Infernal Devices

Tylenol bottle with label doctored to read 'Devil Tylenol from Hell' with small image of red Satan holding pitchfork, against flaming background / Contains acetominophen, brimstone / not approved for anything

As faithful readers of this blog know, I’ve adopted Mark Evanier’s practice of using a Campbell’s soup can to symbolize a break in new content.

I don’t always owe a hiatus in posts to lack of time, however, except insofar as technological glitches make blogging more time-intensive than it’s supposed to be. Sure, I’m a bit of a control freak, and I find it harder to write than I used to, but once something’s written the essential selling point of various blogging platforms is ease and simplicity of virtual publishing — Blogger most of all, which is why I chose Blogger, yet Blogger couldn’t be more successful at frustrating me and driving me away if it had tried.

The problems with this platform are only exacerbated due to Comcast having provided a substandard signal to our house, by its own admission. My connection is thus at low power when it isn’t out completely, which can happen all of a sudden, making uploading, downloading, and surfing a gamble. A considerable amount of research led me to a gizmo from Virgin Mobile that uses Sprint’s 3G network to supply Internet access at $100 for the USB stick and either $10 for a very limited amount of data or $40 for unlimited usage over 30 days.

I’d been warned that getting set up could be a hassle, and it was, if not as big a one as I’ve grown accustomed to through my recent dealings with Comcast, Blogger, Netflix, LaCie, and even the vaunted maker of this here MacBook I’m typing on. The broadband service was steady, albeit considerably less powerful than cable Internet is when it’s working properly… for about a week. I’ll caution that the software and/or hardware are incredibly touchy; I quickly got used to the device not being recognized and having to restart my computer, which is particularly aggravating since I’m accustomed to leaving open lots of browser windows — I load content when possible, to read later, as I’m never sure when the Internet connection will be active.

A week in, however, the device wasn’t connecting me at all to anything other than Virgin Mobile’s website, showing me my account and saying that I was indeed connected, leading to more exasperating interactions with customer service — who piled insult upon injury by telling me that I’d been doing all the proper troubleshooting, both intuitively and based on the manual, except for the one approach that ended up working, briefly, while I was on the phone with them, and then got hit-or-miss. When I finally asked for credit towards my 30-day, $40 plan for the days I had no service during this troubleshooting period, the representative didn’t seem to understand why that was warranted, possibly because for most people this plan is supplemental to standard Internet service they get at home, in the office, at hotels, etc.

The Virgin Mobile doohickey failed completely a few days after the original version of this post was written in December. Since then our house has switched from Comcast to Verizon FiOS and its complications have largely been in the area of television and not Internet. My connectivity breakdown was conclusively traced to a faulty part in my laptop following much frustration, Apple taking literal years to make good on rectifying that point going forward with no recompense nor apology for essentially blaming me all that time before finally acknowledging the issue. Blogger is still an object of sadistic beauty that only the Marquis himself could love.

Whether the perpetual failure to publish a post explaining that it’s been difficult to publish posts is ironic or merely emblematic of the problem is a far more legitimate debate than is to be had for most of the examples in that damned Alanis Morissette song. Either way, I’m feeling the pain of the blog laying fallow for stretches while posts built up and, once it became clear that getting them online just was not in the cards, that even more were abandoned unfinished in favor of other demands.

And so for those occasions when it’s technology and not simply vicissitudes of life keeping me from posting, but possibly then as well, I’m thinking I might replace the soup can with the above image of Devil Strength Tylenol from Hell that I whipped up for my friend Naomi. You can think of it as off the stovetop and into the fire.

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