The Updating Game - Barry Hill

Anyone who knows me knows that I love technology.  It enhances my life and levels the playing field.  I think that every blind person should have a smart phone and some sort of computer or tablet (Send donations to me and I’ll sort them out for at least one blind person).  I wouldn’t be able to write this without my tech and I would be lost without my iPhone.  That’s lost as in the desperate loss you would feel after putting the rent money on black and it coming up red when I’m too far from the house before I discover that I haven’t got my phone with me.  At that point, I do consider a deal with the devil to give up my left testicle (the bigger one) for my iPhone to be in my pocket right now.  It’s also lost as in trying to get to that quaint village with the lovely tea rooms and finding yourself in that one with the banjos and squealing pigs (reference to a nasty film from the 80s).  Yup, I need to use my iPhone to find where I am from time-to-time. I can get lost in the town centre that I have known for several decades because I’ve switched off: “Hmmm…. Did I turn left back there or not?”  


I sometimes reflect on the almost magic properties technology has achieved.  I’ve got a gadget the size of a chocolate bar that makes Star Treck’s communicators look like something built by Alexander Graham-Bell.  Ok, it can’t beam me up or, sadly, order photon beams be shot at people who piss me off, but its shit loads better than Kirk’s silly little communicator.  And the best thing about it?  It can talk!


More and more gadgets can talk.  Some come with built in speech, like Apple and Android devices, but others need speech software installing.  I equate it to the exchange student your kid has lumbered you with for three weeks in the summer.  Ok, you got rid of yours for three weeks last summer, and now it’s pay-back time.  You really shouldn’t have let little Tristen choose the country, especially after they had been looking at the art and culture of Napal recently.  How is your Napalese?


Back to my simile.  When little Udgam lands on your doormat with a smattering of English that makes Tarzan seem eloquent, you need to input some useful language.  Actually, it’s nothing like teaching Udgam English now I think about it.  For one, you wouldn’t teach your computer to swear.  Plus, a long and laborious teaching job is not necessary – you just download the software.


There is excellent speech software for the computer called NVDA, but I was originally trained on the most expensive one and I’ve been using it for umpteen years, so I’m very used to it.  I just can’t be arsed to learn how to use new software.  


Now we’re getting to the nub (is that a real word?) of this moan.  It’s not just that I don’t want to learn new software; I don’t like having no option but to learn it.  I was happy with Windows XP and Office 2003, very happy.  Then Microsoft brought out Windows 7 and Office 2010, abandoning XP to those nice Russian hackers who really want to know what drivel I have on my computer.  I fight the upgrade pull for as long as I can, which would usually be about three minutes (I’m a bloke after all), but not with Windows.  My rule of thumb is to wait at least a year after the release of the new version and ignore the versions in-between.  Look at the evidence.  Windows 95 was pretty rough, 98 was relatively pretty good; Windows ME was pants, XP was excellent; Windows Vista was just not ready for release, Windows 7 is what Vista promised to be and pretty good once you get used to the damned ribbons; Windows 8 needed a major update to 8.2 and I still wouldn’t swap 7 for it, and Windows 10 is ok if you don’t mind Windows being a nanny.


It’s not just the cost; it’s the fact that I’ve got to re-learn a new way of doing almost everything on my computer.  I had Windows 7 and Office 2010 for over two years and have had Windows 10 and Office 2016 for about three years, and I still don’t understand the damned ribbon.  When I want to do something that involves the ribbon, I fumble around with the arrow and tab keys until I stumble upon the thing I want.  When I try to repeat the same thing using the same moves, the thing I want is not there.  I suspect that it’s being clever and moved the thing I wanted to the top of some list, but it might as well stick it up its virtual arse.


Ok, I’ll begrudgingly admit that Windows has improved since 95, but does it have to be such drastic updates every version?  I mean, your wife won’t nip out to get her hair done and come back home with a total body update that you’d have to fumble around with to get to know how it works.  Your husband wouldn’t nip out to get the Fiat 500 serviced and come back with a Range Rover.  Hmmm… I was trying to think of some metaphor to suit both men and women, but I seem to have just catered for the men.  Ho-hum.  


This update lark isn’t as bad on Apple.  Yeah, they do a major upgrade to the operating system on my iPhone every year, but it’s still incremental changes rather than the WTF that Windows seem to go for with their major upgrades.  However, the one thing that Apple is a pain in the arse with is iTunes.  I’ll just be almost, but not quite, figuring out how to transfer music from my computer to my iPhone when they announce an update.  Falling for the ‘It might be easier to transfer music with the new version’, I update asap only to find that, rather than making it easier with a simple menu command saying something like ‘Transfer music’, the process is still equally difficult to figure out but slightly different - Fiendish.  I’m sure they’ve got some bitter and twisted arch-villain working for them who has a major issue with blind people.  “Yeah, you can have an almost totally accessible phone out of the box, but we’ll get you with the software, Mr Bond.”  It would be nice if they left iTunes long enough for someone to learn, write and post instructions on the net as to how to transfer music, but they seem to offer a new version more than Percil did in the 80’s, which was every other week if you believe the adverts.  Those clever visually impaired techy nerds just don’t see the point in writing something that will be out of date before they’ve finished checking their social media.


I did it once.  I managed to transfer a load of songs onto my iPhone.  You know the process – It was more by accident than design.  Once I stopped patting myself on the back, could I figure out how I did it?  Yeah, right.  When I’ve been so frustrated that I resort to chance and hit enter on random buttons and links, copying and pasting into every edit field, there’s no way I could replicate the process even under torture.  Another form of torture that is.  I’ve been listening to the same music on my phone ever since.  They used to be my favourite songs, but I got a bit bored of them back in 2014.  Now I don’t listen to music on my iPhone.


Click on the image to view the larger version.