Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nobody Knows Anything

As our technology advances, it seems to me that it becomes increasingly difficult for the experts who are supposed to service the technology to actually fix anything. Take, as a case in point, my cell phone. I am a T-Mobile customer, and the reason I am a T-Mobile customer is a feature called "WiFi Calling." This feature allows my phone to connect to the T-Mobile network through my home Internet connection so that I can make calls using my cell phone at home, where I otherwise have no cell signal.

It's wonderful feature. Except that it stops working every now and then. For days. And so I go online to chat with a T-Mobile technician, who solves the issue, for about a week, after which it reappears, The problem, as far as I can tell, is that nobody actually knows what the problem is.

I'm not the only customer who's had this problem; I've seen it posted many times on the T-Mobile support forum. I've seen all sorts of suggestions from other customers on how to solve the problem—none of which have worked for me—but no response from anyone at T-Mobile.

This isn't only a T-Mobile problem. I've had similar experiences with tech support for computers, as well. Solutions for PC problems range from "restart your computer" to "reinstall your operating system." Sure, it's a colossal pain in the nether regions, and sure it doesn't actually work. But it seems to be the only solution the techs can come up with.

I think it's because our technology has gotten, not just complicated, but overly interdependent. In my early days of software, programs had lots of bugs, but they tended to be consistent because there weren't a lot of other programs using a lot of other resources and corrupting a lot of other files. Even with detailed knowledge of every application installed on your phone, it would take a tech with outstanding skills to troubleshoot that many interconnections.

Is there hope for straightening this mess out? I don't have a clue. It would take a change in attitude about how computers operate, a move away from complexity and operating systems consisting of thousands of files, libraries, drivers, and other dependencies, toward something much cleaner and simpler.

I don't see it happening anytime soon.