This past Christmas, both our family and my mom and stepdad picked up TVs on sale. In addition to that, Mom recently got a new iPhone.
All should be well, right? Especially since we were replacing a cathode ray tube TV that took three of us to lift into the box of the pickup.
That’s because the latest technology is becoming less usable by the day.
For instance, every time Mom uses the internet on her older MacBook or on her iPhone, she gets this message:
“Your Apple ID is being used to sign in to a device near Fredericton, NB.”
Why is that? Because her rural internet is done through Xplornet. I finally convinced her to get hooked up, but I can see this is not without issues.
That’s because Apple found religion when it came to making sure it is really you installing stuff. Ever since a tech journalist got his account hacked a few years ago, Apple and other tech companies have insisted on “two factor authentication.” In other words, if you are making a change on your Apple laptop, Apple detects this and sends a message to your iPhone asking if it’s really you. And it will often send something like a six digit code you then have to input on the laptop before you can actually do anything.
Sure, this may improve security, but it makes doing anything like running a 100-metre dash with your shoelaces tied to each other.
In this case, if your identity is apparently being used in two different places, across the country from each other, as Xplornet must have its servers in New Brunswick. Since that’s not near Yorkton, Apple always treats it as suspicious.
And then there’s Apple’s questioning of your devices’ faithfulness. Every five seconds, or at least as often as you hook up your iPhone to the MacBook (or PC, for that matter), it asks, “Trust this computer? Trust/Don’t Trust.”
Meanwhile, iTunes asks, “To allow access, please respond on your iPhone.”
For the love of all that’s in Silicon Valley, how many times do I have to tell the damned phone to trust the computer, especially when they are both logged into the same identity?
Then it asks for the six-digit passcode, again. Put it down, it asks for it. Breathe the other direction, it asks for it. But at least Mom hasn’t enabled facial recognition, which means the camera is always looking around, supposedly just for your face. I’m sure it doesn’t notice anything else around.
All of this, and her iPhone still won’t connect to the MacBook. Why? The phone is new, but the MacBook operating system hasn’t been updated in forever. So now I need to back up the laptop, first, then do all the other things all over again. And I have to do the update over rural internet. But if I do update it, she has to spend $170 to update Microsoft office, even though her current version works just fine for her needs.
And I told mom to get Apple products because they were the easiest to use.
And then there’s the TVs, Mom’s and ours.
I discovered in installing our new Samsung that setting up a TV is no longer just plugging in the cables and turning it on.
The TV wanted to immediately hook up to the internet. Then it said I should download Samsung’s app to my iPhone to do the setup. But once downloaded, the app would not connect with the TV, no matter what I did. So I had to set it up manually.
And once I got the TV turned on, it took several rounds to get it hooked up to the SaskTel Max box, I discovered that this device is essentially a computer masquerading as a TV, with “TV” basically an app. I then had to set up numerous other apps for subscriptions we have – Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Crave. Each had an arduous onscreen keyboard manipulated by the remote. It took forever to get this all to work. And that was with the benefit of a wired internet connection. I’d hate to find out how long it would take with a Wi-Fi connection.
Unfortunately, I would find out at Mom’s in setting up her TV. This was an LG, and it, too, immediately required an internet connection. What happens if you don’t have internet access? A week before, Mom didn’t have Wi-Fi. And in a way, she still didn’t.
That’s because Xplornet decided to install her rural internet modem and router in the car garage. Not the utility room (usual) or kitchen, or anywhere in the house. It was along the front wall between the car and minivan. And as a result, there was no Wi-Fi signal in the far half of the house. That would be the signal they are paying a healthy monthly fee for. When I got home, I called Xplornet and gave them a piece of my mind, insisting they redo the install. Thankfully they showed up the next business day and corrected this egregious error.
The LG was somewhat simpler to setup, in large part because my parents don’t have numerous internet subscription services.
The long and short of it is that I am enough of geek that I can figure this sort of stuff out. But what about mere mortals who don’t live and breathe this sort of thing? It’s not like Mom is technologically illiterate. She’s been using computers since WordPerfect for DOS required you to memorize F-keystrokes. But her supposedly easy tech is so burdensome now due to continual updates and security measures, it’s almost unusable.
This isn’t user-friendly. It’s user-impossible.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org