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San Jose Mercury News Mike Cassidy column
[January 03, 2013]

San Jose Mercury News Mike Cassidy column

Jan 03, 2013 (San Jose Mercury News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- There is hope for the world and I found it in your letters tucked away in my e-mail among offers for post-holiday savings and public relations pitches.

You care. When I wrote last week about plunging my family into digital darkness with my grand plan to upgrade our home Wi-Fi service by replacing our 8-year-old router, you could have ignored me. You could have belittled me, mercilessly mocked me, wondered how someone living in Silicon Valley could be so dim when it comes to the technological tools that have become life's necessities.

Instead you offered suggestions and warm words of support. You shared your own tales of upgrades gone bad and stood shoulder to shoulder with me in decrying the corporate interests who promise us such convenience and then pull the promise away as soon as we lay down our cash.

Some of you suggested specific products or services that might ease my pain. I'd love to recommend them, but as you might have gathered, I'm not necessarily the best judge of the best way to improve Wi-Fi connectivity. Ram Malasani, CEO of Securifi, a Taiwan-based company, even offered to send me his company's new touch-screen router, which is banking on ease-of-use as a selling point. But then he had a realization: "I have a feeling that you would not be interested in looking at routers for another eight years." A reader named MacRat offered to come over to my house to work on our network. No, he wouldn't be the first rat to visit, but somehow a house call seemed too much to ask, no matter how kind the offer.

And kindness is the key. It's helped immensely in my recovery from technological tragedy. A quick recap: When I decided to replace our old Apple (AAPL) router with a new and improved Apple router, it didn't go well. As soon as I plugged in the new AirPort Extreme, our aged AT&T-supplied DSL modem croaked. When I replaced the DSL modem, the Apple Wi-Fi device we use to stream music from our desktop, laptops and mobile devices to our stereo speakers croaked. And even after I replaced that, we could no longer use the wireless feature on our Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) printer.

The ugly statistics: $350 spent; three new pieces of hardware purchased; two trips to the Apple store (including a Genius Bar session); 80 hours without Internet service; zero printers working the way they should.

"I enjoyed your column, 'Replacing Apple AirPort brings winter's darkest days,' as a reminder to me of how it is for folks who are not techno-nerds," writes John Notor, who is a techno-nerd, specifically president and chief technologist at valley tech consultancy Notor Research.

Yes, he had his own story of a yearlong volunteer project to upgrade his church's Wi-Fi. It was a year of frustration in part because technology does not gallop ahead at an even pace. Old digital infrastructure can be a weak link to new digital upgrades along our technology chains.

Even accomplished technologists can be left screaming or blubbering at the futility of it all. Your emails to me said "You are not alone." And maybe that's the point. Should making our tech lives better really be so hard Shouldn't the big tech companies that have developed some of the most brilliant devices, software, networks and business plans known to man and woman be able to provide products that work without driving consumers insane In fact, taken together your letters left me thinking that when it comes to technology, making things worse by trying to make things better was practically universal.

"As I'm typing this note, I'm glancing over at the still-in-the-box D-Link N300 router I picked up last week and coming to realize I'd almost prefer to perform open heart surgery on my border collie than try to hook up a new piece of hardware," wrote Bob Diddlebock, of Denver. Diddlebock was sure the process would involve calls to his Internet service provider and tech support fees. It's the sort of thing that used to make him mad, he says, but now he takes a deep breath and takes the most expedient route he can think of. Such as "My salvation could well be in the hands of the 13-year-old geek who lives down the hall in my apartment building." Or how about this for perspective Carol Voss and her family in Prunedale "were cruising along in iCloud heaven." Their iPhone and iPad and Dell laptop were "all speaking in chorus and exchanging information magically." You know what's coming, right With technology, it's always brightest before the impenetrable darkness. Voss upgraded her operating system. Disaster. After three hours on the phone with Apple support, she writes, the Apple person suggested she make an appointment at the Genius Bar. Not just an appointment; a double appointment.

After reading Voss' story, I do feel a little sheepish. I mean, I thought I had problems. Now I figure that you don't really have problems unless you have double-Genius-Bar-appointment problems.

Which isn't to say that I don't appreciate your support. In fact, thanks for listening and for pulling me back from the brink.

Contact Mike Cassidy at or 408-920-5536. Follow him at

___ (c)2013 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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