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Samsung and Android: Out-of-box failure

28 March 2014 870 views No Comment

I learnt a new term recently while doing research related to configuring my Samsung/Android tablet: Out-of-box failure. The current definition (as of this writing) on Wikipedia that applies in this case is as follows: “Out of box failure … is a negative experience a user has when installing and/or performing initial configuration on a piece of hardware ….”

In a nutshell, I am mightily disappointed in my Samsung/Android tablet.

While I have damn nearly two decades of experience being the go-to guy for computer problems among some of my friends (not to mention providing technical support to paying clients for almost that long), managing a tablet (or smart phone) is a new experience for me. I expected to run into challenges, but I didn’t expect to be let down so severely.

I remember learning about Android years ago — long before it was even released — and at the time I was excited. (Well, as excited as I get anyway.) Here was a new operating system (albeit based on an old [and good] OS, UNIX, with which I have almost as much experience as I do with Windows) that was going to allow people to turn their “dumb phones” (akin to the one-trick pony sitting on your kitchen counter: the toaster) into handheld, portable computers, just like their bigger cousins sitting on laps or desks. Not only that, it was going to create competition for the monopoly at that time — Apple and iOS — giving its users the freedom to manage their devices as they saw fit rather than as the dictatorial manufacturer saw fit. Besides the fact that I am a fan of competition, I have no love for Apple or their products. I specifically dislike the control they exert over the consumers of their products, the people who put ridiculous amounts of money into Apple’s coffers. Either you do it Steve Jobs’ way, or you can suck wind:

And yet, here I am — definitely not an “early adopter”! — with a new Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, running Android of course, and I find that I’m being railroaded into having to do things according to the Gospel of Google:

  • First, if you want to do anything useful with your tablet (other than read reams and reams of dire legal agreements as you run each app for the first time), you have to sign up for a Google/NSA account. If you don’t want to do that, you might as well return your tablet or use it for a paperweight, frisbee, coaster, or for skipping on a lake like you would with a stone.
  • Then, if you want to dump crap like Dropbox … well, you can’t! It’s a “system app”, so you can’t uninstall it. You can disable it, but only after you roll back the updates that were installed after you finally broke down and gave your name and email address to Google and the NSA.
  • The other thing I have found my Samsung/Android tablet is useful for is spam. Not sending spam or stopping it, but reading it. The fucking thing is always whistling at me or interrupting what I’m doing to ask me if I want to sign up for one Google service or another, or to remind me that I haven’t yet set up yet another “system app” (Peel Smart Remote in this case) that I also have no intention of ever using. Plus I’m now getting spammed by YouTube (“Happy dances around the world” for fuck’s sake), even though I keep clicking the “unsubscribe” link and even though the link takes me to a YouTube page that tells me that my “current setting” is “off”. Let me give you arseholes a tip: If you want me to use your software or service, hijacking my email account and the device for which I paid a couple of hundred dollars and generally pissing me off is a guaranteed losing strategy. This kind of shit is why, in the desktop world, the first thing I do with a new computer is “format c:” and install a fresh and unadulterated copy of the operating system to get rid of all the “crapware” cluttering the desktop and hard drive that companies have paid to have added to the system, but which is generally of little or no use to any thinking user. I suspect that once I get the hang of this, I will similarly root any future new Android device I buy (or work on) immediately.

OK, so as I think I understand it (I’m just guessing at this point in my learning experience, actually), it’s the decision of the device manufacturer to decide what apps are “system apps”, so I need to blame Samsung for that … and they (and Google) are starting to look more and more like Apple to me. This isn’t even a cell phone attached to one of the evil members of the cell phone cartel, who speciously claim that they must control what software runs on my phone — it’s just a tablet, which to me should be no different than a desktop computer when it comes to installing what I want on it — so I fail to understand why I am forced to keep apps that I have no intention of ever using, such as Dropbox and Peel Smart Remote. (Hasn’t Google learnt from Microsoft’s experience about bad behaviour like this in the latter’s various anti-trust lawsuits launched by the American and European governments?) To me this is like being forced to live with a slovenly neighbour from down the street, because the Communist Party Housing Authority said so. No thanks.

Although I have had this tablet for almost three months now, it has taken me this long to get over my feelings of loathing and dread (for all of the above reasons) and find the time to get this far in the experience, where I have finally installed my choice of web browser (Firefox, which crashes daily for no apparent reason) and anti-virus (Avast), and a crashing (because it wants to use the now disabled Dropbox) KeePassDroid so that I can actually access useful services that I use for which I need to log in. (Two out of three apps crashing; not what I would call “out-of-box happiness”.) I don’t have all the time in the world to screw around with this crap, as educating as it is, so time will tell whether or not this tablet turns out to be a productive and useful tool, or another listing on Craigslist.

It will also determine what new cell phone I buy shortly, ending my one-man, seven-year boycott of the anti-competitive cell phone industry, and a “dumb phone” (also known as a “feature phone”, although I can’t figure out why when it has only one feature!) or continuing with no phone is starting to look like a mighty attractive option right now.

Stay tuned!

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