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Living with Technology: When tech manufacturers don't listen

I put in my fair share of computer gear. It's great when it installs the first time with no problems.

But I also accept that it's impossible to test every configuration around before releasing products, so it's inevitable that sometimes, things won't work perfectly -- or at least the way I'd like.

So, I tend to spend a lot of time -- some might say too much time -- on the phone with the support people for products.

When a resolution is found, if there's an issue with the product I'm installing, I quite often hear from the support agent: "I'll pass this along to our product people."

I doubt this happens. At least not frequently enough.

I say this because in the last week, I've encountered the same problems on new versions of hardware I've installed that includes problems identified typically two or more years earlier.

In the past week, I've installed a new router from Linksys and a printer from Hewlett-Packard.

In both cases, as I've been configuring these components, I've run into problems that were identified on previous products that are still in existence in next-generation products.

While I understand how disconnected the tech support staff can be from the product development people, it's disappointing to hear of these disconnects continuing for years.

Identified product bugs cost companies money through not only customer support costs, but also product returns and damage to the company's reputation.

In a quest to address some networking issues in my home, I recently had and ended up returning two routers from a manufacturer I will not identify. After spending hours on the phone with them and trying to configure two different units, they admitted that the product should never have been shipped. Ouch!

With the new Linksys and HP items I have, the issues I'm experiencing again are items I can work around, but I feel for people who just want to install and use the products. Clearly the products are not being tested sufficiently prior to being released to the public.

Many products nowadays can be field-upgraded by either a software or firmware (what's in the chips of the product) that can address these items.

It's my hope that both of these items will be fixed through a software or firmware upgrade so I can use the promised features, but I also hope the fixes will be made a part of future products that are released to the public. Read Full Article 

I hope issues identified through a tech-support call center will make it to the product managers at the appropriate companies. That is a path that should yield better products for everyone.

Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: livingwithtechnology@mathias.org

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