The antenna glitches with Apple’s otherwise excellent new iPhone reminds me of one of the most basic rules of technology for consumers: Don’t be a pioneer.
In other words, wait awhile before buying a radically new program or device. Don’t stand in line to be the first to buy a program or device after a major revision. Let others pay for the privilege of finding the inevitable bugs that are sure to appear – and that eventually will be fixed. Avoid the pain by waiting a few months before buying.
That’s just one of the basic rules of consumer electronics. Let’s run through some others:
Rule 2: If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.
If a new memory chip doesn’t seem to fit correctly, you’re probably doing something wrong. Or if you’re assembling some new device, and it feels like you need a sledgehammer to get the thing together – well, you need to read the directions. If you persist, you’re likely to break something.
Rule 3: If it works, don’t fix it.
Perhaps you’ve stumbled across a website that explains how to get four more milliseconds of speed out of your computer. So you slavishly follow the instructions and – more often than is convenient – you turn a perfectly fine computer into a large and over-expensive paperweight. Humans are tinkerers by nature, but avoid the instinct when it comes to high-tech devices.
Rule 4: When something needs fixing, the first step is to determine what’s wrong.
It’s easy to see how that happens. You’re happily computing away when a glitch pops up. So you start changing settings in a frenzy. All that blind tinkering can create a second and a third problem. You can end up with such a mess – multiple problems and symptoms – that only a professional repairman can get things right again.
Do this when a new problem crops up: Turn off the computer and walk away for a bit. Then turn it back on. If the problem does not reappear, leave well enough alone. Many glitches are one-time hiccups.
If the problem returns, make a mental list of any recent changes you’ve made to the machine – adding or updating programs or devices. Undoing that change might fix things.
Rule 5: Not every problem needs a high-tech solution.
I often hang out with engineers and scientists. Yet many times I’ve seen them work a problem using a pen to write on a cocktail napkin instead of typing with their thumbs on a palm-sized computer. If the low-tech solution is faster and more efficient, use it.
Rule 6: Garbage in, garbage out.
The fastest processor and most sophisticated software will produce crummy results if the information you gather and enter is flawed. Technology cannot substitute for good work skills and knowledge. A $2,000 computer and $600 word processing program will not fix things if I write in a clumsy way. A faster chip won’t turn bad information into good.
These rules – even for those who can’t tell a hard disk from a slipped disc – will take much of the pain and expense out of coping with technology.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.