Things that are apparently hard

  1. Keeping an accurate “new voicemail” flag on a mobile phone. (See Note 1)
  2. Sending a text message from a phone. (See Note 2)
  3. Monitoring the temperature at a data center and keeping the A/C running. (See Note 3)
  4. Receive and file paperwork, first entering it on a computer database. (See Note 4)
  5. Render a web page. (See Note 5)

Note #1: This has been true since the first mobile phone I used. Voicemail flags stick for days, or never appear. The flag will pop up two days after a message is left. Sometimes the victim must reset the new voicemail flag by leaving voicemail for him or herself and then deleting it. How can this be?

Note #2: As long as I’ve been using SMS, it has failed to send about half the time. The signal bar will show full strength! yay! Then, when an SMS is sent, the phone will tell me that the message in fact cannot be sent. A few minutes later, caught in a lie, the phone admits to having no signal at all and starts trying to find one.

Note #3: Thermometers are cheap. So are loud bells. Summer happens every year! So why is it always the customer who discovers it’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit inside? Isn’t this job #3 after “not on fire” and “power on”?

Note #4: You’re an insurance company. What is it you do there, exactly?

Note #5: When the page causes a browser to look up DNS for five or six ad services, and won’t render the page until this is done, DNS then blocks and the viewer either never sees the page at all or gives up in disgust after a minute or two. I can’t see how this benefits the advertiser or the website owner or anyone, really. Why even use hostnames? Why a duck? Why not a chicken?

7 thoughts on “Things that are apparently hard

  1. 1. In my decade-or-so of phones, I’ve never had a problem with the voicemail flag.
    2. I’ve only had issues with the email->SMS gateway service sometimes taking hours. SMSSMS and SMS->email usually seem to be fine. Sometimes I’m surprised at how fast I can send a Dodgeball and have it come back to myself and everyone at the table almost instantly.
    3. Most “advanced” temperature sensors are I2C chips that cost no more than $0.30 and are made in China. Usually they work, sometimes they don’t, often boards are designed to use them incorrectly. Case in point: our network switches have the temperature chips on the side of the backplane facing the relatively-cool logic board, not on the side of the backplane with the blade cage holding 1G copper phys and toasty warm fiber SFPs. The logic board can be quite happy while the network interfaces are failing left and right, and we’d never really know it. (We’ve since rev’ed the design a bit, but still…)


    1. 1. Lucky you!
      2. Lucky you! SMS is instantaneous when it works. When it doesn’t work, I get the behavior above and it makes me something something.
      3. Oh I’m not talking about the sensor on the computer. I’m talking about the one on the wall in the DATA CENTER. Maybe they could even buy two!


  2. Lately I’ve been having some thing where the flashing new text message icon remains after I’ve viewed the text message. And it never goes away. The only way to get rid of it is to delete the text message that caused it. It sucks, because occasionally people send me sweet messages, and I want to hold onto them. But then I can’t stand the flashing icon, and so they have to go.
    Only some messages cause this problem.


  3. Internet weather
    Lately I’ve found “Now, you’d think…” to be the start of
    many astonishing disappointments.
    Me, in about 1987, with a Commodore 64: “Now, you’d think that they’d make the power-supply plug be a unique shape, so you wouldn’t, in a cable-snarl mixup, accidentally plug it into, say, the video-out jack…”  ZOT ZOT ZOT ZORCH.
    Me in Chicago in 1995: “Now, you’d think all the
    underground cables in this neighborhood would be RF-insulated so that you can actually
    turn on a radio and hear something besides a deafening 60Hz buzz…
    And you’d think all the cabs would be using modern radios
    that don’t scream deafening interference on every harmonic so far up
    and down the spectrum that you can practically see the antenna glow
    Me in Albuquerque in 1999, on a freeway: “Now, that guy in front of
    me is hauling a refrigerator that he has standing up on the bed of his
    truck. Now you’d think that he has tied down that
    refrigerator in every conceivable way, because the conseque… Well, just in case,
    I’ll change lanes to get out from behind it, and apply pedal against
    metal.” Literally just seconds later, the fridge WHIRLS off the
    truck’s bed, doing strange conservation of linear and angular momentum
    things as it hits the concrete, causing LULZ.
    Me, over and over again for years now, with a dozen different devices: “Now, you’d think
    they’d design this so that you wouldn’t get
    scalding hot water blasted on you if you
    accidentally did this…
    I think your company, and every company everywhere, is literally going to have to buy some “USB Weather Station” from Radio Shack, and set it up in the Colocotorium, and hack
    something together so that your own klown kar alarms go off at a safe-but-ominous temperature of 73F or
    whatever, so you can have time to get the phone out and call Person Responsible and
    tell them you’re declaring RAGNAROK if the colo goes up another 2F.
    That’s the point at which they should flip a switch and have
    The Big Scary Backup Cooler kick in.
    (Now, you’d think they would have a The Big Scary Backup Cooler for just these kinds of circumstances…)


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