November 27th, 2018

Hard Stare

I hate wireless kit.

I really do. Even wifi.

(Prompted by "I still miss my headphone jack, and I want it back: Two years after Apple removed the iPhone’s headphone jack, life without it still sucks.")

I recently bought a used iPhone, a 6S+, because my cheapo ChiPhone died and I didn't know when my new Kickstarted Planet Computers Gemini would come, and I couldn't wait. I needed a phone.

So I bought a used iPhone, because I've not had an iPhone in years, since my freebie hand-me-down iPhone 4 was nicked in Bratislava a few years back. I hadn't personally used iOS since iOS 6, and a lot of my gripes have been fixed. I can have Swype on it now. The clock icon on the homescreen works. There's something functionally like a "back" button to get to the previous app. I can choose my own email app. Etc.

But I don't plan on ever buying a newer iPhone after this one, because later models don't have headphone sockets, and I don't own and don't want wireless headphones.

I dislike wireless kit. I have no wireless keyboards. I have one mouse, because, to quote Police Academy, "my mom gave it to me!" And a Bluetooth Magic Mouse which I don't like and don't use.

The few bits of it in my life make it a lot worse. I don't even like Wifi much.

Between trying to get stuff to connect, keeping it connected, troubleshooting why it won't, or why it connects to the wrong thing, or why it's connected but horribly slow, or what is interfering with what, and which standards and versions of $wireless_product_A can successfully link to $wireless_product_B without breaking the connection between $wireless_product_C and $wireless_product_D, I detest the entire mess.

My computer is linked via a cable to a hub, which is cabled to a powerline adaptor, which has a copper connection to another powerline adaptor and into the router. Its keyboard is cabled in, too. And I wish the mouse was.

To update my phone, I plug the phone into a cable into the back of the computer.

It always works and it's fast.

I have umpteen pairs of headphones -- the ones in the day back, the ones in the travel bag, the ones in the bedside drawer, the ones in the jacket pocket. They all work with everything, on every OS, with no pairing, no codes, no drivers, and they never need charging. Some are a decade old and they work fine with 30y old kit and 3-month-old kit.

I spent ~25 years fixing this stuff for a living and I know the points of failure.

I am not resistant to new tech if it's a benefit. I like things like USB and Firewire a lot. Even SATA. They're vastly better than serial, parallel, EIDE, ATAPI, SCSI and all that old horribleness. I'm starting to adopt USB C and Thunderbolt.

But wires just work. Wireless stuff trades an apparent benefit -- no cords to tangle -- for a whole mess of tech-support horror. Charging, pairing, encryption, compatibility, link speeds, transmission range, range anxiety. I don't detest it out of some kind of superstition, I detest it because I used to get paid to troubleshoot it and make it work.

Basically, IMHO, assessing tech works like this:

You average the good opinions: 50000 people giving it +5 means a score of +5. 2 people giving it a score of -1 means a score of -1. You add the +5 and -1 and it gets 4/5.

(It's an illustration. Factor in fractional scores etc. if it makes you happier.)

But the point is this: if a billion people love it and say it's great and ten out of ten, and a dozen people point out horror stories and give it minus 5, then it only scores 5 out of 10.

It doesn't matter how many people like it, or how many don't like it. The point is that the negative scores have equal weight.

I have direct personal experience of the negatives, and this colours my perception.

I base my assessment of most tech on the negative scores. Positive ones are easy. Most people don't push stuff hard, there's astroturfing, there are crappy reviewers writing positive stuff in return for free kit, etc. Basically, they are valueless. Does what it do match what is says on the box? Yes? Good. That's all you can take from them.

But one negative report buried in a forum somewhere carries as much weight as a thousand Amazons full of laudatory reviews.

And I have a Bluetooth mouse, and a pair of Bluetooth dongles, and a Wifi USB dongle, and a few pocket devices with no ports except Wifi and Bluetooth for connecting to other stuff. I know what a pain it is. That is why, although I do not own a single Bluetooth audio device, I don't want one. I have borrowed them. Sometimes they work great. But they don't always, and they always run out of power at maximally inconvenient times, just like