Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fragility of Technology

Ah the delicacy of technology. I had hoped for a highly productive day today, but technology had other plans for me.

7am: I woke up, grabbed my iPhone, and checked my LinkedIn message.

It froze.

Attempts to force a restart were unsuccessful.

I "googled" other possible ways to force a restart, at which point the iPhone gave me a dark screen with a faint cycling "wait" symbol.

I found that I could force a factory reset from either the iPhone, (which option was now closed to me) or from iTunes.

So, a pot of coffee now brewing, I downloaded iTunes to install on my new ThinkPad. I recently returned to WinDoze, after a three or four happy years on a Macbook pro. I had given the beautiful Macbook Pro with Retina, still in pristine condition, to my daughter, to use at college.

iTunes failed to download: Network error. No visibility into what this could be, of course. Email was working on the laptop. Everything else seemed normal.

Repeated attempts to download varied. Some came close to successfully downloading it; others failed immediately. I got as close as 10 seconds away from a successful download.

Then I lost internet connectivity. I knew this because my browser told me so. Attempts to "repair" it through the Windows Networking utility were useless failures. I piggyback my internet off a Cable modem, so I checked the Cable TV transmission, and cable modem lights, but found nothing wrong -- no interruption in the Cable portion of the signal transmission. No light indicating signal failure.

I would have tried plugging my laptop directly into an Ethernet cable, to eliminate the Wifi router as a problem, except the new generation of lightweight laptops are not built with that purpose in mind! They are too thin, and expect only to ever be used with wifi. So you physically cannot plug them into an ethernet cable. At least not the one I have. You would need an adapter. I don't have such an adapter, anyway.

No use wasting more time, right? So, I followed the generally accepted approach to troubleshooting any and everything: I rebooted the modem.

Naturally nothing changed, so I opened a console window and forced an ipconfig /renew and an ipconfig /flushdns. Ping confirmed that I now had restored connectivity. So I tried my iTunes download again. Yet another failure to add to the list.

So, I woke up my daughter and borrowed her Mac, to get access to the iTunes. I had already wiped it clean and done a fresh install for her, but I still had an account on it. It did bother me when the message came up that it was "configuring the laptop for Apple Store," since I didn't want it configured for my account, but I was getting desperate. So without looking into the implications, I went ahead and gave it my password, and got in.

8:30am ... I attached my iPhone to the Macbook, and went into iTunes, per the web pages telling me how to factory reset my phone. A pop-up on the Macbook asked if I wanted to allow this computer to access the information on the iPhone. I did of course, so I clicked "continue" Hmmmm ... is "continue" really the right response to this question? Shouldn't it be "allow," versus "deny." Oh well ... Now I got this exact message:
"to allow access, please respond on your iPhone..."

But I'm not able to respond on my iPhone -- it's hosed. So, I have to stop this or ignore it. If I don't stop it, I can't navigate anywhere else on the window in my Macbook. So, I stop it. Now, finally, I am able to navigate where the "googled" page said I should, to File | Devices, where I should be able to force a factory reset. All sub-menu options are grayed out.

8:57am So, I've now wasted two hours attempting to fix my iPhone. I knew when I started that the chances were slim-to-none, because I'm an "experienced technologist."

I know that you, too, gentle reader, have had similar experiences. You know what I'm talking about

I deliberately documented this misadventure  explicitly, and formally, to show the way in which interlocking inter-dependencies operate to hinder productivity. Technology continues layering on new capabilities, features, and options by orders of magnitude. There never seems to be any stress on making the technology more robust. So the fragility of our technology just continues to rise, even as we come to depend on it more and more. It makes for a high degree of frustration.

I Remain,