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This Phone Upgrade Will Take You Down

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Rob Spiegel
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A tad too complicated
Rob Spiegel   5/2/2013 8:42:28 AM
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I can understand that phones are more complex than in the past, but this story is ridiculous. A quick visit to the boards shows that O'Dorney is not alone in his frustration. Kinda hard to believe a consumer product whould come with such a difficult challenge.

Elizabeth M
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Re: A tad too complicated
Elizabeth M   5/2/2013 9:07:37 AM
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Seriously, phone updates are supposed to FIX problems, not create more. What a nightmare. You think these companies would have this kind of stuff sorted out by now but from this story, it proves there are still bugs in the system.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: A tad too complicated
Rob Spiegel   5/2/2013 10:01:59 PM
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Yep, and it's a big bug, Elkizabeth. I wonder if part of the prloblem is outsourcing. With a dispersed, decentralized company, you can easily run into situations where the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

Elizabeth M
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Re: A tad too complicated
Elizabeth M   5/6/2013 9:54:07 AM
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Interesting theory, Rob, that could have something to do with it. In this case, the hands might want to get together because this kind of thing certainly isn't good for customer retention.

3drob
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Re: A tad too complicated
3drob   5/2/2013 9:16:42 AM
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Excellent post.  Most would have tossed the phone in frustration.

I have a Motorola Triumph with Virgin Mobile.  Despite the numerous known bugs (I'm sorry, un-documented features), there have never been any updates (several years now).  This has been par for the course for VM over the many phones I've had:  disabled features and never updates.  But, other than some features not working as advertised, my phones have been mostly reliable.

It is the consumer's choice.  Pay less for less, or pay more for perhaps more (or less, depending on the vendor).  I don't pay much for my service with VM (and I get what I pay for).

Perhaps there is a method to VM's madness:  they don't spend much in support of products, and I've never been left with a dead phone after a botched upgrade.

Larry M
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Re: A tad too complicated
Larry M   5/3/2013 9:52:33 AM
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Kies is a disaster. Eventually you can get it working but it's slow and klunky. (It appears to have been written in Java--a programming language Designed By Monkeys.

Eventually I dumped Kies and the Samsung Galaxy version of Android (I had the European version without carrier customization) and replaced it with Cyanogen Mod.

bob from maine
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Re: A tad too complicated
bob from maine   5/3/2013 11:39:15 AM
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"If builders built houses like programmers wrote programs, the first termite would have destroyed civilization." Don't know who to attribute this to but its accuracy can't be denied. Different companies have vastly different validation methods to prove software upgrades. Samsung has tried to minimize 'time to market' while accepting some bugs and they apparently rely on Kies to fix them by making periodic upgrades. In my mind this is the wrong model and based on reputation I will not purchase a Samsung product.

Larry M
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Re: A tad too complicated
Larry M   5/3/2013 12:05:10 PM
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Kies (in its defense) is not just a phone patching program. It's a phone management program. You can use it to back up all the phone's data (phone numbers and addresses, applications, programs, data, pictures, etc.) and you can use it to import/export addresses and appointments from/to your PC.

In spite of its klunkiness, it did work and I used it regularly for a while. The motivator to change was that phone manufacturers (exception is Apple) don't regularly provide updated software. I wanted to take advantage of the latest Android features. To do so I had to load generic Android, overlaying Samsung Android. Kies wouldn't talk to generic Android and that was the end of Kies.

phantasyconcepts
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Silver
Re: A tad too complicated
phantasyconcepts   5/3/2013 4:31:33 PM
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JAVA is designed by monkeys?  JAVA was designed by a SUN Microsystems engineer - and he was not from some third-world country.  Just because the app is poorly written, do not blame the language.  I have seen thousands of VB programs written by so-called 'senior' programmers that make even the worst JAVA program look like the best program ever written.  The same goes for 'engineers' and their FORTRAN programs.  Let's not forget that the programs for the Mars rover were not written in JAVA, but in C, a mature programming language, and were written by people who knew what they were doing.  The specs, however, called out by engineers, were vague and incomplete, resulting in one end of the program using feet and inches and the other end using centimeters and meters.  The result?  NASA wrecked their billion-dollar RC-Car!

 

Full disclosure, I am a programmer.  Well, more than that.  I am a developer.  I have worked with C, C++, Java, ForTran, COBOL, PERL, Python, JavaScript, Microsoft-ese (VB, .Net, etc.), and several UNIX shell scripting languages.  I have designed databases, administered servers, written code, and made everything work in record time.  I have also worked as a mechanic in the Air Force, and I can tell you that some of the hydraulic test stands that we used required me to crawl in through an opening barely wider than my shoulders, sit with my knees beside my ears, and reach behind my back to take off a filter casing in order to change the filter.  I had to have someone hand the new element in from outside the unit, too, because I could not get out and back in with the filter case in my hand.  I always wanted to meet the engineer that designed that piece of garbage and beat him to within an inch of his life - twice.

Larry M
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Re: A tad too complicated
Larry M   5/3/2013 5:20:16 PM
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Yes, Java is inelegant. They started by issuing a new JVM every two months because they couldn't get it right. Every 2000 byte Java program installed its own 2MB JVM because the programmer couldn't figure out how to make his program run under any other version. Many apps (even TurboTax) are still doing this.

Then there was the huge battle over the UI. Should JVMs provide their own widgets or use the ones in the native OS. So we struggled with tiny, blurry, unreadable fonts for years. There are still Java apps I run which are difficult to use or don't respond to the mouse's scroll wheel or don't honor the OS's conventions, e.g., tabbing between menu itemss, opening a dropdown list with alt-down-arrow, or jumping to successive dropdown menu items when their initial letter is repeatedly struck. It's about as confortable as e.g., running a Windows app in a VM in Linux or MacOS.

How about security? The original notion was to have the JVM provide a sandbox, so apps couldn't possibly affect other apps or the OS. How well has that workd for you? They've made Java so ornate and roccoco that they can't catch all of the holes and we seem to get security fixes every quarter. That doesn't seem to be workiing too well, does it?

Since you wished to compare CVs... I have 44 years of industry experience. I've done logic design for a few decades but also shipped code and written plenty of test code and driver-level stuff. My preferred language is assembly but I am also comfortable in C, Fortran, BASIC, VB, REXX, JCL, CMS command language, and have worked in FORTH, Ada, Eiffel, Smalltalk, LOGO, dBase II, VBA, JCL, TSO command language, and others.

I'm not sure why you thought the jet engine test fixture was relevant here, but I might point out that computer hardware bugs are pretty rare. The last major one I remember was the Pentium floating point math bug. I see software bugs every day.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: A tad too complicated
Rob Spiegel   5/6/2013 10:55:20 AM
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It's quite surprising that such a difficult system is so common on a major consumer product. Given the cut-throat competition in the smart phone market, you would think a company at the heart of this competition would offer bullet-proof phone system that was ultra user friendly.

rkinner
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Iron
Re: A tad too complicated
rkinner   5/8/2013 7:09:39 PM
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Guess I'm showing my age but I haven't found a strong enough reason to have a smart phone, no matter the manufacturer or service provider.  This just gives me another reason to stay on the sidelines. 

I have a simple voice phone (what a concept, talking on a phone) and it seems to do what I need.  Yes, I have a separate GPS for driving in unfamilar locales and that does fine without a monthly service fee.  I did get dragged into the 21st Century with a Kindle Fire which serves as a PDA and reader - didn't know if I would have problems converting from a Palm PDA but it sucked up my data and I haven't looked back.

Give me a non-wireless service device using WiFi and I'm happy.  There is not many hotels without that minimum service and I can live without a notice every 5 minutes about my recent e-mails.  I'm an "Old Fogy" and proud of it.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: A tad too complicated
Rob Spiegel   5/9/2013 3:59:35 PM
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I'm an Old Fogy, too, Rkinner. Work provides me with a Blackberry, but I rarely use it -- partly because I'm not aware of all of its functions. However, it's a completely different story with my teenage daughter and my 24-year-old son. A smartphone is a necessity in their view of the world.

Charles Murray
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Re: A tad too complicated
Charles Murray   5/17/2013 6:35:44 PM
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I'm the same, Rob. I've been offered a Blackberry by the company, and have turned it down. Seeing my e-mail on my laptop is enough for me, thank you. I prefer to keep things a little simpler.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: A tad too complicated
Rob Spiegel   6/5/2013 8:38:52 PM
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Yep, Chuck. Mobile phones are great when the car breaks down, or when traffic delays your meeting time. My 17-year-old daughter, however, lives through her Android. 

naperlou
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Waht are you doing??
naperlou   5/2/2013 9:23:06 AM
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Mike, what is interesting in this is the fact that PC to phone sync software has always been problematic.  Whether it was for a semi-smart phone (Motorola KRAZR) or a full smart phone (BlackBerry) there are always glitches and mismatches between the two platforms.  This is, in part, an result of the difference in the platforms.  We tend to think of our phones as hand held computers, but they do not have the same paradigm as a PC.  This makes for interesting situations such as yours.  Crazy stuff!!

apresher
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Phone Upgrade
apresher   5/2/2013 5:29:03 PM
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Stories like this boggle the mind.  It's hard to believe, if an individual with a solid tech background, is going round in circles until the phone suddenly works -- what the average consumer must experience. LOL

Charles Murray
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Re: Phone Upgrade
Charles Murray   5/2/2013 7:33:17 PM
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I agree, Al. It's mind-boggling. Unfortunately, I believe every word of it. Upgrades and software patches, whether for phones or computers, are too often fraught with glitches. Someone in the company gets the bright idea to do these upgrades, but then fails to put the support in place to help the customers when it doesn't work right.  

bdcst
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Re: Phone Upgrade
bdcst   5/3/2013 12:10:58 PM
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Its not just Samsung Kies.  A lot of software running on AT&T's wireless network seems to be clunky and not even beta stable.  For example, I have no cell service at home from any carrier.  So I got AT&T to subsidize the cost of their Cisco microcell device that connects to AT&T servers via any home broadband network.  Installation was not straight forward, took several hours and required a user to log into an AT&T website to consumate the deal.  Much of the time the microcell would not recognize my handset unless I rebooted my cell phone upon arrival home.  And after two weeks of this nonsense the Cisco crashed.  I had to uninstall it on the AT&T website and start afresh to get it back up.  After the third time I gave up and switched to Verizon!  Too many hours spent trying to keep a poorly conceived service up and running.

One of the requirements of these picocells is location verification (E911) and timing based upon a GPS reference.  The AT&T supplied microcell had a built in patch antenna with GPS module.   My home has a metal roof.  Thus GPS reception was a bit tenuous even with the Cisco perched on a windowsill.  That may have contributed to the instability of the AT&T microcell.

With my new Verizon handset (iPhone) in hand and new Samsung microcell I proceeded to set it up.  The Samsung comes with a patch antenna connected to a long coaxial cable such that it can be placed in a location away from the picocell hardware.   I was thus able to get a more secure GPS lock.  But more important, installation did not require the user to log into a Verizon server.  Just placing the cellular handset within ten feet of the picocell and waiting 20 minutes was all that was required.  Simple self registering!  And unlike the AT&T/Cisco unit, my cell phone never fails to connect to it when I drive up to my house.

This speaks volumes about hardware, software and system design, how to do it wrong.

 

TJ McDermott
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Wean yourself from "free" phones
TJ McDermott   5/2/2013 10:55:57 PM
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The USA collectively is hooked on the false premise that your phone is free with a 2-year contract.  Robert Heinlein's TANSTAAFL acronym covers that - nothing is free.

Since your service provider has given you a "free" phone, they want to personalize that AT&T or Virgin Mobile or Verizon Experience - they ALL have the phone manufacturer customize the operating system.

A Samsung Galaxy III in Europe has a completely different OS from that in the USA.

Purchasing a clean phone NOT from a service provider will get you a stock OS.  These are much more likely to successfully upgrade than one from the cell service company.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Wean yourself from "free" phones
Rob Spiegel   5/3/2013 9:20:51 AM
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In the long run, TJ, you're paying quite a premium for a phone that is not from a service company. The cost of the phone is subsidized by the service fees. So if you buy a phone outside a service company you're subsidizing other people's phones without the benefit getting your own "free" phone.

Mydesign
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Samsung updates
Mydesign   5/3/2013 12:26:40 AM
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1 saves
 Mike, I think yours may not be an exceptional case. Am using Samsung Smartphone and regularly getting updates through Kies. Many times, while downloading phone got hanged or interrupted, but so far it works fine.

AnandY
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Gold
Issue with customer support
AnandY   5/3/2013 8:23:08 AM
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Service provided while you are buying any new product is top class. But its not the same when we want to contact customer support to resolve any issue. Our call is being transferred over and over again from person to person, and having to repeat the issue each time. Most of the time it takes too long to resolve the issue.

bob from maine
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Re: Issue with customer support
bob from maine   5/3/2013 11:57:35 AM
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When you call customer support, you get a relatively untrained person - doesn't matter what country they are in - who must follow a 'solution tree' to help you troubleshoot your product (phone, computer, digital watch). They have to start at "We're very sorry you're having this problem", followed by "is it turned on?" and then based on your answers, may or may not find a solution. By the time I call, I have exhausted whatever patience I started with and am not receptive to "please shut-down, remove the battery and reboot". Well, yeah, I'm pretty sure this will solve the problem of an irate customer seeing as it the only phone I have and I'm talking on it! As hand-held devices combine more and more functions, the probability that they will do all of them well diminishes. Can't wait until my bionic knee and defibrillator are all combined with my phone, camera, TV remote and car starter. That should make for some real intersting conversations with my friend "Ralph" with the Indian accent.

Charles Murray
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Re: Issue with customer support
Charles Murray   5/3/2013 6:58:17 PM
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Bob from Maine, you raise a great point about customers calling after their patience has been exhausted. I've been there. And I would not want to be one of those customer support people. Can you imagine what it must be like dealing with frustrated customers who've been on hold for 45 minutes, and doing it all day long?

Jim_E
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How do normal people do this stuff?
Jim_E   5/3/2013 9:23:39 AM
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Like the article authur stated, I frequently wonder how normal people handle stuff like this when it happens.  I mean, we're engineers and super-geeks and still run into crazy problems that we have trouble with.  How does the butcher or the baker deal with problems like this when they happen?

I was recently surprised to listen in on a conversation with my in-laws and their elderly friends, discussing that they often took their computers to a service to have them "cleaned up" when they ran slowly.  It's like having a pet that you need to take to a vet! 

I suppose I take it for granted the amount of technology related items that I handle myself.

 

Larry202br
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Iron
Samsung and kies
Larry202br   5/3/2013 10:18:51 AM
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Samsung and Kies are the reason I now own a Motorola RAZR MAXX. I'll never own another Samsung product.

NadineJ
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Platinum
21st century fix
NadineJ   5/3/2013 12:32:59 PM
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Nice story.  This happens too often today.  I like the way you "trolled" for good!

Thanks for sharing.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: 21st century fix
Cabe Atwell   5/3/2013 3:21:15 PM
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I have a GS II as well. Personally, upgrading the software is a waste of time. Upgrade the hardware!

I think the GS II is a flawed phone to begin with anyway. I am thinking HTC One, you?

C

bobjengr
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Platinum
TELEPHONE UPGRADE
bobjengr   5/3/2013 4:31:49 PM
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I have a good friend who recently returned from a one year tour of duty for his law firm in Bancock. One of his great surprises was excellent telephone service as compared to the United States.  I'm not saying it was flawless just much better.  Apparently dropped calls are basically non-existant and the range of coverage is superior.  "Patches", when necessasry, were easy to download and worked with used.  The problem mentioned in this posting is rediculous. 

William K.
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Platinum
Phone upgrades announced on the phone??
William K.   5/3/2013 11:37:28 PM
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I occasionally get text messages telling me that I need to upgrade my phone software and so far it seems that they all come from some kind of hackers outside the US. So I never update my phone software by doing anything those folks ask me to do. Thus, I avoid a whole lot of grief.

kf2qd
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Platinum
This is getting more typical
kf2qd   5/7/2013 9:47:42 AM
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The problem with more an more computer based products is that the end user is not the considered to be the owner of his device. So called upgrades that cause the device to funtion in a different manner, Upgrades that break other software.

In the past I have have Linux ask if I wanted to upgrade, and then it did a complete compatability scan and told me there wold be a problem because of a certain piece of software I had installed. It also asked if I would allow the update to make the changes required or if I wanted to hold off.

Windows, on the other hand went and performed an update, and then proceded to crash because I was using daemon tools lite. No warnings, just my computer doesn't boot. Fortuately I had Ubuntu installed and I could still boot to Linux and look for a solution...


Or my Android phone - recently performed and upgrade - now the phone diler app is different and very annoyng. WHY???? and the calender lost all my dates... And here I foolishly thought that an udate was supposed to improve something.

And why did it have to change? because some programmer thinks all change is an improvement? and there is no way to go back to the previous phone app.

I also am a programmer. But I also understand that all change does not equal improvement. And I also try to make it so the end user sees the change as an improvement.

OLD_CURMUDGEON
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Platinum
OVERBLOATED Code.....
OLD_CURMUDGEON   5/8/2013 3:38:35 PM
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Would NEVER have this problem IF we were still programming w/ HOLLERITH Cards!

What I believe is on of the fundamental problems is that today's applications are no less than hundreds of thousands of lines of code, and there isn't a person alive who can retain all the threads, variables, states, etc. with such precision to guarantee overall success.  Patches have always been problematic, and will continue to be, especially given that there are literally teams of people building individual modules, which magically get sewn together into the app that fails!

Look at MICROSOFT as the best example..... WINDOWS recently celebrated its 3oth anniversary, and it's still full of bugs, anomalies, incompatibilities, securities holes, and every other negative adjective that one can assign to the product!  And, yet, has MICROSOFT undertaken the challenge to "clean up" their product?  Heck NO!... they just continue to build on the quicksand of WINDOWS 3.1!

Hilly-Billy-13
User Rank
Iron
Phone upgrades from HE--
Hilly-Billy-13   5/10/2013 9:59:23 PM
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In the late 90's I worked on the Engineering side of the CDMA build out for. Our phones had special firmware in them for testing the system, and was regularly upgraded. This required the phones my team was using to make a trip back to Illinois and was done in phases so if something went wrong the team could still function at a reduced rate. One such upgrade fried the first batch phones they did the upgrade on, I was lucky in that my phone was slated for the second round which did work as advertised

Bill

Cadman-LT
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Platinum
Ridiculous
Cadman-LT   5/17/2013 10:52:56 PM
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That reminded me. A friend of mine just bought a new phone and had a question about it. He brought it to me instead of where he bought it(even though I know hardly anything about phones). I asked him why not ask the guys at the store and he said...ohh they won't know. I think if you sell phones you should have a knowledgable staff to answer questions and fix problems. It's ridiculous to have to research the information yourself when you just purchased a product. Just a thought!

Critic
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Platinum
Scrap
Critic   5/23/2013 3:48:09 PM
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Sometimes people try to get too deeply involved with their phones and computers without having a full understanding of what they are doing.  Sadly, this happens frequently, even among people who are "techies."  It is foolish to think, unless you are the designer of the phone, or developer of the software/firmware, that you have much of an understanding.

This is the age of disposable consumer electronics.  If the phone has a problem, exchange it under warranty or throw it in the trash (after smashing it into submission with a hammer- please wear safety goggles) and get another one.  Don't get the same model/brand if you didn't like the first one, and be sure to advertise loudly that the old one was a piece of crap.

GeoOT
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Silver
Lack of support for problem phone
GeoOT   5/26/2013 6:14:07 PM
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I don't think this problem will get fixed until there is a class action suit against the suppliers.  That might take a 1-2 punch of bringing the request for calss action before a judge who has been frustrated as well.  This is a new business and we are in the Wild West. There will be consumer protection eventually but it is likely to be too late for me.  The same sort of things happened in the 19th century with boiler safety and railroad signaling.

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