Navigating todays world requires more fortitude than traipsing through the Amazon jungle. Society has created a monster and I am, personally, very glad that I don’t have to deal with business and technology on a day-to-day basis any more. Don’t get me wrong it still does affect me from time to time and I manage to hack my way through all the treacherous pitfalls. I’m learning a LOT of skills that my ancestors never did imagine.
My mother always told me “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”. That would be so easy. Actually I feel morally obligated to raise a flag and leave breadcrumbs for others who follow. I may not have solutions but I can, at least, let you know that you’re not alone – not by a long shot. Troubling times face us on many fronts. Let’s just start with some immediate obvious issues in business and technology communications.
Where have all the people gone?
There’s that AI robot that answers the phone when you call nearly every company you need to talk with. It directs us through a dozen or so menus and we hope that we can choose the right one because if we don’t we’re liable to be on the phone for a very long time… Then there’s the AI robot that asks us to give information although it often does not understand English at all. No kidding. I’ve repeated answers so many times I begin to think I never learned to speak English. The conversation goes something like this:
AI: “Do you want to talk with someone in Sales?”
AI: “I didn’t understand…Do you want to talk with someone in Sales?”
AI: “Let’s try one more time…Do you want to talk with someone in Sales?”
By this time I don’t want to talk with anyone because I’m so mad. I can’t believe I’m actually talking to an ignorant machine! It’s easier to just hang up.
But that’s just the beginning. Maybe you finally to a real person. Let’s say you need technical supportor a product you’ve purchased. That’s fairly common when your computer, printer or other equipment misbehaves, right? Will they be able or willing to help you? Maybe….maybe not.
I’ve actually called the manufacturer/seller of my HP printer recently when it stopped working after I moved to a new location and internet provider.
The first hurdle that led to a 4-month long journey through the inner workings of technology…
I gave the HP techs all the diagnostics and history. I was directed to the company’s handy-dandy “printer doctor” which the techs didn’t know how to make work. And, I was told my printer “isn’t made to work wireless”. Now, I’m not the brightest but I do know I’ve been using this printer wireless since I bought it 5-6 years ago. It worked 3 days ago and I do see that it has all the wireless settings, a blinking wireless light and responds appropriately otherwise…Well, now I was able to get it working 2-3 times in the period of 3.5 months so I know it does work even if it isn’t stable.Well, now I was able to get it working 2-3 times in the period of 3.5 months so I know it does work even if it isn’t stable. I actually was able to make this printer work 2-3 times in the months ahead even if it wasn’t stable.
Second hurdle…the printer is old (5-6 years) and out of warranty. HP techs simply wouldn’t be bothered. After all – if I accept what they say I can just throw this perfectly good printer and $500 of toner in the trash … “you can get a new printer for $60″…well that’s a stretch. I checked at the local Best Buy and found a comparable machine would cost $325. And I am absolutely against throwing a perfectly good piece of equipment into the landfills. I’m concerned about the environment and my pocketbook – and am not buying it.
I worked at this problem for 3.5 months….talked with countless computer/wireless technicians…and got myself an advanced degree level understanding of networking in the process… Now I’m a bit of an old codger at this point and certainly am not willing to take the advice of 2-3 technicians who insisted that I should just toss the printer and toner – all very serviceable – into the local trash and buy a new one. Ultimately, after months of arguing with techs at several different companies, I found an obvious solution. I Today I have that printer fully functional, effortlessly whipping out documents and graphics just like new. And I got an education equivalent to a Masters degree in technology.
Things happen….and with persistence we can muddle through to a solution even when all the “experts” out there say it can’t be done.
Prepare for disaster. Save-Backup is not enough.
But let’s get to another pressing issue that is getting us deeply in trouble and we need to start thinking carefully about our escape options. It comes down to all the valuable information (they call it data) we’re working so diligently to create. Do you do geneology and save essential family history? What about those hundereds of photos you have of vacations or family events? Or maybe you save secret family recipes or take notes on the music or art techniques you’re learning? Or the reproductions of the fine art you’re creating now? It makes sense to use your trusty Microsoft or Office Notes or your favorite Graphics program.
Terrific! Now I ask you…what will you do when your software company becomes obsolete or the manufacturer stops supporting the programs you’re using now? Will you be able to find a way to even see these valuable documents in the future? Maybe ask people who started working in WordStar or other obsolete software what they are doing.
Of course, saving and backing up documents is absolutely critical but if you, for any reason, don’t have access to the software you used for years creating these records, that just isn’t enough!!
I’m not even thinking just about our children not being able to read our precious files. In my own lifetime..recent years… here is what I found. I was working on Microsoft’s Office OneNote, a very handy tool for keeping and organizing quick notes I need to review frequently. Love it, love it. Well Microsoft introduced a new OneNote. Lots more bells and whistles for sure…but guess what. It didn’t read the original Office version to begin with. Fortunately that was resolve.
As a writer I adjere to principles of copyright and and proprietary ownership but really…what are we to do when the tools we use become obsolete because a company has a yen for changing things up?
At Bare Minimum Save EVERY Installation Disk
This may not be enough. Especially when your computer dies or is upgraded to the point where it will not read your original CDs. But, you can’t afford to side step this hard-learned lesson.
Let’s say, for example…you do your own taxes on TurboTax or other software each year? You save the information religiously from year to year and even back it up. And all appears to go well. But one day you may discover you’re missing one year’s PDF of your 1040 tax return….Maybe you’re being audited. No problem, just fire up the computer, go to the tax folder and open the file. After all you’ve been purchasing new CDs every year. But….problem is, you assumed that each year is backward compatible….Ummm…. I do hope you’ve saved all those years of Software CDs or (at minimum) kept all those years of tax prep programs installed on your computer (did you say your computer is bloated?) If for any reason you moved and discarded old installation CDs or your computer crashed or you updated Windows and don’t have all that any more, you’re in a peck of trouble. Without the specific year’s software, even TuboTax will not be able to help you according to the company tech I talked with.
Tip of the Ice Berg
These are just the beginning of the challenges we’re facing ahead. I don’t have all the answers or even a clear view of the future. My point is that none of us can afford to keep plunging ahead complacenty thinking that all’s right with our current situation. We have a ton of work ahead if we hope to make sense of our efforts today.