Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Oh well…

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I may be known as a Mac OS 9 apologist. When I used it, it worked just fine for me. Even with gazillions of system extensions. I had very few crashes and the benefit of superficially understanding what caused problems and what all the (hundreds, rather than ten-thousands) of files in the system did.

But when using it again this afternoon to copy files from one of my family’s old computers before it is disbanded (any takers?) it was hell. Networking isn’t too good on those systems. Non-instantaneous changes of the network-setup – always some clicks before seeing the results (just like in OS X if I’m honest, but it still feels worse). And a rather slow and unreliable AFP server for serving those files up. It didn’t seem slow back then, but it does when you want to copy thousands of files and hundreds of megabytes today. I guess my expectations just grew.

Actually it seems that the ‘unreliable’ above with which I referred to random disconnects can be traced to a bug in OS X.4.9 AFP server. Apple have this to say on the problem. Apparently some parametres are wrong which prevent ‘large’ files from being copied successfully.

I did eventually manage to copy what seemed like the most relevant data on the drives. But it felt like a pain throughout. A healthy good-bye to those machines (PowerMac 8200, PowerMac 7300), I say.

But OS 9’s networking skills seem genius when compared to portable phones. My parents’ house has been a traditional stronghold of ‘modern’ phone technology. In the eighties we the capability to have six phones in the house. At the cost of a small phone exchange which required perhaps 0,2 m3 of space crammed full with relais at the time. In the nineties we then moved to a more modern device with twice the capabilities at a mere 2 litre volume. And then we moved to somewhat stronger capabilities after switching to ISDN at about the same volume of electronics. Just that despite being more sophisticated and offering more options things stopped working really well at that stage and there have always been problems since.

More years passed and my parents mostly switched to wireless handsets. As a consequence we now have an illustrous combination of digital and analogue handsets by different manufacturers connected through an in-house phone-exchange that can handle all the hassles of DSL, ISDN, DECT, analogue lines and possibly other acronyms. The only problem being that the DECT connected handsets stopped working at some stage. And now – I who moved out years ago and missed all that technical ‘progress’ – was supposed to sort it out again. It was — — — kind of a bummer.

Starting to look into this was really bad. Not only did the telephone exchange turn out to be a really strange device with loads of ports, an extension card for the DECT support, two seemingly identical power supplies, a Java-based configuration software with a hang of crashing Safari, the option of which for setting up new DECT phones doesn’t work according to their support hotline. But also those friggin’ phones completely lack a decent user interface.

While even presumably simple devices like wireless phones for the home have grown sufficiently complex by today to have many hard-to-understand menus, those very same phone lack any actual user interface. When, for example, trying to connect a phone to the base station that is presumably provided by the exchange’s DECT card, none of the three phones I tried managed to connect. However, as none of them bothered to give an actual error message but just stopped displaying some string like <searching> in the display, it was at no stage clear to me what in the process did go wrong. Did I enter a wrong password? Souldn’t it ‘see’ the base station a mere metre away from it? I will never know.

In the end I started suspecting that the DECT card might just be broken (no actual proof of that though) and decided to connect all of the three wireless phones to the one base station which is connected to the in-house exchange via a wire. That kind of works, although it implies all sorts of non-intuititve numbering schemes for the in-house phones.

In short – all this sucks pretty badly and it seems worse than connecting to wireless networks. Even worse than connecting to wireless networks on Windows. And that’s mostly because of what can be classified as a complete lack of user interface. Those phones just don’t give any error messages and neither any feedback on what they are doing in non-trivial situations. Bah!

April 7, 2007, 2:41

Tagged as software.

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