far?

By the way, I ought to mention our cable TV system. None of the remotes now work, that is three of them. Why don't they work? Because we have a cable box, a TV, and two DVD players. Why do we have two DVD players? Because they will only work when they are hooked together and will not work separately under any circumstances and I refuse to dump the whole system just because the remotes won't work. There is one benefit, none of my grandchildren can turn on the TV or watch a movie without me to push the right sequence of buttons.

Most of these types of problems would be paralyzing if I hadn't dealt with similar problems for the past thirty years or so. But what do you do if you have a problems with technology you can't resolve personally. Hmm. Do you hire an expert? How do you know the person is an expert? The Geeks at BestBuy knew far less than I did about Canon SLR cameras, but there were people lined up to talk to them. Do you rely on your geeky son or daughter? Or some other relative who "knows all about computers and stuff?" By the way, I know how to fix my TV. I am junking the whole system and watching movies on my 27 inch iMac from now on.

Now a serious note (is it possible?), in the case of most electronics you have to balance the utility, cost and time for the repair against the cost of replacement of the device. In the case of my Canon SLR, I knew the camera could not be repaired. The sensor is the most expensive part of the camera and because of the way they are manufactured, there is no easy way to replace the sensor. True to form, I am informed that the camera has to be replaced with a "similar model." Whatever that is? Is it worth the money to buy the Store extended warranty? For some products it is depending on the price of the product. For something like a cell phone, it is a waste of money. There is no way that the so-called insurance wouldn't cost nearly the price of the original phone. For an expensive TV or camera? Maybe, depending on the type of use. If you are like me carrying your camera all over creation and falling down with the camera and getting sprayed by rain, snow and ice, I think the extended warranty is worth the money. But if you are buying a TV do you really think you will have a problem in the second and third year past the one year manufacturer's warranty? Not likely. What happens to the warranty if they replace the product? Do you have to buy the warranty all over again on the new product?

Oh well, there are a lot of factors involved in maintaining electronic products. Most of my computers have gone obsolete rather than break down. I replace perfectly good computers all the time.


  1. I hear you, James.
    My new laptop has been in the repair shop for three weeks of its five week life.
    I think it's a simple power issue but they have replaced motherboard and are waiting on more parts!

  2. I never (99%) of the time do not buy extended warranties. If the thing goes bad with in the first year it is covered.

    We did buy a warranty on a VW Scirocco we purchased back in the early 80's and when we went to use it the company had gone out of business and that was a waste of money...