All content on this blog from Tim McGhee has moved to the Tim McGhee Substack, and soon, Lord willing, will be found only on that Substack.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Tech lanes

There's a limit to how much complexity a system can handle, especially when going outside one's longtime area of expertise.

Microsoft has long been a software company. It may be software that deals directly with hardware, but it's still primarily been about software.

The Surface line of products is an example of Microsoft venturing beyond software into hardware.

I've had two Surface Go devices now, the original and the Surface Go 2 device. Both of these devices have had hardware problems.

Original Surface Go issues:
• The brightness control was incompatible with the original hardware driver. 
• The touch screen now has defective unresponsive strips.
• The built-in Micro SD card reader had to have the driver removed and reinstalled in order to work.

When upgrading to a new device, I wanted LTE compatibility to be able to keep an unusually good plan from Sprint. I also decided to go with Windows 10 Pro since I've heard directly from Microsoft employees about how Microsoft holds that operating system to a higher standard.

The Surface Go 2 has worked largely without issue until this week. The latest Windows version update brought a slew of problems such as very long start times, conferencing software unable to function, backups not working, etc.

The backup software being able to load, but not do any of its initial work was the first clue. Normally it takes seconds and after running for 11 minutes with no success, I zeroed in on the Micro SD card reader. Sure enough, if I removed the micro SD card, Windows 10 Pro works fine. That's not acceptable.

Only after a few months of having this device did I finally move my files and backups to this machine. And now, to have no backup system because Microsoft can't keep its own software compatible with its own hardware is just not a good place to be.

I tried contacting support, and that's its own adventure in futility. The system already knows my device's serial number, yet the operator asked me again. He hung up on me when I asked why he needed that again. The next operator literally asked me three times in a row if I had checked for all the latest Windows Updates, each time with me answering in the affirmative. Yes, I have, and that's the source of my problems. He put me on hold and hung up on me, too. I'm left on my own.

Microsoft Surface (hardware) is not Microsoft staying in its lane (software), and anyone who follows them outside their lane gets to bear the burden of any mistakes Microsoft makes in this unfamiliar territory.

What's so pitiful about this is the Surface Go 2 is not their first device to have a built-in SD reader, nor problems with it. Perhaps once the level of complexity gets so high, you can no longer check on every previously known issue you've had. Why prevent problems when you can repeat them and their fixes over and over again and drag your users through that miserable process?

Mandatory user interface updates in the name of security updates has dragged software and hardware into an era where there's no such thing as a user purchasing a device, finding it reliable, and being able to have confidence it will remain reliable. If I could opt out, I would.

These things are natural results of living in an imperfect fallen world. As much as technology claims to be able to perfect the world and be perfect, it does not and is not. The world needs a Savior, and it's not Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or any other tech giant. The Savior is Jesus. Do you know him?

I confess, technology frustrations do not bring out the most Christlike reactions from me. I want technology to be perfect and smooth over the world's imperfections. It doesn't, sometimes unnecessarily so. Yes, it's frustrating when things work fine, and then randomly later do not. Does it require adjustments that feel like they should be unnecessary? Yes. Perhaps that's the worst of it. One good thing from this is it's a reminder of hope for a better world to come.

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