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I can figure out how to do most things, no matter how complicated, if I put my mind to them. There's no shortage of challenges. There's my home computer, and my work computer, my cell phone, various entertainment electronics, a minivan bristling with options, kid toys, and so on. I spend half of my day figuring out why my technology isn't acting the way I think it should.

And then there is the complexity of general living, including my various business ventures, and lately the overwhelming complexity of building a house. My desk is normally a blizzard of paperwork ranging from taxes, to contracts, to payroll, and health insurance issues. It's all under control, mostly.

This brings me to my Bluetooth headset for my cell phone. I bought one that is allegedly a good brand. The interface involves pushing the body of the earpiece in just the right place, without the benefit of a visible button or one that you can feel with your finger. Where you press, and when you press, depends on the context. Is a call incoming, or are you making one, or hanging up, or turning it on, or what? And sometimes you are required to hold a button for a longer period of time to get a different result than you would get by briefly pressing it.

And so it sits on my nightstand, mocking me. The user manual has long been sacrificed to the random clutter of some junk drawer or other, never again to be seen. I have tried using the device a few times, but I find the interface impenetrable. Sure, I could hunt down the manual, and spend an afternoon memorizing the sequence of events, having people call me just to practice. But I don't memorize well. I can remember a new concept forever, but I don't remember my home phone number because I don't call it. This thing has been sanitized of all concepts. It wins.

Likewise, I have never been able to back up the data on my computer. Ever. In concept, it's pretty simple. You buy the backup media, fire up the backup software, set some options, and off it goes. Over the years I have tried perhaps 20 different backup media, and half a dozen backup software solutions. So far, none have worked. It's always a different reason. Sometimes my backup disk is empty but it acts as if it is full. Sometimes the software appears to be properly scheduled but just refuses to run. Sometimes it runs but only backs up a tiny file or two and then quits.

Again, I could figure out how to solve this backup issue. It is well within my capability. But instead I will just copy the most important of my files manually to another disk and call it good, as I have for the past 20 years. And I will simply not answer my phone if it rings while I am driving. I just don't have time to fix these problems.

You might have noticed that I publish entire links in this blog instead of embedding them in a highlighted word that you can click. That's because sometimes the software lets me do it the right way and sometimes not, for reasons I could figure out if I spent a day or two trying.

I worry that the list of things I don't have time to figure out is growing. Is there some sort of saturation point where I just say screw it and go live in the woods?

(P.S. I tried to review this post before publishing it but today the blogging software only shows me advertising instead of a preview. I could spend today figuring out why, or I could just publish without previewing it. Guess which one I did.)
 
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Jun 25, 2009
My entire life was described in this blog post. :)
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
I hope you dont reach your saturation point, since I imagine living in the woods fits into the category of "Things You Can't Do."
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
I think we all run triage on the technology in our lives. I gave up on my bluetooth headset as well. I know what the problem is. I'm not motivated to fix it because I really don't like talking on the phone. I find it far more convenient to be out of touch while driving.

The electronic hose control? Absolutely on top of that one. My husband has 10 separate garden areas - most of which have soaker houses that need to be switched on and off in sequence. He does most of the watering, but when he's out of town it's my job. I set that puppy up in a weekend.
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
Have solar for water and power and thinking I am smart set the new dishwasher to delay running until the sun is high in the sky. Great, but forgot after setting up the delay hours as a final step to push the Start button to activate the process. Came home to a stinky dishwasher. Not the end of the earth but it seems that there is always a step missing that fouls up the whole thing. My old VCR still flashes 12 12 12 12 Just taped an old business card over it. Miss my 8 track tape player in my old car.........
 
 
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Jun 25, 2009
I think I have the same bluetooth device. It makes me want to fly to India and kick some developer in the nuts.
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
Like several posters above i am a programmer, I can build a database in my head but I can't program any device I own. My sprinkler system, thermostat etc are all fully programmable but all run manually as I can't figure it out!
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
I second a few of the comments. I thought you worked on a Mac. If so just use Time Machine and plug in a USB harddrive, OS X will take care of the rest. If you use a laptop and move your machine around more often there's the Time Capsule which is a wireless-n router with the harddrive built in. Time Machine will backup your data wirelessly as you wonder through your office/home without any interaction from you.

If you use a PC: First off i'd like to say I'm sorry. Try Mozy (mozy.com). I've heard great things about it.
 
 
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Jun 25, 2009
Most devices these days don't work out of the box. For just about every component I've ever installed on my PC, to my various PDAs, I've always needed to google a fix for some problem that just about everybody else runs into. The 10 page manual that accompanies most of these devices is detailed only enough to warn you about submersing said device in water, or what procedures to take if it should be swallowed. If you're lucky, it will tell you the button to push to turn it on.
 
 
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Jun 25, 2009
Scott,

You didn't mention the brand of Bluetooth you purchased, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess you bought a Jawbone. You are correct that it takes a little longer to learn how to use it than other Bluetooth headsets, but you will love it once you figure it out. It will be like the touchpad on a laptop, at first you hate it because it's not a mouse, then you learn to love it more because it's not a mouse.
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
Because I can post suggestions with impunity...

Re: backup.. if you don't have a mac and Time Machine (I heard its automagic backup stuff is quite good), then get pogoplug.com. It's the idiot-proof way to connect an external hard-drive to your home's network. Then do your copy/paste backup to that drive wtihout being forced to connect and disconnect a hard drive.

Re: bluetooth -- doesn't your fancy car have bluetooth built-in? If it doesn't and you only concern is talking and driving, you could buy a car stereo or a GPS with built in bluetooth. It works when your phone is in your car, and it doesn't work when your phone isn't in your car. No headset crazyness.
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
Well Scott, I'm impressed by the fact that you are aware of the things you're unable to do. In my case I can spend months maybe years not realizing I've been doing copy paste in windows the stupid way because years ago there was a problem with my keyboard that i didn't fix.

Acknowledging the problem is half the solution, that's what I always say !
 
 
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Jun 25, 2009
Scott, I feel your pain. I am a computer programmer, but I was forced to have my 14 year old son get my bluetooth working. I suggest you offer one of your kids $5 to get the thing sync'd up with your phone and explain how/where to push the buttons. It will take your kid 5 minutes and save you 5 hours. I'm assuming, once your headset is paired up, there is a limited skill set needed to answer calls and hang up. Plus, the added bonus is your kid will have a great time telling his/her friends how much smarter they are than you - it's tech support for life for the low low price of $5
 
 
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Jun 25, 2009
Aardwizz might have pegged it. I can add a bunch of other things that we're supposed to know all about. Knowing about how to do all these things is somehow "empowering."

The other part is that it's not worth learning some of those things if you don't feel like it. At some point someone will come up w/ a technology or gadget that you do get, and just use that. The number of times I was retrained in system maintenance when I worked as an engineer was crazy. That's the upside -- you can always learn the next whateveritis.
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
I wish I could play from my DVR and burn the program to DVD. Don;t have the time to figure it out - that and wife's Twilight or kids Noggin seem to take priority. Oh well, guss I'll just have to spring for the larger memory DVR and just keep going.....

I wish I could repair the LCD screen on our microwave. A power outage/surge cooked it and now all I see are Klingon-like characters.

I wish I had the patience to "mud " (apply plaster, sand, re-apply) and paint. But this issue is really low tech and just a pet peeve of mine.....

 
 
Jun 25, 2009
I have completely given up on technology. Stuff breaks before I even figure out how to use it. Everything in my house is broken (except the dog that we have been trying to house-break for years). I have a whole stack of stereo gear that does not play. I don't even bother to throw it out any more. I would have to find some knick-knacks to fill up those shelves. Someone could break in and take a whole pile of stuff and they would be doing me a favor.

I don't have the time to learn how to fix everything and I don't have the time and money to take it to someone else. And they don't understand it enough to fix it either. I just brought my wife's car back from the 85th attempt to fix the air conditioner (under warranty) It never really worked right and it still doesn't.

And it seems like the newer stuff is always worse junk than what you had before. The more features it has, the harder it is to use. I have almost had a wreck trying to figure out how to adjust something on my car stereo (remember knobs? - you just turned them - no trying to read menu items off of a 3/4" screen!).
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
I've got a roommate that actually adjusts the power level on the microwave depending on what he's cooking. I just put food in for arbitrary lengths of time on the default (high) power setting.
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
If it makes you feel better, my bluetooth is sitting on my dresser and has been for a long time. I work in tech support so I don't mind to understand technology.

Please don't go all Unibomber on us. We really enjoy your comics.
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
not to be mean but unreliable backups are predominately a windoze problem - timecapsule works incredibly well for macs and tar for linux. heck, you can even use a linux boot cd to make reliable backup your windoze box (dd if=/dev/sda | gzip -c | ssh $BACKUPNAS "cat > /$SOMEPATH/backup.`date %Y.%m.%d`.gz")
 
 
Jun 25, 2009
Well, for that backup problem, what I did in my home computer was buy a second hard drive for my PC, and then once in a while, I'll copy all of the files that I think I'll need to it. That way, if one hard drive dies, I still have my data.

As for the bluetooth problem, you could always find the manual for your bluetooth device online, that would save you from having to find yours. I evenutally learned to use mine through trial an error, which is not easy since it only has one button. I know that if I hold the button on till it turns blue, that means it is on, and if I do the same till it turns red, that means it's off. When a call comes in or to make a call, I push the button until I hear a beep, and that picks up the phone, to hang up, I simply tap the button. For all I care, this earpiece could know how to make waffles on sunday morning, but I'll never find out.
 
 
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Jun 25, 2009
Hey Scott, try this one. My backup-solution, never had problems with it: http://allwaysync.com
 
 
 
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